Albums of the Year 2016

In recent weeks, the annual lists of top albums of 2016 have been circulating. Working on the principle “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, here’s a personal roundup of my favourite albums of the year. It’s broadly representative of the stuff I’ve been listening to in 2016, mostly found through a combination of Uncut magazine, BBC Radio 6 Music, and Soundcloud.

The list is ordered alphabetically. Feel free to add your own suggestions/lists in the comments. (Note: Michael Kiwanuka’s “Love & Hate” now added to the list.)

  • Pete Astor “Spilt Milk”. Clean crisp pop guitar. What’s not to like? Especially when it comes on white vinyl. (Also available on cassette!)
  • Bon Iver “22, A Million”. A bit less insular than his last album, which is perhaps why it’s more accessible to a wider audience.
  • David Bowie “Blackstar”. The old master re-invented himself for one last time in a sort of jazz-lite version with a bit of drum & bass.
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Skeleton Tree”. You have to see the documentary “One More Time With Feeling” to really understand the humanity, love and laughter that went into the making of this album. It still has the dark, anguished streaks that are characteristic of Bad Seeds albums.
  • Wild Billy Childish & CTMF “SQ 1“. Prolific artist cum musician releases yet another cracking album. Raw and raucous, and rollicking good fun.
  • Field Music “Commontime”. Great album, great band. I just wish I’d seen them with the orchestral arrangements. Always interesting in a David Byrne type of way.
  • Le Gros Ballon “Cinefoumatic”. The Italian Duo with a French name. Bright and breezy instrumental pop with a cinematic slant. Sound of the Summer 2016 for me. (Digital only via bandcamp).
  • Nora Jones “Day Breaks”. Great singer, great songs with elements of gospel, soul and jazz.
  • Damian Jurado “Visions of Us on the Land”. The singer/songwriter’s final album in his trilogy. Sits at the point where folk meets indie and pop.
  • Michael Kiwanuka “Love & Hate”. If I had to pick just one album of the year, this would be it. He really comes of age with this album: really good songs, big arrangements, great production (Danger Mouse). He was also the best live gig I saw in 2016.
  • Junior Meyvant “Floating Harmonies””. Iceland is a really happening place at the moment (playlist). This one has more of a soulful bent than most of them.
  • Johnny Moped “It’s a Real Cool Baby“. Raw, rock and roll. Took a while to make, but well worth the wait.
  • Nine Below Zero “13 Shades of Blue”. Thirteen covers of songs that come within the broad remit of “blues”, all done in a big band style. First rate stuff.
  • Agnes Obel “Citizen of Glass”. I really like her voice, and the orchestral-style arrangements. The title is also very contemporary.
  • The Rolling Stones “Blue & Lonesome”. Back to their blues roots, and made in just three days. Great stuff.
  • Shearwater “Jet Plane and Oxbow”. Big-sounding rock album tackling some of the issues facing America, and Texas in particular, where frontman, and all-round nice guy, Jonathan Meiburg is based.
  • Paul Simon “Stranger to Stranger”. Old dog returns with new tricks. Not your typical singer/songwriter album, it’s almost like a cross-section of all the sounds he’s produced over the years, with a deep sense of rhythm running through it.
  • St Paul & The Broken Bones “Sea of Noise”. Seven piece soul/rhythm’n’blues band with roots in Muscle Shoals. New songs with an old feel.
  • Teenage Fanclub “Here”. Despite now being widely spread across the globe, they came up with an album that manages to sound both typical and contemporary.
  • Rokia Traore “Ne So”. The great Malian singer tackling the issues that have been affecting her homeland in recent years.
  • Jason Van Wyk “Attachment” (Digital version available on Bandcamp). Lots of contemporary classical keyboard music. Most relaxing album of the year. A good one to practise yoga to.
  • Whyte Horses “Pop or Not”. One that’s hard to categorise–mostly pop, or rock with a bit of psych. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, and there’s plenty of  great music to enjoy on this one, which was Piccadilly Records’ album of the year. The version that was recorded with the children from St Bart’s School is also great . Whyte Horses front man Dom Thomas wants to make all their live shows an engaging audio-visual experience. I’m looking forward to that!