Our Favourite Records of 2016
10 – Nils Frahm_ Solo – Remains
More often than not we find ourselves listening to music to escape and there have been several notable examples of ambient music fulfilling its role as chief facilitator of ‘out of body and mind’ experience this year. When it comes to streamlining for this list however, we simply couldn’t look past Nils Frahms’ utterly compelling off cuts from his 2015 opus ‘Solo’. ’Solo – Remains’ may be made up of ‘outtakes’ and passages deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ for the original, but make no mistake, this is escapism at its very finest.
We needed more and he gave us more – that is why it makes our list.
09 – DIIV – Is The Is Are
Our favourite indie record of the year by quite some distance. on ‘Is The Is Are’, DIIV reinterpreted the mythical in-betweens of shoegaze, indie and post punk sonics that only the most lauded and loved bands of that shape are able to achieve. It’s hard to explain, almost like The Stone Roses in their prime; DIIV built a near faultless album brimming with life, surrounded by a strange misty haze and slo-mo rose petals falling from the sky.
08 – Kevin Abstract – American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story
Kevin Abstract has had us gripped since the Brockhampton days with ’ECHO’ up there among one of our favourite tracks of 2015. We love the fact we can’t place our finger on exactly what he is trying to achieve musically, ultimately that’s what keeps us so involved. It’s like we’re trying to help him work out his problems by listening.
He writes and records with a rare freedom that doesn’t come around too often, towing the line between classic rap-ignorance and gushing boy band-isms that makes for a rare, but totally successful soundtrack for what we imagine life must be like for any self-respecting millennial outcast.
07 – 21 savage + Metro Boomin – Savage Mode
When it comes to rappers, there will always be a special place in our heart for the most vicious lyricists who successfully elevate their gruesome tales of life on the streets to chart topping status. Based upon the music he makes, 21 Savage is a horrible guy. With ever-present tales of drugs, gang banging and cold blooded murder and attempted murder dominating each and every one of his songs on ‘Savage Mode’, we’re gripped but we don’t know why.
PS – Metro Boomin has never been so hauntingly brilliant.
06 – Babyfather – BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow
Dean Blunt is wickedly ambitious at every turn and BBF is no exception. He poses multiple ideas, themes and questions in each and every song without ever really offering a concrete resolution to any of them. As a listener, we feel constantly on edge, unsure of whether to feel the groove or press stop, pause, rewind or delete. His latest release under new moniker Babyfather is a tapestry of Britishness; life on the streets flow through the 23-strong track list made up of a wild array of songs, skits and musings.
05 – Aron Can_ Þekkir Stráginn
We first learnt about Aron Can and his hypnotic take on the Icelandic language when watching him perform in a tiny haunt in central Reykjavik at Iceland Airwaves Festival. The 16-year old singer-cum-rapper has something special, there is absolutely no question of that. He wowed us that night and after tracking down his debut LP ‘Þekkir Stráginn’ online we’ve had it on repeat ever since (especially the anthemic ‘Rollup’).
04 – Zomby ‘Ultra’
A bunch of producers dropped great projects this year. Most went down the route of sprinkling their efforts with A-list features to push their work beyond the limitations of instrumental music (Kaytranada’s global smash 99.9% springs to mind) and yet we felt most challenged by Zomby’s ‘Ultra’ LP for its totally unorthodox and often mind bogglingly avant-garde approach to the art form.
Zomby is a master of suggestion; he never overcooks a song or an idea, instead, he executes suspense and tension expertly and ‘Ultra’ is a triumphant example of this from start-to-finish.
03 – Solange_ A Seat At The Table
We always knew Solange was good, however, we’d kinda got used to her being on the periphery even though her destiny was quite obviously slap bang in the spotlight. ’A Seat At The Table’ represents not only the precise moment she burst from her sister’s shadow (never to return again), it also represents the undeniable prowess of her musical vision from day one (‘Cranes In the Sky’ was written 8 years ago).
Never once did she shy away from her identity or artistic vision and the result is one of the most expertly crafted releases of the year.
02 – J. Cole_ 4 Your Eyez Only
We absolutely love the way J. Cole swooped in and released the most thought provoking and downright smooth rap album of the year casual-as-you-like last week. We also love the fact that the two stellar singles he dropped to announce his hugely anticipated return (after what felt like a LENGTHIER hiatus than it actually was) didn’t even make the final cut. As others around him lose their way, J. Cole’s return was so on point, both sonically and emotionally, that it thoroughly deserves a spot near the very top of our favourites.
01 – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds_ Skeleton Tree
Put simply, ‘Skeleton Tree’ is our favourite album of the year for the fact that it has moved us the most over the longest period of time. On the title track, Cave has come the closest to revealing his soul (which was already his speciality) as we feel we’ve ever witnessed, which really is saying something. The tragic events that shaped the LP do not define it, but certainly contribute towards its absolute magnificence.
A modern masterpiece.
Childish Gambino_ Awaken, My Love
Kanye West_ The Life Of Pablo
Biosphere_ Departed Glories
A Tribe Called Quest_ We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service