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Best Albums Of 2016

Date: 
December 5, 2016

2106 - widely regarded as the worst year of all times, but there were at least 20 albums released by 20 artists who kicked against the pricks (Trump, Farage, The Grim Reaper etc). Here are our top 20 albums of the year. As usual, the top of our pile didn't originally get the highest score of all the albums listed here (although it still got an impressive 8.5), but it's the album that's spent most time on the turntable, and who can argue with that? NOBODY!

1

What we said: "2013 is hugely ambitious, with arrangements that suggest great experience and knowledge, rather than just a fluke magic touch. A thirty strong orchestra, a ragtag bunch of friends and friends of friends were recorded live in the studio and the results make for an album which harks back to Scott Walker or Jacques Brel. Operatic, and eclectic, but still retaining the earthiness of a closet pop star"

2

What we said: "These are songs with little time for traditional lyrical narratives or musical structures, in fact Leonard seems like a genuine maverick. And whilst there are nods to psychedelica, 60's garage and sometimes more obvious nods to artists like Thom Yorke, he never seems to be completely in debt to any particular movement or musical hero."

3

What we said: "it turns out this is the same experimental Field Music you've known but just with a re-invigorated nack for writing pop songs...move over head bobbing, and welcome light on-the-spot grooving and even "full-on-all-night-rave-up". After a decade of recording together, Field Music have just made their most appealing album of them all"

4

What we said: "A rare PJ Harvey album that doesn't go for some sort of extreme left turn, this one seems like a direct follow up to 2011's superb Let England Shake, as though Harvey had unfinished business to attend to...but what it lacks in re-invention it makes up for in pure songwritng and panache"

5

What we said: "half of this LP is made up of an improvised session that the duo recorded the first time they ever played together. It's particularly impressive because these aren't just slap-dash jams, the music is thoroughly absorbing, and richly textured...and I suppose that's testament to the working relationship of these two musicians"

6

What we said: "a 19 track behemoth which plays like an eccentric, obscure compilation album. Maybe its an album aimed at the short attention span of the modern MP3 listener, or maybe its just the sound of a restless talent who enjoys a bit of genre flipping. I think it's probably the latter"

7

What we said: "The lyrics are deliciously pitch black but playful, steeped in literature and myth, but also perfectly relevant to the modern world (the looming spectre of post-brexit nationalism seems like a recurring theme). The music is the foil to this darkness, reminding us that there is still some light and joy to be had"

8

What we said: "The softly sung vocals are in direct contrast to the big musical scores that underlay them, which makes for an interesting and hugely enjoyable mix...This is a warm and evocative album that makes you think back to all of those childhood American summers that you never actually had"

9

What we said: "When you're in a duo like this there's nowhere to hide, Steven Bardgett (vocals and guitar) and Nathan Duff (drummer) have to put a shift in to make music that sounds this good, and here they've recorded a cache of tracks which come and go in a flash"

10

What we said: "It's actually quite hard to listen to Yukon Youth at all without thinking of film or film soundtracks, such is the dark and stark imagery that the music evokes. But i'd go further than that in saying that this is the soundtrack to Britain in 2016...Dark music for dark days"

11

What we said: "this is an album that will please anyone who's familiar with her previous solo work. Solidifying the things that Cate Le Bon does well whilst still pushing things forward onto slightly different courses"

12

What we said: "The album revels in drone and ambience, unusual clattering percussion and looping vocals, and it's not always clear who is contributing what, such is the synergy of this fine partnership....the record as a whole comes off as remarkably positive, not a term that could usually be used to describe this style of music"

13

What we said: "Musically speaking, the theme of this record seems to be despair and dystopia, the sounds are, more often than not, bleak...Yeti Lane seem to have found their wonderful dark musical destiny"

14

What we said: "David Tattersall's colossal guitar solos seem more at home now that Jonny Helm has taken the mufflers off his drum sticks. Franic Rozycki's bass is as unpredictable as it's ever been, weaving a melody of its own amongst the chaos, but still being a grounding point for the rest of the music. It's the sound of three mates who've been playing together for nearly 20 years now, doing it for the love of the music"

15

What we said: "At once discordant and melodic, The Wink is an essential purchase for anyone who's followed Tim Presley's various recent projects, but with it's ample supply of quick fix wonky-rock it's also a good entry point for new recruits"

16

What we said: "although the songs sound breezy and carefree you can tell that they've been meticulously pieced together for maximum impact. These are songs that rarely stray over the four minute mark, as if they've been cut right down to the bare minimum. It's interesting then, that Teleman freely admit that the songs were arranged with the aid of an office whiteboard"

17

What we said: "The stories are many and varied, spread over 18 tracks, part documentary, part instrumental, part field recording, but also contains some classic Hayman songwriting (and wry humour)...This is the first of three Thankful Villages albums, and all the evidence here suggests that the next few years will be a vintage period for Hayman. A warmly uplifting album"

18

What we said: "The music is unsurprisingly grand and expansive, often intense, sometimes entrenched in horror and occasionally joyous and life affirming...most of these songs have Patton firmly in the background (let's say he's lurking in the shadows as that sounds like the sort of thing he'd do)"

19

What we said: "Dark and intricate, but ultimately rewarding, Mugstar are a real pleasure for anyone who's into sprawling instrumental, trance inducing musical odysseys. Magnetic Seasons does a lot of genre hopping over it 4 sides of vinyl and the band have deliberately allowed themselves time to experiment and improvise during its recording"

20

What we said: "Each song sweeps you away into a dreamy non-reality, lightyears away the world that we live in today. It's escapism in the simplest form. The orchestral arrangements are quite stunning, used sparingly and brought in to ramp up the tension, and it gets you every time"