Even though EDM might not be a genre for everyone to enjoy, Australian producer Harley Streten managed to compel listeners with his somewhat experimental, but very accessible second album. Skin consists of sixteen tracks that feature some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Beck, AlunaGeorge and Little Dragon among others. By creating a fusion of dance and electropop, Streten managed to please his old listeners, as well as expand his reach to a new audience outside of his much-maligned genre. (Alicja Rutkowska) (LISTEN)
Though they’re revered for their 2000 album Nixon, Lambchop’s latest effort is perhaps their most interesting to date. Combining influences from a plethora of genres, from jazz to hip-hop and everything in between, FLOTUS remained true to their alt-country sound but ignited euphoria in its genre-pushing. Bookended by two ten-minute-plus tracks (the opening ‘In Care Of 8675309’ and ‘The Hustle’), Kurt Wagner never failed in his quest to experiment and excite the listener. (John Tindale) (LISTEN)
While 2016 will be remembered for taking musical legends away, one punk icon restored herself to the public eye after a long time out. Kathleen Hanna, fem-punk heroine and singer with Bikini Kill and Le Tigre going back to the early ‘90s, had struggled with Lyme disease for several years, and the eventual appearance of a second album by her current project The Julie Ruin, alongside an announcement that she had beaten the condition, was immensely heartening.
Jesse’s shout: The Julie Ruin’s second album Hit Reset is a great combination of dancey electronics over fuzzy guitars. Despite battling with illness over the last few years, Kathleen Hanna’s vocals are still as powerful as ever and the way she sings her lyrics with such ferocity showed us that she’s absolutely nowhere near slowing down. Hit Reset gave nods to Hanna’s former ventures in Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and even her spoken-word roots, but does so in a way that still sounded totally fresh and contemporary. Its music that you can dance to that still addresses deeper issues of Hanna’s childhood and inappropriate father as well as bluntly mocking the issues that feminist musicians are still facing in an industry that remains largely patriarchal. Hit Reset was an intensely enjoyable album from beginning to end and cemented the fact that the influence of Kathleen Hanna is still as relevant (and needed) now as she ever has been. (Jesse Casey) (LISTEN)
With the acrimonious departure of charismatic frontwoman Alice Glass, many fans feared for the future of the group without her. However, production wiz Ethan Kath wasn’t about to chuck it in just yet. After a strategic re-think, and roping in new vocalist Edith Frances, Crystal Castles lived once more. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as a re-statement of principles, but Amnesty (I) was a logical outgrowth, the beginning of a new era that remained respectful of the group’s fanbase and history, with witchy synths and haunting vocals still the name of the game. (Ed Biggs) (LISTEN)
For her fourth album, The Bride, Natasha Khan delivered a concept album that told the story of a woman who is left at the altar after her husband-to-be dies in a car crash on the way to their wedding. The album was put together with a certain intelligence, telling the story while letting its drama come through in an unforced manner. Given the high quality of her previous work, it was every bit as haunting as you’d expect it to be and the ominous electronics and Khan’s spectral voice capture this perfectly, and all while the album remained wholly beautiful. The Bride progresses like a film without the picture, and doesn’t lose your focus for a moment. Totally enthralling from the first note to the last, there was a somewhat ambiguous ending to the last song ‘Clouds’ which left us craving more. (JC) (LISTEN)
Following another frustratingly long wait of nearly four years, Local Natives delivered a third collection of strong indie-rock songs. The band’s trademark hopeful melancholy hadn’t gone anywhere and fans were pleased to discover that Sunlit Youth is a solid entry into the rather overflowing indie landscape. This time Local Natives explore themes of ageing and change, resulting in highlight songs like ‘Villainy’ and the call-to-arms that is ‘Fountain Of Youth’. While not the most musically innovative record to have come out this year, Sunlit Youth reasserted Local Natives as one of the more worthwhile and outright reliable bands in indie today. (Ellie Wolf) (LISTEN)
Forming after the demise of their previous group Smith Westerns, Chicago newcomers Whitney made their debut with Light Upon The Lake, one of the most delightful and romantic guitar albums of recent memory. The quintet, led by singer-songwriter Julien Ehrlich, combined influences of country and soul into their indie-rock roots and won over the hearts of all those who listened. Their coy, lovelorn demeanour and folksy melodies made their music essential summertime listening, with singles such as ‘No Matter Where We Go’ and ‘No Woman’ never seeming to tire on our ears. (Woody Delaney) (LISTEN)
After his nearly five-year break during which he struggled with depression and anxiety, Jamie Treays released the sturdy Carry On The Grudge back in 2014, a record that showcased a new-found maturity and confidence in his natural songwriting abilities. Just two years later, he topped it with Trick, which has provided him with the one thing that’s always eluded him – an unquestionably great album. Treays’ unique style of cross-genre fusion, drawing inspiration from Trojan Records to latter-day Clash (check out ‘Tescoland’), gives this record an unmistakeable amount of character and variety. (Owen Molde) (LISTEN)
British indie-kid turned collaborator-to-the-stars in America Dev Hynes continued to startle the world with his third Blood Orange album, a politically and socially aware cauldron of influences that contained something that everybody could love.
Alicja’s Shout: Freetown Sound was definitely one of the boldest releases of the year. Devonté Hynes’ third LP under his Blood Orange moniker dropped right in the middle of political and social turmoil in America, while being a record that does not shy away from topics like race and sexuality. Hynes introduced us to his very own experience of living in a prejudiced world that up, even in 2016, still discriminates members of the black community. It managed to be not only politically infused, but also very personal with a complex message intertwined with the lyrics.
At the same time, he demonstrated his abilities as a producer, combining the sounds of R&B and funk, as well as inviting a number of featured artists that complement his instrumental arrangements. By doing that, Hynes recorded an album that represents inclusiveness and diversity, something that he seemed to struggle with finding in the world around him. (AR) (LISTEN)
British psych/drone-rock outfit TOY continued to evolve and grow in confidence with their third album, keeping them in the premier league of British indie acts. Clear Shot saw them create even sharper and defined melodic lines than ever before, while retaining their trademark swirling, fuzzy psychedelia in the background. Singer Tom Dougall’s studied aloofness suited the lengthy, sweeping vistas of sound perfectly, with the band showing increased commercial nous regarding when to stop indulging and end a track. (EB) (LISTEN)
Tags: A Tribe Called Quest, album of the year, Alice Williams, Alicja Rutkowska, Anderson Paak, Angel Olsen, Anna Meredith, Anohni, Bat For Lashes, best albums of 2016, Blood Orange, Blossoms, Bon Iver, Car Seat Headrest, Chance The Rapper, Christian Steel, Christine & The Queens, Crystal Castles, D.D Dumbo, Danny Brown, David Bowie, Death Grips, Ed Biggs, Ellie Wolf, Explosions In The Sky, Flume, Frank Ocean, Future Of The Left, GOAT, Gold Panda, Hannah Binns, Harry Beynon, Honeyblood, Iggy Pop, James Blake, Jamie T, Jesse Casey, John Tindale, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Lambchop, Lauren James, Leonard Cohen, Let's Eat Grandma, Local Natives, Matthew Langham, Metallica, Metronomy, Michael Kiwanuka, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Ollie Rankine, Owen Molde, PJ Harvey, Preoccupations, Radiohead, Savages, Skepta, Slaves, Suede, The Julie Ruin, The Last Shadow Puppets, The Weeknd, TOY, Whitney, Wild Beasts, Woody Delaney
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