50 Best Albums of 2016

50 Best Albums of 2016

Wales Arts Review’s critics have come together, argued, scrapped, cried, and hugged, to bring you our rundown of the best 50 albums of 2016. So here we go…

50.

Singing Saw by Kevin Morby

“A dusty whirlwind of baroque outlaw country; the best yet from the big-hearted, back-porch balladeer.”

49.

Fossil Scale by Georgia Ruth

“A beautiful evocation of Sandy Denny-era British folk from an increasingly sophisticated songwriter.”

48.

Potential by The Range

“Euphoric and hopeful electronic landscapes. A beautiful, understated and surprising record.”

47.

Blisters in the Pit of My Heart by Martha

“Jump up and down working class northern punk with great hooks from a young band hailing from a town in Co. Durham called… honestly… Pity Me.”

46.

Let the Record Show: Dexy’s Do Irish and Country Soul by Dexys

“A laid back, swaggering covers album from a band playing as well as they’ve ever done.”

45.

I Had a Dream that You Were Mine by Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam

“A fortuitous meeting of minds in the last chance saloon.”

44.

Weaves by Weaves

“All-over-the-place indie rock, full of energy and ripping guitar slashes.”

43.

Hollowed by Ital Tek

“Huge caverns of noise; a bold, intense statement.”

42.

Sea of Noise by St Paul and the Broken Bones

“Spirited, politically savvy old-school soul, sung as if a life depended on it.”

41.

Goodnight City by Martha Wainwright

“A gorgeous return to form from this consummate songwriter and performer.”

40.

Light Upon the Lake by Whitney

“Pastoral folk-pop with spiky, soulful undertones.”

39.

Schmilco by Wilco

“A quieter, more straight-forward offering from the prodigious godfathers of Americana, but still full of top rank songs.”

38.

Borders by Climbing Trees

“A real statement of intent from would-be world dominators from Pontypridd.”

37.

Sirens by Nicolas Jaar

“A sumptuous journey through Jaar’s creative impulses – one of the most significant artists working in electronic music now.”

36.

Ruminations by Conor Oberst

“A sensational return to the stripped back Americana of Lifted and I’m Wide Awake, it’s Morning featuring Oberst’s most coruscating lyrics in a decade.”

35.

Human Ceremony by Sunflower Bean

“A joyous nod to the great indie bands of the eighties, with more than enough grand swishes of their own.”

34.

Clear Shot by TOY

“The album that finally saw TOY transcend the sum of their influences. ‘Another Dimension’, in particular, is the sound of a band that have the potential to do almost anything.”

33.

AIM by M.I.A.

“If the album as a whole lacks some of the punch and innovation of her previous records, a song like ‘Borders’ – complete with its compelling, incendiary video – emphasises MIA’s status as the only international pop star with a genuine, nuanced political conscience and the rare, almost extinct, ability to transmute it into art.”

32.

Fever Dream by Ben Watt

“Illuminated by Bernard Butler’s beguiling nods to Jansch and Richards, Ben Watt’s gentle, literary leaning songs take on an otherworldly power that makes this one of the surprise triumphs of the year.”

31.

Treasure House by Cat’s Eyes

“Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira return with more 60s girl group grooviness cut with Scott Walker lushness – a record which is a simple pleasure and one that demands to be played over and over again.”

30.

2013 by Meilyr Jones

“The slightly lacklustre studio recording of Jones’ stunning collection of songs – if you haven’t yet then make sure and see him live – prevents 2013 from being much higher up this list. But the songs themselves are irrepressible and enchanting – whatever Jones does next will almost certainly be unmissable.”

29.

Love and Hate by Michael Kiwanuka

“Perfectly groomed, politically shrewd 21st century soul.”

28.

Dori Freeman by Dori Freeman

“A stellar album of cornpone, countrified Americana.”

27.

You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen

“As always there is much light in Cohen’s darkness; a deeply moving, celebratory, contemplative swan song.”

26.

Night Thoughts by Suede

“An imperious record full of kitchen sink drama and late night regret that confirmed the return of Brett Anderson and co. as a creative force to be reckoned with.”

25.

You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To by Richmond Fontaine

“Purveyors of the finest blended Americana finally hit pay dirt.”

24.

A Seat at the Table by Solange

“Reflective RnB reminiscent of Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation.”

23.

Chaleur Humane by Christine and the Queens

“Charming, cheeky, gymnastic French pop.”

22.

Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

“The album with the most talked about backstory of the year, and an album of heartbreaking sincerity and musical desolation.”

21.

2 by Shy Layers

“Effortlessly engaging electronica, with shades of Kraftwerk and Balearic pop, from multimedia artists JD Walsh.”

20.

Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop

“Iggy Pop’s best album in decades, given some dusty texan grit by Josh Homme.”

19.

The Follower by The Field

“Axel Willner’s latest volume of ambient techno is just one sumptuous part of a sound project that is his career.”

18.

Soft Hair by Soft Hair

“Sparks cover Prince.”

17.

Boy King by Wild Beasts

“Big, bold, funky festival pop from a cleaner and more focussed band than was evident on their previous 3 albums.”

16.

Black America Again – Common

“An intense, socio-political document, with moments of true greatness.”

15.

Wildflower by The Avalanches

“A sixteen year wait for the follow up to their debut has been worth the wait in every respect.”

14.

Blood Bitch by Jenny Hval

“A cinematic and yet intimate album from Norway’s avant-gardist maestro.”

13.

Telefone by Noname

“A debut that largely lives up to its hype and promise with this extremely intimate and unflinching RnB record.”

12.

Hit Reset by The Julie Ruin

“Joyous clarification that Kathleen Hannah cannot be killed by conventional pop weaponry.”

11.

Brilliant Sanity by Teleman

“A hook-laden exercise in the eternal joy of Motorik.”

10.

Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar

“The ‘reluctant Messiah’ follows up that album with a small, intricate, personal record made up almost entirely of throw away sessions from To Pimp A Butterfly. Quite a B-list.”

9.

Puberty 2 by Mitski

“A brilliant, smash and grab indie pop album fro the Japanese New Yorker, with some of the best lyrics on any record this year – we like it more than life itself.”

8.

Crab Day by Cate Le Bon

“A tour-de-force of lethargic garage indie from Welsh Grand High Priestess of the Velvet Underground’s legacy.”

7.

Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

“Symphonic psychedelic prog rock with the emphasis on ‘psyche’ and ‘rock’.”

6.

British Road Movies by Kate Jackson

“‘We could be painters and we could form bands’ sang Jackson on ‘Metropolis’, the lead single off this delirious clarion call of a record, whose predominant themes are female empowerment and the plain joy of creative endeavour.”

5.

A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

“A dreamlike set from Thom and co., that sees Jonny Greenwood take centre stage with breathtaking orchestral results on more than one occasion.”

4.

We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service… by Tribe Called Quest

“The first great artistic statement from Planet Trump.”

3.

Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown

“If 2016 was a nervous breakdown, this is the sound it made.”

2.

Lemonade by Beyoncé

“A huge album on so many levels – it is personal and universal, a searching, searing artistic and political statement, and, at its core, every song is a masterpiece.”

1.

Blackstar by David Bowie

“An album that will be – if it isn’t already – seen as one of the great works by one of modern culture’s most important figures. The goodbye to end all goodbyes.”

 

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. You know who you are.