Well, then 2016 is nearly over, and so welcome to the second of two roundups of favourite albums of this crazy year as nominated by our readers. Again there is a mixture of old and new artists, and much to capture the spirit of the last 12 months. And like the first 25, this isn’t a countdown to leading to the so-called best album, or anything as subjective or as flawed as that. The order is not significant but simply listed alphabetically by title, and most sample tracks are chosen at random. Feel free to point out different ones. If you want to see the first set of our list, please go here:
Think something is missing and want to share it? Then please let us know in comments below. Thank you for your many, many nominations. I couldn’t accommodate all of them, but there is a list of honorary mentions at the end.
A Weird Exits – Thee Oh Sees
Strangely titled, but brilliantly executed, John Dwyer’s 17th studio album blasts off and grips you from start to finish with an otherworldly psychedelic post-punk power. If you’ve never seem them live, then do it. You’ll be blown away by the fierce presence of Dwyer as frontman and those two drummers at the front of the stage – fast, furious and perfectly synchronised.
Blonde – Frank Ocean
It took four years to make, many collaborators and 17 tracks, and the follow-up to Channel Orange often feels interrupted, meandering at other times, but it contains moments of pure beauty. After seven or eight listens nominator magicman professed to be swooning with the delicate brilliance of the compositions.
Blossoms – Blossoms
It wouldn't be a surprise to expect Manchester-area music explosion, such as the jovial Mossley lads Cabbage set to grow rapidly in 2017, but for now the Stockport boys are the leaders of the northern pack with their smooth, indie pop.
Ceremonial – Anchorsong
The second full album from Tokyo-born, London-based electronic artist Masaaki Yoshida is a mesmeric mix of surprisingly moods, sounds, rhythms and melodies. A pleasurable place to get yourself lost in.
Do Hollywood – The Lemon Twigs
Fresh, lively, innovative, humorous, and beautifully sung, the Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario swap lead vocals on this prog-pop first LP. They sound like a dash of Jellyfish, XTC, and Todd Rundgren, and have created something for which you simply crave to hear even more.
Good Times – The Monkees
Not even ironically titled, perhaps, in this challenging year. But their 12th album and their first since 1996, nominator Severin picked out something that against the odds for what could have been a bit of a soft, sentimental 50th anniversary release, but turned out to be fresh and surprisingly good. All four of the band sing; in Davy’s case an old recording, of course, since his passing. The three surviving members play most of the music too. Songwriters include Noel Gallagher, Harry Nilsson and Andy Partridge, who wrote You Bring The Summer:
Head Carrier - Pixies
A release that divided readers and critics, especially after Kim Deal’s departure and their confusing last, Indie Cindy, yet Black Francis and co never fail to surprise, and as with all their material, the more you listen, the more it grows on you. Um Chagga Lagga is perhaps one of the most stupidly brilliant and catchy tracks they’ve ever done.
Human Performance – Parquet Courts
Droll, crisp songs coming from the New York post-punkers sum up the human condition with excellent skill. Their understated, Kraut-rock style song Dust is a fine example:
It's Always the Quiet Ones – Cadaver Club
A standout album of the year for nominator EnglishOutlaw, who says: “While great songs like Southern Cemetery keep true to their funeral punk roots, the new album shows the band’s breadth. The Quiet Ones is reminiscent of Green Day, while Transylvania Twist and Follow Me to Hell are 50s and 60s style rockers and See You on the 31st is a deliciously dark track while Murder of Crows is much gentler and almost playful.”
IV – Badbadnotgood
What is it? Jazz? Hip hop? Electronica? The Canadian group’s fifth studio album grows on you like benevolent ivy. This intricate and musically witty work was lauded by friends from BBC Radio 6Music and the more you listen, the more you can understand why.
Konnichiwa – Skepta
Mercury music prizes can be a curse as much as a blessing for those who want to innovate and stay cutting-edge, but the grime artist transcend his category in ways that made non-grimers listen. That’s Not Me is a track that therefore contains all kinds of irony.
Love & Hate – Michael Kiwanuka
From Black Man in a White World to Father’s Son, Kiwanuka’s soulful second album could have come from the early 70s, and reminds us sometimes of Bill Withers, but that’s never a bad thing. Polished, mature, melancholy and honest, despite the hype he’s established himself as artist to listen to.
My Woman – Angel Olsen
Dark, funny, sad, strange, tragic and a bit daft, Olsen’s third album really grows on you, from the theatrical Shut Up and Kiss Me to the wistful Sister. Fans of the contrasting styles of Laura Marling and PJ Harvey will find much enjoy here.
Malibu – Anderson Paak
A personal album of the year for this week’s guest guru, magicman. Amidst the death and bullshit, war and misery of this relentless year, this was his groove to choose with truly infectious tunes, from the disco-flecked Am I Wrong? to the old-school Celebrate. Paak, who hails from Oxnard in rural California and who despises the term 'urban' for black music since he's a country boy, came up via tracks on the last Dre album Compton. This is his second album.
Nocturnal Koreans – Wire
Songs that they didn't feel fitted on their previous, eponymous 2015 album? You'd normally call them outtakes, said nominator Carpgate, but this was in fact much better than their previous, and their best for years. Strange and compelling pop, which is what Wire do best.
Songs For Our Mothers – Fat White Family
The Peckham-based pranksters don’t simply cause mayhem on their live shows, their second album takes them into territory that truly establishes their punk/psychedelic credentials. Led by singer Lias Kaci Saoudi and guitarist Saul Adamczewski, watch out also for their anarchic side project The Moonlandingz, where on stage, absolutely anything can happen.
Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon
Simon's 13th solo studio album was full of innovations and surprises. What style might he take up next and what collaborations? On three songs he works with Italian electronic dance music artist Clap! Clap!. It came also with plenty of African wind and custom-made instruments including the Cloud-Chamber Bowls and the Chromelodeon, a song about a werewolf and some unusual instrumentals.
The Hope Six Demolition Project - PJ Harvey
Initially there were mixed feelings about this latest from such a innovator of extraordinary high standards, but gradually the album, inspired by a trip to Washington DC and created in front of a watching audience behind glass screens, grew in appeal.
Two Friends, One Century of Music – Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil
Our list somehow must contain a live LP, and what stands out is this truly immaculate release from the two Brazilian legends, performing together around the world in 2016. All the great tunes are here, stripped down to two guitars and two voices.
Unhallowed Ground – System of Hate
Rich, powerful guitar sounds abound in what nominator Carpgate picked out this as his favourite album of the year, created by what he describes as old blokes from Barnsley who have formed a new band that reminds you that punk and goth were once part of the same scene. Goth-punk or punk-goth? Who cares, he says, when they have a sound as powerful and bombastic as on this album. A synth-heavy sound as well, which really isn't the done thing, but, although the lyrics are a bit too much like Black Sabbath leftovers, they pull it off.
Unsongs – Moddi
The Norwegian artist, with a lovely narrative style, has deservedly earned a cover version album place on our list. Nominator Severin points out that these songs – some freely translated into English, some even given new tunes – have all been banned by various authorities around the world. They include Kate Bush’s Army Dreamers which was taken off the BBC’s playlist during the Gulf war, A Matter of Habit, an anti-war song by Israeli singer Izhar Ashdot and Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer, which is given a slow, almost hymn-like arrangement.
We Are King – King
A wonderful ambient, dreamy mix of 70s and 80s-inspired lush vocal harmonies and instrumentals brought neatly into the present by the LA soul trio.
Weaves – Weaves
Indie by category, but pushing the definitions of music with every turn, from singer Jasmyn Burke’s clever whimsical vocals to the extraordinary sounds produced by guitarist Morgan Waters (on stage he’s regularly seen blowing into his guitar’s F-hole), these are true innovators in the art-rock tradition of Talking Heads. Clever, catchy and always surprising. Wonderful.
We Fucked A Flame Into Being – Warhaus
Enjoyable louche effort from Balthazar's Maarten Devoldere, said nominator and Vinyl Tap contributor llamalpaca, this album is laced with some lovely angular Andy Gill-style guitar sounds.
Wildflower – The Avalanches
Sixteen years since the acclaimed Since I Left You, the electronic, plunderphonic duo from Melbourne finally returned with 21 “crazy as a coconut” tracks of enjoyable oddness, swirling orchestration, sampling whimsy and humour with no shortage of talented guests.
You Want It Darker - Leonard Cohen
Another of this year’s sad losses to our musical world, and perhaps appropriately the last on this list, Cohen signed off with a compelling and beautifully written album that never compromises, and digs ever deeper to encapsulate a dark year:
“If you are the dealer, I'm out of the game. If you are the healer, it means I'm broken and lame. If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame. You want it darker. We kill the flame.”
Alas Salvation – Yak
Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper
Let It Be You – Joan As Policewoman and Benjamin Lazar Davis
Meet The Humans – Steve Mason
Made In The Manor – Kano
Midnight Dogs – Midnight Dogs
Now & Then - Steve Ignorant & Paranoid Visions
Road to No Town – Matty James
The Life Of Pablo – Kanye West
The Mountain Will Fall – DJ Shadow
The Weight Of My Wings - Miranda Lambert
Transmissions from Oblivion - Last Great Dreamers
Under The Sun – Mark Pritchard
Think something is missing and want to share it? So many albums, so little time or space, so of course there is. Then please let us know in comments below.
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The results of the current Song Blog topic will launch on Wednesday morning, and the next new topic will appear at 1pm on Thursday.