A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

My Favourite 100 Albums Of 2016

Another year, another 100 albums.

2016 may have been a depressing and exasperating year in some ways but it was another excellent year for music. As always, I’ve enjoyed exploring my way through the new releases, making new discoveries and re-establishing old acquaintances before seeing how they ultimately settle into a list of favourites (although there’s probably more in the way of familiar names in the below list, certainly towards the upper end). I’m certainly more than happy to be defined by the below 100 albums. As other people have said when publishing their end of year lists the top 20 is pretty accurately ordered, after that it becomes a little more arbitrary and changeable.

Will by Julianna Barwick narrowly edged out False Readings On By Eluvium to claim my top spot. Both ‘broke free’ from other albums by October and it was just a case of seeing which album would remain in front. Both artists have featured in my previous end of year lists and these albums saw them operating at an extremely high level, both arguably approaching the peak of their powers. The Julianna Barwick album is a stunningly beautiful and concise piece of work while (under his Eluvium alias) Matthew Cooper excels himself once more with his ecstatically charged ambient music. At times it seems like his music has a direct connection to the heavens, full of emotional direct hits and able to achieve a transcendence rarely found elsewhere. To me, both albums represent a voyage through the human psyche, body and soul. They both have depth and longevity in abundance (two qualities I always look for in albums). In some ways it seems unfair to have to place one above the other (sorry Matthew).

Elsewhere, Noura Mint Seymali consolidated her position as one of the most exciting artists around and we saw the welcome return of my beloved Teenage Fanclub. At the start of the year if someone had told me that one of my favourite albums of the year would feature guest vocals from Craig David it’s fair to say that it would have been met with a degree of scepticism but that’s what actually happened with the excellent 99.9% by Kaytranada clocking in at number eight (it is sort of like a distant cousin to Ego Death, last year’s similarly impressive album by The Internet). The Cocteau Twins sound more influential with each passing year and I loved how C Duncan incorporated some of the sounds and textures found on albums like Victorialand on his second album The Midnight Sun. Meanwhile albums by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Badbadnotgood, Eighth Blackbird, Agnes Obel, Peter Broderick and Plaid (amongst others) also made lasting impressions. I could go on making similar testimonies about all of these albums to be honest.

Given the context/circumstances behind their creation and release it may seem surprising that albums like You Want It Darker (Leonard Cohen), Skeleton Tree (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) and Blackstar (David Bowie) occupy the relatively lowly positions they do but I probably didn’t listen to them enough to allow them to take higher spots.

I didn’t review as many albums this year (a pitiful, shamefully paltry seven in total) and didn’t do much better on gigs either (ten, if you include the always life-affirmingly brilliant WOMAD festival). I definitely need to try harder on the reviewing front in 2017. As always, radio proved the best way for me to discover new music and I’m grateful to Late Junction, Gilles Peterson, Gideon Coe, Marc Riley and others for bringing many of these artists to my attention.

Here is my top 100 in full:

100) Las Kellies - Friends And Lovers
99) Illum Sphere - Glass
98) Sara Neufeld - The Ridge
97) Various Artists - Space Echo (The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed)
96) Cavern Of Anti-Matter - void beats/invocation trex
95) Margaret Glaspy - Emotions And Math
94) Aisha Orazbayeva - Telemann Fantasias
93) Mary Lattimore – At The Dam
92) Yorkston/Thorne/Khan - Everything Sacred (Old Queen's Head live review)
91) Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra - Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
90) The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum
89) Various Artists - Soul Sok Sega (Sounds From Mauritius 1973-1979)
88) Leverton Fox - Velcro Bird
87) Solar Bears - Advancement
86) M. Ward - More Rain
85) Belbury Poly - New Ways Out
84) Jessy Lanza - Oh No (album review)
83) Damien Jurado - Visions Of Us On The Land
82) 75 Dollar Bill – Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock
81) Karl Blau - Introducing Karl Blau
80) King Creosote - Astronaut Meets Appleman
79) Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop - Love Letter For Fire
78) Kel Assouf - Tikounen
77) Rokia Traoré - Né So
76) Aziza Brahim - Abbar El Hamada
75) Morgan Delt - Phase Zero
74) Eleanor Friedberger - New View
73) Tycho - Epoch
72) Keaton Henson - Kindly Now
71) Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
70) Claire M Singer - Solas
69) Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
68) Imarhan - Imarhan
67) Konono No. 1 Meets Batida - Konono No. 1 Meets Batida
66) Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness
65) Donny McCaslin - Beyond Now
64) Guy Andrews - Our Spaces
63) Sarathy Korwar - Day To Day
62) Loscil - Monument Builders
61) Lisa Hannigan - At Swim
60) Jason Sharp - A Boat Upon Its Blood
59) Arborist - Dark Stream
58) Xylouris White - Black Peak
57) Yussef Kamaal - Black Focus
56) Immix Ensemble - Transition
55) Azymuth - Fênix
54) The Comet Is Coming - Channel The Spirits
53) Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
52) Turin Brakes - Lost Property
51) Family Atlantica - Cosmic Unity
50) PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
49) Mica Levi/Oliver Coates - Remain Calm
48) Klara Lewis - Too
47) Meta Meta - MM3
46) Baaba Maal - The Traveller
45) Bonnie Prince Billy/Bitchin' Bajas - Epic Jammers And Fortunate Little Ditties
44) Mogwai - Atomic
43) Lambchop - FLOTUS
42) Ian William Craig - Centres
41) M Craft - Blood Moon
40) Szun Waves - At Sacred Walls
39) Various Artists - Orbital Planes & Passenger Trains, Vol. 1
38) North Sea Radio Orchestra - Dronne
37) Be - One
36) Steve Mason - Meet The Humans
35) Federico Albanese (album review)
34) Botany - Deepak Verbera
33) Patten - Ψ
32) Brian Eno - The Ship (album review)
31) Shirley Collins - Lodestar
30) Amiina - Fantômas
29) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
28) David Bowie - Blackstar
27) Oliver Coates - Upstepping
26) William Tyler - Modern Country
25) Tortoise - The Catastrophist
24) Tindersticks - The Waiting Room
23) The High Llamas - Here Come The Rattling Trees (album review)
22) Ben Lukas Boysen - Spells
21) Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée
20) ISAN - Glass Bird Movement
19) Mono - Requiem For Hell
18) Petrels - Jörð
17) Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS
16) Badbadnotgood - IV
15) Peter Broderick - Partners
14) Agnes Obel - Citizen Of Glass
13) Plaid - The Digging Remedy
12) Anoushka Shankar - Land Of Gold
11) Brigid Mae Power - Brigid Mae Power
10) Eighth Blackbird - Hand Eye
9) Whitney - Light Upon The Lake
8) Kaytranada - 99.9%
7) Douglas Dare - Aforger (album review)
6) Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life (Royal Festival Hall live review)
5) Teenage Fanclub - Here
4) C Duncan - The Midnight Sun
3) Noura Mint Seymali - Arbina (album review and interview)
2) Eluvium - False Readings On
1) Julianna Barwick - Will (Pickle Factory live review)

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