We have reached the top twenty of my favourite full-length albums of 2016, with classic comebacks, career-defining records and outstanding debuts all making the cut.
20- Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)
Human Performance is without question Parquet Courts’ finest work to date due to the energy and vibrancy that permeates through every track. Sometimes this energy is infectious and catchy (Berlin Got Blurry), however, this energy can also be a nervous one that evokes feelings of claustrophobia, threat and lost love. Human Performance showcases a flurry of different guitar tones and indie rock sounds, with psychedelic rock, art punk and Velvet Underground-like sounds all recognisable throughout the track-list.
Highlights: Berlin Got Blurry, Human Performance, One Man No City
19- Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
My Woman is without question Angel Olsen’s most confident, nuanced and intricate record to date, with an opening half of upbeat rock and roll cuts and a backhalf of sprawling, slower heart-pullers. My Woman showcases Olsen’s ability make different types of indie rock, all while being distinctly her; passionate, fierce and electric.
Highlights: Shut Up Kiss Me, Intern, Sister
18- Death Grips – Bottomless Pit (Harvest)
Bottomless Pit serves as an interesting point in the story and discography of Death Grips, with this record acting as more of a refinement of what the band have done to this point than another reinvention or a retread. Bottomless Pit is certainly the group’s catchiest and most accessible records yet, although it should be noted that this is still not a pop rap project- this is still some of the most abrasive and experimental rap music you are going to hear in 2016. However, the typically abrasive and blistering nature of the group is matched here with some of the bands most succinct and refined songwriting to date, making for one of the most exhilarating albums of recent years. There’s more than enough here for hardcore fans of the band to be satisfied, but also an accessibility that has not always been as prevalent on earlier Death Grips projects. I’d definitely recommend this to you if you’ve found the Sacramento trio of MC Ride, Zach Hill and Flatlander too inaccessible in the past, but are willing to give them another shot.
Highlights: Spikes, Giving Bad People Good Ideas, Eh
17- BadBadNotGood – IV (Innovative Leisure)
Canadian jazz/instrumental hip hop group BadBadNotGood have released yet another album full of energetic and spontaneous electronic jazz tracks that feel expertly crafted, particularly with a star-studded guest list. IV is an intriguing listen with interchanging ideas showcasing the band’s capacity to change up their sound, while also providing longtime fans of theirs with their trademark hip hop flair. Yet another terrific release from one of my favourite bands; I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Highlights: Time Moves Slow (Feat. Samuel T Herring), Lavender (Feat. Kayatranada), Confessions Pt II (Feat. Colin Stetson)
16- Kaytranada – 99.9% (XL Recordings)
My favourite dance release of 2016, 99.9% is brimming with star-studded guest appearances, vibrant rhythms and a diverse palette of sounds and influences, ranging from house to R&B and hip hop to dance pop. Kaytranada’s now typical sound is very percussion-driven, however, these percussive rhythms change with almost every track, making for one of 2016’s most colourful and eclectic releases, while also being distinctly Kaytranada. It can be difficult to know which sonic direction this record will take at any given moment, however, with a guy as talented as Kaytranada at the helm, I’m happy to be taken into any sonic dimension he so pleases.
Highlights: Glowed Up (Feat. Anderson .Paak, Weight Off (Feat. BadBadNotGood), Bus Ride (Feat. Karriem Riggins, River Tiber)
15- Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered. (Top Dawg Entertainment)
This record has often been described as a compilation of outtakes from Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly recordings, and although this is, in reality, what untitled unmastered is, it still feels like that is selling the project short. untitled unmastered does not have the polish, overarching vision or narrative of Lamar’s magnum opus, however, it should not be skipped over as a mere collection of odds and ends, with the tracks here showcasing more of Lamar’s uncanny ability to make in-depth observations of life and the human condition sound so effortless, poignant and succinct. I was eagerly anticipating the release of some of the “untitled” tracks Kendrick performed on late-night television, and it is safe to say that the release of untitled unmastered not only lived up to this anticipation, but blew me away.
Highlights: untitled 03 (05.28.2013), untitled 02 (06.23.2014), untitled 05 (09.21.2014)
14-A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)
Comeback albums really shouldn’t be this good. We Got It From Here…, Tribe’s sixth full-length, and first since 1998, has every right to be considered as a standout in their discography and not as a mere cash-grab. As a whole, Tribe sound as relevant as ever, with their jazz-rap stylings holding up remarkably well in 2016’s hip hop climate. The record is littered with features from frequent collaborators such as Busta Rhymes and Consequence, as well as more unexpected collaborations with Elton John and Jack White and despite such variety this is one hell of a cohesive record that is as artistic, infectious and relevant as a 2016 Tribe album could possibly be, particularly after the unfortunate passing of the legendary Phife Dawg. Thank you, A Tribe Called Quest, this is one hell of a comeback, and one hell of a final album.
Highlights: We The People, Dis Generation, Kids
13- The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free (Tropical Fuck Storm Records)
Although a far-cry from the band’s earlier blues-rock sound, Feelin Kinda Free is already a standout in the discography of one of Australia’s finest rock bands, with noise rock, post punk and art rock sounds all dominating this record. With tracks focussing on topics from the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran in 2015 (Private Execution) to a criticism of modern Australian media and society (Taman Shud), Feelin Kinda Free is as musically challenging as it is politically charged. Snarling, angry, haunting and cathartic all at the same time; this is one hell of a listen.
Highlights: Taman Shud, To Think That I Once Loved You, Private Execution
12- Camp Cope – Camp Cope (Poison City Recordings)
Camp Cope’s debut record is an exhilaratingly passionate and cathartic set of tracks depicting the real challenges faced by everyday people that have struck a chord every time I have listened to them. Tracks like ‘Done’ highlight the group’s sincerity towards serious issues, as well as their well-documented social conscious. Georgia Maq is a magnetic force behind the microphone due to her earnest, cathartic and observational approach to songwriting, and when matched with such tightly executed instrumentation, this set of tracks just makes me all the more excited to see the group in a live setting and to hear whatever they come up with next.
Highlights: Done, Lost (Season One), Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams
11- James Blake – The Colour In Anything (1-800 Dinosaur)
The Colour In Anything sees Blake strip away some of the barriers and impersonal mystique that shrouded some of his earlier work, with Blake adopting fewer vocal alterations and a drearier melodic texture overall. This record feels maximalist in its structure and length, but the utilisation of more of Blake’s naturally haunting vocals without added effects makes the record his most personal, devastating and evocative yet. This isn’t an easy listen, but it is a damn rewarding one and provides every indication that Blake has the ability to expand his sound even further on future releases. The Colour In Anything is a heartbreaking, ethereal and intimate record that demands repeated listens as it envelops you into Blake’s world of raw emotion.
Highlights: Radio Silence, Modern Soul, The Colour In Anything
Check out some tracks off these albums in the playlist below!