Top 50 Albums of 2016

I already disagree with most of the choices I've made, but whatever. Here's a bunch of the stuff I've enjoyed listening to this year. First though, even though there are entries that are EPs by name, I want to big up a couple of releases that didn't make the list, Jack R Reilly's Video Tapes and Burial's YOUNG DEATH/NIGHTMARKET, both of which you should listen to.

Anyway, 50 things.

50                  Steve Hauschildt – Strands

Beautiful and comforting appegiated synth, rich and rewardingly layered.

 

49                  Lexxi – 5TARB01

Fun beatsy electronica that borrows from many styles. Effortlessly fun.

 

48                  Amnesia Scanner – AS

Rich, complex and uncomfortable electronica that is somehow fun and dancy.

 

47                  Equip - I Dreamed Of A Palace In The Sky

The gorgeous, lush soundtrack to a fictional 90s JRPG. So much detail, so much memory, without being cheaply nostalgic.

 

46                  Hockey Dad – Boronia

Fun, poppy, Wollongong rock. Sounds like summer.

 

45                  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

The songs are stripped of any unnecessary emotion, ephemera or pomp. Rich, raw.

 

44                  A Tribe Called Quest - We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service

Reaching into the past without sounding like a retrospective. Bringing an older sound into the present without losing a hint of relevance.

 

43                  BADBADNOTGOOD – IV

I think BBNG have grown a lot through the last few years of branching out and working with an impressive range of collaborators – this album demonstrates their ability to work well with new voices but also their continued growth as composers and musicians.

 

42                  Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker

I’ve never been the biggest Cohen fan but in this album I found the richness and expressiveness in his voice and songwriting that captures so many. A humbling and generous listen.

 

41                  Brood Ma – DAZE

Weird and dark electronica with disorientating synth and samples.

 

40                  death's dynamic shroud.wmv - Classroom Sexxtape

Not as easy a listen as last year’s I’ll Try Living Like This, but fantastically weird and funny and full of richness in its composition.

 

39                  Angel Olsen - My Woman

I love the warmth and immediacy of the recording, and Olsen’s songwriting is sharper than ever.

 

38                  Nothing Rhymes With David - Things Work Out For People Like You

Full of heart and beautiful melodies, excellent songwriting that really hits the mark.

 

37                  Young Thug - No, My Name is JEFFERY

I am so grateful to YT for continuing to be weird, and different to all other hip hop coming out. Also probably most striking album cover of the year.

 

36                  Jessy Lanza - Oh No

Fun and dancy pop with just enough weird stuff scattered through to unsettle it.

 

35                  Jozef van Wissem - When Shall This Bright Day Begin

Strange folk that feels unrooted in time or place. Sounds like watching something from a great distance.

 

34                  Second Woman - Second Woman

Reminiscent of Aphex’s work this year, but maybe even more restless. A crazy and demanding listen.

 

33                  Andy Stott - Too Many Voices

I kept coming back to this for its ambience and its delicate beats.

 

32                  Blood Orange - Freetown Sound

Hynes’ voice is stupidly good. His songwriting and production is also stupidly good. Gorgeous album, powerful and full of love.

 

31                  Reuben Ingall & David Finnigan - Kill Climate Deniers

It’s been a strange pleasure to watch this project move from theatre script to object of conservative hatred to radio play to 90s club album. An insane example of art becoming part of the world it’s trying to explain, this album is important documentation of the Australia we live in, and already a bizarre artefact of the climate debate.

 

30                  Marcus Whale - Inland Sea

Marcus’ voice is a constant pleasure, but this album backs it up with fantastic songwriting and production. A real and complex delight.

 

29                  Equiknoxx - Bird Sound Power

Fun, groovy Jamaican dancehall.

 

28                  Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

Long, dark album of heartbreaking soul. Really lovely stuff.

 

27                  Sicko Mobb - Super Saiyan Vol. 3

Sleazy beats with overly-autotuned vocals and incongruous references. Stupidly fun.

 

26                  King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity

Seeing them live again recently solidified my feeling that this album is King GLW approaching whatever it is they’ve been working towards. I think after the five albums next year (…) they’ll get there too. But for an at time inconsistent band, this is maybe their most consistent work, and one of their most fun efforts easily.

 

25                  Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke - It's Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry

Really lovely, lush ambient noise. Two masters at work.

 

24                  clipping. - Splendor & Misery

Experimental hip hop concept album about a survivor on a spaceship after a slave uprising yes pls.

 

23                  A Tribe Called Red - We Are the Halluci Nation

I think this album is a full realisation of ATCR, both in sound and concept. The story of the Halluci Nation speaks sharply to indigenous narratives and issues (particularly in the year of Standing Rock) and the tracks are infused with their signature pow-wow better than ever, supported by fantastic guests like Black Bear and Yasiin Bey.

 

22                  Oren Ambarchi – Hubris

Immersive, and repetitive in a way that constantly unearths new facets and discoveries.

 

21                  djwwww – Arigato

Full of weird sampling and pauses and melodies, I don’t know how to talk about this kind of stuff but it makes my brain feel good.

 

20                  Charles Bradley – Changes

Best soul album of the year. Bradley is at his height as a bandleader and bringing more nuance to his vocals than ever. Scream on, eagle.

 

19                  Tim Hecker - Love Streams

Otherworldly waves of noise.

 

18                  James Ferraro - Human Story 3

Could hardly have picked a better year to make something so beautiful about the shallowness of everything.

 

17                  Mark Pritchard - Under The Sun

Stunning ambience punctuated by lovely songs and well utilised guests.

 

16                  Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book

The positivity on this album makes it a constant source of joy. Gorgeous elements of soul make it full of love.

 

15                  Skepta – KONNICHIWA

I just love how cool Skepta is, and how his ego on this album is constructed in such a way to speak so well to London, and the people in his world. Super powers, fam.

 

14                  Mitski - Puberty 2

Sharp and concise album full of songs about insecurities bound together in fantastic distortion.

 

13                  Urthboy - The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat

I love the way this album is woven out of a history of family and place. Feels incredibly relevant to Sydney at this point in time to look backwards and (with Little Girl’s Dad) to the world we want.

 

12                  Run the Jewels - RTJ3

Some of the best production work on a hip hop album I’ve heard. Every song is huge and fun and listening to this is the best time. Thankyou for disrupting everyone’s end of year lists by outBurialling even Burial.

 

11                  The Drones - Feelin Kinda Free

Wonderfully Kraut-influenced, the Drones took the space they worked with on Seaweed, stripped and back and charged it with acerbic, righteous anger. This band embodies a politics we need.

 

10                  Matmos - Ultimate Care II

Whole album derived from the artists’ washing machine. Unbelievably good at letting you forget that you’re listening to a whitegood and then forcefully reminding you. But despite the experimental approach to the album’s conceit – and this is what makes Matmos special – the album is an absolute banger. Never have better beats come from the laundry.

 

9                    A.B. Original - Reclaim Australia

One of the most important releases of the year. Full of razor sharp lyrics and aggressive politics, uncompromising indigenous voices wrapped in classic hip hop production.

 

8                    Blank Banshee – Mega

Like if William Gibson wrote a Megaman game. The vapor and trap elements combine to make something poppier than it has rights to be.

 

7                    Aphex Twin - Cheetah EP

Frenetic, high energy and absolutely succinct. James continues to be on top of his game – and his game is many games.

 

6                    Odeko - A History With Samus

Gorgeously dreamy and chill beats, I love the combination of warmth and what feels like distance in the different parts. High rotation since discovery.

 

5                    David Bowie – Blackstar

Not much to say that hasn’t already been said, but one of his most exciting albums ever, and I am floored that someone can respond to their own end so richly – this is a higher class of art.

 

4                    Carly Rae Jepsen - EMOTION Side B

I quite easily listened to EMOTION more than anything else this year, so 8 more tracks from the cutting room floor was always going to be welcome. It’s maybe not as adventurous in songwriting or production as the tracks that made the album, but there’s everything in here I need to have a great time.

 

3                    Elysia Crampton - Demon City

Dark percussive tracks with a crazy amount of sampled demonic laughing, because I’m not sure why, but also the elegant way Crampton weaves so many different collaborators and sounds into a demanding, cohesive release is exactly why.

 

2                    Camp Cope - CAMP COPE

Equal parts angry and gut-wreching, this kept me company for a lot of less than stellar moments of 2016. There’s something about it that just feels like Camp Cope have a direct line to you, stripped away of everything unessential.

 

1                    Jenny Hval - Blood Bitch

I’ve been a fan of Hval’s since her 2013 release Innocence Is Kinky. This, I think, is her best work to date – radically experimental but at the same time her most accessible. Themed around menstruation, vampires, and desire, it’s typically intelligent but ultimately an emotive album – warm, delicate and fragile.