TAO's Top 15 Albums Of The Year 2016
After much deliberation, here are TAO's top 15 picks from 2016 in what was a brilliant year for music:
15. Schmilco – Wilco
Schmilco is a really sobering album for veterans of the alternative/indie movement. The subdued acoustics on “If I Ever Was A Child” produce a nice sedative to carry you through the record in a weightless fashion, but it never once lets up despite its leisurely pace. A mindful and tasteful masterstroke.
14. You Will Never Be One Of Us – Nails
Nails third studio album won’t necessarily be a favourite amongst everyone, but you cannot deny that this records hits murderously hard, whether you’re a fan of aggressive music or not. But instead of judging the record by its demonic sleeve, you should appreciate the message it attempts to get across in order to give it its due. Not all music that features mercilessly heavy vocals suck. But I urge you to give this record a chance.
13. Promise Everything – Basement
Cathartic and uplifting in some places. Sombre and bitter in others. This is Basement as we know it and then some. They’ve refined the dynamics of their last record, notably on tracks like “Hanging Around” and “Aquasun”, but they’ve not petered out despite the scare of their two-year hiatus. The future looks bright for the Ipswich outfit.
12. Take Control – Slaves
Wall-to-wall anthems embellish Slaves’ second studio album. The simplistic nature of “Hypnotised” and title track “Take Control” are boldly deliberate. The thrills and spills aren’t always present in the song-writing, but more so in the musicianship; their charisma and energy overshadow their intelligence in the construction of the songs, but it’s straight-up punk that has been longing for a place in contemporary charts for a while.
11. Blonde – Frank Ocean
The hype that surrounded Blonde could have seen Frank Ocean succumb to the sky-high expectations, especially given the tortuous teasers and release pushbacks. But he conquered the promotion, and, respectively, the social anxiety that drapes much of the records' focus of attention, by delivering a truly delicate showpiece.
10. A Seat At The Table – Solange Knowles
This record is much more about the music; it’s an absolute celebration of black culture and heritage, transcending that of just 21 tracks of vocals and instrumentations. It demands that you pay attention to the subject matter, particularly on the headstrong “Weary”: “But you know that a king is only a man, with flesh and bones, he bleeds just likes you do; He said “Where does that leave you?”, and, “Do you belong?”; I do, I do”.
9. 4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole
The concept of J. Cole’s fourth studio entry added depth and detail into the North Carolina rapper’s craft, not that he lacked it before, but the backbone of this record relied on a stronger and more courageous Cole that had not been seen previous to this. Moments like "She's Mine, Pt.2" and "Immortality" offer subtle beauty in amongst moments of quiet chaos.
8. Blackstar – David Bowie
Bowie’s swan-song masterpiece combined pop, rock, experimental rock, and art rock, contemporary and jazz to make for a fantastically emotional envoi. Without sounding like a broken record, the man of many faces will live on through his legendary stockpile of writings. He inspired millions when walking the earth, and will continue to do so even after his departure.
7. Chaos ’93 – Ocean Wisdom
One of the more overlooked and underrated records of 2016, debutant Ocean Wisdom makes good on his initiation into rap and passes with flying colours. The intimidating pen-game of the Brighton-based artist is supreme, not to mention the added proficiency of Dirty Dike on production. Rap has a new game-changer.
6. untitled unmastered. – Kendrick Lamar
More than just a handful of b-sides and studio antiques, though not his strongest piece of work, this record exhibits Kendrick’s versatility as an artist and gives great promise to the modern era of hip-hop. Not too hot under the collar, but neither docile enough to pass it off as just a collection of stale outtakes.
5. A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead
Sonically, A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead’s most pleasing record in their discography. Their ever-changing sense of direction in the style of their sound is captivating; nobody else could do it quite like them. And they never go out of style respectively. Just plug in your headphones and immerse yourself in this ethereal muse, and you’ll see why Radiohead are one of the best bands this country has produced.
4. Curve Of The Earth – Mystery Jets
Despite being only 9 tracks long, Curve Of The Earth is all killer no filler, providing moments of sheer finesse on the gorgeous arrangements of “Taken By The Tide” and “Midnight’s Mirror”. Its construction is incredibly pleasing and showcases the English 5-piece at their brilliant best.
3. Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper
Chicagoan Chance The Rapper’s third mixtape was met with high praise for its buoyancy on tracks like “All Night” and “Finish Line”, but also for its more sentimental moments like the “Blessings” pairing and “D.R.A.M. Sings Special”. Undeniably, Chance had the feel-good vibes down to a tee.
2. Stage Four – Touché Amoré
The loss of frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother will have undoubtedly sent the 33 year-old into a state of discouragement. But in these tragic events, subsequently, the impetus for the album was born, and the singer/songwriter - along with the support of his band mates – generated one of the most arresting albums of the year, both sonically and lyrically.
1. The Life Of Pablo – Kanye West
Mr. West’s 20-track saga manifested to his first-rate knack for samples and provocative beats. Though he garnered a star-studded line-up from the likes of Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper, the Atlanta born rapper’s innate musical prestige in hip-hop was carried from strength to strength. And despite a spat with Taylor Swift putting him into the headlines months after the release, it did him no harm. In fact, it did quite the opposite.