Best of 2016

Essential albums

It might not have been a vintage year for glad tidings, but what 2016 lacked in LOLs it just about made up for in quality albums. From Bowie’s final masterpiece to a powerful protest record by Anohni –via Skepta’s Mercury Prize-winning comeback and a vibrant return from A Tribe Called Quest – check out the year’s best music below.

The Top 10

  • ANOHNI - HOPELESSNESS
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    If the prospect of an album critiquing ecocide, surveillance culture, US defence policy and the brutality of drone warfare doesn’t sound like the most joyous way to spend 40 minutes, we urge you to put your preconceptions aside: this is a beautiful, powerful and inexplicably uplifting protest record. Written in collaboration with Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, Hopelessness is a far cry from the pastoral indie-folk of Anohni’s work with Antony and the Johnsons, and her previous collaborations with Hercules and Love Affair. And yet, the album’s elastic beats, doomy subs and euphoric synths prove the ideal vehicle for Anohni’s soulful melisma, and bring an added sense of urgency to her searing missives. Quite astonishingly brilliant.
  • Babyfather - "BBF" Hosted By DJ Escrow
    A few months ago, Dean Blunt uploaded a mixtape online, only to remove it moments later. While undoubtedly confusing to those unfamiliar with his prankster ways, the stunt was exactly what you’d expect from a man whose trolling of the NME Awards last year laid bare his apathetic approach toward the scene. Returning as Babyfather, the Hype Williams-mastermind tells the satirical tale of an aspiring grime MC, taking us deep into his Hackney hometurf, where sirens and domestic brawls play out above lo-fi beats and dub-inspired bass. Aided by Arca and Micachu, Blunt moves effortlessly from his krautrock-tinged Black Metal LP into hip-hop territory, continuing to carve out an inimitable identity within contemporary music, while remaining admirably unfazed by his growing reputation.
  • Solange - A Seat at the Table (Explicit)Contains explicit content
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    A full eight years since Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, and four since acclaimed EP True, Beyoncé’s younger sister finally unveils her third LP. By turns defiant, triumphant, moving and soothing, A Seat At The Table sees Solange deliver a deeply personal account of her experiences as a woman of colour that will doubtless resonate on a global scale. Featuring contributions from Kelela, Sampha, Q-Tip and Lil Wayne, her dreamy, often jazz-inspired strain of soul is interspersed with powerful spoken-word interludes, including her father revealing the racial discrimination he faced growing up, and her mother discussing the importance of celebrating black heritage. Culturally important and hugely absorbing, this is Knowles’ finest offering yet.

The rest of the best...