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Top Albums of the Year
Topic Started: Dec 2 2016, 07:24 AM (591 Views)
Copy_Ninja
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Since I Left You, I Found the World So New

Yes, it is that time of the year. All the major publications are releasing their lists right around now so I figured it's high time we get our topic rolling on it. I was considering doing this earlier but held off until all my anticipated releases came out. I'm not ordering them because frankly I can't think of an order, so I'll just do write ups for what I thought were some of the best release of the year.

Kanye West - The Life of Pablo

Ah Kanye, this has been a strange year even by his standards. Really it's not overly surprising that he's ended it with involuntary commitment to hospital, it feels like he's been slipping mentally all year. From the whole mix up with the release of the album, to his increasingly contradictory Twitter rants, antics at award shows and then finally strange rants on stage. TLOP itself is not one of Kanye's best but it's also not the worst. I think he touches on some interesting stuff in this and I think the production is great as always. Do wish he would have kept some of the guest verses he cut though. Overall it's not MBDTF level but I do think it's better than Yeezus.

Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

Some s***poster on /mu/ started a bandcamp, re-posted some furry stuff on Tumblr and a few years later he ended up performing on Jimmy Fallon. I may have left out a couple of steps in the middle but that's basically the story of Car Seat Headrest. Anyway, Teens of Denial is pretty great. Now this album does not re-invent the wheel, the music is definitely well within what we know as indie rock music. But it's done in a way where every part of it is just on point. Not to say there isn't some ambitious stuff on here, Concordia is a twelve minute track that never gets boring, and the writing manages to paint a really vivid picture of a 20 something with fears he's wasting his life doing too many drugs. Might be an album you have to be at a certain stage of your life to fully appreciate but I'm at that stage so I like it.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

So this is their 16th album as a collective. I don't need to tell you that's a lot of albums and it would be quite easy for things to get stale. And I would argue some of their work is a little stale but not this LP. Now, their music has never bene overly upbeat. I wouldn't say it's ever downright depressing but there's always a focus on heavy topics that you can't really express with positive emotions. This album came out a year after the death of Nick's 15 year old son in a tragic accident. While the album began writing and recording before this, it was completed afterwards and its influence is heavy. There's a lot about dealing with death, grief and mortality and a message of certainty that things will never be the same again now. I think it's a great listen without knowing the backstory but having heard it before I listened, it certainly added to the emotion.

Anderson.Paak - Malibu

This is not making as many lists as I thought it would. Maybe it came out too early in the year? Who knows but Malibu is definitely Paak's strongest release. This album is just so full of soul and he manages to flit between that soulful singing and rapping effortlessly. I think that's a more difficult blend than some people realise, especially when it's all the one person. Do it wrong and it just sounds awful. We've seen a bit of a resurgence of soul lately and I for one am thankful for it. Malibu is probably the best of the bunch so far (though Gambino's album will probably grow on me over the next little while) and I'm looking forward to what he puts out in the future.

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

If you'd have told me when this came out that Radiohead would not make my Top 5 I would have laughed in your face but here we are. For the record, Radiohead is probably my favourite band of all time and I don't think there was ever any doubt that I would love this record. And I do love it. Is it as good as their Big 3 (OK Computer, Kid A and In Rainbows)? No, but they are collosal pieces of art that I don't think can be matched. It is closer than their last album King of Limbs, which is also pretty damn good in its own right. I'm glad we finally got to hear Burn the Witch after all these years (those strings!) and I like how they just sound a bit less cynical on this record. I think Radiohead often unfairly get accused of pretentiousness but I think this record has a general aura of honesty about it that people should appreciate.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...

I aint typing out the whole title but you get what I mean. It would be easy to get caught up in emotion with this considering the death of Phife Dawg earlier in the year but this is a damn great record in its own right without that. It fits in so well with the rest of their discography but not in a way that sounds boring. They've aged since the glory days and I don't think they try to hide that in their music because you can't. They sound older now and with that age comes both limitations and also new advantages, both of which they work within. It's also got a certain ege and considering a Trump victory has occurred, the overtly political themes play sooo well in the current climate.

The Avalanches - Wildflower

16 years fans had to wait for this. The Avalanches first released Since I Left You in 2000 and since then it has gone on to achieve an almost mythical status. They were not the first to create music primarily from samples (see DJ Shadow) but I think they opened up plunderphonics in terms of scope. The number of samples on SILY is insane and they keep up that aspect for this long awaited follow up. Wildflower definitely leans more towards hip hop than its predecessor and this is accompanied by guest verses not present on SILY. But I think the verses flow quite well with the songs and it certainly doesn't hurt that they got quality artists like Danny Brown and MF Doom on here. I've heard Since I Left You described as an album you put on when you're driving at night. If that's the case, then Wildflower is best played during a summers day with the top down and a few mates in the back. It's such a shame that this is not appearing on any lists because I think it's one of the years best.

Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition

I used to hate Danny Brown. I saw him once at a festival a couple of years ago and sort of backed away from the stage when I approached it because his voice was grating. I can now admit that was a mistake. He's sort of like good whiskey, you have to build up an appreciation for it before you can truly understand what everyone else is raving about. Though I suppose Danny is best compared to rather harder drugs than that given the contents of this album. Atrocity Exhibition is exactly as the title sounds. It's an album about debauchery essentially, taking you in to a hectic world of addiction, drugs and everything that comes along with it. The pace is often frantic and at times manic, Danny's style is always a bit unconventional but at times he sounds incomprehensible on this (unless you have the lyrics in front of you, then you can get the picture). Full warning though, if you aren't in to hip hop maybe give this one a miss because it is not accessible to casual fans.

Chance the Rapper - Colouring Book

Chance is the greatest human being currently living and I will fight you IRL if you disagree. Okay a bit of an exaggeration but he really is a great guy by all accounts and it makes me so happy to see him receiving widespread critical acclaim and success. Chance is an independent artist who does not sell his music - he makes all his money from selling merchandise and playing shows. This album ended up being a bit more contentious than I expected but I think thats because of how it differentiates from his other work. Colouring Book, at its heart, is just so positive. The first song All We Got is basically Chance rapping about how fortunate he is and how happy he is with his life. This theme sticks to a lot of the work, with the exception of a few tracks in the middle that are a bit more nostalgic and confront the issue of how people's lives change as they age. There's also a certain gospel influence that might turn some people off in parts but I was able to get through that and it's only OTT on part of one song. Also I'm seeing Chance perform on NYE and am so ridiculously excited.

David Bowie - Blackstar

Not going to say much about this because the album speaks for itself and frankly so much has been written about it and the man himself since his death. All I really need to put is that this is a fitting ending for the man, both a celebration of his life with just a tinge of mourning over his passing. Which is clearly what he intended.

1. Frank Ocean - Blonde

I know I said I wasn't doing rankings but this is the exception because this is no doubt my AOTY. Blonde is a masterpiece from beginning to end. This is one of a few releases this year from artists that had been out of the spotlight for quite a while, including a few I already listed. Blonde not coming out became a meme, especially as it was originally supposed to come out in July of last year and it's first title of Boys Don't Cry was easy to abuse. I was worried the hype would kill any chance of this album living up to my expectations but boy was I wrong. The music is minimalist, there aren't even drums for half the songs but that adds to the theme of what Frank is going for. Channel Orange, his previous release, was more about telling stories of other characters to touch on social issues at large. This album is personal to Frank and a look in to the psyche of a person who is otherwise incredibly private. A lot of the album is about identity and discusses issues of his sexuality, drug use, nostalgia and the undeniable passage of time. Frank also has one of the best voices in the genre and he mixes so many styles so competently. The song "Nights" I think is the high point, a 5 minute song that is really split in to two parts that touches on basically every theme of the album. The icing on the cake has to be the verse from Andre 3000 on Solo(Reprise) which Frank lets play as its own seperate track. The man just appreciates music seperate from his own ego and I would gladly wait another four years for his follow up to this (but I'd rather not plz Frank).

Honourable Mentions (albums I really liked but didn't want to do a write up for):

Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Kendrick Lamar - untitled, unmastered
Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion B Sides
Beyonce - Lemonade
Angel Olsen - My Woman
Parquet Courts - Human Performance
Remi - Substance Therapy
D.D. Dumbo - Utopia Defeated
Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!
Whitney - Light Upon the Lake

Sure I forgot a heap and some I left off because I didn't want to spend too long on it. What about everyone else?
Edited by Copy_Ninja, Dec 2 2016, 07:49 AM.
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* Sousen Ichimonji
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I have very little to add to this topic as I've been somewhat of a retrograde this year. But I'd like to thank you for the excellent post, and I'll be listening to those of your picks I haven't heard as soon as. Agree with the sentiment of TLOP, agree with Blonde as AOTY, and love your take on Wildflower.

If I have one contribution outside of those you've mentioned, it would be Vic Mensa's EP, 'There's A Lot Going On', which I think demonstrates the potential of an artist who has been waiting to emerge for a while. Great production, moving broadly and smoothly along the spectrum of political and personal, and toes that emerging line in modern hip hop between machismo and vulnerability, managing to elevate both moods. A strong showing that I would place in the 'Honourable Mentions' of any list for 2016.
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Copy_Ninja
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Since I Left You, I Found the World So New

Ah yeah that was a pretty good EP, 16 Shots is a reaaaaly heavy track especially, though the whole thing is quite politically charge, which is kind of up my alley tbh. It was solid work and a really good step in his career. I think over the last few years he kind of struggled being in Chance's shadow, both Chicago rappers who came from the same collective. He released a mixtape not too long after Chance released Acid Rap and it honestly sounded like a poor knockoff of it. I think next year is going to be huge for him with his first LP and hopefully continuing to feature with big artists. Obviously Kanye loves him, he was on something with Skrillex semi-recently and I heard he's on the new Gorrilaz record. Can't wait to see where he goes.

Edit: Damn, just realised my list is nearly all dudes. Cba doing any more write ups right now but some good female releases (or bands with female singers) this year:

Solange - A Seat at the Table
Anonhi - Hopelessness
Mitsiki - Puberty 2
Hinds - Leave Me Alone
Julia Jacklin - Don't Let the Kids Win
Lady Gaga - Joanne lol just kidding that album is trash
Edited by Copy_Ninja, Dec 3 2016, 04:06 PM.
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Wow thats quite the lengthy detailed list. It'll take me some time to make a list like that but I was just listening to Snoh Aalegra's album Don't explain for the 3rd time and I love it. It makes the list for me!
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* Mitas
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I haven't really listened to new music as much as I should this year, but I have a couple albums that stood out:

The Sun's Tirade by Isaiah Rashad - Just as good as Cilvia Demo, if not a little better, I really enjoyed this. Rashad half-singing/half-rapping style and his ear for melodies makes for easy listening, and the production on the album compliments that. Like I said, haven't listened to many new albums as thoroughly as I should have, but this is easily my favourite of the few I've given enough time.

Lead Poison by eLZhi - eLZhi is extremely underrated and this album is a testament to that. The stereotypical 'rapper's rapper', Lead Poison is great lyrically throughout. Highly recommended for hip-hop fans.

Blank Face by ScHoolboy Q - I remember being underwhelmed on my first listen, but it grew on me through the year and quite a few tracks ended up making it into my regular rotation. Q doesn't break new ground in terms of who he is as a rapper, but if you like him, you'll like this.

untitled, unmastered by Kendrick Lamar - Not really a full album, but a solid collection of tracks.
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孫 悟空

I think the only new album I've heard this year that I've liked was Unleashed by Skillet. First time you hear some of the songs they don't seem too catchy, but after you listen to them a couple times they're pretty good. A lot of really good tracks on the album regardless. The most popular is probably "Feel Invincible" or "Back From the Dead." My favorite track though is "The Resistance." The ending of the song is also awesome and is a great way to end the album. I've never been to a concert, but that is definitely what they need to end with from now on.
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Jet
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Pleasantly surprised how decent A Tribe Called Quest's new album is. First side slays.
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There are only two new albums that I have bought this year. I like both of them and they should be included on the list for best albums:

1. The Getaway - Red Hot Chili Peppers: Gotta be honest I really love this album. Its one of the best new releases from a band that I have listened to for a long while and is definitely up there with RHCP's best albums, if not taking the top spot. Its got a few different sounds on it to normal but stays true to the RHCP sound that we have grown accustomed to. The standout track for me is Encore, its got a really ethereal and delicate sound which I love.

2. Blackstar - David Bowie: This was never not gonna be on here. Its a pretty short track list but Lazarus is again a new single from someone that really grabbed me as being a fantastic song right away. The rest of the songs are also good and I think show Bowie in a whole new way. It's a very morbid album for a number of reasons, largely the lyrical content, subject matter and the fact that Bowie died very shortly after it was released. Even til the last he was experimenting with new sounds and I have read in a number of places he took some inspiration from artists like Kendrick Lamar on this one, which should be a real ego booster for him.


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Princess_Havoc

Missed the two best albums imo

1.Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness: Part One - Tokyo Police Club: Technically an Ep but still, s*** is amazing, not sure if as a whole it's better then their old work but some singles are some of their best songs ever.

2. 4 Your Eyez Only - J.Cole: Album just dropped and it's hella fire. This album is gonna catch on real soon.

And of course you mentioned but still.

3. 22 A Million - Bon Iver : Goat of folk music is back. Some stranger sounds than normal but mostly good stuff overall.

4.Awaken, My Love! - Childish Gambino: Haven't listened to it yet but heard its different than his usual stuff.


Edited by Havoc_Wreaker, Dec 10 2016, 05:32 AM.
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Copy_Ninja
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Since I Left You, I Found the World So New

J Cole you say?

N O F E A T U R E S
O
F
E
A
T
U
R
E
S

To be fair that album dropped after I made the list, I didn't even know he had one coming out until I saw it on Apple Music yesterday. Having listened to it, I don't think it would have made the list though. It's decent for sure but there's been better this year. Though I was never as in to him as a lot of others are.

Edit: Also the Hamilton mixtape is pretty good. I don't know how good people would find it if you haven't listened to and enjoyed the musical soundtrack first though.
Edited by Copy_Ninja, Dec 10 2016, 07:03 AM.
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Princess_Havoc

lol yes no features double platinum .....
check out the Tokyo Police Club Ep, indie/alt rock with some electric sounds here and there.
And it's a Canadian band to boot.
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* Mitas
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I wanted to add one more album to this. Run The Jewels 3 came over Christmas and if you have even a passing interest in hip-hop, check it out. The best of the three so far, in my opinion, which is saying something since I consider RTJ1 one of my favourite albums period.
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