Whilst 2016 has been too full of tragedy and sad loss it has also undoubtedly been a bumper year in terms of album releases.
There is no way to aptly mark the passing of some of the very best artists of any generation but in amongst the untimely deaths has come some inspirational and ground breaking music.
My albums are all ones I have enjoyed immensely and continue to play. Whilst Radiohead, M.I.A, Peter Doherty and many others may have missed the cut it wasn't really a difficult choice this year. It may not be all that eclectic but there are some great albums in there. Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree is not only this years best album but also an album that is rapidly becoming one of my all time favourites, it's just so good.
Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life
A fabulous talent with a unique song-writing quality; telling great stories, with a twist and turn along the way. As ever the piano movements are wonderful. The strings are sublime and the tales, wry and witty. Regina is in fine voice on her latest album and has lost none of her ability to frame a fascinating blend of musical styles and influences. A delightful return.
Slaves - Take Control
Another of this years albums that is a surprising good 2nd album release. Slaves started with a bang on 'Are You Satisfied' and there was a question of whether they'd burn out, break-up or just implode with such velocity and venom. 'Take Control' however sees them move on, move forward and move on up in a musical sense. The album allayed all fears and delivered on several counts, including the few slow numbers. 'F*#k The High Hat' indeed.
James Blake - The Colour In Anything
A somewhat unexpected mid-year treat seemingly coming out of nowhere on the 6th May. On this his 3rd album Blake continues to redefine his own particular blend of challenging electro-soul through an epic full length album. 'Modern Soul', 'Timeless' and 'Radio Silence' see Blake ahead of the genre he helped to create and spearhead with such fascinating compositions.
Joan As Policewoman and Benjamin Lazar Davis - Let It Be You
Not her best work to date but an interesting detour nonetheless. Joan's voice is as soulful as ever as she captivates the listener through some great songs. 'Overloaded', 'Station' and most certainly 'Magic Lamp' are all worth a listen if you're at all curious.
Flowers - Everybody's Dying To Meet You
A great album from an as yet largely undiscovered band. Following up 2013's charming debut, 'Do What You Want, It's What You Should Do'. EDTMY is a ten set spectacular that whizz's, sparkles and effervesces with energy and infectious enthusiasm. Listen to the sizzling, scuzzy guitars, the deft percussion, listen to 'Russian Doll', 'Pull My Arm', 'Intrusive Thoughts' and 'Ego Loss', but above all, be prepared to be blown away when you hear the angelic voice of Rachel Kenedy....it is beyond compare.
Daughter - Not To Disappear
Early out of the gates, with a January release date, Daughter returned with their 2nd album to follow up 2013's, 'If You Leave', in some style. The eloquent and evocative soundscape of 'Not To Disappear', is full of beauty and grace but also a truth and unflinching honesty born out through Elena Tonra's devastatingly good lyrical flourishes. 'Numbers', 'To Belong' and 'Alone/With You' show a band in very fine form and only getting better.
Bat For Lashes - The Bride
Natasha Khan's 3rd Mercury nominated and 4th studio album to date, 'The Bride', charts a cinematic style story line through some fabulously versed songs and a mesmeric performance. Khan's beguiling vocal, well crafted lyrics, great arrangements and the overall production makes this a must in this years list. I was fortunate enough to catch her live this year and her breathe taking performance only served to re-inforce just how good a performer she really is.
David Bowie - Blackstar
A final piece of truly inspirational, boundary pushing music from a seminal artist. Bowie's back catalogue and musical legacy is without compare and this, his magnificent last chapter, is a fantastic curtain call to a spellbinding performance. The title track, 'Blackstar' and, the somewhat eerie, 'Lazarus' in particular just leave you in awe of Bowie's genius.
PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
Yet another stunning album from a wonderfully talented singer-songwriter. From 'Community Of Hope' right through to 'Dollar, Dollar' PJ mixes up all manor of influences and instrumentation of give up 11 tracks of character and curiosity. The guitars are stirring, the vocals as ever, as engaging as they are enchanting and the sax; quite frankly jaw droppingly good. A fitting follow up to 'Let England Shake'.
Nick Cave - Skeleton Tree
I loved this album when it came out but it only gets better and better with each listen. It's difficult to not think about how it was arrived at or how a lot of the lyrical content cannot be separated from the tragedy which inspired them. However, regardless of any of that, this album is just superb. Nick Cave and his band The Bad Seeds have taken their music to another dimension, the songs on here are all simply sublime. 'Rings Of Saturn' has to be my favourite song of the year, it's beautifully performed, wonderfully woven and intricately composed. Nick sounds the most exposed and fragile throughout 'Skeleton Tree' but this only adds to the album's ever developing appeal.
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