Gigwise's 51 Best Albums of 2016
A diverse mix of huge stars and lesser-known gems - see who made number one
Gigwise 51 best albums 2016 Photo: Press
Can we rewind and start again? 2016 didn't exactly go to plan did it? The tragic passing of the world's greatest musicians tested our resolve, whilst politically there's been dramatic regression.
The words Brexit and Trump littered our headlines - initially due to the absurdity of those outsiders. But sadly, anti-immigration politics rose against the odds and shocked the world.
In place of a growing hatred for the political elite, we needed to find sustenance to keep up morale and the constant source of inspiration and confidence in humanity this year came through music.
With the likes of Radiohead, Bowie, Beyoncé, and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds all releasing albums we weren’t short of big hitters. Whilst for the emergance of new music Desert Mountain Tribe, Kaytranada, and Yak showed some serious mettle for their debut albums. There was also an extraordinary achievement in nailing the cross fertilisation of classical and contemporary with Anna Meredith and Badbadnotgood's albums being the best examples of this.
Moreover, 2016 has shown the elasticity of genre and people's creativity wanting to explore unchartered approaches to songwriting, sound art, and instrumental composition. The innate need to create will never be suppressed and whilst we continually fall down a ravine politically, music will always keep on being extraordinary and surprising. Thank you to everyone involved in promoting, writing, releasing these releases below - they really made up for a difficult bad year.
3. Suede - Night Thoughts
If you need a sign that Britpop was rubbish then this is it. Suede, arguably the best band of that oh-so-painfully 90s movement, put out their best album in 2016. Heresy though it might be to say to Suede and Dog Man Star devotees, with its swirling, choppy blend of guitars and electronica Night Thoughts is Brett Anderson and co’s most ambitious, darkest and most interesting record. This is Suede is self-reflection mode. The titles, ‘I Don’t Know How to Reach You’ and ‘What am I Trying to Tell You’ for example, denote as much. It’s an album that works on multifarious levels, too. The lyrics and the music intertwine thematically to make this work as the concept album the band intended it to be. But then the individual songs are strong enough – the album is laden with hooks – that not only would a good 80% of them work as singles but they would stand up in any Suede hits parade. (Dan Lucas)
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Most of the album’s lyrics were rewritten following the death of Cave’s 15-year-old son in July 2015. Extremely abstract words deal throughout with death, loss and grief, but following the bleakness of the album’s opening there is a sense of ablution – of the triumphant and spiritually healing power of music – that leaves its melodies lingering in your head for an age. (Olly Telling)
1. David Bowie - Blackstar
2016 was the year giants of the entertainment world were taken from us at an alarmingly cruel rate. The endless supply of saddening news raged through 2016, as our childhood heroes of film, music and TV were declared to have passed away.
An early loss was Bowie, and the sadness of his parting still hasn't left many people's hearts. But he used his illness and death as the central theme of his final album release - a feat of a man wholly committed to his art and his message to the very last. Blackstar was our Album Of The Week on 6 January - four days before his death.
If you're reading this then you've no doubt read the endless articles written about Bowie and Blackstar since his death. His iconic character shifting, timeless music and prescient outlook when it comes to sexuality, art, technology and much else. We lost a one of a kind talent in January 2016, but he was kind enough to leave us with one of his best works before leaving.
Don't worry about the saxophones and the free form improvisations or the shrewd influences of Kendrick Lamar and Boards Of Canada. With the benefit of hindsight we're now able to fully comprehend what lies beneath Blackstar. It is an album which encapsulates the foreboding of death - and indeed cancer - in its most real and honest form. The dark despair of much of the album is overwhelmingly sad and disturbing, but greeted with conviction and imagination from the Thin White Duke. Blackstar doesn't fetishize death: from religious texts through to Hollywood movies and everything in between, death is rarely portrayed as all-consuming, as starkly unsettling but bluntly inevitable as Bowie conveys it on Blackstar.
The opening title track is gloomy and unnerving before transcending to a lofty and glorious melody which harks back to his great chord sequences such as Changes and Life On Mars. The rest of the record also jumps back and forward through time both musically and thematically, much as one's thoughts might while resting on the deathbed. It's a self-penned eulogy in which we are given knowing messages and honest confessions about his life - though not too honest as closing number I Can't Give Everything Away makes eloquently clear.
It's quite easy to canonise someone after death, especially an artist with such unique talent and vision as David Bowie. Such canonisation might even lead to a distorted appreciation of his final album. But nearly a year since its release and Bowie's death, Blackstar still exists as a singularity. A brilliant blaze of mortal emotion, canny knowing and artistic flare which simply couldn't be shaken from Bowie's bones, even in his very final days. (Jack Beadle)http://www.gigwise.com/features/108759/ ... lbums-2016