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Albums of the Year 2016

After the usual careful deliberation, here are our Albums of the Year.

Top 50 Albums Top 50 Reissues Top 50 Bestsellers 'Near Misses'

Album of the Year 2016

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith had already pricked our very own ears with last years Euclid but with EARS she has created an out-of-nowhere future classic which is both impressionistic and sprawling as well as warm and inviting.

Bubbling electronic soundscapes are warmed with woodwinds, flute and Smith's floating vocal hooks - giving an exotic almost out of body listening experience.

A worthy winner of our coveted Album of the Year...we implore you to give it a go.

Buy it now
2.

The Veldt
The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation

Here we have something very special indeed with a back story that will astound you. Click here. Actually don't. Stay on this page and read onwards.  The Veldt have been around the mid '80s making a peculiar style of shoegaze that baffled record execs at the time who tried to turn them into Living Colo...view item »
3.

BEAK>
Couple In A Hole Soundtrack

Geoff Barrow has done this film-soundtracking lark before, hasn’t he? He did ‘Ex-Machina’, it says here, and ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, which I’ve actually seen; so he is a dab hand indeed. He co-wrote this one with his BEAK> bandmates, Billy Fuller and Matt Williams and the sounds herein match the &lsqu...view item »
4.

Bracken
High Passes

‘High Passes’ is the fourth long player (not counting ‘Remixes’) from Yorkshire artist Chris Adams. For many of our readers an artist who requires no introduction as his work has appeared numerous times on these pages over the years - as founding/ core member of the highly influential/ revered experimental post-rock ban...view item »
5.

Oliver Coates
Upstepping

A friend of mine tried to start a blog called ‘Step Up’ about kool elektronik musik back in 2012 when everyone was starting a blog to unearth the latest Dauwd-ish anthem. It didn’t last long; some would say that he didn’t step up to the challenge. Haw. Anyway, Phil likes this, so I have to like it too to keep my job. My h...view item »
6.

Bayonne
Primitives

Review on post it note on front of CD: "Pretty Good" - Clint. Also read...."absolutely hands down the best album of the late summer/early autumn".  You need time to spare. Please do not listen to 30 second clips while tweeting. Once you start, you've gotta be in it for the long haul.  First up: there's an intro that takes ages ...view item »
7.

Western Skies Motel
Settlers

Oh this is just lovely. Western Skies Motel is Danish guitar maestro René Gonzàlez Schelbeck who has managed to concoct one of those albums which from the very opening notes engulfs you band takes you to a place more peaceful than where you reside. The opening ‘Falling Leaves’ is delightful...view item »
8.

Gold Panda
Good Luck and Do Your Best

It may be unseasonably cold and rainy outside but that doesn’t stop Gold Panda’s latest opus becoming my potential Album of the Summer. Now please don’t be upset with me but until recently I only judged Gold Panda’s music as a pleasant distraction. The sort of ok-tronica that runs along pleasantly in the background but ...view item »
9.

Huerco S.
For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)

Huerco S. has pretty much hit pay dirt on his second full-lengthh album and a string of well received 12" releases which showcased his talent for twisting house and techno music into interesting new shapes. What he has done here is pretty much remove any semblance of either genre from the music leaving it as kind of fumes of what was once club m...view item »
10.

Jason Sharp
A Boat Upon Its Blood

God, it’s been so fucking long since I’ve been able to type-yell a review to the theme of “This new Constellation release is amazing!!!”. All year, the CST crew have been quiet, but now they hit with three brand new records for fall (call it autumn, if you must, but fall sounds so much better). Each record is ins...view item »
11.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani
FRKWYS Vol. 13: Sunergy

Not many people know about this, but I’m about to blow the lid off this whole operation… Somewhere in New York City, in the basement of RVNG Intl. headquarters there is a dark room. On the door hangs a sign that reads: FRKWYS - Awesome Collaborations Ideas Generation Zone. Inside that room is a large...view item »
12.

David Bowie
★ (Blackstar)

I’ve been scribbling notes as the record has been playing in the office and at various points I’ve written the words “very good ....though the saxophone is a bit much”. 'Tis true. Much has been made of this being David Bowie’s most experimental work but on initial listen tracks suc...view item »
13.

Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Stranger Things: Season 1 - Volume 1

It’s hard to avoid the much-hyped '80s fetish fest that is Stranger Things. Born from a hoard of cash from deep in the Netflix vaults, it is a stylistic gem that would be incredible passe if it wasn’t so incredibly good. With classic '70s-'80s horror on the rise, it makes sense that it would be a bit popular, but jeez, everyone&rsquo...view item »
14.

MJ Guider
Precious Systems

MJ Guider is Melissa Guion’s hazy, pastoral electronica project. ‘Precious Systems’, she states, is “inspired and influenced by the landscape in and near New Orleans, particularly the juxtaposition of the natural with industrial and commercial constructs as they reflect life here.” So naturally, opening track &lsquo...view item »
15.

Radiohead
A Moon Shaped Pool

Sing a song of sixpence that goes… Radiiiiiioooooooheaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad” -- Thom Yorke. At this point, Radiohead have exhausted being Radiohead. By their seventh album they were just making rock albums, man; by their eighth being inaccessible was no longer remarkable. The bi...view item »
16.

Carla dal Forno
You Know What It’s Like

Blackest Ever Black are a very early workweek label, what with their endless slew of muted, dour and spooky utterances, so I’m glad to be listening to Carla dal Forno’s debut on a Tuesday afternoon with an empty threat of rain. ‘You Know What It’s Like’ is a murmured adventure through synthesized hallways haunted wi...view item »
17.

C. Diab
No Perfect Wave

Goodness. Okay. I wasn’t expecting this. It’s gorgeous, first and foremost, but ‘No Perfect Wave’ has also been described by our descriptions man Tom as a record of “shifting drones that are melancholic yet beautifully uplifting -- no tension, just resolve”. Listening to that first track, he’s not wrong:...view item »
18.

Hintermass
The Apple Tree

Jon Brooks (the Advisory Circle) and Tim from Broadcast/Seeland - aka Hintermass - have released their first actual LP. It has apparently been over four years since their single came out on lovely, timewarpy-designy/retro-futurey /evocative-of-memories-we-never-really-had Ghost Box....view item »
19.

Ulrika Spacek
The Album Paranoia

It’s a brave new world we live in when I’m reviewing a record off of an NME stream, but here we are -- I’m pretty sure Chris Moyles orchestrated this in collaboration with Windows 10. Ulrika Spacek are sugar free psychedelic merchants from London, and if their upcoming tour with Sunflower Bean...view item »
20.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree

When I was young I would buy old Nick Cave albums on CD, put them on my primitive musical shelf and then never listen to them. I did this with a Converge CD too, once, as if staving off the scary music was a greater achievement than actually confronting it. I assumed Cave’s music was too dour and that maybe o...view item »
21.

Tim Hecker
Love Streams

Here he is. The man of the hour, the one who said a nervous ‘hi’ to me at Belgrave before disappearing behind a thick wall of dry ice. The one who loves streams so much that there isn’t a stream for this in sight. The one who silently accepts that one of the 4AD fools (citation needed) has ruined the surprise by letting the who...view item »
22.

Cavern of Anti-Matter
void beats/invocation trex

Sir Tim Gane of Stereolab goes back into hauntology hibernation here, which is the fancy way of saying he’s made a new Cavern of Anti-Matter record. It’s been awhile since the last full-length from Gane in this incarnation: back in 2013, ‘Blood-Drums’ rocked the boat in the most subdued kra...view item »
23.

eagle/deer
The Summer Of Sepia

It’s not often I like country-ish things these days (I had a 'phase' back in the early 2000's) but this snagged my ear as soon as it started playing in the office. It’s the solo project of Sara Charles from Massachusets who has apparently had this album ‘in the can’ for several years . Sara's there on the ...view item »
24.

Ian William Craig
Centres

Bursting with narrative, seeking out clarity in reprises, smoothing over existentialism with feedback, ruining pop songs that feel too standard to be the truth… this is, if you can believe it, Ian William Craig’s most chaotic record yet, one meandering its way away from a proper story while pining for the most typically art of thing...view item »
25.

Johann Johannsson
Orphée

Based around the enduring legend of music and love that is the Orpheus myth, you would expect Johannsson’s first studio album in six years to be appropriately tender and emotive. It is. The story has it that Orpheus was a supremely gifted musician and poet; that he could charm all living things and even stone with his music. I’m not ...view item »
26.

Olafur Arnalds
Island Songs

Won’t somebody please think of the peninsulas? You may well know who Olafur Arnalds is by now, either because your pal Nils Frahm introduced you two at that neo-classical networking event you went to, or because you’ve been immersed in his back catalogue of ambient schmaltz. He continues to be quite wonderful here with &lsquo...view item »
27.

Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition

On ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, Danny Brown’s a fucking mess. “Kubrick with two bricks”, he says, and his album makes it so: his tunes are shot through an existentialism so plain you could hear Tony Soprano listening to it as his whole world cuts to black, so real Ballard should come back to life and name his nov...view item »
28.

Anohni
Hopelessness

Forget everything you know. If you didn’t like Antony and the Johnsons then please don’t worry about it. If you did then this really shouldn’t be too far away for comfort. Ahohni is of course of former Antony & The Johnsons and this collaborati...view item »
29.

Thomas Koner
Tiento de la Luz

It was over a year ago now that one Thomas Koner provided his first Tiento with Tiento de las Nieves, a sparse, snowy wasteland in which the only object for thousands of miles is a piano. The rest of the (sonic) landscape was filled with the purest of nothing, letting the silence sing. Well, Denovali are curating the next movement, wher...view item »
30.

Pye Corner Audio
Stasis

Absolutely bleeding wondersauce is this record! We all know Pye Corner Audio has been making great synthy sounds for a while... and I really like pies too so that's a bonus! Spooky dusty techno haunt music that sounds well old times! I feel like I'm in a library from the future on an industrial es...view item »
31.

Mitski
Puberty 2

I want to say something meaningful about ‘Puberty 2’ but all I’ve got is that I love it, that it was fulfilling the first time I heard it and remains so long after the fact. I’d say it’s proof that indie rock isn’t shit, but that’s not really Mitski’s mission statement. I’ve just missed being...view item »
32.

Sarah Davachi
Dominions

“Nothing worse than half-arsed drone” -- Kim, 2016 Sarah Davachi’s 2015 record, ‘Baron’s Court’, may well have been the most quintessentially drone record I’ve ever heard. Released on Students of Decay, a banner tone label that sounds like what would happen if you transposed the silences...view item »
33.

Mark Pritchard
Under The Sun

The sort of record that I'm fuming we weren't able to review when it came out. Main reason  - no soundclips, delicious non opening vinyl. We have no excuses for leaving it this long despite Warp doing a very good job of keeping the thing off the internet.  It was only when I heard the fluttering Le...view item »
34.

Steve Hauschildt
Strands

In an attempt to match the popularity of his last record on Kranky Where All Is Fled, former Emeralds synthman Steve Hauschildt looks at ropes. That’s right, the inspiration for this latest one Strands is some rope. It’s easy to see the comparison with a bit of the ol’ imagination, the different electronic seq...view item »
35.

Mary Lattimore
At The Dam

Before listening to this record we made sure conditions were absolutely perfect: we broke our headphones, fucked up our computer’s sound system and generally invoked as many different channels of stress as possible. We learned whole new frustration-inspired ways to say the word “shit” that didn’t just involve adding an e ...view item »
36.

GNOD & Anthony Child
Behind The Lids

When news of this release arrived in my inbox via an email from the Tesla Tapes mailing list, I instantly began listening and after five minutes had contacted them to buy a copy of the CD. It was a no brainer. I’ve been blown away by GNOD’s live performances - on two occasi...view item »
37.

Omni
Deluxe

When a friend pleaded with me to go and see Women at the Brudenell Social Club a fews years ago I could have not had any inkling of the breadth of influence their short-lived career would increasingly have. It seems that Women/Viet Cong is the go-to influence for todays young guns  ...view item »
38.

Botany
Deepak Verbera

If Dilla had droned, he might have been Botany. An artist who collates fractures of euphoria from an open beta astral plane, Spencer Stephenson’s music is busy with parchments of bliss, coming together to create a wonderful ambient collage that flees through noise, free jazz on synths, foggy percussion, Garson-e...view item »
39.

Matt Elliott
The Calm Before

Matt Elliott’s move from drum’n’ bass ’n’ noise troubadour with Third Eye Foundation to dark folkster could never have been predicted but on this his eight (is that right?) solo album he has reached a career high point in terms of his songwriting based work. 'T...view item »
40.

Thee Oh Sees
A Weird Exits

“Two drummers!!!” is pretty much my favourite thing to say ever. Everyone’s impressed: not only one loud thing that neighbours complain about, but two. Two! For ‘A Weird Exits’ Thee Oh Sees finally employ their twin drums on a record, with Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon playing as percussive equals (rather than the ki...view item »
41.

The Hecks
The Hecks

Top three fake-out swearwords: darn, goodness, heck. You’d think this band of Sonic Youth ripping naysayers would go straight to the source and say one of the big ones, but they keep it on the downlow for their Trouble In Mind debut. I know I keep complaining about this, and long into the nights o...view item »
42.

Helen Money
Become Zero

First time on Thrill Jockey for American dark cellist Helen Money, who is more metal than most metal bands have ever been. Next to her, fellow cellists Apocalyptica sound like Coldplay and Slayer are Bon Jovi. A plea to Helen Money mastermind Alison Chesley - please do a Reign In Blood...view item »
43.

Resina
Resina

“Tary I”, the opener to this self-titled record by Resina, is incredibly sad -- also, I reckon I could go sledging to it. Winter coats its held cello phrases, which chatter like teeth, trying their best to hold in place for gorgeous high octave melodies. Maybe I’m projecting, I am very cold, but this is a very gorgeous record t...view item »
44.

Angel Olsen
My Woman

Yes. Angel Olsen. She’s good. I realise I have to say a thing or two of substance with regards to her music, but weaving a narrative about it is hard: it’s witty but plainspoken, ever-changing but staying the same and its best bits are… rather slight. Perhaps the biggest switch from ‘Burn Your Fire’, Olsen’s ...view item »
45.

clipping.
Splendor & Misery

Abrasive noise hip-hop, etc: you know the gimmick by now, so we can rest assured that clipping. are worth their hype, make pulse-altering and occasionally ear-splintering music while remaining extremely hard to type words about on account of their format-punctuating name. They don’t sound like Me...view item »
46.

Loscil
Monument Builders

Aah, lovely glacially chilly electronica for the onset of freezing bloody Winter. The office feels very much like the open warehouse it (sort of) is, and here is my appropriate soundtrack for the next half-hour or so. Scott Morgan -- Loscil -- how fucking prolific is he? Well, very I’d say. A Quickly scanning his Discogs reveals Morgan has...view item »
47.

Shirley Collins
Lodestar

Well I had no idea.  I had no idea that Shirley Collins gave up performing music in 1978 after a messy divorce and a hideous sounding diagnosis of dysphonia which rendered her unable to sing. Yet coaxed back by David Tibet of Current 93, Collins has now recorded her first new work since 1978. Whether...view item »
48.

Anxiety
Anxiety

Wheee! This is the hardcore you want: feeling and furious. Glasgow team Anxiety have made a garage-fucked s/t that will appeal, quite impressively, to both those who want a no-frills punking and those who live for gimmick. The effects central to many of the band’s tunes have a psychedelic tinge that blends, somehow and seamlessly, into the...view item »
49.

Sarah Neufeld
The Ridge

Here lies the first of two sequels to our record of the fucking year 2015, Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld’s ‘Never Were The Way She Was’. This is gonna be the more traditional of follow-ups, if you take into account that Stetson is following up the record with an affectionate and honouring rework of Gorecki&...view item »
50.

Thor & Friends
Thor & Friends

Thor is that big dude you see bashing bits of percussion at latter day Swans gigs. His first solo work however (alongside friends from the likes of A Hawk & A Hacksaw and Deerhoof) is a total surprise and begs the question how a man this big and hairy can make m...view item »

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