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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'

'Near Misses'

Bubbling just under the Top 50, here's a bunch of records we definitely rate but didn't quite squeeze in. Presented in random order...

Sweet Williams
Please Let Me Sleep On Your Tonight

Sweet Williams are one of Brighton’s finer guitar-based bands, and they’ve now clocked up a second full-length LP. Please Let Me Sleep On Your Tonight has Thomas House leading his crew into a full array of tightly-coiled songs, with plenty of blasted heft and sharp howl to go around. This is...view item »


Danny Clay
Stills

Delicate worlds laced with old vinyl dusty fuzz and crackle. Think the forced yet gentle nostalgia of Leyland Kirby’s The Future or his The Caretaker material, but no big band sound, more music box or single toy piano, bits of solo cello and twisted vocal harmonies, found in a box in the family at...view item »


Aukai
Aukai

German composer/producer Markus Sieber assumes the Aukai moniker for his debut LP after moving away from his recent career in acting. He manages to channel the drama of his last profession through cinematic, orchestrated acoustic ambiences evoking the feeling of travel and memories of time spent in natural surroundings, all of this subtly enhanc...view item »


Anna Meredith
Varmints

Varmints is the debut album by Scottish composer, electronic and acoustic musician Anna Meredith. It follows her two EPs, 2012’s Black Prince Fury and 2013’s Jet Black Raider. The music is complex, dynamic, varied, bombastic and confident. Meredith has shared bills with James Blake...view item »
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Zomby
Ultra

It's Zomby. His music is very good -- there hasn't been a full LP since the vignette masterpiece With Love but here's Ultra, a record that promises knockout collaborations with artists including HKE, Rezzett and dubstep whisperer ...view item »


Eluvium
False Readings On

Oh go on, get excited about a new Eluvium record. It's been a while since Matthew Cooper framed his ambient-leaning post-rock in such a compelling light -- in fact False Readings On seems to intertwine his pastoral, widescreen sound with a harsher resolution, with the orchestration battling...view item »


Ryo Murakami
Esto

“Stark”, “Despairing”... You want it? Yeah, thought so. With his EPs venturing into abstract techno territories, Ryo Murakami’s full lengths strip away most of the techno elements and leave you with growing and groaning drones that are dark and expressive among a deep, industrial backing. Vinyl on B...view item »


Rod Modell
Mediterranea

Strange to hear allusions to places outside of Detroit on an echospace [detroit] release, but here we are with an album called Mediterranea, which contains faded traces of field recordings made on a Spanish holiday. The journey must have relaxed Rod Modell, because he has turned in a full CD’s-worth (72 minutes!) ...view item »


Eyedress
Shapeshifter LP

Eyedress is a strange creature, and so is Shapeshifter. Featuring a load of artists near to his Manila home and across the world including rapper ThisisDA, Pyramid Vritra, Jiin, and the opening track has King Krule’s alter ego Edgar the Br...view item »


Brian Eno
The Ship

A new Brian Eno album is always something to get excited about, but particularly after a four year wait and in collaboration with the iconic Warp records. The Ship is Eno on classic form, creating beautiful ambient music built from minimalist drones. Here he's also particularly fascinated w...view item »
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Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto
The Revenant

Erstwhile film soundtrack composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is joined by strict digital minimalist Alva Noto, a frequent collaborator in Sakamoto’s non-soundtrack work. For the Leonardo DiCapri...view item »


Dalhous
The Composite Moods Collection Vol. 1: House Number 44

Dalhous are back on Blackest Ever Black and as melancholy as usual. The Composite Moods Collection Vol. 1: House Number 44 on double vinyl LP deals with the idea of how people live together closely for long periods of time. This is expressed musically with longform drones, degraded samples and i...view item »


Dälek
Asphalt For Eden

Welcome to the first new Dälek release since Gutter Tactics, released a whole 7 years ago! Asphalt For Eden reawakens their mission to meld hip-hop with experimental sonics, with  a line-up that now includes DJ rEk and Mike Swarmbots in addition to MC Däl...view item »
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Marissa Nadler
Strangers

Marissa Nadler’s music tends to be smooth, dark and dramatic: like an image reflected in the shiny black surface of a grand piano. Strangers finds Nadler writing characters, characters who often find themselves in surreal scena...view item »


Jessy Lanza
Oh No

The second full-length album from Jessy Lanza lands hard, skipping around the listener, buzzing with nervous energy. This is the finest of modern electro-pop, Lanza’s breathy vocals firing up the tracks she has co-produced with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys. Oh No...view item »


The Range
Potential

The Range is James Hinton’s project, in which he dives into the infinite space of YouTube, dragging out vocal samples and repurposing them as the centre of his euphoric electronic tracks. But don’t worry, the vocalists will get due recognition in an upcoming documentary, Superimpose. Pot...view item »


eMMplekz
Rook to TN34

For the third time, Mordant Music and Ekoplekz unite for a set of fierce experimental bass-heavy audio. With track titles including ‘Britain’s Got Talon’, ‘Gloomy Leper Techno’ and ‘Hastings’, no to mention the shouted lyrics to ‘Less Trap More Clap’,  t...view item »
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Stephen Steinbrink
Anagrams

Now Stephen Steinbrink's previous album 'Arranged Waves' was one of my favourite albums of...um...what year was it again? A truly, undervalued classic. This is his follow up and early indications show the same jangling soft pop at play, perhaps with a few more '70s FM radio influences but that is never a bad thing. Lovely gentle music for fans o...view item »


Jenny Hval
Blood Bitch

We here at Norman love Jenny Hval, so this new album is a happy occasion for us. Blood Bitch engages with black metal, 70’s horror films and menstruation, ending up in a typically fantastic experimental song-suite. Oh, and Norwegian noise heavyweight Lasse Marhaug is on production duties too! On S...view item »
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Julianna Barwick
Will

Julianna Barwick returns with her follow up to 2013’s joyous Nepenthe. On Will the experimental songwriter still uses ambient music, but the sounds are denser. After Barwick got to experiment with a prototype Moog synthesizer, she decided to incorporate synth textures alongside her looped ...view item »
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The Goon Sax
Up To Anything

Look at the guy in the middle of the photograph? Look kinda familiar? Well it's Louis Forster son of Robert and...well...let's say the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. The Goon Sax (brilliantly awful name by the way) play the kind of charming naive pop that a certain Australian band liked to peddle some years ago. They have anoth...view item »
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Joep Beving
Solipsism

Joep Beving composes and performs pieces for piano with a delicacy and a sense of stateliness that puts him right in there with the likes of Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds. Solipsism, his debut, was recorded in the middle of the night for extra depth of feeling: this is neo-classical pia...view item »


Okkervil River
Away

After leaving us in the dark since 2013’s The Silver Gymnasium, mystery surrounded Texas folk rockers Okkervil River. Apart from some digital singles in 2014, we didn’t know what was going on, but now frontman Will Sheff is clearing things up. Away is somewhere between a true Okkerv...view item »


Blood Orange
Freetown Sound

Freetown Sound is the third album by Blood Orange aka Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion, Test Icicles). It follows on from 2011’s Costal Grooves and 2013’s critically acclaimed Cupid Deluxe. Hynes took on the Blood Orange moniker after moving ...view item »
Double LP (WIGLP369X, £24.99) is now sold out, sorry.
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Grumbling Fur
FurFour

We’re big fans of Grumbling Fur here at Norman, have been since the debut LP, Furrier, hit the shelves in 2011 and was followed by the increasingly good Glynnaestra and Preternaturals. Furfour is the latest to the collection and sees the duo continuing the...view item »


Ultimate Painting
Dusk

Ultimate Painting are a laid back duo of Jack Cooper and James Hoare who sound like if they have a plan it is to make a distinctly English version of the kind of fresh as a breeze guitar tunes the Velvet Underground blueprinted on their third album. Indeed this is the third record from our heroic duo and once again it has been r...view item »


Melanie de Biasio
Blackened Cities

Belgian jazz composer / performer Melanie de Biasio assembled her choice collaborators for this single piece. Blackened Cities slides from smooth, soulful jazz tune into a high-momentum flight of instrumental power, de Biasio’s vocals free-flowing over the top. Powerful stuff, available as a CD or...view item »
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Oren Ambarchi
Hubris

Oren Ambarchi continues with his bold mission to make an infinite number of records with every notable musician in the world. Hubris is a mighty work that contains contributions from Arto Lindsay, Mark Fell and regular collaborator Jim O’Rourke, as well as ...view item »
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Lightning In A Twilight Hour
And All The Ships At Sea

And All The Ships At Sea is the new four track EP by Norman Records approved indie-pop three piece Lightning In A Twilight Hour. The band features Bobby Wratten and Michael Hiscock from the should-be legendary Field Mice and Beth Arzy from the Sarah Records band ...view item »
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Plaid
The Digging Remedy

Brand new material from Warp electronica veterans Plaid. As ever, they have a patient, subtle approach to sound, much more focused on weaving fine textures then on big obvious ‘moments’. That said, there is some lively beat activity here and no mistake. The Digging Rem...view item »


Various
Typical Girls

Typical Girls takes its title from a lyrics of song by The Slits, and it showcases an array of modern female-fronted bands who’ve taken up their might fem-rock mantle. Awesome punks from around the world are here, including Rakta, The Splits, Slum Of Legs and ...view item »
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WANDA GROUP
Central Heating

Louis Johnstone’s second LP for Opal Tapes arrives some four years after his well received ‘Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight’ album from the label. During the time that has elapsed, this modern Musique concrète practitioner’s sound has definitely evolved -...view item »


Kyo
Aktuel Musik

Aktuel Musik is released on Copenhagen’s Posh Isolation imprint and features alumni of synth group Lust For Youth and the techno of Norin. Given that lineage, it is maybe surprising that these 8 tracks are often bright and playful rather than blackened and sinister, with field recordings, melodic ...view item »


Sophie Cooper
Count The Days

Exciting new outing from key Todmorden scene-mover Sophie Cooper, usually known for her experimentally-tinged guitar songwriting. On Count The Days though, she brings out her trombone, for a looped-up droney memory-scape that fills the length of a 3” CDr with wonderful power. Just 70 copies, each with hand-printed...view item »
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Karachi Files
Karachi Files

Brothers Hans and Andi Teichmann (Gebrüder Teichmann) assembled a group of electronic musicians from their native Germany as well as The Maldives and Pakistan. They met in Karachi, Pakistan and converted a house into a temporary studio and begun work. The result is a culturally eclectic and very raw sounding collection of recordings. Double...view item »
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Overtone Ensemble
Overtone Ensemble

The name of The Overtone Ensemble does not lie: this group work with instruments that create shimmering clouds of overtones, carefully controlled through microtonal tuning and tactical combinations. 12 aluminum rods are at the centre of their set-up, which also includes bells and wine glasses: and...view item »


Alasdair Roberts and James Green
Plaint of Lapwing

Scottish folk genius Alasdair Roberts and Sheffield’s instrument inventor / performer James Green have been brewing on this release for a few years: now it is ready! Roberts provides his very special voice ...view item »
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Scott Walker
The Childhood of a Leader - Original Soundtrack

Wow! Brand new Scott Walker! The avant-crooner legend has been enlisted to create a full-blown orchestral score to Brady Corbet’s The Childhood of a Leader, a Satre adaptation set in 1919. There’s plenty of the dissonance of late-period Walker at play here, ...view item »
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DJ Earl
Open Your Eyes

DJ Earl is one of the premium Chicago footwork producers, and Open Your Eyes gives him a full 8 tracks to show off his powers. With scene guests including Moondoctor, Taso, ...view item »


Rezzett
Doyce

Maybe we’d be speculating more on mystery producer Rezzett if their music didn’t affect and stirr on such a visceral fucking level. I know visceral is a lazy word, but to listen to “Doyce” is to be shaken awake while retaining the dream. It feels equal parts earthy and elliptical, its electronics spitting and sneezin...view item »
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NHK yx Koyxen
Doom Steppy Reverb

Kouhei Matsunaga returns to Diagonal with ‘Doom Steppy Reverb’ following up his ‘Hallucinogenic Doom Steppy Verbs’ 12” for the label, via a quick pit-stop on L.I.E.S. with the ‘S...view item »
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Pill
Convenience

Good shouting band Pill move super-fast through embittered punk sagas along the lines of V.H.S, their guitar missives arranging counsel with a saxophone stomp that gives the record a second wind of urgency. It's one of the most expressive and exciting things you'll hear this year, is Conv...view item »


North Sea Radio Orchestra
Dronne

Joyful whimsy and mild dischord from North Sea Radio Orchestra on Dronne, their fourth album after a four year break where guitarist Craig Fortnam has been beavering away on his solo projects. Lots of influences come through, including Cardiacs, early Kraftwerk and Britten to make a wholly English sound. Limited...view item »


Battle Trance
Blade of Love

Four tenor saxes! Four! That's how Battle Trance get things going. In 2014 they did Palace of Wind and with very visceral malice knocked us all off of our seats, and Blade of Love, with its breathing and squeezing and often actual playing, continues to show how this quartet have develop...view item »
LP (NNA092LP, £19.49) is now sold out, sorry.
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Kandodo / McBain
Lost Chants / Last Chance

Fans of the Heads should move quickly for this album of pummelling kraut rock and psych which features one member of US stoner rockers Monster Magnet and no fewer than three members of the Heads. Full of riffs and drones that have been wafted back and forth across the atlantic ocean this is sure to vomit out of ...view item »
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Double LP (ROOSTER24, £24.99) is now sold out, sorry.
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Benoît Pioulard
The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter

On his sixth release for Kranky Benoît Pioulard weaves delicate candyfloss pop melodies through a hazy wooden shack in the sun setting. Reflective and at peace pop songs that let you just take a minute for yourself. Delicately plucked guitars and satisfyingly found sound-like percussion takes you away from it all....view item »


Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions
Until The Hunter

The Warm Inventions’ first album in 7 years with Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star, and who recently surfaced on the Massive Attack’s new single The Spoils. Bluesy and warm groove in a smokey lounge bar setting, jazzy twinkling keys, whammy barred guitar slides....view item »
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Nicolas Jaar
Sirens

Since completing an album with Dave Harrington as Darkside, Nicolas Jaar is back on his solo efforts since his last studio full length Space Is Only Noise. Experimental electronic beats galore, Jaar’s multiple skills as an engineer, producer, and performer make everything he touch...view item »