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Best Albums of 2016

29 min read

Every week the team here at Renowned For Sound spin dozens of new records, eagerly listening out for the cream of the crop in new music. While many miss the mark there are plenty of releases that come our way that excite, inspire and keep us begging for more.

With the year drawing to a close we thought it was the perfect time to reflect on the year so far and put together this years list of the releases that have kept us tapping our toes and humming along above all others that have been released throughout the last 12 months. This is a list of those titles (in alphabetical order) that we consider the best releases of 2016. Take a look and join the conversation by letting us here at Renowned For Sound know what release(s) have ticked all your boxes this year…

Artist: Adore Delano Album: After Party

Adore Delano After PartyAfter Party is a defining moment for Adore Delano. As a collection of radio-ready pop songs, it gets almost everything right; it’s an evolution from her work on Til Death Do Us Party, offering a more mature side that strips the comedy back and offers something more mainstream, more endearing and even more enjoyable than anything she’s done so far. From the album’s sensual lead single Dynamite to the radio pop of I Really Like It, it sounds distinctly Adore while also positioning itself to appeal on a global scale. Adore’s hit it out of the park this time; you won’t want to miss After Party. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Dynamite; Constellations; I Really Like It

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Artist: Agnes Obel Album: Citizen Of Glass

Agnes Obel - Citizen Of GlassTruly awe-inspiring from start to finish, Obel’s Citizen Of Glass works as a contemporary masterpiece of composition. Demonstrating a vocal purity and distinctive instrument selection, the record indulges the listener with the truest connection to music. Completely atmospheric and revealing, each song summons an instant transportation to another dimension. The sound design is inconceivable at moments, truly placing the record in a category of its own. (Chosen by Daniel)

Top 3 Tracks: Grasshopper, Mary, Stretch Your Eyes

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Artist: All Saints Album: Red Flag

All Saints Red flagA decade since releasing their last studio album – the ill-fated Studio One – All Saints hinted at their return to the pop fold at the end of 2015 and fans were soon after rewarded with the groups first single release at the start of the year with the hugely successful One Strike. With a handful of follow-up singles, All Saints truly made their comeback mark with the release of Red Flag – easily the finest release of the quartet’s career since their debut self-titled release. (EDITORS PICK)

Top 3 Tracks: One Woman Man; One Strike; Summer Rain

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Artist: ANOHNI Album: Hopelessness

Anohni HopelessnessWith Hopelessness, Anohni has pulled off one of the most effective artistic switch-ups in recent memory. She has exchanged her baroque orchestration for pulverising electronics, and her tender ballads for brazenly political pop songs. The album is immensely listenable, with Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never providing impeccable instrumentals, but also deliberately challenging, with songs addressing topics from drone warfare to global warming. Hopelessness is an angry album, but it’s also a guilty one, and in this complexity is a truly inspiring work. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Drone Bomb Me; Obama; Crisis

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Artist: Ariana Grande Album: Dangerous Woman

Ariana Grande Dangerous WomanThough Ariana Grande has had solid albums in the past, Dangerous Woman blows them out of the water. Despite its familiar style, its spread of pop R&B bangers and diverse selection of other genres spread between them makes for a fresh, exciting album that features less low moments and more high points than both My Everything and Yours Truly; by refining her sound and focusing on what made her best songs so good, they’ve managed to create a full album that capitalises on these points perfectly. Whether you’re already a fan of Ariana or not, Dangerous Woman is an album you’ll want to experience; it’s one of 2016’s finest pop albums. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Everyday (feat. Future); Into You; Bad Decisions

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Artist: Aurora Album: All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend

AURORA All My Demons Greeting Me As A FriendAs A Friend All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend is nothing short of amazing. The album perfectly captures AURORA’s style across all of its tracks, without a single moment of weakness to drag the package down. From her distinct vocals to the thrilling tone that flows through the album, there’s plenty to enjoy with more than enough life to last through many listens. This is truly one of those albums you don’t see very often; a debut that feels as if it’s from a legend, rather than such a young newcomer. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: I Went Too Far; Black Water Lilies; Conqueror

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Artist: Banks Album: The Altar

Banks The AltarThe Altar may feel like a direct follow-up to Goddess, but that doesn’t mean it’s less successful because of it. BANKS has perfect her style and widened her emotional range, offering her same moody lyricism while offering a lighter side at the same time. Her dark R&B style is on point throughout the collection, and she manages simultaneously to explore a variety of different styles—to a degree that most of us probably didn’t expect—without the rest of her work suffering for it. Rather than stumbling on her first album, BANKS has managed to pull ahead and improve on greatness. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Gemini Feed; This Is Not About Us; Mother Earth

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Artist: Bat For Lashes Album: The Bride

Bat for Lashes The BrideThe Bride is the most confident statement from an artist whose career comprises only of confident statements. Combining a tragic narrative of love and loss with murky, gothic sonics, Natasha Khan has created a record of incredible depth and power. There’s no other artist like her working today, and The Bride is her best work yet. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: In God’s House; Close Encounters; If I Knew

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Artist: Beyonce Album: Lemonade

Beyonce LemonadeLemonade is an astonishingly fully-formed piece of work. Between the overarching narrative, personal-yet-universal themes, masterful production, and powerful film (or “Visual Album”), the album is on an entirely new plane of ambition for both Beyoncé, and pop music in general, and it’s a minor miracle that she pulled it off as successfully as she has (and that it never leaked, keeping the surprise release intact). As it stands, Lemonade is Beyoncé’s magnum opus, an album at times thrilling, enraging, and heartbreaking, and is an incredible leap for an incredibly talented artist. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Hold Up; Don’t Hurt Yourself; Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

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Artist: Beyond The Wizards Sleeve Album: The Soft Bounce

Beyond The Wizards Sleeve - 'The Soft Bounce'Utilising decades of production knowledge and wielding an unfathomable amount of creative direction, are the ingredients that Beyond The Wizards Sleeve include in their stewing cauldron of contemporary music gold. Flicking through folky-funk, levitating indie-rock elements and an atmospheric bubble of ambience and emotion, this debut record is supremely charming and without a doubt a bonafide future classic. (Chosen by Daniel)

Top 3 Tracks: Creation; Black Crow; Delicious Light

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Artist: BJ The Chicago Kid Album: In My Mind

BJ the Chicago Kid In My MindThe artistic voice of BJ the Chicago Kid permeates through modern hip-hop. His soulful voice sounds like an instrument from a bygone age, and it holds a rare power. In My Mind is his grand step into the spotlight, after many years in the shadows, and it’s a moving, deeply human work that shows off just how versatile and powerful a performer he is. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Church (feat. Chance the Rapper); Wait Til the Morning (feat. Isa); Falling On My Face

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Artist: Black Foxxes Album: I’m Not Well

Black Foxxes - I'm Not WellIf you are after a modern take on the grunge and ‘90s alternative-rock sound, then Exeter trio Black Foxxes have you covered with debut album, I’m Not Well. Making no secret of frontman Mark Holley’s health problems, the title I’m Not Well clearly isn’t just an artistic affectation on the part of the band, but an attempt to explore the self-identity and emotional states of those with invisible and chronic illness. Throughout the record Black Foxxes utilise every inch of dynamic range, and deploy emotionally authentic vocals, to craft songs that catchy enough to distract from the heavy subject matter, but complex enough not to be ear-candy. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: Whatever Lets You Cope; River; Home

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Artist: case/lang/veirs Album: case/lang/veirs

case/lang/viers - case/lang/viersNeko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs mightn’t be household names, but these women are accomplished musicians and songwriters who are held in high regard within the music world. Combining their three complementary voices may seem like a no-brainer in hindsight, but it wouldn’t have happened had Lang not sent Case and Veirs an email – while the three were barely acquainted – proposing a collaboration. Luckily, Case and Veirs promptly agreed, and the resulting case/lang/veirs is nothing short of an astounding collection of pop-rock that leaves the listener desperate for more. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: Atomic Number; Song for Judee; Supermoon

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Artist: Chairlift Album: Moth

Chairlift MothMoth is largely an album about love and fantasy, but it’s delivered with such vibrant enthusiasm that Caroline Polachek’s stories can’t help but take on a larger-than-life quality. Patrick Wimberly’s soundscapes are pared back to their bare essentials, and each creatively chosen instrument sounds crisp and gleaming. The songs are so effortlessly catchy and fun that listening to Moth is an experience that can brighten any day. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Ch-Ching; Crying in Public; Show U Off

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Artist: Crystal Fighters Album: Everything Is My Family

Crystal Fighters Everything Is My FamilyEverything Is My Family is Crystal Fighters at their best. The dance sections are more powerful than ever, and their complete willingness to dive completely into folk and psychedelic rock in other moments makes for a varied yet coherent album that shows their style off in a commanding, joyous way that they’ve never shown to this degree before. By returning to nature between albums, they’ve recharged themselves and come back to the dance floor with an album that you definitely won’t want to miss. Everything Is My Family is one of the weirdest, wildest and best albums you’ll hear this year. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Fly East; Good Girls; In Your Arms

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Artist: Danny Brown Album: Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown Atrocity ExhibitionAtrocity Exhibition sounds like the album that Danny Brown was always supposed to make. Since he crashed onto the rap scene with XXX, his music has been about hiding trauma, but with Atrocity Exhibition, there’s no hiding it anymore. It’s a dark, dark album, which puts all of Brown’s demons on display, and they’re as intoxicating as they are horrifying. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Really Doe; Ain’t it Funny; When it Rain

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Artist: David Bowie Album: Blackstar

David Bowie BlackstarThe final musical mark the legend, David Bowie left on the world was a hauntingly beautiful ode to his grand life. And while Blackstar only features 7 tracks, each of them are so hauntingly intricate that it’s impossible not to be enraptured by them. Fly away into the mystical land of intergalactic Jazz with Star Man himself on his finale epic. (Chosen by Jessica)

Top 3 Tracks: Blackstar; Lazarus; Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)

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Artist: Deftones Album: Gore

Deftones - GoreSacramento based alt-metallers, Deftones, have been rocking their little cotton-socks off for over two decades, showing consistent progression and growth over their careers. 2010’s Diamond Eyes and 2012’s Koi No Yokan were the most coherent albums Deftones have released, while also representing a rising high watermark for the band in terms of quality. This is a trend that continues with Gore. From start to finish, Gore delivers a satisfying dose of hard rock. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: Doomed User; Gore; Phantom Bride

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Artist: DIIV Album: Is The Is Are

DIIV Is The Is AreWhat makes Is The Is Are feel difficult and unkempt are also the things that make it immersive and powerful. The sprawling length, and the grim seriousness are the things that allow the album to feel like an epic and harrowing journey through the life of an addict. It’s an album where the strengths are indistinguishable from its flaws, and for that alone, it’s remarkable, but it’s the honesty with which Zachary Cole Smith relays his anguish that makes it the masterstroke that it is. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Dopamine; Blue Boredom; Mire

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Artist: Dusky Album: Outer

Dusky - OuterFrom the album’s collaborators to the gregarious sound design, Dusky’s Outer is a huge step forward for the pair and electronic music albums in general. Ditching the main focus of dancefloor heaters, the record pokes a stick at the deeper, darker shades of emotional electronic music that highlight the pair’s ability to manoeuvre feelings and atmospheres around selective installations both blissful and idiosyncratic. (Chosen by Daniel)

Top 3 Tracks: Marble; Runny Nose; Sort It Out Sharon (feat Wiley)

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Artist: DVSN Album: Sept.5th

dvsn sept5thKeeping Daniel Daley’s identity a secret was a clever marketing scheme for dvsn, but when you’ve got vocals as powerful as his, supported by production as good as Nineteen85’s, the only thing necessary is the stunning music. From the brooding throb of Try/Effortless to the emotional fireworks of Hallucinations, Sept. 5th is a masterfully constructed collection of 90’s R&B stylings, re-purposed to the modern day. However, it’s Daley’s incredible voice that makes the group stand out, and Sept. 5th is about as assured a debut album as one can get. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Try/Effortless; Hallucinations; The Line

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Artist: Ed Harcourt Album: Furnaces

Ed Harcourt - FurnacesThe sprawling attention to detail that floods Harcourt’s Furnaces is breathtaking to say the absolute least. From the vocal mastery that traps each song with intensity to the exceptional instrumental gravity shining through each meticulously worked track. The high dynamic momentum charges throughout the narrative evident in Furnaces, reminding the listener of the songwriting sovereignty that Harcourt rightfully possesses. (Chosen by Daniel)

Top 3 Tracks: Antarctica; The World Is On Fire; Dionysus

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Artist: Frank Ocean Album: Blonde

Frank Ocean BlondeSince To Pimp A Butterfly, so many big-name R&B and hip-hop artists have tried to create their masterpiece, but Frank Ocean is the only one who’s come close. Blonde is a stunning achievement from pop music’s greates visionary, combining minimal, intimate production with lyrics and singing that explores the annals of Ocean’s tormented psyche. From the opening swells of Nikes, to the interviews that close out Futura Free, Blonde emenates empathy and longing, filled with love songs about being unable to find love. In our modern age of tension and conflict, Frank Ocean just wants to make a connection, any connection. Blonde is a masterpiece. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Nikes; Nights; White Ferrari

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Artist: Garbage Album: Strange Little Birds

Garbage Strange Little BirdsFans had been craving a new studio album from rock/pop heavy-weights Garbage for a number of years and their wishes were grants when the band announced their return to the studio to put together the impeccable, Strange Little Birds. Without doubt their most cohesive, consistent and well-produced record since their self-titled debut, Strange Little Birds displays a band ready to dominate the worlds music scene once again and with a confidence – heard on tracks like Empty and Magnetize – unlike that of any other rock band out there today. (EDITORS PICK)

Top 3 Tracks: If I Lost You; Magnetized; Blackout

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Artist: Glass Animals Album: How to be a Human Being

Glass Animals - How To Be A Human BeingHow To Be A Human Being is the second studio album to be released by the English band, Glass Animals. Influenced by their memories, experiences and encounters while touring and working the international festival circuit, Glass Animals explores an indie rock sound including elements of Hip Hop, R’nB and exotic percussion in this album. They have crafted some stand out material for How To Be A Human Being that will surely influence generations of musicians to come. (Chosen by Sonia)

Top 3 Tracks: Life Itself; Season 2 Episode 3; Youth

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Artist: Gojira Album: Magma

Gojira - MagmaWith their sixth album, French metal quartet Gojira shift away from the outward, guttural, aggression of their earlier releases in favour of a more introspective slow burn. In 2015, the mother of Joe Duplantier (vocals, guitar) and Mario (drums) fell ill and passed away, and it is this grief that fuels Magma’s tectonic shifts. Complex rhythmic interplays replace melodic complexity to create an album that is as forcefully elemental as its title implies. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: The Cell; Magma; Low Lands

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Artist: Gwen Stefani Album: This Is What The Truth Feels Like

Gwen Stefani This Is What The Truth Feels LikeThis Is What the Truth Feels Like is the triumphant return you’ve been waiting for from Gwen Stefani. Even after a decade away from her solo career, the bratty, spunky personality we’ve all grown to love from Hollaback Girl and the like is here in full force, alongside enough vulnerability and heart to convey the album’s true message. As an album about love, the sheer diversity it shows without ever really faltering in quality is truly impressive. If you’re one of the legions of fans that’s been waiting for Stefani’s return, you surely won’t be disappointed with This Is What the Truth Feels Like. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Rocket Ship; Obsessed; Truth

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Artist: Highasakite Album: Camp Echo

Highasakite Camp EchoWhile their folk-pop debut was strong in its own right, Camp Echo is another beast entirely. Highasakite have created a heavily layered piece of work, from its frantic beats and ample reverb to its dark and mysterious lyrics, creating something truly refreshing and deeply mystifying. It’s a seamless package that never stumbles under its own weight, carrying itself perfectly from start to finish; there’s no doubt that Highasakite knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish with this album, and they succeeded in every single aspect. Camp Echo is a prime example of synthpop done right, and one that no pop fan should miss. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Deep Sea Diver; I Am My Own Disease; Golden Ticket

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Artist: Hinds Album: Leave Me Alone

Hinds Leave Me AloneHinds started 2016 with a bang. Leave Me Alone is an explosive, abrasive collection of garage pop tracks that encompass Hinds’ unique energy as a band, conveying a variety of attitudes in their fuzzy, shouting style. If you were to judge them off a single listen, you would be doing the album an incredible disservice; below the surface, there’s a compelling gem of an album that anyone could enjoy. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: And I Will Send Your Flowers Back; Chili Town; San Diego

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Artist: Jack Savoretti Album: Sleep No More

Jack Savoretti - Sleep No MoreSleep No More is a collection of timeless songs by Jack Savoretti. Described as an open love letter to his wife, it gives you the sentimentality that you crave, sans schmaltz. Savoretti’s earnest songs, delivered with warmth and grit, take a close look on the more difficult aspects of a relationship and what love is beyond the lovers’ whirlwind romance. Each track has been purposefully included and take you away as you listen from beginning to end. Sleep No More speaks directly to your heart. (Chosen by Sonia)

Top 3 Tracks: When We Were Lovers; Helpless; Lullaby Loving

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Artist: James Blake Album: The Colour In Anything

James Blake The Colour In AnythingWith The Colour In Anything, it feels like James Blake hit his own sound on the head, and managed to create the perfect “James Blake album”. It’s comforting to hear that even as his sound continues to sneak into the pop charts through other artists, no one does soulful minimalism better than him. Featuring collaborations with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and co-writing from Frank Ocean, it’s a more open and positive album than anything he’s previously released. It’s a totally new style for Blake, but the light suits him. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Timeless; Choose Me; I Need A Forest Fire

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Artist: Jeff Beck Album: Loud Hailer

Jeff Beck - Loud HailerJeff Beck’s career started many decades ago as a member of The Yardbirds at the time of the British Invasion in the 1960′s. In Beck’s release Loud Hailer, he shows that he is ever as relevant an artist today as he was back then. As a collection of songs and instrumentals Loud Hailer is cohesive and authentic in its social commentary and purpose. It is an outstanding album and we wouldn’t expect anything less from the two-time Rock ‘n Roll Hall Of Fame inductee. (Chosen by Sonia)

Top 3 Tracks: The Revolution Will Be Televised; Live In The Dark; Pull It

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Artist: Kanye West Album: The Life Of Pablo

Kanye West The Life of PabloNever has an album embodied its creator more than The Life of Pablo. A sprawling, but engaging mess of lust, money and faith, it tackles themes as old as society itself, but in a way that always feels modern. The gospel-meets-trap production is another home run for West, and sees him expanding his sonic palette even further. With collaborators ranging from Rihanna, to Chance the Rapper, and even Kendrick Lamar, The Life of Pablo feels communal and alive, and is another fantastic entry in West’s near-flawless discography. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Ultralight Beam; Real Friends; Wolves

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Artist: Katy B Album: Honey

Katy B HoneyAs much a Rinse FM album as a Katy B one, Honey is an intoxicating snapshot of UK dance-music. Featuring production from Major Lazer, Four Tet, Jamie Jones, Kaytranada, and many more, Honey explores a wide variety of styles and moods, from sexy slow-jams to anguished drum ‘n’ bass pop songs. Each song is up to the same high quality, and Katy B’s sheer charm and charisma holds the whole album together. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Honey; Calm Down; Dark Delirium

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Artist: Kendrick Lamar Album: untitled unmastered.

Kendrick Lamar untitled unmasteredEven when he’s making a relatively minor release, Kendrick Lamar’s music can’t help but seem huge. He folds decades of jazz and funk into his brand of intelligent hip-hop, and his lyrics go into deep conceptual ideas, and racial politics with a finesse that no one else in modern music can come close to. untitled unmastered. may only be a collection of leftovers from the To Pimp A Butterfly sessions, but each track is phenomenal and innovative, pushing Kendrick’s style into exciting new territory. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: untitled 02 l 06.23.2014; untitled 07 l 2014-2016; untitled 08 l 09.06.2014

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Artist: Laura Mvula Album: The Dreaming Room

Laura Mvula The Dreaming RoomFor an album to feel as eclectic as The Dreaming Room does while remaining coherent and complete is a real achievement. Laura Mvula has taken her work to a higher level the second time around, mixing copious amounts of reverb and a mixture of beats and natural instrumentation to create a varied yet coherent collection of work that evokes an array of emotions from the first listen. While her debut was already a truly great piece of work, The Dreaming Room more than trumps it in quality and truly needs to be experienced to be believed. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Overcome; Show Me Love; Phenomenal Woman

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Artist: Lights Album: Midnight Machines

Lights Midnight MachinesProving just how versatile her catalogue is, Lights reimagined her most recent studio album, Little Machines, transforming a handful of songs from the electro-pop stunner into gorgeous acoustic gems. She has previously done the same for earlier records but Midnight Machines stands out within the Lights catalogue as one of the finest collections of her career as she turns the once pop-drenched hits completely on their heads with splendor and grace. (EDITORS PICK)

Top 3 Tracks: Meteorites; Running With The Boys; Up We Go

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Artist: Lisa Hannigan Album: At Swim

Lisa Hannigan - At SwimAfter a battle with writer’s block, Lisa Hannigan received an unexpected email from the producer and guitarist Aaron Dressner who suggested they work together on her new album. At Swim is the product of their collaboration and explores many themes; friendship, life, death, grief and love. It is absolutely captivating from start to finish. Lisa Hannigan’s artistry is sublime throughout. Her delivery is pure and makes your soul resonate. (Chosen by Sonia)

Top 3 Tracks: Prayer For The Dying; Snow; Anahorish

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Artist: Lissie Album: My Wild West

Lissie My Wild WestMy Wild West is a defining moment for Lissie. With personal themes and solid country undertones defining each track across the album, Lissie has managed to make this both her most cohesive and enjoyable album to date. The refined, mature vibe compiles the best elements of her old work with enough fresh ideas to keep it standing high above its predecessors, making this a true triumph for Lissie. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Sun Keeps Risin’; Don’t You Give Up On Me; Hero

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Artist: Lucinda Williams Album: The Ghosts of Highway 20

Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts of Highway 20The Ghosts of Highway 20 is a dark, melancholic album, which weighs in at 86 minutes long, and demands the listener’s attention and perseverance. While a daunting album for the listener to approach, it is also immensely rewarding to those who sit down to listen – especially those who listen repeatedly. With her twelfth studio album, Lucinda Williams hasn’t cobbled together a loose collection of songs, but rather a coherent album that is best taken as a whole, and in doing so she has demonstrated why she is held in such high regard as a songwriter and artist. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: I Know All About It; The Ghosts of Highway 20; Faith & Grace

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Artist: Lucius Album: Good Grief

luciusWhile it initially seemed impossible to improve on an album as solid as Wildewoman, Lucius have more than managed to raise the bar with Good Grief. With its refined contemporary sound and eclectic yet cohesive style, there isn’t a single moment on the album that stands out as worse than the rest; even as the polished veneer finds itself purposefully faltering on Born Again Teen. For a band that had already created a superbly stunning debut, to be able to top it so effortlessly comes as an extremely welcome surprise. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Born Again Teen; Almighty Gosh; Madness

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Artist: Michael Kiwanuka Album: Love & Hate

Michael Kiwanuka Love and HateLove & Hate is such an enormous step up in quality from Michael Kiwanuka’s debut album, that it’s almost hard to believe they’re by the same artist. Love & Hate explores what drives people to madness, from lost love, to racial discrimination, and feels very much like an album of our time. Even the Danger Mouse produced instrumentation sounds unfailingly modern, in spite of mining the depths of 70’s soul music for inspiration. Love & Hate is a triumph, and suggests Kiwanuka has the potential to become one of the most vital artists in music. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Black Man in a White World; One More Night; Rule the World

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Artist: Molotov Jukebox Album: Tropical Gypsy

Molotov Jukebox Tropical GypsyTropical Gypsy may seem like a lot to handle on the surface, but one listen is enough to convince you of Molotov Jukebox’s many talents. It’s an exotic collection of different styles and emotions that are all conveyed in their own mixture of joyfulness and twisted sensibilities, taking heavy inspiration from styles such as calypso, reggae and ska to create their own eclectic piece of magic, mixing them together to create something truly special and uniquely energising. Even if you’re unsure of them at first, give Tropical Gypsy a listen; it’s easily one of the best things to come out of 2016’s early months. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Gypsy Funeral; Leave Your Light On; Pineapple Girl

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Artist: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Album: The Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

Skeleton Tree was always going to be a challenging album for the listener, even before the untimely death in July 2015 of Nick Cave’s son, mid-way through the album’s initial recording sessions. Given this event, it is only natural to interpret Skeleton Tree through the prism of paternal grief, but the album, which will ultimately reward those who apply themselves to it, is more than just that, pushing beyond the standard fare we’ve come to expect from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. It is an album best experienced first-hand, and one which will further prove the brilliance of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: Jesus Alone; Magneto; Distant Sky

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Artist: Niki and the Dove Album: Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now

Niki and The Dove - Everybodys Heart is Broken NowThere’s strong evidence supporting the hard work put into creating this record by Niki and The Dove. They reach into influence from 1980s pop, yet clasp to a uniquely tropical, originally breezy and heightened ride through funk, disco and soul. The polished funky production and sun drenched vision visited in the silky lyrics and sultry vocals have been immersed in a rare creative cloud – giving birth to a thoughtful and interactive result. They’ve managed to carefully hold onto elements of fun and seriousness whilst being completely musically honest. Inevitably, it will be a go-to summer soundtrack for years to come. (Chosen by Daniel)

Top 3 Tracks: Shark City (Tropical X); Coconut Kiss; You Stole My Heart Away

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Artist: Pixies Album: Head Carrier

Pixies - Head CarrierHead Carrier serves as a vehicle for the expansive and bold gravity that shines from the Pixies. You either like them or you don’t. It’s the fresh and succinct elements that give the tracks a greater sense of individuality and personable intrigue. Raw stylings and influential lyrics form the base for a colourful and charming record both exuberant and colourful. (Chosen by Daniel)

Top 3 Tracks: Plaster Paris; Oona; Baal’s Back

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Artist: PJ Harvey Album: The Hope Six Demolition Project

PJ Harvey Hope Six Demolition ProjectThe Hope Six Demolition Project embraces the darkness that Let England Shake unearthed. PJ Harvey has written a record about the feeling that the world is a cruel place, and there’s little we can do to change it. It’s a rock album about losing hope, a collection of rollicking songs about giving up. From the desensitised The Community of Hope, to the sorrowful Dollar, Dollar, the album immerses the listener deep in the malaise of modern life, and the effect is as immediate as it is heartbreaking. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: The Ministry of Defence; The Wheel; Dollar, Dollar

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Artist: Radiohead Album: A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead A Moon Shaped PoolAs their first studio album since 2011’s disappointing The King of Limbs, A Moon Shaped Pool had a lot of expectations to live up to, which it handily exceeds. Mixing Johnny Greenwood’s orchestral compositions, and Thom Yorke’s experiments with electronica, the band focuses on more personal, intimate territory, and the result is their most personal album yet. Even though they’ve been making music for over 20 years, Radiohead still sound like a band in their prime, and their relentless experimentation never gets old. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Burn the Witch; Present Tense; True Love Waits

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Artist: Rihanna Album: Anti

Rihanna AntiAs Rihanna’s albums go, ANTI is an anomaly. Carrying equal amounts of alternative R&B and retro throwback tracks, it covers ground that’s new to Rihanna while still feeling completely natural for her. Given its delays, there was every reason for ANTI to fail to live up to the hype. Rather than meeting these standards, however, it may have exceeded expectations to become her strongest effort yet. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Same Ol’ Mistakes; Love On The Brain; Yeah I Said It.

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Artist: Roxette Album: Good Karma

Roxette Good KarmaHaving been releasing records since 1986 as one of Sweden’s – and pop musics – most successful acts, It Must Have Been Love, Joyride and The Look hit-makers Roxette offered their longing fan-base a brand new studio album in 2016 in the electro-pop shape of Good Karma. With news of the bands retirement from live touring soon after the release of Good Karma, principle songwriter Per Gessle admitted to having this in mind when putting the tracks together for the record with the album exuding a much more electronic sound than previous albums – it was built with the studio, and not the stage, in mind. This also allows for a more experimental and playful approach to Good Karma and its on tracks like lead single It Just Happens, foot-thumpers The One and Good Karma and sublime ballads such as From A Distance that remind us of the sheer brilliance of these pop greats. (EDITORS PICK)

Top 3 Tracks: From A Distance; It Just Happens; You Make It Sound So Simple

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Artist: Rumer Album: This Girls In Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook

Rumer This Girl's In Love A Bacharach and David Songbook

There’s always extra pressure when you’re covering the works of a duo as iconic as Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but Rumer nailed their songs with ease on This Girl’s In Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook. With the help of her husband, Bacharach’s former musical director and arranger Rob Shirakbari, she has collected a number of faithful covers that suit her talents perfectly, and remained respectful to the original source material while still offering her own little twists where appropriate. For fans of Rumer, Bacharach and David alike, This Girl’s In Love is sure to meet your expectations, if not surpass them. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: (They Long To Be) Close To You; Are You There (With Another Girl); You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)

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Artist: Savages Album: Adore Life

Savages Adore LifeAdore Life by Savages is a thrilling call to arms to embrace life in all its glory, shot through a lens of pummelling punk music. Just achieving this dichotomy would be enough on its own, but Savages go a step further, imbuing their sophomore album with thrash and metal influences, that expand their sonic palette into a new and exciting place. From its gruelling opener The Answer, to the tender and moving Adore, Savages have achieved something transcendent with this album. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: The Answer; Adore; I Need Something New

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Artist: Schoolboy Q Album: The Blank Face LP

Schoolboy Q Blank Face LPSchoolboy Q is a challenging artist to parse. Between his harsh, raspy voice, his grimy beat selection, and his unaplogetically gangster-rap stylings, he occassionally seems like an artist out of time. However, Blank Face LP proves that Q can hold his own with the Kendrick Lamars of the world, mixing grim lyrics about crime and racial politics with murky, psychedelic beats, forming a heady epic of an album, and Q’s unquestionable best work yet. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane; Ride Out; Black THougHts

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Artist: Skylar Grey Album: Natural Causes

Skylar Grey Natural CausesNatural Causes is a truly memorable album. Minimally produced tracks mix with grand use of vocals and synths to create a masterpiece that remains consistently strong from start to finish, never stumbling and demanding your attention from start to finish. While Don’t Look Down was a solid album, the likes of Jump and Picture Perfect on her latest album are the kind of song you’ll be listening to on repeat before you’ve even finished your first listen of the album. She could have easily stayed where she was in terms of quality and been fine, but Natural Causes is the kind of gigantic leap forward most artists could only dream of making in their career. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Jump; Picture Perfect; We Used to Be Bad

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Artist: Solange Album: A Seat At The Table

Solange A Seat at the TableA Seat at the Table may not be a diverse or flashy album, but it’s a powerful album in all respects. Solange covers the entire spectrum of the modern African-American struggle with her lyricism and the history of their musical culture with the production, creating a celebration, lamentation and reclamation of her culture; something entirely necessary in the current age, even if it’s prone to alienation. The fact that it’s willing to take this risk is all but essential to its strength. It’s not an easy experience, but it’s a necessary one. (Chosen by Michael)

Top 3 Tracks: Don’t Touch My Hair; Where Do We Go; Junie

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Artist: The Avalanches Album: Wildflower

The Avalanches WildflowerIt must be easy to crumble under pressure when following up a classic, but in spite of the 16-year wait, The Avalanches have lived up to the hype. Wildflower is every bit as magnificent as Since I Left You ever was, taking all the elements that made that record so wonderful, and melding them with the sounds of 60’s psychedelia, and hip-hop. Combining an astronomical number of samples into one deliriously complex whole, The Avalanches have once again shown that no one else can do what they do. One can really only look forward to the inevitable release of their third album in 2032. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Because I’m Me; Colours; The Wozard of Iz

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Artist: Tindersticks Album: The Waiting Room

Tindersticks The Waiting RoomIn spite of releasing music since 1991, Tindersticks are making music that’s ambitious, engaging and current. The Waiting Room is their best album in 10 years, and it features more real emotion in one song than many artists manage to fit into an entire album. Stuart Staples voice is the beating heart of these solemn, brooding songs, and it is striking in its intimacy and grace. The Waiting Room is haunting and heartbreaking at the same time, and it proves Tindersticks are still at the height of their career. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: We Were Once Lovers?; Hey Lucinda; We Are Dreamers

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Artist: Turin Brakes Album: Lost Property

Turin Brakes Lost PropertyWhile Turin Brakes may not be a household name the world over – its only a matter of time before they are. The band have been releasing some of the most impressive records of any band for over a decade now and 2016 saw the release of their seventh studio collection in the form of Lost Property. Pulling together the distinctive vocals of front man Olly Knights and the incomparable musicianship of his band, led by lead guitarist Gale Paridjanian, Lost Property is flavored with a mainstream vibe thanks to tracks like lead single ‘96, Keep You Around and most recent single, Save You. Keep a watch on these guys because the Turin Brakes catalogue is just about as good as singer-songwriter repertoires go. (Chosen by Brendon)

Top 3 Tracks: Save You; Keep Me Around; 96

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Artist: White Lung Album: Paradise

paradise - white lungThree words can be used to summarise Paradise, the fourth album from Canada’s White Lung: short, fast, loud. The group’s distinctive take on the punk sound is consistently on display throughout the album, with a frenetic energy pervading Paradise, carried on the backs of Kenneth William’s skittish guitar, Anne-Marie Vassiliou’s pounding drums, and Mish Barber-Way’s lacerating vocals. Existing fans will be well serviced by Paradise, and new fans should be lining up around the block to get a sample of what White Lung are providing. (Chosen by Haydon)

Top 3 Tracks: Kiss Me When I Bleed; Hungry; Vegas

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Artist: Wild Beasts Album: Boy King

Wild Beasts Boy KingWild Beasts have always been a paradoxical band, mixing lecharous lyrics with graceful instrumentation. However, on Boy King their sound changes to match their subject matter, as the band reacts to a turbulent world by finding the punk inside of themselves. The crunching synths and wailing guitars sound like nothing the group has done before, but it also makes perfect sense. Boy King is an album about what happens when you give yourself over to chaos, an it’s Wild Beasts’ latest triumph. (Chosen by Christopher)

Top 3 Tracks: Tough Guy; Celestial Creatures; Dreamliner

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