A lot of crummy shit happened in 2016. Fortunately, music powered on as a sturdy lifeboat for many. A year of protest, 2016’s longest running societal injustices were encapsulated in music. With artists taking different approaches to their expression, some looking to their own experiences for inspiration, while others choosing to focus on the world around them. Either way music in 2016 stood as a rallying cry for change. Special mention to some great albums which didn’t quite make the cut include The Range – Potential, White Lung – Paradise, Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial, Noname – Telefone and Kero Kero Bonito – Graduation
Album Title: A Seat At The Table
Label: Saint Records/Columbia
Genre: Neo-Soul, R&B
Moments Of: Blood Orange, Frank Ocean
Solange sings “I’m weary of the ways of the world”. It’s an infallible weariness for Solange on A Seat At The Table, yet we see her continually look inward for the will to fight injustice in the black community. This introspective journey, fortunately, let’s us see Solange’s bare bones and creates strength through empathy.
Album Title: Hopelessness
Label: Secretly Canadian/Rough Trade
Genre: Electronic, Chamber Pop
Moments Of: Antony & The Johnsons, Bat For Lashes
Hopelessness is the most overwhelming album of the year. Every debatable topic is captured with an emotional grandeur of despair, countered only by a subversive and universal call-to-arms which demands change.
Artist: The Drones
Album Title: Feelin Kinda Free
Label: Tropical Fuck Storm Records
Genre: Alt-Rock, Garage Rock
Moments Of: Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Royal Headache
The Drones are at their fiercest politically and morally on Feelin Kinda Free. It’s a case of expecting the unexpected with Gareth Liddiard, and on Feelin Kinda Free it’s impossible to prepare for the kick to the guts you’re about to receive.
Album Title: Puberty 2
Label: Dead Oceans
Genre: Indie Rock, Alt-Rock
Moments Of: Car Seat Headrest, Angel Olsen
Puberty 2 is an album of self-realisations. But, these realisations aren’t met with one moment of sublime clarity you’d find in regular pop anthems, rather they require you to crawl through mud, coated thick with your mistakes.
Artist: Blood Orange
Album Title: Freetown Sound
Label: Domino Records
Genre: Neo-Soul, R&B
Moments Of: Prince, Solange
Inequality has been addressed by many artists this year, but no one manages to capture it quite like Dev Hynes. As Blood Orange, he explores the political and social marginalisation of sexuality, race, gender and more with a poetic and harmonic endearance which makes Freetown Sound standout as one of the best albums of the year.