The 50 Best Albums of 2016

In this post: an introduction, reviews of the top 10 albums of the year, a complete top 50 list, and a streaming playlist with a track from every top 50 album save for those not on Spotify. See you in 2017!

There were no seismic shifts in the pop landscape in 2016, nor in 2015, nor in 2014, nor in recent memory. The last time I remember feeling a legit sense of the earth moving under my feet (um, ears?) was when in 2006-2007 the Neptunes and Timbaland ceded ground to Kanye West’s now-dated chipmunked vocal samples, The White Stripes (and before them, The Strokes) firmly rewrote the pop-rock template and the Dixie Chicks told the world they weren’t ready to make nice. All the change since then has felt incremental, which may be a function of my age, but aside from maybe Drake and 40, who has rewritten the playbook — anyone’s playbook? Maybe it doesn’t work like that anymore. Technological change can generally be seen only in the rear-view mirror, but I can’t help thinking it’s changing the way the music evolves. Weep for the future historians who have to find a through-line in the evolution of music in the teens.

If that’s the way things are, or will be, then 2016 was the year I stopped worrying and learned to love the absence of a bomb. None of the albums on my top 10 list feel like any kind of quantum leap forward, but they are all masterful and constantly stimulating, even surprising, on the tenth or even fiftieth listen. It’s pretty shocking to me that a straight-up gangsta rap record like Still Brazy or an instrumental-rock spazzout like Return To Sky would end up atop my list, to the point that I often wonder whether I’ve started privileging the familiar over the unexpected as a kind of defensive mechanism, against the shell-shock of the new. But the flipside of that is my disdain for the records proclaimed as epochal (Arcade Fire *durrr*, Taylor Swift *yawn*) has made me more enthusiastic about records that feature maturing talents, like Blonde, and that showcase mature artists operating at their peak, like Anguis Oleum and A Moon Shaped Pool. It’s exciting to be around when the music world is being turned upside down, but it’s no consolation prize to bear witness to a crop of artists who be doin it and doin it and doin it well.

1. Frank Ocean - Blonde (Boys Don't Cry)

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Team Frank Ocean was already a heaving bandwagon when Blonde dropped, though to these ears the hype was premature when Channel Orange was the only evidence on offer. Whatever, I probably wouldn't have thought Prince was a genius on the basis of his first album, and yet, and yet. Blonde is plenty full of genius-signaling greatness, in flashes of wry lyrical humor ("did you call me from a seance? You from my past life") and epic ballads like "White Ferrari" that just scream This Is Everything You Never Dared Hope He Could Become. There's something in Ocean's ability to leave a line hanging in the synth-soaked, sometimes guitar-wrist-flick-punctuated air. He owns the space between words, shapes it invisibly with the last line and the next one. Even the funkier moments like "Pink + White" are expertly paced hops from one melodic cloud to the next, with his signature move of brightening the harmony in mid-lyric. More than any other impulse he seems to have, Frank Ocean just loves to yank the listener from nostalgic, sometimes idyllic images drenched in romance to mundane, pungent detail about drugs or, often, driving. "We're alone, making sweet love, taking time / but god strikes us!" To me, the centerpiece of the album is "Solo" for the simple reason that it works on a granular detail level -- capturing a moment of pure bliss from an acid trip on a dance floor -- but it also works its way gradually through a heartbreak that left him alone, exposed without a lover and without the rhythm section whose absence leaves a joy-shaped hole in the track. Absence and space are the most expressive parts of the album, and knowing how to play them is irrefutable proof that Frank Ocean has ascended to a higher plane. Though if he really were some kind of god, he'd be the kind that likes to day-trip back to earth, maybe as a swan, just to mess with some poor human for a few hours before returning skyward.

 Selections from a-void’s Best Albums of 2016

 The List: 1-10

1. Frank Ocean – Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry)
2. YG – Still Brazy (400/CTE/Def Jam)
3. Lorenzo Senni – Persona (Warp)
*4. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil – Anguis Oleum (Screwgun)
5. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani – FRKWAYS Vol 13: Sunergy (RVNG Intl)
6. Causa Sui – Return To Sky (El Paraiso)
7. Pangaea – In Drum Play (Hessle Audio)
8. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
9. DVA [HI:EMOTIONS] – Notu_Ironlu (Hyperdub)
10. Kaytranada – 99.9 (XL)

 11-50

11. Pet Shop Boys – Super (X2)
12. Vince Staples – Prima Donna EP (Def Jam)
13. Weaves – Weaves (Buzz)
14. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Matador)
15. Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse Of What Yr Not (Jagjaguwar)
16. Matmos – Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey)
17. Gucci Mane – Everybody Looking (Atlantic)
18. *Purling Hiss – High Bias (Drag City)
19. A Tribe Called Red – We Are The Halluci Nation (Pirates Blend)
20. *Useless Eaters – Relaxing Death (Castle Face)
21. The Gaslamp Killer – Instrumentalepathy (Gaslamp Killer Music)
22. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It (Dirty Hit/Interscope/Polydor/Vagrant)
23. Skepta – Konnichiwa (Boy Better Know)
24. Bardo Pond feat Guru Guru and Acid Mothers Temple – Acid Guru Pond (Fire)
25. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial (Matador)
26. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You For Your Service (Epic/Sony)
27. Kenny Barron – Book Of Intuition (Impulse/Universal)
28. Poirier – Migration (Nice Up!)
29. Hieroglyphic Being And The Configurative Or Modular Me Trio – Cosmic Bebop (Mathematics)
30. Camera – Phantom of Liberty (Bureau B)
31. Rihanna – Anti (Def Jam)
32. The Field – The Follower (Kompakt)
33. Trevino – Front (C Birdie)
34. Marquis Hawkes – Social Housing (Houndstooth)
35. Warpaint – Heads Up (XL)
36. *Fp-oner – 6 (Mule Musiq)
37. Lone – Levitate (R&S)
38. *Lawrence – Yoyogi Park (Mule Musiq)
39. Black Milk and Nat Turner – The Rebellion Sessions (Computer Ugly)
40. Pye Corner Audio – Stasis (Ghost Box)
41. Africaine 808 – Basar (Golf Channel)
42. *Andrew Cyrille – The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM)
43. Dr. Lonnie Smith – Evolution (Blue Note)
44. Jakob Skott – All The Colours of the Dust (El Paraiso)
45. Dynamis – Distance (Tectonic)
46. Gerry Read – Chubby Cheeks (Timetable)
47. Solange – A Seat At The Table (Columbia/Sony)
48. Steve Haushcildt – Strands (Kranky)
49. Future – EVOL (Epic/Sony)
50. Prins Thomas – Principe Del Norte (Smalltown Supersound)

* = not on Spotify

New Mix: Paintbox

paintbox

When it comes to labels making four on the floor tunes, I play favourites. Lot of stalwarts of my digital crates here – Kompakt, obviously, Hyperdub, Get Physical, M_nus – and a few relatively new entrants like Black Acre and Aus Music, neither of which I would dare sleep on. PS: this mix is gym-tested-and-approved.

Click here to download from Mediafire

1. Dan Shake – Traders II (feat. Rennie Foster) – Out of Sight (Black Acre)
2. Saschienne – The Era Of The Leopard – Golden Prints (Kompakt)
3. Weval – Easier – Easier (Kompakt)
4. Phon.o – Der Lude – Werkschau03 (Shitkatapult)
5. Bwana – Flute Dreams – Flute Dreams (Aus Music)
6. Sascha Funke & Haito Gopfrich – Disconnected (Sascha Funke Mix) – Disconnected (Boxer)
7. Sebastian Mullaert & Patrick Siech – Genome (Original Mix) – Genome I (M_nus)
8. Gerry Read – Cosmoid – 3,2,1 (Aus Music)
9. Voigt & Voigt – Supertrip – Speicher 82 (Kompakt)
10. Chelonis R. Jones – Le bateau ivre (Booka Shade remix) – Get Physical #BeatPortDecade Deep House (Get Physical)
11. DJ Pierre – What Is House Muzik (DJ T. Remix) – What Is House Muzik
12. Duke Dumont – The Giver – EP 1 (Virgin EMI)
13. Chemotex – Snake Inside My Leg – Snake Inside My Leg (The Trilogy Tapes)
14. Gingy & Bordello – All Day – Warehouse Series Compilation (Turbo)
15. Kode9 – Oh – Hyperdub 10.4 (Hyperdub)
16. Ricardo Villalobos – Voodog Pt. 1 – Voodog (Pressure Traxx)
17. Hysterics – Empty – Hysterics EP (Night Slugs)

Deemo – Paintbox by Deemo on Mixcloud

 

Mixed on Feb 14, 2015 by Dave Morris a.k.a. Deemo

Mix: Night Vision

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There are some chuuuuunes in this one. The TARAVAL cut, for starters; Hercules and Love Affair obviously; Tiga & Audion sounding deliciously creepy; and that Vitalic remix is enough to make me completely forget about his not-all-that-great last album. Check the cool wax, as the Beasties would say.

Click here to download from Mediafire

1. Automat – TXF – Automat (Bureau B)
2. Tiga & Audion – Fever (Original mix) – Fever (Remixes) (Turbo)
3. Juju & Jordash – Waldorf Salad – Waldorf Salad/Third Planet from Altair (Dekmantel)
4. Prins Thomas – Labyrint – Prins Thomas III (Full Pupp)
5. Kaytranada – ATM Jam (No label)
6. Gerry Read – Charcoal – Socialize / Charcoal (Fourth Wave)
7. Percussions – KHLHI – KHLHI / Sext (Text)
8. Miajica – Impressions 1.1.3.4 – Space Future Communication EP (New Kanada)
9. Daphni & Owen Pallett – Julia – Julia / Tiberius (Jiaolong)
10. TARAVAL – Gonna Rain – Streetways EP (Text)
11. The WacH feat. IBOWON – It’s Time [Chant] – If 2.0 (Ninja Tune)
12. Hercules and Love Affair – Do You Feel The Same? (Feat. Gustaph) – The Feast Of The Broken Heart (Moshi Moshi)
13. Paul Kalkbrenner – Altes Kamuffel (Vitalic Remix) – Altes Kamuffel (Vitalic Remix) (Paul Kalkbrenner Music)
14. Boddika & Joy Orbison – Tricky’s Team – Tricky’s Team (No label)

 

Night Vision by Deemo on Mixcloud

Mix: Dark Days

dark-days-web

You may wonder why I only post reviews of albums on here and not singles. Or you may not. Anyways I’m explaining here, so STFU for a minute. I don’t review singles because, if I like them, odds are they end up in a mix like this. Thus I feel compelled to point out how totally fucking bananas-awesome Wesley Matsell and Gerry Read’s latest singles are, which is obviously why I included them. Also the Recondite track, which isn’t new. Did I mention you should listen to this? You should listen to this.

Click here to download from Mediafire

1. Pearson Sound – Raindrops pt. II – Raindrops
2. Kelis – Jerk Ribs (Mount Kimbie Remix) – Jerk Ribs (Remixes)
3. DMX Krew – My Metro – Hot Punch / My Metro
4. Recondite – Riant – Bleep: The Top 100 Tracks of 2013
5. Lucy – leave us alone – Churches Schools And Guns
6. Neneh Cherry – Everything (Villalobos & Loderbauer: Vilod high blood pressure mix) – Everything
7. Dave DK – Woolloomooloo – Perfect Like You / Woolloomooloo
8. Wesley Matsell – Future Beacon – Total Order of Being
9. The Lionheart Brothers – The Drift (Frisvold & Lindbaek Remix) – The Drift
10. The Analogue Cops – Second Disco Crime (ft. Steffi) – Heavy Hands
11. Christian S – Number One – Pitch Rider
12. Boddika & Joy Orbison – More Maim – More Maim / In Here
13. Pinch & Mumdance – Turbo Mitzi – Turbo Mitzi / Whiplash
14. Sam Russo – Wanderer (John Tejada remix) – To The Brink / Wanderer
15. Gerry Read – Shrubby  – Shrubby
16. Snow Ghosts – Secret Garden (Matthew Herbert’s Wash It All Away Instrumental) – Secret Garden
17. Pearson Sound – Raindrops pt. I – Raindrops

Deemo – Dark Days by Deejaydeemo on Mixcloud

 

Mix: Deemo – A Space Odyssey

deemo---space-odyssey

Shake off your hangovers and get into this mix. If you need motivation, consider it a kind of fitness boot camp for your ears – it’ll kick your ass and you’ll be glad it did. (It kicked my ass making it; I half considered calling it What I Did On My Winter Vacation.)

Click here to download from Mediafire

or scroll down to stream

Tracklist:
1. Kyson – Sunnyvale – The Water’s Way
2. Policy – Postscript187 – Postscript
3. Mathew Jonson – Sahara – Her Blurry Pictures
4. Jay Daniel – Brainz – 14 Tracks Best Of 2013: Part One
5. Sophie – Bipp – 14 Tracks Best Of 2013: Part Three
6. Dino Sabatini & Donato Dozzy – Penelope – Journey Back To Ithaca
7. Martyn – Be My Own Pupil – Be My Own Pupil
8. Gerry Read – Beatin My Dick To The Beat – Been A Lot Of Places Seen A Lot Of Faces
9. Erol Alkan – Bang! – Illumination EP
10. Tazz – Piano Kinesis – Science Friction
11. Adam Marshall – Chaos – Memphis
12. Mumdance & Logos – In Reverse P.I.V. – 14 Tracks Best Of 2013: Part Three
13. Slackk – Blue Forest – 14 Tracks Best Of 2013: Part Three
14. Pearson Sound – Starburst – Starburst
15. Roman Flugel – Duck And Cover – Gerd Janson Presents Music For Autobahns

A Space Odyssey by Deejaydeemo on Mixcloud