Top 20 Releases of 2016
20. Yffer - You Have Many Faces
19. Yuna - Chapters
18. Beyoncé - Lemonade
17. Gallant - Ology
16. Julia Jacklin - Don’t Let the Kids Win
15. Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions - Until the Hunter
14. Kllo - Well Worn
13. Ngaiire - Blastoma
12. Two Steps on the Water - God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye
11. Rainbow Chan - Spacings
10. Silentjay x Jace XL - Sacrifice
9. Rihanna - ANTI
8. Japanese Breakfast - Psychopomp
7. Forever - Forever
6. Blood Orange - Freetown Sound
5. Yumi Zouma - Yoncalla
I remember telling someone years ago that listening to Yumi Zouma is a lot like listening to Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection. You just totally forget how many infectious hits they have. Such an ear for melody, I’m kinda amazed they haven’t become ghost writers for EMI. I’m really thankful they haven’t though, Yoncalla is unstoppable and the band just keeps getting better and better with every release.
4. Big Smoke - Time is Golden
What can we really say about this? No amount of full disclosure/journalistic ‘rules’ will pull me away from telling everyone about this record made by some of my best friends, and being alongside them as we try to make sense of the early death of Adrian Slattery is something I’ll always remember. In a year of heartbreak and confusion, Time is Golden stands out above it all as something to be truly grateful for. I, and so many others, are filled with immense pride for Adrian, Luke, Alex, Tim and Joe. Thank you for this gift.
3. Mal Devisa - Kiid
Experimental music is a weird term. There’s this connotation that experimental music is (mostly men) on the ground, tinkering with drones and electronics reinventing the conventions of music. Mal Devisa introduced me to a different type of experimental music this year - one which is so radically honest, open, vulnerable and most of all, diverse, that it became clear to me that Kiid is one of the most truly experimental records of the decade. You can not pin her down in any way - the album is her in all her varied moods/thoughts, jumping from the minimal and beautiful, to the unapologetically harsh and brutal. Kiid is one big fuck you to anyone who thinks it might be worthwhile to try and summarise anyone and anything in life - a fuck you to your summaries in general. She is giving you all of her, and you won’t be streaming it for free on Spotify.
2. Noname - Telefone
I listened to it daily for probably two months after it came out in August, and probably three/four times every week since then. The choruses are what grab me every time. You could sit on just one melody in each track and make a great song out of it, but instead Noname has about 5-10 of those melodies in each one, all as good as each other. When Noname raps she is miles ahead of anyone else, when she does R&B she’s got the best R&B tracks of the year - and when these two come together you get something so perfectly executed that you can’t, no matter how hard you try, stop listening to it.
1. Solange - A Seat at the Table
Of course it’s number one. It’s impossible to even pick a track I love the most because it’s all so special as a collection. One of my most anticipated records of the year and I don’t think it’s what any of us where expecting. Solange doesn’t wanna make you dance as much as she wants to help you love yourself - a beautiful, masterful journey from start to finish. The perfect accompaniment might be this conversation between Solange and her mother, Mrs Tina Lawson, and Judnick Mayard.
“I think that A Seat at the Table for me is an invitation to allow folks to pull up a chair, get very close and have these hard uncomfortable truths be shared. It’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be fun, you may not get to dance to it, you’re not going to breathe easily through it, but that is the state of the times that we’re in right now. It’s my invitation to actually open up those doors and to have that voice, get messy and lay out my truths and stand firm in them. It’s funny because I was in my room with my son and one of my best friends, Chris, and I had just finished the record and hadn’t given much thought to the name of the album, and it was time! For an entire day, I gave it thought and I had a little session where I just threw out every single name that I wrote down and my son would say, “no that’s not it,” or “oh, that one’s kinda good,” and it was actually Chris who threw out A Seat at the Table. I immediately remember feeling in that moment that that was the name that really encompassed the entire project. My openness and my willingness to really have these very personal intimate conversations was my way of saying, “yeah we ‘bout to get real close.””