ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2016: 40-31

40. Blood Orange – ‘Freetown Sound’


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Of all the guises Dev Hynes has adopted over the years, his Blood Orange project has definitely been the most intriguing. Not really looking for commercial success from it, the project has served as an outlet for his own personal beliefs and expressions that would have seemed out of place under his previous monikers. Now releasing his long-awaited new album three days before it was due, 'Freetown Sound' looks to be his biggest statement to date.

Over the last year we have seen Blood Orange release quick protest songs, usually in the wake on some political or social disaster, most of which are not included on this release but instead the messages have been carried on to create a more cohesive release instead. Taking a more electronic direction than his 2013 full-length 'Cupid Deluxe', the record tries to bring together a whole range of musical directions, all arched to create a release that responds to Hynes' own heritage and place on this earth.

The result is an eclectic range of funk, trip-hop and soul that manages to stay fresh from track one to seventeen. A truly impressive release from a man who clearly has a lot to say and knows exactly how to hone his talent into one all-encompassing record.

39. Metronomy – ‘Summer 08’


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Metronomy have had themselves an interesting few years recently. After the resounding acclaim brought on by their third album 'The English Riviera', they returned in 2014 with the love-it-or-hate-it 'Love Letters', an album that divided fans over their less dance-led direction. But it looks like 'Summer 08' is harking back to the electro days of sophomore record 'Nights Out' as frontman Joe Mount takes full control of the project once again.

Obviously, it is not 100% clear about which parts of 'Summer 08' are in reference to that time, but it definitely sounds like Metronomy have gone back to their roots with this sound. A minimal, electronic release that manages to reignite all those memories of hearing LCD Soundsystem or The Rapture for the very first time. This album is pure indie-disco nostalgia, and although Metronomy were very much part of that initial scene, this record is more of a homage than themselves rehashing old ideas.

Fans of the group's early days will definitely love this while those that discovered them from 'The English Riviera' may find it harder to get into. Nonetheless, 'Summer 08' is a fantastic return for the group and shows great promise for the near future.

38. Kanye West – ‘The Life Of Pablo’


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After more than a year of rumours, speculations, delays, press hype, false information, bogus launches and four name changes, the new Kanye West album is finally here. And while many find him the villain of the music industry, his over-zealous attitude can simply be boiled down to good marketing. There is no such thing as bad publicity and if anyone knows how to get people talking about him, its Kanye West. But moving that all a side for a moment, 'The Life Of Pablo' is the long-awaited follow up to his 2013 album 'Yeezus', an album that not only completely reinvented the hip-hop sound but also laid the foundations for the popularised trap and electronic sound within the genre that remains a staple to this day. So will this new release become as trend-setting as his last?

When we first got wind of a new Kanye album this time last year, it was from his grime single 'All Day', immortalised at the Brit Awards a few months later. It seemed from then that grime was his new thing and we were about to see our first American rapper take on the genre. But not only did 'All Day' fail to make the cut, his position towards grime seems to have changed entirely as this new release sees him more where he was at the start of his career. No gimmicks, no reinventions, just simple hip-hop at its finest. He has managed to find the humble parts of his persona just long enough to produce an album that manages to be less reactionary than himself. It's sleek, elegant and shows that when he wants to, he can still create some of the world's best new music.

It has been a long and over-the-top journey throughout, but gladly 'The Life Of Pablo' lives up to the hype and will no doubt renew his status as one of the biggest names in contemporary music for a few years yet. Sorry if that isn't what you wanted to hear.

37. Frightened Rabbit – ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’


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While Frightened Rabbit have had a turbulent few years since their last studio album, the band are now looking to deliver one of their most impressive releases to date. 'Painting Of A Panic Attack' is the band's first album since the departure of guitarist Gordon Skene and seems to mark a new chapter in the story of this group. A new awakening has started in them as this new record shows a far more confident outfit than in the past.

Opening up with the transcendent 'Death Dream', the album never really falters from then on. A melancholy yet uplifting collection of indie-rock that mirrors the changes bands like Foals and The Horrors have undergone on their later releases. Taking all the criticism against them and using it to form a positive and forward-thinking sound is no easy feat yet Frightened Rabbit seem to be on the cusp of their own musical revolution.

Bold, fearless and engaging throughout, 'Painting Of A Panic Attack' could mark a career best for the Scottish outfit. A cohesive release with all the hallmarks of a band who have used their experiences to reflect the mood and pace of their music with sheer aplomb.

36. Hinds – ‘Leave Me Alone’


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After ending 2015 as one of the most hyped-up new artists of the year, the Madrid-based four-piece Hinds have begun this year by releasing their debut studio album 'Leave Me Alone'. And while the buzz around this group is well deserved, hearing them in a full-bodied glory definitely gives them a more well-rounded appeal and shows that they are well on their way to making the new year their own.

Taking that fuzzy, DIY guitar sound we love so much and adding a touch of pop gloss has given Hinds a sound that is both rough and polished at the same time. Their competent songwriting mixed with their youthful energy gives the album its enlightened core, while the productions aims to give them a much rawer sound. The result may seem mixed but you quickly find that this is where they want to go and it certainly gives them an enjoyable edge.

Definitely an album to check out if you have yet to hear their previous singles 'Chili Town' and 'Garden'. A brilliantly playful record with all the hallmarks of a band just beginning to show their potential.

35. The Avalanches – ‘Wildflower’


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One of the biggest comebacks of the year, if not the decade, so far has been the Aussie DJ troupe known as The Avalanches. While no longer the dozen members they originally were, the group is now down to just three original members, this album has been in the works since 2005, rivalling Guns N Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' in terms of anticipation. Yet unlike that album, this one is actually good; like really good.

Fans of the first album 'Since You've Been Gone' will no doubt have spent the last few weeks relistening to that release in preparation for 'Wildflower' and it almost sounds like the group never stopped after finishing that debut. This new record picks up exactly where the last one finished more 16 years ago, and creates a joyful ambient bliss, occasionally spiced up with the odd hip-hop breaks and guest vocalist.

Despite not really sounding any different from their debut, when you compare this to other music that has come out since, you realise that The Avalanches were always in a league of their own. Nothing comes close to their sound and this album is a huge welcome to their now growing catalogue of music.

34. Danny Brown – ‘Atrocity Exhibition’


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When rapper Danny Brown collaborated with Rustie for the producer's 2014 single 'Attak', the experience of working with such an interesting producer clearly had an affect on the MC in influencing this new album. Making this his first full-length for Warp Records, 'Atrocity Exhibition' seems to bring together the worlds of heavyweight US hip-hop and experimental production to deliver a truly unique collection of work.

At the end of the day, if there was any artist to pull this off, it was Danny Brown. The rapper's general presence in the rap scene is one of grudging acceptance as he has always been pictured as the weird and left-of-centre talent, which really comes to life on this new work. For the most part, 'Atrocity Exhibition' isn't as out there as you'd expect but still maintains that core Danny Brown sound that is then backed up by a diverse team of producers and MCs that help create this thought-provoking body of work.

This new release sees Danny Brown in his most comfortable space yet. The man's general style has never matched convention and this new album sees him stretch his creative wings as far as he can to create something of incredible substance and awe. No doubt this is the masterpiece of his career so far.

33. Billie Marten – ‘Writing Of Blues And Yellows’


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A lot of hype has been surrounding the young Miss Marten throughout 2016, naming her one of the best new folk singers in British music. While what we have heard so far certainly fits that bill, the now 17-year-old delivers her debut album 'Writing Of Blues And Yellows', a record that shows maturity reaching far beyond her years.

Her simple disposition towards production allows her voice to take centre stage on this release, making a far more powerful and personal album than we have seen from some of her peers in the last few years. With a calm and tranquil flow, Marten presents us with one soothing serenade after the next, showing that she has not only found her sound at such a young age, but has managed to master it as well.

An effortless performance from one of the most promising new acts we have heard in years. Billie Marten may not have received the attention she deserves yet, but this album definitely sends a message to the industry that there is a new girl in town.

32. NZCA Lines – ‘Infinite Summer’


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While producer and songwriter Michael Lovett has been working under his NZCA Lines pseudonym for many years, this new release is the first time we have seen him adopt a theme to his music. Working under the idea of a futuristic world where humanity is about to end, 'Infinite Summer' aims to combine that feeling of impending doom with a one-last-party attitude, giving it a morbid yet extremely fun feel.

Most people would know the name Michael Lovett from his work with Metronomy, and it is that connection that best describes the sound of this latest release. An extremely self-aware producer looking to create a cohesive piece of electro-pop with all the flair and ambition you would expect. The album has this wonderful ability to branch out from itself at times and makes for a very diverse sound, all bridged together under its own concept.

It is most certainly one of the finest records we have had the joy of listening to so far this year, and while that may not sound like much of an accolade, it is not easy making the cold weather sound like a beach party. But somehow Lovett has brought a large ray of sunshine into these winter months.

31. Leon Vynehall – ‘Rojus’


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Following on from his 2014 debut 'Music For The Uninvited', producer Leon Vynehall returns with his latest studio full-length to deliver another batch of lo-fi beats and laid-back vibes. And with 'Rojus' being the Lithuanian word for "paradise", it seems that he has made a deliberate attempt in creating such a rich and inviting new release.

Opening up with bird song and an atmospheric soundscape sets the exotic tone of this release, before bringing in the percussion and basslines that ultimately form the Vynehall sound. It has this non-evasive quality that allows it to really get under your skin and bring you closer to all the sounds within the music. Almost minimal in its production, 'Rojus' has this serene beauty to it that most producers are too forceful to allow to be heard.

Vynehall is of course a huge name in the UK electronic scene and with this new repertoire of beats, all cloaked under a tropical concept, there is no doubt that this latest material will serve his performances well. Masterfully arranged and cohesive throughout.


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