Best albums of 2016

It is fair to say that 2016 will be a year remembered for all the wrong reasons.

There was plenty of great music made, but it was the music and musicians we lost that was the real story. The death of David Bowie at the turn of the year set the tone; his shocking, untimely passing seemed cast a pall over the music scene. The deaths of  Prince, Lemmy and Leonard Cohen further deepened the mood of gloom; these iconic figures sound-tracked a whole generation’s progress from youth to adulthood; their deaths had a profound effect on all music fans.

Although 2016 may not be remembered as a vintage year for albums, there were some notable highlights; Nick Cave delivered a career best with the incredibly affecting ‘The Skeleton Tree’ while here at home there were wonderful albums from Barry McCormack, Lisa Hannigan and Drombeg.

Every year delivers a number of surprise packages and 2016 was no exception; Emma Pollock, Big Thief & King Creosote were a number of personal favourites -they may not appear on many other 2016 roundups, but they are well worth checking out.

 

 

nick-cave-skeleton-tree11. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS -THE SKELETON TREE

None of us can know for sure whether the Skeleton Tree represents the sound of an artist exposing his grief to the world or a musician doing what he knows best – writing songs, composing music, adhering to a discipline that has been part of his life for so long now. Whatever it is, the Skeleton Tree is an incredible piece of work, an album pockmarked by sorrow and a deep sense that life and art are more precious than we could ever comprehend. Full review

 

 

2.  BARRY McCORMACK -THE TILT OF THE EARTHThe Tilt of teh Earth -Barry McCormack

By the time we reach closing track ‘The Fellowship of the Open Road’ there is a sense that we have listened to something truly special. With the ‘Tilt of the Earth’, Barry McCormack has created one of the finest Irish albums of the last decade. Full review

 

 

 

 

 

M Craft -Blood Moon

3. M CRAFT – BLOOD MOON

The influence of silence, of the stark beauty of the desert landscape can be heard in every note played on Blood Moon.  There is a deep, meditative quality to these songs; gorgeous string arrangements, simple piano motifs and celestial harmonies combine to breath-taking effect. Full review

 

 

 

4. KING CREOSOTE – ASTRONAUT MEETS APPLEMANastronaut-packshot

An album fully loaded with charm, wit and melodic invention, Astronaut meets Appleman disarms with its pure, big hearted sincerity.

 

 

 

 

 

Warhaus5. WARHAUS – WE FUCKED A FLAME INTO BEING

Stylish, pop noir that owes a considerable debt to Leonard Cohen. ‘We Fucked A Flame Into Being’ is one of 2016s most deliciously dark and surprising treats.

 

 

 

 

 

6. ANGEL OLSEN – MY WOMANAngel Olsen - My Woman

My Woman confirms that  ‘Burn Your Fire..’ was no one off – it’s a truly brilliant record that retains some of the spiky edge of its predecessor but introduces something wholly new to the party. Full review

 

 

 

 

 

Blackstar - David Bowie7.  DAVID BOWIE – BLACKSTAR

We don’t want to reach closing song ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’; we don’t want to hear that repeated refrain knowing that this is it, there will be no more. David Jones became David Bowie, the Man Who Fell to Earth and stayed for a while to entertain, bewilder and blow our minds. This week, it is only proper than fans mourn his death but long after the grief subsides, his legacy will remain; Blackstar is a near perfect footnote to that legacy. Full review

 

 

 

 

8.  BIG THIEF – MASTERPIECEMasterpiece -Big Thief

With Masterpiece, Big Thief play to their strengths; they don’t attempt to break new ground or explore new sonic terrain; these are simple, heartfelt songs exploring universal themes from Lenker’s unique perspective. It’s a stunning album that comes very close to living up to its title. Full review

 

 

 

 

In Search of Harperfield - Emma Pollock9.  EMMA POLLOCK – IN SEARCH OF HARPERFIELD

In Search of Harperfield’ won’t win a Grammy, probably won’t win a Brit or any of the other risible awards that supposedly celebrate the best the music industry has to offer but very often do nothing but highlight mediocrity… Set your heart on fire – buy this record now. Full review

 

 

 

 

10. OKKERVIL RIVER – AWAYAway -Okkervil River

Okkervil River have consistently delivered albums of pure, unadulterated brilliance since they formed in 1998. ‘Away’ does not buck that trend and showcases Will Sheff’s extraordinarily underrated song-writing talent once again.

 

 

 

 

 

11. DIIV – Is This Is Are   12. Keaton Henson – Kindly Now  13. Conor Oberst –Ruminations  14.  Lisa Hannigan – At Swim  15.  Aidan Knight – Each Other  16.  Julia Jacklin –Don’t Let The Kids Win  17.  Drombeg –Earthworks  18.  School of Seven Bells – SVIIB  19.  Haley Bonar –Impossible Dream  20.  Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings