by Gigwise Contributor | Photos by Press

Tags: David Bowie, Radiohead, Beyonce 

These are the best albums of 2016 so far

We're not even halfway through the year yet, and there's already a plethora of gems

 

Best albums of 2016, Bowie Blackstar, Radiohead, Beyonce review Photo: Press

David Bowie - Blackstar

Bowie could have delivered a smattering glam-rock-lite hits, a pastiche of his past glories - but there would be no challenge in that. It's not in his nature to make the same record twice. One can't help but feel that this may have been part of his plan all along. If The Next Day was his bridge back on to the world stage, one can't help but feel that Blackstar is him again leaping sideways into the breach. This is a far more bold, artful and fulfilling affair. Never second guess Bowie. Tomorrow never knows, especially when it comes to an artist always with one foot in the future - even when he's saying goodbye. (Andrew Trendell)

Daughter - Not To Disappear

Where the stunning debut, If You Leave, tended to cloak itself in metaphor - burying the crux of its meaning behind dense forests, ice, and feral animals - Not To Disappear lays itself bare. "I have a dirty mind," sings Elena Tonra in opening track 'New Ways', "I need new ways to waste my time." It's not easy to find the poetry in such stark, unsexy sentiments - but somehow, Daughter manage it. (Alexandra Pollard)

Christine & The Queens - Chaleur Humaine

Having long since blown up in her native France, Christine & The Queens, and her brand of beautiful, queer electro-pop, remains a relatively unknown entity on these shores. Hopefully the UK release of her debut album, complete with a couple more English language songs and a stunning duet with Perfume Genius, will rectify that. (Alexandra Pollard)

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

While The King Of Limbs was a fairly skeletal affair from a band who admit that they were 'in transition', A Moon Shaped Pool sees the band land in their assumed destination - blooming around the bare roots that led them here, and breathing new air and life into the haunted claustrophobia of their last record. While there are echoes of all the highlights from across their legacy, album No.9 accentuates them all with an artfully controlled grandeur. For a band who have already come to both defy and define genre at every turn, having torn up the map of where music should lead them, Radiohead now take a turn down a previously untrodden, sumptuous garden path. Not that they have anything left to prove, but A Moon Shaped Pool is proof that they still have so much give. (Andrew Trendell)

Anohni - Hopelessness

"Once I decided I was going to step away from those gossamer interior songs I’ve been used to writing,” Anohni (who previously performed as Antony & The Johnsons) said in a recent interview with Lenny, "and write something that was really direct, it was a tremendous relief.” ‘Direct’ is an understatement - Hopelessness explicitly takes on Obama, climate change sceptics, government surveillance and drone strikes - but it’s also achingly beautiful. In ‘Drone Bomb Me’, sung from the perspective of a young girl whose family have been killed in a drone strike, the girl begs to be taken too. "Blow me from the side of the mountain,” sings Anohni, in her quivering voice, "Blow my head off / Explode my crystal guts.” It’s an album of devastating impact. (Alexandra Pollard)

Aurora - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend

Filtered through Aurora's native Norwegian tongue, the English language becomes something strange and new, as if - freed from grammatical trappings and learned cliche - she can twist it into new shapes and forms. The album flits and flickers between extravagant highs and lows, but with such earnestness that its sweeping emotions are impossible to resist. Aurora's is a wide-eyed sort of wisdom, and it's beautiful to behold. (Alexandra Pollard)

Beyonce - Lemonade

Somehow already seminal despite being in the world for less than a month, Lemonade is a brilliant, eclectic, rousing tale of anger and betrayal - and one that its unmistakably designed to be consumed as a whole. Laying waste to the notion that today’s generation lacks an attention span longer than three minutes, Lemonade doesn’t pepper its deep cuts with recognisable, already-released singles - it allows itself to stand alone, and unfurl its intrigue gradually. (Alexandra Pollard)

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression

"Wild animals, they do never wonder why, just do what they God damn do," pine all members of the band in unison on the closer of 'Paraguay'. Amen, and fitting sentiments they are too. This is a record that needed to be made, however nothing is contrived. When you heard the make-up of this band, you could have applied any number of preconceived formulae to what you thought this may have sounded like, and all of them would have been wrong. This is far from QOTSA covering or featuring Iggy. What we've got instead is an entirely new beast, and a vessel for a rock icon to go through one more, perfect reinvention. "I couldn't take no more of whipping fools and keeping score," he grunts - and why should he? If this is the final bout of Iggy Pop, at least he can say "I did it my way." (Andrew Trendell)

Savages - Adore Life

With their second album, Savages sound is less abrasive and austere - but that's not to say they've lost any edge. They've simply adopted a new, more human form. Silence Yourself was the sound of a band first rushing from the trenches, eager and ready for battle. Adore Life is a more-rounded reflection of what it is to be human - and celebrating it. (Andrew Trendell)

Sia - This Is Acting

As its title alludes to, this album isn't an outpouring of inner turmoil or an articulation of some deeply felt emotion - or if it is, it probably isn't Sia's. That's not to say the songs are all surface - far from it. It makes for a consistently unsettling, always arresting, listen. (Alexandra Pollard)

The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

Don't be fooled by the bubblegum sheen of some of the latest singles, this record is a trojan horse of weird and wonderful sounds. All in all, it's a record that owes itself as much to M83 as it does Madonna, as much to drugs and excess as feather-light touches. All in all, the eclecticism of this band is nothing short of remarkable. In a world of beige pop, we welcome this flourish of colour. Exceeding the national average, excelling in pop and smashing your expectations - accept nothing less from The 1975. (Andrew Trendell)

Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony

On Human Ceremony, Sunflower Bean, have outshone anything they've ever previously released. The album floats in and out of the varying degrees of psych, jangle pop and krautrock, often shifting from one influence to another within a song. They say you only get one chance to make a good impression in this increasingly competitive music industry, but Sunflower Bean have taken their opportunity with both hands and run with it - charging into the future. Watch out, 2016 is going to be huge for this band.(Cai Trefor)

School Of Seven Bells - SVIIB

When Benjamin Curtis, one half of School Of Seven Bells, died in 2013, this album nearly died with him. But, after a few years of mourning, Alejandra Deheza committed herself to finishing what she and Curtis had started. The resulting album is a shimmering, expansive record which swims through feelings of loss and regret and emerges with a sense of cautious, yet at times euphoric, optimism. (Alexandra Pollard)

Polica - United Crushers

As you might have guessed from the artwork, United Crushers - a phrase painted on an enormous concrete building in Menneapolis - was recorded while Channy Leaneagh was pregnant and had "horrible morning sickness", so it's hardly surprising that it traverses between so many transformative mindsets.

Mystery Jets - The Curve Of The Earth

“I think these songs have real feeling about them," says guitarist Will Rees of the record - and how. Satisfying the band’s urge to experiment with sound and grow without alienating fans, the lyrics have moved into a new era while retaining their golden wistfulness. It all adds up to something that soars into the stratosphere, but remains ultimately human and real. (Helen Geraghty)

 

Deftones - Gore

"For me, what you get on this record feels more refined in certain ways," frontman Chino Moreno told Gigwise of their huge new record. "I obviously think it's a harder record to get into - I understand that. It's not a first listen 'wow, this is the greatest thing ever', but with each time you find more nuances." Therein lies the greatness of Gore. While so many metal bands of their stature may be rushing to pack in universal hooks to fill out arenas get teens sweaty, Deftones are at their most artful. Gore is a dense tapestry of sound - a journey that meanders through the full emotional spectrum and finds them exploring deep into each and every corner of what they're capable of. It may not be 'direct', but it's certainly 'complete'. (Andrew Trendell) 

Suede - Night Thoughts

With an accompanying film, Suede have reimagined what it is to make an album - and stormed back with rekindled life and newfound sense of purpose. With a darkness in sound and poetic social imagery, they're back on fine form. Ultimately, Night Thoughts is one of the best albums of their career, it substantiates Suede as one of the most important British bands of all time - proving that they aren't losing their touch with age. Don't let this record pass you by, it's just too good. (Cai Trefor)

Chairlift - Moth

Moth proves Chairlift are more than capable of crafting pop music with unique flare. The album beams with confidence and breezes past with coolness and addictive hooks, creating a mood infectious enough to pull us out of the final dregs of winter. (Tom Skinner)

Soulwax - Belgica

An original soundtrack composed, recorded and produced by the band, the Dewaele Brothers have put together tracks for 16 fictional bands featured in the film of the same name. The result is a genre-defying triumph, and a journey into the depths of the sweatiest rock basements as we hedonistically blast through everything from punk and krautrock to psycho-billy, pop, and beyond. Proving once and for all, that Soulwax ARE music. (Andrew Trendell)

Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost

This is not pop-punk as you imagined it. In creating an album full of aching emotion describing loss, and the loss of control, Modern Baseball refreshingly and staunchly reject indulgence or cliché. ‘Holy Ghost’ is hopeful, and disarrayed, but it’s also charmingly optimistic like the best of The Killers’ work. (Ben Butler)

Bendik - Fortid

An ambitious and sky-reaching world of sound, where dream-pop meets post-rock with a whole lotta soul in between. A beautifully pure and life-enrichening listen. (Andrew Trendell)

The Anchoress - Confessions Of A Romance Novelist

Pop-noir with a vengeance hand in hand with a love of literature, fiction and darkness going hand in hand and a knack for melody, The Anchoress, aka Catherine AD truly went through the mill in the years of heartache and mishap that went into this record, but the result was more than worth the wait. The record not only 'deconstructs normative ideas of love and romance', but features a track that 'ironically references a bedroom shrine to Margaret Thatcher' and takes in all accounts of love, lust and loss. There's an unparalleled depth to this record, don't let it pass you by. (Andrew Trendell)

MONEY - Suicide Songs

The Shadow Of Heaven was an utter triumph, and that thread of elegiac warmth that they launched back only runs through Suicide Songs and binds it with a grace and sense of totality. Utterly marvellous. (Andrew Trendell)

Santigold - 99c

Santigold's third album might ostensibly - with its title and shrink-wrapped artwork - be alluding to the pitfalls of consumerism, but it's a hell of a lot more fun than that sounds. Opening track 'Can't Get Enough Of Myself' sets the tone - a joyous ode to radical vanity, and the 11 tracks that follow hardly put a foot wrong (aside from a brave but jarring cameo from ILoveMakonnen). (Alexandra Pollard)

PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project

It takes a special sort of artist to make “They’re gonna put a Walmart here” sound like a poetic call-to-arms. In lesser hands, the unobscured social commentary of Harvey’s ninth album might have rendered it a little tiresome - and its overly specific geographical references have certainly ruffled some feathers - but it’s an unflinchingly intriguing listen. (Alexandra Pollard)

Sioux Falls - Rot Forever

The extended breakthrough album by Sioux Falls has obvious, and satisfying inspirations from Modest Mouse, to Built to Spill, to True Detective. ‘Dom’, an album highlight, sets the tone for this brilliant collection of incisive post-punk anthems, “Spending too much time on the internet, are you ok? You don’t seem very into it”. (Ben Butler)

 

Parquet Courts - Human Performance

Parquet Courts’ third album sees them imitate the Velvet Underground subjected by the hectic modern-day. Once content to make sly remarks, it’s their most critical and sonically ambitious work to date, with a particularly thrilling title track realising psychedelic glory. When the dust has settled, it’ll be evident this fiercely intelligent album is a stroke of genius. (Ben Butler)

Eleanor Friedberger - New View

There something resolutely unfussy about the shades of hope, love and melancholy that are woven through the third solo album of The Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger. Settle into the warmly familiar, comforting melody of 'He Didn't Mention His Mother', for example, and miss that its edges curl with sadness. (Alexandra Pollard)

Violent Soho - Waco

Forget Queens of the Stone Age or the Foo Fighters, start listening to Violent Soho. The Australian punk-rockers deliver hook after hook on ‘Waco’ which sees them at their finest, unrelenting best. On ‘Viceroy’ they drawl “My drunk guitar's more fun than you'll ever be”, and it’s hard to argue. (Ben Butler)

Rihanna - ANTI

Whilst Rihanna’s eighth studio album may not have wholly satisfied the anticipation incurred by her four-year absence from the album charts, ANTI was still in its own right a solid album. It’s a deliberate step away from her trademark commercial pop mechanics and is somewhat reserved compared to her earlier provocative work. As a result, ANTI presents the otherwise extravert pop princess as a more vulnerable and emotive artist. The result is a delicate but compelling album. (Cohan Chew)

Brian Fallon - Painkillers

Not that the Gaslight Anthem frontman ever needed to prove himself as a talented songwriter in his own right, but his debut solo album certainly cements it as true. With a tinge of country rhythms and a nod to his rockier Gaslight Anthem days, Fallon’s Painkillers is anything but painful. It’s mellow, sincere and filled with catchy hooks, infectious choruses and simply beautiful melodies. (Cohan Chew)

Frightened Rabbit - Painting Of A Panic Attack

"It's about a monument being a place to go to remember something awful, which Painting Of A Panic Attack being a beautiful representation of something horrible," frontman Scott Hutchison told Gigwise of the title of their triumphant fifth album. As he spent years abroad dealing with alienation, anxiety and dealing with the pitfalls of being totally enveloped in a relationship, the record works to out those demons - but it doesn't wallow. It wades through the heartache, confusion and isolation to emerge with a vivid clarity, purpose and sense of self. Again, with fearlessly raw-nerved and often cripplingly honest snapshots of his life, this time the songs breathe with a lot more space. Just as intended, Painting Of A Panic Attack has become the destination - a beautiful monument to something painful. Building it was an act of colouring the world and processing life, and visiting it is a revelation. (Andrew Trendell)

Mogwai - Atomic

Fitting in the vein of their usual sonic landscapes and in-depth instrumental pieces, their latest work ties to the documentary Atomic: Living In Dread And Promise: a documentary of archive footage that deals with the horrors of the nuclear age from Hiroshima, through the Cold War right the way up to Fukishima . Mogwai are to be commended then for pretty much nailing the brief put in front of them. It's not a light topic and as a result its not a light album - you won't hear people whistling these songs walking down the street. But for this soundtrack it's exactly what was required and full credit to the band for rising to the occasion. This is an in-depth exploration of sonic landscapes, exploding the atom into every emotion. (Jon Bye)

 

Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered

Showing Kanye West how a surprise roll out should be executed, Untitled Unmastered is a celebration. It’s a celebration of the success To Pimp A Butterfly has attained. Cheering on its predecessor for its platinum certification and multiple Grammy Awards, the cries of “Pimp pimp hooray” peppered throughout say it all. A lyrical messiah with a solid head on his shoulders, Kendrick Lamar is the peoples champ strapped with never ending lyrical weaponry and messages of the melodic kind that the late great Tupac Amaru Shakur would be proud of. (Will Butler)


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