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Well, here it is… our Top 30 Albums of the year. It’s the mother of all lists, the big one, the one that causes the most pain to those having to curate it (trust us). But, we did it. Here before you are the 30 albums that have brought us the most happiness, especially in a year that has tried it’s hardest to take it all away.

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30. Jack Garratt – Phase 

The guy who seems to have found the perfect, marketable middle ground between Ed Sheeran, Jai Paul and James Blake… impressive, right? Right. Preceding this album release came a string of track releases that seemed to expertly top its predecessor, so naturally, hopes for the album were incredibly high. These hopes were not disappointed, the album in its entirety is of the same consistent impeccable quality, however, it didn’t extend beyond the realisations of his single releases, which stopped it from really making its mark. That’s album two’s job, though, eh? Samantha Daly


29. The Kills – Ash and Earth

It has been five whole years since indie rock dream duo The Kills released their fourth album Blood Pressures. The sabbatical between was not necessarily intentional; guitarist Jamie Hince got hitched to one Kate Moss whilst Alison Mosshart – the best frontwoman in the game – took up duties on Jack White’s best side-project The Dead Weather. For the first time since they first met in 2000, both were preoccupied elsewhere, and when Hince injured his fret hand in 2013, well the future prognosis was dicey. That Ash and Ice exists at all then is a relief for everyone, though most of all them, for never do they sound as good as when they are together. The collection builds upon the poppier tendencies first explored on Blood Pressures, filling out their originally minimalist sound to create a prowling beast of an album that personifies Mosshart’s feral stage presence. Tightly composed but unraveling just beneath the surface, Ash and Ice is a perfect rock album, and a perfect return for one of the best unions in rock. Kayleigh Watson


28. M83 – Junk 

Electronica bathed in nostalgia, with the risk of being cheesy, but its high levels of control that are more than evident throughout the effort prevent it from crossing the line from touches of cheese to a full on cheddar fest. It’s certainly one of the weirder efforts to come from M83, but with weird comes a whole lot of interesting. SD


27. Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini

Eerily cute and creepy in equal measure (just like their name), Let’s Eat Grandma challenged our perception of pop in their mind-boggling debut album I, Gemini. It’s all the more commendable that the duo – upon releasing – were only 17, and that the album was in fact recorded when they were 15. A way to make us all feel like underachievers, eh, but as Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth overachieve with the weird expanse of songs like ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’ (you’ve probably heard the song before and not even realized it) and their songs about baking ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’, it’s so oddball that it’s hard not to love. Whether their naïve charm survives their growing up remains to be seen, but for now let’s chow down on this pop goodness. KW


26. Palace – So Long Forever

Every so often a band emerges that manages to gracefully combine art-rock intricacy with being respectable crowd-pleasers. In 2016, that band was Palace. Three years of hype is a true age when it comes to the frivolities of the music press, however, Palace have ridden the crest of that wave unscathed, and after two EPs they finally unveiled their debut album So Long Forever at the wane of the year. Fans of their earlier efforts will find themselves in familiar yet newfound territory, yet despite the sense of déjà vu only ‘Bitter’ gets a facelift here. It is an altogether more polished affair, one that despite its bittersweet tendencies feels like a warm embrace. Songs like ‘Have Faith’ add some much needed fire to their belly, and show promise of what an enormous festival feature they could be in the future, but for now we must placate ourselves with this solid turn of a debut. KW

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25. Highasakite – Camp Echo

Following up one of the most successful selling debut albums in your native country is never going to be an easy prospect, yet Norwegian alt-pop quintet Highasakite live up to lofty expectations with Camp Echo. An album consisting of pop perfect synth bangers (‘Deep Sea Diver’, ‘Someone Who’ll Get It’) and emotive, ground shaking ballads (‘Chernobyl’,’God Don’t Leave Me’) complete with one of the finest Scandi pop tracks released this decade in ‘Golden Ticket’. Sean Ward


24. White Lung – Paradise

Only a true miserly diehard would deny that punk can still be punk, albeit, a tad polished. After all, if the key components weren’t present any band would find themselves sliding down a slippery slope to the ball pit of “Green Day”. But this is White Lung we are on about here, the Vancouver trio that tore up 2014 with their third album Deep Fantasy, though on fourth album Paradise they are changing tack. As songwriter and vocalist Mish Barber-Way says “only punks [think] it’s somehow uncool to become a better songwriter”, and their most recent effort sees them fully embrace pop sentimentalities on tracks such as ‘Hungry’ and ‘Below’, however White Lung are always at their best when at their most ferocious and ‘I Beg You’ and ‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’ are every ounce of that. KW


23. Banks – The Altar

There was a large amount of anticipation for the sophomore release of Banks following on from the trans-Atlantic success of ‘Goddess’. Jillian Rose presented something of a red herring in the twitching, paranoid lead single of ‘Fuck With Myself’ as this album, in general, has a far grander, theatrical, open approach to heartbreak, deceit and despair. SOHN takes production control on the atmospheric R & B of ‘Lovesick’ and the immediacy of ‘Gemini Feed’. While DJ Dahi takes heartbreak to the dance floor on the insanely addictive ‘Train Wreck’ and slow burning ‘Not About Us’. For all the layers of synth, style and sadness it is within the sparseness of ‘To The Hilt’ that Banks shines as both a songwriter and vocalist. Banks cements a reputation as an incredibly talented artist with startling veracity and appeal. SW


22. Aurora – All My Demons Greeting Me As Friends

Norwegian alt-pop artist Aurora has achieved a mighty amount in her 20 years on planet earth. Delivering on the bubbling excitement of early EPs, Aurora Asknes delivers a collection of evocative, highly descriptive alt-pop gems in a similar style to Kate Bush’s ‘Never Forever’ or more recently Florence + the Machine’s ‘Lungs’. There is mention of wolves, murder, frozen rivers and hunter moons as Aurora’s ethereal, captivating vocal draws you further into her world of whimsical wonder. Masked within metaphor are perfectly poised, pop tracks including ‘Warrior’, ‘Conqueror’ and ‘I Went Too Far’. SW


21. Flume – Skin

In the world of pop and electronic music, 2016 was surely Flume’s year. The 24 year old Australian DJ and producer practically exploded worldwide early in the year when his collaboration with Canadian vocalist Kai on the skittish smash hit ‘Never Be Like You’ before pummeling us again with singles like ‘Say It’ featuring Tove Lo and stellar album tracks like the awesome ‘Numb and Getting Colder’ (ft. Kucka) and ‘Lose It’ (ft. Vic Mensa). Can he do any wrong with his unique blend of stuttering beats and lush electronica? At present, it is doubtful, though Harley Streten seems to be retreating from the poppier slant to his sound on his most recent release, Skin Companion EP 1. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long before he delivers new goods. KW

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20. Wild Beasts – Boy King 

The impressive fifth effort straight from our favourites who constantly like to reinvent themselves, this one taking the opportunity to seduce us once and for all. Their delectable, sultry soft rock peaks impressively on Boy King challenging our perceptions of both gender and sexuality. Check out our full review of the album here. SD


19. Daughter – Not To Disappear

The cult quality of Daughter’s debut weighed heavily on the band as they quietly returned in the first weeks of January 2016 with Not To Disappear. This was another ten track collection of a similar formulaic approach to the genres of rock, folk and pop with clear thought given to the band’s impressive live performance style. Plumbing new emotive depths in lyrical style, the poignancy of ‘Doing The Right Thing’ casts devastating shadow over anything from the debut. The arrangements offer the band more creative freedom to utilise their strengths as musicians, ready to step out from obscurity to become alternative mega-stars. SW


18. Warpaint – Heads Up

Warpaint’s return this year was pretty unexpected given their moves in previous months; Jenny Lee Lindberg had released her solo debut album, Stella Mozgawa was collaborating with Kurt Vile and more, Emily Kokal similarly so with Paul Bergmann and Theresa Wayman created supergroup BOSS. They were busy and still fatigued from touring their previous self-titled album, but ultimately their bond drew them back to each other once more. Heads Up is – first and foremost – a celebration of that bond; ‘By Your Side’ conveys a solidarity in a time of turmoil and ‘Whiteout’s statement that they are “in [their] prime”. And they are, as the fresh and funky ‘New Song’ declares, for with Heads Up Warpaint shake of the restraints of their own shackles; there is electricity in their new lease of life – can you feel it in the air? KW


17. Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow 

Gameshow saw Two Door Cinema Club’s defiant return to the music industry, leading its release with some incredibly strong releases in ‘Are We Ready (Wreck)’ and ‘Bad Decisions’, the remainder of the album saw the band take a step in a new direction, a fresh start after a period of time that hasn’t exactly been the greatest for them… and we could not be prouder. Check out our full review of the album hereSD


16. Wet – Don’t You

Released at the very beginning of 2016, New York indietronica trio Wet hardly set the chart alight with their debut Don’t You yet its content quickly won a cult-like fan base on both sides of the Atlantic. The sophisticated structures of ‘You’re The Best’ and ‘All The Ways’ immediately drew a comparison to contemporaries such as The xx and Banks, while their atmospheric production style is reminiscent of SOHN and London Grammar. The way Kelly Zurtau’s vocal seamlessly duets with itself during ‘Deadwater’ is faultless, a criminally underrated outfit with a blindingly bright future ahead of them. SW

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15. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

Dev Hynes has been around for a while now, and entertaining many different incarnations. For many reasons, Blood Orange is the one that has stuck around longest; the simultaneously modern and classic feel to his music, woven with 80s accents and a minimalism that can be – at times – both off-putting and inviting. In Freetown Sound, Hynes is at his best for all of these aforementioned reasons, but as an album it is lyrically more politically and personally ambitious than its predecessors, 2011’s Coastal Grooves and 2013’s Cupid Deluxe. Freetown Sound takes its name from Hyne’s father’s hometown in Sierra Leone, and over the course of the tracks he questions what it means to be an immigrant, gay or black in America. There are times where the success of the track gets somewhat lost due to this personal intent, but that isn’t the point; ‘Augustine’s opening lines let listeners know exactly the journey that are embarking on here: “My father was a young man/My mother off the boat/My eyes were fresh at 21/Bruised but still afloat.” KW


14. Nao – For All We Know 

Soulful London talent Nao’s debut album For All We Know fell into our laps this summer in one flawlessly produced musical package. Full of bass, incredible vocals and effortlessly multi-layered tracks from start to finish, it was a no-brainer to include this LP on our list of the best. Check out our full review of the album here. SD


13. ANOHNI – Hopelessness

Hoplessness is ANOHNI’s first album in six years, the last being 2010’s Swanlights as Antony and the Johnsons. In a fan interview prior to the release of the lead single ‘4 Degrees’, Anohni stated that she had “grown tired of grieving for humanity” and that she “was not being entirely honest by pretending that [she is] not a part of the problem.” This introspective and politically charged exploration of modern society forces listeners to question that uncomfortable probability that we are in many ways accountable for some of the more negative realities of the world, whether we accept it or not. The departure from the chamber pop of Antony and the Johnsons was a surprising shift, but the bombastic and oppressive electronica found on Hopelessness only serves to emphasise the weight of its content as it questions drone warfare, surveillance, the environmental crisis and more. It is not a joyride – as is clearly apparent on the tin – but it is surely one of the most important albums of recent years. KW


12. Viola Beach – Viola Beach 

Released posthumously, Viola Beach’s debut album flew straight into the album charts at number one, staying there only to be knocked off by their mates, Blossoms. An album full of promise, talent and excellent melodies, we’re glad that they got the recognition that they deserved and couldn’t possibly have made this list without their inclusion. SD


11. David Bowie – Blackstar

Losing a cultural icon such as David Bowie left a darkened scar on music fans across a wide range of genres. A world without the star man seemed unthinkable to most, and many found comfort in his parting gift ‘Blackstar’. An artist as indescribably creative Bowie was sure to remain an innovator to the very end, designing every element of his 25th album as the most stylish farewell to his expansive fan base. The haunting, foreseeing lyrics of ‘Lazarus’ explain the struggles David faced and his acceptable of the inevitable while the mournful arrangements of the title track resonate deepest. Meanwhile ‘Sue (In A Season of Crime) exemplify the playful, experimental artist Bowie has always been and ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ is truly the idealist final bow from one of the century most individual and impactful performers. SW

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10. Poliça – United Crushers

Another band that has shifted from personal to political writing with their latest release is POLIÇA. Their third album, United Crushers, makes reference to the current social turmoil in the US: to quote Poliça themselves, “social injustice, self-doubt and isolation, the rapidly increasing urban decline in gentrification.” These are gloomy times for the common person after all, yet you would not necessarily know it in listening to United Crushers itself, for it evokes much of what Poliça do best: infectious and textured pop. It may be difficult to take their cause seriously when it is delivered in songs as delectable sounding as ‘Someway’ or ‘Lime Habit’, though the more officious ‘Wedding’ hits the sweet spot between intent and actuality. Who says political music has to be angsty or depressing either way? KW


9. Bat For Lashes – The Bride

Taking on a concept album, Natasha Khan guides us through her most beguiling and bewildering release to date. Nowhere near as accessible as previous releases, pop sensibilities are replaced in favour of luscious soundscapes and highly descriptive narrative structures. The ominous ‘Joe’s Dream’ one of the most enthralling tracks Natasha has ever penned, matched with Patti Smith-style vocal delivery of ‘In God’s House’ and the captivating ‘Honeymooning Alone’ by four tracks in this album entrances its audience like the finest Fincher. Within its narrative, we move along with our besotted, bereaved bride into as she understands life is not solely about love and the importance of independence and strength of character. ‘If I Knew’ is as emotive as Bat For Lashes gets… a close rival to the absolute heartbreak of ‘Laura’. SW


8. Spring King – Tell Me If You Like To 

Upon first listen to their material – especially if you’re watching them live – you might be surprised to learn of the somewhat dark subject matter that most of the tracks are centred around. The variation between each track becomes more and more defined with each listen, though they can only be commended for the initial similarity between each track, as that’s exactly what seems to have resulted in a full-length LP of consistent hit-worthy tracks, a fantastic basis for what can only be an almighty future. SD


7. James Blake – The Colour In Anything

In a decade’s time, James Blake will surely be regarded as something special. Indeed, he is now, but you can’t help but feel that his best work is still to come, and third album The Colour In Anything will no doubt play a pivotal moment in that realisation. Here is a more evenly intertwined effort than before, the combination of acoustics and electronics merging seamlessly to create a sound that it both jarring and comforting, hot and cold. Written on the back of a break up, songs such as ‘Radio Silence’ and ‘Put That Away and Talk To Me’ resonate with a palpable sadness and frustration, whereas the synth heavy ‘I Hope My Life (1-800 mix)’ and cold and clinical ‘Timeless’ convey a sense of inevitable dread. In a swathe of politically charged albums this year, Blake succeeds in the agony of the personal. KW


6. Shura – Nothings Real 

Perhaps what’s one of the most endearing aspects of Shura’s debut effort, is the genuine connection between each of the tracks and happenings in her own life, conveyed in such an honest way, allowing each and every listener to relate in one way or another. The sporadic placement of snippets from real life home videos from Shura’s family is overwhelmingly compelling, it’s not very often that a musician can create music that so accurately portrays the parts of life we dread, such as the awkwardness in relationships, whilst still maintaining an incredibly high quality of music. We defy anyone to listen to the album in full and not come away feeling moved, reassured and uplifted. SD

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5. Solange – A Seat At The Table

Much like Blood Orange’s aforementioned Freetown Sound on this list, Solange’s third album A Seat At The Table strives to deconstruct the daily existence as an African-American in the past 50 years. Yes, it is ambitious, but in the way that Freetown Sound at times failed to convey all that it had potential to, Solange is far more generous and personable in her songwriting, the result being that A Seat At The Table bridges gaps in a reality rather than narrative more akin to fiction. Songs such as ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ straddle the line between symbolic and subjective with impressive ease, whilst ‘Cranes In The Sky’ lists Knowles’ ingrained methods of dealing with daily realities of being black in America. She offers such tales with astonishing poise and grace; at no point does A Seat At The Table feel anything but calm, inviting listeners in and to lay their minds open to black female perspective. It is an important listen, we are just spoiled by the fact that – with its nods to 60s funk and soul – it is a beautiful one too. KW


4. Blossoms – Blossoms 

Well if the fact that they’ve bagged themselves the ‘highest selling debut album’ of 2016, beating the likes of megastar ZAYN and BBC favourite Jack Garratt to the punch, isn’t enough of a reason as to why this album should be in our list… then here’s a few more. Notably taking influence from retro stars Abba, combining them with some good old-fashioned melodic indie riffs, Blossoms have built themselves a full-length EP consisting of hit after hit. An album emotive, accessible, yet still varied enough to show a few different sides of the Stockport lads, a very well done indeed. Interested is an understatement as to where their domination will take them in 2017. SD


3. Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine

A perfect pop album should sound like a greatest hits collection on arrival. The debut from Héloïse Letissier had already been a huge hit in her native French yet with some time to translate and streamline the collection, she released one of the most vividly creative and honest pop releases of the year. The enthralling way in which she connects music, movement, dance, theatre and art seemed all the more poignant after losing artists of such worldly importance as Prince and Bowie. Christine offered a reminder that pop is about expression, daring to bend convention and celebrating individuality. SW


2. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

After five years away, nobody could quite predict what Justin Vernon would return on the third Bon Iver LP. Worlds away from the tender layers of his eponymous second album, the glitchy sounds of ’22 (Over Soon)’ and ’10 (Death Breast)’ indicated we weren’t going to be receiving the dulcet tones of ‘Holecene’ anytime soon. On first listen, this is no welcoming album, yet with time invested its qualities are revealed in the helpless emotion of ‘715 (Creeks)’ and the ingenious structure of ’33 “God”’. This is not an album likely to spawn hits, but one that will stand the test of time for years to come. SW

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1. Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being

The introspective jungle of Zaba has been cut aside for a far more direct and an aptly human release on the sophomore effort from the Oxford indie pop outfit. The lyric style of Dave Bayley is still, often convoluted, yet the hooks are clearer, the melodies more defined and the lyrics often far more abrupt (See ‘Pork Soda’). The band retains their sense of playfulness, experimentation and style that made their debut such a roaring success yet with an added focus, they set their sights on the big leagues. Check out our full review of the album here.  SW