Architects- All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us allowed Brighton metalcore mob Architects to transcend to a new level of excellence. With founding member Tom Searle dying of cancer in August, the album has a bleak veil- tracks such as ‘Gone With The Wind’ dive into territories surrounding his illness, and features confessional lyrics throughout combined with Sam Carter’s powerful vocals. This album is undoubtedly one of the stand out albums of the year, and puts Architects on a pedestal as one of the most pioneering groups of their genre.
Words by Sam Taylor @thatsth3spirit
The year of our Lord 2016 has been roundly, unequivocally sh*t in pretty much every area except album releases. It takes a really special record to stand out in a year that gave us stone cold classics from the likes of Kanye, Bowie and Frank Ocean- that album is, of course, Lemonade. Chock full of bangers and threaded through with the beautifully evocative poetry of Warsan Shire, Lemonade is Bey not only at her most accessible, but at her most vital.
Words by Charys Newton
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Everyone wondered if there would ever be another release from Frank Ocean after the game-changing Channel Orange was unveiled four years ago. After Ocean’s long and seemingly endless hiatus, the on-going change of release dates and his ambiguity, the follow up was not a disappointment. Blonde is a reverie of psychedelic pop mixed with contemporary R&B. From distorted gems such as ‘Nikes’, ‘Pretty Sweet’ and ‘Good Guy’ alongside songs that accentuate Ocean’s extraordinary vocal ability such as ‘Seigfried’, ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Ivy’, the album exhibits Ocean’s versatility and need to venture into different territories. Themes of racism, romance, drug-use and sexuality are potent on this record and only heighten Ocean’s own inscrutable presence.
Words by Lauren Ford
David Bowie- Blackstar
David Bowie’s Blackstar was the last addition to his extensive discography, released just 2 days before his death, acting as a touching farewell to his fans and career. The record is a phenomenal collection of jazz infused experimental rock, with moments which truly capture the very essence of the extraordinarily talented artist in all his ethereal glory. Blackstar is a unique and tantalisingly brilliant masterpiece – an album of utter individuality.
Words by Lizzie Capewell
Sia- This Is Acting
Sia’s latest album is notable purely for the sheer freedom she conveys on it. To see her progress from left-field artist to pop smasher is a gradual thing, but by truly letting herself go on this album she not only demonstrated how credible a pop songwriter she is, but also remained true to her artistry whilst creating a perfect pop production. Lyrically and vocally, Sia once again proves that she has more than earned her place in mainstream pop.
Words by George Mcloughlin
The Wytches- All Your Happy Life
The Wytches’ debut Annabel Dream Reader was a difficult album to write a follow up to, but the Brighton band smashed it with new record All Your Happy Life. Having expanded on their sound incredibly by creating a more mature, entrancing atmosphere, the combination of old-Wytches grunge twangs mixed with new, chilling Nick Cave inspired sounds (due to All Your Happy Life being produced by Jim Sclavunos) make it apparent that The Wytches are heading in the perfect direction as a band. The whole album is an unnerving ride from start to finish and is easily one of the best albums of this year.
Words by Jasmine Hodge
Rihanna – Anti
Rihanna’s latest album Anti is motivating – particularly for women. Female empowerment is prominent in the majority of the songs, with lyrics such as “I got to do things/ My own way darling” taken from ‘Consideration’ and “You need me/ There’s no leaving me behind” from ‘Desperado’, feeling like call to women everywhere to distinguish their own self-reliance. All this sits comfortably alongside the open flaunting of her relationship with cannabis in ‘James Joint’, eschewing the tired tropes of what constitutes an acceptable ‘female role model’. The overall vibe of the album and her grainy, enthralling voice elevates her into an icon for steadfast individuals worldwide.
Words by Sophie Barnden
The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect
Alex Turner and Miles Kane may look to have lost their marbles through the drink and drugs that come with that LA rock’n’roll lifestyle, but it has not affected their songwriting capabilities one bit. The album’s opener ‘Aviation’ is a strong throwback to the innocent Turner and Kane partnership of 2008’s The Age of the Understatement, while ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ is one of Turner’s best love songs that beautifully engulfs you in a serenade, and ‘She Does The Woods’ proves that the duo are still capable of writing fantastic theatrical classics.
Words by Callum McCormack
Bastille- Wild World
It’s been a long three years since Bastille released their debut Bad Blood, an album that took the world by storm with a unique blend of indie-pop soundscapes, dreamy synth elements and lead vocalist Dan Smith’s smooth yet distinctive vocals. In many ways, Wild World capitulates on the musical elements that made their debut so creatively original by experimenting with other musical genres, themes and emotions – whether it’s the more stripped back sound of ‘Fake It’, the heavier rock elements of ‘Blame’ or the more traditional pop sounding ‘Good Grief’, Wild World has something for everyone and is easily one of the best albums of 2016.
Words by Aaron Moore
Black Peaks – Statues
Straight from the beginning of the record, energy comes through in waves and waves. Statues may be Black Peaks’ first album, but the creativity and drive behind it shows that they’re anything but new to the game. Mixing in influences from the likes of Brand New to Fightstar to even The Dillinger Escape Plan in just one single song, the post-hardcore quartet hold nothing back. One moment it’s a flurry of mathcore driven guitars alongside vocalist Will Gardner’s guttural screams, one minute later, a serene somber verse. The only mission left for the Brighton act is to ensure that they follow the high standard set by such a flawless debut.
Words by Charlie Hill
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
May of this year seems like it was lifetimes ago. The sun was shining, the festival buzz was starting to spin, and Chance The Rapper dropped the most spiritually uplifting, playful and joyous mixtape/album that’s been seen in years. The label-independent artist creates an atmosphere where a mix of gospel inspired tracks smoothly blend with the more commercially fast-paced, head-splitting tunes in the form of ‘All Night’ and ‘No Problem’. Coloring Book proves to be a delight of an album, ruined only by the fact it’s barely an hour in length.
Words by Andrew Shelley
Clipping- Splendor & Misery
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the fact that Splendor & Misery is a concept album about space travel – adorned with futuristic sound effects and almost computer-voice rapping – and forget that it is also an album about slavery. By blending the ultra-futuristic with the almost archaic, Clipping have created a record that not only sees a huge step forward for themselves and for the world of hip hop as a conceptual art style, but one that feels a lot like 2016 felt: dark, paranoid – and finding small salvation in music from a world that seemed like it could fall apart at any point.
Words by Joe Gilbertson
Kero Kero Bonito- Bonito Generation
In a world full of try-hard musicians, Kero Kero Bonito are taking pop music back to its playful basics- yet keeping it fresh at the same time. This delightful debut sees them fuse J-pop, western synthpop and Ringo Starr-style songwriting circa Yellow Submarine era Beatles. Lyrically it contains subjects as diverse and off-beat as fish bowls and trampolines, but the instrumentation and vocal delivery are so irresistibly charming that you can’t help but feel a rush of happiness infecting your brain.
Words by Joel Hernon