Top album picks for 2016
PUBLISHED: 14:00 04 January 2017
Stephen Moore rounds up his favourite albums from 2016, including Radiohead, Michael Kiwanuka, Glass Animals and Bat for Lashes
There are countless reasons why one might want to lock up the whole of 2016 in a box and never let it out again.
But, while the world disastrously turned in on itself in many ways, the UK music scene wasn’t one of them.
Despite predictions, the album remains far from dead. Among the breathtaking records to come across my desk last year was Radiohead’s A Moon-Shaped Pool, one of the best of their career – an accessible slab of dense and detailed arrangements that signal true craftsmanship at work, weaving traditionally leftfield sounds into a cohesive and spellbinding whole.
Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree meanwhile, recorded with the Bad Seeds in the wake of his son’s death, is as tough to listen to as it is enthralling - truly a towering achievement of catharsis through art.
Muswell Hillbilly Michael Kiwanuka, meanwhile, truly came of age with second album Love & Hate, which revealed him to be an incredibly mature and accomplished songwriter, from the title track’s reflective, pensive lyrics and summer-friendly acoustic soul to the snappy turbo-gospel of Black Man In A White World.
One of the most fun records has to be Glass Animals’ How To Be A Human Being. Its pop heart bursts with engagingly off-kilter, uplifting music that marries live instrumentation with synth effects and cucumber-cool, laid back beats.
Elsewhere, Bat For Lashes arguably put together the best concept album of recent years with The Bride. The tale of a woman whose betrothed dies en route to the chapel unfurls in songs swathed in an enthralling mix of hauntingly cool electro-pop and low-key, beautifully baleful ballads that, frankly, make her whole ficticious ordeal worthwhile for the rest of us.
Ed Harcourt also deserves special mention for his latest LP, Furnaces, which plays with textures and packs in the intricate instrumentals he’s known for with toughened percussion and electronica. Dark and politically-charged lyricism adds to the intensity.
The bar is set pretty high for 2017, and I can’t wait!