The Skinny Top 50 Albums of 2016

After a tumultuous 2016, The Skinny celebrates fifty of the year's very best records...

Feature by Music Team | 01 Dec 2016

#50: Daughter – Not to Disappear
If Daughter's debut had you label the London trio as de rigueur indie alt-folk, think again: Not to Disappear sets their tender, haunted shadowplay alight.

#49: Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion Side B
A second helping of female-first pop from Carly Rae Jepsen, taken from the recording sessions for last year's critical darling Emotion.

#48: De Rosa – Weem
Though they announced their reunion back in 2012, the release of Weem bookends a hiatus of almost seven years for Bellshill quintet De Rosa.

#47: Steve Mason – Meet the Humans
Steve Mason's third solo album under his own name, Meet the Humans finds the erstwhile Fifer embracing a folktronica style familiar from those Beta Band days.

#46: Law Holt – City
Law Holt finally bestows her debut LP City upon us and, boy, is it magnificent.

#45: American Football – LP2
‘We’ve been here before,’ Mike Kinsella sings on Where Are We Now, the first track on American Football’s long-awaited second album LP2 – and it sounds as though they never left.

#44: Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
The third solo album from The Babies frontman; read our live review from his recent show at Summerhall in August.

#43: Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
Boasting 12 tracks, with the first and last acting as musical bookends, Babes Never Die is a well wrapped package with no obvious signs of ‘difficult second album syndrome’. Read an interview we did with the Glasgow duo ahead of the albums release, and learn about Stina Tweeddale's five game-changing albums.

#42: Shield Patterns – Mirror Breathing
'Touch me lightly, share / How you hate me and all the ways you care,' sings Claire Brentnall on Dusk, the opening track on the follow-up to Shield Patterns' 2014 debut Contour Lines. Rest assured, Mirror Breathing is from the heart.

#41: Teenage Fanclub – Here
Here is an unexpected treat from Teenage Fanclub, and a surprisingly timely one too. As usual Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley share songwriting duties, and it is the latter who exhibits the biggest about-turn.

#40: Gold Panda – Good Luck and Do Your Best
Good Luck and Do Your Best is imbued with shiny-eyed, open-hearted optimism, and built with all the sensitivity and care that we’ve come to expect from anything Gold Panda touches.

#39: Parra for Cuva – Darwis
One of our designer's favourite albums of the year, Darwis is a textured slab of electronica for fans of Four Tet and Boards of Canada – have a listen below.

#38: Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Like the image its title evokes then, Light Upon the Lake is a transient pleasure – but a vivid one while it last. Read an interview with Whitney we did earlier in the year.

#37: Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
Painting of a Panic Attack is certainly more polished than Frightened Rabbit’s debut Sing the Greys, but it’s remarkable how many variables remain constant.

#36: Glass Animals – How To Be a Human Being
Glass Animals' How to Be a Human Being is arguably yet more effervescent than its predecessor ZABA.

#35: Moor Mother – Fetish Bones
A prolific voice in the Philadelphia arts community, Moor Mother describes her work as 'low fi/dark rap/chill step/ blk girl blues/witch rap/coffee shop riot gurl songs/southern girl dittys/black ghost songs' – Fetish Bones is all those things and more.

#34: Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win
It's not that Julia Jacklin has to silence the doubters: the response to her debut Don't Let the Kids Win was overwhelmingly positive, lauding the depth and sophistication of her songwriting.

#33: Hinds – Leave Me Alone
Leave Me Alone is one of the year's peppiest, jauntiest, most charismatic debuts. If you need an anthem for sassily chucking flowers in the bin, necking some wine or getting your A-game flirt on, then Hinds have all the answers.

#32: Julianna Barwick – Will
The latest offering Will from the Brooklyn-based Julianna Barwick offers further fascination for those hypnotised by the ambient soundscapes of 2013's breakthrough Nepenthe.

#31: Wild Beasts – Boy King
Wearing hearts, lungs and other vulnerable organs on their sleeves, Cumbrian artisans Wild Beasts turn their gaze to the male ego on Boy King.

#30: Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
Danny Brown has one of the most left-field vocabularies in the game – his sometimes goofy, sometimes sinister sense of humour makes for an uneasy, unmistakeable ride on fourth album Atrocity Exhibition.

#29: Noname – Telefone
Telefone is the debut mixtape by Chicago based rapper Noname, and definitely worth checking out in the player below.

#28: James Blake – The Colour In Anything
English singer-songwriter, musician and producer James Blake's third studio album was a popular choice. 

#27: Nicolas Jaar – Sirens
New York-based composer Nicolas Jaar's second album Sirens ticked all the right boxes for some of our writers.

#26: Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
New Yorker Frankie Cosmos' second album Next Thing strikes a chord with her vignettes on 20-something life.

#25: Kaytranada – 99.9%
Haitian-Canadian record producer Kaytranada's debut album 99.9% features guest spots from Craig David, Anderson .Paak, AlunaGeorge and BadBadNotGood among others, and nabbed this year's Polaris Prize for the year's best Canadian album.

#24: Savages – Adore Life
Few bands can rule that 'love is the answer' without a single wink of irony, and pull it off with magnificent, majestic aplomb. For this reason, amongst many, many more, Adore Life is an utter triumph for Savages.

#23: Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Rather than answering his critics, The Life of Pablo poses even more complex questions to where Kanye West is going.

#22: Leon Vynehall – Rojus (Designed to Dance)
Leon Vynehall’s artistic intent for his April release Rojus (Designed to Dance) is neatly encapsulated within track opener Beyond This… A beat-less, weightless composition of ambient synth and birdsong, it paints a sweeping picture of the alluring oasis the album’s title alludes to (rojus being the Lithuanian word for paradise).

#21: The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
Not the snappiest of titles, and in fact one of the creepiest we've come across, The 1975's sophomore album was nonetheless one of our writers' favourites.

#20: Pinegrove – Cardinal
Alt country and old-skool emo collide in a dazzling explosion of melody and so-smart-it-hurts lyricism on Pinegrove's second record, Cardinal.

#19: Shura – Nothing’s Real
As far as poppy coming of age records go, there’s not a lot to separate Shura from the pack on initial spins of debut Nothing's RealListen on, though, and the record's quality shines through.

#18: NAO – For All We Know
For All We Know is like a diary – an accumulation of years spent publically discovering her sound and, alongside newer cuts, it picks and chooses from NAO's two previous EPs.

#17: Anna Meredith – Varmints
Playfully erudite, Anna Meredith's Varmints reveals an acute confidence in how sound sits together. Yes, the building, arpeggio-driven single Taken is immediately arresting, but elsewhere its patterns are akin to architectural sketches.

#16: Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Dev Hynes', formerly Lightspeed Champion and now Blood Orange, returns with his third album Freetown Sound. Check it out below.

#15: Mitski – Puberty 2
Puberty 2 is the rare breed that evokes all the angst and drama of adolescence but also its sublime passion. We interviewed Mitski earlier this year – you should read it. Go on, we dare you!

#14: Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
Much anticipated third album from Chicago's Chance The Rapper, Coloring Book features guest spots from the likes of Kanye, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Justin Bieber, T-Pain and Anderson .Paak among others.

#13: Tacocat – Lost Time
Seasons change, trends come and go, yet one thing is forever guaranteed: some joyless swine is itching to tell you that guitar pop is dead. Don’t plan any funerals just yet, though – Tacocat's third album Lost Time positively brims with the good stuff, including one of our favourite tracks of the year; I Hate the Weekend.

#12: Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
After a host of BandCamp releases, Car Seat Headrest's Teens of Denial is Will Toledo's most notable release to date, following on the heels of Matador debut Teens of Style

#11: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Coming in just outside the top ten (we're sorry to all the avid fans out there) is Radiohead's ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool. An album as expansive, complex and arresting as anything in the band's back catalogue, conjuring the soundscapes from In RainbowsAmnesiac and even – whisper it – elements of Pablo Honey

#10: Beyoncé – Lemonade
For her sixth album, Beyoncé once again offered another way in, and this time around, the ambition of the accompanying visuals advanced the whole a league beyond the sum of its parts.

#9: Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Parquet Courts have released five records in five years – a feat achieved by few of their peers. Human Performance ticks all the right boxes.

#8: Anohni – Hopelessness
Hopeless times need music too. Anohni teamed up with OPN and HudMo to produce one of the most startling records of recent years.

#7: David Bowie – Blackstar
On 8 January, David Bowie’s 69th birthday, his 25th studio album Blackstar was released. Seemingly a cause for double celebration, certainly none of us were to know that the album would also be his last.

#6: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Death is a familiar character in Nick Cave’s songbook, but Skeleton Tree, his 16th studio album with The Bad Seeds, carries a particularly tragic spectre.

#5: Angel Olsen – My Woman
Sometimes being painted into a corner can be a good thing, and My Woman is a work that pushes Angel Olsen's diverse pop genius to the fore.

#4: Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Malibu well and truly plunged Anderson .Paak into the consciousness of the music industry and music fans all over the world, and he has been riding that wave ever since.

#3: Bon Iver – 22, A Million
On Bon Iver’s engrossing third album 22, A Million, the band’s first album in five years, we hear Justin Vernon triumphantly overcoming his crisis of faith and confidence by asserting himself through technological clutter and finding peace in chaos.

#2: Solange – A Seat at the Table
A Seat at the Table is an enormously historical, deeply political record – if you’ve heard it you’ll know that, but it demands repeating a thousand times over.

#1: Frank Ocean – Blonde
The year’s unremitting horrors were as real as this unpalatable reality age would allow and, four years after he emerged as one of our most watchful commentators, Frank Ocean bequeathed Blond.

Let us know your thoughts on our Albums of the Year list in the comments below...