As Leonard Cohen once wrote: "We are ugly but we have the music..."
2016 has been an ugly year, no doubt, but in a cruel irony it's also produced some majestic art.
All week Clash will be counting down our favourite albums from 2016 - join us tomorrow to find out the ultimate winner.
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20. The Lemon Twigs - Do Hollywood
As twisting and unpredictable as the tumultuous year that bore it, ‘Do Hollywood’ is the product of two brothers’ love affair with their parents’ record collection, and their attempt to replicate the entire thing on one, delightfully kaleidoscopic album. It stylistically skips with giddy teenage enthusiasm from psych-pop to soul to baroque to bonkers prog - ‘Haroomata’ almost fusing all the above into two-and-a-half minutes - ensuring the duo’s debut album remains as impressively vivid and colourful as their wardrobe. SH
19. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
One of the year’s most unique hip-hop records, ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ sees Danny Brown reflecting on the irony of success after virtually disappearing from the game for three years. “I made it here and now the drugs are in excess,” Danny explained during our recent cover interview. “Now it’s more pressure staying in it than it is getting in the first place. Fuck! What did I get myself into?” GB
18. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
After countless BandCamp releases Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo could almost be forgiven to wanting, well, a rest of his own. Yet ‘Teens Of Denial’ finds the songwriter surging ahead with incredible energy, a 70 minute blast of original, inventive, and highly personal songwriting. A remarkable achievement, it feels like the DIY underground’s iteration of the Great American Novel. RM
17. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Taking its name from Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown – where Dev Hynes’ father was born – ‘Freetown Sound’ is perhaps the most brutally autobiographical work Blood Orange has yet composed. Lucid, lyrical, sharp, and direct, its baroque moments were infused with raw funk, combining the contradictory elements of body and soul. A rare, true document from a talent who quite simply ranks among the very best. RM
16. Michael Kiwanuka - Love And Hate
By tackling profoundly personal issues on his second album, Michael Kiwanuka laid himself bare in a set of songs whose vulnerability was impossible to resist. Danger Mouse’s sympathetic production underlined the soulful core of songs like ‘Place I Belong’, ‘The Final Frame’, and powerful lead single, ‘Black Man In A White World’, attracting just comparisons to socially-conscious symphonic visionaries Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, and confirming Kiwanuka as an assured and affecting artist capable of real depth. SH
15. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Meandering from club ready jams (‘Am I Wrong’), to lo-fi testaments to love (‘Heart Don’t Stand A Chance’), ‘Malibu’ demonstrates Anderson .Paak’s supernatural ability to heal broken beats and resurrect forgotten sounds. Like a vacation in the city it's named after, ‘Malibu’ is sun-kissed and euphoric from start to finish. RR
14. Kano - Made In The Manor
After celebrating the tenth anniversary of his debut album ‘Home Sweet Home’ last year, he returned with a contender for the best LP of his career with ‘Made In The Manor’. His most personal work to date, Kane proves he still has the rare ability to balance vulnerable album cuts (‘Little Sis’, ‘Strangers’) and certified bangers that go off in raves (‘3 Wheel-Ups’, ‘Garage Skank Freestyle’).
13. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Bon Iver’s most direct yet perversely obtuse document yet, ’22, A Million’ matched beautifully engrossing melody to complex lyricism that picked apart love, grief, relationships, and spiritual belief. Sampling everyone from Mahalia Jackson to Paolo Nutini, ’22, A Million’ was nothing if not brave, a work of astonishing breadth and remarkable precision. RM
12. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
Revolutionising the album release process, we still can’t be sure that Kanye West is even finished tinkering with ‘The Life Of Pablo’ yet! A collage of all the Kanye’s we’ve come to know and love, the album captures him in his most raw, manic and scattered state, as he jumps from prayers for Paris to sex with bleached-bummed models. GB
11. Trim – 1-800 Dinosaur Presents Trim
Trim came from grime, but grime couldn’t hold him. Blessed with a wholly unique flow, the MC knew that he could spit on virtually anything – so he did. Drawn into the 1-800 Dinosaur collective (James Blake et al) may have boosted his profile, but this album demonstrates that while he benefits from talented contemporaries he ultimately stands alone. A totemic work of wordplay introversion and production serenity. RM
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Words: Simon Harper, Grant Brydon, Robin Murray, Robbie Russell
Check out Clash Albums Of The Year 2016: 40 - 31.
Check out Clash Albums Of The Year 2016: 30 - 21.