Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 17, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Music Exeposé Music’s Best Albums of 2016 | Top 20

Exeposé Music’s Best Albums of 2016 | Top 20

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20   Frankie Cosmos
 Next Thing

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After releasing over 40 albums and EPs on Bandcamp, the former Porches bassist has expanded on her early promise with sophomore album Next Thing.  A lo-fi indie rock rollercoaster, Cosmos has a distinct talent of cramming her brand of observational and witty suburban poetry into songs that barely outstay two and half minutes. In fact, the album (that consists of 15 songs) only runs for 28 minutes. With a distinct bedroom-DIY sound to tracks like ‘If I Had a Dog’ and  ‘Too Dark’ alongside Cosmos’ slacker-esque vocal delivery you may be forgiven for thinking the album appears somewhat simplistic. But it’s the juxtaposition with the off-kilter, meandering lyrics that give Cosmos’ songs on Next Thing their real depth. By far one of the most underrated albums of the year.

Rory Marcham

19   Michael Kiwanuka
 Love & Hate

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Soulful and poignant, Kiwanuka’s second album comes across more focused than his first. The lengthy ambient introduction of ‘Cold Little Heart’ introduces an introspective and thoughtful album, as it gives way to Kiwanuka’s rich and beautiful vocal work. It is these vocals which truly carry the record. Highlights of the album include the bass-driven ‘One More Night’, the melodic and emotional titular track ‘Love and Hate’, and the closing track ‘The Final Frame’, which rounds off the record excellently, truly bringing the electric guitar and piano into their own. Love and Hate is a masterclass in modernised soul, and Kiwanuka is surely one to watch.

Graham Moore

Read our full review of Love & Hate here, and our review of Kiwanuka @ Exeter’s Phoenix here.

18   Kendrick Lamar
untitled unmastered

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Don’t be fooled. This murky-green-clad album made up of unfinished demo-quality songs that was surprise released with little-to-no promotion is by no means Kendrick Lamar’s ‘throwaway’ album. Untitled Unmastered is not the refined, detailed soundscape that To Pimp a Butterfly is, or the to-the-point cinematic experience of Good Kid M.A.A.D City, but it certainly showcases Lamar’s talent on a purer, rawer level. Made up mostly of TPAB B-sides and demos, the album holds up well, sporting a tasteful selection of features (Cee-lo Green, Ana Wise), diverse instrumentals and Lamar’s ever-astounding lyrical ability. Untitled Unmastered is more like a “TPAB.5″, and it is an instalment in Lamar’s discography that should never be neglected.

George Stamp

17   Angel Olsen
My Woman

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A vivid and beautiful project from start to finish, My Woman is no doubt Olsen’s true career-defining album. With every release, Olsen has improved and diversified her sound exponentially, and My Woman is no exception. From the raucous ‘Shut Up Kiss me’, to the heart breaking ‘Pops’ and the nocturnal ‘Intern’, there’s something about the album that screams confidence. Knowing what Olsen is now capable of, we can only wait to see where she’ll take her sound next – although, after the success of this album and the extensive tour schedule, it’s likely that a much-deserved hiatus is due for Olsen. Congrats Angel, you’ve earned it.

George Stamp

Read our review of My Woman here, or our live review of Olsen @ Motion, Bristol here.

16   Iggy Pop
Post-Pop Depression

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This is undeniably an Iggy Pop album; the 68 year-old’s young rebel-like lyrics pouring out in a sea of adolescent frustration, from the voyeurism of ‘Gardenia’, to the foul-mouthed anger of ‘Paraguay’. However, you can’t avoid hearing other influences throughout; David Bowie’s touch reaches out and grabs you from beyond the grave as you delve into the album (the two were friends and colleagues in the 70s). Josh Homme’s guitar work and song-writing influence is there too, with a Queens of the Stone Age grind that runs through the record, rounding off a complex sound that has all the hallmarks of a modern-day classic.

Jonny Morris

15   Car Seat Headrest
Teens of Denial

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There are many reasons why Teens of Denial is an instant classic. The biggest, though, is the sheer quality of its lyrics. If jazz is musician’s music, then Car Seat Headrest is songwriters’ music. You’ll salivate over Toledo’s wordplay and symmetry. You might be pleasantly surprised by the way he manages to effortlessly combine religious imagery with high school anecdotes about losing a pair of Air Jordans. And you’ll find more satisfaction in his one “I give up” at the end of 11 minute epic ‘The Ballad of the Costa Concordia’ than you probably will in the word-sheets to ten of his peers’ albums put together.

Robert Westlake

14   Solange
A Seat at the Table

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Giving a voice to the voiceless, Solange Knowles earns black women a seat at the table. Pain, healing, tiredness, celebration and a reclamation of black identity; A Seat At The Table is the smoothest album of the year. With her unique soul/R&B meets synth-pop sound and caramel voice, Solange stands firmly beside her sister, not behind her.

Agnes Emeney

13   Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book

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Chance started 2016 strong jumping on Kanye West’s kaleidoscopic, ‘Ultralight Beam’. Since then Chance’s Colouring Book has swept to critical acclaim, challenging Yeezy’s position as Chicago’s premier hip icon. Reacting sharply against the disorder and violence of Chicago the record’s fusion of spiritual and hip-hop genres exudes an infectious sense of optimism. ‘No Problem’ gleefully asserts Chance’s independence from the constraints of record executives. While Chance’s vocals on ‘Same Drugs’ are beautifully reflective as he traces both the process of growing up and a relationship slowly drifting apart. Chance thrives in his own blend of gospel infused hip-hop, crafting a refreshingly uplifting record.

Tom Murphy

Read our review of Coloring Book here.

12   A Tribe Called Quest
We Got It From Here… Thank You For Your Service

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The death of funky diabetic Phife Dawg loomed large over the release of this album; I know I for one was conflicted about the prospect of a comeback album so soon after the passing of one of the iconic trio. I’ve never been so thankful to have been proven wrong. This album is somehow instantly recognisable as a Tribe album at the same time as advancing their sound beyond the standard jazzy boom-bap that they popularised back in the 90s. Whether you’re a total newcomer to hip hop music, interested in only the most heavily auto-tuned trap rappers, or whether you’ve been waiting for this album since The Love Movement, you’ll still leave happy.

Alex Brammer

Read our full review of Thank You 4 Your Service here.

11   Christine & the Queens
Chaleur Humaine

imageChristine and the Queens, or Héloïse Letissier, as she is known in her native France, where she is already a big name, has burst onto the British pop scene, with the massively underrated, atmospheric and infectious Chaleur Humaine. With new songs and some french lyrics adapted to English, Chaleur Humaine combines poetic and provocative lyrics with minimalist electronic beats. For fans of Churches, Metronomy and Lorde, as a live performer, Christine intricately choreographs each song into a contemporary spectacle. Christine describes herself as “the weird cousin you didn’t invite but she came anyway”, and hopefully she is here to stay.

Ellen Mitchell

10   Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition

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Atrocity Exhibition could only be the work of Danny Brown. Who else would open an album with the atonal scrapyard lurch of ‘Downward Spiral’? Who else would flow over what sounds remarkably like a coked-up brass band melting into a pool of lava in ‘Ain’t It Funny’? In between the psychotic energy of Talking Heads rip ‘Dance in the Water’ and ‘Pneumonia’, there are lucid moments; Brown slips from a desperate yelp into something calmer, more lucid – before we realize the chilling reality of ‘Tell Me What I Don’t Know’ is even more terrifying than the insanity that surrounds it.

Ned Blackburn

9    Beyoncé
Lemonade

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The most talked about album of the year. A narrative about a black woman’s journey to healing and how love was her tool. This year Queen B has been on another level musically, lyrically, vocally, visually, artistically and politically. All in the best ways possible. Lemonade showcases her talents in performance and musicality at their best and most raw. When life gives you lemons…listen to Beyoncé.

Agnes Emeney

Read our full review of Lemonade here, or for the sceptics, check this out.

8    Kanye West
The Life of Pablo

the_life_of_pablo_alternateIt’s no secret that some of the best albums of this year depend on real personal trauma. Bowie and Cohen wrote albums apprehending their deaths, Nick Cave edited his in the wake of his son’s death, and it’s no coincidence that Anohni’s attack on “the establishment” followed her gender reassignment. But an artist that’s outside this conflation of sympathy and artistic reverence is, as always, Kanye. It’s easy to think of The Life of Pablo as part of his recent depression / paranoia / breakdown, especially in tracks like ‘Real Friends,’ ‘FML’ and ‘Wolves,’ but what makes it exceptional is the landscape of emotions it contains. Kanye’s masterful production isn’t just about the beats; he has a superhuman ability to make nearly one hundred strong-willed industry-leaders create one sensitive and personal album that somehow aligns triumph and melancholia. TLAP is Kanye at his best, and most desperate. He had to bring himself to his limits to make it, but what a masterpiece.

Harry Williams

Read our full review of The Life of Pablo here.

   Bon Iver
22, A Million

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In 22, A Million, Bon Iver flirts with electronic music like never before. The multitude of sounds and distortions, far from burying meaning under a blanket of noise, pave the way for sudden explosions of beauty. Justin Vernon’s work of art projects the listener into a quasi-post-apocalyptic world filled with steel and rusty robots. However, from the metallic voices screaming in despair, the music of a piano emerges and an invitation for tea suggests that not all warmth is gone. 22, A Million is a record to listen to from the beginning until the end, no skipping, no shuffling.

Emma Prevignano

6    Radiohead
A Moon Shaped Pool

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Heritage act? No thanks. 23 years after their debut release Radiohead still refuse point blank to concede artistically in any manner whatsoever. ‘Full Stop’ adds to the great Radiohead tradition of powerful bass-driven tracks, whilst ‘Decks Dark’ acts as the legitimate heir to Ok Computer’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ and ‘True Love Waits’ operates as the heartbreaking closer to a staggeringly perfect collection of songs. Pitchfork’s 2000 verdict that Radiohead “must be the greatest band alive, if not the best since you know who” has just received yet another 52 minutes of cold, hard, irrefutable evidence to back it up. All hail to the chiefs.

Robert Westlake

Read our review of A Moon Shaped Pool here, our review of ‘Spectre’ here, and find our interview with Thom Yorke here.

5    Nick cave and the bad seeds
Skeleton Tree

packshot1-768x768Produced during a period of intense emotion for Cave, as he struggled with the recent loss of his son, Skeleton Tree is not an album to be taken lightly. Featuring Cave’s trademark allegorical imagery, Skeleton Tree is primarily a work of poetic expression. The distorted and eerie opening track, ‘Jesus Alone’, sets the tone as entreats the listener: “With my voice I am calling you”. From the urgent drumbeats of Anthrocene to the stripped and sorrowful ‘Girl in Amber’, this album is by no means easy listening; dark and foreboding, by the final words – “and it’s alright now” – Skeleton Tree is liable to leave you with an emotional hangover.

Graham Moore

Read our full review of Skeleton Tree here.

   Frank OceAN
bLOND

5f06f7f6The best thing about Blond is that it is actually worth the wait. All that time, the hype, the surprise release: Frank delivered, and what he has given is a near-perfect album. A clear evolution in sound from his previous two releases, Blonde is incredible and atmospheric — you get a sense when listening that this is the album that Frank Ocean has always wanted to make. Gone are the intense instrumentals from Channel Orange, in favour of a release that has Frank’s dynamic vocal range at its forefront. This record climbs inside you and begs for repeat listens.

Cormac Dreelan

Read our full review of Blonde here.

   anohni
hopelessness

a1895762218_10HOPELESSNESS evokes a quiet rage at the current geopolitical reality; it’s a call to action despite the passivity of its title. The album delves into significant political and cultural realities particularly pertinent to post-9/11 America – mass surveillance, drone warfare, environmental ruin – while creating a harrowing and glorious new sound. ANOHNI’s unique voice (an androgynous, unearthly and arresting croon) paired with discordant electronic backing creates a startlingly individual album held aloft by thematically dark songs so particular in their word choice that each resonates as beautifully provocative poetry. Her songs are like Trojan horses, carrying difficult topics in a case of electronic beats and ambient sounds. I can only briefly touch on what HOPELESSNESS has to offer, but I could go on for pages – each and every song is worth listening to on this album; each carries its own sense of intimacy and urgency. If I could use just two words to describe ANOHNI’s haunting album, it would be these: stay woke.

Niamh Harrison

Read our full review of HOPELESSNESS here.

   david bowie
blackstar

blackstar_front_cover2016 has been a dark year for the music industry. The deaths of Leonard Cohen, Prince, Glenn Frey and so many others provided a bleak and often depressing atmosphere towards this rather terrible solar cycle. Bowie’s was debatably the saddest, but it was undoubtedly the most revolutionary. Blackstar, his final opus and his passing gift to his audience, is a revolutionary piece of art – a eulogy sung from beyond the Styx and written to close out one of the defining careers in 20th Century culture. An ethereal mix of experimental jazz fusion, art rock and avant-garde, this record is a defining statement of what Bowie was capable of achieving, and stands as much as a cultural landmark as a musical one. From the expansive fusiontronic title track, to the self-delivered funeral dirge of ‘Lazarus’, to the shifting, cynical ‘Dollar Days’, Blackstar is a sombre, yet somehow joyous, celebration of one of the finest songwriters history will ever know, and the medium of self-burying through ones art is an endeavour thousands will replicate over the coming decades. The irony is is that we don’t need to wait, because what comes next might have already done so.

Theo Stone

Read our full review Blackstar here.

1    Leonard cohen
you want it darker

0965d672b61dd6173d5b54bf89881891-1000x1000x1Writing about Leonard Cohen is like writing about the sun when you’re used to writing about lightbulbs. Sadly, You Want it Darker is the last album he will ever create, but what a swansong it is. The album manages to sound fresh and contemporary while retaining Cohen’s unique sound. Lyrically and musically, Cohen incorporates his mixture of Jewish and Christian imagery with sparse instrumentation to present us with perhaps his most human album yet. Managing to weave together his experiences of love and depression and Cohen’s own religiosity, You Want it Darker is a personal masterpiece, and the only fitting send off for such an iconic artist.

Sam Fawcett

Read our full review of You Want It Darker here, and read our obituary to Leonard Cohen here.

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