Best Albums of 2016

Time for my fave music roundup for the year 2016. I can’t profess to have bought many albums but I did try to sample as many as I could. As usual, these are albums that are released this year and not re-issues. Just remember everything is subjective and what I hope to achieve is for friends to find out more about them, and I too would love to find out what are your fave albums. Hopefully I can discover gems I have missed in 2016.

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Best Albums 2016
10 Tegan and SaraLove You to Death
The girls continue the romp they started in Heartthrob and soar to another delirious level. This is clever and infectious pop which embraces the sound of synth-pop and doesn’t give a damn what you think. The songs wrap you up in toe-tapping euphoria and just when you thought you have it figured out, they dropped you to the lowest of depths with a heartbreaker. Listen to 100x and feel pain, sublime pain.

9 RihannaAnti
This is definitely Rihanna’s most cohesive album to date because she didn’t set out to make ubiquitous ear-wormed hits, not that there aren’t, mind you. An authoritative, raw and intense vibe that I totally dig.

8 BeyoncéLemonade
I thought breakups are the best formula for making great albums. Nope, not by a long shot. This album is filled with angst and the intense strength of a woman discovering her husband’s alleged infidelity. Not at all preachy and middle fingers flying everywhere. Her most accomplished album yet.

7 The WeekndStarboy
This is the last album that dropped in my lap this year. The moment Starboy rang out to I Feel it Coming, I couldn’t feel my face again. Dark and disturbing in theme, it’s time to embrace the beauty behind the madness again.

6 RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead has swung so far away from their median that I lost touch with them. Then Burn the Witch dropped and I went nuts. Lush and sensual, the song is still way off the median but it got me excited again. The album is their most accessible to date. This is music to go introspective and manic depressive with. It won’t make you feel better but at least you will have great company.

5 PerturbatorThe Uncanny Valley
I had a bro to thank for this incredible recommendation. This here is the soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell and all the hopeless futuristic dystopian landscapes. Relentlessly dark and insanely intense. Listen to how he takes the 70s and 80s synth scores to John Carpenter’s movies to new amazing heights.

4 Michael KiwanukaLove & Hate
The album opens with a 10-minute magnum opus of heartache and it drew me into the eye of the storm of an album. Suddenly, the huge hole left by the demise of Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers can be filled. What soul this is!

3 Blood OrangeFreetown Sound
This year I must have played Augustine at least a hundred times, more than any other songs. Dev Hyne’s third album is magnificently mellifluous, dripping with melodious hooks. Thematically, this is heavy stuff. It is profoundly personal and unapologetically political, touching on issues of race, religion, sex, and sexism over 17 shimmering songs.

2 Christine and the QueensChaleur Humaine
Half the time I couldn’t understand the English because of her heavy French accent, but I just adore the whole smoke-filled surreal vibe. Great music transcends language barriers. So many great melodies and ear-worms, with nary a let-down. There are a lot of standouts but Paradis Perdu which beautifully melds an old and obscure Jean Michel Jarre song from 1973 with Kanye West’s Heartless is particularly star-worthy.

1 The 1975I Like it When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of it
It’s so difficult to find the words to describe The 1975’s sophomore album. This is such a 180-degree turn from their debut. Even the album cover is a statement. The moment I saw it, I had to stifle a cynical smile because I knew exactly what I would hear – bubblegum pop for teenage girls. Boy, was I wrong in a way. It continues to be a homage to the 80s but that would sound too gimmicky. There’s a sheen of freshness to the songs, familiar but yet new, like meeting an old friend you have not seen for decades. The name of the album is quite a mouthful, but it totally embodies the sound and vibe. Scroll down and look under Best Tracks and you will see I couldn’t get enough of the album; even the instrumental interludes are brilliant.

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Honorable Mentions
Låpsley – Long Way Home
Rachael Yamagata – Tightrope Walker
Villagers – Where Have You Been All My Life?
Yuna – Chapters
Rumer – This Girl’s in Love
Gentle Bones – Geniuses & Thieves (EP)
Bruno Mars – XXIV Magic
Jack Savoretti – Sleep No More
Blue October – Home
Justin Bieber – Purpose

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Best Chinese Albums
插班生 – 长大
田馥甄 – 日常
林宥嘉 – 今日营业中
戴佩妮 – 賊
慢慢说 – 骄傲地爱着
艾怡良 – 说艾怡良 (my fave this year by a mile; filled with gems and well-produced)

Best Tracks
Rihanna – Work
Drake – One Dance/ Controlla/ Hotline Bling
Yuna – Crush/ Mannequin/ Best Love
Panama Wedding – Infinite High
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic/ Versace on the Dancefloor
The Weeknd – Starboy/ Secrets/ Six Feet Under/ Love to Lay/ Attention/ I Feel it Coming
Wild Beasts – Big Cat/ Get My Bang
Blood Orange – Augustine/ Best to You/ Hadron Collider/ Better Than Me
Aurora – Conqueror/ Running With the Wolves
Christine and the Queens – iT/ Tilted/ Paradis Perdus
Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean?/ Sorry/ Love Yourself
Beyoncé- Hold Up/ Sorry/ Formation
Låpsley – Heartless/ Hurt Me/ Love is Blind
The 1975 – A Change of Heart/ She’s American/ Somebody Else/ The Sound/ This Must Be a Dream/ Paris
Warpaint – White Out/ New Song
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway/ Dark Necessities/ Go Robot
Blind Pilot – Umpqua Rushing/ Like Lions
The Lumineers – Ophelia/ Cleopatra
Regina Spektor – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Adam Levine – Go Now
Sing Street – To Find You/ Drive it Like You Stole it
Imagine Dragons – Not Today
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – City of Stars
Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart/ Love & Hate
Ingrid Michaelson – I Remember Her
Against the Current – Running With the Wild Things/ In Our Bones
Radiohead – Burn the Witch/ Daydreaming/ True Love Waits
Bon Iver – 22 (Over Soon)/ 33 “GOD”
Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend/ Stop Desire/ 100x
David Bowie – Lazarus

img_0386Best Re-issue

Mirage – Fleetwood Mac
Gorgeously remastered. Great liner notes. Love the hi-res 5.1 mix. One of my desert island albums.

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Best Discovery of an Old Release

Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting

Great vibe and fresh. His unique sound treads the fine line between retro and futuristic. Something I love to play as I escape to the spaces between the emotional beats of the day passed.

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Best Concert
MadonnaRebel Heart Tour
I know The Straits Times (my local papers) voted this the worst concert of the year for selling out on her principles and for the most horrendous sonics ever. But I didn’t see it here. I saw it in Bangkok and the people there fcuking know how to party. I still have so many wonderful memories of the crazy night and will cherish them forever. Thinking back, I am very grateful to my wifey for eventually agreeing to go, on the second day of Chinese New Year no less and a lot of my fondest memories of that night were of her in total party mode, a sight I have never seen before. I think going overseas for a gig also played a huge part in my enjoyment. This is something I would seriously consider doing again. I was toying with the idea of watching Radiohead in Tokyo, but my pocket was bleeding too much then. Oh… and a close second is Tame Impala.

Here’s to a good year of great music and hello 2017! Concert-wise in the new year we are already going to 谢震廷 and Coldplay!

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