Friday 30 December 2016

2016: year in review

as usual this post is being written at the last minute, just two days before 2017 descends upon us, and like most of the world, i can hardly wait for the shit storm that was 2016 to be over. though many have argued that 2016 was one of the worst years in recorded history, it also opened up conversations about mental health, and provided us with some excellent albums, the latter of which i'm here to talk about today. 

much like last year, this post will be in no particular order, as narrowing down my favourite albums was difficult enough.

1. rihanna: ANTI

the year kicked off with the release of rihanna's long-awaited eighth album, ANTI, which she kindly made available for free on TIDAL, something i still can't quite get over. i still remember downloading the album and watching the tracks appear one by one in my itunes library, with no idea what to expect. some were delighted, others disappointed, and i personally couldn't get enough. each track teems with self-love and a strong sense of empowerment, and after 2015's (literally) explosive bitch better have my money, that theme continued throughout ANTI. 

listen to: consideration, kiss it better, same ol' mistakes, desperado 

2. zayn - mind of mine

his departure from one direction sent shock waves through the fan-base, and his debut album, released in april this year, doubtless did the same. taking inspiration from usher and prince as well as bollywood music, the album did well to establish zayn's presence as a solo artist, though it did little to set him apart from existing acts like the weeknd and rae sremmud (anyone else tired of hearing that black beatles song everywhere?). here's to hoping that he develops his own, unique sound on his next release. 

listen to: she, lucozade, she don't love me, like i would, befour (i refuse to believe that title isn't a direct reference to his one direction band mates).

3. busted - night driver

my last post explored this album in depth, but i couldn't not include it in my top ten this year. released at the tail end of 2016, the (formerly) pop-punk trio released their 80s-inspired opus to somewhat lukewarm reviews, but seeing as i'm a sucker for anything remotely 80s sounding, i fell in love with it straight away. 

listen to: one of a kind, without it, coming home, night driver, out of our minds, on what you're on 

4. shura - nothing's real

by far one of my favourite releases this year, shura's full length debut finally graced our eardrums in july, and it didn't disappoint. packed with electro-pop gems, the song has been a constant fixture on my spotify ever since, and even more so after i went to see her at the o2 forum earlier this month. after hesitating for weeks as to whether to buy a ticket, i can confirm that it was well worth the money, and i highly recommend going to see her when she's next in your city.

listen to: what's it gonna be?, nothing's real, indecision, make it up, white light, what happened to us?

5. ariana grande - dangerous woman 

back in may, i wrote a particularly scathing mini-review of ariana's latest album, dangerous woman, and though i still feel the album is a tad disjointed in its sound, after a few more hundred listens, it's fast become one of my most-played this year. into you was in fact, my most played song of the year on spotify, and for good reason. if pure, sugary pop is what you're after, this album should satisfy your sweet tooth.

listen to: greedy, into you, touch it, dangerous woman, be alright, side to side 

6. fifth harmony - 7/27 

way before the scandal surrounding the recent departure of camila cabello from fifth harmony, they released their excellent second album in may this year, titled 7/27, aka the date the group was formed. again, i wrote about it in more detail here, but it has still been a firm favourite of mine throughout the year. yes, even the now horrendously overplayed, work from home. (side note: this was arguably the best thing to happen this year; i always knew there was a reason why lauren was my favourite member of the group.)

listen to: all in my head (flex), squeeze, that's my girl, i liednot that kinda girl

7. tegan and sara - love you to death

one of my favorite releases soon turned into one of my favourite gigs this year, when i saw tegan and sara perform their latest album, love you to death, live at koko this june. though older fans may have been turned off by the more pop stylings of the duo, i found myself falling further in love with both them and the album. again, if tegan and sara are ever in a city near you, please buy a ticket to see them, if not just for their excellent between-song chats.

listen to: u-turn, BWU, dying to know, boyfriendstop desire, faint of heart, hang on to the night

8. courteneers - mapping the rendezvous

i really didn't hold back this year, writing another harsh review of the latest album by the courteeners, mapping the rendezvous. despite their lack of musical diversity, they still managed to demonstrate why they've become my generation's answer to the stone roses, climbing new heights every year simply through the dedication of their most loyal fans; me (still) included. 

listen to: finest hour, most important, the 17th, no one will ever replace us

9. two door cinema club - gameshow

though i saw the irish trio this year at leeds festival, i was fairly drunk and thus didn't remember the majority of the set, but re-listening to their latest album gameshow, released in october, brought back some of those hazy memories. shamefully, i only properly listened to this album earlier in the month, after it had been sat in the "your music" section of my spotify since its release. it was certainly worth the wait, and after overcoming their personal demons, the group have created a slice of 80s-inspired excellence. 

listen to: bad decisions, ordinary, lavender, je viens de la, invincible, good morning, fever 

10. the 1975 - i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it 

i know i said i wasn't putting this in any particular order, but if the amount of posts i've written about this band/album are anything to go by, this is by far my favourite release of the year, and maybe ever. when i first listened to the album, borrowed from my friend at uni, i was somewhat disappointed. i didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't a four minute instrumental track titled "please be naked".

fast forward ten months and i've seen them live three times - the third time was filmed and uploaded to vevo, and can be watched here - and very nearly cried at each. the album has been my go-to, forever sitting in the "top played" section of my itunes playlists, and every time i hear somebody else, it sounds like the first time all over again.

i honestly couldn't explain what it is about this album that's made me fall in love with it, and the band (specifically matt healy), once i got into it after those first few difficult listens. perhaps it's because they've made an album that speaks to clearly to our disenfranchised generation, terrified for the future under a trump presidency and post-brexit. or perhaps its because despite the deeply personal lyrics penned by matty himself, they somehow speak to millions of young people the world over, somehow describing exactly how we feel in excruciating detail. 

either way, this album for me has perfectly encapsulated the future of pop music, and for an album that was released less than a year ago, i have a feeling it's one i'll still be listening to some thirty years from now, up there alongside the smiths, new order, roxy music and joy division, and i'm still devastated that they didn't win the mercury prize for best album this year.

for now though, i'll be watching this on repeat and eagerly anticipating their new music in 2017.

listen to: love me, a change of heart, she's american, if i believe you, loving someone, UGH!, this must be my dream, somebody else

honourable mentions:

hayley kiyoko - gravel to tempo
fleur east - love, sax and flashbacks 
foxes - all i need 
carly rae jepsen - E•MO•TION side b
the japanese house - swim against the tide 

(these ones aren't technically new releases but throughout the year i've either newly discovered, or rediscovered them, and for that reason they deserve to be on this list:)

one direction - midnight memories/four/made in the A.M. (duh)
lady gaga - born this way/the fame/the fame monster
roxy music - avalon/flesh and blood 

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