With Lemonade – an album as good as her self titled one of 2014 but this time with added social consciousness, anger, and a killer visual component - it was Beyonce’s year and everyone else had to find some space for themselves.
The beauty of the other nine albums here is the space they made was not merely leftovers.
As you’ll see from the reviews (click on the titles below) there are albums here which would be genius works to rule the field in any other year. And as you’ll see from the previous post here (look right), there are more than a few in the 11-20 pack which could have fit in the top 10.
Some found space by hitting some of the same marks of social consciousness and anger, such as the all power/no respite A. B. Original, the perceptive and penetrative Peep Tempel and the more diffused but gimlet-eyed Radiohead.
Others explored similar issues but with their smarts wrapped in deceptively mellow soul, like Solange, or deceptively accessible country, such as Brandy Clark.
While some looked inwards – Frank Ocean’s weekend release of effectively a double set – others took the personal and made them expansive and universal, in the kind of final statements only two of the greats could pull off: David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.
And then there was an album which, to be honest, is in this top 10 in part because as brilliant as it is, it is carried still on the wonderful memory of one of the greatest nights at a gig I’ve ever attended: Kate Bush.
All that and still there wasn’t room for a pretty fabulous album in Drake’s Views. Can I have a Top 21 list? No? Sigh.
So, here are the top 10 albums of 2016 as selected by no one else, voted on by nobody else and reflecting nothing more than one man’s opinion.
Well, that and their quality.
Beyonce – Lemonade
Peep Tempel – Joy
David Bowie – Black Star
A.B. Original – Reclaim Australia
Frank Ocean – Blond/Endless
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Kate Bush – Before The Dawn
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
Solange – A Seat At The Table
Brandy Clark – Big Day In A Small Town
And as an afterthought, some stats from the top 20 of 2016.
There are nine albums from female acts, all of them solo artists, and 11 from male acts, five of them solo.
Americans contributed six albums, the British sent in four, Canada and Mali had one each and eight came from Australians.
Eight albums were released on non-major labels, including six of the eight Australian releases.
Two of the artists died before the end of the year.
Two albums came from the one family.
One album was essentially a two-parter, though the first was only available online as a “visual album”.
It was one of two visual albums on the list.
Nine albums contributed at least one song to the Top 20 Songs of 2016 list.
No animals were harmed in the making of this list, but one computer died in the process.