Here are the 100 greatest LPs of 2016, according to Crack Magazine. Visit 2016.crackmagazine.net for more end of year coverage over the coming weeks.
MITSKIPuberty 2 Dead Oceans
Mitski sold out a stream of shows this year in the wake of her remarkably honest fourth album, Puberty 2. Musically, it was hard to pigeonhole: punches of skronky noise flicker, drum machines stutter, but rich guitars, strings and Mitski’s goosebump-inducing vocals permeated most deeply. Lyrically, it was easier to define: surely this is as close to poetry as songwriting gets. Lavishly wrought, yet starkly human.
KAYTRANADA99.9% XL Recordings
We’re going to be listening to this record for years to come. Just in time for the summer, Kaytranada proved once and for all that being a SoundCloud phenomenon can’t stop you from making a full-length full of gloss, warmth and lively exuberance. From a bank of day-glo samples and and razor-sharp beats, the producer and an ensemble cast of collaborators created one of 2016’s most rounded and enjoyable party records.
HINDSLeave Me Alone Lucky Number
Judging by the support Hinds garnered from the international press, the band’s wonderfully chaotic, unpretentious approach to garage rock was gratefully received. The Madrid four-piece’s ramshackle flush of energy and effortless chemistry, felt in the loose surf guitar riffs and off-the-cuff harmonies, made Leave Me Alone’s 12 modern day love songs sound fresh despite their explicitly retro influences.
PANGEAIn Drum Play Hessle Audio
Pangaea’s debut album landed when the big room techno proliferation looked as though it might turn back inwards as the UK struggled to hold onto larger spaces to host underground sounds. But In Drum Play felt more akin in spirit to the mythos of intimate nights like FWD>> and DMZ in that its daring fusions of sounds were more likely to delight the select crowd than satisfy the masses. And most importantly, the album felt natural, with all the disparate influences gently merged for a cohesive body of work.
SKEPTAKonnichiwa Boy Better Know
Grime rarely flourishes with the LP format – its spontaneous magic is best captured via sketchy footage and radio broadcasts. But despite Konnichiwa’s flaws, this was the sound of Skepta winning after his genre had been ditched by the industry and stigmatised by the media, and to see the Tottenham producer and MC rewarded for returning to his roots, regaining his integrity and raising a middle-finger to the major label snakes was totally exhilarating.
RAE SREMMURDSremmLife 2 Interscope / Ear Drummers
On the much-anticipated follow-up to the hit-machine that was their debut, Rae Sremmurd gleefully threw any artistic inhibitions out the window. Swae Lee’s unique songwriting style and scratchy squawks were offset by the forceful delivery of his brother Slim Jxmmi, who practically exploded on the aptly titled opener Start A Party. The Gucci Mane collaboration Black Beatles was a banger for the ages, and Set The Roof saw the brothers team up with crunk emperor Lil Jon, acknowledging the forefather of their philosophy – an unapologetic expression of youthful energy.
RIHANNAANTI Roc Nation
In an online culture of piping-hot takes and quick turnarounds on album verdicts, it’s albums like ANTI which justify the end-of-year reflection period in music journalism. As we waited for Rihanna’s eighth record to be some kind of spectacle – a landmark release to celebrate a decade in the game – ANTI emerged low-key and unbothered. At a glance, it seemed uninteresting. Rihanna looked directionless, flitting between styles with no real bite. What felt like aimlessness, in retrospect, was emblematic of a blissful, drifting freedom. Months later and hidden shades and undertones are still being discovered in ANTI. The weightlessness of Work, the cold stare of Desperado and the triumphant glow of Kiss It Better. A career highlight from an artist who continues to elude classification.
ANDERSON .PAAKMalibu Steel Wool
The second LP from California native .Paak was perhaps the finest hip-hop confessional since good kid m.A.A.d city. But while the more notable moments of Kendrick’s opus detailed the pain of adolescence, Malibu’s highlights showed us a man coming to terms with multiple traumas – an absent father, a gambling mother, a spell of homelessness. Heavy indeed, yet standout tracks like The Season / Carry Me and Am I Wrong flowed with all the breezy, irresistible soul you’d expect from any true West Coast star.
PJ HARVEYThe Hope Six Demolition Project Island Records
The Hope Six Demolition Project’s lyrical content drew heavily from PJ Harvey’s wanderings to places of social struggle and warfare, including Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. Where 2011‘s Let England Shake existed in a century-old dialogue that leant itself to tearful melancholy, Hope Six was upfront, stark and contemporary. The connections between Harvey’s lyrical inspirations and her intent weren’t always easy to decipher, but the power of her delivery mirrored the determination of an artist who’s never afraid to embrace the pain.
YGStill Brazy 400 / CTE / Def Jam
Still Brazy idealised YG as the Westside’s most credible current representative. Much could be made of the throwback L.A. vibe defining these beats, but YG wasn’t paying homage here so much as inserting himself into a tradition. There’s no shortage of triumphalism in hip-hop, but when it’s presented in such an engaging storytelling style it’s easier to embrace. You couldn’t help but smirk along with the Bool, Balm & Bollective narrative, which ultimately humanised YG in ways a dozen DJ Mustard smashes never could.