Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top 40 albums of 2016

40. The Weeknd - Starboy
39. Charly Cole - Gotcha
38. Jem - Beachwood Canyon
37. Netsky - 3
36. The Shires - My Universe
35. Scala & Kolacny Brothers - Solstice
34. K3 - 10,000 Luchtballonnen
33. Douwe Bob - Fool Bar
32. Gwen Stefani - This Is What The Truth Feels Like
31. Justice - Woman
30. Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman
29. Robbie Williams - The Heavy Entertainment Show
28. Kygo - Cloud Nine
27. Lauren Aquilina - Isn't It Strange?
26. Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Familia
25. Colbie Caillat - The Malibu Sessions
24. Bastille - Wild World
23. Tove Lo - Lady Wood
22. Måns Zelmerlöw - Chameleon
21. Lukas Graham - Lukas Graham
20. Rihanna - Anti
19. Ward Thomas - Cartwheels
18. Birdy - Beautiful Lies
17. Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion Side B
16. Tom Odell - Wrong Crowd
15. Fifth Harmony - 7/27
14. Rachel Platten - Wildfire
13. Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
12. Emeli Sandé - Long Live The Angels
11. Real Lies - Real Life


10. KT Tunstall - Kin

Kicking off the top ten is the shockingly good new album by KT Tunstall. I've loved KT since Eye To The Telescope but, for me personally, it's been diminishing returns from that point onwards. But the Scottish singer-songwriter rediscovered the magic this time around and the spirit of that fantastic debut album is present and correct here. I'd recommend checking out Hard Girls (complete with a great video featuring Melanie C), Maybe It's A Good Thing, Evil Eye, It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am and the late ABBA-esque end of album beauty Everything Has Its Shape. Also check out the song All Or Nothing, which was on an EP released by KT earlier in the year and would have also made a great addition to this album.

9. Pet Shop Boys - Super

The legendary electronic duo consisting of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe returned with the follow-up to 2013's fantastic Electric this year and Super - another Stuart Price produced effort - was more of the same, but a bit brighter, more colourful and more poptastic. Though Super might not quite hit the heights of Electric, it has its fair share of brilliance and is a great example of why acts in their 60s shouldn't feel the need to only release covers or MOR blandness - this album proves that if you still have a creative flair then you should exploit it. My highlights are singles The Pop Kids and the Reggaeton-inspired Twenty-Something, Burn - which could have been on Kylie's Light Years or an 80s PSB album, the more melancholy Sad Robot World and the lyrically excellent The Dictator Decides.

8. Beyoncé - Lemonade

Beyoncé is becoming a pretty incredible albums artist and the brilliant Lemonade was a more than worthy follow-up to her self-titled 2013 album. So good lyrically for reasons covered at length elsewhere and the narrative flow of the album is also superb, making the accompanying film something not to be missed. My highlights are Hold Up, the fantastic and unexpected country track Daddy Lessons, All Night and Sorry, but the whole thing is a work of genius.

7. Britney Spears - Glory

2013's Britney Jean was nice in parts but sounded very cheaply produced and not really worthy of Britney's legendary status. But Glory happily marks the return of the Britney that was so critcially lauded on Blackout. The production here is slick and excellent and Britney's vocals have regained the magic, character and personality that made her such a star in the first place. Do You Wanna Come Over? could have been a smash in 2004 - yet still sounds relevant now - singles Make Me and Slumber Party are sultry slow jams, Man On The Moon and Just Luv Me are standout album tracks while Better - Britney's attempt at tropical house - and Liar are so good that it's astonishing they didn't make it onto the main album.

6. Lady Gaga - Joanne

Joanne is a breath of fresh air from Lady Gaga. 2013's Artpop was extremely good in places but perhaps just a bit too wacky on the whole for me to go back to over and over again. Joanne is the complete opposite to that album. A paired back, stripped down offering that is quite unlike the Gaga that the public is now used to. It's surprisingly the ballads that are my highlights on here, considering Gaga is not exactly well known as a balladeer. The title track Joanne and the current single Million Reasons are absolutely gorgeous. Of the more uptempo tracks, Diamond Heart, John Wayne, Dancin' In Circles and Just Another Day are all fantastic. This album should be huge but then this Gaga is a very different propsect to the enigma that the public fell in love with in 2009. I would urge people to give her new sound a chance though, she really is still one of the most talented artists around.

5. Craig David - Following My Intuition

Turn of the century star Craig David was inescapable from late 1999 to about 2003. He was at the forefront of the UK garage scene for years but quickly disappeared from the limelight after that save for the odd hit later in the decade. After years in the wilderness, in 2016 he has essentially coming back to sell his old style to a brand new, younger fanbase, many of whom do not remember his previous success. A very unusual propsect to see an artist essentially pushing the reset button on his career and seeing almost the same level of success second time around, with the same sort of music (lest we forget Take That became mature balladeers in their second iteration), but it's a fantastic comeback story. Anyway, Following My Intuition is clearly Craig David's best album since his debut, Born To Do It, melding relevant and brilliant production, strong melodies, Craig's vocal/rapping hybrid style and featuring a range of genres, much like that 2000 opus. Aside from the many excellent hit singles pulled from this album, the fantastic 16 - a mash up of Fill Me In and Skrillex, Diplo and Bieber's Where Are Ü Now - and Don't Go are my other highlights, both are absolutely huge.

4. All Saints - Red Flag

Studio 1 was cruelly underrated when All Saints made their first comeback in 2006, so I was really pleased to see them get another chance and this time the public took to them much more warmly, this album going top three in the UK. Perhaps 2006 was just too soon to come back, by 2016 many of their original fans will have made the transition to Radio 2 and be happy to hear one of their favourite acts of their youth back on the airwaves with strong new material. This was an album with less street style and attitude than Studio 1, and an altogether more mature prospect, but then All Saints always had that classy air about them anyway with hit singles like Never Ever, Pure Shores and Black Coffee. That sound very much continues on this album with the gorgeous lead single One Strike, as well as This Is A War and Who Hurt Who. Tropical house influenced One Woman Man is what All Saints would sound like if they were starting out in 2016 while Ratchet Behaviour is not too far removed from some of their more beat-driven singles from the late 90s, like Bootie Call.

3. Little Mix - Glory Days

From one UK girlband to another, but to one very much at the stage of their career where All Saints were between 1998 and 2000, i.e. the imperial phase. X Factor 2011 winners Little Mix have gone from strength to strength over the years, they could have so easily fizzled out slowly after second album DNA but instead came back charged up on 2015's Get Weird, and its lead single Black Magic, which took them up into a new gear. They've taken that success and gone one further with Glory Days, which is an even bigger and brighter pop album laiden with huge hooks, stunning harmonies and a minimal amount of tropical house. Bandwagon jumping is not really Little Mix's style, they've very much got their own distinct sound and it's shown here on the likes of lead single Shout Out To My Ex, Touch, Private Show and Power. Co-writers make their own presence felt on the likes of Oops and You Gotta Not, which are very clearly Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor songs, though both are pretty good. No More Sad Songs is the sole tropical bop and an obvious candidate for future single, while Nothing Else Matters is a lovely mid-tempo offering. A fantastic collection and I'm intrigued to see how big the girls can get from's hard to see what's left to achieve in the UK so worldwide domination is surely next?

2. Sia - This Is Acting

An album of songs rejected by other people might not sound like the most exciting album concept but even Sia's rejected songs are a million times better than songs most people could ever dream of writing. I've been willing Sia to become huge for almost two decades and when she finally became so a couple of years ago she released 1000 Forms Of Fear, which was good, but not really as much my cup of tea as a lot of her earlier albums. But 2016's This Is Acting marks the return of the melodic Sia I've loved for so long, sounding so energised. It really is hit after hit, and it's astonishing that some of these were turned down. Who in their right mind, other than Rihanna, who can just about get away with it, would pass on Cheap Thrills and Reaper? And was it really a good idea for Shakira to say no to the astounding Move Your Body? Alive, Broken Glass, Bird Set Free and One Million Bullets are also excellent...and then came the deluxe edition. This album was made even better in Q4 with the additions of fantastic single The Greatest, the hit version of Cheap Thrills with Sean Paul, Alan Walker's Eurodance reworking of Move Your Body and the lovely Confetti. Without doubt my favourite Sia album to date and one that has positioned her even more as one of the world's biggest new superstars. In a hugely ageist music industry, that's no mean feat at 41 years old.

1. Delta Goodrem - Wings Of The Wild

In a year that there's an album released by Delta Goodrem, it's usually a safe bet to top my end of year chart (2007's Delta excepted). And it's no different in 2016, with the Australian legend returning in the summer with her fifth studio album, Wings Of The Wild. Immediately my favourite album of hers since 2004's dark opus Mistaken Identity, Wings Of The Wild had a few familiar tracks on it before release, with the career revitalising Aussie #1 Wings, the lovely piano ballad Only Human and gorgeous string-laden ballad Dear Life.

Enough is my favourite track on the album other than Wings, very much in the template of the 2007 epic Believe Again, but with verses from female rapper Gizzle, so a very different prospect for Delta indeed. Elsehwere it's probably easier to list what I don't love than what I do. I suppose I could live without I'm Not Giving Up, In The Name Of Love and Encore, though all three are good. But the rest of the album is stunning. Feline and Hold On are in the sublime vein of Wings, her cover of I Believe In A Thing Called Love by The Darkness is seriously beautiful, Heavy is a classic Delta ballad, The River is thumping power pop reminiscent of the Mistaken Identity era and Just Call is really uplifitng and joyful. Overall this album just further confirms why Delta will likely forever remain my favourite artist, her quality just never dips.

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