Top 20 Albums 2016: #20-11

#11. Kuedo – Slow Knife

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If a retro-futuristic sounding album which sounds like the score of some obscure sci-fi film is likely to excite you then read on. Kuedo clearly takes inspiration from great composers like Mike Oldfield, Vangellis and Jean-Michel Jarre but puts his spin on it with different more ‘modern’ style drum patterns and loops, influence from dubstep and trap music. The stand out track is “In Your Sleep,” perhaps because it’s the only one to feature any vocals. These are provided, quite unexpectedly, by Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe, an unlikely pairing but one that works perfectly. Other great tracks include “Floating Forest” a haunting and eery dubstep effort which would not sound totally out of place in a Burial record.

#12. dvsn – Sept. 5th

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dsvn are a fairly elusive and media shy RnB act comprised of vocalist Daniel Daley and song writer / producer Nineteen85 from Toronto. After releasing several singles in 2015 they were picked up by fellow countryman Drake and signed to his OVO label. From then on dvsn (pronounced division) have never really looked back. Sept 5th is a slow, moody and slick piece of RnB inspired by the 90s which seems to be right on trend at the moment. Stand out tracks for me are “Try / Effortless,” and “Hallucinations,” which showcase Daley’s mesmerizing vocals and falsettos. The slickest RnB record of the year for me!

#13. Eight Bells – Landless

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Its seems like every other great metal band comes from Portland, Oregon at the moment and these 3 chicks are doing their city proud once more. Eight Bells make progressive, moody and melodic doom with uniquely sweet female vocals. In fact, I think their whole sound is pretty original as it cannot really be placed firmly into one particular metal genre. “Landless,” is so breath-taking that I think even non-metal fans would like it. A great piece of work that seems to get better with each listen and a must for anyone dabbling with metal music.

#14. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

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Blood Orange is British-American singer / songwriter Dev Hynes. You may not have heard much of his own work but the guy is prolific and has written written for artists such as Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira, FKA twigs, Florence and the Machine, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Chemical Brothers and Kylie to name but a few. So, you get the picture, this guy is ridiculously talented. Blood Orange is Hynes’ electronic RnB project which is now into the third album. Sonically, this album has a little bit of everything, inspired by funk, soul, disco and artists like Michael Jackson and Prince. “Freetown Sound,” also features a multitude of guest vocalists from Debbie Harry to Carly Rae Jepsen and even Nelly Furtado which give it almost a mixtape like feel. There are certainly many different ideas and themes going on this record, yet the album is concise, slick and a great listen.

#15. Sleigh Bells – Jessica Rabbit

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What do you get when you cross a hardcore punk guitarist with a former teen-pop group member? The answer is Sleigh Bells, who are a very noisy noisepop band. Now into their 4th album their sound has developed somewhat, the massive guitar sounds are still evident on genius tracks like, “It’s Just Us Now,” and “I Just Can’t Stand It,” but there is also some more synthy pop numbers in the mix too. Initially I thought these guys would just be some sort of novelty, one album wonder band, but their longevity is proving and this is their best release since the first with some outstanding head banging riffs that make it the most kick ass pop record of the year.

#16. Abra – Princess

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m a dead sucker for 80s pop and with the release of the single, “Cry Baby,” earlier this year my 80s pop cravings were met, big time! Abra is a female, solo project hailing from Atlanta and produces and writes all her music at home. It certainly gives the album a rather rugged, unpolished and bedroom pop type feel. Her style is very much in the RnB camp but with a huge emphasis on drum patterns and big synth which you’d get on many pop tracks of the 80s. “Princess,” only contains 6 tracks and lasts a mere 22 minutes, so it almost feels like a work in progress EP than a full blown album. But I can’t help but feel that Abra is leading up to something bigger and better in the future. Fans of early Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Janet Jackson and FKA Twigs should really dig this.

#17. Astronoid – Air

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Astronoid’s “Air” is a bit of an odd one for me. On paper it sounded genius, with bands such as Deafheaven and Alcest being the main influences, in reality I wasn’t quite sure, however, after several listens I found it to be one of the most uplifting and euphoric albums of 2016. Astronoid are a five piece band from Boston, they make rather tricky to describe music without sounding like a bit of a fud. Basically, if you like the idea of dream-pop, black metal and space rock all mixed up together then, this may just float your boat. Tracks are wonderfully melodic, powerful and mesmerising and for me, this is one of the most original albums of the year. So much so in fact that the terms, “dream-thrash” are getting branded about to describe their unique style. Anyway, call it what you want, I’m still a huge fan of this record regardless of what the latest hipsters are calling it.

#18. The Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love

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Many, including myself thought it would never happen. After 6 years in hiatus, the Swedish dream pop masters are back with their 4th album. This is their most electronic album to date and their most politically charged too. Tracks like, “Swedish Guns,” pan the gun industry in their home country and “We’ve Got Game,” focusing on racism and oppression, definitely not the images we are used to hearing about from the country. This album just oozes nostalgia with hazy synths, dancehall grooves and trippy beats and it may just be The Radio Dept. most cohesive album to date.

#19. Mr Oizo – All Wet

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Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr Oizo; DJ, film maker, film producer extraordinaire and dance music composer is back with his sixth full length album. Many of you will remember Mr Oizo from the massive Levis jeans advert back in 1999 featuring a certain fluffy character, Flat Eric. Well, its been a while since we’ve seen Flat Eric but he’s managed to land himself on the cover of the brand new LP. The latest effort from Oizo is pretty different from his previous, “The Church”, which was basically a full on minimal techno record. Most tracks on “All Wet,” include some sort of collaborations with some of the biggest names in pop and dance music. Guests include Charlie XCX, Peaches, Skrillex and Italian rapper Phra to name but a few. “All Wet,” is a glitchy, funky, electro-pop mashed up piece of frenetic fun. For me, Mr Oizo never disappoints and can always get a party started.

#20. Factory Floor – 25 25

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Listening to Factory Floor makes me feel a bit old. Should I still like this type of music? Is it still relevant? Is the reminiscing clouding my judgement? I’m not sure, but I know I’ve really enjoyed listening to 25-25 blaring out of my stereo on more than a few occasions this year. Factory Floor are signed to the legendary James Murphy’s (i.e. LCD Soundsystem) label, DFA Records, who is well known for picking up great electronic artists. It’s the London-based bands second album and its filled with hypnotic, minimal acid house and techno tracks that will have you flashbacking to warehouse rave parties of the 90s. It’s pretty evident that the 90s is making a comeback, whether that’s influenced in fashion, or music and these guys are doing the early dance music of the time a total justice with this latest release.