As we enter the new year, it's time to reflect on the amazing music that has been released in the past 12 months. Here are some of my favourite albums of the year, in no particular order:
Hellfire - Black Midi
Hellfire by Black Midi is an avant-garde, art-rock masterpiece. Through the album's 10 songs, Black Midi tell a bunch of bizarre stories over the most complex and chaotic instrumentals imaginable. My favourite track of the year is on this album, Sugar/Tzu. The horn arpeggios on this track are nothing short of ecstatic, and the crazy story of a psychopath at a boxing match is made only more exciting by the energetic and unpredictable drum rhythms. My other favourite tracks on this album are Eat Men Eat, Welcome To Hell, The Race is About to Begin and 27 Questions.
Blue Rev - Alvvays
Blue Rev by Alvvays manages to make me feel nostalgic and sentimental and just puts me in such a cozy headspace. Highlights for me are After the Earthquake, which just feels like it was ripped straight out of the 1980s, and Very Online Guy, which I feel is pretty apt for me.
Cave World - Viagra Boys
Cave World by Viagra Boys is just a really fun punk rock album. The album manages to weave 3 completely unrelated concepts together and finds connections that just shouldn't be there. These topics are ADD, conspiracy theorists and, hilariously, the "return to monke" meme. I find the album's political message to be completely on point, and if the punk rock instrumentals weren't entertaining enough the hilarious lyrics will have you sorted. My favourite tracks on this album are Troglodyte, Punk Rock Loser, The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis, Ain't No Thief, Big Boy, ADD and Return To Monke.
Melt My Eyez - Denzel Curry
Melt My Eyez See Your Future by Denzel Curry might be Denzel's best album to date. Denzel fuses old-school boom-bap rap with modern trap bangers over the most luscious jazz rap beats. The deluxe "Cold Blooded Soul" version takes this to another level by including a live jazz band in the mix. Walkin is probably my second favourite song of the year, after Sugar/Tzu. Other favourites from this album include Troubles, X-Wing, Angelz, Zatoichi, and The Ills.
NOT TiGHT - DOMi & JD BECK
I've been following DOMi & JD BECK on YouTube for a few years now, and I've always been transfixed by how talented they are, especially for their ages. NOT TiGHT solidifies them for me as staples in the world of modern jazz. My favourite tracks on this album are TWO SHRiMPS featuring Mac DeMarco and TAKE A CHANCE featuring Anderson .Paak.
Raw Data Feel - Everything Everything
I only recently became a fan of Everything Everything after discovering their 2016 album Get To Heaven, which quickly became one of my favourites of all time. While Raw Data Feel isn't quite on the same level, it is still extremely good. In Raw Data Feel, Everything Everything covers a range of topics relating to computing, data, robots and the future, and even features some AI-written lyrics. My favourite tracks are HEX, My Computer, Jennifer and Leviathan.
Once Twice Melody - Beach House
One Twice Melody by Beach House really puts the "dream" in dream pop. When I listen to this album I'm transported into another plane of existence. Despite running for 18 tracks this album never gets boring. My favourites from this album are Pink Funeral, Once Twice Melody, The Bells and Superstar.
The Forever Story - JID
The Forever Story by JID is just jam-packed with soul-infused banger after banger after banger. JID's rapping on this album is some of the most interesting and entertaining I've heard for a long while. It honestly reminds me of the first time I listened to Kendrick - and that's about the best compliment I could possibly give. My favourite tracks on this album are Can't Punk Me featuring EARTHGANG, Raydar, Surround Sound featuring 21 Savage and Baby Tate, and Dance Now featuring Kenny Mason.
It's Almost Dry - Pusha T
It's Almost Dry by Pusha T has some of the highest quality production of any rap album this year, and that shouldn't be surprising, since it was produced by both Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Pusha T also delivers on this album, as should be expected. My favourite tracks on this album are Brambleton, Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes, Dreaming Of The Past, Diet Coke, Rock N Roll and Call My Bluff.
I Love You Jennifer B - Jockstrap
This year I discovered Jockstrap through their song Robert with Injury Reserve. Pretty quickly I got addicted to their EP Wicked City due to the completely unorthodox way it combines beautiful, acoustic, singer-songwriter music with insane electronic glitch pop. When I Love You Jennifer B came out I was not disappointed. It takes this idea and goes further with it, mixing the two clashing worlds together into something greater than the sum of its parts. My favourite tracks from this album are Jennifer B, Greatest Hits, Concrete over Water, Debra and Glasgow.
Cheat Codes - Black Thought/Danger Mouse
This collab album by Black Thought and Danger Mouse is such a warm, pleasant listen. Black Thought manages to bring the best of 90s rap out with his performance, and Danger Mouse's beats are beautifully luscious and rich. The album also has some amazing features, including Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, MF DOOM, A$AP Rocky, Run The Jewels and Conway the Machine. My favourite tracks are Cheat Codes, The Darkest Part, Because, Belize, Strangers and Salt Water.
Kings Disease III - Nas
Nas has been on an unstoppable run for the last few years, ever since started working with Hit-Boy. Hit-Boy and Nas go together like peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cream, or spaghetti and meatballs. What I'm trying to say is they are such a perfect pairing. On the opening track, Nas says "They argue KD1, KD2, and Magic, what's harder? When KD3 goes harder than all of them.". He isn't wrong, KD3 goes hard, all while having the most buttery, warm production courtesy of Hit-Boy. My favourite tracks are Ghetto Reporter, Legit, Reminisce, I'm on Fire, Get Light and First Time.
Ants From Up There - Black Country New Road
I did a lot of travelling this year, and in the months I was away I had this album on repeat. Nothing will ever feel as special as listening to Concorde while drinking champagne on the London Eye, or Chaos Space Marine early in the morning while on the train, watching the European countryside roll by, dreaming about what sorts of things you might get up to next. This album has already cemented itself as one of the most nostalgic pieces of music in my life. My favourite tracks are Chaos Space Marine, Concorde and The Place Where He Inserted the Blade.
Mr Morale and the Big Steppers - Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar was the first rapper I got into. Before Kendrick, I didn't get it. Good kid, m.A.A.d city changed everything. It was a dark and empty time in between DAMN and Mr Morale, but when it dropped it was like coming home again. As much as I enjoyed Mr Morale on my first few listens, I didn't fully appreciate its brilliance until I saw Kendrick live in December. Just like when I was younger and I listened to good kid m.A.A.d city for the first time, something clicked, and I was able to see so much more depth than I ever expected. My favourite tracks are N95, Die Hard, Father Time, Rich Spirit, Purple Hearts, Count Me Out, Savior, Auntie Diaries, Mr Morale and Mirror.
Time Skiffs - Animal Collective
This year I also discovered Animal Collective and fell in love with their deeply weird, surreal almost psychedelic music. Time Skiffs continues this trend. I love the use of bespoke instruments in Animal Collective's music. My favourite songs from Time Skiffs include Prestor John, Dragon Slayer, Strung With Everything and We Go Back.
Albums that could have made this list but didn't quite include $oul $old $eparately - Freddie Gibbs, Drill Music In Zion - Lupe Fiasco, LOUIE - Kenny Beats, Aethiopes - Billy Woods, The Ruby Cord - Richard Dawson, SOS - SZA, Man Plays The Horn - Cities Aviv, The Elephant Man's Bones - Roc Marciano, and NO THANK YOU - Little Simz.