Half-time report: The 20 best albums of 2016 so far
MMOTHS flutter past Dexys, Beyonce tussles witth Bowie, Anohni is kept off the top spot - it's Jim Carroll's countdown of the best records of the opening half of 2016
Cover art for (from left) Anohni, Kaytranada, James Blake and Anderson .Pak
We’re halfway there. While 2016 will be noted in some quarters as a year when the grim reaper stalked rock and pop, it’s also a year which has has produced a hell of a lot of great music to date. There’s way more to come - expect upcoming albums from Blood Orange (out this Friday), The Avalanches and Roisin Murphy to feature in any end-of-year list. For now, though, here’s a completely subjective list of 20 albums you need to hear from the year to date.
20 Dexys - Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul
No-one does passion like Kevin Rowland and this collection of covers on his run as Dexys is full of the right stuff.
19 M Craft - Blood Moon
The Aussie-born, London based songwriter Martin Craft headed to a cabin on the edge of the Mojave desert in California for his third album and the result is a record of delicate, tender, heart-bursting songs fill of spirit and ghostlight.
18 Overhead, The Albatross - Learning to Growl
Dynamic and immense piece of work from the Dublin-based band and full-time members of the grammar police.
17 MMOTHS - Luneworks
Spine-tingling electronic music manoeuvres from the super-talented Newbridge producer.
16 Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered
An album of offcuts, outtakes and unfinished tracks from the maestro behind To Pimp A Butterfly show there’s plenty more to marvel about from this quarter.
15 David Bowie - Blackstar
The last hurrah from the Thin White Duke was a musical break from the old routine, an album of loose-limbed and refreshing insights and outsights, all the more poignant because of his untimely death.
14 Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
Héloïse Letissier is 2016’s new favourite pop star with this array of vivacious and visceral songs where she gets to vamp, scat and pout with rare aplomb.
Playlist: Jim Carroll's Top 20 albums of 2016
13 Beyoncé - Lemonade
An album of real dynamite and we don’t mean the catcall to go see “Becky with the good hair”. Bey’s latest release swings and thumps galore with edgy, raw panache and poise. You wouldn’t mess with her.
12 Whitney - Light Upon the Lake
Lovely shapes and shimmers on the Chicago band’s timewarp debut album with songs full of easy-going, romantic, retro drift and dust.
11 The Comet Is Coming - Channel the Spirits
Derring-do grooves which holler and cajole you to move your feet from the trio featuriing saxaphonist Shabaka Hutchings, one of the brightest new-school jazz talents across the Irish Sea
10 Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
We always knew the Chicago rapper knew his onions, but this ambitious, compelling, joyful, audacious and enticing set pushes him into the heart of the action.
9 Leon Vynehall - Rojus (Designed to Dance)
The best album of 2016 influenced by a National Geographic documentary on exotic birds, the UK producer’s new album is a joy with its warm, shimmering and exciting grooves.
8 Ciaran Lavery - Let Bad In
Beautifully toned and turned-out, the Antrim man’s second album shows that he’s one of the few in the singer- songwriter stock with a true gift for tough, soulful and distinctive broody introspection.
7 Santigold - 99c
You won’t find a brighter, breezier, bolder album than 99c hanging around this year. You certainly won’t find anything as rich, vibrant and giddy dealing with themes of narcissism, consumerism and distraction.
6 Rusangano Family - Let the Dead Bury the Dead
Let the Dead Bury the Dead feels more like 2016 than other Irish release around. God Knows and Murli trade lines, yarns and stories about identity, equality and diversity, while producer MynameisJohn digs out a sweet funky spot to bed down the verbals.
5 The Gloaming - The Gloaming 2
Powerful, rich and deeply textured new adventures in traditional music from the famous five. A second album which leaps and jumps further out into the wilds.
4 Kaytranada - 99.9%
Infectious and downright addictive bop and flow from the Haitian-Canadian producer who’s making all the right moves when it comes to pop which is full of disco, soul, house and hip-hop.
3 James Blake - The Colour In Anything
No one else finds so many galaxies in the spaces between the notes like Blake. His third album is a beautifully adorned and pitched landscape of blue moods aided and abetted by contributions from Justin Vernon, Frank Ocean, Rick Rubin and others.
2 Anohni - Hopelessness
Meet the new-school eco warrior. The artist formerly known as Antony & The Johnsons’ new album is a brave, bold and bracing masterpiece where she tackles climate change and socio-political themes against next-level musical machinations from Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never.
1 Anderson .Paak - Malibu
The funkiest album of the year and make no bones about it. Over warm, seductive hip-hop and R&B grooves, Paak gives it socks with rhymes about life, family, surroundings and community.