Spoiler Alert: No Solange, No James Blake, No Bon Iver, lots of movie soundtracks and Kanye West. If you wanna stop reading now, go for it, I don’t care. But you’re gonna miss out on some decent shit you probably didn’t know about. Up to you. Here are the Top 24 Albums of 2016.
24. ROD MODELL - mediterranea [echospace]
23. babyfather - bbf hosted by dj escrow [Hyperdub]
22. kaitlyn aurelia smith - ears [western vinyl]
21. murcof x wagner - statea [infiné]
20. illum sphere - glass [ninja tune]
19. A$AP MOb - cozy tapes vol 1 [RCA]
18. nicolas jaar - sirens [other people]
17. alex somers - captain fantastic (Music from the film) [invada]
16. Mark Ernestus' ndagga rhythm force - yermande [ndagga]
15. Calibre - Grow [the nothing special]
14. ryuichi sakamoto, alva noto & bryce dessner - the revenant (original motion picture soundtrack) [new regency music]
13. carla dal forno - you know what it’s like [blackest ever black]
12. anohni - hopelessness [secretly canadian]
11. KENDRICK LAMAR - untitled unmastered. [interscope records]
10. kanye west - the life of pablo [def jam]
I think Kanye’s entry on this years list is just as scandalous as Drake’s was last year. Scandalous to who, Bill? Who of any importance is actually reading this list thinking “Holy shit he added Kanye, the music world has been turned on it’s head!” Get a grip, nobody cares.
So let’s move forward and talk about this narcissist’s album. Truth be told, I never listened to Kanye West before this album. That shocked a few of my friends who were happy to keep telling me how amazing his early stuff was. I’m sure it was but I just didn’t care about him. Not that I care about him now but one day I inexplicably found myself watching the live stream of his fashion show at MSG in NY. He premiered the album and I was like “Damn, there’s some really good shit on here.” So I bought the album and was thoroughly impressed with what I heard. I mean, say what you will about him as a person, and there is a lot to say, he is talented and knows his way around the studio. Some prime examples of that here would be “Ultralight Beam”, “Feedback”, “Real Friends” and “Wolves”. Not to mention the collab with Kendrick Lamar on “No More Parties…” This album is fucking great, not sorry.
9. john beltran - everything at once [delsin]
This was a latecomer to the list as I just discovered it a few weeks ago. I love John Beltran and have been a fan of his music for years. I was shocked and excited to find out he released this in November. So I binged listened to it and fell in love. Sublime, blissful, melancholic, all words to describe his sound. If you like Mathew Jonson, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and the like, then you should get into this. The song “Everything At Once” is what I wish Burial was making these days. There I go, ripping Burial again. I need to relax. I don’t know who I think I am.
8. david bowie - blackstar [columbia]
After he died and all the cryptic lyrics and information surrounding this album came to life, I swore to myself that this would be ranked #1 on the list. Just based on how fucking genius he was as a musician and to be able to go out in that way. To put together such an incredible album in which you sing about your sickness and impending death, one that oh by the way, you were hiding from the public?! In an age where anyone in the public eye has their life under an intense microscope and scrutiny, he managed to pull this off. I literally got chills. It was/is the greatest swan song a musician has ever had. But alas, the rest of the year happened and some better albums were released so I couldn’t put it as number one but in my heart of hearts it is there. Respect and R.I.P., David Bowie.
7. yves tumor - serpent music [pan]
Saw this on a lot of lists this year. Well deserved in my opinion. It’s dripping with Dean Blunt/Hype Williams influence throughout and I ain’t mad. Very versatile, never pigeonholing and keeping the listener guessing. I still can’t get the image of the bare ass apron aesthetic out of my head but that’s not your problem.
6. a tribe called quest - we got it from here…thank you 4 your service [epic]
Expectations were low. First album in 18 years? The other albums after Midnight Marauder were eh…I did not expect much from this. But fuck, Tribe stepped up to the plate and delivered. Big time. First 3 songs right out the gate are mega jams and you realize immediately this is gonna be something special. Everything slows down a bit from there and for the untrained ear or the bandwagon millennial Tribe listener, that’s where it might lose you. But when you really sit down and listen to the second half of this album, you realize thats where all the magic lies. Vintage low slung Tribe jams all around. Jazz, funk and an amazing contribution from Jack White puts this in the top tier of all time Tribe Called Quest albums (and therefore all time hip hop albums) right under Low End Theory and MM.
5. serpentwithfeet - blisters [tri angle]
I pulled the “GOD DAMN!” face so many times whilst listening to this album. His fucking voice is so powerful it literally raised the hairs on my neck and I just got a haircut today so there weren’t even any hairs to begin with. What I’m trying to say is that this shit is beautiful. This was a latecomer for me but as I sit here now typing this, I have listened to this album 15x in a row no joke and have no intentions on shutting it off. This is the beauty of living alone, when you're an obsessive music nerd you can listen to songs and albums on repeat and not give a shit that it may annoy someone.
4. radiohead - a moon shaped pool [xl recordings]
I went on a pretty lengthy fan boy ramble in the top songs section so I’ll keep this one short. AMSP is an alluring album that creates cinematic moments in my head that turn into emo moments that turn into self deprecating moments.
3. mark pritchard - under the sun [warp records]
This was passed on to me by my dear friend Natalia Escobar. I asked her to tell me some of her favorite albums of the year and she yelled (in whatsapp) “Mark Pritchard!” …and then proceeded to name some other stuff that was not good. But I forgive her cus she introduced me to this brilliant album. She usually has great taste in music so if you want to ask her for some hot tips you can go to her Facebook page here. Tell her Francisco sent you.
2. huerco s. - for those of you who have never [proibito]
Baby Hercs! I have no idea why I just thought of that nickname or even worse, decided to type it out (I don’t even know the guy, personally) but I’m sticking with it. Baby Hercs delivering a curveball with an ambient album as his sophomore release. Love love love ambient. I straight up listen to ambient music at home while on my computer. Some people find that weird. I don’t know. I think I had a girlfriend once who hated ambient and didn’t understand how I could casually listen to it. I also feel like I told this story in last years “Best of” list. Was a boring story then and still a boring story now. Point is, I enjoy listening to ambient music so when I heard Huerco S. was releasing an album full of it, I rejoiced.
1. frank ocean - blonde [boys don't cry]
I hate hype. It’s part of being a contrarian. So you can imagine my feelings when all I heard about for years was this new Frank Ocean album. “It’s gonna get released next week!…No it’s not, wait, it’s been pushed back.” I feel like I heard that every week for 2 years. “Just fucking put it out already!”, I would scream to myself, getting all frustrated cus I obviously have no idea what it takes to release an album.
So when he did, I kinda went into it with indifferent ears. I didn’t even like it at first and was like, so this is what all the hype is about? But then I spent a week in Ibiza and my friend Nadine was playing it in her car every single day. So for a week I drove around Ibiza with this as my soundtrack and only then did it really sink in and hit me. I actually asked her to keep rewinding one part of “White Ferrari” cus I needed to make a video with my phone of the passing Balearic hillside. I mmmeeeean…please think about that for a second. Ridiculous. I became obsessed. Everything about this album is genius and you can hear how much attention to detail was put into it. Very rarely does anything live up to the hype, especially in the music industry. Frankie O definitely did and then some. I bought two copies of the vinyl and a “blonde” air freshener for Nadine’s car.