What happens when you take 12 months, 24 five-star album reviews, 26 extra picks carefully selected from dozens of suggestions, and 37 Edge writers? A comprehensive look at 2016’s best music, of course! Yesterday we glanced at the first 20 records in tweet-length doses, and today our attentions turn to the internationally-leaning batch that just edged them out. Check back daily until we announce the winner on December 31st and have a listen to our Spotify playlist to catch up with all the music in question in one handy place.
30: Skepta – Konnichiwa
2016 has seen an unprecedented rise in popularity for grime as a genre, with previously underground artists now fully within the public lexicon. Its popularity has even travelled across the pond, with the likes of Drake getting involved by giving verses to Dave and signing to Skepta’s Boy Better Know label. But, even without that international endorsement, Konnichiwa has broken boundaries with its commentary on life in inner-city London, use of heavy bass beats, and intricate songwriting. From picking up awards for videos that cost £80 to the Mercury Prize for the best British album of the year, he has easily cemented himself as one of the scene’s most successful figures.
Despite being first released in France back in 2014, it two years for Christine And The Queens to finally make an impact across the channel after stunning performance at Glastonbury and on The Graham Norton Show skyrocketed Chaleur Humaine and single ‘Tilted’ up the charts. The provocative synthpop singer, born Héloïse Letissier, probes subjects rarely explored in mainstream music, never shying away from gender identity or sexual orientation. Accompanied by a mix of subtle pianos and electronic nuances, there really is nothing you cannot admire about the former drag club performer, whose sudden breakthrough into the English-speaking scene has surely been one of 2016’s most memorable.
Holy Ghost is the punk album that could. Given the rapid ascension of Philly emo rockers Modern Baseball, it was expected that sooner rather than later they would produce a true star turn of an album, and that’s exactly what they delivered. Packed equally with excellent punk tunes led by catchy riffs and choruses – see ‘Wedding Singer’ and ‘Note To Self’ – and heartfelt and emotional songs such as ‘Everyday’ and ‘Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind,’ Holy Ghost is an entertaining and emotional ride. Closing track ‘Just Another Face’ might just be an emo anthem for the ages, and Holy Ghost is a truly special album from a truly special band.
27: Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
Coloring Book is an apt name for Chance The Rapper’s eclectic third mixtape, which fuses genres together into a rainbow of a record – blending gospel with hip-hop makes for a diverse range of sounds that never leaves you bored from one track to the next. Chance isn’t alone, either – producers include Canadian sensation KAYTRANADA and guest artists range from Justin Bieber to Kanye West. Mixtape highlights are lead single ‘No Problem,’ which features Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, and ‘All Night’ with Knox Fortune, produced by KAYTRANADA, which I could listen to – you guessed it – all night long.
Even though Eric Prydz, a decade removed from the chart hit for which he is best known, is close to having a different alias for each day of the year, each of his projects in 2016 has demonstrated an unwavering focus. Opus, his first extended collection under his birth name, earns the moniker by dipping only twice over its 19 tracks below the five minute mark, ranging from raw throbs of retro synth euphoria (‘Som Sas,’ ‘Moody Mondays’) to revitalisations of swirling highlights from many a decidedly epic live set. It even seals loose ends in his archives – after a radio premiere in 2012, this vast microcosm of how Prydz makes crowds tick is the first sign of ‘Every Day’ in physical form.
A confident new album which certainly gives Grande a more decisive and clear artistic identity, Dangerous Woman represents a much more mature style than her previous work, cashing out powerful domination with well-constructed beats (‘Side To Side’ and the more overtly sexual ‘Into You’). At the same time, however, the record sustains a fun sense of innocence with uplifting beats like ‘Bad Decisions’ and ‘Be Alright.’ Thus, Dangerous Woman is a fantastically diverse pop record – fun, sassy, mature, and sexy – and without a doubt Grande’s finest to date.
Another soulful stint from James Blake, The Colour In Anything renders you heady and mildly emotional even after just one listen. His diverse, ringing voice shudders through as he experiments with layered vocal melodies and his lyrics as poetic as ever, particularly in ‘I Need A Forest Fire,’ his second collaboration to date with Bon Iver. The record’s unpredictability, yet with the sound retaining a subtle depth, puts Blake in a league of his own. A slight stylistic development upon his previous albums, he can only get better from here.
A third album is often an important turning (or even making/breaking) point in an artist’s discography, and Childish Gambino chose to embrace this by almost entirely ditching his rap roots to produce a psychedelic and funky soul album to great effect. With experimental tracks such as ‘Me And Your Mama,’ ‘Redbone,’ and ‘Have Some Love,’ he deftly expanded his repertoire and seamlessly made the transition from rapper to artist, producing some of his best songs to date. Whilst “Awaken, My Love!” may be divisive amongst fans, there’s no denying the objectively high quality of Donald Glover’s third album.
Despite limited success in past years, Raleigh Ritchie’s debut album only arrived this February, but it was certainly worth the wait. You’re A Man Now, Boy is a glorious blend of genres – primarily a mixture of R&B, soul, and electronica – and his soothing vocals suit all. He has a softness that contradicts his “street-corner lad” image but, looking deeper, this contradiction is the album’s main message. He’s a young man breaking away from his youth, and songs such as the title track highlight this struggle. To any teenager, his depiction of the pain of growing up – or, in his words, “not growing up…just ageing” – is strongly relatable.
21: Rihanna – ANTI
ANTI dropped all the way back in January, yet that it remains one of the year’s finest is a testament to its quality as an album. Having already proved that she can make simple, chart-topping bangers, Rihanna’s approach with it was to create a record which is experimental and absorbing: there are songs with a psychedelic, spaced-out feel (‘Woo,’ ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’); songs over dark, catchy beats (‘Needed Me,’ ‘Desperado’); and songs that tug on the heartstrings (‘Higher,’ ‘Close To You’). ANTI may be an incredibly varied album, but it feels completely cohesive and, almost a year on, it remains a compelling listen.