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! Tomorrow our daily rundown of the top 10 kicks off with [REDACTED], so take a look below at those that narrowly missed out and look back on the two previous instalments – 21 to 30 and 31 to 50. 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.
20: Kano – Made In The Manor
In an interview with Noisey, Kano described Made In The Manor, an anthology of East London that collects short stories of days gone by in his hometown and has taken a cultural pilgrimage to amass, as a grown up album that he could not have made as a teenager. References to postcodes, street names and numbers, food stops, and a certain A13 exit ultimately make it a personal affair, successfully presented to fascinate even a listener who has no ties to the locations. In addition to ‘3 Wheel-Ups’ with Wiley and Giggs, one of the best tracks of the year, Kano takes an opportunity to reflect and be honest in ‘Little Sis,’ a fervent track devoted to the sister he has only met once. British music icon Damon Albarn appears in ‘Deep Blues’ as does JME in club banger ‘Flow Of The Year,’ showcasing the scope of his artistic abilities in exploring and evolving grime as a genre. Now into his career’s second decade, Kano has been patient in grime reaching the point it is at today. 2016 has been a wholly important year for the genre and his position at the top has ensured it is one to be remembered for years to come.
As 2016’s de facto new artist with his BBC Sound of and BRITs Critics’ Choice crowns, Buckinghamshire’s Jack Garratt had plenty of anticipation to live up to. Fortunately, February’s Phase gave him plenty of space to play around with dynamics and carve an often emphatic aural aesthetic, from the aggressively synthetic ‘Chemical,’ a rerun from the Synesthesiac EP, to the one-take outpour of emotion (and creaking furniture) ‘My House Is Your Home.’ Stick its components into his one-man band stage setup – complete with drums and guitars and keys and shuffling and teasing and a phenomenal voice that flicks (with his writing) between tender whispers and genuinely intimidating roars – and you can begin to comprehend why he is one of the most enthralling talents to emerge this year.
–Hassan Bashir & Xavier Voigt-Hill
18: KAYTRANADA – 99.9%
Once again, 2016 has seen Canada prove that it is full of diverse musical talent. Nearby in this list we see its best pop and sombre singer/songwriters, however the greatest breakthrough from the Great White North – and, according to the Polaris Prize, the greatest Canadian album of the year full stop – came from 24-year-old Haitian-born and Montreal-raised KAYTRANADA. 99.9% included a cast of talented artists (AlunaGeorge, Anderson .Paak, BadBadNotGood, Craig David, Little Dragon, etc.) on a compelling showcase of production that truly stands out from the wealth of electronic music churned out through the year. It moved forward by looking backwards, utilising his erudite beats and samples with talented friends’ vocals to form a present day funk. Unlike the chart-friendly stuff from The Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris, the drop isn’t what you come for – 99.9%‘s tracks are made for you to dance from beginning to end, not being afraid (‘Track Uno,’ ‘Drive Me Crazy,’ ‘Glowed Up’) to completely change gears two-thirds through, giving a rollercoaster of beats which foreshadow what follows.
17: Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Malibu may be the second studio record from American singer and rapper Anderson .Paak, but his first widely recognised work has quite rightfully ended up on the year-end lists of many, including NME, Annie Mac, and, of course, The Edge, pushing him head-first into the pool of hot up-and-coming artists with a nod on the BBC’s Sound of 2017 longlist. On an album jam-packed with carefree, groovy songs that refuse to take themselves too seriously, .Paak is effortlessly versatile: soulful, smooth, and clever in creating something that is simply blissful to listen to and refuses to leave you bored. Following the trend of many a good artist this year – looking at you, Bastille, he even uses film snippets to enhance the textures of the stories his songs tell. ‘Am I Wrong,’ edging into pop territory, is modern R&B at its best; ‘The Bird’ is reminiscent of ’60s soul, but the swift change in genre is a welcome listening experience – .Paak is a pioneer, leading the way in a music industry that must defy convention to survive.
Leonard Cohen is another celebrity sacrificed to the insatiable demiurge that was 2016 but, much like David Bowie, his last will and testament comprises some of the best work he has done in quite some time. You Want It Darker mixes and matches styles from his prior discography – most notably electric organs and echoing vocals, giving the record a distinctly gospel vibe – to create a literal swansong that embodies everything that made the legendary singer so wonderful. Despite ostensibly being an album about death and dying – “I’m ready my Lord,” he utters throughout the title track – its songs are filled with humour and his dusky charm and charisma, making You Want It Darker just as much of a celebration of life.
One year ago, the finest pop record of 2015 received one solitary vote from an Edge writer on its way to joint 55th place in this poll’s predecessor. That E•MO•TION Side B has outperformed it so greatly is, therefore, mildly misrepresentative – whatever she does, Carly Rae Jepsen will never escape being pigeonholed as “that ‘Call Me Maybe’ one,” and cynicism towards the critical euphoria that surrounded various phases of the original record’s staggered release led to a slow but joyous adoption amongst lovers of complex tributes to pop’s heydays with a truly relatable soul. What this collection of offcuts from the original 12 (or 16 if you like deluxe versions (or 18 if you import remix compendia from the Japanese market that hoards them as exclusives (or 19 if you pay attention to five-year-old anti-smoking campaigns from her home province of British Columbia))) manages is a potency that the older likes of ‘Warm Blood’ and ‘Let’s Get Lost’ didn’t entirely yield. By far the shortest record to make our top 50, Side B starts with a gleeful flutter and never lets go – ‘First Time’ would be the happiest song (especially about clinging on to a fading relationship) that any other pop vocalist could ever dream of, and breakups have never sounded quite as amicable as on closer ‘Roses.’
Packed full of exciting, futuristic vibes, The Getaway is a refreshing dose of Red Hot Chili Peppers genius, presenting interesting developments in the band’s sound. Initial reactions – our review aside – did have a tendency to be mixed and unsure, however continued listening to its catchy tunes and lyrics have allowed its variety of embellished rhythms and compositional structures to flourish. Beginning the return with ‘Dark Necessities’ proved inspired – the track possesses every element of the traditional Chili sound whilst incorporating bolder choices which is also reflected in other tracks. ‘Go Robot,’ ‘Sick Love,’ and ‘Dreams Of A Samurai’ even dare to contain electronic additions, creating wavy tracks which make for great easy listening.
Full of symbolism and soul-baring, this dark, lyrically gorgeous, understated record is a delight to experience. For reasons made obvious in accompanying film One More Time With Feeling as Cave talks about the circumstances surrounding one of his twin sons falling to his death during the writing of the album, Skeleton Tree‘s sadness and intensity comes through in the unusually sparse, bassy music, reminiscent of 1996 The Boatman’s Call made more eerie with less gospel. Yet, despite the sadness in lyrics and inflection, from “You fell from the sky and crash landed in a field… With my voice, I am calling you” (‘Jesus Alone’) to “They told us our dreams would outlive us / They told us our Gods would outlive us / But they lied” (‘Distant Sky’), Skeleton Tree‘s title track ends it on a note of hope. With a fuller musical arrangement than the rest of the album, swelling synths and beautifully uplifting lyrics swirl as he repeats “I called out that nothing is for free / And it’s alright now.” From grief to hope, this isn’t an album for you – it’s a beautiful way for Cave to deal with his grief in the only way an artist can.
Following the success and wondrous sounds of debut ZABA, the atmospheric and conceptual sophomore record from Dave Bayley and co. managed to bring an even bigger and better punch. Lead single ‘Life Itself,’ with its Indian beat and percussion, set How To Be A Human Being up to be much more layered, textured, and energetic record than their first. What followed more explicitly exemplifies the record’s concept, with each track telling the story of a different character met on the road, from the lazy TV slob of ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ to the tattooed woman who sparked inspiration for ‘Pork Soda.’ As a whole, it is quite the masterpiece, with mesmerising vocals and slick production from Bayley in a huge mashup of layers. Its conceptual artwork, to which they stay true to in their live shows, is certainly worth mentioning too, with sharp lighting and the boys’ onstage presence giving yet more vitality to a thoroughly enjoyable LP.
Post-Channel Orange anticipation for a new offering from Frank Ocean was only been exacerbated by several delays in release. As a result, when Blonde, a magazine, and Endless, a “visual album,” finally dropped in August, he achieved it precisely – Ocean became adventurous with his sound without compromising what made the first album so effective. His voice is heavily treated, albeit in a manner which serves to boost the overall acoustics rather than to mask his innate skill. Furthermore, Blonde uses collaborations with other successful artists to enhance (and not compete with) his own voice – ‘Pink + White,’ one of its best tracks, uses Beyoncé to create a dreamy and melancholic sound whilst keeping the focus on Ocean. Even with all these more challenging elements, it is his powerfully-crafted lyrics that are the album’s most effective element – as on particular display in ‘White Ferrari’ and ‘Ivy,’ Blonde‘s music works not only to entertain, creating a deep feeling of nostalgia and reflection.