The Top 40 Albums of 2016 (Part One): 40 – 21

Looking back at last year’s run of new releases, it’s safe to say there were some definite hits alongside those that may not have lived up to the hype. We saw the return of some esteemed artists after a long time out of the spotlight, while some of our own emerging superstar talents came through strongly with debut material. Albums packed with emotion, intelligence and powerfully driven social and political messages dominated in 2016 proving once more that music and the platform it can provide for artists to make a stand and connect with audiences around the world is in fact, not one to be taken with a grain of salt.

This week, we look back at the 40 best records by international and Australian artists, as voted by our team of contributors and editors. Part one kicks off below…

40. Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
Released: 
July
Must Listens: “Shameless Halo”, “Feel This”

“The band’s first album since 2004’s Cool To Be You proved that Descendents were as relevant as ever to old and new fans alike and frankly, was a fucking great album to sink your teeth into.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

39. Flume – Skin
Released: May
Must Listens: “Wall Fuck”, “Say It (feat. Tove Lo)”

“Flume’s sophomore album was a highly anticipated one and, as the charts and fast-growing crowds have proven, Skin more than lived up to the hype. Not content with resting on the laurels of one or two radio hits, Flume went and produced an album full of bangers that have dominated on record and on the industry chart.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

38. Savages – Adore Life
Released: January
Must Listens: “Adore”, “Sad Life”

“…the through-line of all the songs is an exploration of the ambiguity of love. Happiness, lust, jealousy: it’s all there, sometimes within the space of the same line.” – Ingmar Duldig

37. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Released: June
Must Listens:
 “Augustine”, “Better Than Me”

Dev Hynes showcased some of his finest songwriting on Freetown Sound, in my opinion. His talent and musicality has always been beautiful to witness in action but the songs on Freetown Sound really sought to reach out to those yearning to relate – if you’ve been told at any point that you’re not ‘enough’ or up to the standards of others purely based on your make up (whether that be race, sexuality or pure identity), this album is here to comfort, empathise and celebrate you.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

36. Montaigne – Glorious Heights
Released: August
Must Listens: “Because I Love You”, “In the Dark”

“Montaigne has showcased her pop sensibilities here. Her strength is her voice, as she rises and falls while guiding us through her trials of growing up and getting older. An album of love, loss and desperation, Glorious Heights hints at superb 80’s synth and purity in its lyricism. A stand out debut from 2016, Montaigne is a fantastic talent.” – Dylan Marshall

35. Kendrick Lamar – untitled. unmastered.
Released: March
Must Listens: “Untitled 07”, “Untitled 08”

“While it may lack the structure of Kendrick’s previous work, this project gives us a look at the cutting room floor of one of the most important and divisive albums of the past few years, showing that even Lamar’s off-cuts are meatier than anything many of his peers could even hope to produce at their peak.” – Chris Singh

34. Koi Child – Koi Child
Released:
March
Must Listens: “Slow One”, “Wumpa Fruit”

“What a ridiculously great combination of soul, hip-hop and interesting production values. Made up of jazz group Kashikoi and hip-hop trio Child’s Play, this record was produced and mixed by none other than Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, which is really noticeable in the incredible drum sounds and layered synths. Production aside, this record is simply a bunch of ridiculously talented musicians creating a body of work that pushes the boundaries of genres. It’s one of those records that is best when listened to start to finish.” – Aidan Hogg

33. The Hotelier – Goodness
Released:
May
Must Listens: “End of Reel”, “Piano Player”

Goodness has its fair share of moments where it overreaches. There are spoken word tracks, a campfire sing along and field recording of birds. It is also one of the must relentlessly engaging rock albums around. It hammers all of the points perfectly, from Christian Holden‘s Stipe-like croon and uplifting vignettes of life and the decisions we make to move ahead and recover after tough times. The three piece gel perfectly as a group with Sam Frederick‘s incessant drumming anchoring the record. There is a masterful command of dynamics that show The Hotelier’s ability to push over time beyond indie-emo band to arena rock band.” – Michael Lean

“I’ll always have a soft-spot for anything post-emo.” – Margy Noble

32. Run the Jewels RTJ3
Released:
December
Must Listens: 
“Down”, “2100”

Killer Mike and El-P waiting right until the end of 2016 to go and drop the third instalment of the Run the Jewels epic on fans. RTJ3 is littered with tops guest appearances; from the likes of Kamasi Washington to Tunde Adebimpe through to your classic Boots and even Trina, the album is packing with the attitude you’d expect from the rap duo, but also a heightened ambition and delivery to match.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

31. Julia Jacklin Don’t Let The Kids Win
Released: October
Must Listens: “Pool Party”, “Coming of Age”

“I bought my mum Julia Jacklin’s debut album for Christmas. For a woman who normally limits herself to the best of Damien Leith, KD Lang, Chris Isaak, and Michael Buble, I was thoroughly impressed with the level of enjoyment she got from DLTKW; which definitely says something about the quality of Julia Jacklin’s songwriting, lyricism and vocals. A graduated move away from her time with Phantastic Ferniture, Julia Jacklin has crafted an album full of tracks I’d be more than happy for my future kids to buy me.” – Dylan Marshall

“The transition from teenager to adult is never easy, and this record is a brutally honest reflection of just that. Julia’s beautifully hoarse voice delivers a hauntingly graceful sound that rings home some harsh truths whilst simultaneously warming your insides.” – Giselle Bueti

30. James Blake – The Colour in Anything
Released: May
Must Listens: “I Need a Forest Fire (feat. Bon Iver)”, “Modern Soul”

“James Blake had been dropping singles on his BBC radio show since the start of the year, all leading up to the surprise release of his 17 track, third record. It’s exactly what I hoped for from James Blake; songs set around piano and his incredible voice, backed with minimalist beats and his signature huge synth sounds. It’s got some bonus Bon Iver too, which I definitely can’t complain about.” – Aidan Hogg

29. Deftones – Gore
Released: April
Must Listens: “Doomed User”, “Acid Hologram”

“On album number eight, Deftones shut any naysayers down with an album full of grit and boundary pushing noise. Gore embraces influences from outside their alternative metal ‘norm’ and pulled them off successfully, proving again the talent and intelligence behind the Sacramento group’s musicality.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

28. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math
Released: April
Must Listens: “You and I”, “Emotions and Math”

“A surprising highlight of the year but only in the sense that Emotions and Math came out of nowhere but landed with a sense of warm familiarity that made me wonder, ‘Why hasn’t Margaret Glaspy been in my life before now?’. A tight package of songs, Emotions and Math was one of 2016’s stronger debut albums and still bangs even now, over five months on.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

27. Paul Dempsey – Strange Loop
Released: May
Must Listens: “Idiot Oracle”, “Morningless”

“Everything Paul Dempsey is gold.” – Chad Lofts

“Even now, he’s shown us that he’s set on doing his own thing and making no two records the same. It makes us forget that the wait for new material dragged out as long as it had – the final result was definitely worth it.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

26. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
Released:
February
Must Listens: 
“Love Me”, “A Change of Heart”

“They’re purely in it for the music and small, intricate details within the record support this – there’s an obvious allusion to past tracks, asserting the band are here to continue a story.” – Meg Kennedy

25. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Released: April
Must Listens: 
“People-Vultures”, “Gamma Knife”

“If you’ve heard this album, you’ll understand why it makes this list. It’s a wild-ride of an infinite loop, music that leaves your mind blasted with catchy hooks, hard-rock influenced moments, scintillating flute solos, and what has to be the quantum physics of psych-rock. These guys truly are kings.” – Margy Noble

24. ANOHNI – Hopelessness
Released: May
Must Listens: “Drone Bomb Me”, “Hopelessness”

“A politically charged protest album from an extremely talented vocalist/songwriter. The album did not pull any punches on subject matter (drone bombings/capital punishment/climate change) and was superbly produced by Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never.” – Dan Turner

23. REMI – Divas and Demons
Released: September
Must Listens: “For Good (feat. Sampa The Great)”, “Substance Therapy”

“Passionate and urgent. Cheeky and coming in rich with confidence. Remi flies behind the mic and as a lyricist, every twist and turn you’d have loved about his rhymes on Raw x Infinity has been further explores and bolstered on Divas and Demons. Production is A* once again, proving that Rem and Sensible J have a creative partnership that can’t be messed with.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

22. NO ZU – Afterlife
Released: February
Must Listens: 
“Spirit Beat”, “Afterlife Lifestyle”

Afterlife goes darker and wilder – a welcomed direction for NO ZU. Continuing on from 2012’s Life record, Afterlife‘s pace barrels through, fusing techno, house, funk and percussion together in producing an album that definitely sticks in the mind. Definitely one of our more unique musical groups with their finger on the pulse.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

21. The Avalanches – Wildflower
Released: July
Must Listens: “Subways”, “Colours”

“…Time is indeed the most volatile and unpredictable element whenever The Avalanches are concerned, but only it will tell how Wildflower resonates a month, a year, a decade from now. Until then, listen. Enjoy. This is an astonishing record.” – Ben E Webbs

“This never should have been as good as it was, a sixteen year wait and most the band long since having moved on, Wildflower should have been a mess. Thankfully it was anything but; remaining members Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi retained the warm, constantly slipping radio dial “Since I Left You”, while updating it with early morning cartoon nostalgia and some extremely well selected guest slots from rappers like Danny Brown and MF Doom or freak pop activists like Toro Y Moi and Mercury Rev‘s Jonathan Donahue. It’s a record that you can truly put on and take you off on a journey.” – Michael Lean