The Top 40 Albums of 2016 (Part Two): The Top 20

Top 20’s are always hard to pull together. As we saw with the first part of our Best Albums of 2016 countdown, the list was looking to be a varied one, with records from bands including DescendentsThe HotelierJulia Jacklin and NO ZU all making the cut. As we look to the Top 20 records (as voted by our contributors and editors), we see some strong cuts line up together; from Chance The Rapper‘s acclaimed Coloring Book to NGAIIRE‘s Blastoma, and David Bowie‘s farewell in Blackstar…see what our team has had to say!

20. Daughter – Not To Disappear
Must Listens: 
“Fossa”, “New Ways”

“Daughter returned in January with an album so complete that it made their debut (which was full of mass tuneage) look much inferior. Not To Disappear was a massive step up for the band, as they experimented with a more in-depth sound, while continuing to highlight the strength of frontwoman Elena‘s vocals.” – Dylan Marshall

19. Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being
Released: August
Must Listens: “Life Itself”, “Pork Soda”

“I’m a sucker for an album that tells a story, and this one is full of them. Each song is based around a fictional character trying to navigate their way through life; beautifully encapsulating the human experience by exploring concepts of love, loss and loneliness. The album sees the band stepping out of the quirky dream that was ZABA and into reality.” – Giselle Bueti

How To Be a Human Being is definitely an album that showcases the best parts of what Glass Animals do as a band. Where their debut helped project their gooey sounds to the masses, How To Be a Human Being has opened up another dimension that will more than likely bring forth more fans than the band could have imagined.” – Dylan Marshall

18. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Released: February
Must Listens: “Real Friends”, “Ultralight Beam”

“Kanye changes the course of hip hop (and yeah, even just popular music in general) on every release and this is by no means an exception. The Life of Pablo has shot right up to his top three albums to date – easily – with such an energetic, soulful blend of gospel sounds with more hard-hitting hip hop. It’s College Dropout meets Yeezus meets My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; soulful, ambitious, and grand. Say what you want about Kanye West, but if you look past him being a ‘rapper’ and focus on his primary talent – composition, production, texture, tone, style – then there’s no way you can not see the genius behind this project. Listen – like ACTUALLY listen – to “Ultralight Beam” and “Real Friends” and tell me that isn’t someone who is – at least – incredibly original. You can’t.” – Chris Singh

17. The Peep Tempel – Joy
Released: October
Must Listens: “Rayguns”, “Don’t Race”

“Album Number Three for The Peep Tempel further established the band as one of Melbourne’s finest. The album snarls in its urgency and doesn’t hold back when it comes to delivery, lyricism and fiery musical skill. Politically charged in areas, indulgent in others and unafraid to brandish brutal honesty right throughout, Joy is a wonderful collection of material from a band who continues to impress.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

16. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
Released: March
Must Listens: “American Valhalla”, “Paraguay”

Post Pop Depression is a wonderful and surprising return to form from an artist who clearly had more to say, and just needed the right muse to help him get it out there.” – Ingmar Duldig

15. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Released: May
Must Listens: 
“No Problem”, “Blessings”

“This album is an uplifting mix of spiritual awakening. Each track is a kind of sobering admission; giving a nod to Chance’s past, present and future. His ability to create ever stretching verses with his melodic, almost elastic, tonal variations in itself makes the album worth listening to. As its title suggests, the album is a coloring book of Chance’s life so far, and the listener has the pencils. You just have to fill in the outlines with you own colours.” – Giselle Bueti

“Communicating joy in music is a tricky affair. Too often it can come off as brash and condescending, earning the standard reaction of “what’s he so smug about”. This problem is multiplied twofold when faith gets thrown in. Coloring Book communicates in pure joy, grounded in Chance’s faith and spirituality and it is an absolute thrill to listen to. Gospel singalongs (“How Great”, “Blessings”) sit perfectly alongside summer cookout party tracks (“No Problem”, “All Night”).

While Chance finds himself musing on his newfound fame, rejecting the record labels and crime in Chicago with breathless flow and a vivid sense of humor. In a year packed full of big name rap albums, Coloring Book stands out above the rest. In the murky grey sludge of a year that was 2016 Chance The Rapper was a(n) (Ultra)light beam of positivity. To communicate pure joy and spirituality without ever saccharine or preachy is a truly tough balancing act and on Coloring Book Chance bounces exuberantly between gospel praise and his kaleidoscopic acid rap with a breathless ease. Coloring Book is the sound of Chance finding his voice and we were all better off for it.” – Michael Lean

14. Rihanna – ANTI
Released: January
Must Listens: “Kiss It Better”, “Needed Me”

“This was the album that completely won me over when it comes to Robyn Rihanna Fenty. Her voice cracks with the emotion of a woman who’s had one too many late nights going back and forth in her head over a guy (or guys) who may or may not be the right one. The way Rihanna blunts down and asserts that a fuckboy never thought he could have ‘needed her’ more made me want to charge my glass to her on first playback. Her confidence soars as she owns her sexuality, but not in the sugary pop way previous songs have showcased. ANTI is sexy, it’s pained and it’s confused in places, but is possibly Rihanna’s most relatable album to date.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

13. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Must Listens: 
“Redbone”, “Boogieman”

“This album takes Gambino’s music in a completely new direction, and at first I was taken aback. But the more you listen, the more the beat seeps into your skin and wraps you in a warm soulful cocoon of funkiness, transforming you into a psychedelic butterfly.” – Giselle Bueti

12. Camp Cope – Camp Cope
Released: April
Must Listens: “Done”, “West Side Story”

“Simple indie punk at its best. One of the strengths of Camp Cope is their ability to not overplay what they’re doing; whether that be the vocals or instrumentation. With a definite influence from The Smith Street Band, the ladies in Camp Cope have crafted an album of lyrically smart and witty tracks, coupled with honest instrumentation.” – Dylan Marshall

“Camp Cope’s self-titled debut album will make you cry and feel all the feelings. Some heavy issues are covered, but the simplicity of the three piece band give it a poetic feel. With every listen you feel something new.” – Giselle Bueti

11. The Drones – Feelin’ Kinda Free
Released: March
Must Listens: “Taman Shud”, “To Think That I Once Loved You”

“It’s weird. It’s irregular. It’s genius. This album defies conventions of rock’n’roll, drops any bullshit, and is a bassy, guitar-filled, noise-driven record. Featuring the ludicrously well-received single “Taman Shud”, as well as intricacies across other tracks – the vocals and drum mirror eachother, the dynamics are haunting – a landmark album in Australian music.” – Margy Noble

“Bonkers and brilliant, The Drones’ latest LP gives Australian culture the shot of cynicism and bile it desperately needs.” – Ingmar Duldig

“Politically fearless and viciously aggressive, the sort of record that if you were to put it on at a dinner party it’d be thrown out quicker than Andrew Bolt at a Greens convention. All the things you hope from a new Drones album.” – Michael Lean

10. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Released: September
Must Listens: 
“Anthrocene”, “Jesus Alone”

“Not the most uplifting album of 2016, but perhaps the most emotionally raw album of the year, after Blackstar. This is melancholy, this is a blackness in your chest, this is a musical journey that leaves you changed. There is no denying Nick Cave’s musical genius, nor is there any denying the grief he shares.” – Margy Noble

“Nick Cave continues his art of storytelling in the best way that he does.” – Chad Lofts

Skeleton Tree is somehow a beautiful album that is somehow classic Cave and yet not – his heart has been broken to the extent that his music may never be the same. But while he has lost so much, Cave has not lost his genius – this is a masterpiece in his already stunning back catalogue, an album designed for contemplative and attentive listening.” – Ingmar Duldig

09. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Released: May
Must Listens: 
“Vincent”, “Cosmic Hero”

“Guitars, guitars. While the riffs on the album slam, there are intricacies within Teens of Denial that offer moments of ~softer~ introspection. A thoroughly enjoyable listen from Will Toledo who has been offering fans so much for so long now. It’s one hell of a ride.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

08. Frank Ocean – Blonde
Released: August
Must Listens: “Self Control”, “Pink + White”

“I made the mistake of going into this album with expectations. I wanted it to be amazing. So the first time I listened to it I was a little disappointed. The second time around I put all that aside and stripped back everything I knew about Frank Ocean, what I found was an artist still trying to find his place in the world. Each track has an intense depth to it; unleashing detailed insights intertwined with hidden truths.” – Giselle Bueti

07. Kaytranada – 99.9%
Released: May
Must Listens: “GOT IT GOOD (feat. Craig David)”, “GLOWED UP (feat. Anderson .Paak)”

“The debut album from the Canadian producer is diverse, catchy as hell and strong as a first offering. Of course, fans have been vibing on Kaytranada’s sounds via Soundcloud for a minute but in 99.9%, we finally get to satiate our thirst for concise, bumping tracks.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

06. Solange – A Seat At The Table
Released: September
Must Listens: “Cranes in the Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”

“The album is a strong and defining moment for the artist who undoubtedly stands as a figure of admiration and strength for many young women and girls of colour and while she may not be twirling baseball bats into the windows of cars, Solange’s messages on A Seat At The Table ring out just as loud.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

“I feel like this album was underrated, which is a shame because it is probably one of the most important of the year. A Seat At The Table is a reflection of black pride and identity. It explores the struggles that still exist today and sticks a finger up at those who still don’t get it. Big sis Beyoncé may get all the hype, but Solagne is a Queen in her own right.” – Giselle Bueti

05. Beyoncé – Lemonade
Released: April
Must Listens: “Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”, “Sorry”

“The singer goes in on infidelity, betrayal, emotional trauma and reconciliation in a way that has left fans and anyone else with a passing interest in Beyoncé-the-celebrity-spectacle with their jaws on the floor.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

04. NGAIIRE – Blastoma
Released: June
Must Listens: “House on a Rock”, “I Wear Black”

“Ngaiire’s infinitely intriguing sonic experiments have resulted in a style that’s hard to capture, but one that has been fully realised on this beautiful album. The textures come from all over the place and are glued together with Ngaiire’s graceful tone, that flips between reckless and tender as it flies on and off beat. She’s pulling on so many styles of music that the album could have easily fallen flat, but the focus, assured patterns in both production and vocals is a testament to her undeniable talent.”-  Chris Singh

“The power and diversity of Ngaiire’s voice is the highlight of this album. She effortlessly moves between sleek and raw; allowing listeners to slip into her musical daze, then hits them in the chest with fast, evocative ballads (in the nicest way possible). It delves into the world of heartbreak and vulnerability, but shows that in the end you’ll come out stronger.” – Giselle Bueti

“The music we’re presented with here bucks against expectation and offers a stunning, at times melancholic and beautiful, peek into the fountain of potential we can still see the artist tapping into.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

03. David Bowie – Blackstar
Released: January
Must Listens: “Lazarus”, “Dollar Days”

“This album felt like a farewell. It’s sad that he didn’t get to do so in person via a world tour. RIP.” – Chad Lofts

“2016 started with a masterpiece entering the world, and the master leaving it. This album is a sort of autobiographical eulogy; a farewell message. The jazzy, discordant, soaring album can’t be topped for 2016. (The vinyl is an added treasure, full of many secrets – there’s no contention here!)” – Margy Noble

“A sad, but fittingly forward looking farewell.” – Ingmar Duldig

02. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Released: January 
Must Listens: “The Birds”, “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance”

“Expansive and gorgeously textured, Malibu came out at a time where I was getting sick of everything being flogged on the radio. Anderson .Paak presents a spirited and intelligent album that stood out for not only it’s guest appearances, but for its lyricism and effortless delivery. An album for those on the fringes, for those of colour who’ve been told they are less than, an album for those who have ever felt slightly out of place, Malibu comes brimming with light and hope – an album that looks back, but is focusing on moving forward above all.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

01. A.B. ORIGINAL – Reclaim Australia
Released: November
Must Listens: “January 26”, “Report To The Mist”

“What’s great about A.B Original and Reclaim Australia is that their approach leaves no stone unturned; this isn’t rap music doled out for its pure shock factor. This is music that channels the anger and pain of people who have long been stood over and have been demeaned and dehumanised for generations. It might be hard to listen to, but that’s the point.” – Sosefina Fuamoli

Revisit the first part of our countdown (40-21) here and stay tuned as we take a further look at our favourite Australian records from 2016 this week!


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