Music

The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016

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Dave Fawbert
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Just when we all thought the album was on the way out, along comes Adele, who almost singlehandedly gave the CD another year of life with the enormous sales of 25 and her refusal to put the album on streaming sites. Frankly, we're amazed she didn't release it on cassette.

But, nonetheless, despite our ever-decreasing attention spans and the rise of playlist culture, the full-length album, that body of work which can transport us to another place for 40 minutes or so, is still with us.

And 2016 is set to usher in a few belters. We guide you through the 20 that you should keep an ear out for over the next twelve months, from new acts to established and across the whole musical spectrum.

Check out The 50 Best Songs of 2015

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016

    Daughter - Not to Disappear

    London trio Daughter's debut album If You Leave was an excellent, tender, delicate record and, on the strength of the first taste of the new album - single Doing The Right Thing - they've retained their sense of melancholy and added some steel to it too. Due this month, it should be a great album and will surely be a Mercury contender.

    Sample track: Doing The Right Thing

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 1

    David Bowie - Blackstar

    It may be 48 years since he released his debut album, but Bowie remains as interesting as ever. Blackstar will be his 25th studio album and is set to be released on his 69th birthday, 8 January. On the strength of the two excellent, but pretty 'out there' tracks released so far, it's going to be a full-on avant-garde effort, but it promises to be a beautiful puzzle to unpick at your leisure.

    Sample track: Blackstar

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 2

    Frank Ocean - Boys Don't Cry

    We've been waiting since July 2012 for the follow-up to Channel Orange, with constant rumours about its completion - the man himself claimed it was nearly done in 2014, but it looks like this will be the year we finally hear Boys Don't Cry. As well as being a must-listen on account of the quality of its predecessor, it will also be fascinating to see if the reaction to his still-rare announcement - in the world of R&B at least - that he is gay has any impact on the lyrical content of the material.

    Sample track: Thinkin Bout You (from Channel Orange)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 3

    Jack Garratt - Phase

    In a surprisingly bereft cupboard of Ones To Watch in 2016, Jack Garratt stands alone, almost unchallenged, winning the Brits Critics' Choice Award and surely a shoe-in for the BBC Sound of 2016. He is a far more leftfield artist - self-produced, multi-instrumentalist and often quite minimal - than previous 'ready-to-sell-bucketloads' acts like Sam Smith and Emeli Sandé, so it will be a) interesting to see how it performs and b) almost certainly a much more interesting album than you'd usually expect.

    Sample track: Weathered

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 4

    Kanye West - SWISH

    Oh yes, of course he's in here. Love him, hate him, it's very difficult to ignore him. 2013's Yeezus divided opinion with its aggressive, abrasive sound (as did 2015's Glastonbury performance which started well but rapidly ran out of steam) and it's hard to know where he will go with SWISH, due this year. Facts, released unexpectedly on New Year's Eve - and basically one giant advert for Adidas - doesn't give much away, although it features a far softer, smoother backing than anything he's done for a while. Might the known Portishead fan go trip-hop on us? You just never know - but it will be worth a listen whatever happens.

    Sample track: Facts

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 5

    Lady Gaga - TBC

    Remember Lady Gaga? Remember when she was - by far - the biggest popstar on the planet, with a new crazy look every week and a load of irresistible pop songs constantly hitting number 1? That feels a long time ago now with the underwhelming ArtPop followed by that collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett. Wisely, she's finally had a break from the public eye, has been writing with The Fame producer RedOne again and has hopefully recharged her batteries for another assault on the title of Queen of Pop. At the very least can we finally have the conclusion of the Telephone video?

    Sample track: Do What U Want (from ArtPop)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 6

    The Last Shadow Puppets - TBC

    It's been nearly eight years since The Age of the Understatement came out. Eight years! It was a record which - as if we weren't already sure - underlined that Alex Turner was something of a rare talent; following the first two Arctic Monkeys albums, it showed off another side to his talents, with lush orchestration and a soundtrack feel on his collaboration with Miles Kane and James Ford. It's been so long that we'd almost forgotten about this side-project, but the time feels right now for something a little different from his day job. It could well be an absolute treat.

    Sample track: The Age of the Understatement (from The Age of the Understatement)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 7

    M83 - TBC

    Likewise, it's been an age since the last record from Anthony Gonzalez, aka M83, 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, which featured the inescapable Made In Chelsea soundtrack song Midnight City and launched him into the mainstream. While a double album was a logical event, given his cinematic, epic synth style, in all truth it was a little patchy, so we're hoping the new one will be a return to a taut, emotional, skyscraping 'normal' length record that can soundtrack our dreams once again.

    Sample track: Wait (from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 8

    The Stone Roses - TBC

    They got us all excited in November when it looked like the announcement of a new record was on the cards before crushingly just announcing some more Manchester gigs (which, admittedly will be good). Even Noel Gallagher's said he's not going to see them until they release some new music, so will it happen? Our hearts say yes, our heads say they probably won't want to ruin the nostalgia trip and guaranteed payday of a couple more years of crowds who want to hear the classics. We can but hope though.

    Sample track: Ten Story Love Song (from Second Coming)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 9

    Gorillaz - TBC

    Gorillaz' last record (leaving aside the iPad-created The Fall), the underrated Plastic Beach, came out five years ago and since then Damon Albarn has been sat on a sunlounger, sipping cocktails and generally taking it easy. Only kidding. He's released a new album with Blur, his first solo record, an album with Flea and Tony Allen called Rocket Juice and the Moon, an Africa Express album, composed an opera, produced Bobby Womack's final album and been awarded an OBE. Come on Albarn, you need to up your game, starting with a new Gorillaz album - and it's due for release this year alongside, no doubt, another 49 Albarn side-projects. Every Gorillaz record has been great so far - hopefully this one, which Albarn has said is "really fast, and it’s got quite a lot of energy," will continue the stellar output.

    Sample track: Stylo (from Plastic Beach)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 10

    Metallica - TBC

    The metal legends have been beavering away in the studio for a few years now on their tenth album. Lars Ulrich has previously said it will be a continuation of 2008's Death Magnetic, while Kirk Hammet has stated that the record will be released this year, or at the latest, the start of 2017. Fans will be both excited by the prospect of new material, but also faintly scared given that the last new music was the much-derided collaboration with Lou Reed in 2010, Lulu. However, as much as that one didn't really work, it at least showed a band willing to take risks and push things forward. Hopefully they'll get those creative juices flowing in the right way this time around.

    Sample track: The Day That Never Comes (from Death Magnetic)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 11

    School of Seven Bells - SVIIB

    We've written at length about School of Seven Bells before, but it bears repeating. The final album from the New York act promises to be an emotional affair: following the sad death in 2013 of keyboardist Benjamin Curtis, vocalist Alejandra Deheza completed the album using his parts, with the first fruits being the stunning, heartbreaking first single Open Your Eyes. If the rest of the album matches up to that, it'll be a fitting send-off.

    Sample track: Open Your Eyes

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 12

    St. Lucia - Matter

    St. Lucia, the musical vehicle of South African-born, Brooklyn-based artist Jean-Philip Grobler, have specialised in uplifting electronic indie since 2012, but have yet to really break through in the UK despite a brilliant debut in the form of 2013's When The Night. Second album Matter, due at the end of January, could change that, and at the very least will be a blast of sunshine to get us through the gloomy early months of the year.

    Sample track: Dancing on Glass

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 13

    The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It

    Yes, the album title is ludicrous, yes, the singles so far have been rather strange and frontman Matthew Healy is probably the most pretentious man in music right now - but you can't argue with the fact that their first album was really very good, they have a legion of fans who love them more than life itself, and they're clearly trying to channel the big, interesting, million dollar production values of the very best eighties pop acts like Peter Gabriel and INXS. This could be a gigantic failure, or it could be bombastic excellence; either way, hats off for taking a risk.

    Sample track: Love Me

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 14

    The xx - TBC

    Jamie xx's debut album In Colour was at the top of many critics' end-of-year lists, but it's time for him to return to the day job, with a new xx album due this year. They've been in the studio for a while now (see pictorial evidence above), with scant details, although it's believed that producer Rodaidh McDonald will be involved, as he was for both their self-titled debut album and follow-up Coexist. Who knows what it'll sound like, but they've not let us down before.

    Sample track: Angels (from Coexist)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 15

    Underworld - Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future

    Veteran dance acts The Chemical Brothers and Leftfield both delivered solid records last year and there's no reason why Underworld can't join them in 2016. Their ninth studio album is their first for six years and features a rather bizarre title, but they rarely disappoint, either on record or in the flesh, so this should be another one to check out as soon as it emerges in March.

    Sample track: Scribble (from Barking)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 16

    Biffy Clyro - TBC

    2015 was firmly a year off for Scotland's finest rockers but 2016 should see them roar back into the public's consciousness. Where last album Opposites was a sprawling double album monster, the upcoming album will most likely be a taut, shorter affair. Biffy have never really done stripped-back (and are all the better for it) so we'd hope for something as unique and distinctive as usual (they've said it's going to sound like "Tears For Fears, Deafheaven and Death Grips"), but perhaps more straight to the point.

    Sample track: On A Bang (live)

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  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 17

    LCD Soundsystem - TBC

    So, less than five years on from that 'final farewell' concert at Madison Square Garden - and the accompanying feature film that documented that rare thing of a band bowing out at its peak - James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem are back. Judging by his lengthy Facebook post, the reunion seems to have been motivated by the simple appetite to record and play a host of new material of which he feels proud, and which he wanted to put onto tape with his trusted LCD co-pilots, rather than monetary concerns, so we can tentatively hope that the new album will actually be the central tenet of their return, rather than an afterthought. Just give us another All My Friends and we'll be happy OK?

    Sample track: All My Friends (from Sound of Silver)

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 18

    Loyle Carner - TBC

    We're taking a bit of a punt on this one, but of all the remaining BBC Sound of 2016 shortlisted acts after Jack Garratt, Loyle is by far the most intriguing. His tracks so far have showcased a distinctive voice, downbeat, measured production and a general sensitivity which is rare in the genre. If he gets it right, he could produce a stunning debut.

    Sample track: Cantona

  • The 20 albums you need to hear in 2016 19

    Blossoms - TBC

    God knows we need a new indie band with some good singalong tunes, and Stockport five piece Blossoms could be just the band to do it. Unashamedly influenced by the likes of forgotten Britpop v1.0 heroes Cast and Dodgy, albeit updating that sound to be more contemporary, they have the rare ability of writing actual mainstream melodies. If radio gets behind it, they could be big, but even if they don't, you should give it a listen yourselves.

    Sample track: Charlemagne

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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