2016’s Top 10 Albums So Far

Sorry, We Couldn’t Wait Until December

Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

We’re only halfway through 2016 and there is already an onslaught of remarkable albums to take note of.

Big-name artists such as James Blake, Beyoncé and Radiohead have all returned with crisp production, sharp lyrics and attitudes that are distinctly unique to each artist.

Kaytranada and Chance The Rapper among some more eccentric artists will all appear on The Link’s Top 10 Albums of 2016—so far. Here are some albums that we believe are really rad—and hope you will, too.

1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

Anderson .Paak established himself as one of the hottest artists in 2016 with the release of Malibu. The album is captivating and filled with funky instrumental work that’s more than fitting for the summer season. “The Bird” and “Water Fall (Interluuube)” display a kind of intimacy that can be felt through .Paaks soulful vocal delivery. Songs such as “Without You”, “Am I Wrong” and “Light Weight” showcase the artist’s diversity. The guest features on Malibu shine just as bright as the eccentric rapper himself does on his sophomore efforts. Schoolboy Q, Rapsody, The Game, BJ the Chicago Kid and Talib Kweli contribute clearly focused efforts to make this album stand out.

2. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered

Sticking to the same themes as Lamar’s highly influential 2015 release To Pimp A Butterfly, the Compton MC boasts his skills once again and proves that he is a force to be reckoned with—and will continue to be for years to come. Kendrick Lamar grooves his way into the funk and jazz flavoured instrumentals that’ve been contributed by a handful of talented musicians: Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Sounwave, Thundercat, and Bilal are just a few of the prominent artists that lent their hand in the shaping of the acclaimed LP. With such a stellar lineup of guest features on a near perfect album of throwaway material, Kendrick has got us all wondering—what’s next?

3. Beyoncé – Lemonade

Notorious songstress Queen Bey returns with her sixth studio album, Lemonade, quenching our thirst for her soulful singing. The single and video release for “Formation” had fans around the globe foaming at the mouth, anticipating what Beyoncé was going to drop next. From the playful and country inspired track “Daddy Lessons,” to the heart wrenching performance on “Sandcastles,” Beyoncé slays all over this album. With perfectly executed features from James Blake, Jack White, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, Lemonade is as refreshing as the sweet drink itself.

4. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Death Grips really don’t give a fuck about how things should look or sound. They’re the most riveting band to enter the music scene within the past couple of years and are infamously well-known for keeping their fans in the dark. Bottomless Pit is no exception. Grisly hooks paired with insane drum playing and heavily industrialized production stylings make familiar appearances all over this project. The results make for one of the most abrasive album experiences I can remember in recent time. Bottomless Pit is a solid throwback to one of Death Grip’s most highly regarded albums, The Money Store. Death Grips has the tendency to scare off those who aren’t familiar with their intense sound, so I would encourage you to step back into their older catalogue of music before giving their latest LP a spin. It’ll be well worth it for the sake of discovering an unconventional band.

We’re only halfway through 2016 and there is already an onslaught of remarkable albums to take note of.

5. James Blake – The Colour In Anything

English singer-songwriter James Blake has blown us away once again with one of the most emotionally textured albums to be released this year. The Colour in Anything breathes life to the entire art form of music. The production feels just as deep as Blake’s tender singing on each track and paints a portrait akin to the cover art. Dark tones are covered from front to back on the album but are enriched by a focus on the clean production. Justin Vernon from Bon Iver and Frank Ocean lend helping hands in writing four of the songs on the seventeen track LP. For the most part, Blake puts himself at the forefront, revealing a sensitive side of the artist that fans haven’t seen in nearly three years. As a side note, he’ll be producing Vince Staples’ next EP, so get hyped for more brilliant work from Blake in the coming year. James Blake will be performing in Montréal at Le Metropolis on October 5th, make sure to buy your tickets!

6. Kaytranada – 99.9%

Montréal electronic artist Kaytranada debuts 99.9%, an incredibly well produced LP that felt prepared for dance floors as well as wild house parties. The album features an incredible array of artists that had me patiently listening to every song with as much attention to detail as possible. BADBADNOTGOOD, Vic Mensa, Anderson .Paak, AlunaGeorge, Karriem Riggins and many other guests contribute their efforts to make this album an extravagant club banger. Influences from disco, jazz, funk and hip hop can be heard throughout the tracklist—it’s refreshing to hear Kaytranada’s approach to these genres. One of my favorite songs of the year is “Glowed Up” which features Anderson .Paak being cool as fuck over crispy synths and beautiful high hats that transition midway to a humbling tender type beat.

7. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

It’s charming listening to Coloring Book, the latest record from Chicago-native Chancelor Bennett, better known by his pseudonyms in the rap game Chano, Lil Chano from 79th, or most popularly: Chance The Rapper. It’s easy to tell how passionate Chance must’ve felt while working on his third solo effort when listening to the dreamy mixtape, as well as how much love and enthusiasm was put into project. Rap and gospel blend together, making a brightly coloured narrative that’s filled with an infinite amount of positive vibes. From the anthemic banger “No Problems,” which features 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, to the track “Blessings” with a gorgeous hook sung by Jamila Woods that’s as sweet as candy, Coloring Book is utterly phenomenal.

8. Lil Yachty – Lil Boat

Lil Boat has a vibrant trap beat that feels tough in a cute way and ends up working out well for the young rapper’s style. The lead single “1Night” had garnered Lil Yachty loads of attention when the track was released in August of last year, having a near 30 million plays on the artist’s Soundcloud account. The video for the single is the perfect visual example of what Lil Yachty’s music is all about. Animated, light and catchy as all hell, it’s clear that the youthful Atlanta MC is fully engulfed in his silly music persona. He’s deciding to have a good time with his music and not shape it to sound like something it’s not.

9. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead has always been known for their pivotal records and intriguing rollouts to their albums. A Moon Shaped Pool was quite the emotional rollercoaster for diehard fans of the art rock group, who started out their campaign for their ninth studio LP by deleting all history on their social media platforms. Less than a week later, A Moon Shaped Pool was released, seemingly satisfying the needs of Radiohead fanatics worldwide. Luscious orchestral work from the first single “Burn the Witch” are engineered beautifully with help from the London Contemporary Orchestra that have a powerful string section leading the track. “Ful Stop” has a muddled warping sound to start off the track only to switch midway through to a colourfully rich production that sounds calm and melancholic. If you haven’t delved into the world of Radiohead, then give this latest LP a listen and you’ll get an inviting introduction to the legendary band. You can look forward to seeing Radiohead at Osheaga when they headline the festival on July 30th.

Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto

It’s refreshing to hear a classic g-funk inspired production from the young artist Kamaiyah shine bright with her debut mixtape A Good Night In The Ghetto. The Oakland rapper delivers a distinctly west coast flavoured mixtape featuring instrumentals that sound like they could’ve been made in the early 90’s, around the time that gangsta-funk came into fruition. “Out The Bottle” celebrates getting wasted and being confident in yourself to have a good time wherever you decide to get loose at. Nearly all the songs on the mixtape have a fun aesthetic of being funky which makes for a groovy listen. “For My Dawgs” stands out from other songs on the tracklist because Kamaiyah elaborates on her feelings of losing two close friends, one due to cancer and the other to gang violence. It’s a heart wrenching song that adds a sobering effect for the listener. It shows the struggles of a young artist whose life hasn’t been of the luxury that some may have made it out to seem.