Musicandotherthingz Best Album of 2016

Our final and biggest category had a wide spread of votes for all the albums featured on it and this is testament to the closely matched level of excellence from all of our nominees on the long list. This meant a lot of them came close to reaching the top of the voting pile with Childish Gambino’s late addition, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, Blood Orange Paul Simon and Frank Ocean all getting close, but not as close as our top three who feature in descending order. 

3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (11.11% of the vote)

As Q-Tip suggested, this will be the groups final album and was only recorded because of their anger and dismay at the world around them. Their sixth album was started in secret just after the Paris attacks and completed in November this year at the peak of this dismay. With a long list of collaborations and excellent, diverse production, they were able to produce an album as relevant as ever and a defiant shout of unity amongst a nation and a world that’s tearing itself apart. If that is their final album, it’s an album that will be rated as one of their best. 

2. Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine (18.00%)

Since she’s featured so highly in almost every category she was placed in, you are probably very familiar with all the superlatives attributed to her. She is a magnificent performer, lyricist, vocalist and producer and throughout her debut album, there are no points of weakness. Each song is its own beacon to a particular set of thoughts, set to slick and ambitiously minimalist music or gracefully arranged pieces. The album is bursting with emotion and eccentricity in equal measure and this is perhaps key, for these two traits are often so divorced from each other, yet she winds them together with style and confidence. 

1. David Bowie – Blackstar (22.22%) 

Bowie left a terrifying and wondrous parting gift to the world with Blackstar. It was an album made up of complex fusions, melodies and rhythms as if the creation of a mad scientist of which Bowie must serve as the closest musical equivalent. What’s more intriguing about the album, and this is something not widely picked up on, but it’s his most personal album. Amidst the great characters and stylistic personas of that thread through Bowie’s career, his final album showed him to be just as vulnerable, scared and curious as the rest of us. Amongst all of the seemingly invincible and otherworldly alter-egos, Bowie playing the role of a mere human is perhaps the most powerful character of all. 

Owen Riddle 

Musicandotherthingz Best Production of 2016

We kick off our (prestigious) awards with Best Production of 2016. Now for all the categories bar the Popular Vote, a sizeable list of writers, musicians, bloggers and friends have all been busy voting on the various categories. Each individual received a first choice vote worth two points and a second choice vote worth one. From this, we’ve got our results! 

From Emmy The Great to Frank Ocean there has been a diverse range of production techniques and methods on show in 2016. With the likes of Kanye and Childish Gambino coming close in the list. They either mastered their tracks to manipulate classic sounds or featured producers who used every available sound to forge their instrumentation. The long list of nominees are followed by the short list below.

3. Bon Iver – 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠ (15.00% of the vote) 

This was by far Justin Veron’s most ambitious Album to date. He looked to force baroque and folk elements into the kind of juddering and hammering electronica reserved for EDM and heavy dance tracks. Somehow this odd coupling worked when combined with his whirring vocal effects to create a beautiful sound out of this musical mutation. 

2. Frank Ocean – Nikes (22.50%) 

The hazed and oscillating soundscape created here almost lulls you into a daydream. The gliding beats acoustic chords along with the sweeping electronica sifts and shifts around Frank’s almost hypnotic pitch shifted vocal. It almost sounds as if it was recorded in an echo chamber, but this was all generated by a consistently feathered production. 

1. Christine and the Queens – Narcissus Is Back (27.50%)

Heloise Letissier from Nantes is our winner for Best Production of 2016. For her stage Act of Christine, she forms minimalist and sparse arrangements, so this placed greater emphasis on her producing ability and it shines on this track and throughout the album. This track is fundamentally a set of different beats and little more, yet she is able to make each one glisten with sound and energy with the help of only a slight distortion and the perfect isolation of her vocal. She has done so much with so little here and is a deserving winner following on from last years winner Kevin Parker; who is a ‘Do it all yourself’ musician and Heloise is truly the embodiment of that philosophy. 

Owen Riddle

Frank Ocean – Blonde Review 

Blonde – Frank Ocean

The silence. It consumed the R&B world for over four years. And just as the doubt surfaced that the silence would be never-ending, Frank Ocean released Blonde; an album that, despite its minimalism, speaks volumes.

Defining Frank Ocean is like defining life itself. Blonde explores every emotion we could ever experience. With hushed intensity, lightheaded instrumentalism snakes behind Ocean’s velvety vocals. The smooth, philosophical approach of channel ORANGE translates in his second LP, with a heavy minimalist slant. Many of the tracks have abandoned any percussion, which embodies the way Ocean has dropped all boundaries in terms of this album, heightened by his striking lyrics and desertion of R&B conventions. Stripping back the instruments accentuates Ocean’s flowing narration, but also provides a sense of spaciousness, giving both Frank and his listeners time to reflect on all the heady discussions. Despite the dizzy synths and distortion, profoundly exhibited in Ivy, there is an undeniable sense of hard-hitting reality zigzagging its way through this album. Ivy itself shatters the idea of love through naivety’s eyes. Skyline To faces how “summer’s not as long as it used to be”, and Futura Free demands a return to youth via a warp of vocals and synths, with only a piano to add some sanity. There’s also uncomfortable discrepancies between Be Yourself’s anti-substance abuse rant versus Solo’s cry for highs. Whereas the more traditional ‘music’ is emotionally moving, the spoken short tracks – the harsh instructional Be Yourself and outrageousness of Facebook Story that questions our use of social media – physically positions listeners and forces them into changing their actions or feelings. There is some solace, however, in tracks such as Siegfried, which fabricates a future for Ocean and his “two kids in the swimming pool” – possibly fathered by the potential love interests of Good Guy or Self-Control. Though the album mostly dwells in a longing for past euphoria and present hopelessness, Ocean signals a revival.

There are flashes of conventionality throughout the album. Pretty Sweet closes with a fast-tempo syncopated drum machine, whilst Solo (Reprise) features a stern rap from Andre 3000. Also, Ocean and the percussion of Close To You are glued together by helium-like backing vocals. Nights draws thoughts of travelling on the night tube, resting your head against the window as the train lurches along the track. And although this is when the city is meant to come to life, the lyrics sketch the troubles of inner city lives and solemn individual situations, embodied in the fierce electric guitar hook emerging from a smooth synths and an impressive vocal display from Ocean, before settling into a sombre piano-backed almost-rap that recalls the hardships of surviving in a low-paid job.

This is an album that you can pick apart again and again and find something new every time that adds to the incredible detail with which Blonde is laced. There is so much to commend Frank Ocean for with this album – the simply beautiful intricacies, hidden meanings and piercing minimalism just to name a few assets. It’s not very often you can term an R&B album quite charming, but then it’s not very often a talent like Frank Ocean arises.

Frank Ocean – Blonde: 9/10

By Eleanor Chivers

This Weeks Music Video with Frank Ocean, Metallica, Neon Indian, Coldplay, BANKS and Will Butler