Wonderland takes a look at 2016’s best album releases.
Beyonce’s Lemonade was one of the most significant releases this year, and it dominated multi-platform. The visual album aired on it’s own hour long HBO special, and was then split into several singles containing spoken word, glorious dresses and politically potent lyrics. Queen Bey’s sixth studio album, starring Kendrick and Jack White, was eagerly anticipated, and absolutely adored once it was released. A statement from Tidal said the album is “conceptual project based on every woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing.” Long may she reign.
Unless you live on the moon, you’ve heard Frank Ocean’s Blonde. The emotional, unconventional fourth album is made up of R&B poetry, the result of the collaborative effort of several of the most talented musicians of our time, including Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Johnny Greenwood and James Blake. The intriguing sounds accompany a call to arms, a political protest, in reaction to the police brutality faced by young black men in America. A thoughtful and intimate album, makes for one of the best to be released in 2016.
Her rhythmic, relevant sounds, and coarse beautiful lyricism has meant that Noname has been on the radar for a little while now. This year, she released Telefone, an album that you’ll play over and over, and not for reasons you’d expect. To hear a female voice in a predominantly male rap arena is so refreshing, and her unapologetic approach to topics like abortion set to twinkling melodies make the Chicago native’s first mixtape one of the best albums of this year, and maybe even next year too.
Stranger Things Soundtracks
Stranger Things was hella popular this year, with the stars of the Netflix show, Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown rocketing into stratospheric popularity. So it’s not surprising the spooky, enchanting songs have made it onto Wonderland’s best albums of 2016. Composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein whilst they were creating the show, the visuals and sounds are eerily in sync. This explains why Stranger Things wouldn’t be what it is without the atmospheric 80’s synth that has led to comparisons to the soundtracks of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”.
Kanye West: The Life Of Pablo
Energetic, conflicted and much anticipated, comes The Life of Pablo, Yeezy’s seventh studio masterpiece. Kanye’s had a turbulent year, and musically, it’s been brilliant. The title “The Life of Pablo” kept people guessing which Pablo he’s referring too – Pablo Picasso or Pablo Escobar, the artist or the drug baron. This is the album containing that track, “Famous”, with samples from Nina Simone and a controversy including arguments with Taylor Swift. He worked with lots of other rappers and hip hop artists, such as Chance, who appeared on “Ultralight Beam” the opening track of the album. Taking references from his work in Graduation, the album we all know and love, The Life of Pablo is a mix of his earlier self, and his current self.
Chance The Rapper: Coloring Book
2016 saw the release of the third mixtape by the young American hip hop artist we’ve all loved from the digital release of “10 day” to “Cocoa Butter Kisses”. It’s an important progression from his previous work, and being released away from any significant label makes Coloring Book all that bit more covetable and genuine. The Chicago born rapper is able to use his music as a way to report on his life as a black man in the city, in the context of a politically confused America and #blacklivesmatter era. Chance’s ability to discuss troublesome, modern issues with an uplifting tone makes it difficult to switch off the repeat button. Coloring Book is just as addictive as Acid Rap, but this is a gospel album, with promises of going to the promised land. Your ears definitely do with this one.
This year the world said goodbye to several musical icons, one of which was David Bowie. The man with gorgeous alter egos, a killer dress sense and a style that fans all over adored. Blackstar, the twenty fifth album released by Bowie, was his final masterpiece and gift to the world. The collection of mysterious tracks remind us that whilst the man is gone- the extraordinary artist‘s music stays forever. A jazz influence makes the album unpredictable and spirited, with progressive gender-bending lyrics that we have come to expect from the pioneering Bowie. Blackstar, a great addition to a formidable legacy, is the last on Wonderland’s top seven albums of the year, but certainly not the least.
BONUS ALBUM (we just couldn’t leave this out!)
Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love!
Childish Gambino, the musical alter-ego of Donald Glover, has been said to be bringing the funk back to music with his album this year, Awaken, My Love! He appears to have moved on from rap, creating some soulful uplifting beats mixed with some important but light political undertones. The funky psychedelic rhythms arranged into an eleven track symphony offers a different artistic statement than we’re used to from Gambino. Yet with the influence of greats such as Prince shining through, this album is the 70’s beats we’ve all been missing.