Best albums of 2016: preface

A brief reflection on the bleak year that was 2016 – and why we should take heart

What a year it’s been. A bleak, bitter, cruel, savage, unjust, intolerant, hate-filled, merciless, tiring, soul-crushingly awful year.

There is a collective sigh of indignation towards the events of 2016: from Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, to terror attacks and natural disasters that left hundreds dead. Hatred, racism and bigotry have festered and spread like a disease.

And in between all of this, we lost dozens of our cherished musicians, actors and sporting greats. Some of those from the music world include David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest), Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic), Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), Sharon Jones and Prince.

To say that 2016 has been a rotten year doesn’t sum it up: it has been an exhausting struggle to carry on. The question on everybody’s lips: Where do we go from here?

But enough of this depression. Enough of this complaining. Enough of this doubt.

The world is hurting, but we are still here. And the historic music of 2016 shows us precisely why we must not give up or give in.

From long-awaited follow-ups by Frank Ocean and De La Soul, to powerful statements of intent by Christine and the Queens and Solange, to astounding debuts from young musicians such as Billie Marten and Jorja Smith: 2016 has been a phenomenal year for music.

Every year I tell my myself I’m going to open my ears further and share even more than before – I’ve done more than a bit of that this year, but I’ll have to do better still to keep up with the never-ending output of musical excellence on offer.

The quality has been so high this year that it’s almost impossible to choose no fewer than 80 albums to recommend without feeling awkward about all of the other standout albums that didn’t make the final cut. Still, it’s gotta be done.

Over the course of the next five days I will run down 50 of 2016’s most accomplished releases, including many of my personal favourites.

There will be music to jam to, music to concentrate to, music to reminisce to and everything in between. Whatever your fancy, I hope you find something new among my choices that connects with you.

See my entire albums of 2016 series.

Image: Aaron Lee