Best albums of 2016: top 10

Here we go. The top 10. Every one of these albums is a veritable buffet of sounds and sensations. There’s love, there’s soul, there’s rhythms and words to help you reach higher.

A special mention must go to Xylaroo for their debut album, Sweetooth, which appears to be the best 2016 album practically no one has heard.

What have your albums of the year been? Tweet me with your thoughts via @aarnlee.

10. Xylaroo – Sweetooth
9. Skepta – Konnichiwa
8. Nao – For All We Know
7. Frank Ocean – Blonde
6. Shura – Nothing’s Real
5. Billie Marten – Writing of Blues and Yellows
4. Alicia Keys – Here
3. Solange – A Seat at the Table
2. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
1. Anderson Paak – Malibu
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Various Artists – Hidden Figures: The Album review

Soul meets space travel on the soundtrack for forthcoming film, Hidden Figures. It comes courtesy of Pharrell Williams – who also worked on the film’s score with Hans Zimmer – and features guest spots by Lalah Hathaway, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe and Kim Burrell. Continue reading

Alicia Keys – Here review

Alicia Keys 2016 (Mar) press photo (1431x805)Alicia Keys’ sixth album, Here, is an unexpected masterwork. Quite unlike her previous release, Girl on Fire, it is an album infused with rhythm, creativity and purpose not heard since her earliest albums. And it’s also one of this year’s must-hear releases. Continue reading

Lion Babe – Begin review

Lion Babe - press photo 2015, 3, by Misha Taylor (1920x1080)In the words of director and artist Simon Frederick: “Black is the new black”. And few things this year have brought delight, joy and open-mouthed awe to me than the sight of black sisters rocking natural curls with pride. Alicia Keys, Solange, Corinne Bailey Rae, Fleur East, Nao and Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, to name but a few of the music world’s natural hair heroes.

But what has hair got to do with music – and Lion Babe specifically? More than you’d think. Hair is an express of the self. And anyone who knows what it’s like maintaining an afro, day in, day out, will tell you that – just ask Erykah Badu, India.Arie or Solange. Jillian Hervey, Lion Babe’s majestic frontwoman, wears a mane of golden curls that look as though they were a gift from the goddess Oshun herself.

Hervey’s natural hair journey – as well as the fact she is the daughter of singer and actress, Vanessa Williams – brought her face to face with taunts, teases and pressure for her to conform to her attacker’s standards of beauty. But, as she told Glamour magazine earlier this year, returning to natural hair led her to feel “very comfortable in my skin and really confident about who I was”. The Lion Babe of today could not exist without this comfortable, confident brown-skinned wonder woman. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Alicia Keys – In Common

Alicia Keys - In Common (1050x590)US R&B singer and pianist, Alicia Keys, has long delivered soulful grooves that move your hips as well as your heart. After taking things in a more straight-laced direction with her last album, Girl on Fire, she’s returned with a song steeped in tropical flavour. Continue reading