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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In Praise of Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean - 2012 press photo 01 (1448x815)It’s incredible how little I have written about Frank Ocean considering how many times I have played his music over the last four years, and how deeply it has touched me. Following the release of his second album, Blonde, in August, it’s high time I remedied this fact with a piece in praise of this singular artist. Continue reading

Frank Ocean – Blonde review

Frank Ocean - Blonde promo art 1 (1200x675)The curse of the difficult-second-album hangs over Frank Ocean’s Blonde like an unforgiving spectre. As if following up his critically acclaimed debut, Channel Orange, wasn’t hard enough already: there was the endless rumours, the delays and the never-ending storm of desire and derision on social media. No wonder Ocean prefers to keep himself to himself these days.

For better and worse, Ocean’s second album is the product of personal struggle under the weight of intense expectation. It doesn’t reach the dizzying perfection of his 2012 debut, but it is a profound listen nonetheless. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: John Mayer – Love on the Weekend

John Mayer - Love on the Weekend single (600x338)If you’re going to hitchhike across the United States, you’d do well to bring some John Mayer with you. (And not only because his instrumental contribution to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is still one of the greatest one-minute instrumental interludes of recent memory.) The music of this Connecticut guitarist and rock singer conjures up idyllic visions of America’s wild lands. Continue reading

Cover songs and why they spice up life

Busker Charlotte, London riverbank, Feb 22, 2014, by Nate Edwards (3840x2160)Sometimes a good cover version will bring out a side to a song – and the musician performing it – that you never knew was there. This week I’ve been reminded of that in three ways.

The first was Ella Eyre’s version of ‘Going On’ by Gnarls Barkley. This song falls into the category of ‘nearest-and-dearest-so-don’t-you-dare-mess-it-up’. Famed for featuring on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’, Eyre is a stupendous singer, but I think there’s always going to be some trepidation when it comes to covers of songs that mean a lot to you. Continue reading

Best albums of 2012: the forgotten 15

Frank Ocean - press photo 01 (1448x815)September has arrived. Which means the autumn album releases are upon us, and what a cracking bunch there are this year. Haim, Chvrches, London Grammar, the Rizzle Kicks, Eliza Doolittle, Deltron 3030, Fatima, Anna Calvi and, the one I’m most excited for, Janelle Monàe, with her sophomore record The Electric Lady. Continue reading