I don’t think it’s been the best year for new music but six albums have stood out the most to me, six albums I have thoroughly enjoyed.
David Bowie – Blackstar
At the top of my list sits Blackstar by David Bowie. It’s hard to think of any other album that surpasses the brilliance of Bowie’s final studio album. It’s the album of the year by a country mile which contains arguably Bowie’s best work in decades, a fitting end to a music legend.
The album was released just two days before Bowie’s death, a death which shook the musical world to its core. It was out of the blue, completely unforeseen, yet what became apparent during the weeks after his death is that Bowie recorded this incredible album knowing it would most likely be his last. The album only contains seven songs but they’re without a doubt seven of the best delivered songs by any artist of all time. The sounds, the tones, the atmosphere, all second to none. My favourite album of the year and one of my favourite Bowie albums full stop.
M. Ward – More Rain
M. Ward has been one of my favourite artists and guitarists for a while and his first new album since 2012 really hit the spot. He has a talent for writing and recording such beautiful sounding songs and More Rain is full of them. His production is another thing that always stands out on his records, as well as She & Him albums.
But for me this album was released when certain things were happening in my life and every time I listen to these songs I’m transported back to that time with the memories becoming as fresh as they were back then. The stand out track for me is the cover of You’re So Good To Me by The Beach Boys, which is the best song on the album. That’s not to say that Ward’s own songs aren’t as good but this cover is incredible.
The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome
The first studio album from The Rolling Stones since 2005’s A Bigger Bang was released last month and it was well worth the wait. The album features nothing but covers of blues songs by artists such as Magic Sam and Howlin’ Wolf and the result is one of my favourite albums of 2016.
The thing that really makes this album so special is that it was recorded live in the studio instead of the usual overdubbing technique that is the norm these days. Recording a whole album live in the studio is how they used to be recorded pre-mid 1960’s and it really is a lost art. Recording live also increases the energy level and that is hugely apparent when you listen to Blue & Lonesome. That and a guest appearance from Eric Clapton on two songs really makes this album a fantastic one.
Eric Clapton – I Still Do
Whenever Eric Clapton announces a new studio album I get uncontrollably excited, and that’s exactly what happened with I Still Do. I have to admit that his last studio effort, Old Sock, didn’t do much for me especially after the brilliance of 2010’s Clapton. But I Still Do showed me that Clapton has a lot left in the tank and can still play the blues as good as he ever has.
My favourite tracks on the album are (unsurprisingly) the blues numbers including Robert Johnson’s Stones In My Passway, Skip James’ Cypress Grove and Leroy Carr’s Alabama Woman Blues which opens the album. The album is a wonderful collection of songs and what elevates them even more is that they were produced by the great Glyn Johns who Clapton had previously worked with on his 1977 album Slowhand. I couldn’t not have this album on my list.
Norah Jones – Day Breaks
It’s been four years since her last studio album, Little Broken Hearts, and this album sees Norah Jones return to her jazz roots. Her last two albums have been very pop and rock orientated and while I’ve enjoyed them hugely it’s great to hear her return to the piano and that gorgeous sound of her I love so much.
Day Breaks is packed full of songs that continue to stay with you to the point where you just have to re-listen again and again. Everyone knows that she has one of the best and unique voices in music history but her songwriting is equally as brilliant, with each song featuring a goosebumps moment which makes this album extremely enjoyable to listen to. It may be one of my favourite albums of her too and definitely one of my favourite albums of the year.
She & Him – Christmas Party
The last album on my list is the fantastic new Christmas album from She & Him. It’s their second Christmas album after their brilliant 2011 album A Very She & Him Christmas which is still one of my all time favourite Christmas albums, so hearing that they were going to release a second one made my very happy indeed.
There are a number of songs on the album that instantly spring to mind when I think of my favourites on the record. They include All I Want For Christmas, Let It Snow, Mele Kalikimaka and Winter Wonderland. Overall it’s probably not as good as their first Christmas album but it’s a solid effort which will continue to be played in my house every single year.
So, these are my favourite albums of the year. No doubt I’ve forgotten one or two but these are the ones that instantly spring to mind.
What are your favourite albums of the year?