Following Kevin Clark’s best 16 albums of 2016, I now present my picks for this year! Although 2016 was a trying year, what got many of us through was the music. The angelic soars of Solange; the soulful croons of Anderson .Paak; the cheery sing-song raps of Chance The Rapper – the list goes on and on. So, instead of keeping you in anticipation, here’s my list for best albums of 2016.
1. Solange – A Seat At The Table
There’s a meditative mood that defines A Seat At The Table. In its anger, despair and frustration, Solange articulates what are often interpreted as extreme emotions with an air of calm and lightness, backed by some of the most cohesive and compelling production of her career. Throughout the album’s 21 tracks finds Solange exploring her experiences as a black woman in America. Her tone is assertive and powerful, but subdued: a voice of someone whose travels have made them weary but wiser nonetheless. Along her adventures she gets advice from Master P; gets Lil Wayne to provide one of the most captivating raps he’s offered in recent years; dances with Sampha; and simply immerses herself in black brotherhood and sisterhood. To take a seat at the table comes with confrontation — an acceptance and awareness of the joys and pains that come with being black. You will cry; you will dance; you will sing — A Seat At The Table is therapy, and Solange our therapist.
2. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Childish Gambino, Donald Glover‘s musical persona, has been hard to take seriously at times, but at the very least with each release he’s offered there’s been an indication — a desire — to grow. Awaken, My Love! roars with a certain confidence and freedom that Gambino has been exploring ever since Because The Internet, but instead of diving deep into the wormhole of the world wide web, his latest album finds home looking for comfort in the sounds that raised him. Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone — the funk drives Awaken and Gambino finds liberation in the funk. But in that sonic exploration also comes surreal but poignant commentary on everything from racial fear (“Boogieman”) to being a father. Sure, you can accuse Gambino of pastiche (yours truly did), but if there’s ever a moment of skepticism in which you wonder just how committed he is to this album, just skip to 2:40 of “Redbone.” A scream like that doesn’t come without dedication. Hopefully Glover is speaking to himself with the album title of Awaken, My Love! Here, we’re witnessing the return of an artist who seems to finally be making the music he’s always wanted to, looking towards the future while simultaneously celebrating the past.
3. Kaytranada – 99.9%
There’s an atmosphere of fun that makes 99.9% so alluring. Kaytranada treats his debut album like an old school DJ set: there’s the festive kickoff (“Track Uno”), which then goes back and forth between momentum builders (“Together,” “One Too Many” and “Glowed Up”) and breath catchers (“Got It Good” and “Despite The Weather”). The end result is a project that highlights Kaytranada’s abilities to craft catchy and beautiful songs, and complimenting them with voices that know how to shine on them. Also, shouts out to Gal Costa.