Instead of complaining about 2016, I will celebrate the five best albums of the year.
At this point, I could join the mourning about what a terrible year 2016 has been, or I could say that I am not going to complain about the passing year, because it’s not its fault. Or I could point out, in a patronizing manner, that it is simply human to look back on a passing year. Or I could claim that 2016 was not so dramatic after all, from a static point of view, and that instead it is our perception of the world that shifts, because by now, we spend more time online than offline. And so on. Instead, I prefer to look at what was undoubtedly good in 2016: music. My five favorite albums of the year.
Solange Knowles – A Seat at the Table. I know, I shall not compare albums to What’s Going On or Roots. But rarely, very rarely, musical protest sounds as subtle and magical as in the 52 minutes that is A Seat at the Table. Solange is tired, bitter, angry, sad, her third album has got me so hooked that I can’t help but listen over and over again. Whoever can suffer, sing, write, play like this definitely earns two seats at the table. Maybe she brings her sister; she’s welcome, too. (Must hear: Cranes in the Sky, Where Do We Go, Junie)
Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love. If Prince and Sly Stone had made a lovechild in the early eighties, it would probably be Donald Glover. With Awaken, My Love!, the actor, screenwriter, rapper, comedian, jack-of-all-trades has put out a funk album so fantastic that even the figurine on the strangely beautiful album cover twists her eyes in delight. The surprise of the year. (Must hear: Redbone, Baby Boy, Stand Tall)
Blood Orange – Freetown Sound. “My album is for everyone told they’re not BLACK enough, too BLACK, too QUEER, not QUEER the right way, the underappreciated, it’s a CLAPBACK”, said Dev Hynes. And then he released exactly the album we needed before we even knew we needed it. Freetown Sound sounds slanting, sophisticated and light at the same time, the trashy cover has already become cult. (Must hear: Best to You, Love Ya, Desirée)
Frank Ocean – blonde. Frank Ocean, misfit who he is, has decided not to submit his second album to the Grammys. On the one hand, this is, of course, a political statement; on the other hand, he probably does not need this award either. Frank Ocean plays in his own league, and blonde will not be R&B album of the year – but it will be the one studio album Frank Ocean has released in 2016. In that respect, he has won anyway. (Must hear: Pink+White, Nights, Seigfried)
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate. Insider tip of the year. With a voice much older than his age, Michael Kiwanuka tells jet-black stories of pain, longing, and loss. He interweaves sounds and references that have not yet belonged together so far, creating the outsider’s epic of 2016. Father’s Child is the song of the year. (Must hear: Cold Little Heart, Rule the World, Father’s Child)