The Music Fix Albums of 2016: Part Three

Wow, 2016. What a year. What a strange, unpredictable, and sad year in so many ways. And what a shitty year for music icons. David Bowie. Prince. Leonard Cohen. Lemmy. Sharon Jones. Leon Russell. Pete Burns. Bobby Vee. The list really does go on. There's never been a year like it. You might also argue there's never been a year with so many good things for music, from the power of the Knowles sisters releases, to the sheer depth and breadth of excellent albums - including final masterpieces from Bowie and Cohen. Obviously not everything can make a list. Maybe 50 is next year's target. Or not. Anyhow, come with us and spend some time remembering the best of 2016, and maybe, hopefully, discover a new favourite from this year of many emotions.

We're revealing them a little differently this year, so here are the third and final set of ten albums from our list of thirty, in alphabetical order. The first ten are here and the second ten are here. We'll have the full 30 and a playlist of the best tracks up on Monday 12th December at 10am.

Huge thanks to the team for putting this list together: Holly Newins, Olivia Schaff, Colin Polonowski, Jonathan Tranter, Maisie Newman, Dominic Ross, and Dominic Hemy.

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Natalie McCool - The Great Unknown

We had a feeling when Natalie McCool unveiled her debut that she was on course to creating something truly special; that was a cracking album but The Great Unknown is even more. Dark pop with a barbed edge - it’s an album made up of career best tracks that any artist would be proud of but it's the anthemic 'Fortress' that marks the moment that makes this a true album of the year contender; it's a rare thing and the message of connection, protection and hope rings out strong. We’d be spoilt with one track as good as this but then we’ve got other equally as stunning tracks such as ‘Cardiac Arrest’, ‘Magnet’ and ‘You & I’; each of which bring something unique and exciting to one of the year’s most important self-released albums. The Great Unknown is an accomplishment of which McCool can be truly proud.
Best track: ‘Fortress’

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Norma Jean Martine - Only In My Mind

It might take Only In My Mind a handful of listens to break into your mind, but the New Yorker-turned-Londoner’s debut clearly has something that clicks from the very first play through. Only In My Mind is a layered and beautiful thing that sees Norma Jean Martine throws in surprise after surprise. The rock tinged ‘Animals’ is one of the standouts but isn’t atypical of an album that refuses to be defined and each tune affords Martine the chance to evolve her sound through another genre from lightweight pop to surprisingly layered soul. At times it’s tough to remember Only In My Mind is a debut, why? Simply put: it’s one of the strongest we’ve heard.
Best track: ‘Only In My Mind’

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Pascal Pinon - Sundur

Icelandic sisters Ásthildur and Jófríður Ákadóttir, calling themselves Pascal Pinon, brought their quirky and gloriously eccentric album Sundur to us, and if we needed any more proof that Iceland is the coolest place on the planet than here it is. Sung in the sister's child-like voices, these songs weave their way into your consciousness, like dreams that flicker away just as you wake. Acoustic guitars, keyboards and accordion accompany the dark fairy-tale tunes. Haunting and wonderful, you’ll want to re-visit this magical realm again and again.
Best track: ‘Skammdegi’

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Sam Coomes - Bugger Me

The music industry’s often after the next bright young thing, but the next bright old(-ish) things have much to offer too, as the self-admitted “less famous half of Quasi” Sam Coomes releases his first solo album after 23 years. And it’s a lot of fun, like if The Flaming Lips didn’t take themselves so seriously, or if Brian Wilson spent his days uploading chiptune remixes to Soundcloud. There’s a mass of production, with wonky electronics and howling radios, but it’s never over the top: pay attention and there are running narratives that may reference comic book characters and alien invasions. A joyful release of pent up creative energy. Fifty years old is the new twenty, well done Sam.
Best track: ‘Shined It On Lobotomy Eggs’

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Sia - This Is Acting

Sia may be camera shy, but there’s nothing bashful about the Aussie musician’s seventh - yes seventh - studio album. It’s hard to believe her debut, OnlySee, is twenty years old next year. An accomplished songwriter, it’s only been the last few widely released LPs that have turned her into a megastar in her own right, and This Is Acting is the perfect album to showcase her unique and powerful vocal talents. This might be her most mainstream and pop-heavy release to date, but it’s also one that pushes the envelop in many directions and while it might not seem so at first its multifaceted nature is a reflection on Sia Furler’s shy-yet-confident personality.
Best track: ‘Cheap Thrills’

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Skepta - Konnichiwa

Konnichiwa is unavoidably one of the most important albums of the year. As the winner of this year's Mercury Prize it's become a symbol of grime's resurgence, on an ever bigger scale than 13 years ago when grime godfather Dizzee Rascal won the same prize. The album is long overdue with its most iconic tracks 'That's Not Me' and 'Shutdown' - songs that saw levels of success unprecedented in the genre - being a couple of years old by the time of Konnichiwa's release. The record was preceded by a huge amount of hype and pressure as it was set to be a testament to the true popularity of grime, and neither fans nor critics were disappointed. Skepta creates an interesting contrast between the harsher, more rap-focused tracks and the more melodic songs with attention on hooks. The latter, namely 'Ladies Hit Squad' and 'Numbers', use features to create something different from the grime norm; big names Pharrell Williams, Wiley and A$AP Nastall feature. Skepta's earned his place on the list with an album responsible for spearheading a musical revolution.
Best track: 'Man'

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Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth

2016 has been eventful for America’s favourite country outlaw. Not content with taking the Nashville establishment to task he’s also released a genre defying, career defining concept album. After two country-to-the-core records, Simpson steps outside his safety zone with the horn driven, Muscle Shoals sounding, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. Across the nine tracks, loosely tied around the idea of sailors writing home, the Kentucky singer plays with his theme and his sounds. From the rolling waves and warning bell of opener ‘Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)’ through the raucous advisory anthem ‘Keep It Between The Lines’ and Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’ repurposed with a wicked country twang, to the beautiful ode to missing loved ones ‘Oh Sarah’ this is world beating stuff.
Best track: ‘Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)’

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Tegan and Sara - Love You To Death

Another act on our list that have been around for a lot longer than you might think, Tegan and Sara are on album number eight. Still bubbling under the surface of the mainstream despite the slowburn change of direction culminating in the perfect adult pop of Love You To Death. The duo have had a remarkable journey from the acoustic folk stylings of their 1999 debut Under Feet Like Ours. But the past is most definitely the past, their current output is at the highest levels of lyrical clarity, the clever gender obfuscation of lead single ‘Boyfriend’ being one of the obvious examples (“I let you take advantage cause it felt so good / I blame myself for thinking we both understood”), but the whole package is impressive; the autotuned vocals, the pop of the production, the nightclub pizzaz of the beats. The crushing sadness of ‘100x’ shows the twins can do slow, almost ballad-esque, tunes too. How they balance the showiness of it all with the intimacy of the words is what ultimately makes it soar.
Best track: ‘100x’

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Teleman - Brilliant Sanity

With their second album London based Teleman mean business and leave the gate firing on all cylinders. Revisiting the Krautrock vibe of their debut Breakfast, Brilliant Sanity is an expansive sounding album that is as angular as it is funky and, at times, anthemic. It’s a smorgasbord of influences: imagine a Roxy Music and Super Furry Animals supergroup covering early Arcade Fire in a german bierkeller while Talking Heads listen in, and you have Brilliant Sanity. With the strong opener ‘Dusseldorf’, the anthemic ‘Glory Hallelujah’, and the bouncy ‘Superglue’, this is one of the most enjoyable releases from 2016 and marks Teleman as ones to watch in 2017.

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Yak - Alas Salvation

Yak are noisy, brash and brazenly arrogant in a way new artists rarely dare, but they hold just the right amount of composure to turn it into something brilliant. Their debut, Alas Salvation, presents itself with chaotic, scribbled artwork that lets you know what you're in for. They show great skill in balancing noisy punk with guitar rock. The track list bravely omits a couple of their popular singles - most surprisingly 'No', from an EP released under Jack White's Third Man Records. However the record doesn't suffer, the electrifying sound, evocative of an anarchic White Stripes, keeps your head banging for the full 40 minutes. Amongst the stand out hits, 'Smile' and the turbulent 'Harbour the Feeling', you can find treats like the unapologetic minute-long title track. The trio have made their mark on the year with one of the most promising and defiant albums of any new act.
Best track: 'Harbour the Feeling'

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