Our writers and editors favoured a broad cross-sections of sounds in selecting their albums of the year for 2016, with an eclectic mix emerging to claim our collective top 10 spots to ultimately represent our contributing community's tastes.
There were some expected outcomes — late legend David Bowie's 27th and final studio set Blackstar shone ultra-brightly, to the point that you could see its ultimate victory atop the poll from a mile away, while both Beyonce and Radiohead also scored highly among the crew — but it wasn't just the big guns who brought the goods this year...
1. David Bowie — Blackstar
Blackstar was released worldwide on 8 Jan, coinciding with Bowie's 69th birthday. And then the world was shocked by Bowie’s death two days after the album’s release. This means our Starman was creating this album, which producer Tony Visconti described as Bowie’s “parting gift”, under the looming shadow of terminal cancer. Suddenly the opening lyrics from the album’s second single, Lazarus (“Look up here, I’m in heaven/ I’ve got scars that can’t be seen”), made us shiver. And that song’s accompanying video immediately became even more harrowing to watch. It’s remarkable that Bowie’s illness wasn’t made public until he died, especially considering he’d lived with liver cancer for 18 months. Lyrics during the harmonica-driven I Can’t Give Everything Away, the record’s closer (“I know something’s very wrong”), particularly poignant.
As with his previous The Next Day set (2013), recording sessions for Blackstar took place in secret. Bowie recruited the Donny McCaslin-led New York jazz combo as his backing band, which resulted in jazz leanings throughout (McCaslin’s sorrowful saxophone prevalent). Bowie’s first and only album to top the Billboard 200 in the States, Blackstar also features percussion from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
The title track contains the following prophetic lyrics: “Something happened on the day he died...” Bowie perfectly orchestrated his departure from this mortal coil, leaving us with a collection of songs that simultaneously dazzle and devastate. — Bryget Chrisfield