1. James Ferraro -- Human Story 3
2. Xenia Rubinos -- Black Terry Cat
AMAZING mathy, funky neo-soul. Low-key marxist-feminist. Best-sung album of the year, easy.
3. Noname -- Telefone
It's like the rap album your best friend released, except it's brilliant and creative and beautiful and not embarrassing at all! She's such a sweetheart and I love her so much. The production is EYE-POPPING. Its starting point is the Chicagoan lushly soulful gospel/jazz thing but goes off in this totally fucked up juke-via-A. G. Cook direction. And it lacks the taint of superstardom and Obama and stuff.
Apparently she's leaving off hip hop forever which ????
4. Crying -- Beyond the Fleeting Gales
I do miss the confessional soft-emo stuff they used to make (there were gameboys!) but this grew on me so much, it's the most gloriously corny power-prog and it's so lush and beautiful. Between the broken synthesisers and Elaiza Santos' Kim Deal-esque vocals, there's as much of the lazily-ecstatic sorta wistful teenage saudade
as ever, actually, it's just sandwiched between David Gilmour guitar screeches and Rush drum solos. It's LIGHT prog -- there's maybe one unexpected transition and one unconventional time signature per song, at best, but it works out to be just enough to keep up the excitement.
5. Ice Choir -- Designs in Rhythm
It's unlike Prefab Sprout/Scritti Politti in that the lyrics are completely meaningless, but everything else is perfectly realised and faithful pastiche -- it's synthier, but that's what you're mainly looking for in your eighties revival, anyway. Love the weird, uncanny feel of the vocals. The chord progressions are so interminable and silly they feel more like Paddy McAloon send-ups than tributes, actually. It's really fun.
6. VAPERROR -- Acid Arcadia
It bangs really hard and consistently and it's just short enough to be a properly energising sugar-rush and not burn out before it's over. Good sounds.
7. Solange -- A Seat at the Table
She still sings slightly as through through a sinus infection and I'm not completely sold on every feat, but "Cranes in the Sky" is the absolute best song of the year that wasn't the b-side of a better album from last year and everything else is comparably good. Absolutely living for the splashes of gospel piano and the drums throughout. Those feelgood/(fireemoji)-fusion skits dotted about strengthen the Soulquarian feel -- when did 2016 become the year of neo-soul revival? And actually, for someone plagued with negative comparisons to her sister as a singer, some of those chorister-pure angelic high-notes might be among the best-sung moments of the year, too.