Now to get serious, the real meaty ones, the albums you shouldn’t have missed in 2016. I have decided to release in installments of five albums at a time, whenever I feel comfortable in releasing them. Here are the first lot:
20. Gain- End Again
Gain‘s mini album took my attention with it’s immediately different sound to her usual standard Kpop fare- instead opting for a showtuney, theatrical sound, which works wonders for her. The lead single “Carnival” just drips with sensuality (it’s also sporting one of my favorite music videos this year), and while it would be easy to dismiss it as sounding “Disney”- you’d be missing all the nuance and melancholy behind it. The rest of the album plays into this sound, and truly makes it a standout Kpop release this year. Amazing production value, it sounds smooth as honey. More like this GAIN, your usual sounds incredibly boring in comparison.
19. Yoko Hamasaki- BLUE FOREST
URBANGARDE‘s Yoko Hamasaki this year released her second solo album and it’s a real gem. Her self produced mini really showcases her as a songwriting powerhouse and her sense of theatrics really shines through. The lead single, a cover of “I Love Chopin” is both quirky and delightful; she shows a true love for the original and truly does it justice. The rest of the album is an audacious, bright and tastefully cheesy (that’s right, never let anyone tell you that a bit of cheese can’t be a good thing!) selection of tracks that never lets up its energy throughout the whole playlist, encouraging repeat listening. Good stuff!
18. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead‘s followup to The King of Limbs seems to have landed far better than its predecessor in the wide world of music. Who can blame anyone? It’s got some of their most straightforward, to the point tunes in years, and everything sounds like ‘songs’ in the traditional sense of the word. There’s some truly amazing songwriting here, the balladry is impeccable and among the best of the year. It will no doubt appear in most ‘best of 2016’ lists (albeit likely much higher than it is in mine) and rightly so. This is Radiohead being Radiohead TM, no more, no less. Highly enjoyable and a good talking point for your normie friends.
17. Ayumi Hamasaki- Made In Japan
The second Hamasaki on this list, and the one I’m sure everyone knows at this point, is Ayumi Hamasaki‘s latest full length. It’s a real nice one too, offering all the sass, pomp and emotion that she gave in her heyday- all in a short, sweet ten tracks. For me, as a long term fan, there are no duds in the entire playlist, its a real nice selection of each of her different faces, without ever feeling compromised or lacking. It’s her best in years, there is no doubt about it, and well deserves it’s place in my top 20 album of 2016.
16. Soutaiseiriron- Tensei Jingle
Soutaiseiriron‘s 2016 album will no doubt end up on many top Japanese lists. It’s beautiful, well produced and mixed, warm and memorable. It’s one of the tightest sounding records I heard all year, and definitely has some of the strongest pop hooks you’ll find anywhere. Overall, on a personal level, it didn’t have the longest shelf life out of all the things I listened to- but when it came out I really, really loved it. Now it’s there whenever I feel like chilling out with some insanely well produced pop tunes. Oh, and those eerily sexy vocals…