From Skepta winning the Mercury Prize (deserved, but we still reckon Made In The Manor should’ve pipped it), to Adele giving a masterclass on how to own the Pyramid Stage all the way to both Beyonce and Solange dropping surprise LPs, 2016’s been pretty great for the music scene. Like, of course we’re gonna sideline the fact that we all became more political than we probably ever imagined, (and as such, got even more disappointed with the rest of the world), but still, let’s park that for a bit whilst we share with you our favourite 16 songs of the year.
Tbh, we can think of a good couple of hundred tracks that have smashed the dancefloors and the Spotify playlists out there, so whittling it down to 16 was fucking hard graft – in that sense, we’re certain there’s gonna be a lot of people questioning this list, but, well, we’ve all learned that in 2016, nothing can go our way.
Here we go; we’ve placed one song per page so you can easily link back to your favourites too:
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Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
The title-track to Michael Kiwanuka’s sophomore record admittedly took a couple of plays to get into, but once immersed, it quickly became a song that not only failed to tire, but also set the scene for the rest of the record’s introspective soul-searching. Combined with vocals that could easily be compared to Otis Redding levels of huskiness, alongside strings that could sound as solid in Radio 1’s Live Lounge as they would in the Royal Albert Hall, Love & Hate has all the markings of a classic. Hit up the rest of the album on Apple Music too:
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Loyle Carner – The Isle of Arran
Loyle Carner kicked off the promo-run for his anticipated Yesterday’s Gone debut LP back in November, sharing the project’s lead single The Isle Of Arran, a striking introspective track that harnessed the Londoner’s immediacy with one of the most beautiful gospel samples we’ve heard in years.
Stunning, absolutely stunning.
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Solange – Cranes In The Sky
Solange dropped her ‘Beyonce’s younger sister’ stigma that’s been surrounding her since the start of her career with the surprise release of her A Seat At The Table LP back in October. Cranes In The Sky was an undoubted standout; showcasing Solange’s evolution as an artiste in her own right, the song’s smooth instrumental (led by Raphael Saadiq on bass, no-less) allowed the singer an air of roominess in which to tell her story, and with that, delivered one of the most remarkable sonics of the year.
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Justice – Safe & Sound
New Justice…. you can’t really say anything more than that, really. Released as their first piece of new music in five years, the gospel-inspired Safe and Sound also marked the return of the ‘children’s chorus’ that has played so well in their previous cuts, and whilst the rest of their Woman LP perhaps didn’t deliver upon the excitement surrounding the buzz track, Justice firmly delivered the gap left by Daft Punk following the latter’s absence since 2013.
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Mura Masa – What If I Go? (ft Bonzai)
Mura Masa dropped his most-compelling (and most radio-friendly) track of his career with the Bonzai-featuring What If I Go? earlier this year. The glitch-fest set a distinct closer to his multiple live shows (alongside his previous standout Firefly); and helped him to deliver the biggest Thursday night crowd seen in Glastonbury’s dance history back in the summer.
Certified excellence right here!
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Lido – Crazy
As innovation goes, Lido is one of those at the forefront. Pushing forward the realms of electronica, his work has been quickly garnering the attentions of some of the music-sphere’s biggest hitters (Disclosure, The Weeknd, Chance The Rapper, among others), and this year he celebrated his debut album Everything with the Blackstreet-sampling Crazy.
Catch it below:
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Sigma – Find Me (ft Birdy)
Sigma shared the first preview of their anticipated second album back in November with the exciting Find Me, a track which stayed true to the duo’s winning pop/DnB roots, albeit enlisting the soaring and heartfelt vocals from Birdy. A few weeks on and this one still absolutely bangs.
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Skream – You Know, Right?
After teasing the joint during his summer sets, Skream finally released You Know, Right back in November, taking the cool kids on a dance journey through the rave days all the way to house-land with a UKG tip thrown in for good measure. It might have missed the wider setlists this summer, but make no worry, You Know, Right is gonna be around for a hell of a long time!
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Kano – 3 Wheel-Ups
Tbh, in our eyes, Made In The Manor should’ve won 2016’s Mercury Prize. A record that positioned Kano not just as a grime MC but as a bonafide artiste, the project delivered a reflective stance of East London life, both past and present. As someone who’s been a fixture on the scene from pretty much the start, MITM saw growth and maturity in music-writing, whilst some of his peers bowed to a focus more on the aspect of being an MC for their own collections. Undoubtedly it was the Giggs-featuring 3 Wheel-Ups that helped command Kano’s place as grime’s royalty – even just the instrumental can command an arena-sized mosh. This is a gem that’s going to be as poineering to Kano’s career as Ps & Qs was over a decade back.
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Jamie Joseph – Regularly
Nestled part-way among the gems of the BrOTHERHOOD soundtrack comes Jamie Joseph’s Regularly, a wonderful head-nodder that oozes modern-day soul whilst also setting a glorious preview as what’s to come for the 24 year-old’s upcoming debut album. Check it below:
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Jorja Smith – Blue Lights
Young Midlands-based Jorja Smith stamped an impressive debut with Blue Lights earlier this year, delivering one of the most-compelling pieces of original stories since Alessia’s 2015 joint Here. It’s not just the clever sample of Dizzee’s Sirens that draws attention – Blue Lights at its core synonymises 21st century youth culture with a twist on social commentary at its heart.
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Dusky – Ingrid Is A Hybrid
Like Skream’s You Know, Right, we’d imagine Dusky weren’t aware of the impact Ingrid Is A Hybrid would have on 2016 dancefloors. A fusion of throwback rave culture alongside outworldly synths, Ingrid is as jarring as it is distinct and set a strong precedent for Dusky’s Outer LP from which it led.
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Glass Animals – Life Itself
After debuting the weirdly-compelling new trailer for their second album How To Be A Human Being, Glass Animals finally dropped the project’s lead single earlier this year, sharing the tribal-esque Life Itself to mark the band’s further progression from 2014’s Zaba. Moving out the shadows of their debut’s more ethereal space, Life Itself encompassed all the hypnotics we’d been exposed to from their first record, this time though affirming that the group meant business – more drums, more synths, more weirdness. This one is certainly likely to achieve the longevity of their breakout Gooey.
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Bonobo – Kerala
Bonobo announced his surprise return in November with a new album (Migration) alongside lead single Kerala, a gorgeously-textured masterpiece which, as an instrumental-itself, showcased everything we loved about the producer’s previous discography. The subtle Brandy samples only helped to solidify this as a post-3am joint for 2017 and beyond:
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Flume – Never Be Like You
Four years in the making, Flume’s follow-up to his self-titled debut was set alight with the Kai-featuring Never Be Like You; a joint that firmly delivered the best of futuretronic pop (essentially a genre the young Australian helped to craft way back in 2012), and a song that exhubed excellence be it on the dancefloors to the radios to the iPods.
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Rudimental – Healing
After being nestled within many big-name sets throughout the spring, the mysterious white labelled Healing was finally revealed to be a one-off track from Rudimental. Alas whilst it may not have hit the heights it deserved on the various streaming services, the track saw the boys return to their roots, delivering a deep and soulful banger that transended disco, funk, soul and house. J Angel’s vocals completely complemented it too – if this one’s still new to you, we’d highly suggest absorbing it below: