Most Surprising Album of the Year
This was the year our appetite for music went fully viral, not in the Twitter sense but rather the insatiable-zombie-apocalypse-spawning-organism sense.
Beyoncé, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and just about everyone else seemed to drop critically acclaimed albums and yet our hunger couldn’t give us more than moments of satiation.
That’s why Eluvium’s ambient soundtrack to a murky fever dream, False Reading On, gets my nod. Three months and a thousand listens after it was released and I still can’t get enough of it.
Honourable mentions: Woman by Justice; Untitled and Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar. — Yolisa Mkele
Let-down of the Year
I was tempted to lob Beyoncé’s Lemonade in here, not because it was bad but it was a triumph of marketing over music and it would drive the Beyhive (the name of her fan base) nuts.
Sadly I remembered that one of my favourite bands, M83, released an album titled Junk this year and it was as good as swallowing a jar of live wasps. Perhaps the weight of expectation produced an exaggerated response but wasps are wasps and that album was trash. — Yolisa Mkele
Best Album of The Year
Indie pop band Miike Snow’s latest album is their best music yet. It is their first album in four years and it shows no signs of rust. The album has several up-tempo tunes like Pull My Trigger, Heart of Me and Back of the Car, which are perfect for ambient music at a party or get-together.
Some say it lacks meaningful lyrics but the album performs greatly when it comes to rhythm and catchiness – which is all you need sometimes, isn’t it? Furthermore if you listen a little longer the superficially strange lyrics will reveal their meaning. Since discovering the album I haven’t tired of it and that’s saying something in 2016. — Jessica Evans
Most Disappointing Album of The Year
One Republic: Oh My My. As is usual for many artists, One Republic’s style has evolved and Oh My My is proof of this. Although the lyrical quality is arguably the same as before, the style has become disappointingly electronic and digitised. The tracks on the album are good and they still inspire foot-tapping but they feel more repetitive than on previous albums like Waking Up and Dreaming Out Loud.
It seems this music is more for mainstream consumption – if I heard it on the radio I wouldn’t have recognised it as One Republic. Some songs have elements of their old stuff but the rest of the album is so mixed it’s as if they are searching for their style all over again. — Jessica Evans
Best Exit Music
The great David Bowie released what would be his final album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday in January. Two days later he died of cancer. Blackstar was quite a way to say goodbye to his fans: seven incredible, well-crafted, dark, gorgeous and jazzy songs.
One of the videos released from the album was Lazarus (a reference to the Biblical figure who was dead for four days before Jesus restored him back to life), in which a frail-looking Bowie floated from a hospital bed before disappearing into a dark closet.
Rap legends A Tribe Called Quest also released a spectacular final album in We Got It From Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service. The record followed the death of member Phife Dawg earlier this year. It was poignant, it was beautiful and it was dope. — Pearl Boshomane
Biggest Flex of the Year
That Kendrick Lamar chap is a show-off. Last year the rapper released what’s easily one of the best rap records of the last 20 years, the unapologetically and aggressively black-as-hell To Pimp a Butterfly.
Come 2016 and Lamar decided to release Untitled Unmastered, an EP featuring eight unmastered and untitled B-sides from his To Pimp a Butterfly recording sessions – and it’s better than most rappers’ best work. — Pearl Boshomane