I often hear people complain about political music and argue that music and politics should be kept separate. Quite frankly, that is an opinion for the privileged and for the weak. Art is and has always been a reflection of the world around us and when the world is in turmoil, music should reflect that. But, you know, feel free to listen to 'relatable' multimillionaire Ed Sheeran sing about necking ciders on a park bench with his mates and sharing strawberry laces with his crush or whatever the fuck people enjoy listening to, I guess.
At a time where the mere existence of women, queer people and people of colour (especially those with intersectional oppressions) has been politicised, seeing artists who identify with those labels coming out fighting and showing excellence has been a joy to see.
Girl Ray - Earl Grey
Everything Everything - A Fever Dream
Emily Haines - Choir Of The Mind
Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruin
Anna of the North - Lovers
Torres - Three Futures
Shugo Takumara - TOSS
Alex Lahey - I Love You Like A Brother
Katie Von Schleicher - Shitty Hits
50. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
49. Tei Shi - Crawl Space
48. Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights
47. Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In The Alps
46. Molly Burch - Please Be Mine
45. Wolf Alice - Visions of a Life
44. Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone
43. Briana Marela - Call It Love
42. Rose Elinor Dougall - Stellular
41. Ibeyi - Ashes
40. EMA - Exile In The Outer Ring
39. Vagabon - Infinite Worlds
38. Austra - Future Politics
37. HAIM - Something To Tell You
36. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up
35. George Maple - Lover
34. Tyler The Creator - Flower Boy
33. Susanne Sundfør - Music For People In Trouble
32. Carmen Villain - Infinite Avenue
31. King Krule - The Ooz
30. Arca - Arca
29. Alvvays - Antisocialites
28. Laura Marling - Semper Femina
27. Kedr Livanskiy - Ariadna
26. SZA - CTRL
25. Tegan and Sara - The Con X Covers
24. Charli XCX - Number 1 Angel
23. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
22. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun
21. Hundred Waters - Communicating
20. Aldous Harding - Party
19. The xx - I See You
18. London Grammar - The Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
17. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
16. Zola Jesus - Okovi
15. Lydia Ainsworth - Darling of the Afterglow
14. Waxahatchee - Out In The Storm
13. Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds From Another Planet
12. Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness
11. Perfume Genius - No Shape
10. Fever Ray - Plunge
Fever Ray's self-titled debut is one of my favourite albums of all time and this somehow met the impossibly high expectations I set for its follow-up. From the brash aggressiveness of 'Wanna Sip', to the twinkling sapphic synths of 'To The Moon And Make' and the Baltic, cinematic curveball of 'Red Trails'; Karin gave me everything I wanted.
Highlights: Wanna Sip, To The Moon And Back, Red Trails
9. Tove Lo - Blue Lips
I was seriously debating whether I should be putting such a recent album this high in my but I came to the conclusion that I would still adore this if it came out months before. I've been following Tove for years now (she has also been following me for years now...on Twitter, that is), but Lady Wood (her last album) nearly turned me off her entirely. Thankfully 'Disco Tits' came along and now I'm full back on board. To my surprise and delight, she came through with an album full of tracks of the same quality.
Highlights: Disco Tits, Bitches, Hey You Got Drugs?
8. MUNA - About U
At a time where synthpop is often looked down upon and deemed 'generic', 'hollow' and 'meaningless', LA rising stars MUNA come along with one of the most polished and consistent debuts of the year. Packed full of huge choruses, shimmering melodies and powerful lyrics, About U carries a punch. Aside from 'After' being bland and unnecessary, this album is perfect.
Highlights: So Special, Around U, Everything
7. Valerie June - The Order Of Time
I have been waiting for the follow-up to Valerie's Pushin' Against a Stone for years and she finally came through with exactly what I wanted - a more polished and evolved version of her already pretty-darn-great sound. I had the pleasure of seeing Miss Valerie perform this live back in the summer and it was honestly one of my favourite gigs I've ever been too.
Highlights: Shakedown, Astral Plane, Got Soul
6. Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life
I love everything this women does (literally, everything) but this might just be the best body of work she has put out so far. Lust For Life is one long-ass album and yet it doesn't drag to me. There is structure and there is purpose to the sequencing and every song has its place - from the trap-infused first half to the acoustica reflective 60s sheen of the second half; this is the first time Lana seemingly knows what she's doing and executes that fully. Gone is the girl singing about 'daddies' in a 'red dress under the pale moonlight' and here is a woman taking on the fucked up world we inhabit. I'm so proud to see it.
Highlights: Love, Cherry, Get Free
5. Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens
A bit of techno, anyone? I think it's high time that someone the genre fused techno with a pop sensibility and Kelly has done just that. 'Techno has no vocals!' Kelly sings all over this mf thing. 'Techno is boring!' Listen to Lucid. 'Techno has no hooks!' Listen to Throwing Lines. This is the best electronic album of the year, hands down.
Highlights: Lucid, C.B.M, Throwing Lines
4. Sampha - Process
I actually forgot this came out this year until someone on campus started playing '(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano' on a public piano and I was suddenly transported back to February. My taste in music can be deemed misandrist (clock there being like...7 men in my entire top 50), but I adore everything about this album. The production is gorgeous, this voice is incredible and the songwriting is second-to-none.
Highlights: Blood On Me, Kora Sings, (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano
3. Lorde - Melodrama
After a rocky-ass roll out, I'm still astounded at how good this record ended up being. I wasn't too sure about any of the singles at first and yet somehow they all suddenly became incredible the moment I pressed play on the album? It manages to be relatable to me in this exact point in my life without being try hard. The lyrics are bold. The production is ambitious. The song structures are challenging. The sequencing is impeccable. This record is everything.
Highlights: The Louvre, Liability Perfect Places
2. Kelela - Take Me Apart
Considering that I can only fully enjoy this record at night time, I don't even know if I would love it as much if it came out in the summer. But it didn't - it came out in perfect time for me to stay in most nights and blast it from front to back with a cup of peppermint tea and a scented candle burning. Again, I've already discussed why I adore this ad nauseam in my review for my student newspaper, so read that instead.
Highlights: LMK, Truth Or Dare, Blue Light
1. St. Vincent - Masseduction
No surprises, I can comfortably call Annie my favourite artist at this point and so 40 minutes of her breathing into a mic would've still placed on this list. It helps that Masseduction is a genuine artistic achievement and marks her most polished body of work today. Rather sound like a broken record (much like my vinyl copy of this because the packaging is fucking garbage, cheers Annie), just listen to the album for yourself.
Highlights: Los Ageless, New York, Young Lover