2016's best albums

Well. I don't think any of us were expecting a year like that.

It's been quite the ride 2016, a year which well and truly threw the rulebook out the window. Whilst all the political hoo-hah and celebrity deaths were going on, a few artists decided to release albums. Some  of those were really good.

So let's not dwell on the questionable decisions made in months past, lets focus on pieces of art that were triumphant in taking listeners away from this earthly plain, and onto a dimension a little more enjoyable.

5. letlive. - If I'm The Devil...

letlive if im the devil album

LA rockers letlive. only appeared on my radar at the beginning of this year. Once I'd finished slapping my head in anger for having been so late to this particular party, I was delighted to hear their third studio album was to be released in the summer.

If I'm The Devil... puts its cards on the table from the get go, embraces the unique traits that have made this band what they are today and brings each one to the forefront to marvellous effect.

Delivering a powerful message whilst sounding better than ever. letlive. are agitated, and you know what, it suits them.

4. Omar Rodriguez Lopez - Umbrella Mistress

Omar Rodriguez Lopez Umbrella Mistress

As I've previously stated, Omar Rodriguez Lopez is a genius. Umbrella Mistress is his 31st (yes you read that right) studio solo album and is the fifth release in a series of twelve that the mad man is releasing this year.

The album was originally created as a soundtrack for a film, and features Lopez at his most accessible musically. It's a series of laid back rock tunes laced with his unmistakeable personality. Highlights include The Beatles-esque Blood Count, the hypnotising Eastern Promises and the poptastic Winters Gone.

If you're going to dive into his series of twelve albums, Umbrella Mistress is the perfect place to start.

3. Biffy Clyro - Ellipsis

Biffy Clyro Ellipsis Artwork

Ellipsis marked an enforced departure from Biffy Clyro's comfort zone in terms of how the band approached creating music. They'd comfortably conquered their stadium rock sound over the last three albums and believed it was time for a change in course.

The result is an album taking full advantage of production benefits and studio wizardry. Forget the "live effect" this batch of songs have been tinkered with obsessively, giving them an almost futuristic aura. The vocal effects on Re-arrange, the fuzzed up synths in On a Bang, even the ballad People benefits from some minimalist electro atmospherics.

If this is the sound of a band experimenting in the studio, then God only knows what the next album will sound like once they've got the hang of it. Daft Punk vocoders anyone?

2. PAWS - No Grace

PAWS No Grace Artwork

Speaking of Scottish trios, here's another one! For this record PAWS packed their bags and headed to the states to record with godfather of pop punk Mark Hoppus and the results are b-e-a-utiful.

The guitars are as fuzz filled as ever and the drumming has been given an injection of pace, with almost every track played at break neck speed. The choruses aren't bad either, there are pop hooks anthemic sing along opportunities and more than enough pure rock out moments to keep the old faithful satisfied.

Stand out tracks are the poppy Gone So Long, the rousing Complete Contempt and the Dinosaur Jr laced N/A. But at 26 minutes, you may as well listen to the entire thing.

It really is refreshing to see a band hammer out a selection of songs that are at such a high standard. There are no misses, no moments that don't hold your attention. It's all killer and no filler, and yes, that is a faded Sum 41expression. Deal with it.

All in all, if you're a fan of straight up rock n roll, the likes of which there just isn't enough of these days, this is the record for you. It's one of the best of 2016.

1. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo

Kanye West The Life of Pablo Artwork

If 2016 has taught us anything, it's that people are unpredictable. So it's probably apt that Kanye West released the greatest record of the year.

The Life of Pablo is Kanye's most overarching record to date, it looks back at his entire career and uses the lessons he's learned through the creation of each record to mould this album into something special. The pop hooks of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the mad scientist approach of Yeezus; it's all here.

From the opening bars of the gospel prayer Ultralight Beam, it's obvious the listener is in for something unique. So by the time the musical direction is thrown on it's head during Father Stretch My Hands it's not exactly a surprise, but just as thrilling.

The lyrics are outrageous, the beats are world beating and the man himself is a cultural phenomenon. And it's that persona which makes the record that more special. The thirty minute rants, the social media pipe bombs, the meetings with Donald Trump, it's all part of the artistic expression.

Move over Damien Hirst, modern art has found it's new saint, and his name isn't Pablo.