Albums to watch

ADM Report 2016.Nick Cave

“From an unspeakable event a remarkable record has come. One that sits amongst Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ best. Skeleton Tree is full of grief, but full of heart too” - musicOMH

The ADM Top 10 2016

The most acclaimed albums of the year: you can't argue with mathematics

Now everyone's had their say with the Best Albums of 2016 roundups, it's time to take stock of the cold hard facts of what really were the most critically-acclaimed albums over the past 12 months.

The AnyDecentMusic top 10 of 2016 is the most reliable guide to what earned the most extensive overall praise from reviewers. It's the widest survey of worldwide critical opinion around, and you can't argue with mathematics.

We have excluded from the rankings any albums with fewer than 10 reviews from our list of 50 sources from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Ireland, and the formula we apply to arrive at the ADM rating takes the number of reviews into account.

Below, we give our analysis of what it all means.

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8.92

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Skeleton Tree

"This is not an album for the rest of us; it's a reflex reaction to a torment most people will thankfully never have to endure" - NME

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8.79

Leonard Cohen

You Want It Darker

"It would be wrong to think these nine tracks morbid or depressing; Cohen's humanity shines throughout" - The Irish Times

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8.71

Beyonce

Lemonade

"It's a rare album that sounds this warm, this easy, this melodic, this fierce, this startling, this unforgettable" - Pretty Much Amazing

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8.54

Solange

Seat at the Table

"A luscious, absorbing album - but if you're not its intended audience, you'd better be ready for the questions it raises" - The Arts Desk

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8.53

Bon Iver

22, A Million

"A proud, bruised, tranquil gem" - Loud And Quiet

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8.45

Drive-By Truckers

American Band

"A troubling and sad view of the state of things in 2016 but shining a much needed light on some of the ills of society" - The Digital Fix

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8.44

Angel Olsen

My Woman

"Oozes unhurried glamour and moments of sweeping grandeur" - Consequence Of Sound

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8.42

A Tribe Called Quest

We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service

"A group who haven't made any music together since 1998 have actually managed to make one of the best albums this year" - State

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8.40

Frank Ocean

Blonde

"Blonde has survived the media frenzy: it's a dignified, down-tempo celebration of taking all the damn time you need to get something done that's worth doing right" - The Skinny

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8.37

Radiohead

A Moon Shaped Pool

"This is as compelling and coherent a collection as they have ever made. It's a record that you can delve deep into and really inhabit; everything's in its right place" - music OMH

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And the next 10

11. David Bowie - Blackstar
12. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth
13. Emma Pollock - In Search Of Harperfield
14. Mitski - Puberty 2
15. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
16. Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered
17. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation
18. Ian William Craig - Centres
19. Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
20. Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

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Know how you think you like something but you really don't? Maybe you've convinced yourself using a blend of habit and tradition that, towards the end of the year, you actually like to eat brussel sprouts. Of course, you don't like them really. Nobody does. You just think you do. You've attached a false sense of conclusion to the end of year holiday period. You've force fed significance to the last week of December, convincing yourself that it signals change, and that things will be different, when in reality it's just the Earth spinning around the Sun again. And again. This reverence you've attached to the end of the year is coating your tastebuds. It's convincing you that the stuff you like now is the stuff you've always liked. It's a lie. You don't like sprouts in March. It's okay though, it happens to everyone.

Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, let's compare our sources end of year Poll of Polls with what they actually liked the rest of the year.

David Bowie ran away with the ADM Poll of Polls. And it was something of a foregone conclusion too. If a source didn't name Blackstar their album of the year they usually thought it was top 5. But in our chart, which bases purely on how the sources actually reviewed the albums this year, Bowie only places 11th. Is the fact that the album was mostly reviewed before his death a factor? Probably. Art is shaped by context, after all.

Looking at both charts the other way, Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds top the ADM 2016 Chart with a stunning 8.9 rating. A rating which places him third in our All Time Chart. By the end of the year though, our sources collectively only rated Skeleton Tree 8th. Weird.

Weirder still is the story of the ADM chart's second placed album. Leonard Cohen's 8.8 rating wasn't quite enough to beat Cave, but it was enough to place seventh on our All Time chart. In the year-end Poll of Polls, however, Cohen only managed 14th.

It was Drive-By Truckers, though, who were short-changed the most. Or short-changed the least. Wait, which one is it? When you're short-changed it means you haven't been given enough money back, so it means you have less now. Which makes it feel like 'least' is right. It's probably 'most' though. Everyone usually just says 'most' and it's fine. Let's go with 'most'.

It was Drive-By Truckers, though, who were short-changed the most. Their eleventh album American Band got an 8.4 rating and sits up in 6th on the ADM chart. In the year-end Poll? 35th?

There's more of these stories. Sturgill Simpson's album was the 12th highest rated album of the year and was therefore named the 31st best album of the year. Emma Pollock has the 13th highest rated album, but didn't place at all of the Poll of Polls.

The gulf between what our sources liked all year round and what they think they liked when sitting in a chair sipping mulled booze can be exemplified by one album: The Life of Pablo, by Kanye West. Based on what this time of year can do to tastebuds, it's the 10th best album of the year. Based on it's actual reviews, it's the 158th best album of the year.

Maybe all of this just means that you like things when you like things, and that's okay. Or maybe this means that Kanye West is the sprouts of music. If, in 2017, you find yourself craving brussel sprouts before December, maybe then you'll know.

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