These Are the 10 Most Underrated Records of the Year

2016 in Lists

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 13, 2016

Every year, Exclaim! staff and contributors vote for their favourite records to generate our Best Albums of 2016 lists by genre, but as we all know, democracy can be flawed. What about those special albums that meant the world to the handful of people that heard them? The albums too dense, complex or niche to please the masses? The albums that almost made the cut — and should have, damn it!
We asked a few Exclaim! contributors to weigh in on what they thought were the most underrated albums of 2016. Here are the 10 that stood out.
To find more of Exclaim!'s year-end writing, head to our 2016 in Lists section.
Top 10 Underrated Records of 2016:
Anna Meredith
(Moshi Moshi)

Somewhere between the minimalist loops of composer Steve Reich and maximalist pop of Grimes lies Varmints, the beguiling debut LP from classically trained UK composer Anna Meredith. Its sparkling synth melodies, shifting rhythms and horn blasts all add up to a criminally unsung masterpiece.
Stephen Carlick
Lead Poison

Elzhi beautifully rids himself of the trials that have plagued him throughout the past five years on his long-teased Lead Poison. The Detroit wordsmith regales long-time fans with his typically sharp pen game through 16 tracks, and his cathartic introspection should find him plenty of new kindred spirits. Self-medication never sounded so good.
Themistoklis Alexis

At the age of 24, Christopher Gallant is already well on his way to mastering his R&B sound. A bit of throwback to '90s neo-soul, a dash of modern-day electronic synth sensibilities and a falsetto to die for, Gallant's Ology maintains an undeniable allure and genteel swag that demands attention.
Ryan B. Patrick
Kevin Gates
(Bread Winners' Association/Atlantic Records)

Kevin Gates' Islah wasn't a celebratory album, but a vulnerable and emotional portrait of a life of drugs, prison and depression. Although riddled with contradictions, the themes on Islah reflect an artist that may not have found his peace yet, but is big enough to ask for forgiveness when he falters.
Erin Lowers
Michael Kiwanuka
Love & Hate

Michael Kiwanuka's Love & Hate revels in dialectic. The 29-year-old UK musician takes us on an emotional journey, with stops of hope, hopelessness, desire and despair along the way. It's a dizzying, psychedelic soul-rock trip that travels across humanity's exposed nerve with the aim of reaching a promised land. 
Ryan B. Patrick

Omar S
The Best!

The Best! might seem like an arrogant title, but Omar S's latest release really is a damn-near-perfect display of analogue simplicity, programmed to an alarmingly catchy degree. Detroit house and techno has never seen a more unsung hero, and The Best! pays homage to the city's rich musical history with every note.
Daryl Keating
Piss Vortex
Future Cancer

With Future Cancer, Denmark's Piss Vortex take the classic elements of grindcore and put their distinct spin on them to create a dynamic, innovative sound. It's relentlessly fast and intense, featuring chaotic riffs and heavy tones, but it's the unexpectedly progressive guitar effects, discordant noise and sludgy grooves that take it to truly impressive levels.
Denise Falzon
Ray LaMontagne

Pink Floyd said there was no dark side of the moon, but Ray LaMontagne found it regardless with Ouroboros. With My Morning Jacket's Jim James as his guide, LaMontagne's latest reach into psychedelic rock is as indulgent and immaculate as that of his musical forefathers, while remaining uniquely his own.
Calum Slingerland
Swet Shop Boys

"To me," Riz MC spits on Cashmere, his new album with rapper Heems, "2Pac was a true Paki." That sentiment perfectly captures the spirit of Swet Shop Boys' debut, a record that delivers incisive social commentary on ISIS, racial profiling and life as a pair of South Asian hip-hop heads growing up post-9/11.
Matthew Ritchie

Weaves' debut nicely captures the fun, thrilling energy of the Toronto quartet's live show — in particular, the off-kilter vocal turns of singer Jasmyn Burke and guitarist Morgan Waters' warped and funky leads. One of Toronto's best-kept musical secrets, Weaves' debut is a twisted and surreal journey into the band's sonic world.
Ian Gormely

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