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Listen to the best music of the year on Google Play Music.

The rise in streaming services has seen artists expressing themselves in a multitude of ways, with from one-off Soundcloud singles to social media posts, to live streams of video. 

And over the last year the 'album' has never been stronger, with both established artists and up-and-comers offering up deeply textured and rich works throughout the year. We take a look at some of the best recent albums available online. 

David Bowie, 'Blackstar'

2016 saw the sudden passing of one of modern music's most beguiling artists, but not before he released one of the best albums of his career. Produced with longtime collaborator Tony Visconti and a small combo of New York-based jazz musicians, Bowie's Blackstar is a whirlwind of textural eccentricity and pinpoint writing. It's confounding at first but becomes wickedly compelling on repeated listens. 

Best Track: Blackstar 

Kanye West, 'The Life of Pablo'

The Life of Pablo is a messy album that feels like it was made that way on purpose. It's a laboured-over opus that tries too hard to give the impression of a sprawling mess, made by an artist who feels like a mess and doesn't care to hide it. Pablo doesn't go for any grand musical and emotional statements, West simply drops broken pieces of his psyche all over the album and challenges you to fit them together.

 Best Track: Ultralight Beam 

 

Angel Olsen, 'My Woman'

My Woman expands the folk-grunge template that Angel Olsen established on 2014 breakout Burn Your Fire for No Witness. Though the title suggests self-confidence, the central figures in her songs aren't always granted the same clarity. She cautiously glides through the shimmering girl-group pop arrangements of 'Never Be Mine', the wailing psych-rock freakout of 'Not Gonna Kill You' and the woozy balladry of 'Heart Shaped Face'. These elements all come together for the gorgeous, seven-minute epic 'Sister', which swells and crashes with cinematic grandeur. 

Best Track: Sister  

Radiohead, 'A Moon-Shaped Pool'

Radiohead have long been known to transform old musical ideas into new ones, and while AMSPdoes mark the release of a number of older tracks, the albums defining feature is its blending of past styles into a new, cohesive whole. Orchestral grandeur, Brit-folk eeriness, electronic gloom all come together in exciting and unfamiliar ways. As always, it's Yorke's voice that holds the emotional centre, and it's never been more affecting on tracks such as 'True Love Waits'. Credit both his delivery and the production clarity, a statement in and of itself.  

Best Track: Daydreaming 

Solange, 'A Seat at the Table'

A Seat at the Table has a gorgeous sense of flow; ideas of identity flowing easily with social commentary as lithe R&B melts into spoken interludes. The latter happens with a cinematic ease; the interludes sew the album together like plot points of a larger narrative. Solange's parent both appear throughout the album, in passionate monologues which offer glimpses of the love of heritage passed on to their daughter. 

Best track: Don't Touch My Hair 

Chance the Rapper, 'Coloring Book'

Coloring Book is the richest hip hop album of the year, with gospel choirs filling the background of each track and evoking the very beginning of black music in America. Colouring Book recontextualises early 1900s sounds for modern-day soul, merging sounds and themes into one of 2016's most colourful, emotive and powerful albums. 

Best track: No Problem 

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Also available on Play Music, Play Movies and Play Books apps.

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