As we come to it's climax, what sort of year was 2016 like? (For music we mean - everything else was pretty much hide-behind-the-sofa stuff).
2016 certainly wasn't a renaissance one for British guitar songs, as another 12 months slipped by without the much longed for Oasis reunion, but whilst the brothers feuded theatrically solo artists of one persuasion or another vied for most of our attention.
Band-wise, there are some notable omissions from this list - Radiohead and Metallica in particular flew the flag for maudlin and angry blokes respectively - whilst Frank Ocean and Beyonce still managed to cut a respectable amount of edge despite their god-like statuses. The most interesting moments however remained off the beaten track as these ten contenders show: from sparkling, assured pop, arty soundscapes to the reinvention of seemingly exhausted genres, great things and little respites were hidden in nooks and crannies well worth becoming lost in. 2017 will be better.
Shura - Nothing's Real
Not many ex-footballers will get to reimagine True Blue era Madonna with such zeal, but Alexandra Denton's tricksy, retro weaving debut felt at times like curling one in from 30 yards.
Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
Kanye may have taken the headlines, but rap's voice of invention in 2016 was Danny Brown's. Along with a star turn on The Avalanches first album in 16 years, Atrocity Exhibition proved him comfortable anywhere across the movement's ever widening creative spectrum.
Tim Hecker - Love Streams
Hecker somewhat cryptically described Love Streams as "Liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus", but it's merits were thankfully easier to bracket; baroque atmospherics, the fragile and the grandiose together in raw communion, genuine moments of beauty. It wasn't always easy to love, but it proved impossible to forget.
Wild Nothing - Life On Pause
Jack Tatum's one man band approach took him even closer on Life On Pause to the risky position of head chef and food critic; luckily his muses remained of a high order, craftsmen such as Mark Hollis, Paddy McAloon and Damon Albarn, each helping to inspire a record of rare poise and full of songs both joyful and elegant.
Steve Mason - Meet The Humans
Now more at ease personally than at any time since The Beta Band capitulated under the weight of expectation, Meet The Humans was Steve Mason's most orthodox solo project yet. Still mad as hell with the state of things, his music now by contrast displays a subtle hue that evokes more strongly than ever a Caledonian Neil Finn; no higher recommendation should be needed.
Ash Koosha - I AKA I
This year's victor in the Wildly Inventive category was created by a man who was once in an indie rock band. This isn't usually punishable by death - unless the band is from Iran. Now having sought asylum in Europe the freakish, compressed and staccato beats of I AKA I are closest in tone to veteran IDM'ers Autechre; Koosha's acute sense of being a stranger everywhere makes for a truly intense, spiritual listen.
Let's Eat Grandma - I, Gemini
Whilst there was a certain amount of Twins-From-The-Shining-Go-Wicca chutzpah around Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth's visual identity, their debut swung wildly from DIY Year 10 hip-hop (Eat Shiitake Mushrooms) to the almost creepy (Rapunzel). Odd? Sometimes. Fascinating? Always.
The nonkeen - The Gamble
Or, how Nils Frahm confirmed that when it comes to something as straightforward as post and pre club chill out drone and/or ambient audioscapes, he's pretty much the man. This is one he made with two mates that he hasn't worked with since they were a live act who split up after an on stage accident in 1997: it sounds like a sort of playlist from a brilliantly obscure Danish TV series about secret agents who smoke pipes and save the world from the threat of vegetables.
Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
It could've gone any number of ways for former Sound Of..winner Michael Kiwanuka: left drifting after the hullabaloo around his well-received first release Home Again eventually quietened, Love & Hate wasn't so much a well worked progression as a Damascene transformation. Now writing songs mired in the more primal elements of human nature, it's nakedness and anger stood it apart from the gloss of a thousand other soul-kitsch alikes and on Falling he created one of the year's great songwriting peaks.
Hamilton Leithuaser & Rostam - I Had A Dream That You Were Mine
Whether The Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij intended to completely eclipse both their former bands at a stroke is open to speculation; like a Rat Pack duo staggering from one hipster bar from another, this record sounds new and faded at the same time. Playing a cast of weather beaten, sardonic and down on their luck outcasts Leithauser is perfection itself: I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is so full of love for the stories it tells you cannot help yourself by getting swept away with both its warmth and the duo's affectionate, brilliantly observed showmanship.