IT has been a year of immense political upheaval, and this has been reflected in some of 2016’s biggest albums.

Horror at the world’s ideological shift to the right is a theme of Radiohead’s much-lauded A Moon-Shaped Pool, an eagerly-awaited return that didn’t disappoint. Beyoncé, too, addressed big political and social matters on Lemonade. Issues of race and femininity, especially within the context of modern-America, loom large across the record without overshadowing the quality or accessibility of the music.

With such a sister to compete with, it is no surprise that Solange has spent much of her career stuck in Beyoncé’s shadow, but this year A Seat at the Table finally got her the critical and commercial attention she deserved.

Indeed, 2016 has been a vintage year for R&B and hip-hop. We’ve had the surprise release of Frank Ocean’s Blonde, the follow-up to the universally adored Channel Orange, which was certainly worth the wait, as was the debut album from King, the LA trio who made a splash on Soundcloud back in 2011.

Kanye West’s latest offering The Life of Pablo was typically ubiquitous, if not somewhat divisive, while Drake’s Views spawned the single One Dance, which spent 15 weeks at the top of the UK singles chart. A Tribe Called Quest made a triumphant return in 2016 after nearly 20 years, with We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, as did Common, whose Black America Again was a strong socio-political statement and his best album since Be.

Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered consisted of demos and tracks that didn’t make it onto his mercurial To Pimp a Butterfly, yet it still managed to be one of the year’s finest albums. Other notably great hip-hop albums came from the likes of ScHoolboy Q, Death Grips, YG, and Chance the Rapper, but Danny Brown’s delirious and wonderfully dark Atrocity Exhibition was arguably the best.

It has also been a year of musical loss, but few had such an impact as the death of David Bowie. The announcement of his death meant Bowie’s final work, Blackstar, took on a grander significance. Ever the showman, he’d turned the act of dying into a performance piece, and ensured that Blackstar was a fitting end to the mythology cultivated around one of the world’s most enigmatic and important cultural figures.

Similarly, legendary troubadour Leonard Cohen released his final album You Want It Darker just a few weeks before he died, and he had ensured that the send-off was worthy of his legacy, while Nick Cave used his music as a means of coping with the tragic death of his teenage son. Skeleton Tree is an undoubtedly difficult listen, but ultimately incredibly rewarding.

Confessional albums seemed (unsurprisingly) all the rage this year. This was perhaps best illustrated in Mitski’s Puberty 2. Still only 26, her fourth album was a worthy breakthrough, sharp grungy indie rock with deeply personal lyrics – focusing on gender and racial identity – that typified her early work.

It was also great to see 2016 provide a breakthrough for Angel Olsen, whose latest album My Woman saw her shake off the maudlin singer-songwriter tag that some critics had pegged her as, with a set of songs that was by turns rollicking and reflective, earnest and tongue-in-cheek.

In a year rich in quality music, it is difficult to pick a standout but my highlights have included the debuts from indie-pop bands Sunflower Bean and Amber Arcades, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s compelling and hypnotic experimental electronic album Ears, September Girls’ fiery feminist garage-rock protest album Age of Indignation and Jessy Lanza’s Oh No, a stunning mix of retro-future electro-pop and down tempo R&B. Here’s to another year of great music.