20 Best Avant Albums of 2016

The year's best in ambient, noise, out-jazz, synth music, contemporary composition and more

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Tanya Tagaq, 'Retribution'

8. Tanya Tagaq, 'Retribution'

One of today's most electric, transfixing performers in any genre finally gets an album befitting her convulsive, full-body approach to vocals. Combining the guttural fireworks of Inuit throat singing and the avant-rock screams of performers like PJ Harvey and Yoko Ono, Tanya Tagaq is a master improviser who expertly blurs the lines between her subject matter and her organically distorted notes. As 2016's protest records go, if the Knowles sisters brought bullets, Tagaq is bent shrapnel, hissing and gasping and screaming on venomous tirades against environmental destruction ("Retribution"), or shivering and whispering through reflections on the abuse and murder of indigenous women (a stark cover of Nirvana's "Rape Me"). In the two months since the album was released, a global warming denier was picked to head the EPA and videos of Native American Dakota Access Pipeline protestors being harassed went viral. Retribution's subject matter has only sharpened in focus, and Tagaq's bloodletting voice remains potent. 

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