Look past the losses of 2016 and what you’re left with is an otherwise stellar year for music. It speaks volumes, however, that so many of the year’s finest albums predicate on darker themes. But across albums that tackle topics as diverse as racism, sexism, age, death, tragedy, loneliness, what proves profoundly striking is the shared sense of fire, grit and perseverance that resonates through each. It has been a year in which so much of our music has dealt with despair and yet managed to deal out hope. Acceptance is perhaps the other big theme; self-acceptance, mainly. Whether it’s Angel Olsen’s defiant Woman, Chance’s celebratory Blessings, Bowie’s terminally beguiling Lazarus, or Solange’s soul-searching Cranes in the Sky. The mutual catharsis of this year’s best music seems to have given artists an urgency and vitality, a striking sense of relevance, that has allowed 2016 to become a year of music in which a Kanye West release can seem like only an afterthought.