SOME of our best-loved rock and pop voices departed in blazes of black stars and darkness, but there was still much to cheer – and shout – about in the bleak pantomime that was 2016. So here are a few of my favourite albums, in alphabetical order. Oh – and those cries you hear in the night sky? They're my howls of anguish every time that I awaken, wide-eyed, in the dark, tortured by the recollection of yet another great LP I've loved this year, but momentarily forgotten. . .

ANOHNI – Hopelessness (Rough Trade)

Did politicised, radical, downtime disco ever sound so beautiful? The artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty / Antony and the Johnsons affirmed her knack for creating ingenious, provocative pop on Hopelessness. Who else would open a record with an erotic, synth-fuelled slow-jam called Drone Bomb Me – written from viewpoint of a young girl in Afghanistan? And that's just for starters: the album addresses annihilation, surveillance (Watch Me), drone warfare (Drone Bomb Me, Hopelessness), the patriarchy, ecocide (4 Degrees), and all to a groovy electro-pop beat. Glasgow's Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never are masters of minimalist, gleaming production throughout, notably on 4 Degrees, which fires into being with the greatest battle-cry and gated drums since Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love.

Despite its title and devastating themes, there is hope and joy here,

too: music, it says, can be transcendent – and unifying – even as the world unravels around us.

Beyonce – Lemonade

Beyonce's phenomenal sixth solo album (and accompanying film) was one of this year's most political, and revolutionary, releases, whether sampling Malcolm X, championing Black Lives Matter, or celebrating the Black Panthers during her blind-siding Superbowl performance. Lemonade is also a fiercely articulate and profound rumination on infidelity, resilience, resourcefulness and (eventual) reconciliation. Its woman-empowering, genre-defying spin on soul, pop, hard rock, hip-hop and musical theatre is trailblazing, thrilling and precision-tooled.

Nobody does it better.

David Bowie – Blackstar

David Bowie pulled several magic tricks in his brilliant career – not least in 2013, when he reappeared, seemingly out of nowhere, with an album (The Next Day) whose unexpected arrival felt like one of pop's last great surprises. Its follow up, Blackstar, couldn't beat that initial impact, but it soon revealed itself to be his most profound work to date: an album that faced down death, looked it straight in the eye, and turned it into art. Within days of Blackstar's release (on Bowie's 69th birthday), we lost the man who fell to earth, and slowly began to explore and unravel the cosmic tapestry of clues he'd woven into his final album. But even without this dramatic backdrop, Blackstar was a remarkable record – accessible, inventive, full of surprises – from the title track's space-prog epic through avant-garde flourishes, free-jazz wig-outs, industrial goth-rock – and, in Dollar Days, one of his career's most sublime songs.

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

As with Blackstar, Leonard Cohen's exquisite You Want It Darker was released mere days before the great man's passing. And as with Blackstar, its title riffed on darkness (and, by extension, light).

Cohen's late-period albums – 2012's Old Ideas; 2014's Popular Problems – were terrific, but even before this became his mortal swansong, You Want It Darker felt like a particularly special record. Its production (by his musician son, Adam) revoked his beloved synths and drum machines in favour of stealth orchestral arrangements and space – all the better to frame Cohen's exceptional words, and voice, as he pored over his abiding holy trinity of sex (or in this case, the absence thereof), religion and death. If there were fewer carnal devotionals, there were more meditations on the past, and even the future – waltzing to the graveside on Leaving The Table; invoking Cohen's formative Greek years on vaudevillian goth-ballad Travelling Light; guiding us all on our spiritual, mortal and erotic journeys – he always did – on string-drawn standout Steer Your Way (“Year by year, month by month, day by day, thought by thought”). You're damn right a light went out.

Honeyblood – Babes Never Die

Easy winners of this year's greatest album title, Edinburgh / Glasgow duo Honeyblood ramped up their capacity for fired-up, feminist rock 'n' roll on their second album, and it worked a treat – not least on the swaggering, drum-thundering title track and on the psych-pop euphoria of Sea Hearts.

Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch (Sacred Bones)

Sex, desire, ritualism, bleeding, mortality, vampirism, infatuation and lunar cycles: all in a day's work for Jenny Hval, the Norwegian art-pop provocateur who performed in a paddling pool (which doubled as a coffin, obviously) – to rapt adulation – in Glasgow's Stereo a few months back. Blood Bitch, her sixth album, is an outstanding suite of throbbing electronica, avant-garde lullabies and industrial pop.

Anna Meredith – Varmints (Moshi Moshi)

The righteous winner of this year's Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award, Varmints saw composer, producer, musician and songwriter Anna Meredith leap from classical music to inventive, audacious pop with aplomb. Her music has always had a sociable heart, and this brilliant debut follows suit: it's an inventive, exploratory body of work which embraces choral ambience, rave euphoria, warm electronica and much besides. Meredith wrote, arranged and produced Varmints, and this bears noting. “I've done everything, start to finish – I think it's important to point that out,” she recently told me. “Hopefully it's a good role model for younger girls, to feel that they can do it, that there's not some dude behind the scenes. This has, from start to finish, been my thing.” It is a thing of wonder.

Mitski – Puberty 2

This confessional indie-punk LP is glorious. Mitski hails from Brooklyn via Japan, Malaysia, China, Turkey and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others. This casts light on album track titles like power-pop aria Your Best American Girl, which echoes Mitski's self-identification as “half-Japanese, half-American, but not fully either”. Issues of belonging, identity, love and much besides abound across her fourth LP. It's as bold and unique as it is intimate.

Modern Studies – Swell to Great

This debut from Glasgow-via-Yorkshire chamber-pop cartographers Modern Studies is a gorgeous collection of elemental psalms with a wheezing old harmonium at their heart. Quietly musing on memory, nature, shades of blue and bodies of water, Swell to Great is gorgeous, warm and melancholic. Swell, and great.

Angel Olsen – My Woman

Among her intentions for her third album, Angel Olsen said she wanted to explore (and celebrate) “the complicated mess of being a woman, and wanting to stand up for yourself”. And so it does: among the highlights on this shimmering rock 'n' roll magnum opus are tracks called Sister and Woman. From swooning Americana lament Heart Shaped Face (“Have whatever love you wanna have”), to grunge pop aria Not Gonna Kill You (“Let the light shine in”) – not to mention garage rock remonstration Shut Up Kiss Me (“Stop pretending I'm not there”) – Olsen muses on identity, relationships and power (im)balances. She offers words to live by.

Ela Orleans – Circles of Upper and Lower Hell (Night School)

The seventh album from Poland-born, Glasgow-based sound artist and composer Ela Orleans is an expansive, exceptional body of work. Using Dante's Inferno as a means of exploring personal experience, inspiration and loss, Circles Of Upper and Lower Hell first (loosely) emerged via last year's Howie B-produced Upper Hell, but here Orleans reclaims full artistic control – she wrote, recorded and produced the album – and the outcome is complex, haunting and exquisite.

Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield

A poetic, reflective and beautiful album, In Search of Harperfield finds Emma Pollock harnessing her inner Dusty Springfield

(Glasgow-style) while variously invoking chanson, post-punk, electro-pop, jazz and soul. Pollock has quietly upturned our musical landscape since the mid-1990s – as co-founder of label Chemikal Underground (Arab Strap, Mogwai), and as a member of much-missed Mercury nominees The Delgados – but In Search of Harperfield sees her excavating rather more personal terrain. Her third classy pop treatise charts her family (and personal) geography, identity, secrets and memories.