Albums of the Year 2016

Albums of the Year 2016

Here we go again – the distillation of a year’s worth of listening to new music. And thankfully another year of excellent music.
It’s all listed in number order but to be honest putting anything in order is pretty arbitrary (and I got fed up with moving them around) – it’s all good – or at least I think so.
Hope you find something you like – if you do then please buy it and support the artists.

And do feel free to message me with any comments or listening suggestions 🙂

1- Oranssi Pazuzu – Varahtelija

Far as I’m concerned this lot are the most innovative and experimental metal band at the moment. Doomy, psychedlic, dark, scary and loud.
This is their best album yet and even if you don’t think you’ll like it you should give it a go, it just might creep up behind you.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

2 – The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum

None of the critics seemed to think much of this. Stuff ’em, it’s brilliant. Five albums into their existence the Besnard Lakes know their craft instinctively. They make a kind of intricate and enveloping music that you can’t avoid throwing adjectives like shimmering and woozy and gorgeous at. Led by the falsetto vocals of Jace Lasek their songs never forget pop sensibilities but always seem to expand through all kinds of chord changes. Nothing more lovely has been released this year than the track “Necronomicon”.
More info at their label here.

 

3 – Death in Vegas – Transmission

He’s often worked with guest musicians but this time Richard Fearless uses only the vocals of artist and ex-porn star Sasha Grey for a seamy and seedy late night  tale. It’s got some club-friendly tracks like “Transmission” and then lots of bleary neon-stained slower stuff. Best thing he’s done in a very long time indeed.

 

4 – Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Just confirming what we already knew from last year’s “Teens of Style”. This kid is the business. This huge album is stuffed with wise and knowing songs about growing up and stuff. There’s so much in here that it grows and grows and kind of takes over.
Ric Ocasek of the Cars delayed the album’s release by threatening to sue after complaining about one track’s genius segue into “I don’t want you coming round”. I reckon he just knew this kid’s way more talented than he ever was.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

5 – Anohni – Hopelessness

If ever a year needed an album like this it was this one. There’s been really dreadful hate-filled stuff everywhere hasn’t there? Anohni thinks so too. This collection of tear-jerker ballads aren’t about love lost as they might sound on first listen but about drone bombing and environmental destruction and all the legion of other dreadful stuff going on that tear-jerkers really should be written about. Depressing and somehow redemptive.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

6 – Wire – Nocturnal Koreans

Every year that Wire release a record then it will be in here. It ain’t a charity it just seems impossible for them to do anything bad. This continues to explore the possibilities of their current direction of inventive and offbeat but relatively restrained and fiercely self-aware music.
Listen/Buy

 

7 – Desert Mountain Tribe – Either That or The Moon

This German-English psych-rock band should be headlining Glastonbury. You know when a band sounds perfect? The songs are great, the production is great, the singer’s great and everything is perfectly in place for this lot to be massive. There’s nothing too scary. I do hope they get the recognition they deserve, then I can whine about how they sold out in a couple of years.

 

8 – Josefin Ohrn & the Liberation – Mirage

OK so there’s a lot of Psych Rock in here. There’s two reasons for that. First  there’s a lot of it around at the moment. Secondly I like it. So there.

Sweden’s Josefin Ohrn and The Liberation brought out a promising, if uneven, debut last year. But they’ve nailed it on this one. Great songs, good experimentation with sound, and all the tracks are sequenced and play off each other extremely well. Bravo!
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

9 – Steve Mason – Meet The Humans

Steve Mason knows what he wants to sound like now. You won’t find the more maverick experiments of The Beta Band here, but underneath that were great songs. And there’s lot’s of them here.

 

10 – Prince Rama – Xtreme Now

Prince Rama are taking the piss. We know this by now. For their last album they created 10 different tracks as ten different  imaginary bands for “Top 10 Hits For The End of The World”. Prior to that they were making like members of some freakish cult. This time they go all out hi-energy, saccharine disco pop. You’ll be glad they did. Sweet.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

 

11 – Conrad Keely – Original Machines

This solo album from “…And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead’s” frontman has loads of brief songs and song-experiments. There’s some great stuff on here and the just ok stuff never hangs around long enough to weigh it down and stop it being en excellent and inventive collection.

 

12 – Pinegrove – Cardinal

A great new talent. There aren’t any new trails blazed but Pinegrove has the songs and the tunes to breath new life into his alt-indie-dountry-folky genre.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

 

13 – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

The last few years have seen a real resurgence in this old warhorse’s career and creative output. He’s remembered that urgent buzzing guitar pop is what he does best and this is at least as good as anything he did with Sugar. Carry on old lad.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

 

14 – Prins Thomas – Principe Del Norte

I love the sound perfected by Prins Tomas and his frequent collaborator Lindstrom. It’s a kind of lush, mechanised, robot house. No risks are taken really, it’s just smooth and, dare I say it, easy listening. But in a very good way.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

15 – Nonkeen – The Gamble & Fragments of The Gamble

The Nonkeen made a belter of an album in the gamble an dthen promptly released another album of fragments that was just as good.
Hard to describe what it is. It’s a kind of sub-dance electronic music made by super-talent Nils Frahm and his merry band.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

16 – Underworld – Barbara, Barbara, We Face a Shining Future

This represents a return to some degree of form. It’s the best thing that they’ve done since Darren Emerson left in 2000. Without his gift for making sounds that don’t work together fit they still lack a little something but there’s still some great moments on here.

 

17 – A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from here…. Thank you for your Service

A terrific finale from one of the greatest ever hip-hop acts has all their trademarks and they still sound as fresh as a daisy. A delight.

 

18 – William Tyler – Modern Country

The best guitarist out there keeps up the good work with this fabulous collection of emotive instrumental Americana. We’re definitely in Texas, not far from Paris you know.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

19 – Solar Bears – Advancement

They must hate it but it’s very hard to describe Ireland’s Solar Bears with mentioning Boards of Canada. That isn’t to say that they are totally derivative but their brand of woozy electronica comes from the same sort of alternate world as the Boards. And this is the best thing they’ve done.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

20 – Helen Money – Become Zero

Helen Money is Alison Chesley. She’s a Cellist. She plugs it in and makes some lush and haunting music for a bit and then cranks it up and makes it sound like a comet hitting the earth. One of the finds of the year.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

21 – All Them Witches – Lightning at the Door

OK it’s a re-release of their 2013 album, but I missed it then and it’s great. All Them Witches play a loose bluesy style of rock that references early ZZ Top but gets a lot heavier and doomier than that.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

22 – Comet Control – Center of the Maze

Canada’s Comet Control make a lovely sort of heavy psychedelic stoner rock.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

 

23 – The Cult of Dom Keller – Goodbye to the Light

Nottingham’s Cult of Dom Keller make a dense kind of indie rock that sits somewhere between Joy Division and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Chewy, gnarly and quite addictive.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

24 – The Early Years – II

I never heard their first album 10 years ago but I’m glad they got off their arses and made another becuase this is an excellent album. Despite massive Krautrock influences this lot sound very English, very Mancunian in fact, even though they are from London. They remind me of bands like The Chameleons and Spacemen 3 and New FADs.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

25 – Wight – Love is not Only What You Know

Wow. This is different. Ragged, denim-clad, funk rock. It’s easy to forget that funk and rock are perfect partners. Garbage such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers might have put us off but this exuberant and dirty celebration of an album drags us back to the 70’s with a lopsided grin.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

26 – Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Oh god, he’s using autotune. Hang on, it’s alright, it makes him sound like Laurie Anderson. Poor lad Bon Iver cursed himself by making an all-time-classic heartbreak album. What do you do after that? Something crap it turned out. But that cleared the way for this and this very good indeed.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

27 – School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

Their last album had to be a sad affair following the death of Benjamin Curtis. It’s a fitting tribute though.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

 

28 – Let’s Eat Grandma – I Gemini

Splendidly weird and sinister debut from this teenage duo. Childish voices tell slightly wrong fairy-tale stories like a modern-day Sisters Grimm. Forgive them a couple of mis-steps because they’re trying stuff on here that’s never been done before. Good on ’em.

 

29 – Mitski – Puberty 2

Terrific mainstream Indie rock (is that a genre or a contradiction?)

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

30 – Kandodo/McBain – Lost Chants/Last Chance

There’s 10 tracks on this mammoth album/s. But it’s the same 5 tracks repeated. There are long “45” versions of them all and then massively long “33” versions of the same tracks. The music is splendid imellow instrumental psych. The musicians play off each other brilliantly and what initially sounds hugely self-indulgent turns out to be a a complete vindication and celebration of their vision and faith in their own abilities.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

31 – Mogwai – Atomic

Mogwai. Scottish post-rock heroes. Best track namers you can think of. Stadium fillers (in Scotland). Good band but not quite that amazing in my book but there you go. Their soundtrack stuff is fantastic however. Restrained and subtle but with clever stuff emerging every new time you play it this is a gem of a soundtrack.

 

32 – Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Burn the Witch is a an absolute belter of a tune. Inventive, original and brilliant it reminds you of what Radiohead are capable of when they remove their heads from their orifices. there’s some other very good stuff on here as well before the self-loathing inevitably seeps in.

 

33 – Scott Hirsch – Blue Rider Songs

Blues-heavy mellow country with bells on. Sunday morning waking up music.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

34 – Subrosa – For This We Fought The Battle of the Ages

Sub Rosa describe their music as “Experimental sludge-doom” and that’s about right.
What really sets them apart from their peers is the use of two electronic violins to bring in an eerie folky wierdness to their sound.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

35 – True Widow – Avvolgere

Nothing happens fast in the world of True Widow. Their dense guitar rock moves slow and builds a fierce gravitational pull that eventually drags you in one way or another.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

36 – Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

At least old Leonard left us with this. Wry and knowing, always self-aware and self-depracating Cohen’s rumbling baritone contemplates his own demise and somehow makes us feel better about our own.

 

37 – Xaum Duo – Xam Duo

Two Hookworms bring out a splendid electronic mellow psych monster.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

38 – Stephen Steinbrink – Anagrams

FIND! Steinbrink is another of these album-a-year wunderkinds who seem to be falling out of the woodwork at the moment. Super songs, well played and sung. No messing. Think The Clientele or Real Estate. He’s that good.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

39 – Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

The lead singer has a cracking falsetto voice and this is a spledid album of catchy summery guitar pop. Guaranteed smiles.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

40 – Ulver – ATGCLVLSSCAP

Indulgent “live” album with major studio refit from ex black metallers turned spacey bit-of-everything noodlers. The letters are all the bleedin’ star signs FFS! Imagine my surprise then to find then that it’s actually really good.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

41 – Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – The Rarity of Experience

Excellent instrumental rock that again harks back 30 or even 40 years but still manages to sound modern.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

42 – Adam Torres – Pearls to Swine

Gorgeous falsetto vocals, lovely songs. Hair on the back of your neck stuff.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

43 – Holy Grove – Holy Grove

This lot know that unapologetic old-school heavy metal is a great thing when done well and with conviction.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

44 – Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

Either something has happened to hip-hop or something’s happened to me. I just don’t hear much that I like. I suspect this means I just don’t know enough about where to find the good stuff. Oh well.
I like this a lot though. An astonishing vocabulary and a rare ability to rub  words together until they ignite are what raises Aesop Rock above the pack. Great beats too.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

 

45- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Super-sad back story of the death of Cave’s son. An absolutely harrowing album that is still beautful. It’s a triumph of restraint and nothing is on here that doesn’t need to be. I’ve always preferred Cave at his hellfire and brimstone best but his rare ability with sucking the marrow and wringing real meaning from even the most mundane words and sounds can be compared to no modern artist.

 

46 – Aleksi Perala – The Colundi Sequence Level 16Lunacy.

The album isn’t – it’s a really nice mellow electronic album using a specially developed musical scale known as The Colundi Sequence. He’s churning out music at an alarming rate using this scale and it sounds terrific.
But it seems he’s actually started worshipping this scale. Now it’s a nice scale and all but that’s taking it a little far perhaps?

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

47 – Ulrika Spacek – The Album Paranoia

Murky guitar rock. There’s plenty of Joy Division in here but hang on…  there are some great tunes as well and this is a real grower of an album.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

48 – Whyte Horses – Pop or Not

Pop. Definitely.

 

49 – Beth Orton – Kidsticks

OK I’ll be honest. I’d forgotten all about Beth Orton. I loved Central Reservation but that was a long long time ago. This is a real return to form though. She plays around with a new electronic sound and the album was produced by Andrew Hung of the mighty Fuck Buttons. Exuberant.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

50 – Roly Porter – Third Law

Porter explores similar sonic territory to Ben Frost with this album that takes mechanical sounds and builds them into huge slabs of music.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

51 – Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Y Proffwyd Dwyll

A fine name for these mighty Welsh doomsters. Sticky as treacle, huge riffage, songs in Welsh.

 

52 – Flotus – Lambchop

Old dogs – new tricks. Alt-country verans Lambchop embrace electronics and it suits them just dandy.

 

53 – Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve – The Soft Bounce

A producer’s album. Romps through all kinds of electronic styles in an extremely jolly way.

 

54 – Loscil – Monument Builders

Much livelier in places than last year’s Sea Island. Sometimes pulsing and sometimes ambient.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

55 – Bolzer – Hero

Swiss black/death metallers Bolzer can’t help writing great tunes. I wonder if their knack for songwriting annoys them?
I imagine their fury at trying to make the angriest sound ever and just coming up with something catchy as hell instead.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

56 – Steve Haushildt – Strands

More lush and less busy than his usual stuff. This is calm and serene electronic music to calm the soul.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

57 – Jherek Bischoff – Cistern

This is a very peculiar string-heavy modern classical album that sounds totally different every time I play it. Sometimes it’s awful, sometimes totally bewitching. Never dull though.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

HIGH HOPES DASHED

Pixies – Head Carrier

I tried. I really did. Listen to Pod by the Breeders again. That’s what’s missing from Pixies now. Kim Deal. There’s some OK songs and a couple of good ones. But it lacks space and timing and menace.

Swans – The Glowing Man

They bowed out one album too late.

Tobacco – Sweatbox Dynasty

I love the idea of Tabbacco – seedy squelchy analogue synth stuff. It’s just if you leave it out in the sun too long it goes stale.


OLD STUFF DISCOVERED

You can’t catch everything first time it came out can you? Here are some of my major finds over the last year.

Necro Deathmort – Martian Cartography (2014)

Necro Deathmort live in a strange place between techno and extreme metal. I love all their stuff. Often they make dark and scary electronic nightmare stuff but on this album they go full on industrial techno with splendid results.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

 

Kasai Allstars – Beware the Fetish (2015), In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy by Magic (2008)

They’re from Kinshasa and there’s 25 of them. They play a loose and massively hypnotic music and revel in the use of a buzzy instrument that sounds like that thing you used to do with a bit of paper on a comb.

 

The Blue Aeroplanes – Swagger (1990)

Hadn’t heard this in twenty odd years – really I’d forgotten how marvellous it was. If you haven’t then do. A forgotten classic. Poetic spoken-word vocals and just fabulous songs.

 

Gary Lee Connor (2014) – The Microdot Gnome

I really loved the Screaming Trees. They were the best band by a mile. I still play “Sweet Oblivion” and “Uncle Anesthesia” a lot. Mark Lanegan went on to do a lot, a real lot. But it turns out Garly Lee Connor was the greatest part of the band’s sound. I found this solo album he released in 2014 and it’s superb. On first listen it’s a massive homage to the most hippyish sounds of the ’60’s. Then the songs emerge and the chord sequences and structures and tunes are exactly the brilliant sort of thing the Trees did. A screaming triumph of an album.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

OK that’s yer lot. Thoughts, comments, listening suggestions? (I like those!). Drop me a message below.

Cheers,

Dave






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Posted on by huddy01@gmail.com in Music