I’ve already highlighted a bunch of records from 2016 that I believe to be cool as fuck and I’ve also banged on at length about the thrash metal renaissance – five of my favourite albums of the year are right there. However, there was so much awesome music around this year deserving a mention that my end of year round up merits a part two, so here goes…
The Lion and The Wolf – ‘Cardiac Hotel’ is one of the most lovely records I’ve heard in years. Its sublime blend of folky indie ticks all the boxes as it wraps the listener in a warm blanket of melancholy, the sadness of which manages to be uplifting and comforting in equal measure. The quality songwriting weaves a richly textured tapestry, striking an intimate chord with the listener as it deals with the everyday hurt in life. Thank you Thomas George.
The problem with the Pixies – ‘Head Carrier’ is that it’s not ‘Surfer Rosa’ or ‘Doolittle’, but if you take it on its own merit, it is a mighty fine record. Sure, one or two tracks are on the ordinary side, but there is still plenty of quality on display – ‘Classic Masher’ being as good a slice of indie pop as you are likely to hear, while the sound of Black Francis screaming his way through ‘Baals Back’ rolls back the years. Throw in the banger that is ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ and it’s a winning record.
The anarchic chaos that is Heck – Instructions is another record that surprised the shit outta me this year. Already famous for their frenetic stage show, the band formally known as Baby Godzilla managed to translate their wild abandon into a noisy as hell collection of attacking riffs and pummelling rhythms that transcends classification, such is the stylistic melting pot on offer. Just when you think it’s all frenzied mayhem they trip you up with a moment of subtle beauty or an absolutely stunning guitar solo. Well worth a listen – it’s exciting stuff.
My EP of the year over at Already Heard went to the superb Making Monsters – ‘Bad Blood’, whose six tracks of hard edged alternative rock are all killer. This is a band going places – they know how to bang out a bad ass riff and in Emma Gallagher they boast a really talented and versatile vocalist; she can do tender or angry, deliver a hook and even go guttural. Couple that with their sassy songwriting and you have a winning combination; can’t wait for the debut album.
I’ll admit that The Hotelier – ‘Goodness’ took me a few listens to get into, but once I did, it became a regular play. It’s a pretty deep record and worth investing some time exploring. For some reason, it reminds me of REM, but in a good way – I guess they are kinda like how I always wanted Stipe and Co to sound – intelligent lyrics in well structured engaging songs, only with an edge. Tracks like ‘Piano Player’, ‘Settle The Scar and ‘Soft Animal are all kinds of good, check em out.
Admittedly, I haven’t given it as much time as it deserves but man, Black Peaks – Statues is one spectacular record. From the furious opening and intricate twists and turns of ‘Glass Built Castles’ through to the shifting textures of ‘To Take The First Turn’ with its powerful blend of progressive hardcore, this is a rollercoaster of an album. It takes the listener on a heady journey through the aggressive, the dramatic and the beautiful; it is as haunting as it is engaging and makes for a truly powerful listen. Following a debut album as epic as this one is gonna be quite a task.
There is a subtly cool vibe to Solange – ‘A Seat At The Table’, as the younger Knowles sister stylishly pulls up a chair. This is a finely worked album that blends elements of pop, soul and R &B around Solange’s soothing tones, though her voice possesses a delicious ache just beneath the surface. There is a maturity to the songs and the insightful interludes as she expounds on race, womanhood and empowerment, that makes for a thoroughly compelling listen. Hypnotic rather than bombastic, assured rather than sassy, this is one classy record.
There is something almost elusive about Warpaint – Heads Up; it seems to be much more about the overall groove than individual songs as it rumbles hypnotically along. It is something of a master class in the use of beats and bass to create a vibe, as the understated guitar lines and gossamer thin vocals add a textured finish. I really enjoyed this record and it’s one that I keep going back to, trying to grasp its meandering indie groove; superb.
I’m sure there are other albums I could’ve included here, but I decided to focus on those that have most stayed with me to make this another excellent year of music. Roll on 2017….