The Best Records of 2016 – Part 1

If there is one dead cert in the world of music writing, it’s the end of year list – the golden opportunity to wax lyrical about all the uber cool shit we’ve been listening to through the year that we totally believe every other fucker should also be listening to. I’m just as guilty as the next pensmith; I mean, I’ve already done two – one for Already Heard ( http://alreadyheard.com/post/154430616852/record-of-the-year-2016-staff-lists), another exclusively on thrash metal albums, although in fairness it was a retrospective article analyzing the genre with a top 5 attached (https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/thrashback-best-of-2016/)

But lets face it, here in the blogosphere it’s basically a totally subjective list and isn’t really worth shit, unlike the top ten we came up with at AH (http://alreadyheard.com/post/154422480446/already-heards-record-of-the-year-2016) which involves several contributors. So, the final list is a kind of representation of the site’s view of the world of alternative rock, and therefore a pretty useful piece of retrospection. Anyway, my top ten is there, along with the site’s top ten, but I have to say that probably wouldn’t be a definitive list, nor would another one that I might write tomorrow. So what’s the point?

However, there is surely some value in celebrating some of the seriously cool records that have had an impact on me this year. It doesn’t need to be a top ten. They don’t need ranking. It’s enough to say that this is cool as fuck and you could do a lot worse than give it a whirl, you might discover something you love – it’s what Spotify is for, for fuck’s sake. So, here come a bunch of records I’ve been listening to pretty solidly this year and intend to keep spinning well into the future.

David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’ I was deeply moved by the death of David Bowie and wrote about it at length here:https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/303/ Listening to Blackstar is inextricably linked to the loss of this musical giant and was always going to be an emotional experience, but having gone back to it again and again since its release, I have to say that it really is quality and holds up well. ‘Lazarus’ is undeniably superb and the artistic merit of the record as a whole is unquestionable. Great record – excellent way to punctuate such an incredible cultural footprint.

I only got round to listening to Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Love & Hate’ a couple of weeks ago, but have had it on very heavy rotation ever since. Damn, what a great, honest record this is. Michael lays bare his conflicting emotions on this sublime collection that neatly combines a kinda classic seventies soul groove with a more contemporary feel and some achingly good guitar work. The title track is unbeatable.

Lisa Hannigan – ‘At Swim’ Great songs, cool vibe, lovely voice, excellent record – I keep going back for more.

Lonely the Brave – Things Will Matter is a good solid sophomore record from the Cambridgeshire boys and continues their climb up industry ladders. There are some quite spectacular moments, like the massive ‘Black Mire’, the excellent ‘Diamond Days’ and ‘Jaws of Hell’ that hint at a very bright future for British alternative rock.

Slowcoaches – ‘Nothing Gives’ came out about a week ago and I had the immense pleasure of five outta fiving it for Already Heard. The most exciting garage punk record in years, it has an energy comparable with The Strokes debut and rocks from beginning to end as it tackles issues like loss and anxiety. Heather Perkins is punk rock personified, making their brand of angry optimism instantly relatable – this band deserve to be massive.

The Cult – ‘Hidden City’ There’s nothing like your favourite band hitting good form again. Ok, it’s not ‘Love’ or ‘Sonic Temple’, but it’s creatively vibrant, still pushing boundaries and features some killer tracks. Ian Astbury‘s raw vocal on ‘Birds of Paradise’ and the killer hook of ‘No Love Lost’ find The Cult at the top of their game.

Another return to form from an eighties icon came on The Mission – Another Fall From Grace. Wayne Hussey took a conscious decision to dust off his twelve string and write an album bridging the gap between Sisters of Mercy and The Mission. According to the front man it was a painfully cathartic experience, but the vocalist can be justifiably proud of his band’s finest record since their peak. Sure, it’s as overblown and pretentious as you might expect, but Mish fans wouldn’t have it any other way. The title track is prime example of Wayne’s songwriting prowess and ‘Tyranny of Secrets’ shows they can still deliver a good old Goth rock banger.

Black Foxxes – ‘I’m Not Well’ is quite simply one of the best records I’ve heard in years. It’s rawness imbues it with power, energy and emotion at a level few bands come close to. Stone cold killer from beginning to end – album of the year by far.

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