Sunday, 18 December 2016

Best Albums and Gigs of 2016

So 2016 has been an eventful year. I hardly need to go over the shocking, saddening and downright terrifying events that have been splashed over our TV screens these last 12 months but if there’s been one constant it’s been the steady supply of great music. Whether providing commentary or pure escapism these are 10 albums that helped soundtrack my year. As well as a healthy dose of The Cure and The Go-Betweens.

As always it’s a personal list, I’m not trying to claim anything as ‘important’ but I do think that the albums here are more than worthy of your time. It’s also worth mentioning that there were a lot of albums I couldn’t include (really wanted to stick to the traditional tyranny of 10 records) so please go listen to albums released this year by Johnny Dowd, Micky P Kerr, You're a Face, Clara Engel, Carla Del Forno, Living Body, Swans, Rangda, The Wave Pictures, Black Mountain, Nick Cave, Tindersticks, Ă…rabrot, The Wedding Present and Labirinto. Thanks and Happy Christmas.

Best albums of 2016

1.       Future of the Left- The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left
Providing 2016 with a well-needed kick up the arse, FOTL have been consistently delivering the goods since 2007’s Curses LP. This latest offering finds Falco’s wit sharper and more surreal than ever while the band sounds tight, raw and satisfyingly fierce.

2.       Jenny Hval- Blood Bitch
Who else could deliver an album centred on lyrical themes of vampires, femininity and capitalism? Blood Bitch finds Norway’s Jenny Hval on fine form, simultaneously pushing boundaries while producing some of her most gorgeous pop songs to date.

3.       David Bowie- Blackstar
Blackstar will no doubt feature in many end-of-year lists and rightly so. It’s impossible to listen to the album without context yet the music here is clearly worthy of praise and adoration. The title track in particular reveals an artist still very much enamoured with the process of creating new, adventurous and heartfelt music. RIP Mr Bowie.

4.       The Dwarfs of East Agouza- Bes
Alan Bishop had been off my radar for some time before resurfacing with The Dwarfs of East Agouza; they don’t disappoint. Teaming up with fellow open-minded musicians in Cairo, Bishop has created a hypnotic, propulsive and experimental gem of an album. If you’re not sure who Alan Bishop is, you need to check out Sun City Girls. That’s an order.

5.       Anna Homler and Steve Moshier- Breadwoman & Other Tales
I’m breaking one of my own rules with this entry but it’s too good to leave out. The music here was originally released on cassette in 1985 (what, that’s not a new release I hear you cry!?) but has remained incredibly obscure until now. Homler’s shaman-like chanting and the accompanying drones, electronica and folky experimentalism make this a truly unique and very contemporary sounding release.  Something to get lost in.

6.       Unstable Journey- Beast Market
Immersive psychedelic explorations and Sonic Youth influenced fuzz-rock make up this formidable record from one of West Yorkshire’s finest bands. While previous releases had showed considerable potential, Beast Market delivers a consistently mind-blowing psych-rock experience. A hidden treasure and one that’s very much worth seeking out.

7.       Hypnopazuzu- Create Christ, Sailor Boy
Hypnopazuzu is a collaborative project between David Tibet of Current 93 and Youth from Killing Joke. It’s a record with an impressive sense of scale; the organs, theatrical vocals and celestial drones creating an otherworldly orchestral swell.  Create Christ, Sailor Boy is a powerful and strange listening experience. Thoroughly worthy of your time.

8.       Radiohead- Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead are one of those bands we’ve grown up with, from the angst-ridden rush of Pablo Honey to the adventurous and frankly stunning In Rainbows the band has taken us on one hell of a trip. A Moon Shaped Pool takes a few listens before its magic really starts to take hold and perhaps that’s what makes it so special. A subtle, heartfelt and beautiful album full of love, loss and melancholy.

9.       Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Bitchin’ Bajas – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties
Like some kind of trippy self-help tape that you’ve inadvertently stumbled across in the ‘other’ section of the record shop, Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties is an ambient and zen-like journey. Will Oldham’s now familiar tones guiding you through and the repetition is blissfully hypnotic.

10.       Molars – Hypnic Jerk
A little over 30 minutes long and containing some of the finest psychedelic indie-pop I’ve heard in some time, Hypnic Jerk is a real treat from beginning to end. The thrillingly emotive ‘Love’ hijacks the Joy Division formula for something altogether more hopeful while ‘Normal’ offers an anthem for the shy and perpetually nervous. Plus, who wouldn’t love an album that had a giddy tribute to Kathleen Hanna containing the immortal chant, “I don’t care about Henry Rollins/ I don’t care about Ian MacKaye/ I don’t care about your hurt feelings/ boys are so boring anyway”. A fantastic debut!

As usual I've been to a lot of gigs this year but these are definitely 10 of the best...

Best Gigs of 2016 

(Melvins, Boris, Future of the Left, Plaid, The Pop-Up People and The Wind-Up Birds all played great shows too!)

And as an extra special bonus (because I'm nice like that) here's a 2016 playlist I made: Andy Brown's 2016 Playlist Extravaganza

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