Here are my favourite albums of 2016 in reverse order. I've paid good money for pretty much all of these over the last 12 months other than in the rare circumstances where the people that made them gave me a free copy :)
Hope you enjoy xxx
Having cut his teeth playing guitar in various low-rent French Black Metal bands this guy decided to switch to synthwave a couple of years back and since then has been banging out some pretty infectious keyboard atmospherics in the vein of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack and fellow Parisian synthsters Minuit Machine. ‘The Uncanny Valley’ is an instrumental swoosh through early 80s cyberpunk culture and sounds like the sort of thing Arnie would chase you around a nightclub to in the first Terminator film. I could get up to some serious lurking listening to this (must be the underlying BM influence). As an aside the guy’s dad is apparently legendary 70s rock journalist Nick Kent – wonder what he made of all this? Grab the whole thing here for a price of your choosing.
Nothing’s debut ‘Guilty of Everything’ was a masterclass in controlled lucidity, the sound of mainman Dominic Palermo starting his conversion from tattooed hardcore bruiser to clear-headed shoegaze sorcerer. This second helping basically sees him level out and charter a course that touches neither periphery but instead charts a sublime middle route through all that is hazy, lazy and serene. Think mid 90s US fuzz rock (Hum, Helium etc) with an overhanging influence of the more guitar-heavy UK 1st wave shoegazers (Swervedriver, Adorable) and you’ve got an idea of where this is headed. Seeing them live presumably comes with the added novelty of witnessing guys that look like they punch holes in walls for a living playing material that makes Slowdive sound like Slayer by comparison.
Synth pop is all about getting the feeling juuuust right – missing the target even by a fraction can mean the difference between ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and Cliff Richard’s ‘Wired For Sound’. Lust for Youth took aim at the metallic synth throb of Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ on their last LP ‘International’ and ‘Compassion’ bowls it right down the middle again to equally satisfying effect. If you can imagine Midge Ure, Martin Gore and Andy Mclusky flogging their unreleased gems from 1984 to put their kids through university then this is probably what the result would sound like.
The Spanish are well up for it most of the time so it’s good to see their new crop of garage rock bands bumping up the ladder. The Parrots followed Hinds into the partial limelight this year with this stonking LP that sounds like the soundtrack to navigating your way home through the sidestreets of Madrid after one cerveza too many. Banging out this kind of shtick isn’t going to ensure you a long and illustrious career so it’s all about first impressions and these lads waste no time in upping energy levels and banging out loose-hipped hymns to reckless living with a cheeky grin and a flair for pop hooks. ‘Los Ninos Sin Miedo’ isn’t reinventing the wheel by any stretch but one spin of this will leave you down a couple of items of clothing with a drink in the hand and a twinkle in the eye, I guarantee it.
Yes it's a daft name but bear with me will you? Hahahaha oh dearie me....This is essentially a younger and sparklier Boards of Canada, the same 70s nature documentary soundtrack tropes projected onto a wider backdrop of sound and colour. Maybe I'm reading too much into the title of the record but this feels less about analogue nostalgia and more about late night forays into new and intriguing lunar territory. I'm one to cherry pick electronic LPs for tracks to fuel my running playlists and 'Advancement' had its carcass picked clean in 2016 which is surely a sign of future classic status.
South Wales sound like the ideal location for taking copious quantities of mind altering substances and cranking out seismic stoner rock and MWWB take to their task with considerable aplomb on this scrofulous slab of cosmic brainfuck. Imagine Ozzy as a teenage Welsh chick coming off a bender so decadent that she’s forgotten what planet she lives on and you’ve got a handle on vocalist Jessica Ball’s frazzled delivery. There’s riffs that belch forth from the bowels of the Earth too and a honey thick trickle of melody throughout that’ll stop you from sinking under the lumbering weight of it all. Easy to take them as a lightweight alternative with a name like that but make no mistake, MWWB are upcoming heavy hitters to be reckoned with.
It was apparent when Teleman’s debut ‘Breakfast’ dropped two years ago that this band came with a gameplan. World domination may yet elude them but ‘Brilliant Sanity’ is a step closer to it with another raft of indie radio gems so slick and streamlined you can picture the boys doing military style training jogs with their instruments at dawn and rehearsing so relentlessly you’d think Michael Jackson’s dad was stood behind them snapping his belt. Their sound takes its cues from class of ’74 art school pop (Sparks, Eno, Roxy Music) with a smattering of Devo kink to craft a record that’ll waste no time in working its charm although you get the impression they’ve yet still yet to peak. If you’re short on time and patience but are still curious of what 2016 has to offer in terms of new and exciting tunes then give these boys 15 seconds of your time, that’s all they’ll need.
My musical horizons are no wider than anyone else's but I do have a special place in my heart for stuff I've never heard somebody do on a record before and this pretty much fills that bracket. If you can remember the mixture of fascination and WTF cultural abstraction that you felt hearing Bjork yowl her way through 'Birthday' for the first time then this will tickle the same nerves. Tanya grew up in arctic Canada on AC/DC records and puts on the sort of borderline terrifying live show that will have you quaking behind the sofa. 'Retribution' is the sound of Mother Earth warning mankind that she's about to lose patience with its destructive showboating. Strong stuff indeed.
The Wu dynasty continues! Czarface were one of my favourite discoveries of last year so naturally I wasn't looking for them to mess with the formula that made 'Every Hero Needs A Villain' such a delightful listen and 'Fistful of Peril' essentially picks up where they left off, packing in nods to comic book action culture across a production job lit up with the finest tricks of the trade employed by RZA across those stonking mid 90s Wu Tang solo records. The flow is smooth, the beats are rugged and smoky and every track bristles with colour and rhythmic invention. The angst that characterises much of modern hip hop is notably absent but stick this one on when you're looking for a moral boosting trip through classic rhyme thrills and you'll find everything you need for a good time.
There's a million and one electronic records out there so if you want to get any kind of profile then you've gotta be prepared to pop a wheelie from time to time to hold people's attention. Panagea understands this in the same way some of the 90s festival crowdpleasers (Propellorheads, Fatboy Slim) did - pick out the tropes that made you love dance music in the first place and pack out the record with reference points you know the listener will recognise. 'In Drum Play' is basically ten largely successful attempts to dazzle and delight, juggling rhythms and hooks like an Olympic swimmer twisting and turning on the way to the water. There's other records on this list to sit and ponder, this is one to react to on every listen. Well done sir!