2016 was shit. Let’s be honest we all had higher hopes for the last 12 months, but at this time of the year music fans get the fleeting chance to look back on the stand out albums that got us through the dismal affair. Here are my picks, let us know what yours are and we’ll be sure to check them out.
5. White Lung – Paradise
Between White Lung and the Norwegian metal band Kvelertak, they pretty much have the pure noise side of 2016 tied up in a neat little bow. The Canadian three-piece have been around for a decade now and since 2014’s Deep Fantasy, have been pumping out a steady stream of pure punk fun.
Drawing on influences from the 90’s Riot Grrrl movement, thrash and metal from Metallica to Trivium, and the wealth of talent Canada has released in the 10 years since they formed, from Death From Above, to Metz, to Greys and more. White Lung feel like the Canadian band that managed to push the bar further than any of their other brothers and sisters from the North.
Wish Way-Barber’s voice is simply stunning throughout. To be able to hold her own with such a relentless, riffs and loud soundtrack on Paradise is one thing, but to be able to manage to come off as the most memorable aspect of the album is entirely another.
There aren’t many great punk albums anymore, plenty of good ones, but as for album’s that take that pure ferocity and manage to cram it all into one studio album effectively is a rare feat and one that White Lung managed to pull off better than anyone else in 2016.
4. Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
Honeyblood’s second album, Babes Never Die, only dropped at the start of November so is one of the newest album’s likely to make a top albums list. It’s testament to the album itself then that it’s been able to make such a quick impression on so many listeners.
The Glaswegian duo have had a lineup change since their self-titled debut album back in 2014. Their sound seems to finally have found it’s sweet spot however, presenting an empowering anthology focusing on the theme of ‘strength in the face of adversity’.
The album has an almost protest anthem feel, it’s title track for example, will have you fist pumping right up to the tracks final second, and leads straight into Ready for the Magic, yet another onslaught of rapid hi-hat and soaring vocals that will have you throwing up your middle finger to every ex and authority figure who you feel has ever wronged you.
3. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake
A debut album in a top 5 of the year? Sounds like Whitney are making some impressive opening moves. Having only formed last year in the wake of Smith Westerns demise, guitarist Max Kakacek joined with Unknown Mortal Orchestra drummer Julien Ehrlich to form the core of Whitney.
The Chicago rock band’s debut Light Upon the Lake is a late night/early morning treat, designed for long drives, late nights and sunrises. There’s an element of atmospheric magic to every track as it effortlessly flows from the delicate opening piano notes of No Woman, to the final chorus of Follow slowly fading out. To say the album is relaxing would be to ignore the fact that it demands to be listened to, it’s light and breezy, yet wonderfully rich at the same time.
Light Upon the Lake fills a space in the current music scene that no other artists seem’s to even be attempting to fill at the moment. We’re not sure if there’s likely to be a mass influx of artists attempting to emulate Whitney’s classic southern rock stylings, but if they release material anywhere near the calibre of Light Upon the Lake, we’re in for a solid 2017.
2. Souls – Release
One of the most original albums we’ve heard all year. Souls is the creation of David Gledhill, a London music producer who has fused long lost audio recordings from the 1920s and 30s with modern rock, soul and drum & bass beats. The result is stunning, and an original sound that simply hasn’t existed in this form before.
Sampling has been used for years but has never been focused upon in the way Release does. Each track is built around the particular voice it features, each becomes a piece of history refined for a modern audience.
The mood of the album jumps regularly because of its mix of voices and styles but this is simply a reflection of the focus and dedication Gledhill has placed into each individual audio recording. From the hauntingly beautiful I Wait For You which is given an added atmosphere from it’s fine, clean picked guitar notes, to the the deep growling vocals of No More Water that are matched with hard rock and grunge inspired drum and guitar riffs. The whole album is made of hits written for a lost generation that have now been dragged into the 21st century, and sound just a good.
Might sound cringy, but what a time to be alive.
1. Jamie T – Trick
Since Jamie T’s hiatus ended with a bang back in 2014 with the release of his third EP The Man’s Machine, and followed it up later in the year with his third album Carry on the Grudge. The latter was an epic album that topped the lists of ‘album of the year 2014’ and now two years later it’s follow up Trick is back to see if there’s any room for improvement.
Comparing Trick to Jamie T’s earlier releases is a treat, the screams of “lightweight prick” have been left in the past, and replaced by a more refined, yet just as imaginative instalment in his already packed catalogue of anthems.
Singles include the eclectic Tinfoil Boy, the first track and single from the album, boasting beaty choruses followed by electronic winding breakdowns before ramping the tensions back up over and over again. A roller coaster ride of a single, and it’s not the only stand out track from the album.
Power Over Men fills the quota for well-rounded rock songs and flourishes both within the album and on the 18 date UK tour that followed Trick’s release. It’s funky core riff feels reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys AM in the way it inspires a sultry sway, especially with the inclusion of back in singers helping add to the mood.
Trick stands out from the competition due to it’s focus to detail, it’s imaginative song structures and styles, and it’s wide array of track sounds, from the chant-inducing Dragon Bones, to the wonderfully British Tescoland.
Jamie T has evolved like no virtually no other artist, and Trick is clearly the product of a lifetime of songwriting, touring and life experiences. A fitting best album of the year if I do say so myself.