Some came from the best albums of 2016, some came from the most disappointing, but they all have one thing in common; they’re phenomenal tracks that have stood out from all the rest this year. It’s tricky to pick just five, but I’ve had a good go. Have a read and let us know if we missed something we simply have to hear.
Warpaint began as band known for their XX-style, hazy indie tracks. They were tracks that washed over you and although created a great ethereal atmosphere, certainly never demanded attention. A lot has changed since that 2011 debut, and their 2016 album Heads Up boasts techno funk with an indie soul and vocals to match.
New Song presents an interesting blend of the same haunting vocals frontwoman Emily Kokal was making her name with half a decade ago. They’re matched by an almost dance club-esque beat and drum riff, occasionally breaking down into spaced out melodies before ramping back up for a chorus that feels as suited to packed clubs as it does to a personal late night soundtrack.
4. The Kills – Doing it to Death
The Kills have worked hard over the past six years to release five albums of grade A content. Their latest album, Ash & Ice, landed in June and had a kind of ‘greatest hits’ feel. This was no re-release of old material by any means, but it felt as if The Kills picked the best moments from each of their last four albums and finally meshed them together to create a real masterpiece.
The first track from the album, and overall highlight, was Doing it to Death. Merging the heavy drums of Blood Pressures with bass lines of Midnight Boom and pulling it all together with Alison Mosshart’s iconic vocals. Another gem in The Kills crown.
3. Angel Olsen – Shut up Kiss Me
“Do I need to give more attitude or?” Olsen asks her director come the end of the video released for Shut up Kiss Me. The track is lacking in anything but attitude, with Olsen addressing an on/off relationship screaming “shut up, kiss me, hold me tight” with a desperate anger that’s delivered particularly originally through kind of melodic, yet monotone, vocals.
I’m not sure how a voice like that exists either, but it does.
2. Catfish and the Bottlemen – 7
Catfish and the Bottlemen’s second album dropped in late May this year and frantic fans and newcomers alike dived on it. Now at the end of the year they’ve sadly been snubbed by most top albums of the year lists, narrowly missing out on a place in my own. It was a slightly mixed affair that seemed to play it a little safe.
One prime exception to that was their single 7. Soundcheck was the first single from the album and was more of the same glorious Catfish sound we’d grown accustomed to from their debut album The Balcony. However it was the second single from The Ride that perfected their sound into a glorious heart-wrenching epic of lost love, complete with foot tap-inducing bass and drum lines.
Its frontman Van McCann’s brutally honest exploration of his long-distance relationship that gives the single it’s timeless feel. Just don’t listen to it heart broken and you should be able to maintain your cool.
1. Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama
Oh, to be Donald Glover. Star of the cult TV show Community, he’s the creator and star of FX’s Atlanta which has just been renewed for a second season, he’s been cast as Lando Calrissian in next year’s Star Wars movie and that’s without even mentioning his musical accomplishments. Under the moniker “Childish Gambino”, Glover released the boundary pushing Awaken, My Love! Earlier this month, in fact you can read Kieran Bowie’s review here.
Although the album didn’t always hit that perfect mark, the opening track was the freshest thing myself and just about every music lover I knew was listening to when it was released in late November.
Coming in at a gloriously bold six minutes and 20 seconds, the opening track to Awaken, My Love! is one of the biggest risk takers of the year.
The track itself moves from soulful gospel tipped choruses to a blues funk inspired mid-section that’s almost bordering on hard rock. It’s intense and aims just as high as we’ve come to expect from the ridiculously talented Glover.
It’s a track that was born to change the course of music, it proves that there are still directions we can take with existing music to help it feel fresh. Glover’s outside of the box thinking and eclectic mix of influences has created a masterpiece that won’t soon be forgotten.