|UserReviews 25Approval 97%Soundoffs 10News Articles 3Band Edits + Tags 5Album Edits 49Album Ratings 459Objectivity 74%Last Active 04-17-17 10:39 amJoined 11-12-15Forum Posts 0Review Comments 2,387
I feel that this year has probably been my most active in searching for and discovering new music. Below are the fruits of my labour - most you'll have seen, some you'll have not. About 15 of the 25 are artists I have never listened to before (whether because it's a debut or I just haven't heard prior). I'm very happy with what I found. Here's to next year and the musical journey it will bring.
I am not typically a fan of ambient or drone. I find it all a bit interchangeable - which is why the concept of Shuffle Drones is so appealing in its novelty. 23 sub-1 minute tracks, each able to flow seamlessly into any other, allowing you to listen in any order and for any amount of time. And gimmick aside, I really do enjoy the tones and the orchestral self reflection. It's when you play with the order and the duration that this really comes to life, and my "modern listening habits" truly have been disrupted.
A Crow Looked At Me
A stark and uncomfortable listen. It forces empathy. Not something to be revisited often - but often enough to ground and provide perspective.
Carrying on the work of his friends and compatriots (the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Harry Hosono), Mellow Waves is a simple and pristine effort, soothing textures and soft vocals. Perfectly introspective. Listen when it's raining.
Vital tracks: 'If You're Here', 'Helix/Spiral'
Good Things Do Happen
The production on this baroque indie album is brilliantly rickety - it sounds live, and present, and adds an eloquent charm to the nighttime musings of singer Richard Sallis. It paints a portrait of someone ensnared by the pressures of modern-day life, teetering on the line of just letting it happen or breaking the status quo, and landing on being an unacting observer.
Vital tracks: 'Dreams', 'Dune'
The first of two Greek albums on this list, and you can hear the Mediterranean summer in both. This go around, Baby Guru interchange eccentric and eclectic, analogue and digital, breakneck and soft sway. Everything is crafted with homemade precision, telling stories of hardships withstood and friendships maintained.
Vital tracks: 'Before Sundown', 'Amarousion'
|20||Cigarettes After Sex|
Cigarettes After Sex
It's a one-note affair, done as well as it could be. This is an album that requires patience and circumstance, almost trapping its own sound in amber. What's next for this band? Where can you possibly take this sound? That will remain to be seen, but for now, this is a sultry number primed for lazy mornings tangled in the sheets.
Vital tracks: 'Apocalypse', 'K.'
This is Mike Hadreas' most expressive and commanding release to date. Surprising and varied slices of indie pop, it has a lot to offer - from the sudden wall of sound of 'Other Side' to the eyelid-batting of 'Just Like Love' and all in between, No Shape is a transformative record that deftly explores so many facets of pop and body politics to remarkable effect.
Vital tracks: 'Choir', 'Wreath'
This was my first time listening to the band, and I found myself quite encapsulated by their brand of elementary, full-blooded post punk. Vocals delivered in short and separate phrases. Simple and sturdy but not to a fault.
Vital tracks: 'Leopard Print Jet Ski', ' The Incessant'
Another winner in a year where I've been rather taken by punk rock. This is rough around the edges, captivating, entirely its own. It pushes a happy-go-lucky attitude and finds room to play slightly with the tried and true. What's particularly remarkable is the lack of experience present in this band - only one member has played in one before - but there is a quality meshing here of fuzz and wholesome life lessons. "Life is like a big box of sweets! Come on, it's not that bad!"
Vital tracks: 'Carousel of Punishment', 'Uncontrollable Salvation'
What a powerfully dense record. All of the performances are steadfast and captivating. The sound will be familiar to fans of Foxing, Mineral - even the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club - but the way those elements come together is spellbinding in its catharsis. And despite the often despondent subject matter, these guys perform in such a way that rids you of the associated blight. It's certainly lent a dose of determination to me.
Vital tracks: 'Oh Brother', 'Evil', 'Burn Me I'm Made of Matches'
Impressive restraint from a young purveyor of atmospheric soundscapes and pop. The production is glacial and distilled, the percussion rigid and the vocals sparing. If you've listened to and enjoyed Parades' Foreign Tapes, this is in a similar if more relaxed vein.
Vital tracks: 'Nanaimo', 'Digital / Analogue Fireplace'
I have had a profound connection with electronic music this year, and this is the first of three albums on this list which I would deem to be pivotal. This one in particular transports me to those neo-noir streets, seduced by the neon signs reflected in the wet pavements. There are a lot of people sleeping on the production chops of Stuart Howard. Everything he makes sounds so natural, so laboured over. His beats are succinct, the guest vocals in his employ wrap so majestically around his synths. Sometimes, I want to live in the mood Ruinism conjures.
Vital tracks: 'Rotted Arp' feat Louisahhh, '4EVA' feat Talvi, 'Essex Is Burning'
In the second of the Greek albums, Dimitris Papadatos seeks to communicate the medicinal qualities of our planet. Don't let the LP's title deter you - this isn't crude stoner glorification - just a summary of Mother Nature's gifts to her inhabitants: track titles make reference to oolong (a tea), hyacinths (a flower), cypriol (a medicinal herb). The music is hot and heady, making use of world percussion and skewed structures, and Papadatos' own healing voice. Much like the Baby Guru LP, Ganja is concerned with the maintaining of relationships and of self-improvement. Listen when it is warm and bright, and be healed.
Vital tracks: 'Oolong', 'Spring Elevator', 'A Happening'
A Fever Dream
To say I have come around to this band is an understatement. When I first heard them, I wrote them off as irritating try-hards. Delving into Get To Heaven on a whim was an eye opener, and I discovered that these lads have a real talent for songs that are superlatively catchy whilst also having a vitriolic bite. A Fever Dream continues that angst-laden path, perturbed by the hand-wringing of the industry and the almost terminal divide of present-day Britain. They seem to be doing well in the mainstream - plenty of nods from BBC Radio 1, performing at the Alexandra Palace. I'm chuffed for them, all the time they're still churning out these solid as fuck tunes.
Vital tracks: 'Put Me Together', 'Good Shot Good Soldier'
This was one of the year's biggest surprises for me. Hung (not of American Idol fame) is one half of Fuck Buttons, a power electronic duo known for the gigantic and abrasive - this, however, is a much more localised affair, highlighting the bedraggled thoughts of but one bloke in London. Hung has not before committed his voice to tape in his music, probably because he can't sing. But Realisationship would not hold as much power if he could.
Vital tracks: 'Animal', 'Elbow', 'Open Your Eyes'
On paper, I should hate this. It's on Skrillex's label. The band has toured with Alt-J and The xx. How is it that this one of my most listened records this year? It must be the insatiable earworms. Communicating sways from catchy, bass-driven tunes to barren expanses, and it's seamless and inviting. Nicole Miglis' vocals, whilst admittedly wearing over the course of the whole album, provide a sweet and tangible comfort. They are soft and dextrous. They sit so well atop the synths and the piano and those great, great drums. This has been a perfect companion for long train journeys, staring out the window at the passing towns.
Vital tracks: 'Wave to Anchor', 'Parade', 'Fingers'
|9||Flotation Toy Warning|
The Machine That Made Us
The Machine That Made Us is such a patently British album. Dry humour, a vaudevillian aesthetic - it's a combination that sums this dismal isle up to a tee. On top of that, though, the instrumentation here is fantastic. There are so many ideas coming into play - hidden vocal snippets, percussion of the mouth like sharp inhalations on 'A Season Underground', a playful apocalypse. From 'Everything That Is Difficult Will Come To An End' is the line "I don't have much time, none of us really do - so I'm fucked if I'll be spending it with you." Nothing else need be said as to the character of this album.
Vital tracks: 'King of Foxgloves', 'Controlling The Sea', 'I Quite Like It When He Sings'
Sleep Well Beast
I've read a lot of people calling this a grower. I can't get my head around that notion myself - The National are only one of the most consistent indie bands to have ever existed. Still, on top of that, I'd say this is one of their most inspired and laboured over outputs. They're not simply another indie band adding electronic elements to their repertoire for the fuck of it, everything they've added to their arsenal has been done subtly and to great effect. They've done just enough to their sound to keep them from repeating, not too much that they shed their identity in the process. If this does end up being their last, what a note to bow out on. If it doesn't, they've given themselves a more than solid platform to build upon.
Vital tracks: 'Nobody Else Will Be There', 'I'd Still Destroy You', 'Dark Side of the Gym', 'The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness'
|7||The Comet Is Coming|
Death to the Planet
The artist/album name combo here might be a bit on the nose with its suggestions, but this EP is refreshing in much the same way as a ghost chilli sorbet. Packed to the rafters with spindly saxophone and end-of-the-world jazz arrangements, caustic drumming and hair-raising electronic addendums. It presents such vivid imagery and begs repeat listens. If this is what the end of days sounds like, give me a pair of shades and a deckchair.
A Hairshirt of Purpose
There's definitely something overtly fulfilling about finding a band for the first time, numerous albums deep into their career. A Hairshirt of Purpose is my first foray into the stylings of Pile, and I've seen it deemed an about turn for the band. If that is the case, I'm just grateful I've jumped aboard when I have. This is restrained post-punk, less bothered about crescendo and more with atmosphere and riding out the wave. Instead of pure catharsis, there is an emphasis on the cinema of emotion. It's just so well put together.
Vital tracks: 'Milkshake', 'Leaning on a Wheel', 'Rope's Length'
Contrary to the end-of-the-world imagery of The Comet Is Coming, Compassion sounds like the dawn of man. Of humanity rising from the dirt, inspired to build civilisations. Matthew Barnes does a tremendous job of appropriating vocal samples into dense and primitive chants, of crafting thick beats and a thicker atmosphere. The whole record boasts a looming dread, or the threat of action. It has a fascinating dynamic, leaving itself room to meander without straying.
Vital tracks: 'The Highest Flood', 'Arms Out', 'Exalter'
Another surprise - not because I didn't expect to like this, but because I didn't expect it to resonate with me more than either of the Foxing albums have. But really it's no wonder - Conor Murphy is one of the most captivating frontmen in emo, boasting a powerful voice and a damaged falsetto, and so when he hones in on himself with Smidley, it was always going to be an endearing journey. Smidley offers that closer look at Murphy, with wonderfully candid lyrics about friends and drugs and booze, weaved into adept indie songs. Even if the particular tone here is not your flavour compared to the Foxing LPs, it works brilliantly as a side project in so far as exploring the psyche of Murphy. It's almost painfully confessional: "I can't even be bothered to listen, like speaking to the dead - I listen so closely when I'm fucked up" he admits re: anti-depressant use on 'Milkshake'.
Vital tracks: 'Fuck This', 'Milkshake', 'Under The Table', 'Pink Gallo'
Relatives In Descent
Much like my experience with Pile, Relatives in Descent is my first time with Protomartyr, and again I find myself invigorated. Relatives in Descent has a lot of punches to throw, and delves into the dispirited acid reflux of post-punk in a way that many of their contemporaries cannot. There are a few moments where the band find the most beautiful melodies and tuck them into their tirades - these are the most poignant. But that overall feeling, of bitter frustration and stagnancy, is utterly compelling. "What a lovely view - horizon looks like fire."
Vital tracks: 'The Chuckler', 'Up The Tower', 'Night-Blooming Cereus'
The Far Field
There's not an awful lot more I can say in this album that I didn't already say in my review. I would mostly just like to reiterate that the formula Future Islands have marked for themselves is decidedly a floor and not a ceiling. I would implore that this isn't an album of the same song, slightly different each time. It is commanded by the exhilaration and majesty of love, seeking to aggrandise our every day feelings into ageless poetry. The Far Field is their most polished album so far, that is certain, and most definitely not to its detriment. It feels huge, an odyssey to be embarked on, and Herring has tasked us with drawing the splendour and the poetry and the love from the uncertain expanse before us.
Vital tracks: 'Aladdin', 'Time On Her Side', 'Shadows'
Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport was a real head turner for me. I'd never before been exposed to such an exorcism of sound, with climaxes constantly mounting, and songs getting doubly large when you'd expected that they'd already plateaued. And here's World Eater, trampling over expectation all over again, exceeding those climaxes and vastnesses in such an animalistic and primitive way. Benjamin Power is an oracle - he finds such fantastic melodies in his glitched vocal samples, he feeds so much energy into these tracks, he builds whole mountains atop peaks. World Eater just sounds insurmountably imposing.
Vital tracks: 'Silent Treatment', 'Hive Mind', 'Please'
|ey up lads|
|pots gave 10 a 1.0!!!|
|PROTOMARTYR IN TOP 3! Hoo-fucking-raaaaaay!|
|that's a new entry as well uni, so glad i didn't miss out|
|Great list anat, 25's description has me intrigued and this serves as a reminder I need to spend even more time with 1, 5 and 14.|
|Which of 16-18 do you think I'd get on with best?|
|cheers doof, i'd say either 16 or 17 will be the most up your street. 25 really took me by surprise, as i said it's even better once you play with the order|
|Many of these descriptions are bang on, especially 8, 20 and 24. Nice list|
|thanks johnny! check out 9 if you haven't already.|
also, just noticed two of my vital tracks are called milkshake. maybe i just like milkshakes
|Gotta peep a lot of these. List is ace|
|9 sounds like something I should get on, cheers |
|Nice list as expected, cheers bud|
|finally, a list with 14 on it, damn. album is freaking amaze|
love/totally agree with what you wrote for SWB too. they just built a studio tho, i sure damn hope it's not their last :)
|cheers lads great to hear from u all|
|Time on her side is probably the weakest track on the album but everyone seems to adore it. Great list tho! Gotta check out some of these|
|I’d say weakest is probably black rose, time on her side goes really nicely after Aladdin|
I reckon you’d get on best with 13 or 22
|some great picks here. 6 was highly overlooked this year|
you and i are probably gonna have to fight for the blanck mass blurb if it makes it onto the user year end list, aren't we?
|props for 23 and 10, neither got enough attention this year|
|Don't Stop Believin' In Me from Uncontrollable Salvation is one of my favorite tracks this year. Not enough folks dug that album.|
|@hesperus maybe we can collaborate?|
good looking out lucid and explode, all quality albums that more ppl should put ears on
|hell yeah, i'd be down|
|top 3 are completely interchangeable depending on which one I’m listening to - right now it’s protomartyr|