I think it’s safe to say that 2016 hasn’t been too kind and we’re all waiting eagerly for it to end. We have lost countless numbers of iconic Musicians, Actors and Entertainers over the past year, but one thing that we can all take solace from is that thanks to the arts of Music and Entertainment, their legacies will be remain forever, especially in music. This is a collection of some of the best albums released in 2016 so far, and with the end of the year looming it’s time I start to think about drafting some lists to rank all of the Albums, EPs and Singles and repeatedly wonder which record makes the famed #1 spot.
David Bowie – Blackstar
2016 kicked off its cruel intentions by taking away one of the most celebrated and influential names in history. David Bowie seemed to be fully aware that his time was up in this dimension, as Blackstar became his swan song and final farewell before ascending into the stars. Numerous references to death from the title alone to eerie passages in each of the seven songs featured alluded to Bowie’s self-awareness on his finality, but that didn’t stop him producing a record that brought his superb and diverse discography to a close.
From the multi-layered sounds of strings, synths and horns of the title track, to the slow-paced grooves of guitars and bass on ‘Lazarus’, David Bowie ensured his final record would be one that produced all of the decisions he took throughout his huge backlog of records. It’s shades of Ziggy Stardust flair to the embrace of off-kilter journeys seeking for new directions is paired up with Bowie’s mortality to produce something that’s nostalgic, self-aware and the perfect swan song for one of the best. RIP Bowie.
Swans – The Glowing Man
Another act we said goodbye to was Swans, or the latest incarnation of Swans at least. Michael Gira has been the mastermind behind some of the most brutal and unrelenting sounds since the 80’s, and The Glowing Man detailed the close to a trilogy of records that not only refreshed Swans as a legendary music act, but also revealed that people like to abuse their eardrums a little.
The Seer, To Be Kind and The Glowing Man gave us over six hours of music that tortured the minds with an abject rejection to do things accessible. Songs spanned over twenty minutes easily, guitar riffs would be repeated for an abhorrent amount of time, and Michael Gira seemingly illustrated his descend into the crazy perfectly.
The Glowing Man eased up a little to bring a little light into the shadows that its predecessors created, delivering some emotion into the mix to finally add a little bit of humility to Swans. In amongst it’s night terrors came the reality of grooves, melodies and a slice of accessibility that had previously missed the behemoth’s output, and the result is something that could easily be summed up in it’s closing title: Finally, Peace.
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
It seems descents into madness were a big thing this year, which is probably how Donald Trump became President. A much more enjoyable descent to witness however was Danny Brown’s as he delivered arguably the best Hip Hop of the year with Atrocity Exhibition. A record that references drugs, raves and threesome within it’s first twenty seconds is bound to be a good’un.
Atrocity Exhibition showcases Danny Brown’s ambitious qualities as all fifteen tracks feature a flow that flicks between come downs and mental spurts of sound throughout, akin to an individual who holds a life full of drugs, raves and threesomes. The likes of ‘Downward Spiral’, ‘Lost’ and ‘Ain’t It Funny’ bare some of the more original instrumentals of the year, whereas others feature some sterling contributions from the likes of Petite Noir, Kelela and of course the immense ‘Really Doe’ which sees Kendrick, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt collab together to produce something special.
It’s a record that entertains while revealing a lot of depth of instability and unsteadiness, resulting in easily becoming one of the more memorable releases of the year.
A Giant Dog – Pile
Easily the record I’ve listened to the most this year, A Giant Dog burst onto the scene with the release of third record Pile. The punk quartet is at a stage where their sound is established, and it was just a matter of time before they started to emerge on review sites and everybody’s recommendation lists. Pile is something that features a lot of heavy punk tracks full of ways to get your fix for some hard hitting guitar riffs, screaming vocals and surprisingly catchy hooks too.
The constant male/female vocal dynamic brings a lot of scrappy old school power into each of the songs, and mixed with the band’s knack to produce instrumentals steeped in groove makes for a sweet combination of punching yourself in the face. ‘Hitchhike Love’ features riffs that could easily come from The Hives, ‘King Queen’ brings a shade of 50’s rock n roll to proceedings and the wonderfully upbeat nature behind the realisation of losing your youth makes lead single ‘Sex & Drugs’ a little bit special too.
Pile is a superb listen that warrants a higher profile for A Giant Dog. I personally feel that this is the go to record to simply have some fun with music in amongst all of the heavily layered, thematic releases we’ve received this year. It’s a great record.
Weezer – Weezer (White Album)
Weezer have been stepping it up since the start of the decade, and 2016 might be home to their best 2010’s record yet. The White Album sees the band return to producing a straight forward alternative rock record, with ten tracks of solid riffs, solid licks, solid lyrics. It’s all very solid, and makes it even easier to forgive Rivers for producing ‘Raditude’. Gross.
Weezer brings back the perfect balance of social anxiety and endless love with the likes of ‘Wind in Our Sail’, ‘(Girl We Got A) Good Thing’ and ‘L.A. Girlz’ all producing something that makes you sway with relatability. The record also comes with superb singles in ‘Thank God For Girls’ and ‘Do You Wanna Get High?’ to cement it as one of their best overall, not just the best of the decade.
Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being
One of the hardest things for a new band to achieve is overcoming the second album blues. It’s something that has put a halt to numerous bands over the years, and it results in a mess of potential. Glass Animals is one act who threw a big F You to the sophomore record sads as How To Be A Human Being celebrates a band that are finally starting to establish themselves as the next big thing.
Glass Animals pride themselves on their quirky instrumentals and this new record remembers to keep them close while also branching out into a sound that offers a grandeur approach to their beats and melodies. The storming ‘Life Itself’ kicks things off with a chorus that floods its way into the eardrums, setting the stage for the likes of ‘Youth’, ‘Cane Suga’ and ‘Poplar St’ to set up camp in that sweet noggin’ of yours. It’s a great record, and it’s great to see a young band emerge into mainstream success.
Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Malibu is the Hip Hop record designed to get people dancing and love to be made. Anderson .Paak has delivered something that offers a host of reasons why the dancefloor should be the hottest stage in the world, and this record encapsulates everything that comes with having a good time. From the slowing eased introduction of ‘The Bird’ comes a record that flows so smoothly, from it’s more subdued deep cuts to it’s biggest hits. Everything flows so well throughout this record, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.
The likes of ‘Am I Wrong’ and ‘Lite Weight’ are easily the hits on this record, and they produce a groove that’s good enough for even me to dance along to without looking embarrassing. Malibu is a superb record, and definitely warrants a high spot on the Best Albums of 2016 list.
And that’s it! These are just a couple recommendations of albums I feel are some of the best releases of 2016. Next month will be the beginning of numerous end of year lists and I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of the above listed in some form or another. Sounds Good will be getting in on the action towards the middle of December, before heading into a little break to get prepared for 2017.
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