After listing our favourite tracks of 2016 yesterday logic dictates that today be the turn of our favourite albums. In all honesty, we’ve not listened to as many albums as we have done in past years and somehow we have always managed to have a(n unintentional) blindspot for those that usually feature on major publications end of year list. That said, our choices this year are probably more ‘on point’ than previously, while still being quite different.
Confused? So are we. Let’s get to it.
So, in Alphabetical order, here are our five favourite albums of 2016.
Avec Sans – Heartbreak Hi
After years of waiting, years of promise and quality single after quality single, blog favourites Avec Sans finally released their debut album. We’ve written extensively of our love for the electro-pop duo and theirs was probably the album we were most looking forward to. That expectation also came with some trepidation though, what if after all that build up and wait, it wasn’t that good? Thankfully, it was everything we hoped it would be and then some.
Pop banger follows pop banger as Jack’s deliciously retro-futuristic electronics and Alice’s melting ice vocal create a light show of danceable, singable and oh-so enjoyable songs. Each one is single release worthy and the whole album is a repeat listen delight, and repeat listen we did. Possibly more than any other, this was the album that got played again and again and again.
Daughter – Not to Disappear
A few listens in, not long after its release in January, we thought to ourselves ‘if Not to Disappear is not in our end of year list, it will have been an incredible year for music’. As it turned out, 2016 was a pretty decent year for new music releases but Daughter’s second album remained a high, and powerful, point.
“Doing the Right Thing” continues to provoke tears when listening. Its anguished take on dementia, told from a sufferer’s point of view, not so much tugging at heartstrings as wrenching them out by the handful while making you chop onions for hours. It is one of the saddest, most emotive tracks we’ve heard in years and its power does not diminish the more familiar you are with it.
By contrast “No Care” is powered by a visceral dissection of a less than pleasant sexual liaison. Here there is anger and disgust but the rawness and honesty remains. Indeed, Not to Disappear is startling in its openness, poignancy, accessibility and beauty. For our money it shows a real evolution and maturity from a band who have always sounded gorgeous, and now seem to have a lot more to say within it.
Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini
That Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album I, Gemini should feature on our favourites of the year list should come as no surprise to regular readers. We’ve been fans and supporters since way back when and their appearance on Jools Holland was one of our personal music highlights of 2016.
Their music isn’t for everyone but the best thing is, we really don’t think they care. In fact, we’d wager that all the critics, bloggers and armchair opinioners take it all a lot more seriously than Rosa and Jenny do. Their sound is inventive, imaginative and entirely different to pretty much anything else out there right now. They make music for themselves, please themselves and to entertain themselves. It’s not really commercial – it’s not pop by numbers, it’s not landfill indie, it’s not even punk (though some will say it is) – it is simply the imagination and musicality of two incredibly talented teenagers left to run wild, and the results are magnificent.
Many of the tunes are pretty much the same as they were a couple of years ago, before the industry was aware of them and before their debut Latitude appearance (on the tiny Inbetweeners stage) became a thing of legend. A tip of the hat to Transgressive then for letting the pair be themselves and not trying to add significant amounts of polish or control to a sound that is at its best when it is left to just be whatever the girls want it to be.
Shura – Nothing’s Real
Rivalling Avec Sans for our most played album of the year was Shura’s debut, Nothing’s Real. Relentless in its catchiness, its warmth and its tenderness, each track is sing-a-long golddust. Like with Avec Sans, 80s influences are worn on the sleeve and like Avec Sans the results are pure pop delight.
It’s openness and empathy are a thing to behold. Unrequited love, relationships gone bad, the one that got away; we’ve all experienced it yet so often in pop music it becomes something melodramatic and unreal. Here Shura effectively opens her diary for us all to read and its charming, self-effacing and so incredibly danceable.
There’s not a weak track to be found and even the segues are sweet and delightful. It’s about as good a modern take on 80s pop as you will hear and one of the most relatable albums in years. Any by jingo you can sing the crap out of it as you drive.
Starwalker – Starwalker
Chilled and dreamy electronica is entirely our thing and the full debut album from Starwalker served up both in abundance. A perfect soundtrack for a warm evening stargazing, the self-titled release from Air’s Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Bardi Johannsson of Bang Gang is as elegant as it is mellifluous as it is enchanting, yet still with a touch of drama and edge moulded within.
It is in part a vast expanse of cinematic electronica, a bit Moon Safari in places, a bit Virgin Suicides in others. It is not just a clever Air rehash mind you (though fans will love it) it is also close, intimate, warm and infectious. “Holiday”, for example, steps out of the cool and into the bright light of the summer sun, frivolous and warm, it skips along joyously.
Elsewhere, the likes of “Losers Can Win” and “Get Me” drift and melt glacially and the whole album is a gorgeously relaxed, cool breeze of sophisticated melodies and electronica.