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Best new music of 2016

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On 11/10/2016 at 14:25, cerseis eyebrows said:

Grooves. Brain melting, acid flecked grooves, man. This record, Choose Your Own Adventure by the group Vanishing Twin is . . . something. Early 60s electro, Krautrock, Radiophonic Workshop, Library music? Like the Silver Apples/United States Of America/Stereolab/Broadcast they're rocket gadgeteers, all aboard the great Arkestra, towards the rings of Saturn. It fucking grooves.

 

 

(make sure you pump  this out of good speakers/heads for maximum bass impact)

 

 

 

This album is fantastic.

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It qualifies as an album under the official chart rules, so I guess that makes it good enough for inclusion here! Which reminds me I was thinking of adding the new NIN EP to my list!

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A little late with it this time around, but for what it's worth, here are my top ten albums of 2016:

 

Pineapple Thief: Your Wilderness

 

 

 

Not in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be citing a new Pineapple Thief album as my top pick of the year. That's not a reflection of the quality of work the band put out, but I've never quite felt they found a sound which really defined them and in turn, did justice to their obvious talents.

 

With Your Wilderness, the band have stripped down their more eclectic style, toned back on the synths and just put a lot of heart into each track. This approach has provided the basis for tracks such as the delicate and haunting, That Shore, which captures the essence of hopelessness in a way which has really affected me this / last year.

 

Later tracks such as, The Final Thing On My Mind,  take a more traditional prog approach, with the whole song constructed as a build up for Gavin Harrison’s tribal drum belting, which crescendos to the backing of a shower of strings.

 

The best the band have ever been and a genuine delight to listen to.

 

 

Circle Of Dust: Machines Of Our Disgrace

 

A hard synthetic sound married to sharp metal riffs ensures that the revival of Circle Of Dust carves out a special place for itself in 2016’s music calendar.

 

Probably the best description I’ve heard of the sound Klayton (Celldweller, Scandroid) has crafted for this record, is if Metallica and Nine Inch Nails entered a studio together, you would expect something like this to be the result.

The almost militaristic melodies of lead off single, Contagion, certainly set the tone for what’s to follow, but tracks like k_OS capture a inimitable groove, built from the heavy use of voice sampling.

 

The album is peppered with a mix of styles, some of which, like the aforementioned k_OS, sound as though they were created in a laboratory. Others such as Neurachem are just there to rock whilst mid point track, Outside In, packs an unexpectedly raw emotional punch.

 

It won’t be on the radar of many music fans, but for those who do follow this sort of electro metal style of music, this has got to be one of the standout releases of the year.

 


Frost: Falling Satellites

 

Prog-step anyone? Frost* remain one of my favourite bands of the millennial prog groups. They seem to breath in whatever style is in vogue when they write an album, and then put out these incredibly ambitious albums which defy categorisation... even by prog standards.

 

Album highlight is the wild suite of tracks which fall under the Towerblock title. Here they've taken elements of dubstep and weaved them into a compelling structure of odd instrumental moments, which then alternate with these odd, overly produced samples and somehow they've got a hummable enough chorus in there too. It all sounds rather crazy but after a hiatus of 8 years, it's nice to see the band have only returned when they have something musically relevant to say.

 

The album is capped off with a beautiful ballad style number, British Wintertime, which plays like the outro to a perfect winter's day.

 

 

Katatonia: The Fall Of Hearts

 

After 2008’s excellent but downbeat Dead End Kings album, Katatonia have upped the pace slightly, and delivered an album with a vigour more reminiscent of Last Fair Deal Gone Down.

 

From the classic style opening track to the unusually soothing closer, Wide Awake In Quietus, Katatonia have delivered an album which feels more old school and true to their death metal roots than many of their recent releases, even if their vocals remain mercifully clean.

 

With the lead single, Serein, the band prove they can still pack a melodic punch too, producing what is probably the best single material they’ve done since 2001’s Chrome.

 


New Model Army: Winter

 

Incredibly, I only began listening to this band a few months ago, after being asked to accompany my wife's sister to a gig. The energy contained within the four walls of the concert hall that night, would have been enough to send men to the moon and beyond.

 

It was quite unlike anything I'd ever see before. Within seconds of the first chords being plucked, burly men of all ages tore their shirts from their bodies and flung themselves into each other, like a sweaty bout of rock sumo.

 

The music they were so animated by, was mostly from the band's new album, Winter, and from the first chords of Burn The Castle, you can see where the source of all that adrenaline comes from.

 

When NMA choose to put their foot on the gas, you get the sort of straight ahead anthemic rock, which is the lifeblood of any touring band of their genre, but tracks like Winter (a heart wrenching track about the plight of the then Calais refugees) show a gentler side of the band.

 

The album highlight for me is Born Feral, a tour de force of lyrical poignancy married to a solid rock vocal. Soft tribalistic drums beat throughout the song, giving it a real earthly feel.

 

 

Marillion: Fuck Everyone & Run

 

Marillion have finally found their third creative wind and have produced one of the defining albums of their career. By reflecting the politically turbulent times of the day, Hogarth has rarely sounded so assured behind the mic.

 

Musically it's a virtual continuation of the melting pot of 80’s neo-prog and contemporary sounds which they have been polishing since Marbles.

 

The album is made up of three suites of music (Eldorado, The Leavers & The New Kings) and three adjoining tracks. This decision seems to have let the band stretch their creative toes, with Mark Kelly’s keyboard work sounding particularly funky in parts of The Leavers.

The New Kings will be the highlight track for many, as not only does it best encapsulate the anger and frustration laid bare by the title, it’s probably the strongest of the suites, projecting a big sound of classic Rothery guitar licks and some genuinely impassioned vocals from H.

 

 

Evergrey: The Storm Within

 

Evergrey continue to raise their middle finger to anyone who wrote them off, when the band effectively split in 2003. With The Storm Within, the band continue to execute perfectly, their brand of emotionally charged melodic metal.

The first single, Passing Through is probably the best the band have released in their career. Their tight playing and production has been polished off with some subtle electronic work, which sees an otherwise solid metal track punch well above it’s weight. Add Tom Englund’s now legendary chords to the mix, and it’s hard to get better than this if you like your metal fast and catchy.

 

Album highlights include, The Impossible, a ballad which allows the piano and some light string work to set the stage for Tom Englund to bare his soul. In Orbit, a duet with Nightwish vocalist, Floor Jansen is a punchy number which seems to carry an uncharacteristic spring in it’s step.

 

Overall, fans will generally know what they’re getting here, but the added keyboard / electronic work and the two duets have kept things fresh enough that nobody should be getting bored with the band any time soon.

 

 

Ray Wilson: Makes Me Think Of Home

 

One time Genesis vocalist Ray Wilson has had a busy year. In spring, he put out the acoustic album, Song For A Friend and this winter he’s followed it up with a more classic style rock album, Makes Me Think Of Home.

The title track, which deals with the loneliness and isolation he felt on leaving his country of birth (Scotland) for Poland in the early 2000’s, is one of the best things he’s ever done. Eased in with some beautiful piano playing, the track continues to build until the guitar and drums roll in to build to the opening chorus and a blistering trumpet solo.  The accompanying video is eerily reminiscent of the one produced for Genesis’ own, No Son Of Mine single.

 

There has always been a sense that Ray has traditionally sung through the lives of other people, with his lyrics often being more observational than personal. With these two albums, he’s clearly opened up and the results are clear.

 

 

Long Distance Calling: Trips

 

Traditionally an instrumental band, Long Distance Calling have now hired a full time vocalist and whilst many long time fans bemoan the shift in focus, you’d be hard pressed to say the quality of their output has dropped.

Kicking off with an 80’s synth pastiche, the album is happy to explore a range of styles, but true to form, they shine when the instruments take center stage. My favourite track is the linked to Plans, as I think it captures the best of the new band. The rich soundscapes of their previous works are all retained, but the vocals do a great job of fleshing the songs out and leading them in and out.

 

 

Skillet: Unleashed

 

In searching for a video link for this song, I stumbled across a raft of YouTube reviewers, (mostly under twenty) all falling over themselves to shit on this band, as if it was some obligation from their followers.

The thing is, you can heap a lot of legitimate criticism on them, they abuse the shit out of autotune for the backing singers, the image is just... off, their lyrics are largely just fluff anthemic stuff and they’re ridiculously overproduced, but damn can they put a catchy tune together.

 

Never in my life did I ever think I’d be so fired up by a Christian metal band, but if I just want to listen to something to pump me up, make me feel like the world isn’t (always) a big spinning ball of shit, then listening to something as punchy and as unrelentingly up beat as Undefeated as I walk to work, can’t fail to make me feel like I can take it all on.


Front man, John Cooper’s vocals do much to distinguish the band amongst a sea of similarly specced bands. His gruff vocal chops are just about able to walk the line between carrying a clean ballad or going into a scream which would pass the inspection of most mosh pits.

I’m not holding the band up as some great artists to be revered, but as far as well crafted melodic metal goes, they knock it out the park and of pretty much all the bands listed here, push a beer in my hand and drop me in a festival crowd and it’s these guys I’d most like to see appear on stage. They’re just a good time band and sometimes that’s all you’re looking for.

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:omg:OMG! OMG! OMG!!! I'd never heard of these kids until literally an hour ago, but this has fucking blown me away. I think I have found my album  of 2016. It's blimmin gorgeous, and weird in just the right way. It's certainly the only recent record that made me well up. This track in particular reminds me of the best of Bjork (except these guys have much more going for them than the thousands of Bjork rip offs). I'll talk more about it whenever I finish my list. :omg:

 

 

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I seemingly haven't listened to a great deal in 2017 that isn't 90s black metal made by people with terrible political opinions, but some stuff I listened to last year that doesn't appear to have been mentioned much here:

 

 

Kate Tempest - Let Them Eat Chaos

 

This reminds me quite a bit of The Streets early albums, and captures the contemporary as well as they did 15 odd years ago.  Took me a while to get into her but when it clicked I was obsessed, and it really works well as an album.

 

 

Lambchop - FLOTUS

 

Above song is 18 minutes long but is the also best released in 2016.  More electronic/krautrock than Lambchop's previous output (complete with auto-tuned vocals), may be my favourite album of theirs - incredible live too. 

 

 

Blanck Mass - D7-D5

 

He has a new album out in the last month or two but good as it was, think this was a stronger release than anything on it.  Very 80s EBM vibe.

 

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