Again, these were not necessarily released in 2016, but reflect what I’ve been listening to most this year.
Baroness – Purple
Soaring, optimistic, triumphant. This record is guaranteed to lift your mood. It’s even more remarkable in the context of what happened immediately before it: a bus crash leading to months of recuperation and the departure of the bassist and drummer.
There’s an excellent making-of series on the band’s youtube channel which I highly recommend. As well as introducing the new band members, they go into the creation process of the music and artwork of the record.
The best track on the record, “Shock Me”, is happily up for a grammy award.
Haken – Affinity
Another excellent record from Haken. This time, along with the sprawling epic prog of cyber-punk opera “The Architect”, we’re getting more focused, tighter pop arrangements in songs like “Initiate” and “Earthrise”.
I was fortunate enough to see them tour this record and they’re just as tight live as they are on record.
Ghost – Meliora
This was the year that Ghost finally clicked for me. I’d foolishly dismissed them as some sort of Kiss-a-like dress-up gimmick band, but I was very, very wrong. Their songwriting is incredibly good, and far from being a gimmick the costume is an extension of a theme that permeates all their lyrics.
I’ve got tickets for their tour early next year and I can’t wait!
Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
I caught a little bit of his performance from the 6music festival and I was immediately intrigued. Who is this screeching transvestite playing this really hard to categorise but really catchy music?
Fantastic lyrics about alienation, depression, mental illness and feeling uncomfortable in your skin set to upbeat 50’s doo-wop throwback pop with awesome sax lines.
Vulfpeck – The Beautiful Game
Vulfpeck does it again. Joe Dart continues to be the bass player of my <3. “Animal Spirits” is my song of the year!
Gojira – Magma
A lighter, more introspective effort from Gojira, but they can still bust out some amazing riffs when they feel like it. For example, the leading singles from the record “Stranded” and “Silvera”.
This album is also up for a grammy. A good year for mainstream recognition of metal!
GoGo Penguin – Man Made Object
New year, new GoGo Penguin on the list. Just as good as their last effort, though a little less explicitly electronic-influenced.
Russian Circles – Guidance
This band seems to get better with every release, and this record is my favourite of theirs so far. I also got the chance to see them live this year in support of this record and they were incredible. Their sound is so big I didn’t realise they were a three-piece! The guitarist uses loops and the bass player was playing two or three instruments at once at a couple of points.
They, along with Mogwai, remain one of the few “post-” bands I still listen to, as they’re constantly evolving. If you like instrumental rock with a heavier edge, you can’t go wrong with Russian Circles.
Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
These guys have filled the miserable-Scottish-indie-rock-shaped hole in my heart left behind by the lacklustre records of Idlewild in recent years. Fantastic, snappy lyrics about drinking too much and being generally miserable against an epic backdrop of Twilight Sad-inspired synthy rock.
Choke down the gateway drug
Opened the gates, in came the flood, it comes
Like a blush of love, it hits me without warning
Long nights of getting lost
I walk beneath the bridge I don’t know
I need black suit for tomorrow, I’m in mourning
Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution
I first heard Good Lava, and I was like “what the fuck is this?”. But then it grew on me and I listened to the rest of the record and it’s pretty great. A talented singer and jazz bass player, she can also write a cracking tune, “Unconditional Love” being a good example.
Another one on my list that I got the opportunity to see live this year. Well worth checking out live, she puts on a very theatrical, choreographed show. Really entertaining.