Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Albums Of The Year 2016

We may have mentioned this before - last year, in fact - but we love music as much as we love films.

And with the sad news of Classic Rock's demise late last year, it's more important than ever to spread the word on what's worth your buck in these austere times.

And, to be honest, it was quite a good year on the music front. Helped in no small part by the last-minute discovery of a new Poli├ža album. Sadly, United Crushers arrived to late to make the 10, but has been on heavy rotation since it's arrival.

Dragonette's newie Royal Blood is also worth your attention, if the more poppie, elctronicy stuff is your bag.

Speaking of which, Kaiser Chiefs took a bit of a left-turn this year. Took us a while to get in to it, but it's repaid the effort with some cracking tracks. And the Chili Peppers have continued with their new found 70s funk vibe to great effect.

At the rockier end of the spectrum, Metallica returned with an album that not only had the good grace to not be St Anger but also managed to feel far more like the band we fell in love with. Which was nice.

Megadeth and Anthrax also continued their recent good form, while Sixx:Am (twice) Soul Asylum, Cheap Trick, The Mission, The Cult, Sum 41 and Panic! At The Disco all came within a gnat's crotchet of making our top 10.

So what was so good that it kept all those out, we hear you ask. Well...

10) Brian Fallon - Painkillers


Not only does this album provide further evidence that Fallon is one of the finest songwriters of his generation, but the stripped-down groove translates perfectly to the stage. Not a million miles from his Gaslight home, sure, but this is more thoughtful, more poignant and - dare one suggest - more grown up.

9) Black Foxxes - Black Foxxes

It was cold, wet, muddy and miserable at Download this year, but for half an hour or so none of that mattered because our ears were being torn off by Black Foxxes. Think Nirvana crossed with Placebo, this three-piece are an anger-fuelled bunch who are equally at home screaming the place down or being quietly melancholic. As debuts go, it's not too shabby...

8) Elizabeth Cook - Exodus Of Venus

Cook's been around a while now, but this was our first experience of her - and what an introduction. Sultry, smoky vocals laid over an album infused with a Louisiana swamp blues vibe, Exodus Of Venus is a work of stunning beauty. It also contains our song title of the year with Broke Down In London On The M25.

7) Suzanne Vega - Lover, Beloved: Songs From An Evening With Carson McCullers

The title's not one of Vega's snappiest, but behind the punctuation lies one of her best albums in years. Centred around the life of McCullers (who, we suspect, not everyone has heard of), Lover switches between swing, jazz and Vega's more known pop style with ease and aplomb. Ear worms abound, and you'll be humming at least half the album after just a couple of spins.

6) The Virginmarys - Divides

Sometimes, all you want is a nasty, gnarly, snarly slab of rock n roll. Something that sounds like it's crawled out of the gutter and is thoroughly pissed off about it. For that, you need Divides. From the opening drive of Push The Pedal, the Virgins smack you round the head for a good 40 minutes. And then you press 'play' again because it's just that damn good.

5) Billy Talent - Afraid Of Heights

Somehow we'd managed to never hear this lot before hitting Download. Now we have all their albums, got to interview the drummer about his MS and have played Heights so much it's a miracle we haven't needed to replace it. From the opening Big Red Gun to the closing, slower version of the title track, everything about this album is big. The production is big. The choruses are huge. The songs immense - and there's not one track on here you'd even consider skipping. It could easily have been our album of the year, but for a couple of things...

4) Public Service Broadcasting - Live At Brixton

The band that gave us last year's album of the year return, this time with a live album. In fact, a live double album. Which can't work on so many levels it's untrue. For a start, no one buys live albums any more, right? And a live album from a band who are all about the visual spectacle? Yeah, that's never gonna work. Especially when they're taking two finely curated concept albums and slicing them up. How's that going to work, eh? A bit bloody brilliantly, actually...

3) David Bowie - Blackstar

Even if you try and remove the emotion that surrounds this album (which is near impossible), or ignore all the retrospective reviews which suddenly claimed that people knew he was dying all along, Blackstar is still one hell of an album. Off kilter beats, obscure lyrics, a jazz spirit flows through the whole thing. It sounds like Bowie having fun and pleasing himself. It's as if he knew...

2) Kate Bush - Before The Dawn

To save time, everything that we said about Live At Brixton stands here too - only add an extra disc. Yup, that's three discs of an overly-visual live show, two discs of which are focused on conceptual pieces of work (from Hounds Of Love and Ariel respectively). Yeah, that'll never work etc. But what this album does is showcase just how good that show was. Take away the drama and theatre and it still stands up as nothing short of fantastic. It's almost as good as being there.

1) Marillion - F.E.A.R

I can already here the mutterings and mumblings about an over-the-hill prog band being thought of as better than Bowie. Listen carefully and you'll hear the tutting and shakings of heads. But screw 'em. This is our album of the year for many, many reasons. Not least because in a digital age where people just grab the one track they like and ignore the rest of the album, concept albums are commercial suicide.
But Marillion have been pioneering the fan-funded model for some time, fans who want to whole thing, so that's one bullet dodged.
Then there's the title - Fuck Everything And Run. Not going to get much play on Radio 2 there, are we? Then there's the fact the shortest song around here comes in at around seven minutes. In an age where attention spans are on a par with goldfish? Are they mad?
Well, yeah, they are a bit. But the whole thing works. It's epic, it's cinematic, the lyrics dark and forboding. It's their best album since Brave. And the fact they sold out the Albert Hall in under an hour suggests we're not alone in thinking it's a stunning piece of work.

Right then, on to 2017...

8 comments:

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  2. Hogarth with Marillion at the first place? Don't make me laugh... They are making the same old music style since 20 years, nothing new and always a very depressing tone. It's not anymore Marillion of 'Assassing'. Hogarth has been the band's death. I wish he was the only departure of 2016.

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    1. It's clear you haven't listened to any Hogarth era Marillion, otherwise you would know how diverse their back catalogue is... Also, you fault them for making the same old music, but also that they don't sound like 'Assassing' anymore. So do you want them to change or do you want them to stay the same? Perhaps you should finally get over Fish and try to be objective... FEAR is very deserved of a place in any end-of-year list.

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    3. I've listened Brave, Marbles, This Strange Engine and Marillion.com (what a 'genial' name...) and even the so claimed last song 'The King', all the same. Melanchonic, boring and depressing music eith that feminine and dumb voice, that's not the full of life eclectic music of their first albums. Get over Fish? Even their last album together started to suck... They made their biggest mistake when they chosed to play always sad songs with that wtong 'ice cream genius'...

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  3. Completely agree, FEAR is album of 2016. Absolute masterpiece, anyone wishing marillion to sound like Assassing does in 2016 is deluded. Great album and Steve Hogarth has a great voice and the lyrics are exceptional. Good call

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  4. The song at #1 is just embarassing, never heard such a bad singer... Bowie should be at first place. Bowie forever <3

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