It’s that time of year again, time for us to list our favourite albums of 2016. As usual, they’re not ranked in order, because this music-making business isn’t a competition. And also as usual, there are a whole host of really great albums which we wanted to include but couldn’t, and almost certainly a whole bunch we never got around to writing about or listening too that deserved a place too. This blogging game is an overwhelming business.


Hallelujah The Hills A Band is Something to Figure Out

Hallelujah The Hills A Band is Something to Figure Out
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“This is an album built from symbolism (one of the tags on Bandcamp is ‘hieroglyphics’, to give you an idea) but, like all the best mysteries, a sense of significance floats to the top, independent of any hidden code. Hallelujah the Hills reconstruct the human experience through sheer enthusiasm, using their joyous hooks and choruses as earnest expressions of emotion rather than ironic juxtapositions.  Walsh and Co. aren’t sitting us down to share a smirk and a wink, or to reel off some abstract philosophical theories, but rather taking us by the hand and running through their strange world, leaving it up to us to catch something meaningful in the breathless blur. And what a world this is, one which has been evolving since their first album, an ecosystem based on a strange molecule – twin strands of confusion and intuition tightly bound and swirled into a double helix – the DNA of Hallelujah the Hills.”

Camp Cope album artwork

Camp Cope – S/T
(REVIEW)

“For those of us that want to hope that maybe everything doesn’t have to be shit forever, there’s an atmosphere of dissent that seeps into every line. Not in that horrible on-the-nose Billy Bragg/Frank Turner way, but more subtle, funny and heartbreaking, with throwaway lines that leave you a bit off-balanced. I think that’s what I like most about Camp Cope – the constant switch between personal and protest, heartache and anger, and all the while feeling completely and utterly helpless.”

Beat Radio Take It Forever cover

Beat Radio – Take It Forever
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“Beat Radio’s fifth album Take It Forever feels like a culmination of ideas, the product of some long, hard thinking… With a large dose of hope and a pervading sense of goodwill, Take It Forever plays like the manifesto of someone who doesn’t know all the answers but finds meaning in asking the questions, the words not of a revolutionary or prophet but an ordinary man striving to make life extraordinary, just as it should be.”

Talons’ Work Stories album art

Talons’ – Work Stories
(REVIEW)

“Explores the pervasive disillusionment in a society that hasn’t yet lived up to what it promised, a society run for interests other than those of the people who make up its majority. A society that offers hopes and dreams of resplendent lives in exchange for your hard earned $$$s, education courses that leave people stranded with more knowledge but no money, opportunities or sympathy. These are songs for people who wonder ‘when did it become not okay to do what I want with my life?’ Work Stories is a reminder that it’s okay to occasionally feel afraid or sad, that the things which trouble you are probably not as much your fault as you think, and most of all that, despite how it might sometimes feel you are never, ever, alone.”

Mount Moriah How to Dance cover art

Mount Moriah – How To Dance
(REVIEW)

“Mount Moriah push past their troubles into something positive and mysterious, a conglomeration of symbolism, mysticism, universality and other cosmic forces which pretty much equates to Southern Gothic 2.0. How to Dance is crafted from spirit and faith, carved out of a high, wide hope capable of healing any wounds, giving us the courage not just to survive, but to live.”

Chairman Dances Time Without Measure

The Chairman Dances – Time Without Measure
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“The Chairman Dances succeed in bringing characters to life in three dimensions, though on Time Without Measure the feat is even more impressive as the roster of figures are not only numerous but also known to history in decidedly superhuman terms. Now more than ever we should remember that activists and political heroes, for all of their spirit and unimaginable resolve, are as prone to doubt and death as anyone, and not half as powerful without our support and belief. Likewise, we’d do well to remember that villains and bigots are human too, flames that, however fierce and bright, will be snuffed out without the oxygen that is our backing. This album is a reminder that belief and faith can save us. It’s just a matter of choosing the right thing in which to invest our energies.”

Karima Walker – Hands in Our Names
(REVIEW)

Hands in Our Names sees Karima Walker reconstruct an array of varied elements into something larger and more meaningful than they could ever be alone. Field recordings from her present and found recordings from someone else’s past swirl above and beneath her own words and guitar notes, drones of every pitch filling the background and stretching the songs into worlds of their own. When atomised into separate parts, the album is impressionistic, blurry and strange and difficult to describe, though when listened to as a whole, a blanket of stitches, it becomes something vivid and intuitive. As such, Hands in Our Names is able to convey things normal songs cannot, a freedom not just born of trope-avoiding experimentalism but somehow inherent in the very combinations of sounds, as though arranged into secret patterns or codes, magic spells that trump postmodern convictions. Rather than dying in open air upon leaving her mouth, Karima Walker’s communications bubble from within, stirring that dormant empathy that lies somewhere near the centre of us all.”

Sioux Falls (now Stranger Ranger) – Rot Forever
(REVIEW)

“Sioux Falls’ sound reads like a melting pot of the last twenty years of rock music. Taking the indie rock of the likes of Built to Spill et al., the band add thoughtful emo (like The Hotelier) and smart pop punk vibes (think LVL UP etc.) to create something wonderfully varied and entertaining, cycling through these genres not just between songs but within them. The narrator is centred within the stories of which they sing, sounding like another confused player in violent, unfair game operating to rules outside of anyone’s understanding. In the face of bewilderment they turn to anger and sorrow and joy, feelings easy to recognise, easy to submit to, decidedly non-ambivalent chemical reactions which remind them that they’re still alive.”

john k samson winter wheat cover art

John K Samson – Winter Wheat
(REVIEW)

“The Weakerthans frontman’s first release since 2012 is everything we’ve come to expect, exploring his favourite themes of contemporary loneliness and isolation in his uniquely warm manner, his characters not ready to give up hope that connection (that is, real human connection) is still possible in our digital world.”

nap eyes thought rock fish scale

Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale

“Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes return with a sophomore album of rhythmic, ear-worming slacker folk rock songs, recorded completely live with no overdubs in just four days. Nigel Chapman’s lethargic monotone vocals give the whole thing the feel of a daydream, like the wandering high-brow thoughts of a sleepy philosophy/psychology major.”

Jeremy Squires Shadows cover art

Jeremy Squires – Shadows
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“Does what the very best folk music can do, an outpouring from one human being to a multitude of others. It’s a record borne out of legitimate heartbreak, the end of a marriage and the death of a loved one, a brave and honest attempt to deal with big life-changing events. Deft songwriting allows Squires to expand these specific, individual scenes into large, engaging metaphors, in which we can find shards of our own experiences. The beauty of it is that the finished work is not just healing and revelatory for the artist. It can help us too.”

Loone & Paper Bee – Now I Know You and See How Wide You Are to the World
(REVIEW)

Now I Know You and See How Wide You Are to the World is a terrific album. It’s as rich and as complex as life itself, steeped in passion and poetry, whirring like the universe and everything in it. There’s a line at the end of ‘Ugly, I’m Sorry’ that sums up the whole release rather nicely, capturing its in a handful of words far better than I am able to in this review: ‘And I wanna hold your hand / and go explore the pulsing humming darkness’.”

Spartan Jet-Plex Get Some Artwork

Spartan Jet-Plex – Get Some
(REVIEW)

“Taken at face value, Get Some is an indistinct album, the themes and meanings wrapped in layers of abstract lyrics and varied instrumentation. However, this vagueness itself curls and contorts and creeps into your head, eluding inclinations to describe and detail and thus bypassing the whole processing machinery most music must enter. As such, Kells’s thoughts and feelings arrive whole, unaltered, meaning that you feel what’s being said, even if it’s impossible to put into words.”

kyle morton what will destroy you

Kyle Morton – What Will Destroy You
(REVIEW)

“While Typhoon’s fourth record is still in the works, Morton last month released a surprise solo album, What Will Destroy You. Again the twin themes of tragedy and pleasure are central, as is the idea of catharsis and release. However, while mortality is an intrinsic element, the album does not tread the exact same ground as previous Typhoon releases. What Will Destroy You shifts the focus onto love, more specifically what Morton describes as “the ambivalence of erotic love,” leading to an intimate, surprisingly honest album which delves into things both more wonderful and mundane than your average love songs.”

 

chuck my band is a computer cover art

CHUCK – My Band is a Computer
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“Playing like a collaboration between Owen Ashworth and Bret Easton Ellis, the CHUCK brand of observant and at times cringe-inducingly honest indie pop will no doubt prove divisive. But there’s far more to My Band is a Computer than drugs and self-pity and empty sex. Like the Frog release that Audio Antihero brought us last year, it crams an awful lot into its run-time, covering everything that’s terrible and everything that’s not about being a young adult in the twenty-first century, somehow managing to tap into the human kernel at the centre of our zombified lurch of nostalgia and regret.”

monarch mtn everyone is here cover art

Monarch Mtn – Everyone is Here
(REVIEW)

“It would be wrong to consider the music of Monarch Mtn as simply a two dimensional mope-fest, with Farmer’s poetic lyrics and warm delivery hint at something beyond the misery. The palette is undoubtedly gloomy, blacks and greys and deep blues, but Farmer’s warm vocals and poetic turns of phrase flicker across this twilight like threads of gold.”

Claire Cronin – Came Down a Storm
(REVIEW)

“The real success of Down Came a Storm is how Claire Cronin and John Dieterich combine to spin stories and landscapes from their combined talents, every element given equal standing to conjure not only folk tales but the worlds in which they exist. Here you can feel the wind on your skin, hear it move in the trees, smell its scent of salt and earth and ozone. You can feel it move the characters too, propelling them into dark, poetic places where nature rules and comfort can be found in the starkest of elements.”

adeem the artist cover art

Adeem the Artist – Kyle Adem is Dead
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“The word ‘sincere’ is often taken as synonymous for affectionate or sentimental. With Kyle Adem is Dead, Adeem the Artist strives to be sincere in every sense, finding the bravery not just to declare his love for his wife but to voice his fears, his weaknesses, his exasperation with life as we live it. With everything on the table, no lingering mysteries or secrets withheld, there is nothing left to corrupt the good things. Because, after all, Kyle Adem is dead.”

mal devisa kiid cover art

Mal Devisa – Kiid
(REVIEW)

Kiid is a personal record and plays like condensed version of life, reaching high and falling low, crackling and bursting and simmering under the surface, at times exploding in urgent streams of consciousness as if the words and thoughts can no longer be held in. This is an album that refuses to be reduced to something easily describable, persevering in it’s complexity against the binarizing forces of anxiety or genre or gender or race. Kiid isn’t a self-doubt record or political record, nor a sad record or a happy record. It’s not jazz or gospel or indie rock. Kiid is everything. Kiid is whatever it wants to be.”

Lisa/Liza – Deserts of Youth
(REVIEW)

“Wonderfully minimal and psych-tinged songs that will doubtless appeal to fans of  soft and sad outsider folk artists such as Sarah Winchester. At times it’s gossamer thin, with Victoria’s vocals little more than hushed murmurs, though even in these quiet moments her words hold a kind of understated magnetism, a power which draws in the instrumentation and in turn becomes augmented by it. Deserts of Youth shows you don’t necessarily need to raise your voice to make a statement, that even quiet songs can be imbued with a blazing energy.”

Old Earth – Lay For June
(REVIEW | INTERVIEW)

“Trying to put Old Earth’s music into words seems futile and kind of besides the point. There’s never going to be a satisfactory way to describe art so fluid and weird and instinctive, so all we can tell you is what it sounds like to us. It’s operating on a deeper level, one not easily outlined, playing on some atavistic region of the subconscious that reacts to fear and beauty, that treats intense wonder and dread as the same emotion. It’s the same area of the brain that tells us to light candles and throw coins down wells no matter how secular our society becomes.”


What were your favourite albums of 2016? Let us know through one of the usual channels – we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.