Blossoms have blossomed (ahem) in 2016. Their self-titled album rounded off the releases of hit after hit throughout the year. Blossoms carefully tread the line between indie guitar band and radio-friendly pop and successfully fuse the two. Catchy choruses are unavoidable as you listen through and there is more than a hint of 80s pop-rock; synth hooks form the foundation of much of the album, from ‘At Most a Kiss’ to ‘Charlemagne’. It says a lot about the modern music industry that what would have been middle-of-the-road chart music 30 years ago is now seized upon as borderline revolutionary indie. Nevertheless, the Stockport quintet’s debut is as fun as it is listenable.
Read our full review of Blossom’s self titled album here.
Pulsating, infectious, dark pop music from one of the genre’s finest princesses, Banks provides her haunting tale of finding strength as a woman in relationships and in life’s hardest times. Promoting self-love and a bad-ass attitude, Banks draws her lyrics from a place of raw pain and honesty. Her husky voice is irresistibly hypnotic; you’ll have a hard time pausing this album.
Read our full review of Banks’ The Altar here.
48 Blank Banshee
I won’t try to disguise this as anything other than the token Vaporwave album to appease the trendsters. But the fact that 2016 could see a “token Vaporwave album” just goes to show it hasn’t all been fascism and gorrilacide – Vaporwave as a genre has come into its own. The kind of skill and artistry on this album is something the starry-eyed, A E S T H E T I C pioneers couldn’t have imagined when they first rummaged around their databases of elevator music. While the skill and artistry may seem to undermine the very aesthetic that Vaporwave rebels against, MEGA has an impressive response. Where samples were originally supposed to be so eclectic and jarring they’d trip up your ears, MEGA’s samples are fittingly broad and odd, and are instead used to flow smoothly. The characteristically eerie and detached soundscapes remain but they’re also smooth and surprisingly personable. Ultimately the album houses a sincerity that Vaporwave missed – irony can only take you so far, and maybe MEGA is the next step.
46 The 1975
I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
“The biggest band that nobody’s ever heard of” bring you their 17-track sophomore stunner, featuring social commentaries (‘Loving Someone’), raw emotion (‘Somebody Else, She Lays Down’) and anthemic indie-pop (‘Love Me, The Sound’). A distinctive step-up in identity and style since their eponymous debut, The 1975’s album is easily one of the soundtracks of 2016, taking inspiration from the soundtracks of 1980s John Hughes cinema classics, INXS, Michael Jackson and Phil Collins, to name a few. An album which has collected awards and nominations since its release, and deservedly so; no two tracks are alike – or like anything in music before them.
Read our interview with The 1975’s Matt Healy here.
45 Frightened Rabbit
Painting of a PAnic Attack
Glaswegian quintet Frightened Rabbit present their fifth record, a gentler yet bold piece which resonates long after listening. Emotionally-titled tracks such as ‘Woke up Hurting’ and ‘An Otherwise Disappointing Life’ don’t disguise the powerful melodies and confident vocals the alternative rockers have so skilfully crafted. Produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, the album features electronic indie notes, and hints at a slight mature mellowing since its 2013 predecessor following lead singer Scott Hutchison’s migration to Los Angeles in the band’s break. Touching on intertwining themes such as love and loneliness, Painting of a Panic Attack is perhaps one of the more evocative and thought provoking pieces of the year.
Read our full review of Frightened Rabbit’s Painting of a Panic Attack here.
44 Anderson .Paak
It is difficult to ascribe a genre to Anderson Paak. Malibu is funky, soulful, and best of all, it is fun. It oozes warmth and is incredibly smooth, Malibu is a bit like a galaxy chocolate bar, only you don’t feel sick upon consuming it for hours on end. Try listening to Come Down without cracking a smile or tapping your feet: it is impossible. You can’t. If you haven’t heard this album yet then wait for a day where the sun is shining, play it in your headphones, and go for a walk. Thank me later.
43 Kate Tempest
Let them eat chaos
South East London street poet Kate Tempest is very much the leading light in British spoken word. The successor to 2014’s Everybody Down, Let Them Eat Chaos sees Tempest tread grittier ground and address the state of the world through a series of vignettes and characters. Backed by an ever-changing soundscape of hip-hop beats and distorted electronica, Tempest has created a restless and shifting platform that gives her honest and dark poetry even greater depth and meaning. To anyone that says protest music is dead, I urge you to listen to Let Them Eat Chaos, with ‘Europe is Lost’ in particular standing out as one of the finest examples of the millennial voices screaming out against the system. However it’s the dark, emotional urban tales like ‘Tunnel Vision’ and ‘Ketamine for Breakfast’ that pack the biggest punch.
42 Brian eno
Ambient music is difficult to write about convincingly, cause a lot of people shut down pretty much immediately at the prospect of half-hour drones and fuzzy field recordings. Luckily, this is one of the most accessible ambient albums in years, certainly since Brian McBride’s When The Detail Lost Its Freedom. Eno’s deep intonations on “The Ship” seem a little intimidating, but by the album’s climax on “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free” all the strings have been pulled together into one gloriously cinematic climax. It’s like turning an embroidery over and seeing all the unconnected parts become one. Masterful stuff.
41 Jenny Hval
Read our full review of Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch here.