As turbulent and confusing as this past year was for all of us, with the death of legends like Prince and Bowie, musically it was a truly successful year. Many of my favourite artists released new albums, and to summarise this year of terrible politics, but excellent music, I’ve put together my 5 favourite albums.It would be impossible for me to sort these albums in order of preference, so here they are in chronological order of release.
“I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” – The 1975
Date of Release: 26th February, Favourite Song: Paris
This absolute gem was released in February and definitely marked a good start for the music of 2016. I have written a review for this album before, because it really deserved all the attention it ended up getting from fans and the media. ILIWYS is varied and ranges from the 80’s pop of the album’s first single Love Me to the slow piano ballad She Lays Down which marks the last song on the 17 song record. Even though the band’s sound has changed a lot since the release of their last album, they have stayed true to their essence. ILIWYS is not only a collection of really good individual tracks, but also a great composition as a whole. With the interludes that remind me of the structure of their debut album “The 1975” and the reworked version of the opening track The 1975 really shows how the band has evolved over the past three years. Every song on this album is a masterpiece in its own and shows the bands musical abilities as well as Healy’s lyrical strength. Listening to the signer critiquing the oppressive structures of our modern society in Loving Someone with lines like “it’s better if we keep them perplexed, it’s better if we make them want the opposite sex”, or hearing him struggle with religion in If I Believe You, really reminds me of why I started getting into the 1975 in the first place. Their music is not as empty as a lot of the music that is around these days and there is something about them that makes me feel like their music has a purpose.
“The Getaway”- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Date of Release: 17th June 2016, Favourite Song: Sick Love
As the band’s first release since 2011 this album was highly anticipated. But what exactly can you expect from a band who has done so many different things in the over 30 years that they have existed? Personally, I was very surprised when they released the first single Dark Necessities. I had expected something loud and guitar driven, reminiscent of the times when Frusciante was still around like Can’t Stop or Californication. But the RHCPs proved me wrong .With Dark Necessities as the first single to what seems to be the band’s most subtle album. It’s not as loud and hectic as their older music, however brilliant it was. With this album Josh Klinghoffer seems to have really found his place in the band and established himself as a brilliant musician of his own, rather than someone who tries to fill the void that Frusciante has left. On “The Getaway”, Kiedis’ songwriting is as brilliant as ever and the band seems to have evolved to perhaps, a more mature sound, without losing their charme. Sick Love is my personal favourite off the new record, but I can listen to the whole album on repeat, because it is an accumulation of individually great songs, that represent the new, more relaxed sound of the greatest band of our time.
“Kindly Now” – Keaton Henson
Date of release: 16th September 2016, Favourite Song: Old Lovers In Dressing Rooms
The joy I felt when I found out about Keaton Henson’s new album was absolutely indescribable. He is definitely one of my favourite artists and every new song of his musical poetry makes my playlists a little better. I immediately fell in love with Alright, the single he released before “Kindly Now ” came out. The single is somewhat representative for a big part of the album, with it’s poetical lyrics and soft piano sounds. “You and I are monsters, we’ll not find another, cannot be together, lest we eat each other”, Keaton sings in his soft voice and shows that he has not changed at all. He still wears his heart on his sleeve and is not scared to be vulnerable, not scared to be weak. There is some new interesting sound on “Kindly Now”, March and Holy Lover are more than Keaton’s typical Piano Ballad with deep lyrics; there’s gospel sounds, loops and Henson’s voice perfectly distorted through synthesiser sounds. “Kindly Now” is a poetical masterpiece, beautiful sadness in every song. Listening to Keaton Henson makes me sad in the nicest way possible, and his sadness is too beautiful not to be listened to. In No Witnesses he says how “those who hate Los Angeles have never been in love”, later on in the song, he breaks my heart when he writes: “Man, I hate Los Angeles, and I’ve never been in love”. Keaton Henson is the fragile genius that the music world would definitely be lacking without him. How can one not love listening to his stories of a young love in Old Lover’s in Dressing Rooms?
“22, A Million” – Bon Iver
Date of Release: 30th September 2016, Favourite Song: #29 Strafford APTS
How could one ever expect anything short of pure perfection from Bon Iver? Even though the album is a perfect composition, it is confusing to say the least. 10 songs, all with equally strange titles and strange sounds make up the novelty that is “22, A Million”. To this day I’m not sure how to pronounce most of these titles, but that’s besides the point. Bon Iver’s sound has changed a lot, the days of “For Emma, forever ago” are long gone. The pure guitar sounds have been replaced by many layered voice tracks and strange effects. Quite frankly, it took me a minute to understand this new style, the album had me perplexed when I listened to it for the first time. But after a few listens it really grew on me and now I can’t go without listening to it regularly. The dynamics of instrumentals and Justin Vernon’s voice are perfectly balanced. The lyrics with cryptic messages that are hard to understand, yet so intriguing that it makes you want to find out more, mixed with the musical suspense in songs like 33″GOD” give the album a beautiful flow that makes it one of my favourites of this past year. It does not even remotely compare to anything else that I have heard, it is perfect in its unique weirdness. This new Bon Iver album is definitely a lot less accessible than the previous albums, it won’t be known to everyone in the way that Skinny Love is, but its not meant to be. It is an album meant for people who want to get to know it.
“Good Luck Everybody” – Saint Leonard’s Horses
Date of Release: 14th October 2016, Favourite Song: A Muse
Saint Leonard’s Horses might not be as well known as the other artists on this list, but that does not mean that this album is any less relevant than the first four. I had been very excited for this album to come out, as I had heard at least some of the songs at Leonard’s concerts months before the album came out in October. I liked them a lot and wanted to finally be able to listen to them at home. This album was definitely about change, a change of the name, a change of style. And the music has indeed changed a lot since I first saw him play as Father John Misty‘s opening act in Berlin back in March 2015, when he still made music as Kieran Leonard. Many concerts later with the new name, Leonard’s sound has grown more unique and he has become even more of a destinctive persona. With curiosities like a record deal signed on the grave of the great poet William Blake and concerts with screenings of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”, it definitely doesn’t get boring round him. “Good Luck Everybody” is full of stories of goddess cults and intoxication and every song is an interesting story in itself. I’ve listened to this album on repeat for days and days and came to love every track on it as much as the next. Every track on this album, from the relatively upbeat and loud opening track Rise Up to the more tranquil last song The Ever Open Door it is consistent, yet varied. Definitely a hidden treasure of the music of 2016.