Despite the hit that the celebrity populace has taken this year, 2016 has been a brilliant year for new music with some stunning albums being released into the world. So, as is customary for this time of year, here’s a hugely self indulgent list of my favourite ten albums from 2016, in no particular order.
Here we go.
Mesh – Looking Skyward
While my love for this band is well documented and borderline obsessive, it’s also fair to say that in my opinion, this is absolutely their strongest album to date. The production is solid, the song writing is exemplary and the album has hooks coming out of its ears (if it were possible for an album to have ears – that’d be pretty meta). It’s very much Another Mesh Album, but I have no qualms with that whatsoever. My massive fandom remains intact.
Phoria – Volition
Phoria’s distinctive blend of emotive, minimal electronica was an instant hit as soon as I heard it and this album firmly hooked me into their sound. I’m not going to lie; I find a lot of indie electronica hugely derivative and not very exciting but Phoria manage to take minimal electronic sounds with low key, heartfelt vocals and make them sound huge – and that I can really resonate with.
Blaqk Audio – Material
Futurepop is probably one of the least cool genres out there in terms of public perception and critical regard; but Blaqk Audio, the electronic side endeavour of AFI’s Jade Puget and Davey Havok absolutely hit the mark with this album and bring futurepop back into the now. I know, I know – it gets confusing when a genre with ‘future’ in its name generally sounds pretty dated, but there we go. Their second album was a bit ‘hit and miss’ in my opinion, but 2016’s Material is the natural successor to their debut release Cexcells and it’s barely been off my stereo this past year.
Avec Sans – Heartbreak Hi
With albums like this, there’s absolutely no need for the charts to be full of such naff pop music. This album and this band are simply divine and I love them. There, I said it. Quality electropop in its purest form, Avec Sans really have the format, look and sound nailed with some killer hooks and superb production. There’s nothing typical about this band though, and they take the tried and trusted pop formula and make it their own.
NZCA LINES – Infinite Summer
Some bands are just irrepressibly cool, you know? NZCA Lines are one of those bands for me. I hadn’t really paid much attention to them until I was tipped off to check them out at Bluedot Festival this summer, and their live set opening the main stage was delightful. Infinite Summer is a lovely album, with some really inventive instrumentation and a nice balance between big pop numbers and more arty, immersive tracks.
Pet Shop Boys – Super
Everyone has that band from their childhood that really resonates with them, and for me it’s the Pet Shop Boys. Despite having been making music for a long time, nothing they do ever sounds repetitive or too deeply seated in nostalgia and that’s a big deal. Their 2016 album Super shot right to being one of my favourites as soon as I heard it. From the lead single The Pop Kids (which may be one of the best pop songs of all time – I’m not even kidding) to more effervescent numbers like Undertow or Groovy; you can really tell that this is an album the band wanted to make, rather than opting for what was expected of them. I started collecting vinyl this year and this was the first record that I bought – that’s how good it is.
PreCog – Are We Lost
A fairly new and relatively unknown band (for now!), PreCog’s debut album really impressed me with its sumptuous blend of melancholy synthpop and subtle vocal hooks that really get under your skin. It’s a beast of an album with 15 tracks and there’s not a hint of filler on there, which is exceptionally rare for a debut release, and the lyrics and song writing here really make this band something special. Stand out tracks for me are Feast, Monster and Breathe. I predict big things for these guys. Give them a listen.
Leitbur – Antique Travelers
LA based synthpop duo Leitbur were a real find for me when I first discovered them last year. Their latest offering Antique Travelers is a fantastic album, which is a smooth mix of vocals and almost playful synth work than can only really be described as ‘lush’. Listening to it is like getting a big audible hug and I highly recommend them.
The Black Queen – Fever Daydream
I don’t know what it is about members of punk and metal bands making really, really good synth albums with their side-projects, but this was another one that blew me away earlier this year. Having seen The Dillinger Escape Plan live a few times, this was the last thing I expected their vocalist Greg Puciato to do but he smashes it and this album is brilliant. It’s a blend of synthpop, darkwave and alternative electronica with a smidgen of a more electro Nine Inch Nails thrown in for good measure.
Bright Light Bright Light – Choreography
I’m a sucker for a good pop song, especially when it’s got a bit of a late 80s / early 90s vibe; and North Wales popster Rod Thomas, or Bright Light Bright Light as he’s better known, really delivers that on his 2016 album Choreography. If you’re the wrong side of 30 like me, it’s like all of your guilty musical pleasures from your early teens rolled into one (don’t pretend you don’t have them!); but with a solid contemporary feel. Music aside, there’s a really refreshing DIY ethos from this artist and a big dose of realness that’s often found lacking in the music business. And, one of the songs was inspired by the Super Nintendo game Secret of Mana, so naturally I’m sold instantly.
Let me take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone taking the time to visit our humble blog and to all the artists who continue to send us brilliant music. Here’s to a great 2017.
Header image courtesy of the world’s greatest website.