This is a list of records not necessarily released in 2016, but rather the music that has meant the most to me over the past year. Let me know what your favourite records have been and why? Do any of these make your list?
22, A Million (2016)
One of my favourite things about this record is that it represents what I would consider a fresh deviation musically for Bon Iver. When I first heard the three singles released before the full-length, I didn’t immediately like what I heard. They were foreign sounds, but I could still hear Vernon's signature underneath. It demanded me to dig deeper, especially as it was coming from an artist from whom I have loved so much other work. It is exciting and refreshing to listen to this musical genius of release new ideas with fresh inspiration and sounds. One thing is clear though, there has been no effort made to settle the work of the album into popular music circles. In fact, the new songs have created a stir for many existing fans of the band.
22, a Million is complex musically and in semantics. Listen closely for its rhythmic and distortive intricacies and hand-woven lyricism. It's a good example of an album worth paying attention to with a good sound system or headphones. Stunning layers of voice and robotic synthetic sounds combine fluently with the raw acoustics of guitar and piano that occasionally hark right back to For Emma.
Accompanying Vernon’s music is an expansive collection of iconographic images developed by Eric Timothy Carlson (read a fascinating insight into the design development here). The design work extends across album art, tour posters, merch and a unique lyric video for each song. The extent of the branding displays an inspiring attention to detail and passion for art on a broader scale.The official release of the record in September uncovered a plethora of creative marketing elements such as unannounced hand-painted murals and newsprint zines in addition to the placement of single tape players for public listening parties worldwide, each with a single request: please turn over the tape when it is finished.
Bon Iver have followed up the release of 22, a Million with a series of spell-binding performances confirming Vernon love for immersive live experience.
Check out this record, if you haven't already.
This album has been the soundtrack to our lounge room this year. Brilliant song-writing and musicianship means the vinyl has founded way onto the deck again and again, not soon tiring our ears. I have danced to this album and slept to it. It’s beautiful, a kind of perfection that I propose will take Telluric into history. I think people will be talking about it for a while.
It’s groovy and smooth, has a bunch of moments where my head actually bobs and lips pout with involuntary reaction. Look no further than Belly Side Up, track one. Monday is special, multiple layers of Corby’s vocals create a river bed on which flows powerful lyrics of reflection and response, perhaps self confession.
I was never lost, I only chose to never come home.
Good To Be Alone slows down the day, a sobering reflection from Corby and a heartbreaking turn from the jazzy sass of the leading tracks. The enigma of his musical genius drew me to his tour stop here in Newcastle where he wasted no time chatting to the crowd or providing any form of entertainment outside of his music. I saw it as a virtue.
Stage Four (2016)
This record was my first venture into this band, having only previously heard of them. Stage Four speaks of loss, the vocalist losing his mum to cancer. It is an exploration of his experience of lack and love before, during and after the event.
Bolm’s vocal expression is raw, emotional and expressive and his lyrics personal and poetic. The record's clean melodic progressions draw listeners emotionally into songs that divulge into passionate outbursts of confusion, anger, regret and despair. It's incredible how the instruments create an emotional atmosphere and Bolm explains and provided narrative to what you’re feeling, in addition to contributing to the sound. Voice as instrument.
And by gather myself I mean: over analyze everything. And by gather myself I mean: point my eyes to the ceiling. To evade what I'm feeling in some cunning attempt to outrun the things that have made the night my home.
Death Cab For Cutie
After enjoying most of Death Cabs pre-2009 music, I was late to arrive for Kintsugi, having missed Keys and Codes altogether.
It was the solemn questions of Black Sun that opened the door, but I’ve stayed for the sadness of Everything’s A Ceiling, and much more. The sparse cries of Hold No Guns sit you down next to Gibbard in his bedroom as the evening sets in and second story windows begin to fog up. The city lights begin to blur and illuminate the room in colour*.
Not unlike 22, A Million, I needed some time to find the band I loved within the sound of the record. But I did, and I fell in love all over again with Gibbards writing. Death Cab is always rhythmically brilliant, and the percussion again, really drives this record through to completion.
Gibbard has always drawn pictures with his words:
Way way down a hole, there's no feeling 'Cause when you're so far below the floor, everything's a ceiling. We dug it down as deep as we could just like we planned it. But when you climbed out you pulled the ladder and it left me stranded.
- Everything’s a Ceiling
*made that up
Panic Routine (2016)
Sydney’s Rumours came out of nowhere earlier this year, into my Spotify playlists and they stayed for most of the year. Friendly punk and emotive rock. Plenty of sadness for me. They came to Newcastle mid-year, supporting Trophy Eyes at the Cambridge, and it was great to put faces to and see live performance of the songs.
It’s a simple, solid and mature e.p introduction for such a band and I’m keenly looking forward to a 2017 release from them.
Trophy Eyes - Chemical Miracle (2016), Everything Goes Away (2014)
Night Beds - Ivywild (2016)
Corey Kilgannon - I’ll Be Here When the Moon is Tired (2016)
Sticky Fingers - Westway (The Glitter and the Slums) (2016)
Hindsight - Disposable Paradise (2016)
The Shouting Matches - Mouthoil (2013)
Olafur Arnalds - Island Songs (2016) - accompanied by brilliant video series.