The album of the year may not necessarily be the one you listened to the most. So what were your favourite records of 2016?
By now most of you will have digested the annual best album of the year lists and few will be surprised to learn that David Bowie’s elegiac swansong Blackstar topped most critics’ 2016 lists. But as my esteemed colleague Graham Reid pointed out in his recent round-up, the best album of the year probably should be one you liked the most. And much as I admire Blackstar, I would be lying if I said if had been on high rotation on my stereo in 2016.
So in that spirit, instead these are the records that I have listened to the most over the last 12 months.
Favourite Albums of 2016
Like a number of the year’s best albums, the debut effort from this New York retro roots outfit was tinged with tragedy: singer Dan Klein died before the album hit the shelves. But there was nothing gloomy about this glorious slice of joyful old school reggae which sounded like a long-lost ‘60s recording from Jamaica’s legendary Studio One. Klein’s lovely falsetto weaves in and out of the steely but melodic rocksteady rhythms of Rich Terrana (drums) and brothers Preet and Chuck Patel (bass and piano), and the singer’s untimely demise adds an extra layer of poignancy to songs like Till Then (“every day I wake / it’s getting harder just to take / I try to fake a smile but nothing hides my sadness”). Forget about the current wave of Pacific reggae bands – this is the real deal.
At a time when nearly every second ‘alternative’ American act this year seemed to be in thrall to The Cure and/or New Order, this splendidly oddball collection from New York siblings Brian and Michael D’Addario was a breath of fresh air. The reference points here are the ‘70s and not the obvious ones either – Harry Nilsson, Sparks, Badfinger, mid-period Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren… basically, the sort of the bands you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to in the post-punk 80s. While Do Hollywood occasionally drifts into pastiche, the wit of their lyrics and arrangements mark the D’Addario brothers as talents to watch out for.
3. Terry HQ, Terry
That said, there’s nothing wrong with groups exploring the post-punk sounds of an earlier era and this endearingly ramshackle debut from this Melbourne indie supergroup (Dick Driver, Total Control, UV Race) of sorts is a perfect case in point. They are at their deadpan best on the wiry, angular rhythms of tracks like Moscow On The Thames, Chitter Chatter and Don’t Say Sorry, but the woozy acoustic jangle of Hot Heads and Alfred suggest they are also fans of lo-fi Flying Nun legends like The Clean. The charmingly wonky male/female harmonizing is the icing on the cake.
His down-and-dirty theme tune to Vinyl was one of the best things about the ill-fated HBO show and also served notice that Simpson was already thinking beyond the rigid confines of trad country. Although Nashville influences were never far from the surface, his marvelous third album took in everything from Roy Orbison-esque epics (Breakers’ Roar, Welcome To Earth ) to sassy southern stompers (Keep It Between The Light, Call To Arms), while who would have thought that Nirvana’s In Bloom could be transformed into an affecting country soul ballad?
The album title pretty much sums it up: this uke-fied punk-folk trio from New York deal in winsome hipster pop, although its sugary outer coating hides a nice line in sardonic humour. There are tributes to Klaus Kinski and Detective Elliott Stabler from the TV show SVU, while the Misfits’ thrash fave Skull is recast as a lovely acoustic ballad. Utterly adorable.
Also on high rotation
S U R V I V E’s main men Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon provided the memorable score to the cult TV hit Stranger Things and their new band album hums with equally unsettling electronic pulses.
Country album of the year by a mile, Margo Price’s solo debut is heartbreaking and defiant in equal measure. The opening track Hands Of Time is destined to become a country standard.
A suitably epic 3-disc tribute to the wonders of the Grateful Dead, with fine reinterpretations from the likes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Charles Bradley, Orchestra Baobab and Courtney Barnett.
Freak folkery at its finest, with Meg Baird’s pure, soothing tones offering blissful respite to the touch-the-sky psychedelic guitar fireworks.
On the album cover, he may look like a refugee from a forgotten boy band but this is pure garage gospel – raw and righteous in all the right places.
So what records did you listen to the most in 2016?