The second half of Overblown’s favourite albums of 2016.
It has been a turbulent year for obvious reasons. However, on the bright side, there has been an over abundance of excellent music. These albums are our absolute favourites of the lot. Feel free to leave a comment to let us know what we forgot.
25. Savages – Adore Life
Undoubtedly, Savages’ not so secret weapon is singer Jenny Beth. Her intense and raw performances infest the group’s songs with an earnestness that simply cannot be feigned. This ensures that tracks like the tense existential exploration ‘Adore’ never lags, the galloping ‘The Answer’ has the requisite unhinged desperation, and the feedback heavy ‘I Need Something New’ possesses the necessary quirks to make it a success.
24. Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
It’s been a topsy-turvy year for this band. A slew of reputation building live shows quickly followed by the release of this album and then the momentum is lost through personnel issues. James Alex is the key to all of this music though, living out his punk rock fantasy one song at a time. This record didn’t offer anything in the way of surprises but its punk blasts are delivered with more heart and belief than you could possibly imagine and if you’re into it you’re gonna be in all the way.
23. Angel Olsen – My Woman
Angel Olsen’s My Woman is the 3rd full-length release from the North Carolina based singer-songwriter. Her unique vocals are combined with a stimulating mix of sounds and styles, congealing love in all of its complex glory, combining to make a powerful and extremely emotive album.
22. Big Ups – Before A Million Universes
On Before A Million Universes Big Ups leap between calmness and chaos, certainty and doubt, in a manner that makes your stomach lurch. It’s impossible to listen to this record without picturing vocalist Joe Galarraga prowling about a stage, pulling all manner of weird faces whilst spitting and screaming these lyrics. With ‘National Parks’ they had one of the best songs of 2016. Post hardcore at its finest.
21. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
An ear for melody, oddball but insightful lyrics, and a tendency towards the epic, Will Toledo stakes his claim as one of his generation’s most accomplished songwriters with the release of his first album of new material for Matador. ‘Fill in the Blank’ documents the tedium of modern life perfectly, while ‘The Ballad of Costa Concordia’ is an near twelve minute tour de force that borrows a melody from Dido. Seriously.
20. DIIV – Is The Is Are
Not many alternative bands would be ambitious enough to try to pull off a double album anymore. Even less could actually do a good job of it. DIIV manage to excel, combining their luscious melodies, and lethargic manner with controlled and sparingly used feedback, Sky Ferreira, and severe immersiveness. Apparently, it’s a meditation on the drug addiction of vocalist/guitarist Zachary Cole Smith. As he says, “”I know I have to stay alive at least until the album’s done. This is one shot at immortality, if I ever have one. I know it’s by far the most important thing I’ll ever do. That’s very empowering, no matter what fucked-up shit is going on. Every day is a struggle, but I have to be the best I can, stay sober and finish this record.” Heavy stuff.
19. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
After dalliances into synth pop on her on her Fit Me In EP, Frankie Cosmos (aka Greta Kline) returned to a more lo-fi, slacker indie rock vibe her new album. Combining brittle and dry guitars with a nearly disinterested vocal delivery, her strength lies in being able to jam so many thoughts and feelings into such short unassuming songs.
18. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Keeping up to date with Parquet Courts can be a full time occupation at times – five full-length albums over the last four years is just the start. 2016 was actually a relatively quiet year for them (well, so far…), but they lit it up in the Springtime with ‘Human Performance’, another absorbing hipsters guide on how to cope with the confusing decline of Western civilisation. When too few others are speaking out, we should cherish Parquet Courts.
17. Yung – A Youthful Dream
The Danish punks refined their unhinged and drunken sounding approach for their international debut LP, adding a bit more space for the songs to breath. It’s still not very polished and remains earnest, but the songs are more coiled and nuanced. Turns out they have more tricks up their collective sleeve than loud guitars and a Replacements fixation.
16. Tigercub – Abstract Figures in the Dark
After the promise of early singles and EP’s Tigercub’s debut album left absolutely nothing behind. This is a record of crunching, grinding and ultimately thrilling rock. It’s an album that wears it’s frustrations at the modern world on its sleeve, none more so than on ‘Memory Boy’ and its take on the Migrant crisis. It’s a dark sounding record but there are moments of beauty, like sunlight reflecting in oil stained puddles. Don’t ignore Tigercub in 2017.
15. NOTS – Cosmetic
Cosmetic is an aggressive blast of a record and a hugely positive step forward from their debut We Are Nots. There’s never any doubt of the depth of feeling behind the angry sounding vocals, even though the lyrics can be tricky to make out. The rhythm is hard, fast and repetitively vicious and even the keyboards add a wonderfully menacing tone. This is music born for volume, written and performed to let the listener hold their head high and equally as pleasing, to piss off your enemies.
14. Mi Mye – The Sympathy Sigh
From the moment the album opener ‘I think Everything’s Gonna Be Fine’ kicks in with it hopeful uncertainty Mi Mye deliver a beautifully thought out record full of the little details that mark out what’s wonderful about records this personal. This is indie-folk with an incredible sense of place and belonging though observations, memories both happy and bitter and all bound together through intricately crafted but understated songs.
13. Martha – Blisters in the Pit of my Heart
Every word joyously yelled, every guitar chord jubilantly hammered, every drum skin furiously smacked all added up to a wonderful album from one of the greatest bands around. This is punk pop mayhem served up to perfection. A victory march for the scared and anxious, a lifeline for the lonely and confused. Huge songs, bigger choruses and endless celebrations. Love Martha.
12. CHUCK – My Band Is A Computer
Underrated is an understatement. CHUCK has an undeniable knack for earworm melody and lyrics that explore the mundanities of everyday life. Kind of like Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads series set to lo-fi, DIY bedroom pop. A sequence of uninteresting, but relatable, events.
11. Daughter – Not to Disappear
Never easy to follow up their incredible debut If You Leave but Daughter don’t seem capable of putting a foot wrong. Their music seems to suck all the air out of the room rendering the listener unconscious before slowly letting precious oxygen drift back in bit by bit through captivating guitar melodies and stunning vocals. Heartbreakingly personal, bitterly poignant and completely devastating but always oh-so beautiful.
10. Batteries – The Finishing Line
That’ll be two years running Batteries has made our end of year list. This is a record of tension packed guitar rock music fused together by a brain that’s becoming furiously and gloriously more twisted as time goes by. It’s frantic and vital and in ‘Pankhurst’ it wins the award for best rock chorus of the year hands down. If this is what a dystopian future holds in store for us then we wanna be there right now, it sounds fucking great.
9. The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset
Given the health issues of the last few years any release from the Kathleen Hanna is always welcome. Hit Reset lays it all out as bare as ever, perhaps more personally than before and delivers a raucously great record through punk and synth. The Julie Ruin seem to have the unique ability to squeeze rage and fun together and it clatters its way out of our speakers and straight into our hearts. Stick that in yer pipe Mr So & So.
8. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
No longer do Radiohead push forward with impudence and disregard for convention. They’ve settled in comfortably in their skin. However, this album is a masterclass in looking around them at other sounds and making them their own. Facets of ambient music (‘Daydreaming’), Neil Young (‘The Numbers’), Vangelis (‘Ful Stop), and even Coldplay (‘Burn The Witch’) are all explored and given a distinctive Radiohead spin.
7. David Bowie – Blackstar
Never been a huge fan of Bowie’s music but always appreciated his significance and artistry. Having said this, the creation of such vivid and wonderful art in the face of impending death is nothing short of staggering. Only an artist completely unafraid of exploration like Bowie could pull this off with such delicacy, panache, and resonance. I’m sure he wouldn’t care, but he’s finally converted me to a fan.
6. Cowtown – Paranormal Romance
After various good records Cowtown finally hit the nail square on the head with Paranormal Romance. Yes, we know this is Devo-esque rock rolled forward a few years but that’s fine, Devo were geniuses weren’t they? Cowtown rush through 25 mins or so off head over heels guitar clatter with more skill and style than anyone else around.
5. Kristin Hersh – Wyatt at the Coyote Palace
The Throwing Muses front-woman continues to explore her muse with reckless abandon. That makes for an intimate, touching and, at times, funny work that exudes maturity and reflection. Snapshots into a inimitable talent.
4. Weaves – Weaves
This record chases you all over the place, it’s frantic, bewildering and all over the shop stylistically. The four fine humans that make up Weaves seem to have just found the perfect way to blend everyone’s personalities and ideas together and the end result is the perfect cocktail of brilliantly weird.
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Skeleten Tree is a harrowing and unsettling listen. This is music as bloodletting, made all the more visceral by the subject matter. Both difficult to listen to and engrossing at the same time, Cave’s sorrow is palpable, drawing conflicted emotions from the listener of sympathy for Australian songwriter and relief if they have not suffered what he has had to endure.
2. Dinosaur Jr. – Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not
How can J Mascis and co. continue to write and record pretty much the same album over and over and yet it always sounds as fresh as if the year is 1988 all over again? Ah who cares? Sometimes you just have to sit back, enjoy, and not think about things so much. Plus, their release of all the solos from the album mixed together on one track before the album’s release was a stroke of genius. The boys know what we want.
1. Mitski – Puberty II
Puberty II opened page after page of personal moments for Mitski, confessions taking so many different shapes and sizes across songs that soar, scream, soothe and that ultimately made 2016 a better year than it’ll go down in history for. Wonderful live shows were simply the icing on the cake. Mitski created a masterpiece.