Live4ever’s Best Of 2016 series continues today with the big one – The Albums; 20 of the very best albums which have crossed our writers’ paths and received reviews this year.
For our 2016 retrospective, Live4ever has partnered with ei8htball, This Feeling and some of our featured bands to bring you a host of exclusive giveaways during the month of December – and it all continues today!
With the Albums countdown, one lucky winner will receive a pair of five-star reviewed EX811 earphones (black) from the British audio and fashion brand ei8htball. And going out to a second winner will be a CD copy of the number one album on this list, signed by the band themselves. Competition for both prizes closes at 10am (BST) on Thursday, December 22nd. Good luck!
“Holmes and co. take us on one hell of a ride, delivering powerful 60’s girl group pop on a massive psyche downer. It’s as if Phil Spector’s wall of sound was built to house a truly messed up psychopath and the wrongness is slowly starting to seep through. The record is big, actually very clever, and also extremely charming in a mistress of the damned kind of way. This dark beauty allows ‘Guilty Of Love’ to move past simple Jack Nitzsche and Italian easy listening worship/pastiche. It gives the lush orchestration of these sounds a new shade and texture. The record is all paranoia and pearls, every moment dark and delicious. One very special concoction indeed.”
“While not too aesthetically dissimilar to its predecessor ‘Oshin’ — it’s still stuck in the same sounding pop dream — ‘Is The Is Are’ is an altogether beautiful piece of craft from beginning to end. Sad if you think about it too much, happy if you don’t. A bit of both does it best. Normally, alarm bells should howl in your head when a songwriter says they have written an album about their drug struggles, like Smith has with this. He says he’ll always make “drug music” because that’s how his thoughts work. If that be the case, however troubling, then Polonius’ wordly advice to his son in Hamlet springs to mind. ‘To thine own self be true’, DIIV, and you’ll never make a bad record.”
“One of its most attractive facets is singer Liam Magill‘s voice; sometimes a rasp, sometimes a whisper, the elusive swirl around which much of Apricity’s joy finds itself centered. Magill is joined by brothers Joel (bass) and Josh (drums), along with the superbly named Raven Bush on keyboards and other ephemera. Together the quartet are potent: opener Coal Mine draws on a distinct early seventies brio, strolling ersatz blues and stoner funk in bold combination, the elements together living though very much in the fat-free, culturally appropriating twenty first century.”
“Latter-day Jam, when they were soul merchants, and Arctic Monkeys are two clear touchpoints for the band. Not least because Alex Turner set free the idea that northerners can embrace their northern-ness – even more than Jarvis Cocker did. It’s hard imagining singer Gaz Roberts mouthing “other” as “uther” on the opening track Distance Runner if we were in early 2005. Still, as the keyboards flash in all tinsel-curtains-at-a-working-men’s-club, it’s clear that M&TE delineate their own world. And it’s not always what you’d expect from an indie group around today.”
“In many ways this is the struggle of a man coming to terms with both his life and its surroundings in amongst the anonymity of a soulless vessel. There are no happy endings in that world or any other of course, much less the one realised on ‘Painting Of a Panic Attack’s final chapter, ‘Die Like a Rich Boy‘. On it, the singer muses on the affectation of, “If we leave this world in a Rhinestone shroud,” whilst a soporific cello hums the valedictory. Seemingly at one level about the famous being more celebrated in death than in life, it’s a coda which speaks both to the heightened vulnerability of those having their fifteen minutes and the absurdity of wanting.”
“The album fingers its way through the male condition with an olio of RnB grooves (Get My Bang), electro-funk fills (Ponytail) and, on the aggressive Tough Guy, fretboard jerks and primal grunts. The stolid beat of Big Cat belies the rapacious, predatory need to be on top of the food chain. About as manlike a thought as possible, but on Alpha Female there is a capitulation to the XX chromosome, an admittance that however much brawn is on offer, man still yearns woman. Wild Beasts have the luxury of two outstanding singers in Hayden and Tom Fleming. Well-heeled harmonies between them spin forward He The Colossus.”
“Who knows what inputs are making teenagers from the middle of nowhere come up with this stuff so beyond their years, but at times it’s vital, innocent – ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms‘ Nostferatu opening two and a half minutes – then scattily fun, as it swerves into cod-rap naffness, sounding uncannily like two girls bogling into their hairbrushes to The Spice Girls. Whilst the notion of Girl Power would, you guess, cause fits of giggles to young women raised in the vicious concentric circles of twenty first century existence, a real sense of freedom – creative, personal, perspective – dominates ‘I, Gemini‘ from first minute to last.”
“The lo-fi production lends itself to the listening experience of years gone by. Every track here is a postcard from the edge of emotion: “A true loves arrow aimed right at her eye/and yet she can barely squint into mine.” Not only the raw emotion of the words, but the melancholic nature of the words gripping our soul. The lilting Scottish brogue of Anderson only adding to the likelihood of our descent into the world of all things KC. However disjointed this record can sometimes feel, the numerous styles, differing voices and varying instruments conjure up a Celtic masterpiece of the before and very much the now.”
“Whilst it could be argued that the soup of their early work was what made it such a joy to deconstruct, this incarnation of Dinosaur Jr. has the finesse and patience of maturity with them, one which manifests itself on the uber-maudlin ‘Knocked Around‘, its love/longing schematic showing that bad feelings without the innocence of youth leave a person nowhere to go. This frustration also runs through ‘Mirror‘, Murph’s cymbal heavy skins and Barlow’s almost jazz notes counter punching against a truly howling performance from Mascis, his contribution heavy in both structure and delivery.”
“‘Life Of Pause’ is a record inspired by observing both the minuscule and large changes in life during the steady constant movement of time. Things are always changing, whether we recognize the subtly of that change or not.
Just over the course of a half-decade, Wild Nothing have carved out a specific niche within the indie realm, yet Tatum has quietly developed as one of indie rock’s strongest artistic visionaries. With each subsequent release he has sharpened, built upon and expanded his artistic prose. ‘Life Of Pause’ is yet another outstanding document in craftsmanship and expression from an act whose journey has been mesmerizing to follow.”
“The reality is all these extra flourishes give the music a wonderful, boundless euphoria. Augustines have always been grandiose and passionate, but now they’re almost spiritual. Which is not just a nice touch, but actually feels like a natural progression. And amongst all these twists and turns there’s still an unwavering presence and power on display. Nowhere more so than on the title track, which powers through its first two-thirds as impressively as anything the band have released before. What you have is a band successfully pushing their sound both further and harder, on ‘This Is Your Life’ Augustines make it sound like a natural step for any band.”
“There’s room for pride too. The weary honky-tonk of ‘You Ain’t That Young Kid‘ staggers from moment to moment, a drunk raising a 3 am toast to himself, the mood flipping from melancholy to despair and back again circuitously. What it neatly illustrates is the album’s single most appealing quality; that the point of the exercise isn’t two showbiz bros bathing themselves in recherché cool, but instead the premise of throwing characters both bruised and broken into its centre, the sha-doobies of ‘Rough Going‘ not ironic props but method-composing, a backwards-forwards look with adoration in the vein of Stephen King.”
“Throughout ‘Distance Inbetween’, The Coral leave no stone left unturned. Everything they try is natural, unforced and wonderfully detailed. It’s fascinating to listen to. While Skelly’s vocals are often restrained, tempered even, the music is pushed to its total extreme. This is far heavier psyche than The Coral usually put out. They’ve taken the powerful pace and potential of their self-titled debut and bent and warped it to its limits. Stripped of all of its commercialism and ‘pop’ sensibilities, ‘Distance Inbetween’ hits hard like ‘Shadows Fall‘ on ‘roids. It’s a 1970’s rock wet dream – even down to the Led Zep tinny string synth sound.”
“This is new ground, but for anyone needing an anchor Twin Atlantic’s singer – the splendidly named Sam McTrusty – still cranks through the gears in a delightful Weegie-croon, most grainily on the arena bound emo-light of Whispers, but equally his burr is present throughout, two dirty fingers up to a game where trans-Atlantic affectation has become a tedious norm. If maintaining an identity is a worthy motivation, there are equally moments on GLA when the words could be in Martian, but the music’s sheer heft could make academics shake. On Ex El the peaks and troughs are spectacular, the chorus a jarring hum.”
“The combination of floating simplicity with eerie noir storytelling makes the sparse ‘One Too Many‘ a creeping but striking success. The cautiously optimistic ‘Stand Your Ground‘ is equally wistful as a J-Dilla inspired tumble thumps over tired hazy keys. “Life it seems like a cruise, like a gamble on a heart”, Henderson sings on the streaming trance inducting standout ‘Orlando‘; the album’s finest pure-pop moment, its compact infusion of dream pop aesthetics, danceable disco beats and slippery funk bass lines streamline together to create a nebulous groove of cascading nostalgia.”
“It’s no surprise, given the past, that the subject of mental health rises eventually to the surface; stark closer ‘Self Esteem‘ picks again at a scab which has always been present. The irony of course is that the singer’s anxiety condition is indirectly exacerbated by success, that ‘Trick’, if it eclipses previous works, will simply bring more of the cause and potentially make the symptoms even less bearable. If anything like that was occupying space in his mind however, Treays has done well to disguise it; ‘Trick’ has its share of arena-size tunes designed to emote for those even on Row Z.”
“Spitting, snarling and raging against small town alienation is how Asylums hit us square between the eyes. ‘There’s a whole world outside your own’, repeats singer Luke Branch on ‘Joy In a Small Wave’ early on, the song is central to the thematic imagery running throughout this twelve-song blast of punk/pop nuggets. Asylums want an escape and they want it NOW. No longer happy as the ‘high street closes down’ and desperate for a life outside of where you ‘spend more than you got paid’. There’s a life unseen outside of the metaphorical four-walls of your shitty, small-minded town.”
“Some of ‘Love & Hate’s innate timelessness is due in no small measure to producer Brian Burton, a troubadour who has turned his retro-stylings into gold with meaningful regularity. Wise to the strength of the material here, his touch is light. Free, Kiwanuka boldly addresses inequality on the jazzy, almost a capella phrasings of ‘Black Man In a White World‘, his voice as worn and weary as if owned by someone three times his age. Whether conscious or not, there’s also a discernible movement through the gears as things progress, ‘Falling‘s dark hearted murder-kitsch rubbing shoulders with the Aquarian funk of ‘Place I Belong‘.”
“Savages aren’t, of course, the first outfit unafraid to find affirmational joy in life’s more primeval impulses, but ‘Adore Life’s greatest moment of candour is in the half-title track ‘Adore‘, a bipolar exploration of an existence in which the mundane has been jettisoned and only the white knuckles of pure emotion that are left is vital. The song itself writhes, passing through phase after phase, at one point stopping dead in its tracks before a crescendo that could also pass for the light of consciousness blinking suddenly out. Words like visceral, maverick and intensity are ones used too often in relation to music which doesn’t remotely warrant it.”
“This triumvirate push ‘Palomino’ into being something more, something special. The Treetop Flyers’ abilities add authenticity to everything just by plugging in and opening their mouths. Not many bands deliver this kind of integrity, or at least haven’t in a long time. And it’s this authenticity that works so well, and makes for so many moments of true power. It’s like a wonderfully powerful, emotive and moving cousin to The Stands‘ ‘All Years Leaving‘. Bringing that album’s style and beauty forward, only this is rawer and hungrier. Which is something you don’t expect from a band making folk rock, but then why shouldn’t you? Maybe this is what folk rock was always meant to be.”