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Monday
Jan022017

Top Ten Albums of 2016

This year I took on a new job that requires a lot more travel which, looking on the bright side, gave me the opportunity to listen to a lot more music.  That meant this year I also had a much more difficult choice of what to include.

1. Field Music - Commontime

As my previous best of year lists show, I adore Field Music. They took a couple of years off (during which they seemed to work harder than ever), had kids, and came back with an album that is a perfect pop distillation of their strengths. David Brewis' previous project School of Langauage where he indulged his love of 80s soul-pop has leaked into FM and produced some of the most remarkable results. While they wear their influences on their sleeves it always has a unique FM spin. The Noisy Days Are Over may be influenced by Prince but he would never have written lyrics about struggling to party as you get older.  And would Hall & Oates ever have suggested their lover might be Disappointed? This album is joyous, inventive, and entirely apart from anything else around at the moment.

2. Sanguine Hum - What We Ask

After their previous prog rock 2 CD epic this release is a grab bag of songs from their early days. This is much more mainstream affair than their previous album and shows that not only can they write more conventional songs but can do it brilliantly if they wish. In particular check out Juniper that is a masterful bit of pop song writing that many a songwriter would have killed to have written. 

3. Weaves - Weaves

There hasn’t been a great deal of top notch power pop lately but this is truly superb.  They seem to delight in sounding slightly drunk and there is something just so uplifting about the organised chaos at work here. Check out tracks Tick and Shithole which are utterly brilliant.  

4. D D Dumbo - Utopia Defeated

An electronic album that doesn’t want to sound electronic.  When ever I hear this I can't help but recall the time when I had cassette tapes of Talking Heads Little Creatures and Paul Simons Gracelands. It's rhythms and rich palette of organic sounds is really something to behold.

5. Tigercub- Abstract Figures in the Dark

I'm always going to be a little bit of a goth and this superb album really scratches that itch.  What is most remarkable to me about this album is that it never falls into cliche and has loads of surprises from begining to end.  

6. Future of the Left - Peace and Truce / Christian Fitness - this taco is not correct 

I've been a fan of Future of the Left for sometime now so was only too happy to fund this album on PledgeMusic.  If you're new to FotL then you might not want to start here as this is a harder and more abrasive sound than previous albums - but it's a grower and there are some colossal riffs and lyrics here.  I've twinned this with Falco's latest solo album which is a great addition for anyone hungry for more. 

7. GoGo Penguin - Man Made Object / Naima- Bye / Neil Cowley - Spacebound Apes

Welcome to jazz corner.  I'm going to pile these all together because I feel they share an aesthetic - and also because while I enjoyed all of these albums, neither one really stuck out on their own.  I was a bit disappointed that Neil Cowley Trio's latest effort wasn't as great as their last two albums, probably because the space motif has led to a bit too much sparseness for my tastes, but don't be put off because there are some great moments here.  Similarly I loved GoGo Penguin's previous albums but felt this album similarly failed to take off despite great moments.  Naima are new to me and there are a few tracks on here I absolutely love (just try the first couple of tracks and see how you fair).

8. Three Trapped Tigers - Silent Earthling / Cleft - Wrong

These albums have little in common other than they are both instrumental and they have a prog-ish element to them. Cleft are shutting up shop with this final album and it's pretty amazing. 3TT on the other hand follow up their incredible Route One or Die album with a follow up that is very nearly as brilliant - an achievement not to be sniffed at.

9 - Knifeworld - Bottled Out of Eden 

While not as great as their previous album The Unraveling, this still has some great tracks on it. I Am Lost and High / Aflame are tremendous examples of psychedelic / prog rock.

10. The Monkees - Good Times

Let's be honest, it's not been a great year. Everyone has gone insane and pop stars have been dropping like flies. Thankfully someone had the good sense to call The Monkees and they came back to save the day. It's absolutely joyous to hear them, not just coming back, but coming back with what could be their best album ever (no mean feat). The best loved pop stars of the sixties not just surviving but doing the best work of their lives.  
Do you know what? Maybe there's still hope. 

Other Notables

There are a couple of albums that didn't quite make the list despite the fact that I really enjoyed them.
Somewhere between The Fall and Pavement is the experimental pop of Human Performance by Parquet Courts. The chugging Dust or the zombie rock of I Was Just Here are irresistible.
I also really liked Steve Mason's Meet the Humans - there are moments on it that really remind me of why for a brief period we all got rather excited about the Beta Band.
In addition to this there were a couple of albums that I became aware of a bit too late to include them but that I've really enjoyed a lot so far.
Firstly Teleman have come up with an album of really intriquing pop music - as if Kraftwerk met 10cc.. or something.
And the new album from Phall Fatale is a real oddity, a complex mix of styles that feels really new and fresh.

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