Hello and welcome back to LostMeow for my 2016 round-up!
It feels like it’s been a bit of an off-colour year for music, in between all of the political upheaval and deaths of much-loved artists. Few albums have really, really stood out for me, compared with recent years, although there have been plenty that I’ve enjoyed. When I look down the list of critical top 10s (helpfully compiled at Metacritic), there’s really only one or maybe two that have caught my ear. Having said all that, it was still difficult to narrow down my list of 10 albums of the year, and here are the ones that just missed out:
Solar Bears – Advancement
Although slightly derivative of Boards of Canada, Solar Bears make electronica with a meaty heft and dramatic narrative. The album is a very enjoyable listen but falls short of greatness, for me, because the musical ideas they have aren’t given enough time to really flourish. Case in point: 7th track Wild Flowers spends 2:20 of its very slight 3:12 running time finding its groove (and a very fine groove it is, too), leaving just about 40 seconds to enjoy the destination before it’s all over. As such, it ends up being a collection of little vignettes rather than a truly satisfying musical journey.
Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place – You’re Doomed. Be Nice
I may well regret not putting this in my top 10. Such fun, inventive, fuzzy rock from a musician I really admire. Knotty time-signatures and tempo changes can’t hide the incredibly catchy hooks on offer, which is always a great combination, in my book…
Pinkshinyultrablast – Grandfeathered
Seldom has a band been more aptly named than Pinkshinyultrablast, a shoegaze four-piece from Russia. Their music positively explodes through speakers or headphones in a sensory overload that is almost impossible to appreciate on first hearing. This is their second album, heavier guitar-wise than their first. It sounds almost as if it was recorded in a cathedral, such is the colossal reverb, and may have used 1000 guitarists at the same time for all I know. It’s a coruscating rush of sound that bludgeons all before it; pretty intense, in other words!
Warpaint – Heads Up
Ah…. The one that got away… I really wanted this to be in my top 10, having quickly grown to love the band on the strength of their first two albums. This one shows promise, with a poppier approach on lead single New Song, but just doesn’t quite deliver the same heights (and depths) as its predecessors.
Ulrich Schnauss – No Further Ahead Than Today
Ulrich’s A Strangely Isolated Place (2003) remains one of my all-time favourite albums but he’s struggled to match it since then. This contains some glimmers of his genius but has a ‘kitchen sink’ approach to filling the aural space with so much that it gets a little overwhelming at times.