I was amused to look back at my round-up of last year’s music and see that I felt it was an “off-colour year” – in comparison, this year has felt far more underwhelming. Rap and R&B seem to be particularly in the ascendancy and they just really don’t tend to do it for me. Perhaps I’ve just been looking in the wrong places and in years to come I’ll discover gems that I completely missed this year.
Anyway, there are some Honourable Mentions (and a Dishonourable Mention – see below!) – albums that were enjoyed but that didn’t make the hallowed Top 10.
Fleet Foxes, after a lengthy hiatus, brought us Crack Up, which was a rambling and ambitious Artistic Statement of an album. There’s much to admire but, for me, not quite so much to love. Still, it certainly deserves many more revisits…
Delicate Steve, whose 2014 album Positive Force cheekily made it onto my 2015 list, released This Is Steve, a raucous, cartoonish romp through his inventive guitar-led tunes. Plenty of fun, if not quite the lyrical depth and variety of Positive Force.
It’s a while since I enjoyed a new Four Tet album as much as New Energy, which took a simpler approach and more of a house influence than 2013’s Beautiful Rewind. It felt quite ‘off the cuff’, with both the positive and negative connotations of that metaphor.
Ernest Greene came back under his Washed Out moniker – having thoroughly enjoyed both of his early ’10s albums (Within And Without and Paracosm), I was looking forward to this one. Mister Mellow has some great tracks but at just 30 minutes (+ change) is a bit slight as an album, with its tagged-on multimedia version not really what I’m looking for.
Finally, my aforementioned Dishonourable Mention. After absolutely loving The Race For Space in 2015, I was very excited about Public Service Broadcasting‘s return this year. As I said at the time, their synthesis of great instrumentals, cleverly chosen audio snippets and an overarching theme marked an impressive step forward for a band that could easily have just gone further down the (albeit fun) novelty sample route of their debut. With Every Valley, they mis-stepped horribly. Going again with an overarching theme (fine), this time they went with the decline of the Welsh coal-mining industry. This makes for a dour album that doesn’t really know what it’s saying. Yes, it’s sad that this region has declined, and the government(s) of the day perhaps didn’t cover themselves with glory, but coal is an awful, dirty fuel that we shouldn’t be using anyway. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the songs themselves had been sufficiently good but sadly they aren’t. The snippets of sampled dialogue that worked so well on previous albums doesn’t work at all here because they add nothing to the music, or vice versa. On top of that, there are some real clunkers of actual songs, with singers such as the Manics’ James Dean Bradfield sounding sappy and overly sincere. A huge disappointment. The band have great talent, so here’s hoping they bounce back quickly.