*raucous applause* Haha, yes, hello everyone and welcome to my Absolute BANGER award ceremony of 2016. This article will differ from your regular Album of the Year lists in that rather than honing in on one specific album as the best of 2016, I’ll merely be listing off the albums that I listened to which particularly stood out to me. There are five different categories kicking about this year, the important ones being the actual AOTY list and the list of“Honourable Mentions”. The other lists are for the albums that didn’t make the cut this year, either due myself not listening to them enough or due to me just not enjoying listening to them at all.
The Disappointments of 2016
First, we’ll do the “disappointment” lists. These are the lists where either you, the reader, or me get disappointed over something. Be it from me not liking something, not listening to something or from an artist not releasing anything substaintial, we’re all filled with sadness in this section. Clear out those sad rags, lads.
Albums That I Didn’t Listen To Enough of In Order To Properly Gauge If I Enjoyed It Enough For It To Qualify As An Absolute BANGER of 2016
- Autechre – elseq 1-5
[Autechre voice] Oh, what’s that? You want some new content? Ok fine, fuck you, here’s 4 hours worth spread across 5 albums.
- Plaid – The Digging Remedy
- Leon Vynehall – Rojus (Designed To Dance)
- Cherryboy Function – Word In The Petals
- Shugo Tokumaru – TOSS
Albums That I Straight Up Didn’t Really Enjoy, But Everyone Else Did
- Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
As much as I enjoy the general sound of this album, It just doesn’t really work unless you’re in a certain setting that fits appropriately. I can’t exactly describe the setting that feels right for me and for this album but I know for a fact that it’s one that I’m very rarely in.
- The Avalanches – Wildflower
Before you go decrying that this girl needs therapy, in a very clever (except not really) reference back to their first album, I just need to make something clear. As much as I enjoy these kinds of albums which just samples bucketloads of different things and uses about 50 of them in about one minute, I just can’t get into what The Avalanches produce. Something about it all just feels very off to me though I can’t place my finger on what that is exactly. It’s quite strange, since Cut Chemist’s The Audiences Listening is one of my favourite albums, and it’s basically the same as what The Avalanches come out with. When I try to think about words to describe why the music feels off to me, the only one that comes to me is “Soulless” but that’s blatantly untrue, even I know that. Even I’m lost on this one.
- Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I)
Ooh boy. After the unholy mess that was Ethan Kath being an complete fuckwad to Alice Glass (who promptly left CC and started her own solo career), the new album starring Edith Frances is here. And…ehhhh. It still feels like CC should have just stopped after their beautiful 3rd album. My problem with this album lies much less with Edith, whose silky voice feels like it’s been ripped straight from a Cocteau Twins album, and more with Ethan’s production work. The songs sound like a mishmash of the cacophonous chiptune-esque CC1 and the ethereal tones of CC3 – the obvious problem there being that these two styles just don’t mesh well at all. Also making Edith produce the same screech style vocals as Alice really does not work. Seriously, her vocal style is not built for that at all.
- Justice – Woman
Having covered funky club music, funky yet generic synthwave, everyone’s favourite “french house” band has come out with…..more generic synthwave. Yeah, sorry, I’m just kind of sick of synthwave at this point. It’s an overrated and overdone genre and so far the only artists I’ve known to get it done right is Com Truise and Carpenter Brut. People say there’s a separation between Vaporwave and Synthwave and, yeah, I agree in the music sense – but as a genre? They’re basically the same thing: overdone, overrated and ridiculously difficult to even find a good album. Ooh, the takes are sizzling tonight, friends.
Artists Who Fucked It Because They Didn’t Release An Album By The End Of 2016
- Clarence Clarity
While Clarence has definitely been busy this year, releasing tunes such as “Splitting Hairs”, “SAME” and the amazing “Vapid Feels Are Vapid”, all he’s officially released is a two track single with the last two songs from the aforementioned list. At some point he’ll be coming out with a full album, and I’m incredibly excited for it. Until then, looks like we won’t be seeing him until my AOTY 2017 list.
- 88Kasyo Junrei / 八十八ヶ所巡礼
This year marks a bit of an odd change for ol’ 88Kasyo. The prog-ish rock band from Japan has so far had a tradition of releasing one album every year since 2010, but hasn’t done so this year due to touring. Literally, all they’ve done this year is performing their one man LIVE tour. Thankfully they’ve at least come out with something before this year ended: a wonderful song called “Purple Lights”. I hope to see them release something new some time next year.
Right. Now that that’s out of the way, if you wish to shout at me to complain about how I have bad music opinions before you’ve even seen my actual AOTY lists, feel free to do so now.
aka Albums I Liked But Not Enough To Put Them On The Main AOTY List.
- Oval – Popp
On my first hearing of Popp, I was absolutely flabbergasted by it. It’s a gorgeous explosion of glitch music and club music, meeting almost perfectly in the middle. Except, on repeated listens I started noticing annoyances with it. While the actual music itself on the front is really nice, Oval uses pretty much the same sample set of vocal clips and drums throughout the entire thing, causing it to sound incredibly same-y over the entire duration. If you wanna hear a much better executed mix of glitch and beat-driven music, check out AOKI takamasa’s RV8; While it uses similar sounds throughout, it manages to sound different on every track.
- Anna Meredith – Varmints
I’ll be honest, I really quite enjoyed this album. It felt very fresh and successfully mixed a mainstream sound with a playful, experimental style. The thing that stopped me from putting this in the main list is that only about 3 tracks had staying power with me: “Taken”, “Dowager” and “Honeyed Words”. Check those ones out for sure, and if you like them, maybe take a look at the full album. “Taken” and “Dowager” are definitely the most approachable songs from it though.
- SHXCXCHCXSH – SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs
Ridiculous name aside, this is probably the one album I’m most split down the middle on. While it does have it’s fair share of absolutely fantastic tracks, it also falls short in comparison to both STRGTHS and Linear S Decoded far too often for me to be able to put it on the AOTY list.
- Amnesia Scanner – AS EP
If there’s ever a time to use the term “It sounds like the album art”, It’s now. AS EP is loud, abrasive and mysterious, reflecting its album art (so long as you don’t have the Young Turks release) quite well. But while the album art and overall aesthetic that Amnesia Scanner goes for is fantastic and is something I personally adore, the tracks contained within don’t have nearly enough staying power to them, with the two memorable tracks for me being “AS Chingy” and “AS Want It”. And while AS have released another EP since this one, it’s full form of a 7 track long EP is only available via the bizarre “unboxing” music video on their YouTube channel, which frankly won’t do for me.
- felicita – a new family ep
“trick, cool, volvic, yeah, spray it and we’re wet, wet” chants the dark and foreboding title track from felicita’s PC Music debut. Unfortunately, as much as I loved said title track due to it’s marking the first dark, almost club-oriented song to come out of PCM that isn’t by GFOTY, the rest of the EP doesn’t hold up nearly as much. A mixture of both regular PCM type songs and actually interesting songs (read: about 2) let this EP down in comparison to previous felicita releases.
- The Gerogerigegege – Moenai Hai
Right. This one is probably going to be a bit lost on you so I’d better provide a bit of context as to why this is here. In the mid-80s, a man called Juntaro Yamanouchi started an experimental music/art project called The Gerogerigegege (The name rough translates to “Vomit, Diarrhea, Ack Ack Ack”). For the most part, their output was noisy, near-unlistenable music and today they’re best known for their album Tokyo Anal Dynamite. Somewhere along the line, the output of the project started to show some worrying problems in Juntaro’s life. While the music has somewhat always shown contempt or something to that degree, it started taking a sharper turn into that feeling, with the release of albums such as Endless Humiliation which featured nothing but gentle piano music from Juntaro in the right audio channel and a drunken homeless man babbling in the left.
Things started to get incredibly worrying with the Gero’s last release: Saturday Night Big Cock Salaryman. While, yes, the titles were still as vulgar as ever, it’s considered by many to be the saddest Gero release. It’s the standard affair, it being a kind of noisy mess as always, but Juntaro just sounds so completely out of it and sick of everything. The fact that this album was the last release for a good period of time meant that some fans considered it to be Juntaro’s suicide note. Thankfully, some time afterward, a tweet from twitter user @ase_bose came out, stating that they were contacted by Juntaro and that a new album had been completed.
While it was nice to hear that Juntaro is still well and alive, the radio silence then continued on for another 3 years until suddenly: an announcement came saying that a new Gerogerigegege album titled Moenai Hai would be released soon. So now we’re here, the album is out and…Well, most of the tracks are similar to that of his previous releases such as Hell Diver and Endless Humiliation, in that they focus primarily on weird and manipulated field recordings. But the real star of the show here is the song named after the band itself. It’s 15 minutes of pure unadulterated hatred and energy, and it’s fucking gorgeous. As other fans have pointed out, the song feels like one final fight back at the world and everything that’s happened in the past. The song ends with about 15 or so seconds of silence, something which I think is possibly the most important addition to the song.
- ANOHNI – HOPELESSNESS
Her first album since coming out as trans, Anohni’s HOPELESSNESS is an album full of ballads containing endless metaphors which tackles the current political issues of the world. Her voice is still absolutely gorgeous and the backing music is finely crafted by Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke. 90% of the time her message is very sound and whilst I’m incredibly thankful that she is able to address these neglected issues in a very mainstream fashion I can’t help but find Anohni’s lyrics so incredibly goofy sounding that it becomes slightly different to take her seriously.
- Yello – Toy
The news of a brand new Yello album, together with their first ever live show in Berlin was certainly surprising to hear. After all, it’s been 7 years since their last effort, Touch Yello. What we got was a very smooth and sultry, almost jazzy effort from the Swiss duo, lasting just slightly over an hour. And while I do mostly enjoy it, I found that it tends to fall flat or meander just slightly too much. Boris Blank’s composition is still masterful as always and Dieter Meier’s dulcet tones are forever pleasing to my ears, but the album ends up being far too self-indulgent for it to be fully enjoyable. It’s also sad to say, but it honestly sounds incredibly outdated nowadays: It absolutely oozes the 90s soul sound. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but when dealing with a duo that’s been going as long as Yello, it kind of shows their age.
- Mr Oizo – All Wet
A baby’s gurgle starts Quentin Dupieux’s latest album, followed by what I can only describe as an outtake from Lamb’s Anger, one of his previous albums. Unfortunately this is somewhat of a theme throughout the entire album. Time and time again, the songs just felt like outtakes from his previous works. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it mostly just disappoints me. The only song that seems to feel completely fresh to me is End Of The World, and that in itself feels like an attempt from a 90s DJ to make a #1 chart hit. It’s an enjoyable but short romp, but it’s plagued with an outdated sound and far too much unlistenable filler – a true shame since some of the tracks from the earlier Hand In The Fire EP could have been used instead, such as “Being Flat”. Other favourite tracks include “Oiseaux” (a jittery mess of looped samples), “No Tony” (my personal Sound Of The Summer™) and “Your Liver” (a hard-hitting voice synth focused track).
- Fatima Al Quadiri – BRUTE
Again another social commentary album, but this one lets the music do the talking instead of having vocals. This album is a pretty intense ride from start to finish, without much let up – and for me, that’s kind of where the problem lies. I can’t quite tell if it goes on for too long at points or if the songs sound so similar to each other that I’m unable to discern when one ends and another begins. I won’t deny, the production work on this album is really something else, and the carefully selected samples used deliver the perfect impact of seriousness that it’s trying to convey. Of course, one could say that the album art lets that up, but that would be just looking at it without analysing it. The album art is as integral to the message as the music.
That’s the end of Part 1! Head over to Part 2 for the actual AOTY list and that. I split it up this way because I know people would rather have the actual list of albums I liked separate to all this gubbins which takes a while to even go anywhere, so there.