We’re back, with the finale of the main AOTY list! After some careful consideration, I’ve picked out my personal faves of 2016. Be sure to check out Part 1 for the albums that didn’t quite make it, either because I didn’t feel the album in question wasn’t up to scratch, or because I just didn’t like it enough.
Emma’s Absolute BANGERs of 2016 (in no particular order)
- WHITE ASH – SPADE 3
I can’t entirely remember how I stumbled upon WHITE ASH, but I’m certainly glad I did. This Japanese band sings their music in English, but not at all in the way you’d think. See, while the lyrics are pretty much broken English, it’s entirely picked based on the sound of the word and how well it fits into the song. For example, the chorus in “Blaze” is “And I see you / still loud in me / win off on wrong me / and see for love”. As English, it doesn’t make any sense, but in the song it works perfectly. And despite everything, it’s incredibly catchy with some fantastic guitar work from both the lead and the bass. Not to mention this album also includes the song they did for Metal Gear Solid V and all!
- Susumu Hirasawa – Ash Crow
Fun fact about me: I fucking love Susumu Hirasawa. I’m a massive fan of P-Model and Susumu’s
solo work as well. 2016 for me in general has
just been one massive kick on his music, and for good reason. Ash Crow is his latest release, and arguably it doesn’t really count since it’s meant to serve as an OST to the new Berserk anime. But life’s too short to split things up that much so let’s just get to it. This album is incredible. It continues Hirasawa’s kind of electro-classical composition style, incorporating both synths and a variety of classical instruments to create this grand and immense feeling. His vocals are still in impeccable shape too, delivering some gorgeously near-operatic singing that matches perfectly with the intense sound of his music.
- The Orb – COW / Chill Out, World!
This was certainly a surprise for me. This year’s Orb delivery was a gorgeously pure ambient album, rivalling (and for me, completely beating) their 3rd album Orbus Terraum. Amongst its apt titles and minimal cover art lies a comforting pool of warmth and relaxation, filled with pleasant gentle sounds. In classic Orb style, it also includes some bizarre samples here and there but it’s not nearly as distracting as it was on Orbus. Definitely check this one out if you have the time, as this album truly feels like The Orb we used to know is back in full force. However, this album isn’t my favourite ambient album of 2016; it’s been beaten by one that came shortly after…
- Huerco S. – For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)
Huerco S. is honestly one of my favourite musicians, a fact that I decided on after repeated listens of 2013’s Colonial Patterns. The muffled synths and beats, gently plodding along next to strange samples (that I could never begin to imagine where they’re from) all came together so perfectly. This year, he’s back with another album, except the beat-driven sound from before has gone, it being replaced with walls of warm synths. All of Huerco’s trademark styles are still present in For Those Of You, they’re just applied in different ways and overall it just comes together beautifully. Everything about this album is just so comforting and calming to me that I can’t help but love it.
- patten – Ψ (Psi)
Ψ is a very different album to patten’s earlier output and this is primarily down to it marking a change in both their public appearance and their sound. With the public introduction of a new group member and cryptic names attached to both of them (D & A respectively), comes a very clear and precise sound; as a result the entire album sounds a lot more focused and tight. In fact you can tell they spent time making sure it all flows together, as the track “Pixação” was reportedly 10 minutes long, but appears here in a much more abbreviated 2 minute form. This album is a technologically impressive romp into a variety of different genres while not sounding as if it’s all over the place.
- Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
Good grief, what could I possibly say that can match up the absolute beauty of this album? It’s this incredible mix of Soul with Hip-Hop and it just works so well. Everything about it is just so enjoyable and funky that no matter which track you’re on, it’s bound to get your foot tapping. The only minor complaint I’d say about it is that the album art doesn’t fully fit the entire feeling of the album, but that’s made up purely by how great the artwork itself is. Add in the fact that I just kind of really love how the actual title for the album contains the quotes and it’s completely won me over.
- King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Nonagon Infinity opens the door, and what a fuckin’ door it is. Nine tracks that loop recursively around each other, and all of them rock hard. And happily, it seems pretty much everyone else agrees with me, with most major music publications giving it an 8/10 or equivalent rating. The Aussie psych-garage band have produced an incredibly solid album here, though I do have one rather big problem with it and that’s the bizarre change in quality during the transition between the first and second songs – for some reason the drum track in the second song feels very muffled and compressed in comparison to how it sounds in the first song, which is honestly really jarring. It’s not just my copy either as it’s the exact same on Spotify. Other than that, this is 100% something worth checking out when you can.
- OGRE YOU ASSHOLE – ハンドルを放す前に
From the whole reading and listening aspect, I understand very little about Japanese. But
that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty of OYA’s new album. Overall, it’s a very chill vibes album, but you definitely feel that slight bit of unease in all the songs. I mean, the album’s official English title is everythingsomethingnothing, which is strangely depressing despite how the songs feel. Maybe this is another case like Shinsei Kamattechan, a band I’ll never be able to fully appreciate until I can understand Japanese and listen to the lyrics.
- Euglossine – Canopy Stories
OK, I’ll be honest, I really doubt anything I can say about Canopy Stories would do it an ounce of justice. But I can damn well try. For starters, this album is just 100% unadulterated fun, feeling like all of the good feelings from Summer have been taken and smushed into a big jar so everything just floods you in a bath of goodness whenever you start the album up. Euglossine proved his skills in Complex Playground, and here he takes them to their absolute limit, combining beautiful guitar work with lush synths.
- Noisia – Outer Edges
Noisia have finally graced the masses with a second studio album after 2007’s Split The Atom, which was decent but had far too much filler. Thankfully, that’s not the case here as Noisia have jam packed Outer Edges to the brim with solid tunes across the board. I mean, hell, you could kind of tell it was gonna be a fantastic album just from the initial release of “Collider”. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all that, but hey I was totally right with this one. Fantastic DnB bangers.
- Metronomy – Summer 08
When Metronomy announced they were releasing a new album, I got excited. When they announced that it was primarily going to be in the style of their second album Nights Out, acting as a sort of sequel, I got very excited. In fact I may have bought it on release, that’s how excited I was. And does it deliver? Well, it’s not quite of the same calibre as Nights Out, but it’s certainly a great album. Catchy bass hooks, dorky vocals and overall some great feel good tunes wrapped together in a neat package that provides a nice amount of backstory to the album. If you’re a fan of Nights Out, check out Summer 08 for sure.
- Motion Graphics – Motion Graphics
I found this one by complete fluke. I was just randomly browsing in the local HMV store (Other record stores are available) and the artwork to this release caught my eye. I later checked it out on Spotify (Other streaming services are also available), and was pleasantly surprised with what I stumbled upon. The album has a sort of gentle low key feel to it, much like Jerry Paper’s Big Pop For Chameleon World; though rather than MIDI instruments, Motion Graphics chooses to take a more warm approach, using a mix of classical instruments with lush synthesizers, and painstakingly timed samples to bring out a vast and dense environment of sound. Also this album manages to get away with directly referencing Minecraft in a song title without being awkward, which is always nice.
And with that final entry, we draw the Absolute BANGERs of 2016 to a close. We hope you enjoyed reading the judge’s decisions as much as we did writing them up. If one of your favourites didn’t appear this year, feel free to contact the judge and complain in a mildly bothered manner. Be sure to tune in again later for the Absolute BANGERs of Yesteryear: 2016 Edition!