2016. I’ll forever remember it as the year I embraced technology and eschewed my Luddite ways through purchasing a mobile line plan that gifted me the glorious present of Spotify Premium. My tastes have grown exponentially, and the minimal commitment required to sample all the music out there had me singing the praises of my Discover Weekly playlist to people who’d known about it for years now.
Glass Animals – How to Be a Human Being
The story behind Glass Animal’s second LP is that each song is the byproduct of everyday conversations Dave Bayley had with locals whilst on tour. The random lyrical content is matched by a diverse, sexy, sultry record that is amazing in its end result. Polished, energetic, and held together by the aurally pleasing timbre of Bayley’s well travelled and well received vocal delivery, the magic in this indietronica release lies in taking the mundane, and crafting the extraordinary.
Anderson. Paak – Malibu
On .Paak’s Malibu, his vocals trim above the instrument mix with such grace and effortless skill that you can’t keep track of all the manoeuvres he makes while sliding across different genres – hydroplaning across RnB cuts like Without You, to pumping along to an alternative rock backdrop on Parking Lot – anchored by the refreshing sea spray of his vocal delivery. Held tightly together by his band, The Free Nationals, Malibu is one of the most enjoyable rides of 2016.
Enemies – Valuables
As far as swan songs go, the final record from Irish Pop/Post Rock darlings is as perfect as they come. The delicate and ethereal guitar work weaves technicality in perfect counterbalance to a heady atmosphere that keeps you from properly breathing, as if you’re witnessing greatness and are afraid even the smallest exhalation will blow the band away. I can wonder what another new album from Enemies would be like, but instead, I’ll reach to restart the records in those seconds of silence of the closing track, happy enough to be alive in a time that this record exists.
Thrice – To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere
This latest iteration of Thrice feels right, like a reunion between your high school mates in the hallways you thought you left behind for good. Dustin Kensrue’s vocal work overpowers everything on TBEITBN – vaulting over Riley’s staccato snare and rumbling toms, Teppei’s baritone tones and Ed’s underlying groove – and this urgency that traces each soaring vocal is reflected throughout this pulverising rock album. It’s a testament to their quality that each new metamorphosis of the band sits as the penultimate version of Thrice.
PUP – The Dream Is Over
The Dream is Over by Canadian punk stalwarts PUP is my favourite record of 2016. The songwriting is concise, the instrumentation fully fleshed and tight, and the lyrics are relatable in a way that any burnt out millennial can admit to feeling whilst stumbling through this phenomenon that reaches us after university called adulting. Lead track If this Tour Doesn’t Kill You shows front man Stephan Babcock lamenting the rigors of touring with the same individuals for over 200 shows in a calendar year, and as with the record, brings a playful joy that begs us to ask ourselves the question – “Why can’t we just get along?”