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Both Bars On: Top Thirty Records of 2016

turkeys-marching-fade-2.jpgWelcome to our eighth best-of-the-year list, and our second as a crack team of four. It’s patently obvious that 2016 has been thoroughly rubbish*, but at least we’ve had plenty of good music to set against the headlines, bowings-out and splittings-up. The compilation of our Top Thirty Records of 2016 was less painful than usual too, the smooth working of one well-oiled machine (we call him Pete). Still, those of you who come back every year will see that despite the neatness of the electoral process the list shows the usual surfeit of eclecticism.

So we invite you to view our shiny baubles, our fresh and seasonal produce. Not a turkey to be seen, apart from the four above. See you in 2017 – at the very least it won’t be 2016. Cheers!

(*although angrybonbon got married to the love of his life, so 2016 wasn’t all bad for everyone. Cheers!)

In the bubbling under category: Apostille: Virile Strain Transmission; The Belbury Poly: New Ways Out;  Bob Mould: Patch the Sky; Weaves: Weaves; Radar Men From The Moon: Subversive II: Splendor of the Wicked; Ben Chatwin: Heat & Entropy; Steve Hauschildt: Strands; Hen Party: Glitter Sweats.

Reissues: Sweet Billy Pilgrim: We Just Did What Happened and No One Came

The Top Thirty:

30. Galcid: Hertz

29. Ogre & Dallas Campbell: Night of the Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Rescore)

28. Peter Baumann: Machines of Desire

27. Mugstar: Magnetic Seasons

26. Factory Floor: 25 25

25. Vanishing Twin: Choose Your Own Adventure

24. Barberos: Barberos

23. Goat: Requiem

22. Opeth: Sorceress

21. John Carpenter:Lost Themes II

20. Go March: Go March

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Add Go March to your list of famous Belgians as this Antwerp band lay out a striking debut of spiky motorik and krautrock.

19. Juan Atkins & Moritz Van Oswald: Transport

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Two of the heavyweights of techno come together as Borderland to produce the deepest beats and phasing loveliness.

18. Yak: Alas Salvation

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Fearsome guitar noises, shouting, tunes. Victorious!

17. Grumbling Fur: FurFour

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Mind-expanding pop music, featuring biblical patriarchs from outer space.

16. The Heartwood Institute: Calder Hall: Atomic Power Station

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Sizzling with radioactivity, the polymath that is The Heartwood Institute delivers a beautiful slice of electro-hauntology.

15. The Pineapple Thief: Your Wilderness

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Somerset’s greatest prog band return to form with King Crimson/Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison along for the ride.

14. Teleman: Brilliant Sanity

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The second collection of slightly wonky but brilliant pop songs from a band who seem to be able to produce them without breaking a sweat.

13. Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits

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San Francisco psych rockers manage what looks like a crossover smash on their first of their two records for 2016.

12. The Mortlake Bookclub: Exquisite Corpse

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The only soundtrack you need for the Folk Horror Revival. Four movements of palimpsest drone that both spooks and moves.

11. Martha: Blisters in the Pit of my Heart

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Reminds you it’s still possible to do quite a lot with the raw materials associated with ‘punk’ & ‘pop’ if you’re as smart and lively as this lot are.

10. worriedaboutsatan: Blank Tape

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Brooding, ambient electronica and hypnotic atmospheric rhythms. Antoher top class album from this duo to follow last years’s Even Temper.

9. Posthuman: Back to Acid

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12 tracks of caustic pleasure, from the robotic march of ‘Six Hundred’ to the delicious twang of ‘Beat Down’, via the excellent atmospheric throbber ‘Mezzotint’. I’ve said it before, Acid House is the new Dad Music.

8. Warning Light: Life Death Suite EP

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Entrancing clatter and looping tones as a taster for the full album.

7. Teenage Fanclub: Here

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It’s been six years since the last one, but the Fannies shine just as brightly as they ever did.

6. A Year in the Country: The Quietened Bunker

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Nothing quite says 2016 like a compilation album on the theme of abandoned cold war structures and bunkers, because underground is where we’ll all be living soon after the nuclear button gets pressed. Unsettling drone, snatched samples, glitched beats and claustrophobic synths; it’s all here.

5. Meilyr Jones: 2013

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So rich, extravagant, and strange that it sounds like a ‘best of’ album covering several years in an artist’s life; no single track can do it justice but this will do fine here:

4. Voyag3r: Are You Synthetic?

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The perfect SF adventure album. From laser duels on frozen planets to war rockets being dispatched to Ajax, this album oozes class and sophistication whilst not taking itself too seriously. It’s the sound of a band having stupid amounts of fun and tracking ‘Flash Gordon On Ice: the Musical’ whilst they’re doing it. Utterly brilliant.

3. Gnod: Mirror

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Our Salfordian troubadours picked up the guitars (or banjos as they like to call them) once again and proved why they lead the pack when it comes to enveloping sludge, resistant noise and all-consuming terror.

2. Matmos: Ultimate Care II

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Two men, one washing machine and one track. Every sound made from said cleaning device. From intimate glitch to all-out pounding techno. Too see this live, replete with the machine, was to marvel at the wonder and genius that is Matmos. Amazing.

1. Oscillotron: Cataclysm

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The purest and deepest space music. Cosmic kosmische of the highest order. An album that let us take flight and escape the hideousness of this worldly reality, especially as it unfolded this year. Transcendental.

 

So you can do yourself a big end-of-the-year favour and go buy some or all of the above albums. They are available from shops and sites – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their taxes), ones where there isn’t really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records – actually, we really do. And we think you should too.

Merry Xmas and a happy Newest Year one and all.

angrybonbon, JKneale, matthewpetty & Pete Collins

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Martha: Blisters in the Pit of my Heart

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You look like you need cheering up. How about some smart, cheery punk-pop? As you probably know, the  best place to go in Britain for that kind of thing right now is the village of Pity Me, Durham, the home of Martha and about six other bands (made up of some of the same people). This is their second record, and it’s fizzing with great songs. I am the original target market for political punk songs with four-part(ish)  harmonies, and this has a) a song about anarchist Emma Goldman (‘Goldman’s Detective Agency’), b) a song about shitty precarious supermarket jobs (er, ‘Precarious (Supermarket Song)’), c) a lyrical shout-out to Billy Bragg’s ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’ (‘Curley & Raquel’, though here it’s “Celebrating my love for you/With a stick’n’poke and an Irn Bru”), and d) a closing song that squeezes in six references to the Replacements in 2 1/2 minutes, while (maybe) boosting Paul Westerberg’s claim to be a spokesperson for LGBT youth (‘St Paul’s (Westerberg Comprehensive)’). And all so English, but in a way that makes me think this miserable shitty country might have a future after all.

This makes it sound like clever-clever stuff, but this lyrical and political sharpness rides along on an irresistible musical avalanche of guitars and harmonies, broken by the  occasional change of pace and mood.  And they’re too knowing to let themselves look daft. Martha send themselves up for taking the mickey out of, and then falling for, the “naïve romantic shite” of being different, a bit like Jarvis might.  Anyway, we should let the music speak for itself. First off, the blast of pure ‘existential crisis mix-tape on repeat’ fun that is ‘Chekhov’s Hangnail.’

And then there’s the solid gold pop of ‘Goldman’s Detective Agency,’ with some prize mucking about from the band.

Truth be told, I could keep listing songs from this album, it’s that good. Buy it! from Bandcamp – though we should mention here that they were signed to Fortuna POP!, RIP.  It’s what you need right now – trust me.

jkneale (h/t Matthew White)

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