I think for most of us 2016 has been a pretty bleak year; marred by death, destruction and division. One of the few guiding lights to lead us through the darkness has been the exemplary music gifted to us by rising stars, and left behind as a final swansong by dearly departed legends. As we move on into an uncertain 2017 let us look back on the year’s lows as chances to learn and grow, and revel in the highs that show the potential majesty of the human spirit. Here’s Belwood Music’s brief picks of a few of the brightest musical beacons of the past twelve months:
Album of the Year: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Hailed as one of the greatest British bands, and with a back catalogue crammed with classic albums, there was a heavy expectation weighing down on their latest release. A Moon Shaped Pool surprised many fans with its mellow, dreamlike beauty. A musical journey of reflection, it is unlike anything else that Radiohead have ever released and ranks amongst their best work.
Song of the Year: Mystery Jets – Bubblegum
“I’m always on the outside looking in / It’s where I’ve always been / But the edge is where all the sparks fly / When the wheel spins”, the first of many stunning lines that kicks off this tremendous track from the band’s latest album Curve of the Earth. The rising tension of the verses builds to a sweet release brimming with bright synths, creating the standout indie hit of the year.
Music Video of the Year: OK Go – The One Moment
The undisputed masters of music videos. No one else even comes close. They held the top spot for the majority of the year with their zero gravity video for ‘Upside Down & Inside Out’, until they pipped themselves to the post with the super slow motion shenanigans for ‘The One Moment’. As with all their creations it is stunning to watch, and all the more stunning to think how they managed to pull it off.
Soundtrack of the Year: Sing Street
A brand new category for this year’s awards! Famed director John Carney is unparalleled when it comes to heart-warming music movies. Following the winning formula of his smash hit films Once and Begin Again, Sing Street follows a new young band in 80s Dublin. Whether aimed at winning the girl or as youthful rebellion, the film’s original songs are the real stars.
Artwork of the Year: Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
The album acts as a fatherly guide of precautions and encouragements. It navigates the tumultuous waters of life where there are both glimmers of hope and the monstrous abyss of uncertainty. The cover is beautifully rendered and evokes the romanticism of being a sailor, navigator and father. It reminds us that nature is terrible and powerful, that we are at its mercy and our only hope is to hold on for dear life and see if we come out of the storm alive. It illustrates our humanity and could stand alone as a piece of fine art, but instead perfectly supplements what Simpson has created.
The ‘White Feather’ Award for Disappointment of the Year: Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Ride
The Balcony was one of the best and most loved debut albums of the decade. However with the band’s latest release they sadly fell victim to the curse of the second album. For the most part The Ride lost sight of the “all killer, no filler” winning formula that made the debut so special. While I’ve no doubt that the boys will bounce back, the fact remains that this album is all too forgettable.
The ‘Spotlight!’ Award for Best New Artist: Rationale
One of the most unique and spellbinding new acts around. From his anonymous origins and his debut EP, to his first ever headline UK tour and supporting Bastille on the road, to his more recent stellar tracks such as ‘Palms’ and ‘Prodigal Son’; it’s clear that 2016 has been a big year for Rationale. With his hotly anticipated debut album on the way it looks like 2017 is going to be even bigger!
Best Male Solo Artist: David Bowie
There are a lot of very deserving acts for this category (Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Belwood favourites Foy Vance and Keaton Henson spring to mind) but if we’re honest with ourselves no one left an impression as large or as lasting as David Bowie. More than a man, one of the few true immortal musical icons, his final album Blackstar was one of the most ambitious releases of his long and illustrious career, and a fitting parting gift for his millions of fans who are still coming to terms with the loss.
Best Female Solo Artist: The Anchoress
Welsh wonder Catherine Anne Davies really set the standard this year with her stunning debut album Confessions of a Romance Novelist. Delightfully diverse, dishing out somber ballads, off-the-wall wit and powerful progressive pop, it’s everything that a pop album should be if we were living in a perfect world. The Anchoress has proved herself one of the finest new songwriters around.
Best Band: Radiohead
A fitting place to end this year’s awards; the same place where we began. It wasn’t just the fact that they gave us the album of the year, it was the air of excitement that seemed to follow them everywhere. Unravelling the mystery of the album’s release, revelling in the sinister video for ‘Burn The Witch’, keeping an eye on the old favourites appearing on the tour setlists etc. And with the news that they’ll be returning to Worthy Farm it seems the band are experiencing a real renaissance.