2016 in Hindsight


Original photo: Joe Mabel

There are many times I wish I could have some special sixth sense to detect when amazing music is released, that way I could catch all those albums that would otherwise slip past my radar. Granted it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a superpower, but it’s up there! To err is human and there are bound to be a few albums that we miss that are worthy of a mention. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the best music of 2016 that sadly slipped through the cracks and never found its way onto the site.Β 

Besides being the year that the USA elected an actual orangutan as their leader, 2016 will be remembered for all the wonderful people that we lost. Losing such icons as Prince and David Bowie in the same year means that even celebrated stars can get overlooked. Last year we also lost legendary singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. His final album You Want It Darker acts as one hell of a swansong. Recorded in his own living room due to his failing strength, the intense and stripped-back record features some of the best work from his long and illustrious career.

Women ruled the world last year, and long may they reign. One of the biggest new stars to emerge was undoubtedly Christine and the Queens, with her debut album Chaleur humaine. Such a seamless combination of music and dance hasn’t been pulled off this well since the heyday of Michael Jackson. Her sublime synthpop is some of the best music to emerge from mainland Europe in a very very long time. Across the pond, American singer/songwriter Angel Olsen has been topping numerous ‘best albums’ lists with her latest release My Woman. With hints of everything from 50s pop, 70s glam and 90s grunge, it’s the most diverse and engaging album of her career thus far.

Michael Kiwanuka released one of the best ever British soul albums, earning him nominations for both the Mercury Prize and the BRITs. Love & Hate was one of the grandest albums of the year and it’s epic opening track ‘Cold Little Heart’ eventually found its way onto Belwood’s list of top songs of the year. Lanterns on the Lake, who released one of the best albums of 2015, this year released their first live album with the Royal Northern Sinfonia. The grandiose orchestral arrangements make tracks from an already incredible album seem larger than life. Say So, the new album from art rock band Bent Knee, was a challenging yet rewarding listen. All together fearless and unpredictable, it boasts some of the best vocals of the year from the astounding Courtney Swain.

This past year saw me rediscovering my prog roots, and 2016 saw new music from many of the genre’s biggest names, from Dream Theater and Opeth, to Haken and Devin Townsend. It was an even better year however for the lesser known bands like Thank You Scientist. The infectious fun of their jazz fusion record Stranger Heads Prevail made it a surprising and memorable release, and one that I often find myself returning to. By far my most important musical discovery of 2016 however was The Dear Hunter, following the release of Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional. The thrilling climax of their ambitious, genre defying and career spanning story arc, it quickly earned them a place amongst my favourite bands of all time.

Anything else you think I missed? Feel free to leave a comment below!