Honourable Mentions of 2016

The best of the rest, in alphabetical order:

band01Aluk Todolo, Voix (Ajna Ofensive)

The French band always crafts and molds their music into an amorphous yet shockingly solid whole that is fascinating to hear. Drones soar and weave amidst a hypnotic, kraut-inspired rhythm section, atonal cacophony slowly metamorphoses into a coherent and alluring melody. (Spotify)

band01Anciients, Voice of the Void (Season of Mist)
It’s all about the discipline on Anciients’ brilliant second album, as these tracks never slip into self-indulgence. Instead, every choice they make serves the song, and resulting in a collection of tracks that leave an immediate and lasting impression, whether it’s the barnstorming opener “Following the Voice” or the daring, Tool-esque “Ibex Eye”. (Spotify

band01Basia Bulat, Good Advice (Secret City)

The extremely talented singer-songwriter channeled the pain of a brutal break-up into her best album to date. Much of the credit goes to producer Jim James, who adorns her music with beautiful psychedelic/Americana touches, but in the end it’s all about Bulat, who bears her soul and ends up sounding triumphant. (Spotify)

band01Beyoncé, Lemonade (Columbia)

Beyoncé was already a superstar, but her sixth solo album transforms her into an icon. American pop music is rarely as experimental as this album is, which straddles so many genres at once with grace and authority. From the country sounds of “Daddy Lessons” to the shocking “Formation”, Lemonade is timeless and vital from start to finish. (Amazon)

band01Cobalt, Slow Forever (Profound Lore)

Touches of Americana creep into Cobalt’s already unique mix of progressive metal and black metal, giving the music an elegiac touch, yet at the same time it never comes at the expense of the music, which as “Hunt the Buffalo” and “Beast Whip” prove, is just as raw and primal as ever. A brilliant follow-up to 2009’s classic Gin. (Spotify)

band01Katatonia, The Fall of Hearts (Peaceville)

The contrast between heavy and melodic has always been the Swedish band’s forte, and Katatonia return to that sound on their majestic tenth album. It’s a pleasure to hear them turn the guitars up once more, and coupled with Jonas Renkse’s understated buy powerful singing, it marks a very welcome return to Katatonia’s classic form of 2001-2009. (Spotify)

band01The Last Shadow Puppets, The Dream Synopsis (Domino)

The UK band’s 2016 album Everything You’ve Come to Expect is good, but personally I love this EP more, which is led by their inspired covers of Jacques Dutronc’s “Le Cactus” and Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted”. These guys are always better when playing up their Franco-pop/brooding singer-songwriter shtick to the hilt. (Spotify)

band01Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä (20 Buck Spin)

What these Finns always do so well is use black metal as a springboard towards other, less restricting experimental sounds, and that combination of trebly black metal riffs with jazz fusion freakout guitar solos, Hammond organ, and oddball time signatures makes this new album, whose title roughly translates as “resonator”, a marvel. (Spotify)

band01Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)

After a run of decent but ultimately underwhelming albums, Radiohead made a return to their classic form on A Moon Shaped Pool, experimenting with, inverting, and subverting modern rock and pop music. “Burn the Witch” is their most exciting track since “Pyramid Song”, the entire album an adventure in minimalist mastery. (Spotify)

band01The Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome (Universal)

Well this is a first for me. The most complacent rock stars of the last 35 years made a complete about-face, holing up in a studio and knocking out a series of blues covers, recorded on the fly. It hearkens back to 1964, when they started out as a blues cover band, sounding youthful and invigorated. It’s their best LP since 1978’s Some Girls. (Spotify)