Staff Picks: Liam Turner

TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2016

The 1975 – ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’

‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ is an overproduced, overwrought and overindulgent mishmash of a thing. So, just how Matt Healey and co. have managed to take such inauspicious ingredients and turn them into the musical equivalent of a moreish Eton mess is all the more mind boggling. Indie-pop has never had it quite so good.

Bon Iver – ‘22, A Million’

Cryptic and convoluted, Bon Iver’s third full-length release may have lacked appeal on paper. However, on ‘22, A Million’ mainman Justin Vernon does what he does best by distilling raw human emotion into a delicate, finely crafted musical experience. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what the bloody hell he’s on about, only that you feel what it is that he’s saying.

Conor Oberst – ‘Ruminations’

Featuring just a guitar, harmonica, piano and, of course, Oberst’s voice, ‘Ruminations’ is easily one of the most sparse records of 2016. Such minimalism completely works in the record’s favour, though, as we are truly able to focus on the carefully-woven tales of heartbreak and tragedy that Oberst so plaintively tells. Sometimes the simplest music really is the best.

Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Love & Hate’

From the epic grandiosity of opener Cold Little Heart, you know you’re in for a treat with Kiwanuka’s second full-length LP. The album certainly doesn’t hold back in terms of its scope, with pretty much everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. But rather than its scale, its Kiwanuka’s increasing ability to blend sentiment with soul that truly sets ‘Love & Hate’ apart.

David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’

A swansong like no other, ‘Blackstar’ is Bowie’s final gift to the world.The record represents the singer’s unparalleled ability to turn even the most lamentable of circumstances into something worth celebrating, while simultaneously bookending what is an incredibly vast and varied body of work. An artist in the true sense of the word.

Honourable mentions: Radiohead – ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, Teleman – ‘Brilliant Sanity’, Metronomy – ‘Summer 08’, Green Day – ‘Revolution Radio’, C Duncan – ‘The Midnight Sun’.

TOP 5 SINGLES OF 2016

Francis and the Lights – Friends (feat. Bon Iver)

The 1975 – Somebody Else

Two Door Cinema Club – Bad Decisions

Warpaint – New Song

Christine and the Queens – Tilted

Honourable mentions: The xx – On Hold, VANT – PEACE & LOVE, Blossoms – Charlemagne, Mystery Jets – Bubblegum, Creeper – Suzanne

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Staff Picks: Jonathan Rimmer

My Top 10 Albums of 2016

If ever there was a year for artists to get angry and radical, 2016 was obviously it. Surprisingly, though, some of my favourite records have been introverted, escapist affairs. There’s not a single EDM album on my list this year – either it’s been an underwhelming year for electronic music or I’m already a miserable bastard in my mid-20s… Anyway, my top ten:

10. Mitski – ‘Puberty 2’

Although ‘Puberty 2’ is moody and ‘90s grunge-inspired, there’s something transcendental about Mitski Miyawaki that sets her apart. Even when this album is at its heaviest and most intense – like on lead single Your Best American Girl – her voice stands out above everything.

9. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Untitled Unmastered’

Kendrick’s last project, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, remains one of the finest musical achievements of the 21st century to my mind, so it’s little surprise that I loved this wee appendix. These cuts might sound raw and unfinished, but they’re all still insights into the mind of a genius.

8. Katatonia – ‘The Fall of Hearts’

My favourite Swedish doom merchants returned to form on this one. They’re characteristically gloomy, with Jonas Renske’s vocals a particular standout. But the album also showcased a new found depth to their songwriting, both lyrically and structurally.

7. Money – ‘Suicide Songs’

‘Suicide Songs’ is quite a misleading title for a record that’s cathartic and melodramatic but never quite despondent. The psychedelic guitar leads clash beautifully with meticulously arranged strings, making for an otherworldly feel.

6. Law Holt – ‘City’

One of the most visceral and hard-hitting records I heard this year was made by an ‘R&B singer’. It’s a messy, difficult project full of fuzzy beats, sure, but it’s steered by an absolute titan in the form of Law Holt. Her booming vocals cut through the static, quite literally.

5. Radiohead – ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

Okay, so this album didn’t get me in the gut in the same way that some of their albums do, but it’s still a gripping reminder that they remain the best band in the world. Taking things in a chamber pop direction, this record is fresh, well-structured and technically brilliant.

4. Schoolboy Q – ‘Blank Face’

I’d never previously warmed to Schoolboy Q’s music, despite his obvious presence and rapping abilities, but ‘Blank Face’ blew me away. It’s more than just a gritty, atmospheric gangsta record; it’s full of gripping narratives, delivered by the most convincing protagonist imaginable.

3. Three Trapped Tigers – ‘Silent Earthling’

The most daring and ridiculous instrumental rock record you’ll hear this year. Packed with retro synths, blaring keys and syncopated rhythms, ‘Silent Earthling’ grabs you by the scruff of the neck and takes you on an exciting, albeit terrifying, journey.

2. Frank Ocean – ‘Blonde’

Frank Ocean responds to overwhelming expectation by making a record that’s even more reserved and lo-fi than his debut, but it works remarkably well. ‘Blonde’ is a unique album precisely because it manages to be both lush and melodically unpredictable.  

1. Noname – ‘Telefone’

I heard a lot of people describe Noname’s style as ‘cute’, which does her a huge disservice. While the lyrics are nostalgic and the vibe is mellow, it’s Noname’s playful, poetic delivery that makes ‘Telefone’ such a gorgeous collection of tracks.

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