During 2016’s hump month we’ve been reflecting on the year so far, and can safely say it’s been a successful one. Stellar album releases have been backed up by international tours, and though festivals have got muddy (yep, Glastonbury) they’ve had sets that’ll be checked out for years. In a tough task, we’ve asked the team to pick their favourite album and gig of the year, while pinpointing their most anticipated moment for the rest of 2016.
ALBUM: Twin Peaks, Down In Heaven
The young Chicago group followed up their full throttle 2014 release Wild Onion, with a mature record that explores a very welcomed and uncharted sound. Introducing a keyboardist into the mix, the now five-piece show off their range with slower ballads and tales of youth love. They could’ve easily slid into the slot below for their gig at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory but a certain two-piece blew me away.
GIG: Ratatat @ The Metro Theatre
Why drop acid when you can go watch Ratatat play? The Brooklyn duo match their infectious live sound with a hypnotising light show that’ll leave your head spinning. If you’re ever lucky enough to venture to a show, take a mate along to make sure you stay sane. It was a night full of delightful hooks and intros that built and busted into anthemic choruses. I’ll admit, I never knew an instrumental set could be so mesmerising.
HANGING OUT FOR: Anything by Benjamin Booker
In 2014 I saw a young three piece play before Jack White in Chicago. Not many people came for the support slot, but I’ll be eternally grateful I did as I’ve been hooked ever since. Their self titled debut album was released the same year, so a sophomore follow up surely isn’t too far off. I’m very due for some southern-infused-garage-rock with bluesy-twangs, and this man delivers it like no one else can.
ALBUM: The Drones, Feelin’ Kinda Free. A notable mention to G.L.O.S.S.’ Trans Day of Revenge
In an already amazing six months, it was near impossible to narrow it down to just one. The Drones have released an album that manages to capture the middle ground between an unfettered jam session and a tightly structured rhythm-orientated beast. G.L.O.S.S. stopped me in my tracks with what is one of the most important hardcore releases in years, it only lasts around seven and a half minutes, but even after looping it 10 times you still go back for another spin.
GIG: Anohni @ Opera House for Vivid
The collaboration between Anohni and Oneohtrix Point Never came to life as a complete live performance piece, with stunning visuals that were not only soundtracked by an amazing live take on the just-released album, but the sound of the audiences jaws collectively hitting the floor. The cherry on top was spending the next day seeing Anohni give a live talk, followed by Oneohtrix Point Never doing his own set.
HANGING OUT FOR: Seeing The Cure
Twice, in the space of a few days. I hear they play for around 3-4 hours these days. I’m ready. Read our feature on mysterious frontman, Robert Smith here.
ALBUM: Kendrick Lamar, Untitled Unmastered
How do you follow an album which gets picked as record by the year by almost every music critic on the planet and is already lauded as one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all time? Simple – you surprise drop an album of unreleased and unmastered demos! Untitled unmastered carries on from the heavy lyrical themes established on To Pimp A Butterfly and its playful, jazzy instrumentations, all the while feeling rawer and more spontaneous. Plus, more Thundercat on bass is never a bad thing!
GIG: Foals @ The Hordern Pavilion
Although they began as a ‘math’ and ‘art’ rock band (whatever the fuck that means), Foals have slowly been pursuing a heavier song, resulting in their mammoth album from last year What Went Down. The album’s tour almost served as an audition from the band, as they proved to the audience the heavy new riff-heavy sound they’re capable of. I’m only partially embarrassed to admit that I had sore neck muscles from headbanging the next day.
HANGING OUT FOR: Beck’s new album
Somewhat like Radiohead, Beck is known for his constant reinvention on each album. Although his last record, 2014’s Grammy Award winning Morning Phase, showcased a slow and introspective sound, his two new singles ‘Dreams’ and ‘Wow’ suggest that he’s moving back towards the fun, eclectic style that defined showcase albums like ‘Odelay’ and ‘Guero’. It’ll be exciting to see Beck flex this playful muscle again, especially being how long it’s been since he last did so. All the album really needs is two turntables and a microphone…
Head of Photography / Videograpahy
ALBUM: We Lost The Sea, Departure Songs
A multi-layered, epic and haunting tribute to a lost friend – a deeply moving post-rock album that reveals something new on each subsequent listen.
GIG: Gang of Youths @ Secret Garden Festival
Just on dusk, the best live act in Australia exploded into an energetic, euphoric and colourful set that highlighted a fantastic festival that lies deep in the middle of nowhere.
HANGING OUT FOR: Splendour In The Grass
That lineup. I can’t wait to get encrusted in filth for days and soak in the best Aussie music, punctuated by some very tasty international offerings.
ALBUM: David Bowie, Blackstar
Bowie shocked fans when he re-emerged from a 10 year hiatus with The Next Day in 2013. If this move seemed benignly Machiavellian, the post-mortem re-contextualisation of Blackstar is something else entirely. Bowie didn’t just deal in image or sound, he played with the very fabric of popular culture.
GIG: St Jerome’s Laneway Festival
While most established Australian festivals are staring to feel a little by the numbers, this festival has been going form strength-to-strength over the last couple of years. Too many festivals sell themselves on an aesthetic or experience, it’s curation that’s key. For the minds behind Laneway it’s still the music that matters.
HANGING OUT FOR: DIY Music
There’s been so much great music in 2016, but I’m still waiting for that one great underground album.
ALBUM: Camp Cope, Camp Cope
At this point Camp Cope are only just over a year old, a fact which makes their self-titled debut album even more impressive. Georgia Maq has shown she is a talented songwriter since her first solo release, and songs like ‘Stove Lighter’ and ‘Song For Charlie’ show off the very best of her intimate and honest style. Their actions on social media and on stage are just as important as their music, putting feminist concepts and ideals in front of an audience that may not be as familiar with them as they should be. The future is Camp Cope.
GIG: Courtney Barnett @ The Enmore Theatre
Wil Wagner of The Smith Street Band performs a gig on his biggest stage so far armed with nothing but an electric guitar. Cloud Control deliver a great set that completely changes it up from the previous one. But when Courtney Barnett hit’s the stage, far out, there is nothing else like it. In front of a sold out Enmore Theatre, Barnett delivered banger after banger while whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Watching her play ‘Pedestrian At Best’ gave me the same feeling that I imagine people felt watching Nirvana play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ at The Phoenician Club. Phenomenal.
HANGING OUT FOR: Hypercaffium Spazzinate by the Descendents. Out July 29.
DESCENDENTS ARE BACK. The band that helped create Pop Punk return with a new album and I am counting down the days until I can get my hands on it. For most bands, I would be concerned about a new album coming out a decade after their old one, but Descendents already proved that that is nothing to worry about with 2004’s Everything Sucks. It’s gonna be fast, and loud, and probably all about coffee and girls. Bring it.
ALBUM: Santana, Santana IV
Santana IV, hands down. It features the classic lineup but with a fresh vibe that oozes energy and spirituality. Was also lucky enough to chat with him earlier this year.
GIG: Groovin’ The Moo
I’m going to cheat here and say Groovin’ The Moo – the bluesy Harts, stage devastators In Hearts Wake and MS MR with that timeless ‘70s pop vibe were clear highlights!
HANGING OUT FOR: Afraid of Heights by Billy Talent. Out July 29.
Again I’m going to bend the rules and go with Billy Talent’s new album Afraid of Heights dropping in July, leading into their first Aussie headline tour in four years during August – Yeah!
ALBUM: Parquet Courts, Human Performance
It’s already been year of some massive releases, so selecting a favourite proved difficult as several albums could’ve easily navigated their way to the top of my list. Nonetheless, Parquet Courts release of Human Performance was excellent, and made a lasting impression on me. It’s articulate and raw with a wave of versatility. Lyrically and instrumentally the indie rockers created something pleasantly dynamic with this record. Sonically it lends itself so well that there’s no difficulty indulging in its totality time and time again.
GIG: Violent Soho @ The Enmore Theatre
In collaboration with Dune Rats and DZ Deathrays, made for one hell of tour; and seeing them live for their final show in Sydney was one for the books for me. The entirety of the show was hectic in the best way possible, with each act thrashing out killer sets. Brimming with angst, grungy riffs and plenty of sing-a-longs, energy in the theatre never seemed to cease. Certainly a top highlight of my live music calendar, and I’m inclined to believe it ranks high for many others as well.
HANGING OUT FOR: Lollapalooza
Heading back to Chicago for one of the city’s biggest music festivals, Lollapalooza. Last Shadow Puppets, Radiohead, Chili Peppers, Leon Bridges, Grimes, Foals and ostensibly heaps more killer acts, it’s hard not to get excited for the three day event. Plus, it’s the perfect way for me to celebrate returning home after a year of travelling.
ALBUM: The Strokes, Future Present Past
This one is bending the rules a bit, but it doesn’t make it any less of a fantastic listen. Encapsulating the evolution of The Strokes’ sound over the past 15 or so years in just three songs, this EP is for every Strokes fan, past and present.
GIG: Of Monsters & Men @ The Opera House
Despite all nine members barely fitting on the stage, Of Monsters & Men commanded the Opera House with the intimacy of an acoustic set, and the energy of a stadium performance. Over the course of two or so hours, everyone in the audience was swept up in a bombastic set, and the fact that I could count the number of recording phones on one hand speaks to how enthralling Of Monsters & Men were.
HANGING OUT FOR: The xx’s third album
Nothing is known about it other than it has a 2016 release window, but here’s hoping to some more of their atmospheric shoe-gazing indie rock.
ALBUM: Whitney, Light Upon the Lake
The combination of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns had me sold before I even heard the first track. If you’re like me and nostalgic for the sounds of Southern USA soul without having any real reason to then this album will transport you.
GIG: Bon Iver presents CERCLE @ the Opera House for Vivid
Scholars maintain that ‘Bon’ is French for ‘good’ and ‘Iver’ is French for ‘music performed under broken egg shells’ and on that night our mystical folksy hero’s name finally made sense. I’ve never experienced goosebumps like that consistently for two hours. I was worried for my health and was went to the emergency room right after to check it wasn’t a stroke. It turns out it wasn’t a stroke and Bon Iver is just that good.
HANGING OUT FOR: Freetown Sound by Blood Orange. Out July 1.
Dev Hynes is an underrated creative powerhouse who knows how to make some slinky tunes. The best part is it’s out on July 1st so the wait is almost over.
ALBUM: The Drones, Feelin’ Kinda Free
I had to consider this one for a while, as the anticipation surrounding Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, and the release of Blackstar just two days before David Bowie’s death were strong contenders for the early part of this year. But, as usual, The Drones have taken the cake for me with their unapologetic assessment of modern Australia delivered with vitriol and disgust.
GIG: Kate Tempest @ The Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent for Sydney Festival
Writer, poet, rapper – move over Lena Dunham because Kate Tempest truly is the voice of our generation. Seeing her perform live earlier this year made the anger and apathy she expresses in her lyrics about inequality and injustice feel physically tangible. She just “gets” me.
HANGING OUT FOR: Volumes Festival @ Oxford Square, Sydney
A beautiful mix of largely Australian artists scattered among some of my hometown’s finest music venues. Particularly hanging out to see the performance spectacles of MOSSY and Donny Benet. I’m also impatiently waiting for the weather to warm up and to see the godfather of dub, Lee Scratch Perry alongside Mad Professor at Subsonic Music and Arts Festival.
ALBUM: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity
You would think that after releasing two EP’s and seven full length album’s between 2011 and 2015 that King Gizzard would start running out of ideas, but their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity proves this wrong. The record is a continual loop of fresh, fuzzed out psychedelic goodness. You can easily keep the album on loop for hours at a time and not feel like you’re listening to repetitiveness…although you may come out the other side in a total psych induced trance. ‘Robot Stop’ and ‘People Vultures’ are definite highlights.
GIG: Violent Soho @ The Enmore Theatre
More like a mini-festival line up, the four band line up (Gooch Palms, DZ Deathrays, Dune Rats) delivered a huge night of rock, crowd surfing and thrashing bodies. Each band delivered huge amounts of energy and grit, with Violent Soho playing a mix of old and new music, never once dipping from delivering one of the most hyped up sets I’ve seen.
HANGING OUT FOR: My first Splendour In The Grass
I am painfully excited about three days of nothing but music, mud and poor hygiene. Especially looking forward to seeing The Cure, The Strokes, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Sticky Fingers.
ALBUM: Violent Soho, Waco
All killer no filler, classic Soho sound, but still a step up from Hungry Ghost. The new material works brilliantly live as well. My soundtrack to 2016 (so far…).
GIG: The Smith Street Band and Luca Brasi @ The Metro
So much love was in the room. The majority of punters sang whole heartedly to all tracks (bar the newbie), while both support and headliner put on high energy, positive, rocking sets. Sweaty, fun times in the pit and surrounds. Lost my voice, but gained the biggest grin.