Forgotten or overlooked? Bad timing or lack of publicity?
2016 had its fair share of heavyweight album releases, with big names like Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest, David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Frank Ocean and many, many more dropping long awaited albums. Whilst these were all great, unfortunately it did mean that a lot of smaller, but equally exciting albums flew under the radar and didn’t capture the attention they deserved. Now that the year’s over, it’s time to go back and listen to what you missed. Trust me, its worth it.
1. Higher Power, The Dirty Nil
The Dirty Nil may sound like your neighborhood band trying to replicate classic rock tunes, but thanks to vocalists Luke Bentham and David Nardi, their lyrics create fresh perspectives for this impressive debut. Although the lyrical theme of battling emotions of resentment against some unknown force isn’t exactly new, the guys have a unique take on it.
From the adrenaline pumping ‘Violent Hands’ to the sentimental ‘Bury Me At The Rodeo’ and ‘Wrestle Yü To Hüsker Dü’, there’s nowhere to look but up for what this trio has in store.
2. Reverie, Tom Misch
It’s so easy to get lost in a world of bootleg remixes and covers on Soundcloud. The internet generation are always itching to find something different and if there isn’t anything, they make it. This is the field of energy and collaboration where Londoner Tom Misch spawned from.
Reverie is Misch’s transition from being just another Soundcloud remixer to a singer-songwriter on this four-track EP. Among them is ‘Watch Me Dance’, a soul-funk tune that will have you naturally bopping in your seat as Misch encourages you to “feel the beat, you don’t have to try”.
The 21-year old still retains the chill beat style he’s known for in his past work, but incorporates more vocals and instrumentals to achieve that fuller sound, readying himself for the big stage.
3. Welcome The Worms, Bleached
Bleached have no regrets opening the can of worms that is the anguish and frustration from their personal lives. They have long since embraced the shit that comes with it, and Welcome The Worms is testament to that.
Punk sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin found their missing piece in bassist Micayla Grace, who was the power kick they needed in the songwriting process as well as their live performances. Together, they show they are not encumbered by heavy emotions in tracks like ‘Wednesday Night Melody’ with a consoling line that the “future is a lonely ride, so tell yourself you gotta try”.
In this hall of mirrors, Welcome The Worms’ upbeat vibe reminds us that it’s okay to survey our weaknesses, knowing at the same time that you can “keep on keepin’ on” by smashing that glass and walking out anytime.
4. Are You Serious, Andrew Bird
This eclectic collection is Andrew Bird’s latest release, and it’s still as hard to dissect as ever.
What’s new is Bird healing wounds in his lyrics, revealing a more vulnerable side of him that has never been seen before. However, a Bird record is not the same without his cryptic style of poetry, and he starts off with “Do you need a reason, we should commit treason” in ‘Valleys Of The Young’.
Another treat is Bird’s love for instruments; him being extremely proficient with his guitar and violin spreads across the album, each one bearing a different concoction. ‘Truth Lies Low’ starts off simple with a jazz rock style, but gradually builds layers on which he impresses with his violin prowess. ‘Left Handed Kisses’ is one of the album’s undisputed highlights, with Fiona Apple’s hauntingly beautiful voice to accompany Bird’s own in a soulful, warbled duel of voices.
5. New Skin, CRX
Nick Valensi is not only a talented guitarist from The Strokes, but he has proven himself as an artist for building what was a solo project into a collaboration with fellow rockers Ralph Alexander (The Dose), Richie Follin (Guards, The Reflections), Jon Safley and musician Darian Zahedi.
With such a killer combination, the music was sure to have a quality rock sound, with a few catchy moments of pop. Plus, how can it not sound wonderful with the musical touch of producer Josh Homme from Queens of The Stone Age? This album has it all, from indie-pop numbers such as ‘Anything’, to the more relaxed ‘Slow Down’ that shows off Valensi’s impressive falsettos to complete that slick-rocker style.
6. Warriors, Lisa Mitchell
Warriors is the English-born Aussie’s dreamiest album yet. The sweet-voiced angel reminisces the slower and less undulating life in countryside Albury, which is why the album is very much acoustic folk. But overall, Warriors is an album about love. Her reverence for her boyfriend is reflected in ‘Where you are’ and ‘Love, Death X’; so if your love life is going great, this one’s for you.
Mitchell’s breezy style may be a little too soft for some, but ‘The Boys’ and ‘Warhol’ are the more upbeat numbers that demonstrate her versatility and add just the right amount of spunk to the record.
7. This Is Our Vice, Cub Sport
The Brissie outfit are back with their debut full length This Is Our Vice with an eagerness to stay afloat in the indie pop wave. If you’re looking for the classic indie pop album, look no further. There’s the classic mix of synths, a steady beat and ’90s influence – perfect for a chill house party.
Musically, Cub Sport didn’t exactly outdo themselves on this release, but its appeal lies in the upbeat nature of the tunes that contrast with the rather moody lyrics. Spooky right?
8. Teens Of Denial, Car Seat Headrest
He may not be a new face to indie rock, but Teens Of Denial is the first time Will Toledo has released a studio album with a legitimate band, and holy shit it’s good. Toledo makes music that’s different and grips us with his storytelling abilities that are only too true about life.
Look at ‘The Ballad of the Costa Concordia’, an over-11 minute track that begins with a self-reflection on substance abuse and then pauses to muse on how society has a chokehold on our decisions, before ending with a harrowing narrative. Not that Toledo hasn’t already been receiving enough attention since his Bandcamp days, but Teens Of Denial is bound to mark him as an important musician of our time – and rightfully so.
9. Epoch, Tycho
The Californian songwriter and producer has spent years testing the waters of his musical career, and he’s finally got a taste of what mastering it meant on Epoch.
Much like his previous releases, the album is like a breath of fresh air, with gentle swooshing and mellow beats for our eardrums. What distinguishes this record from his past work on Dive (2011) and Awake (2014) is that different layers intermingle more tastefully, creating more flavor to the record such as on ‘Source’ and its more rock-laden counterpart, ‘Slack’.
10. I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, Rostam and Hamilton Leithauser
This collaboration between Hamilton Leithauser and producer/musician Rostam (formely of Vampire Weekend) created a dream indeed.
Leithauser’s husky, commanding voice delivers throughout the album, especially on ‘When The Truth Is…’ that plays like a movie scene of a couple slow dancing in a empty bar.
With Rostam’s unique contributions to this collection of tracks, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is not just any boring old folk rock album. This musical match made in heaven has brought out the best in both parties, creating (if I dare say) one of the most unique albums of the year.
Artists in this post
22nd of 1990, although migrated to Australia at the age of three. She is the eldest of two in a family which resides in the country town of Albury, New South Wales. Her musical journey began at age twelve when she started taking guitar lessons with a focus on rock and folk. Not long after,