The impossible annual task has, at last, been accomplished. Rifling through many a commendable album released this year, we managed to narrow our favourites down to five (for now).
HINDS Leave Me Alone
Hinds’ Leave Me Alone kicks off with the climactic strumming of jangly guitars from ‘Garden’. The song’s rhythmic guitars and elevating lyrics “I can take you dancing” swoons a slower than expected pace, but is undoubtedly the most appropriate and anticipating opener for the record. Although it is one of the Spanish four-piece’s greatest, it’s evident that the best is not over with early singles ‘Bamboo’ and ‘Castigadas en el Granero’ spotted further down the track list. The album is fuelled with vitality and revels in youthful sociability, accentuated by Libertines-esque interrupted vocals between singers Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote. Hinds seem to wholly embrace the tribulations of being young, being in love, and being in trouble in Leave Me Alone and reveal this uplifting state of mind that cannot be escaped when listening to this record.
THE GROWLERS City Club
City Club, The Growlers’ fifth album, saw the Californian five-piece shrug off lo-fi labels and record a slinking masterpiece with Julian Casablancas at the mixing desk. The album lets loose the band’s weird genre flirtation that we’ve only previously witnessed from afar (see: Chinese Fountain’s brief encounter with funk; earlier albums’ goth influences). Casablancas brings new elements to their distinct brand of ‘beach goth’. Album standout ‘I’ll Be Around’ gets groovy with afro-funk percussion and a jazz saxophone litters the rest of the LP. Every song is an earworm, and each tells a story as interesting as the one before with vocalist Brooks Nielsen writing from a variety of perspectives. Whilst this witty and imaginative lyricism is nothing new, the ghostly sound of the past has been replaced by the well-polished sheen. An endlessly textured album, City Club documents the band getting older but staying as relentlessly childish as ever.
HELLO SHARK Delicate
I’ve had Delicate on repeat for weeks now, which is why I have to bestow it with the accolade of my favourite albums to have been released during this fateful year. Released back in September on Ordinal Records, it’s Lincoln Halloran’s first album since he moved to Philadelphia. To me, what makes this album so special is the way he tells of personal experiences in such a beautiful and relatable way. Halloran’s vocals are reminiscent of a heart-broken Stephen Malkmus throughout as he talks of missing old friends (‘Wish We Still Talked’) and relationships revisited (‘Drake Night’). This is an album full of exquisite intimate moments. You can’t be alone when you’re with Hello Shark.
YAK Alas Salvation
Alas Salvation is the stirring, riotous debut from punk trio, Yak. Raw and churning, the scuzzy guitars hurtle a stampede of distorted commotion to introduce the record; at 1:57 long, ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’ forces the undertones of the album from the very start. These relentless, pulsating guitar rhythms appear in ‘Use Somebody’, ‘Harbour the Feeling’ and the anarchic ‘Hungry Heart’. There are moments of restraint in the chaos with tracks such as ‘Doo Wah’, a subtle shift from 70s Stooges to 50s Doo-Wop, and in concluding track ‘Please Don’t Wait for Me’, almost eight minutes of mellifluous melody, interrupted sporadically by erratic reverb. The punk of 2016.
WHITNEY Light Upon the Lake
I have been lucky enough to see Whitney twice this year. Once in an intimate, secluded field at Knee Deep Festival, and then again just a week later at the far larger but equally picturesque Garden Stage at End of the Road. The Chicago band were on top form on both occasions, capturing their audience with their playful, bounding style of pop infused Americana. This is exactly what makes Light Upon the Lake so good. Tracks like ‘Golden Days’ and ‘No Matter Where We Go’ are irresistible dancing tunes. Whitney can take it down a notch with great effect as well though. Opener ‘No Woman’ and title track ‘Light Upon the Lake’ give the album great variety, while singer Julien’s captivating voice and the bouncing riffs that run throughout create a distinct style that Whitney have claimed as their own.