Top 20 albums of the year 2016

For the tenth year in a row, here’s my list of the best albums released over the past 12 months. Follow the links to listen to the full thing on Spotify:

1.) Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth

Far more ambitious and adventurous than I ever thought this lot were capable of – the outstanding surprise of the year and a worthy winner.
Stream: Telomere, 1985

2.) Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack

Perhaps the most underrated indie-rock band in the UK are finally starting to get the recognition that they deserve.
Stream: Lump Street, Die Like A Rich Boy

3.) Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness

Yet another atmospheric masterpiece from the kings of post-rock, which rewards repeat listening.
Stream: Disintegration Anxiety, Colours In Space

4.) Band Of Skulls – By Default

Southampton power trio add some serious swagger to their bombastic mix of riffs and choruses. Irresistibly catchy stuff.
Stream: Black Magic, By Default

5.) Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

Well worth the wait after a four-year hiatus. Orange Country’s emo veterans are back with a bang.
Stream: Hurricane, Black Honey

6.) The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect

Alex Turner and Miles Kane join forces once again for the second spectacular album from their orchestral indie supergroup.
Stream: Dracula Teeth, Bad Habits

7.) Twin Atlantic – GLA

Glasgow rockers get rowdy on their fourth album, which is interspersed with some truly touching acoustic tracks as well.
Stream: I Am Alive, Whispers

8.) Blink 182 – California

Who needs Tom DeLonge? A change in frontman threatened to derail Blink 182, but Matt Skiba has slotted in seamlessly.
Stream: Kings Of The Weekend, No Future

9.) Weezer – The White Album

Set aside the daft ramblings of Thank God For Girls and this is the most consistent album that Weezer have released since Maladroit.
Stream: King Of The World, Wind In Our Sail

10.) Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

Still going strong in their fourth decade, the grandaddies of funk-rock are back on form with this solid collection of effortless tunes.
Stream: Goodbye Angels, This Ticonderoga

11.) Pixies – Head Carrier
12.) Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
13.) Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
14.) 65daysofstatic – No Man’s Sky: Music For An Infinite Universe
15.) Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis
16.) Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave
17.) Travis – Everything At Once
18.) Sonic Boom Six – The F Bomb
19.) Green Day – Revolution Radio
20.) PAWS – No Grace

Plenty to look forward to in 2017, with Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters, Elbow and Tall Ships all shaping up to release new records. I’ll go into more depth on those in a future post, but for now I’ll leave you with my video of the year:

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Five of the best debut albums of the 21st century

On Saturday night at the HMV Forum, Funeral For A Friend called time on their 15-year career by playing their seminal, genre-defining debut album Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation in full. So with the final chords of Novella still ringing in my head, here is my run-down of the five best debut albums to come out so far this century.

5. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager (2006)

Crossover maestro Sam Duckworth has dabbled in many styles throughout his ten-year career, from afrobeat to bossanova, but he has never sounded so fresh and so relevant as back in 2006 when it was just acoustic guitar, electronic samples and the odd flourish of brass.

4. Mr Hudson & The Library – A Tale Of Two Cities (2007)

Fans of Ben Hudson’s recent collaborations with Kanye West and Kid Cudi would barely recognise this musichall-influenced debut. Scattered with delicately beautiful vocal performances, virtuoso piano solos, drug-fuelled love songs, and introverted reflections on life in London, this album is a fine reminder of what he is truly capable of.

3. Dry The River – Shallow Bed (2012)

Some debut albums are so intimidatingly successful that a band will only be able to manage one attempt to surpass it before throwing in the towel (see Hope Of The States). Sadly for fans of rustic indie folk, this was exactly the case with Dry The River, who called it a day at the tail end of last year. However, this majestic album stands as a lasting testament to their ability to conjure up orchestral swells and towering choruses.

2. Hell Is For Heroes – The Neon Handshake (2003)

Powered by one of the most urgent voices in rock, Hell Is For Heroes’ debut swept all contenders before it and won Rock Sound’s album of the year in 2003. Emo is a much-maligned genre these days, but the utter conviction of Justin Schlosberg’s vocals mean that this record hits home just as hard today as it did back then.

1. Hundred Reasons – Ideas Above Our Station (2002)

A whirlwind album that set the bar for a new wave of British alt-rock bands coming through in the early 00s. Straight out of the blocks with the irrepressible I’ll Find You, Ideas Above Our Station set the standard by which Hundred Reasons (and many other bands of their ilk after them) would come to be judged.

Honourable mentions must go to the debut albums by Adequate Seven, Bloc Party, Finch, Saosin, Tall Ships and Rival Schools. Feel free to chip in with your favourites in the comments.

Six albums to get psyched about in 2016

The year is barely a fortnight old and the annual flood of new album announcements has begun in earnest. There’s no better way to brighten up your January than to listen to some new music, so here’s my round-up of six of the best albums to look forward to over the next 12 months:

Explosions In The Sky – Wilderness (April 1)

The Texan post-rockers seem to have had their fill of soundtracking movies and are returning for their first full-length LP in three years.

The first hint of what’s to come is Disintegration Anxiety, which is a more contained effort than anything on their previous album, but still retains the soaring ambition that has seen this instrumental rock act book a headline show at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect (April 1)

Alex Turner and Miles Kane have joined forces once again for a follow-up to 2008’s Age Of The Understatement.

And if new track Bad Habits is anything to go by, they have kept the orchestral arrangements, but fitted them into a more rough-and-ready style.

Tall Ships – 2nd Album (coming soon)

The long awaited sophomore effort from the South Coast quartet is finally on the horizon if a recent Facebook update is to be believed.

Let’s just hope they’ve included the uplifting 2015 release Will To Life, which deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their best efforts to date.

Biffy Clyro – 7th album (coming soon)

2015 was very much a year off for the Biffy boys, with just the one UK gig. But if you’re only going to play once, you might as well make it a headline set at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.

That show gave us a big hint that another album is in the pipeline, with new track On A Bang nestled in amongst a greatest hits setlist. And given their relentless work ethic, you can safely bet that plenty more new tunes are on the way soon.

Sonic Boom Six – The F-Bomb (Early 2016)

Losing their drummer, a marriage within the band, these distractions would be enough to finish most bands, but Sonic Boom Six seem energised to take on 2016.

Never ones to shy away from the big issues, the Manchester ska-punk collective appear to be honing their sights on feminism if the title of album number five is anything to go by.

Travis – Everything At Once (April 29)

Having long since lost the pressure of being a chart dominating act, Travis finally seem to be embracing the freedom to try something new.

Comeback single Everything At Once is like nothing we’ve ever heard from Fran Healy and co – this could be one of the most intriguing releases of the year.