2016 has been a sad time for music. Many of our icons from the 60s and 70s are starting to get old, so maybe we shouldn’t have be all that surprised, but over the last twelve months we have lost a number of our family: Bowie, Parfitt, Frey, White, Michael, Prince, Martin and Viola Beach, to name just a few. Tributes have come in from all over the community, most notably with Coldplay paying tribute to the late Viola Beach at Glastonbury Festival over the Summer. But for everyone of our lost heroes, a legacy remains, their music, and they would be glad to know that they have left something behind with all of us. But through all the darkness, there remains the constant fact that music and art will continue to be made regardless, and 2016 has been no exception, so naturally, here is the review of the year.
Album of the Year:
To clarify, this goes to the year’s best release of five or more songs. There are a couple of mainstream releases that could get this, but as this is an underground music blog, we’ll stick to what we know best. The nominees for this are: Death and Taxes by Cadavers, Psychopomp by Japanese Breakfast, Growing Pains by Sleep Talk and Greasewheel by Virgin Kids.
The winner is Psychopomp by Japanese Breakfast. Michelle Zauner’s solo project captured people’s hearts across the community. It blended powerful lyricism, experimental effects and incredible artistry to create one of the most stunningly unique albums of 2016. It is a triumph of experimental music, and the deserving winner. It sold over a thousand copies on Bandcamp, and is currently on its third pressing on vinyl. This melodic dreamscape has propelled Zauner from relative obscurity to the forefront of the underground scene.
Single of the Year:
This is for any release this year compromising of four or less songs. Like Album of the Year, we’ll stick to underground music, and not necessarily collections that I have written about on this blog. My shortlist for this was as follows: Pet Body by Miya Folick, Set the Fire/Souvenirs by Swimming Tapes, Ruin Your Night by Sorcha Richardson and EP01 by Dream Wife.
This was a difficult one to choose between, every single one of these singles captured my imagination and made me feel something. Every single one of them has been played to death by me since their release. But my favourite single of the year would have to go to Sorcha Richardson. One of a triplet of singles, Ruin Your Night somehow achieves something all too rare, a simple, catchy song emotional, but one with depth and meaning behind it. This song is cathartic. It deserves a place on everyone’s down-day playlist.
Best Live Act:
Such a difficult one to decide, there are only so many gigs that can be gone to, and therefore, it’s inevitable that someone will be missed. It would be wrong of me to make a decision based off someone that I’ve never seen, so the four nominees for this will come from all of the acts that I’ve seen play this year, with the exception of the stunning Jeff Beck: Death by Unga Bunga, Van Zeller, Virgin Kids and Allusondrugs.
This, without a doubt, has to go to Unga Bunga. The Norwegian outfit stepped out onto the stage at Guildford and totally rocked it! The captured every single person in the room with an onslaught of deafening garage rock, they play to have fun, and this is very evident. When you see them play, it’s clear to see that they are having the time of their lives, and this sort of energy lends itself to the crowd, who are left hanging on their every word. Unga Bunga are touring the U.S. in the new year, so make sure to get out and see them if you can!
Best Underground Act:
This one is fairly self explanatory, this is the best act in the underground scene this year, this is essentially ‘the best act’, I just felt that there was just a distinction that needed to be made for those breakthrough acts (Those on above 10,000 Facebook likes.) While there are groups that I have listened to more, and enjoyed more this year, I’ve based this on their releases as well as their tours and shows. The three best groups of the year are as follows: Dream Wife, Mallcops and Peach Club.
Dream Wife, had to be the act to win this. Over the year they’ve come from almost complete obscurity, to become one of indie rock’s hottest properties. Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go and Bella Podpadec comprise the trio, initially started as a project for an art exhibition, Dream Wife have stuck around, intent on their mission to blur the lines between art and music, producing shows with theatrical elements belying their status and experience. Dream Wife have been around the block this year, playing a number of shows, including the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival. Stay tuned for 2017, because 2017 will be a big year for these ladies.
Best Breakthrough Act:
This goes to those who’ve broken through and made their way into the grassy fields of the almost-but-not-actually-mainstream. I’ve gone for Milk Teeth, The Dirty Nil and Turnover. Three acts who have all pushed on and really begun to establish themselves in the year gone.
I think in terms of breakthrough, it has to be The Dirty Nil. Following on from the release of their album Higher Power at the start of the year, the band have been touring, touring and touring. Even crossing the sea into Europe, on tour with Billy Talent and made their way into New Zealand and Australia on tour with Alexisonfire. Fronted by the ever-charismatic Luke Bentham, The Dirty Nil have won over the European scene with their explosive and unrestrained live shows. From this point on, the only way is up.
I hope this summary was okay. I covered everything I felt I needed to, and I hope with enough depth. I realise that very little of what I wrote about here was actually featured on my blog, but I think that shows just how little I’ve written this year. I would say that my New Year’s resolution is to write more. But I doubt that will happen.
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