Back in July I compiled a list of my favourite dozen albums from the year so far.
A quick survey of the records I’ve enjoyed since them – some released before July, but unheard by me at the time – produced 15 favourites. Giving a rather unwieldy top 27 for the year. So I added another three to make it a round 30.
My main reflection from this is that it’s been a particularly good year for Americana, but there’s all sorts of other things in there too. The full Youtube playlist is here if you just want that (and the Jan-Jun one is here).
1. Kristin Kontrol – X-Communicate
The most polished pop record I’ve enjoyed in 2016.
2. Laura Gibson – Empire Builder
Idiosyncratic American folk that I found only revealed itself after quite a lot of listens – it was worth sticking with.
3. Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau
This is the first of two Tucker Martine-produced records in a row – Blau presents a collection of 60s and 70s country tunes here, with a great deal of charm.
4. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs
Pretty much what you’d expect, and no less welcome for that.
5. Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini
I don’t think I’ve heard a record quite like this before. I like both the way the songs are allowed to run to their own (often languid) pace, and the name being based on a grammar lesson.
6. Sara Watkins – Young In All The Wrong Ways
Lyrically quite raw, but musically mostly pretty refined, this is a great record.
7. MJ Hibbett and the Validators – Still Valid
I said In July I expected this would be GRATE. It is. Genius video for this song too.
8. Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream
This is a listenable, absorbing record.
9. Lydia Loveless – Real
Lydia’s set another new direction here, heading towards pop or at least indie rock. My first impressions were muted, but I found listening to the album on shuffle that the songs individually stand up better than I first thought, so maybe there’s something about the running order that didn’t click for me. Lydia consistently refuses to make the same record twice and seems to be on a journey with her sound – I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes her next.
10. Bloom – What Is Life
Formerly The Beautiful Word, Brighton’s Bloom have swapped one slightly rubbish name for another, but produced an absolutely belting record. I was very pleased to support the crowdfunder for this – it’s ace.
11. Angel Olson – My Woman
This seems to have got to the upper reaches of a lot of end-of-year charts, and I can see why. I particularly like the fact that they made a video for this eight-minute-plus song, which has a stunning outro (admittedly accounting for most of the eight minutes).
12. King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman
This was the year, long overdue, when I started paying proper attention to King Creosote.
13. The Tuts – Update Your Brain
It was great to see The Tuts finally get an album out, and doubly so that it delivered on the sass, snarl and sometimes chaos they offer when playing live.
14. Amanda Shires – My Piece of Land
This was one of several recommendations by Laura Cantrell in an online end-of-year article, and wasn’t the one that grabbed me most on first listen – but having got to know it, I’d now say it’s probably my favourite of those records. Really lovely.
15. Pixies – Head Carrier
It seems bizarre that it’s getting easy to take a new Pixies album for granted. Let’s not do that.
16. The Hidden Cameras – Home on Native Land
An unexpected foray into country and soul for Joel Gibb – the covers are nice enough, but the original songs are the real attraction here.
17. Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions – Until the Hunter
You know what you’re getting with Hope Sandoval, and it’s good.
18. Maggie8 – LO
There’s no online video for this album that does it justice – it’s mostly much more dramatic and energetic than this suggests. The meld of styles to produce ‘Hindi indie’ is what mostly gets written about where Maggie8 are concerned, but there’s a sense of Northern melodrama about some of these songs that reminds me of early Smiths, even though sonically there’s hardly any resemblance at all.
To save you the clicking, here are the dozen albums I particularly enjoyed in the first half of the year.
1. Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield
2. Nervous Twitch – Don’t Take My TV
3. Basia Bulat – Good Advice
4. Steven James Adams – Old Magick
5. Emmy the Great – Second Love
6. TeenCanteen – Say It All With A Kiss
7. Kate Jackson – British Road Movies
8. Laura Cantrell at the BBC
9. Evans the Death – Vanilla
10. Garbage – Strange Little Birds
11. Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis
12. Chris T-T – 9 Green Songs