The best five albums of 2016

1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

The genius that is Justin Vernon has done it again. He’s written the most original songs I’ve heard in years and pieced them into this stunning album which flows effortlessly between tracks. This latest offering is one of the most boundary-pushing, experimental and exciting sounds I’ve heard in a long time. Instrument upon instrument is cleverly layered together to create chilling melodies, most of which are odd on first listen, but transform over time into something heavenly. 22, A Million feels impossible to explain but to put it simply, Justin Vernon is the king of pulling off huge experiments, and this album is the latest phenomenon.

Best songs: 33 “God”, 8 (circle), 666 ʇ, 00000 Million

Best lyrics: “Not sure what forgiveness is, we’ve galvanized the squall of it all, I can leave behind the harbour.” – 8 (circle)

Best time to listen: While relaxing at home.

 

2. Glass Animals – How to be a Human Being

When I want to go to a happy place I listen to this album. It is upbeat, creative, fresh and unique. Every song has a funky base line and lyrics that make you giggle. Without a doubt my soundtrack of summer for 2016. If you’re not too sure on your first few listens, persevere. This album and every song on it is worth a lot of your time. Glass Animals have to be one of the most talented indie groups around today and after two outstanding albums in a short few years, I’m bloody excited for what’s to come next.

Best songs: Agnes, Season 2 Episode 3, Youth, Pork Soda

Best lyrics: “Lazy, and lyin’ on your belly, with a super pump cola, lookin’ at your folded clothes, you’ve worn for three days over, with a cookie as a coaster” – Season 1, Episode 2

Best time to listen: On a sunny summer day with the stereo blasting.

 

3. Adele – 25

As one of the most anticipated albums of 2016, 25 was something everyone expected to be great, especially following the release of Hello as the lead single. Luckily for all involved, this album is actually better than great, it’s superb. Adele is renowned for her song writing, her powerhouse voice and her ability to bring most people to tears. She delivered this on previous albums 19 and 21, but 25 has a new quality to it which the record names (based on her age) symbolise well – maturity. Adele has managed to move on from the heartbreak ballads of her earlier work and create songs which are still moving and thoughtful but also have a bit more gusto behind them. Even my boyfriend, a previous critic of her ‘sad and soppy music’ likes 25. Add in the fact this album is produced to a supremely high quality with fantastic backing band and it could never fail.

Best songs: When We Were Young, All I Ask, Love in the Dark, Water Under the Bridge

Best lyrics: “Don’t come any closer, don’t try to change my mind, I’m being cruel to be kind” –Love in the Dark

Best time to listen: On a Saturday night in, with your girlfriends/sisters. Singing with strong hand actions and facial expressions while standing on the couch also recommended.

 

4. James Vincent McMorrow – We Move

This man speaks to me. His music is an eclectic and modern take on soul and it’s produced and performed to perfection. McMorrow’s distinctive falsetto is showcased against gentle beats and electronic base melodies. Each song is a builder. They each start slowly before the crescendo hits you and brings with it a wave of emotion. This album will take you on a journey you can lose yourself in.

Best songs: Rising Water, Get Low, I Lie Awake Every Night, Evil, Lost Angles

Best lyrics: “Ever since there’ve been weeds growing in my mind, like a scene for the weekend, I descend into weakness.” I Lie Awake Every Night

Best time to listen: Alone, while going for a walk (or run in the case of Rising Water).

 

5. Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

I am a Coldplay fan girl, there’s no denying that but it’s for a reason. This band is never afraid to try new things, is always coming up with different ideas and oodles of songs, and each album is a work on its own yet their followers still remain satisfied and happy. There aren’t many acts that have songs as contrasting as The Scientist and Adventure of a Lifetime, yet I love both of these tunes a lot! Perhaps Coldplay has taken on board the advice of all their critics who say they’re too depressing, because A Head Full of Dreams is about as uplifting as a record can get. At the first few listens I wasn’t convinced, but all of a sudden these bouncy pop tracks started winning me over and I love them. Not only that, but I’ve been listening to this album for a full year now and never tired of it. So admit it Coldplay haters, these guys are bloody good at what they do and after 16 years making music and seven number one albums it’s time you realised that! (I know technically this was released in December 2015 but shhhh)

Best songs: Everglow, Fun, Amazing Day, Up&Up

Best lyrics: With the changing of winds, and the way waters flow, life is shortest in fall, in the snow.” – Everglow

Best time to listen: In the car on a road trip when you can appreciate the album in its entirety and singalong to every word.

Song of the Week – Agnes

Glass Animals – Agnes

For the last couple of months I haven’t been able to stop listening to Glass Animals album How To Be a Human Being. It is without a doubt one of the best records of the year and the perfect soundtrack for summer.

My favourite time to listen is in the car with the windows down and the stereo blaring. Each week it seems a different song from the album is my new favourite and the slow grower for me was Agnes. It took a while for me to crack this gem because it didn’t instantly jump out at you the same way tracks like Season 2, Episode 3 did. But after a few loud listens, I’m hooked. This song is epic and I’ll be blasting it right through summer and so should you.

Concert Review: Broods Accoustic

Last night a friend last minute asked me to see Broods with her at the Opera House in Wellington.

I hesitated at first. Last time I saw them I felt they were talented, had a lot of potential but weren’t quite hitting the right mark. But when I was informed this was an acoustic gig, I was in with a grin.

After last year’s gig I felt a little underwhelmed, I felt the synth-dominated electronica sound, while great for making your song a hit on radio, wasn’t quite translating correctly in their live performance. Georgia Nott’s incredible (and I mean incredible!) voice was lost by the over produced sound and the pair looked a little absent on stage. But all was not lost; the few acoustic versions they rolled out in the middle of their set had me speechless. I hung onto that as I reflected on their performance.

Last night took me back to that feeling. This was Georgia and Caleb Nott in their prime. Their songs come to life when stripped back and played on keyboard or guitar. Last night I could pick up the lyrics properly listening to their music, and they’re beautiful! I couldn’t tell you that this time yesterday.

All of their hit singles translated so well to this style. Every song sounded true and polished. I’m guessing the pair probably wrote them with just a guitar or keyboard before they were produced into the electro- pop sound on their two albums. Perhaps they should have been left that way? 

Highlights included a “Doobie Brothers style” take on Recovery, a soft and gentle version of Free and the beautiful ballad rendition of Never Gonna Change. The finale, Heartlines, had shivers running down my spine and tears welling in my eyes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v43KCS-FcD4

A cover of Gary Jule’s Mad World was true to the song in every way and just lovely listening, while a take on Empire of the Sun’s wacky upbeat number from 2008 We Are the People, was a creative and refreshing rendition which showed there’s more to that song than one might realise while dancing to it in a pub.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MkiF3iD-mg

This show also proved that it’s not only Georgia that has a voice, Caleb’s backing vocals were superb and his guitar playing exquisite.

They joked away through the night with a classic Kiwi sense of humour. They explained they laugh at the end of each song because they never quite know how they’re going to end it. Georgia informed us her shaker was a lemon shape – she was offered a banana but thought that might be an inappropriate thing to shake. And the gags about how depressing their songs are when played acoustically were a reoccurring theme throughout the show.

“We’re not sad people, we just sing all the sad songs to get it out of our system so then we’re happy people.” – sounds like a good life philosophy to me, especially when their sad music sounds this good.

Broods – please can you record an acoustic album? The four songs recorded in your Spotify sessions aren’t enough – I want more and I think I’m not alone there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3OLviy8f6E