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.

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The Ticket Pile

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The favourite thing I have in my bedroom is a large stack of tickets that sits on my dresser and takes pride of place.

I’m such a concert nerd that I keep hold of every ticket. I love nothing more than spending a few hours looking back through the pile, listening to the music and reminiscing on the best nights of my life. No exaggeration there. The best nights of my life are all concerts, there’s no question about it. However, when I look at the pile, I have so many good memories that I could never chose one particular gig as the best. I just have to count myself lucky that I’ve had so many amazing experiences.

Although my Coldplay butterfly confetti, that fell from the ceiling during Lovers In Japan on the bands Viva La Vida tour in 2009, is looking a little worse for wear, it makes me grin with happiness as I remember the truly magical moment.

My shiny, uniquely designed collection of Big Day Out tickets takes me back to the sun-filled days packed in at Mt Smart Stadium, rushing from act to act, with barely enough time to stop for food let alone a toilet break!

My Fleetwood Mac ticket has me craving a dance in the pouring rain at the Bowl of Brooklands and desperate for November to roll around so I can see them live again.

The Bon Iver stub reinforces my desperate need for new music from what is easily one of the best live acts ever to exist.

I could go on forever.

Memorabilia is the best!

Song of the week – Only Love

Only Love – Mumford and Sons

This week I’ve been checking out Mumford and Sons new album Wilder Mind. 

I’ve always been a fan of these guys. Their folk-belters like Awake My Soul, I Will Wait and Little Lion Man are songs which will always stand out for me as some of the best banjo-strumming, foot-stomping tracks we’ve heard in recent years. But like many, I also began to struggled with the same-same sound the guys were producing in every track on their first two albums. I eagerly went to their concert in 2012 only to leave feeling a little disappointed – I was overwhelmed by how much the songs blended together as one, yet, I had hope. I could tell Marcus and his bandmates had more to them, they weren’t going to be one-trick ponies, because they had more talent than they were showcasing. Wilder Mind is the album that proves that.

The range of songs on this album is impressive, the band have worked hard to produce something new and fresh and they’ve done that. It’s a bit of an experiment record, there are a few different routes they’ve gone down. Some songs showcase qualities of Radiohead, others have a riffs you’d expect to hear on a Coldplay track. My pick of the bunch from a few quick listens, is Only Love.

The track starts slowly with the male harmonies we all know and love, the type that really make your hairs stand up. I’m immediately caught up, the lyrics are the kind that make you stop, listen and think:

“And I hunger and I thirst
For some shiver
For some whispered words
And the promise to come”

But don’t fret, Only Love isn’t a depressing ballad. It may start slowly but this song is magic in the way it reaches a point where it just erupts! There isn’t much warning for the loud, invasive and energetic invasion of electric guitars that burst out in the middle of the song. It is magic.

This is the kind of song I needed to hear from Mumford and Sons, this is the song I want to see them play in concert.

Only Love marks a new direction for this band and I think it’s a good move.

Song of the week – Wish I Was Here

Wish I Was Here – Cat Power and Coldplay

This is the slow jam I’ve been craving all year.

The powerful collaboration between the British superstars and American singer-songwriter Charlyn Marie Marshall, known as Cat Power, is a tune which goes straight to the heart.

The song is the title track off the soundtrack for Zach Braff’s latest film of the same name. When Zach Braff made Garden State we were introduced to his wonderful taste in music and this album is no different with an outstanding combination of artists.

I went a bit gooey inside when I read that Coldplay’s Chris Martin wrote the song specifically for the film, but decided the vocals needed to be from a woman, because the story is about a strong, female character becoming the matriarch of her family. Braff and Martin almost simultaneously announced that Cat Power was the woman for the job.

Boy, were they right!

Chan Marshall is a glorious addition to this song. Wish I Was Here consists of a soft, solo piano melody and not much more. That’s because with Marshall’s voice, it doesn’t need anything else. Her voice is glorious. She is commanding in a low vocal range, powerful while still singing gently and truly attention grabbing.

Chris Martin’s vocals back her up superbly. They’re very subtle, but in his true style – they shine. In the songs bridge the melody is built upon with a haunting, echoing solo from Martin and a rough guitar riff. It doesn’t build to true Coldplay levels, but in a powerful move, instead of reaching new heights, the song instead returns, much sooner than you’d expect, to the very simple piano tune and Marshall’s lone vocals. So simple, yet so effective.

And as always, how could I not mention the wondrous lyrics from Chris Martin:

“Every road that’s wrong seems like the road I’m on.

Every sign just seems unclear.

Won’t you come switch me on? I don’t know where I’ve gone.

I wish I was here.”

Simply superb, I would quite like a whole album of collaborations by this lot because I just can’t get enough of I Wish I Was Here.