Almanac Music: Best Albums and EPs of 2016
My favorite music from 2016.
Top 10 Albums of 2016:
Catherine Traicos- Brave The Good Dark
Recorded at Point Lonsdale on Victoria’s Bellerine Peninsula, this is the most stripped back of the blues/alt-country singer-songwriter’s six albums to date. The songs are simple but powerful and often moving. Mostly featuring just her amazing voice and exquisite guitar plucking, these are slow burn songs that when they have you hooked will stay with you in a big way. Traicos’ voice has never sounded sweeter than in “Forget Me” and “Just Like Honey”, lead single “Stolen Wings” builds steadily and beautifully, “St Catherine’s Day” will hook you immediately, while “Valentine’s Day” features heavier riffs and heartfelt lyrics with a poignant ending. First class album (and artist) that deserves wider recognition.
Melody Pool- Deep Dark Savage Heart
Melody Pool announced herself in 2013 with her wonderful debut album “The Hurting Scene”, and followed it up this year with this even more amazing, albeit darker, record. Dealing with her battle with depression , Melody lays it all out for the listener. Just as ‘Xavier’ and ‘Henry’ copped it on the first album in songs named after them, ‘Richard’ is a standout track on this LP. “Love, She Loves Me” was an interesting choice as the first single given the f-bomb use throughout, apparently Melody insisted it be the lead single, but what an amazing song showcasing her wonderful vocals. The darkness starts to recede with the uplifting “Better Days” closing the album. There will be many more better days for this rising star.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- Nonagon Infinity
This is a hard driven, fast paced, catchy garage rock album that grabs you by the throat immediately and doesn’t let up over nine short, sharp, energetic songs. Each song rolls seamlessly into the next in a continual loop, making a whole album listen a must. It’s hard to single out songs from this, it’s a joyous, fun ride from opening track “Robot Stop” to album closer “Road Train”. And then back again.
Paul Dempsey- Strange Loop
Lyrically as strong as in all his previous incarnations, they’re are plenty of hooks throughout to make this more instantly accessible than your average Something For Kate album. Words that make you think accompanied by fantastic guitar pop. By far the best of his two solo albums.
David Bowie- Blackstar
I’d always been a casual Bowie fan, loving his big hits but not delving too much further into his catalogue. That was until I read Jeff Dowsing’s excellent piece on this site that showcased some of Bowie’s lesser known work. Which led me to this album. Released just before his death shocked the world, this is a wonderfully moving, ethereal record from a man who knew his time had come. The closing track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” is a superb finish to the record, and his life. There’s only 7 songs on this album, yet it’s just as worthwhile a contribution as anything in his back catalogue. RIP Bowie.
Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel- Southern Light
Another wonderful voice in the Australian alt-country/roots scene is Sal Kimber, and ‘Southern Light’, her 3rd album, certainly delivers. More mainstream than her previous work, this record is an easy, accessible, enjoyable listen. Opening track “Stumble In the Dark” is one of the smoothest, instantly captivating songs you will hear.
Peter Garrett- A Version Of Now
“Yes I’m back” asserts Peter Garrett in “Tall Trees”. Shit yeah, he’s back alright. A stint in parliament hasn’t dulled Garrett’s voice or lyrics. The voice is the same but it’s very much a P.Garrett solo album as opposed to an Oils effort. Complete with his daughters on backing vocals. “I’d Do It Again” references his time in Canberra. “Kangaroo Tail” and “Great White Shark” seriously rock. Bring on the Oils in 2017.
The Living End- Shift
My favourite rock album of 2016. While we had to wait 5 years for “Shift”, the end result is as good and as complete an album as TLE have in their catalogue. From the anthemic “Keep On Running”, the catchy hard rock of “Monkey”, the punchy album opener “One Step” to the more reflective “With Enemies Like That” and “Coma” , this album is full of great songs. Has there been a better, more consistent Australian three piece than TLE?
Liz Stringer- All The Bridges
Recorded in the US, this is Stringer at her rockiest. Smoky vocals and biting lyrics throughout, the standout track being “Protecting Myself”, sounding like a modern day Chrissie Amphlett song. The heavier sound definitely suits.
JP Klipspringer- Brutal Politic
Released in late November, this is the debut album from Melbourne’s Jack Poulson, aka JP Klipspringer. Brutal Politic is full of lush guitar pop/rock with a distinct, smooth Australian sound, exemplified best by the superb “Watch The River”. “So Polite”, “The Beast”, “I Blame Carl Weathers” and opening track “Words For Me” are particularly strong songs that deserve wider recognition. Just like the final track on his 2015 EP “Din Deafening” had a footy theme, (“Daicos, Millane and the Quarter Time Crisis” – has any song ever had a better title?!), Klipspringer finishes this album with “Back Pocket’s Lament”, an ode to his football career not reaching the heights he’d hoped. But instead of being a back pocket with dodgy knees, Brutal Politic is Alan Didak on a forward flank circa 2010. The album to listen to in the Summer of 2016/17 on a hot night out on the deck with your favourite Prickly Moses beer.
Top 6 EP’s of 2016
Gena Rose Bruce- Mad Love
While this was released in 2015, I first heard Mad Love in 2016 while she was touring it extensively, hence the inclusion here. Four songs with wonderful guitar and a powerful voice than easily hits high notes, best showcased on the title track, as well as opening track “Good Thing”.
Alex Lahey- B-Grade University
What an accomplished debut EP from Alex Lahey. Five rockin’ tracks, with “Let’s Go Out” and “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me” fun highlights. Speaking of fun, check out those two songs as well as “Ivy League” on YouTube, three video clips full of very funny moments.
Ella Hooper- New Magic
The follow up to the relationship sadness in her 2015 EP “Venom”, New Magic is Hooper on the way back up. Upbeat and perfectly showcasing her wonderful voice and smart lyrics. “Monkey Mind” is a classic, a way better pop song than most that populate commercial radio airwaves. We need more Ella Hooper recordings, given her output the past few years, her peak is coming.
Mia Wray- Send Me Your Love
Wray’s second EP further showcases her silky voice and mature songs. Like others on these lists, there’s a relaxed Australian vibe to these tunes. “Start Again” and the title track are standouts on this five song EP. And while you are on YouTube checking out Alex Lahey, have a look a Mia’s extensive list of covers on there, all extremely well done. M.Wray and an acoustic guitar do a far, far better version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” than B. Spears ever did.
A smooth, chilled out 4 track EP by this very young five piece band hailing from the Macedon Ranges. An extremely tight band aided by the amazing, strong vocals of singer Kaitlyn Secker. Do yourself a favour and buy this on Bandcamp, it’s only $4 (you can pay more if you choose…).
Tash Sultana- Notion
An awesome debut from Melbourne’s Tash Sultana, who plays every instrument on the EP. The style of songs vary, the voice is always amazing. The song “Jungle” has a fabulous guitar loop and beat box lyrics which has helped make it (and her) a YouTube sensation and sparked sell out shows across Australia, Europe and the US. Another superb young talent.