Its that’s time of year again, no not when we can get Pumpkin Spiced food up and down the high-street, but that time of year when we unveil our Quarter 3 Top 15 albums of the year so far. Anyone who has ever worked in/for/or around a record label will tell you that this is usually when the heads of labels start to head toward finance, ask for spreadsheets showing P&L. On the back of this the label heads will either push a release date forward, or pull one back, because Quarter 4 is where the majority of the money comes from each year. Yes I know it sounds dappy, but it’s true.
So to commemorate and celebrate this moment of the year, everyone at GigSoup put our heads together and we hashed out our favourite albums of the year. Yes there was shouting, yes there were arguments, yes there were tears, but there was also a lot of love thrown about and in the end everyone felt better for the experience.
To read the full review click on the album title!
15. Letlive – If I’m The Devil…In ‘… If I’m The Devil’, Letlive. have captured a sound and dynamic that bands could only dream of pursuing after the kind of material they were previously creating. With the realisation that aggression, passion and fury isn’t exclusive to hardcore and fast-paced punkrock, time will only tell if Letlive. truly have the talent and ability to apply themselves even further, and not only top the world of the underground, but true superstardom as well.
14. Moose Blood – BlushFollowing on from their well received 2014 debut album ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time to Time’, returning with a successful sophomore album was never going to be easy for overnight successors Moose Blood. Although some are disappointed in the new direction Moose Blood are going, their sentiment of relatable lines, catchy choruses and energy, makes this album one of 2016’s standout releases.
13. Keaton Henson – Kindly Now‘Behaving’ projects a sound that retains Henson’s crooning, harrowing vocals and aching lyrics but experiments with intense, electronic tones and soundscapes to produce an LP of raw, emotive and vivid beauty and a previously undiscovered level of depth. It exposes an entirely unpredicted development in his sound and artistry that undeniably and exceptionally works.
12. M83 – JunkWhat do you do when your songs begin to outgrow your name? In the case of M83, you go backwards, you get retro and weird. Famed for the obvious hits, ‘Kim & Jessie’ and of course ‘Midnight City’, mastermind Anthony Gonzalez hasn’t done the expected and churned out yet more of the same, he’s gone and retreated into his LA studio and produced the closest thing to an 80’s revival since Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’.
11. KAYTRANADA – 99.9%Overall Kaytranada satisfies the fans that are used to more of his atmospheric instrumentals. This album combines this with more vocally driven songs to take his style to more of a pop context. Although it is risky to combine modern popartists on this album, some of the features make for an interesting and satisfying listening experience and provide a new step forward for Kaytranada. ‘99.9%’ makes for any electronicmusic and hip-hop fans who are looking to experience an immersive multi-genre listen.
10. Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than YouUnlike most punk bands, Doe often write songs in triple-time rather than the more standard four beats-per-bar, showing an indebtedness to Weezer (think ‘My Name is Jonas’). Strikingly, in the final third of ‘Turn Around’ the music makes a subtle transition from a stable 3/4 to a lurching 6/8 thanks to a slight shift in JakePopyura’s drum beat, wrongfooting the listener and forcing them to put in the same effort to the listening process as the band clearly did when writing the song. Don’t get the wrong idea, this isn’t some math-rock band shoving their obnoxiously irregular time signatures in your face. ‘Some Things…’ is full of the kind of punk bangers you can thrash about your bedroom to, the band simply ask that you think before you thrash.
9. Death Grips – Bottomless PitIt would have been nearly impossible for Death Grips to maintain the levels of hype that have surrounded them while continuing to produce albums that were as strange and confused as those released post-2012. ‘Bottomless Pit’ is a return to earlier form, and fully justifies why they’re considered to one of the most essential bands of the decade.
8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton TreeDespite being yet again focussed on the piano ballad ‘Skeleton Tree’ appears to have been given a very light ‘Kid A’ treatment, perhaps even with slight influence of Trent Reznor. Of course this is not wholly unfamiliar territory for Nick Cave and his ever faithful Bad Seeds as we have heard a similar techno whir on 2008’s ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!’ and a little with side project Grinderman. It does however feel a nice touch here, pulling the whole thing out of the more aimless area of self pity and into sombre reflection and fittingly masterful work of art, most notably on tracks ‘Anthrocene’ and ‘Magneto’. Of course we already know this album and even the film were intended and incepted before the tragic and saddening occurrence of last year, perhaps its coincidence but for whatever reason it fits together so very well.
7. Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat ChaosLet Them Eat Chaos’ is a profound and cohesive sophomore effort from the poet. The record rewards, if not necessitates, multiple listens in order to fully comprehend and appreciate Tempest’s visionary illustrations of a dire modern world. Kate and her new record are politically charged, socially conscious, and self-aware. There’s a sense of urgency. Kate wants to pry open our hearts to let the within love flow freely, to bring out our humanist side and do away with distraction. If the nightly news is any indication, then by God, we need it now more than ever, and Kate is doing her part with expert skill.
6.Solange – A Seat At The TableASATT is a hugely important record in the continuing dialogue on the experience of black people in our modern time. Musically, it is a lesson on how to slay, using intimate, achingly poetic groove laden candlelight funk. But thematically, ASATT is a celebration of black culture and a comforting embrace to those frustrated by the outside perception, appropriation and misunderstanding of blackness and black history. ASATT is a maternal, comforting whisper that says “Of course you’re angry, and of course you’re sad. A lot of people are going to perpetuate this grief in you. But you are allowed to love yourself and you are allowed to love your people.” Do yourself a favour. If you want to know more about the black experience, or you want your own experiences validated, then go home and listen to this album, immediately.
5. Black Peaks – Statues‘Statues’ has been a real accomplishment for Black Peaks. Not very often does a debut album portray such promise, and with such strength – it’s truly intriguing to see where their song writing will lead them next. With the right amount of live shows to satisfy the hunger for more, there is definitely no reason to deny that this is only the beginning of big things for the Brighton band.
4. Frank Ocean – BlondeIt’s tempting to write about albums as being about one thing – not just because that would be easier, but because it would be more comforting, given how much humans love categorising. Ocean’s bisexuality will be a focal point of reviews; the artist openly embraces his ‘two versions’ in the album’s packaging, using both masculine and feminine versions of the word, while many of the songs reference his sexuality in subtle ways. But this isn’t just an album about sexuality. It’s not even just an album about Frank Ocean. It’s a deeply personal breakup album. It’s a mastery of mixing and production. It’s an album about moving on. It’s an album about looking back. It’s the type of rare record that will mean a multitude of things to different people. The only thing certain is that ‘Blonde’ is something special.
3. Modern Baseball – Holy GhostDespite Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewalds attacking different themes in each side of the record, it somehow comes together as a whole and becomes a musical biography for the band since the release of ‘You’re Gonna Miss It All’. Each personal touch on this record dispels the theory that something must be generic to be relatable and will, without a doubt, grow Modern Baseball’s already substantial following.
2. David Bowie – BlackstarThis uncomfortable future of immortality is a reality for Bowie. The artist will live on long after the man has died. One gets the impression, that whilst Bowie has control over his own myth, he is grabbing hold of his story and steering it exactly how he wants. The overall effect of ‘Blackstar’ is thoroughly hazy and hypnotic. It is an opulent, deep and strange album. Bowieseems to be moving agitatedly forward. Always looking ahead: the point in which he has made his greatest music.
1.Danny Brown – Atrocity ExhibitionOn previous efforts ‘XXX’ and ‘Old’, Brown demonstrated his considerable talents; with ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ he has created an album of weird, twisted hip hop to match his idiosyncratic style. By steering away from many of the conventions of contemporary rap and hip hop, Brown hasn’t just made one of the best albums of the year, but one of the most exhilaratingly original hip hop albums in recent memory.
As usual there are honourable mentions. This first is MXLX Documents Shredded // Communications Ceased. MXLX has shed his electronic wonderings and gone full metal on this exquisite nine tracker. If you like screamed vocals, layers upon layers of noise and, well, metal this is for you, and luckily us!
The second is Applewood Road. This statement might sound weird as first, but stay with me as I think I make my point. Applewood Road’s self-titled debut album is possibly the most lo-fi/punk/DIY album of the year to date. “But how can a three-part harmony country album be punk GigSoup?” I can hear you ask. The answer is that everything was recorded live, and there were no overdubs used on this album, meaning that it sounds like they are performing in your living room every time you hear the album.