Gonna put this as the picture to start things with, cause well, it seem appropriate:
2016 has proven to be one of the most intense, amazing years for music in quite a while, and there’s already been a tonne of amazing albums. I have had a long thought about what albums have really impressed and chosen what I believe are the top 10 of 2016 as of the end of June. Without further adieu, here’s my list (of course, subject to change by December):
10. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
Ok, this one is likely the least surprising of the list- the one that’s likely to show up on every end of the year list imaginable. But it’s not like it isn’t for a just cause- Radiohead have reached a level where they can do something so meticulously and perfect that it comes as second nature. A Moon Shaped Pool is no exception- and likely is the most compelling and focused listen to come from the group since their peak days of Kid A and Amnesiac. The album is almost painstakingly slow and the attention to detail here is just inspired. Another huge release in the groups outstanding catalog, and one that will certainly stand the test of time.
9. Soutaiseiriron- Tensei Jingle
Tensei Jingle has proven to be one of the most interesting releases of the year so far, with its focused, chilled out approach and delicate, but delicious production values. No song feels out of place or unnecessary, the pop tunes here all prove to be deeper and more intense on repeat listens. Neat hooks, nice atmosphere and fantastic album structure all lead to one fantastic and worthwhile payoff. Can’t wait to see lives for this one.
8. Hanae- Show Girl
Hanae‘s SHOW GIRL has proven it’s spot in this year’s top releases so far. It’s instantly fun, satisfying and even a little insane. It also has a surprisingly long shelf life for the style of music it is. I think that may come from it’s sense of a deeper, underlying sadness to it all. Whether or not this was Hanae‘s intentions- it’s hard not to start noticing this on repeated listens- the SHOW GIRL ever in the spotlight but the real girl always there underneath it all. It’s a fascinating listen and Hanae‘s most developed and deep record yet.
7. never young beach- Fam Fam
never young beach‘s sophomore album has really turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and addictive releases in Japanese pop this year. The surf rock inspired group bring together a fantastic set of songs that is instantly appreciable, yet a cut above the rest both in the talent and longevity departments. While it may not reach the heights of their first main release, it’s still one of the best pick up and play album’s you’re gonna come across. Sweet, nostalgic and tight, this is one that you definitely won’t want to miss.
6. PJ Harvey- The Hope Demolition Six Project
The Hope Demolition Six Project is arguably one of the more dividing releases that PJ Harvey has brought forth in recent years- but it’s also one of the most compelling. Sure the lyrics here may not always hit their mark- but the instrumental sections (and the part that I focus on the most anyway) is absolutely outstanding. To me, it plays more like one of the often looked over PJ Harvey/John Parish collabs than a solo album- and that is kinda exciting because on those collabs, PJ really took her experimental side to the front. This album is the same. It’s a bit more pop grounded than Dance Hall at Louse Point, but that hard edge is there, and there are plenty of moments where she takes the songs in directions unexpected. It got my heart beating and ultimately- it’s great to hear PJ pick up a guitar again after what seems like almost decade.
5. David Bowie- Black Star
I was one of those that heard Black Star before Bowie‘s death and at the time I was absolutely blown away by the leap in quality since his previous effort. Here was a fantastic, art pop record that really demanded your attention. It was creepy and mysterious- which of course all now makes sense given it was his goodbye record. It may be a little harder to listen to now due to the emotions attached- but every-time I do have time to sit down and listen- I goddamn listen. While it’s one of the lesser spun records on this list- it would be sinful not to mention it, because, yes, despite everything surrounding it- it’s a damn good album in it’s own right.
4. Bokutachi no iru Tokoro- Gomi
I’ve ranted and raved about this album, and it’s still absolutely breathtaking. It’s still probably the best pure dirty rock album I’ve come across this year so far- and it’s still home to some of the most outright catchy tunes you’re gonna find anywhere. Production is outstanding, it’s addictive as hell. Bokutachi play with a fire so intense it’s hard not to get caught up in it. I cannot stress the worth of this album enough- it’s nice to feel EXCITED when listening to a rock album such as this. Every element here is on point, the band are tight but natural, the vocals are amazing and warm. You should have this already.
3. ZOMBIE CHANG- ZOMBIE CHANGE
I feel pretty happy that I have supported ZOMBIE-CHANG since the start. Yes, she had her bumps and her doubters at the start, but she has really taken a miraculous turn around and through her change into this tripped out, 80s/90s inspired electronic sound she has worked absolute wonders for herself. ZOMBIE CHANGE is a great title for such a work- and indeed, this bears no resemblance to her debut. It’s cool as ice, her vocals drone through wonderful soundscapes and she always comes off as genuinely invested. You really come off with the feeling that she just loves making music- and it really shows here. It’s infectious, addictive and it will no doubt inspire repeated re-visitation for anyone that comes under it’s charms. Good stuff.
2. Mitski- Puberty 2
The newest entry to the list- Mitski‘s Puberty 2 barrages it’s way through the list that was pretty much set for me. A wonderful surprise- and an emotional one. Mitski‘s songwriting is absolutely top tier- and I imagine this album, like all the best, will affect many people in many different ways. Her lyrics are absolutely potent- it’s hard not to be reminded of the first time I heard (early) Liz Phair or a less cryptic Tori Amos. A lot of the songs here really bring up memories, both happy and sad, and it’s easy to feel the pain she puts forward with every song. Guitar work is never forced and has some real momentum. It’s a great, great listen and it seems like a lot of people are taking to it already- both from critics and listeners alike. It’s the only album on this list that I think may eventually top my number one. Which of course is:
1. Seiko Oomori – TOKYO BLACK HOLE
Well, were you surprised? Seiko Oomori’s second AVEX album is still proving to be the longest lasting and most rewarding album this year so far. Constantly in the mix, still hasn’t left the playlist, it’s always a joy to listen to and shows no signs of getting stale or slowing down. It indeed, could possibly turn out to be her best work yet when all is considered. Seiko’s genius does not solely lie in her ability to genre hop at random- it lies in the ability to make it sound like she is truly the real deal with whatever genre she touches. A true midas touch case.
So there we have it. My top 10 of 2016 at the mid year point. If the second half of 2016 is as strong as the start, it’s going to be one hell of a competition by the end of the year. Can’t wait to see what’s coming next!