2016 may have been one of the most abysmal years in recent memory, beginning with David Bowie’s passing, continuing with the rise of nationalism and fascism across the world, and ending with my sitting down with the family to watch David Attenborough’s Planet Earth on BBC1 and traumatising my kids as the cameras followed a bunch of new born iguanas being chased and eaten by hordes of ravenous snakes. I don’t think my eight year old daughter will watch another nature documentary as long as she lives, and I tried not to see the documentary as an extended metaphor about anyone born in 2016.
However, even an annus horribilis can produce musica mirabilis, if you will forgive my non-existent Latin, and so it proved in 2016.
The Every Record Tells A Story blog has been going a few years now, and previous winners of the record of the year award include:
- 2012: Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown and Treaty
- 2013: Drenge – Drenge
- 2014: St Vincent – St. Vincent
- 2015: Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think….
It’s interesting to look at what albums over the last five years have stood the test of time and still get played a lot, plus those that have gained in stature.
When I look at records of 2012, I am pleased to say Crown and Treaty remains a firm favourite. I still like all the albums of 2013 too.
In 2014 I missed Ty Segall’s Manipulator album completely – what a great album that turned out to be – and last year I placed Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at number nine, but I have played that album far more than many others I rated higher.
So what about 2016, and the run down of one of music’s least coveted prizes: The Every Record Tells A Story Album of the Year?
Well, in 2016 that title belongs to….
Radiohead albums can take me a few years to get my head around, but it took just thirty seconds of watching the Trumpton-esque video of “Burn The Witch” for “A Moon Shaped Pool” to make its mark.
Vinyl points: 5/5 – an indies-only white vinyl version and a direct-sales only version with book and analogue tape showed Radiohead have a deep and real appreciation of the willingness of vinyl addicts to part with their money for high quality and interesting stuff.
Standout track: The Numbers
2. David Bowie – Blackstar
It is worth casting our minds back to January and the day or two we had to hear this new album whilst Bowie was still alive. What a feeling of joy this album gave – Bowie hadn’t sounded as refreshed, vibrant and inventive – with his crack team of New York jazz musicians playing his songs – in decades.
Then it turned out he had been saying goodbye, we just hadn’t realised, and the whole thing was like a magic trick, a statement of life-as-art, and just the sort of thing only Bowie could do. Dammit.
Vinyl points: 5/5 – the direct sales only clear vinyl version came with lithograph prints and fetched £500-plus for the vultures who sold their copies immediately following Bowie’s passing. Even the regular vinyl has “secret” qualities – glowing blue when under a blacklight.
Standout track: Blackstar
3. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Vinyl Points: 5/5 – early copies were withdrawn for copyright reasons so the few people who grabbed one before they were removed from the market have collector’s items. For the rest of us, Rough Trade sell a gold vinyl version.
Standout track: Ballad of the Costa Concordia is 2016 Lo-fi’s “Stairway”.
4. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
Whilst Iggy was always an incredible live performer both solo and on the Stooges reunion tours, his recent studio albums dabbled with French cover versions and poetry recitals. All very nice I’m sure, but a far cry from seminal 1977 albums The Idiot and Lust For Life. Enter Josh Homme and Post Pop Depression became the third album in the Trilogy – in spirit at least.
Vinyl Points: 5/5 – aside from the regular release, a deluxe gatefold version came with a glossy photo book insert and sold out quickly. Rough Trade then followed up later in the year with a transparent yellow vinyl version.
Standout track: Paraguay
5. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Vinyl Points: 4/5 – a deluxe version consists of a gatefold cover with bound pages inside containing artwork and lyrics. The band signed copies at Rough Trade East on release.
Standout track: One Man No City
6. White Denim – Stiff
Imagine if Kings of Leon had improved. Or had merged with Amorica-era Black Crowes and then released an album. Well, if they had, it might have sounded a little like White Denim’s 2016 album, the dubiously-titled “Stiff”.
Whilst this is their seventh album, it feels like a debut, possibly because of personnel changes. What has happened is the songwriting has tightened up, there’s a Soul influence added to the Southern rock in songs like “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)” and there’s a little less noodling than on previous albums. All of which makes this White Denim’s best album to date.
Despite the truly dreadful “Smell the Glove” cover….
Vinyl Points: 4/5 – aside from the regular LP version, a limited run of 500 white vinyl copies are available.
Standout track: Had 2 Know (Personal)
7. Teenage Fanclub – Here
25 years since Bandwagonesque, the Fannies had no right to produce an album this good. Songs range from guitar-pop classics to ethereal dreamscapes – but that’s what happens when you have three great songwriters in one band.
Vinyl Points: 5/5 – pre-orders included signed clear vinyl copies.
Standout track: I Have Nothing More To Say
8. Asylums – Killer Brain Waves
Vinyl Points: 5/5 – LP only comes in a pink vinyl version and self produced stickers, singles etc are all available on the band’s own web store.
Standout track: If there’s a better song about life in Britain this year than “Joy In A Small Wage” I have yet to hear it (see video above).
9. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
Accomplished songwriting and lovely performances in a standout album.
Vinyl Points: 2/5 – comes in a standard 2xLP format.
Standout track: “Black Man In A White World” just shades the moody title track.
10. Steve Mason – Meet The Humans
Splendid and beautiful set of songs from the former Beta Band man.
Vinyl Points: 2/5 Pretty labels, but one standard black vinyl non-gatefold version only. Gets points for being a good pressing.
Standout track: Alive
- Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
- Standout track: Sea Hearts
Let me know your thoughts and do tell me what I have missed, why I have terrible taste, general abuse etc etc in the comments section below.