Following on from Part I, which can be read here, here is the second installment of my favourite releases from this year; still in alphabetical order, and still full of awesome, wonderfully diverse music. The top five will follow soon, along with a few other reflections on the past year. But in the meantime, enjoy!
And so here we are, fast approaching the end of 2016, and what a year it has been. Leaving aside all that has happened in the world at large, there have been plenty of worthwhile releases in the world of underground music (and even some decent mainstream ones, too). Over these posts, I’ll be picking out some of my favourites – albums, EPs, and demos that kept me coming back for more, and which have shaped my impression of 2016 in a musical sense. The first few posts will go through records in alphabetical order; it’s only once we reach the end that I’ll assign a ‘top 5’, and also give a brief overview of some releases that didn’t quite make the cut, and even a handful of mainstream highlights. Just because you can buy something in a HMV, it doesn’t always mean it’s shit.
The usual disclaimer applies – these are my favourites, which means they are not necessarily the best records of the year. There’s far more released than I can keep track of, and to hold even 25 records up and say “these are the best” feels dishonest. And, as you might expect, there is some cross-over with my summer ‘best of 2016 so far‘ list. But, whatever. Enough of this. On to the first part of the list.
Label: Cloister Recordings
Although they have a strong record for this kind of thing, it’s not absurd to suggest that Angels may be the saddest, most downbeat recording either Matt Finney or Maurice De Jong have put their names to. The duo, operating under the It Only Gets Worse moniker, have several records of bleak, depressing, yet beautiful music in their discography, but Angels is perhaps the most affecting of them all. There’s no denying the gorgeous nature of the soundscapes Maurice conjures, but when wedded to Matt’s spoken word sections, it all takes on a much darker tone, dealing with themes of loss, love, and treason.
There’s a lot of music out there; too much to adequately cover, and it’s easy for worthwhile records to get lost in the sea of noise that exists on the internet. That’s why I’ve decided to present a list of some of my favourite records of 2016 so far. As with all my lists, they may not necessarily be the ‘best’, but they’re my favourites, and that’s close enough. There might be the odd one that got released at the very end of 2015, but whatever. It’s the thought that counts.
Label: Reflections Records
Well, if this isn’t the most unexpected records of the year, then I don’t know what is. To say that Zeal And Ardor don’t respect convention or genre boundaries is an understatement of biblical proportions. There’s so much going on during the twenty four minutes of Devil Is Fine that should not work, or even be considered, but impossibly, it does work, and results in a total mindfuck of a record. Black metal, old slave spirituals, electronica/IDM, and even modern Middle Eastern-style music are all dominant at different points during the album. Yet throughout, it defies all expectations to not only be a record that works, but one of the more addictive albums released in the year thus far.