I’ll just leave this here:
Allright, here’s my final missive:
kuromoji – soba
This album by Kyoto native kuromoji (クロモジ) is a great example of the kind of music that the Japanese underground spews out at a fairly regular rate. Innovative, ambient, difficult-to-pin-down music that seems to wash over you and make everything seem allright.
Nots – Cosmetic
I fell in love with Nots just from the description alone (all-girl band make garagey racket with added synth) and wasn’t disappointed when I finally heard the music. I missed their (excellent) debut last year and had some catching up to do. I’m not sure if this second album has quite as much fizz as the debut, but it’s still packed full of excellently fuzzed-up noisy rock tunes.
PJ Havey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
I kind of forgot about this record for a while, but when I came back to it I found it pretty amazing. I like the idea of approaching the making of an album like writing a book. The fact that PJ Harvey researched, travelled and documented in order to write these songs give them a journalistic authority that a lot of ‘serious’ songwriters think they can get away with not bothering to do. And it’s always great to hear Peej wailing on the sax!
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Skepta’s 10-year overnight success was one of the truly heartwarming stories of the year. After spending years churning out ineffectual Grime-by-numbers at the behest of the record company in a bid to be famous, he dumped the record company, disrobed himself of the old identity (“I used to wear Gucci, put it all in the bin ‘cos that’s not me”) and released “Konnichiwa” himself. A fully-deserved Mercury Prize win and one of my most listened to albums this year. As I said back in June, all killer, no filler and a great British success story.
Savages – Adore Life
Savages electrifying debut was my Album of the Year two years ago, so I was super-excited for this new one and it more than lived up to my expectations. It’s a much more ‘mature’ record than the first and shows a big leap forward in their songwriting and musicianship, with the aggression and don’t-let-the-bastards-grind-you-downness channelled into powerful odes to love and life. It’s great to finally get a proper grown-up rock record that isn’t by a bunch of beardy white men.
That’s it for my 2016 list then, I listened to and loved a ton of other stuff too but I’ve already taken up way too much ‘Spill space. If I was forced to pick a Top 3 I’d probably go for Savages, Bowie and Foodman, but as I said there was a whole load of stuff to get excited about this year and I’ll try to get round to doing a Best of the Rest podcast sometime in the new year too.
Merry Christmas one and all!
Drose – Boy Man Machine
This is something of an anomaly for Orange Milk records (my Label of the Year), but is one of my favourites from them. There are no warped electronic beats, no future r’n’b, no indescribable juke/footwork (See Foodman in the next entry), just a dark, droney metal that to my ears sounds not unlike Nirvana in their more metallic moments, but that may be just me!
食品まつりAKA Foodman – EZ Minzoku
This record sums up a lot about the music I loved in 2016. First of all it came out on Orange Milk, and from (label founder) Keith Rankin’s incredible artwork on the cover to the uncategorisable, and at times inexplicable, music contained within the grooves, this is an album that looks to the future without giving a flying fuck about the past (or the present and future for that matter!) that it brazenly samples from. Call it juke, call it footwork, call it electronica, call it that’s-not-bloody-music-it’s-a-load-of-old-rubbish-my-4-year-old-could-make-on-his-speak-and-spell, call it modern dance music – whatever. I call it 2016!
Good Willsmith – Things Our Bodies Used to Have
For some reason I found myself coming across this name again and again on podcasts and blogs, so I checked it out and liked what I heard. Not quite sure how to describe it….ambient electronica with a twist? That’ll do.
Ital Tek – Hollowed
I think I first ‘Spilled Ital Tek nearly 5 years ago when they were dubstep upstarts with a penchant for deep deep bass. The 2016 version of Ital Tek are a much more restrained and minimal proposition with sparse electronica set against that ever-present bass backdrop. This is one of the records I took into my office this year to provide the BGM to pretending to be busy!
Kano – Made in the Manor
This didn’t get quite as much attention as Skepta’s Grime masterpiece, but for me it is every bit as good and deserves just as much recognition. It’s got new bangers (erm…”New Banger”), knowing nostalgia fests (“T-shirt Weather in the Manor” – think an updated and very English version of The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime”!) and chart-friendly pop gems (“This is England”). I love the unapologetic Englishness that runs through this whole album (“Mr Whippy 99, I’ve got just as many problems, but a flake ain’t one”!), although it does make me feel kind of homesick at times. In short: This is England 2016.
I know there’ll be a deluge of music on here over the next week, so I thought I’d better get started!
It goes without saying that 2016 has been a bastard of a year politically and this seems to have been reflected back in the music world. David Bowie’s shockingly perfect exit from this mortal coil knocked me for six in January and just when I thought I had got my head around the clusterfuck that was 2016, I watched in real time on my Facebook feed as more than 30 young people from the tight-knit, diverse, open-hearted, inclusive and passionate experimental dance underground (headed by my beloved Not Not Fun offshoot 100% Silk records) lost their lives in a warehouse party fire in California (R.I.P. Cherushii). Against this backdrop, I found myself kind of scrambling about listening to records here and there and grabbing scraps of sound, but never really latching onto anything like I normally do. With this mind, I thought it would be unfair to have the usual ranking and countdown as nothing stands above the others enough to justify a ‘winner’, so I thought I’d just throw out a long list in alphabetical order of albums that I have enjoyed this year. I’ll break it up into a few parts to make it more palatable though. OK, here we go….
２８１４ – Rain Temple
2015’s amazing 新しい日の誕生 was number 6 on my list last year and would probably have been even higher if I’d spent as much time with it then as I have now (finally tracked down the double vinyl). “Rain Temple” switches the rain-soaked Tokyo backstreets of 新しい日の誕生 for something more pastoral, but no less thrilling and inventive.
Here’s the closing track:
Aluk Todolo – Voix
I don’t know anything about this except that it is French (I think!), dark as fuck, droney, black metalley, noisy and experimental in all the best ways.
Blown Out – New Cruiser
More proof, if needed, that Riot Season continues to be the UK’s finest independent label. “New Cruiser” is a big fuck off psychedelic space jam just like they always claimed to make ’em, but never actually did. Big, big-nod inducing swirling riffage to take you far out of your headphones/desk/small town/parochial country/fucked-up world…
Here’s the first half:
Carla Del Forno – You Know What It’s Like
I was hesitant about this at first as it looked like it was going to be a Julia Holter knock-off. But I loved that Julia Holter record last year and I think this is even better. Great songwriting lashed to a dubbed-out, inventive electronic soundscape that manages to be subtle and memorable at the same time and has hints of Peaking Lights about it.
David Bowie – Blackstar
Ah…what’s to say? As I said above, his death affected me more than any rock star death since Kurt Cobain. Over the last few years Bowie had quietly become one of my all-time favourite artists and on the day he died I was right in the middle of one of my Bowie binges. I had Bowie records on both house turntables, a book about Bowie open on my bedside table and this album (bought the Saturday before he died) strewn across the coffee table in the telly room with the lyrics sheet out. And what an album it is. From the prescient lyrics to the innovative jazz, the skipping drum and bass to the woohs of enjoyment you can so clearly hear of someone who knows they are making their last record and it’s a fucking belter. RIP David.
I’m a sucker for a new sub genre, the more unpronounceable the better, so was thrilled to come across something called Gqom this week – apparently it represents “da sound u get wen u drop a rock on tiles”.
At first I was surprised that something that seems so Western and cutting edge like bass music/dupstep/electronica could find a voice in the poor South African townships of Durban, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that a music that started out being made on Playstations by 15-year old black kids in deprived London tower blocks should resonate with 15-year old South African black kids in deprived Durban townships, especially when held against the college kid centred fratboyisms that twisted the urban grime of bass music into safe and inoffensive stadium-glo-stick-waving US EDM.
OK, enough rambling, here’s the lead track on a compilation album documenting the scene. The African musical influences are more than apparent and it stretches the genre in any number of new directions.
Listen to (and then buy!) the whole thing here and read all about the album and the scene.
Just a quick podcast to test out my first try at using Audacity. As you can hear, I think I still need a bit more practice! I couldn’t work out how to make the vocal tracks the same volume as the music ones at first. I sorted it out for the first part of Part 2, but the volume is a bit up and down in Part 1 and most of Part 2 – sorry about that! It was also a total pain the arse to get it all into MP3 format too…hmmm…..will have to keep tinkering!
In the meantime, the music here is a mix of underground and overground (mostly under) and is quite a good reflection of some of the less obvious stuff that I’ve been listening to over the last year, although it turned out a bit noisier than I thought it would.
(Edit: To get around the WP upgrade problem, I thought I’d try uploading to Soundcloud – hope it works!)