As the year draws nearer to a close, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's happy to say goodbye to the shitstorm that was 2016. Both personally and on a global scale, 2016 brought about some dark times and to tell you the truth, I don't think things were any better musically either. I began my yearly Top 10 Albums just last year as I was really excited by the music of 2015, but this year, I found it a little harder to compile my favourites as I was mostly let down by my most highly anticipated albums; the new releases from Radiohead, Glass Animals, M83, Jagwar Ma and Banks just didn't deliver like I'd hoped. In the spirit of keeping positive, however, there were definitely still some musical highlights from 2016 and it was putting this post together that in fact, actually made me appreciate this year's album releases even more so. There's a reoccurring theme in this year's top ten albums; it's entirely comprised of '80s-inspired synth and dream pop music, but what can I say, that's the best kind of music. With my beauty favourites of the year to follow suit soon, here's the best music that 2016 had to offer.
10. Tycho - Epoch
I'm not going to lie, I was quite disappointed when I first listened to Epoch, but upon giving it a chance with a couple more listens, Tycho's third full-length album grew on me, so much so, it sneakily made its way into my top 10. Epoch just doesn't have those same hazy, dreamy vibes found in in his previous two albums, Dive and Awake; it veers more on the indie rock side at times (Slack reminds me a lot of Tame Impala) and though I do enjoy the genre, it's the downtempo and ambient sounds that made me fall in love with Tycho all those years ago. Nevertheless, it's still a solid effort comprised of easy going tunes that are perfect for chilling out to.
9. Memoryhouse - Soft Hate
I'd seen the name Memoryhouse floating around on my favourite music blogs for quite some time and I finally decided to give them a listen at the end of last year. I was immediately impressed when I first heard Dream Shake, the lead single off what was then their upcoming LP, Soft Hate, and upon listening to the rest of the sophomore album when it was released earlier in the year, I really fell in love with the Canadian dream pop duo. To me, Denise Nouvion's vocals are very similar to that of Zooey Deschanel's and while their previous album, The Slideshow Effect, was a little more chilled out (it's been compared to Beach House, who are one of my favourite bands), I much prefer the upbeat, new wave sounds of Soft Hate. It's also got some shoegaze elements to it too, which I just love as it's another one of my favourite music genres.
8. Nite Jewel - Liquid Cool
There's something a little moodier and more eerie in Nite Jewel's third album, Liquid Cool. The poppy, more upbeat style of the second album, One Second of Love, can be attributed to the unfair demands of her record label, who wanted to take her music in a different direction, but in this release, Nite Jewel, alias of Ramona Gonzalez, really stands her ground and I'm a much bigger fan of this record. Delivering us the goods with those '80s-style shimmering synths that I just adore, I wasn't expecting to love Liquid Cool as much as I do, but as it's ethereal and a little bit ghostly in sound, those hypnotic vibes make it something so delicious and a little bit different to the usual synthpop music I gravitate towards.
7. Postiljonen - Reverie
Similarly with Epoch by Tycho, I wasn't really feeling Reverie upon my initial listen of the album, but this one eventually grew on me too. I think because I consume so much music, an album has to immediately grab my attention for it to be good, but I've now realised that not all good music works that way. I also consider their debut album, Skyer, to be one of my all-time favourites, so I naturally went in with such high expectations for Reverie, which sadly, weren't quite lived up to. The sophomore album lacks the intensity and grandeur of their stellar first release, but Postiljonen still return in Reverie with those ethereal, atmospheric vibes and cheesy '80s saxophone sounds (I bloody love me some sax!) that made me fall in love with Swedish trio to begin with. The combination of chilled out tunes with upbeat, dancey numbers means I get the best of both worlds in this record too.
6. Wild Nothing - Life of Pause
I got into Wild Nothing a few years ago when my sister recommended them to me and she was absolutely spot on when she said she thought I'd like their music. What started off as a one-man "bedroom" project by Jack Tatum (the first record, 2010's Gemini, was recorded in his dorm room), Wild Nothing is now a full-blown band with studio records behind their name, and although Life of Pause doesn't quite do it for me the way the debut and sophomore release, Nocturne did, the third record is still nevertheless full of those catchy dream pop sounds that I just adore. With Wild Nothing's lush, synthy soundscapes, the album draws heavily on '80s new wave (think The Cure and Cocteau Twins), yet Life of Pause is still something a little bit different to me.
5. Shura - Nothing's Real
It's only been a couple of weeks since I first discovered Shura, yet she's already made it to my top ten and become one of my favourite artists of the year. I was browsing around Topshop when What's It Gonna Be? came on and I immediately had to whip out my phone for Shazam and find out what incredible song was playing. It's now my new summer jam for 2016; it's catchy dance pop at its best and just completely lifts my spirits. My love for '80s-inspired synthpop is well documented throughout my blog and Shura's debut album, Nothing's Real, fits the bill perfectly. The whole record feels like a throwback to old school Madonna ('80s Madonna is the best Madonna) with those fun, upbeat and highly infectious beats, though even the slower, more chilled out songs like Kidz 'N' Stuff and 2Shy are still absolute bangers.
4. Still Corners - Dead Blue
Still Corners have been around for a few years now, though I only discovered them this year through one of my favourite music blogs, Gorilla vs. Bear. While their past albums, 2011's Creatures of an Hour and 2013's Strange Pleasures, were more on the upbeat side, the London-based synthpop duo take on a darker, more ominous approach in their third record, Dead Blue. I'm usually disappointed when my favourite bands and artists develop a new sound, but I have to say, the dark wave genre really fits Still Corners and I've really been digging these haunting and mysterious '80s-like tunes. Said to be inspired by sci-fi soundtracks, I get some Stranger Things vibes from Dead Blue (particularly in the track, Lost Boys, which could also be inspired by the '80s film of the same name) and I think this is Still Corners' best work yet.
3. Chairlift - Moth
Chairlift's previous release, 2012's Something, is one of my favourite albums of all time, so I was pretty excited when the news of a new record being released this year broke. Like Something, Moth is sugary sweet synthpop and although it slightly misses the mark and doesn't quite live up to their last record for me, it's still nevertheless a really solid effort that I think shows off Caroline Polachek's vocal range so much more (she's trained in opera) and really encompasses her true talent as a singer. Moth is fun, poppy and playful, and if this album doesn't make you want to get up and dance, I don't know what will! It's also sadly Chairlift's last as just a few days ago, the two members, Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly announced their split to focus on their separate careers. Check out Caroline's Polachek's The Top Shelf on Into the Gloss too. It doesn't get any better than music and makeup.
2. DIIV - Is the Is Are
When I think of DIIV (pronounced dive), I'm instantly taken back to last summer when I saw them live twice in February, both at their St. Jerome's Laneway Festival set and sideshow. There's something so fun and carefree about their music, which makes me nostalgic for the sun and although I've loved listening to Is the Is Are all-year round, Under the Sun and Dopamine are the best summer jams to turn up during this time of year. The long-awaited follow up to their debut album, Oshin, it felt like Is the Is Are would never make it out into the world, but it was absolutely worth the wait when it was finally released. With those hazy, grungy lo-fi hooks, there's something so '90s-sounding about DIIV and the sophomore album does deal with the pretty dark subject matter of drug addiction, which is speculated to be the reason why the band sadly had to cancel their European tour earlier in the year. Naturally, the album gets pretty moody at times, but I love the range of emotions Is the Is Are evokes.
1. Yumi Zouma - Yoncalla
I discovered Yumi Zouma back in 2014 (again, through Gorilla vs. Bear) when I decided to give them a listen simply because I liked the album art to their first EP. I don't really know what I was expecting, but needless to say, I fell absolutely in love and I now call them one of my favourite bands of all time. The Kiwi quartet released a second EP last year (both of which I've had on constant repeat) and came back just as strong this year with their debut full-length, Yoncalla. Christie Simpson's soft, feminine vocals complement those atmospheric chilled out vibes and dreamy synthpop tunes so beautifully; the whole album making the perfect accompaniment to any lazy Sunday afternoon. Dream pop never sounded better.
Non-LP releases I enjoyed from 2016
1. Cut Copy - January Tape 2. Lastlings - Unreality EP 3. Kllo - Well Worn EP 4. HAERTS - Power / Land EP 5. Future Unlimited - Calm Down EP 6. Stranger Things Soundtrack 7. Foals - Rain / Daffodils 7" 8. Day Wave - Hard to Read EP
What was your favourite music from 2016?