My Best Albums 2016 - Lucy Fletcher
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If this list was one of the albums I’d listened to the most this year, it’d definitely include If I Was by The Staves (my favourite album of all time) or the Camp Rock 2 soundtrack.
However, the music released in 2016 has produced some tough rivals for both of those musical masterpieces: the albums below has got me through the end of my first year at uni and the beginning of my second, it’s played soundtrack to a summer of festivals and Pimms, and reminded me that good old pop music doesn’t have to be cheesy.
Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Bon Iver’s third full length album is far distant from his first. Ditching the folk feel and acoustic guitar, the melancholic aching of For Emma, Forever Ago has evolved into an explorative electronic sound on 22, A Million.
Though some songs are difficult to decipher through the overlay of electronic distortion, Vernon’s voice shines through a focus on tracks such as '22 Over Soon', '33 Moon Water' and '8 (circle)'.
He takes pride in his music not only being such that, but art and personal experimentation - and 22, A Million encapsulates it all in perfect measure.
Blossoms - Blossoms
Following the huge successes of their previous EPs and a support slot with The Stone Roses, Blossoms’ eponymous debut album lived up to high expectations; in fact, it went straight to the top spot in the UK charts after its release.
The album could be described as a mixture of 80s pop, evident especially in songs such as 'At Most A Kiss', and modern indie-rock, with a smooth layer of disco glossed thinly over the top.
Synth-heavy and dreamy, even psychedelic in areas, yet up-beat and funky, it’s the perfect album for driving to, chilling to, dancing to, and screaming the words to.
The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It
The second album from pop quartet The 1975 shows that through the thick layer of narcissistic and egotistic fog surrounding them, they can actually make really good music.
I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It (copy and pasted that) is an album that flows beautifully despite each song sounding different from the last - and that’s something to be admired and appreciated.
The echoey and acoustic 'She Lays Down' is reminiscent of something you would find on a young singer songwriter’s first EP, yet heavily produced 'Love Me' is loud and fun and exciting.
Bound together with dreamy instrumentals, the album is a well balanced piece of art.
Lauren Aquilina - Isn’t It Strange?
I personally feel like I’ve waited my whole life for this album to become an actual thing, and after its release felt pretty upset about how much it's been slept on.
It’s simple but it works in Aquilina's favour; her lyrics discuss complex emotional feeling in intelligent metaphor and through the medium of feel-good pop.
Though it originally feels a little safe, compared to older, stripped back and tearful material the jump to including much more production and upbeat tracks on Aquilina’s debut shows much more confidence in her craft than first realised.
And though originally known for her sadder songs, on this album it’s the ones with that productional push behind them that really stand out as straight up fucking BANGERS.
The Courteeners - Mapping The Rendezvous
Proof that Northern bands are the best bands, The Courteeners’ fifth masterpiece sees them continue to experiment with a new style - one that they eased into on their previous record, Concrete Love.
Of course, they are still a pretentious but cult Mancunian indie band, however with Mapping The Rendezvous they have left behind the traditional indie rock brashness of St. Jude (still, a great album) and their sound has matured with them.
It feels more structured and refined than some of their previous records. Liam Fray’s ability to craft catchy and meaningful lyrics describing the mundaneness of everyday life to the overtly sexual 'Tip Toes' is perhaps what keeps the band so relatable and down to earth as they continue to grow their success nationwide.
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Shura - Nothing’s Real
Channelling 80s pop and disco, Shura’s debut Nothing’s Real deals with the issues of young love, heartbreak and mental health.
With the help of a few atmospheric interlude tracks, the album flows as one piece of well curated art; not once does it feel so cut and paste.
Nodding toward Madonna and Kylie but with a modern gloss and indie edge, Shura’s sound feels unique and current but snippets of home movies overlaid in the tracks connect with the past. Generally speaking the lyrics ooze anxiety and uncertainty, yet it’s perfectly articulated through sunny upbeat songs such as 'What’s It Gonna Be?' to the slow burning ache of 'Touch' and '2Shy'.
Alongside rave reviews from critics across the industry, there should be room on everyone’s top ten for this album.
The Ride - Catfish and the Bottlemen
The Ride is tight and consistent. Every song penned by Catfish and the Bottlemen’s front-man Van McCann is coherent and sounds like the rest.
It originally sounds like it could be boring - but it's far from it.
The Ride has it’s own, distinct sound. It doesn’t sound pick ’n’ mix or cut and stick like some albums can; the curation of tracks on this album demonstrate Catfish’s self assurance and awareness and oozes a sense of realness.
From opening track '7' in which McCann details the struggles of a long distance relationship to closer 'Outside', an effortless flow, complex lyrics and magical guitar riffs keep the listener hooked along a heartbreaking, uplifting and exhilarating ride rivalling even the fastest rollercoasters.
Viola Beach - Viola Beach
Most are aware of the tragedy that took away the lives of one of Britain’s most promising up and coming bands; but it is their music and not their untimely deaths that have them on this list.
Viola Beach’s self titled album, released after their death and consequently reaching the top of the charts, is full of glorious feel-good indie pop and rock influenced tunes.
'Cherry Vimto' has the vibe of a summery festival evening, and the exuberant energy of 'Go Outside' would get anyone up on their feet for a dance.
Yet, the rawness of 'Call You Up' shows the band are strong in vocal as well as sound. The album feels sunny and warm, but the “won’t you come home” of exciting 'Swings and Waterslides' hurts a little.
If only our longing for more of their cheerful tunes could be fulfilled.
We Move - James Vincent McMorrow
Indie folk meets smooth R&B and soul in James Vincent McMorrow’s third and by far strongest album, We Move.
It feels under appreciated and a slept on by the world. Each and every song gives a chest punching soulful depth, and fullness, displaying so obviously McMorrow’s incredible lyrical ability and strong falsetto.
It’s deep and it’s sexy and it’s complex; the listening experience of songs such as 'Killer Whales' and 'I Lie Awake At Night' could only be improved with a glass of red wine in hand.
Billie Marten - Writings of Blues and Yellows
Not many seventeen-year-olds can say they’ve released an album, and certainly not to the stunning standard of Writings of Blues and Yellows.
Think Lucy Rose and Laura Marling - wistful indie folk delivered by a quiet gentle voice. Though she be but little, she is fierce.
Perhaps gentle in voice, but graceful Isabella Tweddle is strong in delivery and in lyrics.
It’s hard to believe that she is only seventeen, in fact, with the maturity and meaning she gives in songs like ‘Bird’ and ‘Heavy Weather’.
The album as a whole is pretty, and provides a beautiful escape from the loud and busy hustle and bustle of everyday life, transporting you from the chaos of the city to the tranquility of the North Yorkshire countryside.