The 10 Best Albums Of 2016

It’s almost common knowledge by now that music has been exceptional in 2016, even if everything else hasn’t. It’s been inspiring to see so much good music come out of uncertain and frightening times. There’s been a couple of major shifts in the industry too. Streaming continues its rise, artist exclusives continue to drop on platforms like Tidal and Spotify, and we hear the same stories about rock music dying and the music industry not having any money on an almost daily basis. Saying that, when the industry can’t drag itself into the 21st century, there’s a push for alternate ways of distributing and consuming music. Bandcamp and Soundcloud continue to offer alternatives, with some of the best music of the year being born on both. It’s unclear what the music industry will do to come to terms with this new divide, but it’s very clear that the quality of music refuses to drop.

fkntNext Thing – Frankie Cosmos

Next Thing improved in almost every way upon its predecessor, Zentropy. It still clocks in at a punky 28 minutes and contains songs that barely break the minute mark, but that’s all in the charm. Frankie Cosmos albums are like collages, little snapshots of a much broader picture, that when it gets pieced together is a colourful combination of pure ectasy and uncertainty. To hear songs like ‘Embody’, where Greta Kline talks about the ‘grace and lightness’ in her friends, and the happiness of seeing her friends being friends, and hear no skepticism, or sarcasm, is refreshing and for a second, makes me think the world might be an ok place. It’s unashamedly sentimental, and the fact that I have to specify sentimentality as being shameful is pretty dreadful. There’s sad moments on Next Thing, but I find the most rewarding moments are when Kline feels strong and content by surrounding herself with people she loves.

whuHeads Up – Warpaint

Without a doubt Warpaint’s greatest moment yet. They’ve moved away from their more guitar-oriented sound, pared back to their strong bass and drums section and then built on top from there. What you get is a dance-inflected pop-rock album that casts off any sleepiness from their last album for a more immediate version. ‘New Song’ is possibly their best pop song yet and ‘So Good’ and ‘The Stall’ delve into hip-hop in a much better capacity than they attempted on Warpaint. Heads Up sounds like the title; less heads-down swaying, and more heads-up dancing.

aomwMY WOMAN- Angel Olsen

Perfecting a sound, Angel Olsen traced over Burn Your Fire For No Witness in much bolder lines, filling in the folky elements with bluesy ballads and powerful pop like ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, one of the best singles this year. There had been crescendos from Angel Olsen before (see ‘Windows’), but when ‘Sister’ and ‘Woman’ come along, bearing fangs with classic rock soloing and Olsen declaring ‘I dare you to understand what makes me a woman’ with that voice, it’s goosebump-inducing. A bit like Warpaint, this album was like the one Olsen had been leading up to, to reach a peak in sound. But then again, why limit this album to her peak? She’s got much more to give.

radiohead-new-album-a-moon-shaped-pool-download-stream-640x640A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

There’s still much more to understand about A Moon Shaped Pool, and there’s constant fan interpretations of what Radiohead have offered this year and that’s Radiohead’s big trick. All they have to do is release an album, and there will be talk over the tiniest details. Is it about Thom Yorke’s breakup from his partner? Is it about the rise in nationalism (somewhat confirmed)? It’s probably about climate change too. Maybe there’s no grand arc. But the key to any mystery-shrouded band is giving the illusion that there might be. A Moon Shaped Pool is an unusual album, Radiohead take their time to look back for once in their career, and accept their influence. By doing that, this isn’t their ‘electronic’ album, or their ‘political’ album, but a collection of everything they’ve toyed with. This was their breath out.

ncstSkeleton Tree – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

If there was an album that perfectly captured 2016, it was Skeleton Tree. Nick Cave working through grief by song is nothing new to the Bad Seeds, but this time it was real. Cave spills his guts when he had no reason to, and there’s plenty of credit to be given for an artist that brings the pain of reality into the public sphere. He touches on the real and the surreal, car crashes and the rings of saturn, electrical storms on the bathroom floor and hyenas singing hymns. This was Nick Cave the poet on fine form. You could almost separate the music from the lyrics, but the subtle twitches and groans of the Bad Seeds are the ideal accompaniment to the album.

Leave-Me-Alone-575x575Leave Me Alone – Hinds

This album made a lot more sense in Summer. When I played it at the beginning of January, it seemed wrong to hear songs about dancing in the streets, going to the beach and a general sunniness that covered these songs from the Madrid band. Refreshingly different, born from equal parts love and sadness. Hinds are needed for indie music, not attached to any British or American ideas of coolness or what’s trendy, instead making music that they’d play at house parties for their friends. Close your eyes listening to this, and you can imagine being on a beach in Spain late at night, possibly a bit drunk.

pse200720112007-2011 – P.S. Eliot

I adore P.S. Eliot, so 50 of their songs being boxed together, complete with demos and barely audible recordings was like early Christmas. The album brings together everything the pre-Waxahatchee/Swearin’ bands, bursting with youthfulness, a DIY spirit and perfect rock songs. Personally, I’m more attached to the first album, Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds, which gets plenty of demo treatment, so hearing early versions of ‘Incoherent Love Songs’ minus the harmonica, or ‘Hail Mary’ is useful for connecting the dots between P.S. Eliot and Katie Crutchfield’s first album as Waxahatchee. I hope P.S. Eliot go down in history as one of those short-lived punk bands that everybody loves, and this is a pretty great place if you want to hear it all.

d5a30e2eHuman Performance – Parquet Courts

Great follow-up from Parquet Courts. They’ve shifted gears at exactly the right time, using their Parkay Quarts mini-LPs Content Nausea and Monastic Living as a template for a more americana-tinged sound. When Sunbathing Animal came out I was worried that the band had slipped into a comfort zone, so Human Performance is reassuring to hear that Parquet Courts can experiment on their main releases as well as their mini projects. I’m a huge fan of the more mid-paced songs like ‘Captive Of The Sun’ and ‘Berlin Got Blurry’.

gahtbahbHow To Be A Human Being – Glass Animals

Glass Animals have a Vampire-Weekend-from-the-UK thing going on. A group of preppy students playing around with non-Western styles and making a pop dent at the same time. Dave Bayley is a hugely underrated lyricist, slotting in some truly weird imagery about cocaine on ‘Cane Shuga’ and drinking pork soda. There’s also a concept running throughout the album, where every character on the artwork is represented in a song. So what you get is a set of character studies about being a human being. High concept, but it doesn’t get lost in the story. ‘Life Itself’ and ‘Youth’ are some of the best singles this year.

todTeens Of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

This seems like a big success for Will Toledo. It’s fairytale-like: Guy makes a couple of albums on Bandcamp, gets noticed by label, releases a hugely successful album and ends up on plenty of best-of-the-year lists. If that’s not punk then I don’t know what is. It’s been a long time coming for Toledo, and he didn’t simply repeat his lo-fi sound on a larger scale, he brought in a full band and made his mini-epics into actual epics like ‘The Ballad Of Costa Concordia’. I hope he doesn’t get tagged with the ‘depressing indie music’ stamp of death, because there’s a lot of humour in Teens Of Denial, it just comes with a lot of confusion and self-depreciation too.

Everything So Far – 2016’s Best Albums (So Far)

radiohead-new-album-a-moon-shaped-pool-download-stream-640x640A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

Well, it was bound to happen, really. The best thing Radiohead could have done to meet the huge hype was to not do what was expected, or what was not expected. Think of it as a semi-sequel to Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows, effortlessly combining the acoustic and electronic elements that they’ve polarised so often and making songs that don’t directly say anything, but are subtle both lyrically and instrumentally. Saying less and making less noise might look like a cop-out, but they do so much with that new space. The roles of the Greenwood brothers are amplified, from Colin’s bass input on ‘Identikit’ and ‘Decks Dark’ to Jonny’s work on film soundtracks being translated to ‘Burn The Witch’ and ‘The Numbers’.

Listen To: Daydreaming

SAVAGES_ADORE_LIFE_Cover_grandeAdore Life – Savages

In response to the tight and tense music that their debut album showed off, Savages got louder and covered a topic that not many would associate with moody post-punk – Love. But the way Jehnny Beth sang about it; it was like a horror film with the murderer always around the corner ready to pounce. It was monolithic and feared, and even when it was accepted, it was on her own terms. A unique perspective only matched by the jackhammer bass and drums of Ayşe Hassan and Fay Milton.

Listen To: Adore

a3933351475_10Rot Forever – Sioux Falls

One of the most enjoyable debuts to come out so far this year, Sioux Falls went overboard on their 72-minute first impression. It had more than a whiff of Modest Mouse, but frontman Isaac Eiger specifically mentions making Modest Mouse mixtapes in highlight ‘In Case It Gets Lost’. It’s clumsy, chaotic rock music that spills over usual time limits and restrictions into making an album that matches Eiger’s lyrics. Plus, the drumming is great.

Listen To: In Case It Gets Lost

a0138284876_10Human Ceremony – Sunflower Bean

‘Easier Said’ is Sunflower Bean’s best song, yet it’s unlike any other. On ‘2013’, ‘I Was Home’ and ‘Creation Myth’ they blend hard rock with psychedelic music, but on ‘Easier Said’ it’s a pretty little pop song with Julia Cumming, bassist, leading the vocals instead of the band’s other vocalist, Nick Kivlen. It was probably a coincidence that Human Ceremony and Leave Me Alone by Hinds arrived around the same time, but both of those albums were genuinely surprising for debuts by bands that had been pegged into a certain sound. Apparently Sunflower Bean are good live as well, and they refuse to stop touring, so give them a go.

Listen To: Easier Said

mothers-when-walk-long-distance-new-albumWhen You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired – Mothers

Mothers continue the flow of folk/singer-songwriters around right now, from Angel Olsen, Eskimeaux and Frankie Cosmos. It originated as a solo project from Kristine Leschper, but the full band backing gives ‘It Hurts Until It Doesn’t’ and ‘Hold Your Own Hand’ a life beyond quiet folk. Leschper’s voice is the centrepoint; an emotive and sharp performance that aims for the heart like any good folk music.

Listen To: Too Small For Eyes

todTeens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

Here’s an underdog story waiting to happen. Will Toledo makes loads of Bandcamp albums and gets a record deal with Matador, puts out a compilation of his best tracks so far and then, on his first Matador album of original material, makes one of the best albums of the year (not without some copyright issues along the way). It might sound a bit like the resurrection of peak-Stephen Malkmus, but Toledo’s relentless self-referencing, concepts and dry humour are just what indie-rock needs to sound important.

Listen To: Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

d5a30e2eHuman Performance – Parquet Courts

You could be worried about Parquet Courts easing into their cynical comfort zone, but Human Performance took some of the pressure off lead vocalist Andrew Savage and gave more time to the other band members. The extended jams mostly went out the window, and in came the Velvet Underground and country-tinged indie-rock, something that Parquet Courts always hinted at but never fully captured. They’re finally where they should be.

Listen To: Berlin Got Blurry

beyonce-new-album-lemonade-download-free-stream-640x640Lemonade – Beyoncé

No doubt an album that will be on many peoples’ year-end list already, Beyoncé topped her self-titled fourth album by heaping on more of that artistry and auteurism that Rihanna and Zayn Malik have hopped on. Beyoncé didn’t forget to leave out the big songs with ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’, but it’s the narrative that many came for. It became clear that Lemonade was about a break-up, whether that was a story or reality is yet to be known, but it made for a compelling arc. You could follow the story whilst listening to the best pop music right now. It’s the reason that mainstream and underground and becoming increasingly blurred.

Listen To: All Night

Leave-Me-Alone-575x575Leave Me Alone – Hinds

A record that should have been released in summer instead arrived in chilly January to start the year off strong. We were worried that Hinds were one-trick-ponies but when ‘Solar Gap’, ‘And I Will Send Your Flowers Back’ and ‘Warts’ came along with the hits it proved us wrong. It’s music to put on with the sun shining and not worrying if that verse was a bit awkward or they can sing pitch-perfect. Perhaps it’s the isolation from the self-appointed indie-rock headquarters of the UK or US, but Spain is looking pretty special right now with Mourn and Hinds spearheading some great rock music.

Listen To: Garden

Live Review – Hinds at the Junction 15/2/16

Hinds are a live band. That much is clear, despite their excellent debut which exceeded our party-rock expectations for something with so many dimensions. But when they play live, their clumsy rock becomes explosive and sounds even bigger than small-venue ambitions. Take ‘Warning With The Curling’, which has never properly been released but shows an entirely different side of Hinds, changing up tempo at the drop of a hat and turns into a psychedelic stoner-jam which starts off the band on a strange but pleasantly surprising note. Plus, you can never have too many kazoo solos and it’s very much a dying art – bring the kazoos, more please. Fan favourite ‘Trippy Gum’, which didn’t make the album, follows and sets the tune of the night for Madrid party rock, which is exactly what Hinds deliver after fine-tuning their style and polishing up on the road.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any spontaneous moments left for Hinds. At one point, Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perotte (both guitar and vocals) erupt into a story about being in a cab and mistaking ‘I’m so horny’ for ‘I’m so honey’ and singing it out as loud as possible. Stage invasions, a typical feature of a Hinds show, are still happening despite the band growing in popularity and venue size, with bassist Ade Martin and her super-high bass managing to pull off her playing whilst someone puts their arm around her and begins swaying. The new tracks, such as ‘Walking Home’ and ‘Warts’ receive just as much of a response as old favourites and also show Hinds’ songwriting has become even stronger since they started playing ramshackle indie-rock.

However, it’s the last half of the show that really picks up. ‘Chili Town’, ‘Bamboo’, ‘San Diego’, ‘Garden’, ‘Castigadas en el Granero’ and the encore of ‘Davey Crockett’ all come thick and fast, with ‘Bamboo’ still receiving the best response and shouts of ‘I want you to call me by my name when I’m lying on your bed’ from the very start. Still, it doesn’t get much better when ‘Davey Crockett’, originally a cover, incites shouts of ‘Gabba gabba hey’. Hinds have the ability to play larger venues, and they arguably will, but they work best when they have a small audience to connect with via call-and-response and those stage invasions. The only problem with the gig was there was about 5 metres squared of dancers in the centre and the rest of the audience mostly stayed very still, with the band even saying ‘You’re very quiet for a university town’ early on in the gig. However, by the end, the dancing space had considerably expanded, no doubt from the start of ‘Bamboo’. Blame the old people, I guess.

Find our review of Hinds’ debut, Leave Me Alone, here

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Album Review – Leave Me Alone / Hinds

Leave-Me-Alone-575x575Rock music, especially if we’re talking in the indie vein, is rarely a place of smiles and parties (and if there are parties, someone will be sad). That’s why Hinds are so refreshing when it comes to rock music. It isn’t just their distance from the popular music scenes from the UK and US (the band are from Madrid), but they bring an entirely different perspective to the music they play. It isn’t entirely happy, they find moments of vulnerability and chaos among the party rock, but they always come back to an equilibrium, even if it’s an uneasy one. Thankfully, Hinds have not disappointed with their debut album. There was a moment leading up to Leave Me Alone where Hinds’ lo-fi rock could become repetitive, but there’s enough variation in classics like ‘Bamboo’ or future-classic ‘Garden’ in the deeper cuts to make Leave Me Alone more than just throwing whatever comes easy at a wall and seeing what sticks.

‘Warts’ is Hinds at their best. They kick off the track with what can only be described as a Hinds guitar line, bouncy and energetic. The new songs show how far Hinds have come since ‘Bamboo’, with less dependency on a catchy riff and more variation in the tracks. They rarely break the three minute mark, and even have an early-Beatles simplicity in plain but catchy songwriting. ‘Don’t let her close your eyes / Don’t let her waste your smile’ is the chorus of ‘Warts’, but it’s sung by more and more band members as each line progresses, which is a familiar Hinds trick, but it works for crowdpleasing party songs like ‘Warts’ or ‘Garden’, which has an intro that shows Hinds taking a slower pace in their songwriting and not throwing everything at the listener from the very start.

But the most surprising moment on Leave Me Alone has to go to ‘Solar Gap’, a beautiful instrumental that nobody expected Hinds to throw out. They drench the song in effects and it has a fuzzy mix over the top to make it sound even more like they recorded it on the fly than usual. The glockenspiel makes a welcome appearance, but it’s the winding guitar that takes centre stage. It’s fitting that the song is called ‘Solar Gap’ because it does sound like a ode to space from the 1960s that was beamed out and has made its way back to us. The taster singles that preceded the release of Leave Me Alone are arguably some of the less inspired tracks from the album, but serve as dance-worthy rock on ‘Chili Town’ and ‘Bamboo’, which at this point is probably the least interesting track on the album, but still has some fantastic lyrics.

The album is very concise, but it doesn’t suffer for it. There’s the chance that given more time, Hinds would push themselves more, but Leave Me Alone is a blueprint for the band where their scattered singles only hinted at what they could do. They are more than a party band. Through the sunny melodies, lyrics like ‘Still I can smell something failed’ on ‘Garden’ suggest there’s room for Hinds to explore darker territory instrumentally as well as lyrically. However, it would be wrong for Hinds to lose that sunniness too quickly, as it’s extremely welcome to see a band writing feelgood music that doesn’t make you want to vomit. Hinds strike a good balance because beyond analysing and dissecting their music thoroughly, it stands on its own as good music to listen to. That’s all anyone wants really.

7

Funnel Recommends: Garden / Warts / Solar Gap

The Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

In an effort to fill in some time when music dies down (probably something to do with Christmas), we’re going to be running through a few of the most anticipated releases of next year. Some are 2015 no-shows, some are records that have been in gestation for a long time, and some might just be random drops from more prolific artists.

Early 2016

David Bowie – Blackstar (8/1/16)

Something of a surprise after The Next Day was considered to be his swansong, Blackstar (or  if we’re being specific) continues where his last album ended, diving into experimentation once again with the jazz-prog first single, ‘Blackstar’ and the slightly less weird next taster, ‘Lazarus’. David Bowie really could release an album’s worth of cow noises and the people would eat it up, so expect it to get rave reviews. However, ‘Blackstar’ showed that Bowie could still innovate decades after creating personas like Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane that altered musical style with each release. Expect lots of smooth jazz and lyrics that surprise.

Hinds – Leave Me Alone (8/1/16)

For all of the disappointment we receive when Hinds make another version of the same song, they always bring fun and smiles to the serious face of rock music. Maybe it’s some of that Madrid sunshine bleeding through into their clunky but endearing style, which resembles more of a couple of friends learning how to play instruments together rather than a tightly-knit instrumental machine. This is definitely a band that wants to make you move, primarily, and everything else comes second.

Savages – Adore Life (22/1/16)

Even if Savages replicated the same moody post-punk of Silence Yourself, Adore Life probably would have sated the appetite of fans, but so far both singles for the album have been harsh, unforgiving and utterly gripping. The band have matured even further, with Jehnny Beth’s lyrics offering a light/dark perspective on love, Ayşe Hassan’s bass buzzing away, Gemma Thompson’s combination of soft and buzzsaw guitar and Fay Milton driving the band along on the brutal ‘The Answer’. They might just be the next greatest rock band.

DIIV – Is This Is Are (5/2/16)

We’ll be honest – Oshin did nothing for us. If you compare it to DIIV’s live sets, where they amp the pace up considerably, Oshin was sluggish, many of the tracks blurred together and Zachary Cole Smith’s vocals barely floated on the surface. That all changed with recent singles such as ‘Dopamine’ and ‘Mire (Grant’s Song)’, where they’ve become more dream-pop that shoegaze, falling into the territory of a faster, more instrumental Beach House. A lot has happened since Oshin to DIIV, but SI This Is Are should hopefully set the record straight considering all of the controversy and criticism that the band have drawn.

Animal Collective – Painting With (19/2/16)

Yeah, we didn’t especially like ‘FloriDada’ too much, but you have to admit that song was weirdly catchy. An Animal Collective release is always an event, and Painting With is no exception – it’s already been played in an airport. The fans have been calling it a return to their most successful records: Merriweather Post Pavillion and Strawberry Jam, but the hype could be what kills the record. Animal Collective have always liked to go off the beaten psychedelic path, so something weird and wonderful isn’t out of the question. After Tame Impala’s all-conquering Currents, the second-best psych flag-bearers have a lot to live up to.

Spring 2016 

PJ Harvey – TBA

So far she’s only teased a thirty-second clip and some live events (plus that special recording experience), but PJ Harvey’s next album looks to be another war-based record dragged out of the muddy heroism and futility of WW1 that came with Let England Shake and into a more modern setting. So far ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs’ and ‘Chain of Keys’ have been played live, both being entirely different tracks with ‘The Ministry…’  harking back to To Bring You My Love’s backwater rock. It’s probably going to be very political, more intense and win another Mercury Prize.

Rihanna – Anti – TBA

2015, when Rihanna did the least she’s ever done, was actually one of her biggest years. Her songs that she did release (‘Bitch Better Have My Money’, ‘American Oxygen’, ‘FourFiveSeconds’) were lightning rods for thinkpieces, worlds away from ‘Diamonds’ or ‘Rude Boy’. She partnered up with Kanye for her album and the single ‘FourFiveSeconds’ (which also featured Paul McCartney of all people) and made a $25 million deal with Samsung for Anti, which is a bit like what Jay-Z for his last album Magna Carta Holy Grail, which was swamped by Kanye’s Yeezus and doesn’t bode well for Rihanna if Kanye releases Swish next year if history does repeat itself, though Rihanna and Kanye are hardly rap enemies. Then again, if ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ says anything, Kanye might have a hard time beating out Anti.

Modest Mouse – Whatever (Rumoured) – TBA

The long-gestating Strangers To Ourselves came out in 2014 to mixed reviews, with the lead single ‘Lampshades On Fire’ aiming for ‘Float On’s pop appeal and though Isaac Brock’s delivery was as wild as ever, Modest Mouse were still lacking what they haven’t had since The Moon And Antarctica – a fear of implosion at any minute. Their next album, a companion piece apparently called Whatever, or misspelt Wbatever features Krist Novoselic, according to reports and should carry on themes that Strangers To Ourselves brought, although hopefully it’s a lot better.

TBA

Kanye West – SWISH

What’s the point of even thinking about what Kanye might do on his next album? ‘All Day’, ‘Wolves’ and ‘FourFiveSeconds’ were entirely different, unlike the crossover indie-hit of Yeezus that took inspiration from Death Grips (though Kanye would never admit that). His last two albums have been detours into autotuned pop (thus opening the door for Drake) and industrial-rap, so a return to his beloved trilogy would only be a step backwards for Ye. Nope, everything from here on out is new territory for the most polarising rapper around. No matter how much you hate him, he’s so famous your parents know him, and for any rapper that’s superstardom.

Frank Ocean

He won every award going when Channel Orange came out in 2012 and  has been teasing music ever since, but Frank Ocean is yet to follow up the success of that album. It’s a bit like position Kendrick Lamar was in after Good Kid, M.a.a.d City; overcome with success and too much hype on his shoulders. Then he released To Pimp A Butterfly and that becomes the most important rap record of the last decade. Frank Ocean is in the same position; he has the ability to top it, but until he releases it there’s the issue that it might not be received as well. We’ll just have to wait and find out.

Radiohead

Being a Radiohead fan is hard. Bathing in a sweet new picture of Jonny Greenwood eating a sandwich is considered newsworthy at this point (slight exaggeration, but the point is there) but little spills out about the follow-up to The King of Limbs, which was a little so-so (watch the live version in the Basement, it’s ten times better than the album). Thom Yorke’s recent leanings suggest another electronic-influenced album, but Radiohead have always been a democracy so even poor Phil Selway will have a say in what style they dip into next. As long as nobody suggests EDM, we’ll be fine.

The XX

It’s been way too long since the XX released anything into the world. Granted, Jamie XX had a successful 2015 with his debut album In Colour and hopefully some of that summery electronica makes its way to the dark world of the XX. Coexist, their last album in 2012, was a bit of an anticlimax after their near-perfect first record, so hopefully the XX come back better with what they do next. It might also be important to say that if the XX rehash the same dimly-lit indie that formed their first two albums again the critics might not be as eager to slap on the five-star reviews as their reverby-schtick has been hopped on by everyone and anyone in the last five years. Jamie XX’s glossy side-project influences might just be what saves them.

Alice Glass

Some people are quite excited for the new Crystal Castles record, which in no way will be a Crystal Castles record without the presence of Alice Glass. Instead Crystal Castles other-half Ethan Kath has employed another singer to fill Glass’ role, called Edith Frances. But now Alice Glass has struck out on her own, releasing the pummelling ‘Stillbirth’ which is roughly 15 times better than anything Kath has released since Glass left CC. Glass has said that there is a sister song to ‘Stillbirth’ which is more of a ‘lullaby’, so don’t expect everything that she releases to be as brutal as her first song as a solo artist.

M.I.A – Matahdatah

Matahdatah is looking a whole lot more exciting after M.I.A. dropped ‘Borders’ late in 2015. She’s back to her politically-charged best, plus her instrumental strength continues to be as modern as possible with her incorporation of world music and southern trap-rap. Behind all of the intense politics, there’s a catchy pop song behind ‘Borders’ and ‘Swords’ from her audio-visual project that emerged in the middle of 2015. Call-and-answer lines like ‘What’s up with that?’ are meant to be played big at festivals.If Kendrick Lamar soundtracked the civil rights movement in 2015, M.I.A. might just soundtrack the ongoing refugee crisis and terrorism.

 

Track Review – San Diego / Hinds

Hinds have made another wise choice to move away (if only slightly) from the slew of tracks that came in the wake of ‘Bamboo’ that were almost identical. However, by only making slight changes the band is already establishing that they make some of the best party-rock around, but can’t do a lot else. They sing about the beach, they sing about ‘leaving without saying goodbye’, but we’ve heard it before. Familiar tropes pop up – the slow intro, the grinding to a halt outro, call and response vocals from Ana Perotte and Carlotta Coasials. It’s a cosy song for anyone who just wants another Hinds song to shout the words to, but it’s not good for much else.

The ideology of Hinds is easier to buy into than the music. An all-Spanish quartet is going to be interesting for anyone who’s had British and American music pumped into them for their entire life as the band have a different (and more joyous) perspective on life. You can imagine being best friends with Hinds and their music reflects that. Listening back to ‘Garden’, it’s a better song because the band took some chances with the song and ‘San Diego’ is more formulaic, but that will be more enticing for fans of their party-starters, ‘Bamboo’ and ‘Davey Crockett’. It’s irresistible indie-pop which rarely surprises but always comforts.

Track Review – Garden / Hinds

This is the Hinds song that should come next. Sure, the opening vocals sound identical to ‘Bamboo’, but the evolution from that track which they came through with is pretty amazing. The track doesn’t just amble along like many of the Hinds songs that have come before, even the start takes its time to kick in, getting steadily faster, like some kind of electric mariachi, before a secondary guitar cuts through the typical Hinds 4-chord sequence that they tend to deploy on every other song by now. At this point, it’s important to recognise that Hinds aren’t technically proficient, the charm comes with the clumsy beginner playing that they somehow make into a cohesive song. Another familiar aspect is the joint vocals, sounding like the whole band is chipping in. Their voices are individually recognisable, each adding another element to the collective-voice-chorus.

The lyrics are a little less considered with partying than previous Hinds tracks, apart from the ‘I can’t take you dancing’, which in itself shows that Hinds don’t just want to celebrate the party, but show the sadder side to it. The beauty of Hinds is that even when their vocals are all over the place (They regularly overlap on ‘Garden’), the mood of the track (which can only be described as ‘feista-worthy’) is enough to make the track exciting and fun. The outro to ‘Garden’, whilst short and sweet, is their best ending yet; winding down with the clean guitar that cut through the intro not too long ago. Hinds don’t let up in their wild happiness, something which is missing greatly in modern indie rock and it’s something that should be treasured. Even if they say ‘we had a more sober ~ or even sad ~ album than we expected’ in their blurb for new album Leave Me Alone, the music itself is pure bliss.