London – Any day now and we’ll have to get used to writing down 2017. But before we are quite there it’s time for a quick reprise. So, settle down and listen to 10 songs you might have missed in 2016 that you won’t find on too many year-end lists. Give you yourself marks if you have heard a few of them before – regular readers will recognise some names from previous Best New Bands reviews while others escaped the net earlier in the year. If you concur, please like them on YouTube and feel free to leave any comments there too. A little love goes a long way during the season of goodwill to all men (and women and not forgetting the transgender community, hermaphrodites and of course musicians).
10. Dreamers – “Wolves (You Got Me)”
LA-based trio Dreamers epitomise how serial touring can give a band the kind of confidence and togetherness that then translates successfully onto record. Its cunningly-titled debut album, This Album Does Not Exist, has precisely the opposite characteristics. It’s packed with physical presence and memorable hooks from start to finish, including this killer track, “Wolves”. Check out the full album review here.
9. A Giant Dog – “Sex & Drugs”
“Sex & Drugs” is off Pile, the third album from the wondrously named A Giant Dog out of Austin, Texas. The album cover might put you off your dinner but there’s a refreshing honesty about the band’s serving of garage punk, laced with the shimmer of glam rock and laden with pop hooks. The song is less an invitation to lock up your daughters, and indeed sons, but more a mantra for the passing of youth: “I’m too old to die young”. Blink and it’s over before you know it.
8. Lucius – “Dusty Trails”
Back in April Brooklyn’s Lucius performed at London’s Koko and produced what was probably the best live show I saw all year; quite how you can read about here. Instrumentally inventive while skating consummately across genres, the band’s USP is the telepathic connection between singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. This live version of “Dusty Trails” from the album Good Grief highlights their seamless transitions from unison to lush harmonies.
7. Arc Iris – “Kaleidoscope”
Arc Iris continued its marvellous musical explorations this year with a second album, Moon Saloon. The Providence, Rhode Island trio led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams works from a musical palette as broad as they come. “Kaleidoscope” employs diverse traditional and orchestral instrumentation to create a unique, experimental and challenging sound. It’s like prog rock without pretensions and always brought back to earth by Adams’ chameleon-like vocal.
6. Pavo Pavo – “2020, Well Have Nothing Going On”
Brooklyn band Pavo Pavo brightened up a typically grey November over here with its debut album, Young Narrator in the Breakers, reviewed here. It’s a particularly engaging listen that culminates in the expansive final track, “2020, We’ll Have Nothing Going On”. It’s a song to escape the city rat race to, with a glorious rock opera structure that recalls the mini-epics of 70s British band 10cc and its spin-off, Godley & Crème. You can listen to “2020” here – starts at 36:21 – but make sure you check out the whole album straight after.
5. Revere – “Last Bridge Standing”
November also saw the final show by inimitable London collective, Revere, fittingly held at the acoustics-blessed Union Chapel. For those of us who had been following the band since its early days it was an especially moving occasion. “Last Bridge Standing” is taken from Revere’s Man Of Atom EP and showcases the band’s astounding musicianship while giving a voice to the many disenfranchised and ignored in society in these dark days of retreat into nationalism.
4. Reverieme – “Plankton”
“Plankton” first saw light on an EP last year but then formed one of the many highlights on Straw Woman, Louise Connell’s 2016 album under the aegis of Reverieme. The video above features the original stripped-back rendition which is beautifully embellished by ringing, circular guitar figures on the new album version. Lyrically “Plankton” is as enigmatic as a song can be; it’s as if the singer is sharing impossible feelings from a detached state, visually heightened by allowing cockroaches to crawl over her defenseless yet disturbingly tranquil face. The aborted pain she attempts to channel is truly intimate and makes the song ever the more fascinating.
3. Flock Of Dimes – “The Joke”
Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner delivered an absolute gem of a synth-pop album littered with glitzy tunes and sparkling vocals this year under her solo moniker Flock of Dimes (review here). “The Joke” charts the great cosmic caper of existence with life’s circularity and underlying absurdity set to a blissfully romantic melody and featuring some top notch synth and guitar noodling to boot. Simply magical.
2. Kevin Morby – “Dorothy”
“Dorothy” is the most immediate and uptempo piece on Kevin Morby’s stellar 2016 album, Singing Saw. Rather than an out-of-time lost love, the lady in question is his cherished red Fender Jaguar guitar, named after his grandmother. The guitar clearly signifies a great deal to the singer and this ode to it catalogues experiences and memories he has shared with the instrument. The result is a great, uplifting rock song, differentiated by the short instrumental interludes that recall various encounters on the road with Dorothy.
1. Hattie Briggs – “Castle On The Sand”
My favourite song from Young Runaway the sophomore album from young English singer-songwriter Hattie Briggs and quite possibly my favourite song of the year! “Castle On The Sand” has a sweeping, timeless quality and is beautifully emotive, putting Hattie Briggs up there with some of the finest songwriters of her genre, past and present. You can read a review of Young Runaway here.
Photo of Hattie Briggs by Ian Sadler, Five Valleys Photography, Stroud
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Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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