Now we’ve finally reached the concluding moments of 2016, it’s time for This Week In Records to splash out a little bit. You may be familiar with our methods – trawling the web for every last morsel of new music worth your attention and delivering it promptly for breakfast every Friday, with an occasional side dish of irritability whenever someone dares to “spill” a piña colada over a marimba and ends up regurgitating a soulless rendition of a decent dance record from the last millennium. Today, to celebrate the end of all things, we’ve cast our glances right back to where it all began.
Elsewhere on this site, you will find serious collections and rankings of the year – albums, films, games, TV shows, etc. – but This Year In Records is for celebrating 2016’s music in all its delectable forms. Over the next twelve pages, we discuss one release from every single New Music Friday. Some are fantastic. Some are abominations. Some will be recalled as the releases that first caught attention from the music heroes of tomorrow. One is a miserable spawn from The X Factor.
If a rapid whiz through 366 days of music sounds appealing, allow me to be your guide. I promise I’ll only rap twice.
January 1st: Axwell Λ Ingrosso – ‘Dream Bigger’
Whilst reading up on everything regarding 22, A Million, Bon Iver’s bewildering latest, earlier this week, “research” took me to a vintage Future Music studio session with Swedish House Mafia. Filmed during the ‘One (Your Name)’ mastering process back when that blanket banner for Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello was never seen outside club marketing, everything seemed so cordial and spirited. Why go to a London studio to master Pharrell vocals? Big speakers and great burgers, for things were pure in 2010. Musically murky and imprecise, but pure.
New material from all three since the grand finale of the collective in 2013 has been patchy both in quantity and quality, however 2016 has seen their respective labels grab some limelight as the solo(ish) stuff ticked properly into gear – Angello completed his album Wild Youth in late January, whilst Axwell “Λ” Ingrosso preferred a jumble of singles (including this New Year gift, a pastiche of Daft Punk’s grittiest electro in its plain form before Pharrell shouted some #inspo expletives over the top in April) and more prestigious festival billings.
January 8th: Mylo – Destroy Rock & Roll
Yes, I’m cheating slightly here – Myles MacInnes’ one and only LP to date was indeed released in 2004, not 2016 – but it’s my column and I do do what I want. Including Jessie J references.
Anyway, for what is surely the first time since I started abusing the custom soundtrack function of the PlayStation 3 to repeat James Blake’s eponymous debut, my most-played record of the year was one actually released in the same year. You’ll find some more about that particular album when we reach early May in this chronological insanity, however the point this revelation should illustrate is thus: I’m bad at listening to music with any semblance of punctuality. It was in 2009 that Mylo first became known to me – his remix of The Killers’ ‘Somebody Told Me,’ a bonus track on the Hot Fuss edition that became one of my earliest and proudest iTunes purchases, scared 12-year-old me with its seven-minute runtime – and it took until a break in
a How I Met Your Mother binge revising for university exams to pick up on a tip from Flight Facilities to give his sublimely sampled bedroom-made record a spin. The timing was ultimately superb: a CD copy of Destroy Rock & Roll only set me back £1.40 and Mylo put out Transmissions, a 29-part summer series that Ministry Of Sound called “the biggest comeback since Christ.”
January 15th: The 1975 – ‘The Sound’
The acclaim being doled out to The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep, For You
Cannot Subject Us To Pretentious Album Titles Whilst Dozing Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It may well be the most surprising end-of-year musical trend of 2016, even though Matty Healy appears to have wholeheartedly absorbed the role of dishevelled lord and saviour of all things in the eyes of NME. What I cannot object to, however, is how the record swings from the band’s second attempt at a self-titled intro into its most microcosmic songs. ‘UGH!’ would get the nod here purely for being an actually enjoyable if overwhelmingly pretentious track fundamentally about cocaine-induced erectile dysfunction, however it was first released in 2015 to save us from the garish ‘Love Me‘ and quite clearly something past Xavier found far more interesting came out on the album’s release date. Therefore, here’s ‘The Sound,’ a plain old very good pop song.
January 22nd: RÜFÜS – Bloom
In addition to being horrendous at listening to music promptly, you could until this year count the number of gigs I’d attended on mere fingers. Two inaugural festival trips remedied that nicely, however it was RÜFÜS who quickly became the first act sufficiently compelling (and convenient with tour dates and album releases) for me to see for a second time and also write some words about. The first show came as second billing to the aforementioned Flight Facilities, who I really must catch in a more regular DJ scenario than a Brixton takeover by YouTube fixture TheSoundYouNeed; the second was a headline show of their own that featured Bloom‘s more confident breeze of dance-minded Aussie beach pop in Heaven, my new favourite cavern beneath a central London train station. Not mentioned in the piece: a fantastic hot chocolate from a South Bank kiosk.
January 29th: Bloc Party – Hymns
‘The Love Within,’ the October 2015 debut single from the new-look Bloc Party lineup, to this day remains one of my favourite tracks from the band. Hymns, the full record that followed in January before they dropped in on Southampton’s O2 Guildhall the next day with one of the most perplexing support mixtures ever seen (Drenge? Fine. Rat Boy? The set confirmed my suspicions. Bugzy Malone? All I got was 0161.), is easily their weakest.
Still, I’m wildly optimistic for what will follow. Chatting before the show to Russell Lissack and Louise Bartle – old guitarist, new drummer – revealed that newer material was already under way and actually, unlike Hymns being written with a permanent drummer and bassist. ‘Stunt Queen,’ released in September as they swiftly sold out two nights at the Roundhouse for the new year, shows my faith is justified.