Top 25 Albums of 2016


By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

December, other than being a month where we encourage Santa’s capitalist greed, is the ideal time for critics of all entertainment to compile a list of the greatest things to drop in the previous 12 months. I’ve already talked about the worst tracks and albums of the year so as we say goodbye to 2016, with a sigh of relief no doubt, it’s time for me to discuss what came out that didn’t make my ears bleed.

As always, I’ll be welcoming a great bunch of guests throughout this piece, ranging from musicians to writers and even including activists! They will all be having their say on what records they just couldn’t put down throughout this piece and if you want to see more of their stuff then you’ll find their links in the credits! On top of that I have Will Albin-Clark to thank for the lovely graphics So with the mandatory introduction out of the way, let’s get this show on the road.

So with the mandatory introduction out of the way, let’s get this show on the road, starting with some honorable mentions:

25. Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis

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I know what you’re thinking: what’s Biffy doing so down on this list? Has blinkclyro become a traitor? The truth is that I did dig the seventh offering from Scotland’s bearded rock gods though not as much as I had anticipated due to the unwarranted hyping up of a Biffy 3.0. Despite this, there were plenty of tracks such as On A Bang and Animal Style that showed a glimmer of hope for the future of the band as well as packing in In The Name Of The Wee Man which, while not featuring on the standard edition, is one of the greatest things Biffy have come out with in years. On top of that, the dirty yet simultaneously beautiful production gave the impression that Biffy Clyro may come out with something that could give their old grungey/prog-rock days a run for their money.

24. Trash Boat – Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through

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I’ve written the words “pop punk is back and better than ever” or some sort of paraphrasing of that enough times that the most dedicated readers could make a drinking game out of it. More often than not the acts representing the scene tend to be from the UK and Trash Boat have continued this trend with their debut record, packing a fuck ton of angst that easily makes it one of the most emotion-driven albums I’ve come across all year. Not only that but more often than not, the band seem to be aware of when it’s right to let the lyrics, which range from visceral to heartbreaking, take a back seat and let the instrumentals doing the talking with some somber guitars being a pleasant alternative to the cliche chugging alternative. Any fans of Neck Deep and the likes will find their new favourite act after just one listen.

23. Prince Daddy & The Hyena – I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving

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Fusing all the elements that make FIDLAR a face-meltingly good time with a Deadpool rate of cultural references and painful self-loathing, Prince Daddy & The Hyena have come out with the hidden gem of 2016. Had it not been for a recommendation due to my enjoyment of The Hotelier, I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving may have very well disappeared amongst all the AAA records that dropped this year but the pure passion that can be felt from the fury riddled delivery of both the vocals and instruments makes it worth a listen to anyone with even a slight interest in punk music.

22. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

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While he may have a tendency to have a social media breakdown just as regular as his wife will post a selfie and his ambitions may have resulted in him accumulating a great amount of debt, there’s no doubt a great sense of this being art. Just like the most prolific artists who put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work, Kanye has crafted a record that radiates hip hop greatness embedded with a gospel sound as well as his own, despite the few times he colors outside of the lines.

21. Jeff Rosenstock – Worry

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In a year that has pretty much become the embodiment of doom and fear, Jeff Rosenstock’s WORRY is suitably titled as well as channeling all those feelings of hopelessness. To Be A Ghost is a perfect example of this, starting off with isolated guitar before slowly unraveling into a cynical commentary on society, mainly touching on internet culture and how issues such as police brutality aren’t taken seriously until they’re considered trendy. Thankfully, the record is upbeat with its instrumentals so that the whole time spend listening isn’t spent being gloomy, rather positioning itself as this year’s punk rock brother to Pimp A Butterfly.


•James Clayton (@jamescrywank) of Crywank

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My two favourite albums this year were ‘Telephone’ by ‘Noname’ and ‘The Dancer’ by ‘Cocaine Piss’. I can’t really decide between the two of them. ‘Telephone’ i find myself putting on over and over again. I don’t have a favourite track and I just listen to the album all the way through, It’s a super chill release that’s ideal to just have on as background, but incredibly rewarding lyrically and musically when you give it your attention. It’s easily my most listened to album this year and I’m still not bored of it. ‘The Dancer’ I just had a really visceral response to. It really made me want to move and stretch and be stupid and break stuff by dancing, it made me gesticulate more although I have also had a lot of listen throughs just sat with the lyrics which are really pure.

•Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

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Motörhead – Clean Your Clock (Live in Munich)

Are we allowed to do live albums in this? Well fuck it, we’re going to anyway. This isn’t the best album I’ve heard this year, but the symbolism behind it makes it an iron-clad ace. Just over a month after this album was recorded in Munich, Lemmy Kilmister would be dead, days after his 70th birthday. One of the worst days of my life, I lost a hero, an influence and an inspiration, and the world would never look the same again. Whilst this album isn’t No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith, it shows that the commitment to his band, the love for his fans and the fact you had to kill him before you could stop him touring makes it a total masterpiece. Whilst the vocals are a stretch and the tempo a bit slower, Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey still bring the thunder. Notable highlights include classics such as Stay Clean, The Chase is Better Than the Catch, Dr Rock and of course, the double fisted assault that was is, and ever shall be Ace of Spades into Overkill. Illness was slowly killing Lemmy, but he still managed to bring the snarling blues, including that delightful solo in Stay Clean. I can’t even play Stay Clean on bass, and I’m a healthy 23-year-old. What this album represents is Lemmy’s will to bring the thunder, and the unwavering commitment to his band and his fans, and the last battle cry of rock and roll’s last true warrior. This isn’t the best Motörhead live album that’s out there, sonically, this isn’t the best album I’ve heard this year, but undoubtedly in the circumstances, you won’t hear a single better performance this year.

Metallica – Hardwired… To Self Destruct

Eight years. Eight years since Metallica released an album. Compare that to the above of Motörhead where they released a new album every eight minutes, and still managed to blow your face off every time. However, whilst many will disagree, the eight year wait has been more than worth the wait for the sonic assault that is Hardwired. Bursting back into our faces in August, the title track was a steady reminder as to just why Metallica sell out stadiums and move units. We’ll never have the eighties Metallica again, but at many points, including Hardwired, Atlas, Rise!, Moth Into Flame and Spit Out the Bone hark back to the heavy thrash past of ‘Tallica, with a light sprinkling of NWOBHM in parts, and a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. Admittedly the latter is a bit shit, it doesn’t sound like a Motörhead track, but the lyrics and the video more than make up for it.  This isn’t Metallica’s best work, but one would argue it’s been their best since the Black Album, maybe even …And Justice for All. As much as we’d all like to see a second coming of 1980’s Metallica, how fucking boring would they be if they’d just done every album as a loose bastardisation of Kill ‘em All? As a modern-era Metallica album, it’s as close as to the past you’ll get, just some good ol’ thrash-ioned metal.

Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis

I actively fear the day I won’t get excited over a new Biffy Clyro album, but Ellipsis didn’t disappoint me in any way shape or form. Whilst I can’t exactly put my finger on it, this new album feels more mature, more modern compared to Biffy records of old, but still feels like business as usual. Highlights of this album include well, bloody hell, Wolves of Winter, Animal Style, In the Name of the Wee Man, Herex, Friends and Enemies, Flammable, On a Bang, and despite the fact that this song reminds me of my ex-girlfriend constantly, Re-Arrange is still a massive tune. So there you have it, fuck what anybody else says, Biffy have yet again delivered the goods, and their arena tour just gone was something to behold. If the Biff aren’t at the top right now, they’re on a fast and hard course towards it.

Honourable mentions here go to Radiohead for A Moon Shaped Pool, the dearly departed David Bowie for Blackstar, Bring Me the Horizon for their stellar Live at the Royal Albert Hall with a Full Fucking Orchestra and They Played It Never Fucking Ends, which I was at, and it was as the kids say, ‘lit’. Honestly it’s been a shite year so if you’ve got any thoughts or feelings on what I’ve picked here, please go and fuck yourself. Regards.

• Anna Cowan (@L0VESlCK) of Girls Against (@girlsagainstanna

 

The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

My album of 2016 is not one which I think is necessarily the ‘best’, or even it being the most impressive, in amongst a year of such incredible new music. Indeed, perhaps I should have chosen one of them, as I know with this choice I may be deemed a bit lame. But, the heart wants what the heart wants (okay I’m definitely being deemed as lame now) and for my album of the year I’ve chosen I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It by The 1975. This is an album which I will always associate with this year; the first time I listened to it I was applying glitter to my face and dancing around the room with Hannah and Anni (fellow GA members), which is such a lovely memory for me. Each song relates to a period of time in 2016 – some incredible and some very, very bad – yet all fragmented and significant, which is why if I had chosen any other album I know I’d have been lying. ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘This Must Be My Dream’ are two songs which stand out as tracks of particular importance in relation to 2016 – both bangers, which basically sum up the weird unpredictable and non-linear nature of 2016 for me. So yes, judge me all you like, but honesty is best right?

•Andrew Barr (@weeandrewwImage may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

 

 

 

 

3. “Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino

Before this release, Donald Glover was already known as a man of many talents. He writes, stars in and directs the FX series Atlanta, as well as performing stand-up comedy and releasing 2 successful rap albums under his Childish Gambino pseudonym. However, on “Awaken, My Love!”, as the artwork hints, Glover delves into an entirely new universe, experimenting with a brand of psych-funk, which he pulls off masterfully. On the first track – the six-minute, choir featuring epic single “Me and Your Mama”, Glover screeches over an electric guitar riff, showing off a vocal range that will surprise even Gambino fans. On the record’s early tracks, Glover contorts this vocal range in various manners, on top of some of the best production work on any record in 2016, and brilliantly orchestrated backing vocals. The real standout is “Redbone”, the most straight-up funk song on the album, which is driven by percussion and complimented brilliantly by some Prince-esque shrieks from Glover. The rest of the album hears Glover channelling a different era of funk on almost every track – to varying degrees of success. However, this is no doubt an incredibly strong record, and a timely reminder of this is served on “Stand Tall” – another six-minute track, showing just how scintillating Glover can be when he gets it right.

2. “Painting of a Panic Attack” – Frightened Rabbit

I wrote a full piece on this record on Blinkclyro back in May, where I didn’t make any secret of the fact that I loved this record, and it has been on heavy rotation ever since then. Evolving while staying true to your roots is one of the most difficult lines for a band to tread, but, as I said in the full review, Frightened Rabbit make it seem effortless on “Painting…”. From the ambient organ of opener “Death Dream”, this feels like a Frightened Rabbit album. Their signature fast and loud style is present on many tracks (“Break”) but the sound that defines “Painting…” is a much sparser electronic sound created by synths and drum machines, giving the songs a real sense of spaciousness (“Still Want to be Here”), which is not a quality that could be applied to any of Frightened Rabbit’s earlier works, but it is a sound which they execute masterfully, and that works in tandem with Scott Hutchison’s distinctly Scottish vocal. Throw in the fact that Hutchison is one of the best lyricists in the business, and the result is a near-perfect record.

1. “A Moon Shaped Pool” – Radiohead

As soon as it became common knowledge that Radiohead’s 9th LP was dropping in 2016, it was almost nailed on to lead thousands of white boys’ album of the year lists, and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be an exception to that.  A Moon Shaped Pool” sees Radiohead, a band who have innovated throughout their entire career, pioneering once again. However, the innovation on this record is more subtle; rather than the in-your-face electronics and glitches on Kid A, “AMSP”’s innovation is hidden in regular enough song structures (the recurring piano on standout “Daydreaming” wouldn’t sound out of place on a top 40 ballad) but on repeated listens, the genius of this album is clear to see. “AMSP”’s signature sound is the marriage of the electronics which Radiohead have been famed for and Jonny Greenwood’s classical orchestration, creating an atmosphere that is equally welcoming and chilling (“Present Tense”). The record ends in something of a fan favourite – “True Love Waits” has been played live since 1995, on just acoustic guitar, but here is a haunting piano ballad, emphasising Thom Yorke’s unquestionable genius – both as a lyricist and vocalist. Any Radiohead album may always have been one of the frontrunners for album of the year, but “A Moon Shaped Pool” isn’t just any Radiohead album, but another masterclass from simply one of the best bands of all time.

Honourable Mentions

  • I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” – The 1975
  • 22, A Million” – Bon Iver
  • The Life of Pablo” – Kanye West
  • Ellipsis” – Biffy Clyro
  • Colouring Book” – Chance the Rapper

 


20. Crywank – Don’t Piss On Me, I’m Already Dead

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Self-loathing had never sounded as good as it did when the “worst named band in the country” Crywank dropped Tomorrow Is Nearly Yesterday And Everyday Is Stupid back in 2013, an album that manifested all the existentialism and pessimistic thoughts that run rampant in James Clayton’s mind which had fueled most of the act’s work since the therapeutic beginnings of their aptly named debut James Is Going To Die Soon. At 12 tracks long, Don’t Piss On Me feels a lot more polished and cohesive despite the limitations Crywank endured which ranged from financial troubles to logistic ones. Instead of giving up on this project when times got tough, the band manages to assemble what is essentially a love letter to fans with the staple qualities that has kept the connection between the two of them so strong. It feels delightfully fresh at points, especially on the latter half of the record, but it does enough “old school” Crywank to make listeners feel at home.

19. Codist – Nuclear Family

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Nuclear Family provides a breath of fresh air into Scottish rock music while also paying ode to the very bands who made the genre what it is: like a musical Force Awakens if you will. A whole range of Codist’s influences can be felt from the get go with tracks screaming blue album era Weezer.  Things get off to a particularly smooth start with Zamboni which, while also containing deformed sounding vocals like Sudden Valleymanages to use it in a more appealing manner. Variety is key with this record as shown by the dreary waters it checks through on Puddle, which manages to bring back memories of Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”. Codist has most definitely delivered a debut album that delivers on the promise of previous releases whilst also showing glimmers of further potential in bucket-loads. The quintessential debut album.

18. Moose Blood – Blush

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While not as strong as their debut record I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time, British emo rock act Moose Blood managed to avoid the dreaded sophomore record curse with the misleadingly bright pink adorned Blush. It’s easy to assume that the album would be far more light considering the artwork as well as the lead single Honey, however, the record gets into some deeply personal territory such as Spring where frontman Eddy Brewerton signs faintly about losing someone close to you, asking over softly plucked guitars “The way you died, did it hurt at all“, delivering one of many raw and emotional lines that Blush has to offer. Far more accessible than their previous work yet featuring some of their darkest work, Moose Blood have achieved a true feat in delivering an emo album that anyone can appreciate.

17. The Weeknd – Starboy

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While outlets such as Pitchfork may claim that The Weeknd’s follow-up to last year’s Beauty Behind The Madness is uninspired and pop drivel, it’s clear from the get go of Starboy that it’s far from that. Take the eponymously titled tracked which features a beat produced by Daft Punk that wouldn’t be amiss on a collection of Yeezus B-Sides or a futuristic RNB banger in the form of Secrets. In a year that saw pop/ RNB stars like Drake and Rihanna fall from grace with disappointing releases, The Weeknd manages to fill the void with a record that has a fantastic range of features and manages to keep your attention until the very end.

16. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack

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Undoubtedly the best record the band has ever released, Painting of a Panic Attack is by far the dreariest and bleakest music Frightened Rabbit have ever released yet easily the most cohesive and enjoyable. The record’s genius lies in its seemingly copy and pasted heartbreak formula when first glancing at the track titles only to throw an absolute curveball with introspective and equally depressing songs. A lot of the tracks on this album are much slower and more somber than anything Frightened Rabbit have ever committed to record before, and this works beautifully in highlighting Scott Hutchison’s simply stunning lyricism. “Still Want to be Here” is a simple enough song musically with distant guitar notes and frequent electric drum sounds but Hutchison’s lyrics about his feeling of isolation in his adopted home of LA make it such a standout. “400 Bones” continues in the same vein, as Hutchison brutally addresses the faltering intimacy in his relationship.


•Phillip Ivers (@philipivers) of Codist (@codistbandPhilip Ivers

Pity Sex – White Hot Moon

The final gesture from Michigan band Pity Sex is also their crowning achievement. The album owes as much to Dinosaur Jr as it does to early 90s shoegaze, the infinite-sounding guitars suffocated in fuzz. They’ve expanded on the sound from their debut by writing more complex arrangements and experimenting with different guitar tones and textures. Singers Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake make heartfelt pleas to absent lovers and at times lyrically cut to the bone, with “Plum” being a prime example of Drake’s candidly emotional lyrics. Pity Sex have realised what their sound is on “White Hot Moon”, it’s a shame it’s the final sound they’ll make on record.

LVL Up – Return To Love

Solid indie rock made by a bunch of guys from Purchase, New York. A wee bit Guided By Voices and a wee bit Neutral Milk Hotel, LVL Up know just where to tickle me when it comes to influences, and they have some damn good hooks to boot. The band has three separate singers/songwriters and it’s kinda hard to tell them apart sonically, but that only contributes to the album’s flow and cohesiveness. Lyrically, the album deals with big themes such as religion and mortality but never feels like they’re cutting off more than they can chew. This is slacker rock going widescreen, just listen to “Five Men On The Ridge” and try not to fall into the aural chasm they’ve opened.

Katie Day – Flood Network

Flood Network is a complete anomaly, and by far the most unique set of songs I’ve heard all year. Katie Dey, a Melbourne-based bedroom-pop producer, processes every instrument to within an inch of its life, creating an equally thrilling and terrifying 32 minutes. Stuttering beats, high-pitched multilayered vocals and a plethora of squeaks and squawks all get piled on top of each other to provide minimal breathing space and maximum paranoia. The album is divided up into 8 instrumental interludes and 9 schizophrenic pastiches of pop songs, with the soaring “Fear O The Light” and morose “Debt” standing out as highlights. A great album to listen to when walking down the street past people unaware of the utter abstractness you are currently experiencing on your headphones.

Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh) of Sweet White ( )

THE CHRISTMAS KID

3. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!

From the moment I first heard “Me And Your Mama”, the first single from Gambino’s newest project, I knew it would end up very high up in my end of year list. It wears its influences very much on its sleeve (think band’s like Funkadelic and, to a lesser extent, Chic) but Glover has managed to put his own spin on that sound and really has released something special. Songs like Boogieman and Riot evoke the same feeling as the aforementioned forefather’s of the genre do, but also offer a fresh take on the style of music. Not an easy feat by any means. Left-field, psychedelic and just plain weird, listen to it ASAP and check out his performance of Redbone on Fallon if you haven’t, it is sensational.

2. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep…

If you’d told me like, 2 years ago that an album by the 1975 would end up almost being my favourite release of the year I’d have laughed in your silly wee face. But here we are. I Like It When You Sleep is, in my view, nearly perfect in almost every sense. I remember the first time I heard Love Me I had to act like I hated it because I didn’t want to seem like a massive hypocrite but damn it I can’t help liking what I like. This is a deeply personal album, with Matty really laying his soul bare (especially on the album’s two closing tracks Nana and She Lays Down) but it’s the range of musical styles on show that really makes the album for me. From straight up Indie-pop (The Sound) to soulful, electronic ballads (Somebody Else) to full on 80’s worship (Love Me) ILIWYS is the sound of a band at the top of their game, and I really hope they stay there for years to come.

1. Joyce Manor – Cody

Fuck me this album is absolutely amazing. For me, it’s absolutely flawless. It’s funny, sad, heavy, relatable, it’s everything I look for in an album condensed into a lovely wee 24 minute emo package. It perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being in your late teens and entering early adulthood and really not knowing what you want to do or where you stand. Songs like Eighteen, Last You Heard Of Me and Over Before It Began will tug at your heartstrings whereas album opener Fake I.D (the song with the funniest lyric of the year on it) will have you dancing away without a care in the world. As I said before, it’s only 24 minutes long, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album AND the lead singer of the band Fun. really likes it as well. Do you think you’re above listening to albums recommended by Nate Ruess? Of course you don’t.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: 1. Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis 2. Pup – The Dream Is Over 3. Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gales 4. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition 5. Chance, The Rapper – Colouring Book

 

Cheers for reading, and cheers to Liam for asking me to contribute! Namaste x

•Josh Adams (@jxshadams) of Alt Music Box (@altmusicbox_)

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Blackstar by David Bowie

It’s almost impossible to separate The Thin White Duke’s final LP from the context of his untimely passing and the influence it had on the end product, but even without the tragic backstory that informs most of the record, “Blackstar” is still a breathtaking record. Taking its cues from avant-garde jazz and alternative hip hop, Bowie’s twenty-fifth studio album pulled no punches in its musical and lyrical experimentation – see the whaling brass in “Tis A Pity She’s a Whore” or the double-meaning twists in the words to “Dollar Days”. In a year where modern icons such as Beyonce and Radiohead met their match in the form of newcomers like Chance the Rapper, Bowie gave us a parting statement every bit as powerful, relevant and exciting as the new kids on the block.

Blonde by Frank Ocean

The myth that surrounded the character of Frank Ocean only seemed to develop after the release of his debut “Channel Orange”, the critical success of which had a similar growth in the years in between it and the arrival of “Blonde”, his second album proper – so much so that when his website updated earlier this year, the Internet had a full-blown meltdown, the likes of which not seen since people found out you can share memes with strangers. What finally arrived on August 20th 2016 showed listeners an abstract and dream-like palette of sounds, which added, rather than subtracted as one might initially fear, to Ocean’s trademark emotive vocals. “Blonde” ran deeper, hit harder and questioned more thoroughly than its predecessor without raising its voice beyond more than an admission in a confession booth, and in the process proved that pop and R’n’B had plenty of room to innovate and excite still.

A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

The arrival of a new Radiohead album in this day and age heralds the kind of response that sits comfortably between the announcement of a cure for heart disease and the second coming of Christ, and the Oxford boys’ 2016 effort was no different. “A Moon Shaped Pool” brought back the heart and soul into the band that was notably absent on their last record, the intriguing but lacking “The King of Limbs”, via Jonny Greenwood’s once-decorative but now key gorgeous orchestral arrangements and the resurrection of previously abandoned works-in-progress, such as “Burn The Witch” and “True Love Waits”. But it was the new songs, like the driving “Ful Stop” and the haunting “Daydreaming”, that proved to the world that there was still plenty of fuel in the tank for modern rock music’s best band.

 


15. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger

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It’s an achievement in itself for an artist to still be evolving eight albums into their discography but what’s even more commendable about Ty Segall is how he still manages to sound just as refreshing as ever on his latest LP. Swapping out his tendency for getting all the notes right on his first attempt, Emotional Mugger embraces its pure oddity and is all the better for it, each track sounding an unapologetically odd yet enjoyable as the next. Emotional Mugger may have fallen under the radars of many but with its garage and noise rock aesthetic worn on its sleeve, it’s definitely an LP worth a listen to.

14. Joyce Manor – Cody

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When Joyce Manor hit out with Never Hungover Again, a rip-roaring pop-punk fuelled record full to the brim with angst and emotional transparency, the band managed to solidify themselves as one of the most entertaining rock outfits around, a view that had been upheld by their fans from as early as their debut record. With Cody, the band’s fourth record to date, Joyce Manor have continued to deliver the tightest and most compact album of their career so far that is “short but sweet” personified. There may be less thrashing but Joyce Manor hasn’t stripped back any audacity that they’ve displayed before and certainly don’t hold the listener’s hand, especially on the opening track Fake ID which, while having a silly line about Kanye West, ends on a pretty harrowing few lines. Cody may be over as soon as it has started but it’s a record fuelled by an act who haven’t lost sight of what they’re good at and a record that definitely benefits from repeated listens.

13. Skepta – Konnichiwa

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“We ain’t seen nuttin’ like this happen before. Who’s seen the country flip on its head like this, fam?” says fellow grime MC Chip, saying what we’ve all been thinking for months now: how the fuck did Skepta do this? Grime, a genre many thought had stagnated in the early 00’s, somehow started to dominate the charts and even won a Mercury Prize award over the likes of Radiohead and David Bowie. Konnichiwa does all the talking, whether it be aggressively on Crime Riddim, which packs a delightful retro game beat, when calling out police brutality or tenderly on Text Me Back.  Skepta has managed to provide another monumental release into the Grime narrative: Stormzy may have told everyone to shut up but what we have here is a warm, albeit fierce, Konnichiwa.

12. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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Was there ever any chance of Frank Ocean being able to overcome the humongous hype his follow-up to Channel Orange had accumulated since his long lasting absence from music? Maybe not but the result of four years silence Blond was at least enough to cement the great talent that the former Odd Future member possessed. While his previous work was instantly accessible and featured hits such as Pyramids and Super Rich Kids, Blond turns things down a notch to craft songs that you may need to approach a few times to eventually appreciate. What we get is an album full to the brim with emotionally charged songs, that thankfully rely more on Ocean than the guests appearing, and reassures listeners everywhere that the man hasn’t lost his mojo.

11. Weezer – White Album

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On their latest use of self-titling, this time called The White Album, Weezer seem to have grabbed a blank canvas and merged all of the band’s greatest attributes, resulting in the band’s best album since PinkertonThank God For Girls is more of a dip in the pool rather than cannonballing into it but as a first single it definitely lured listeners in with its sweeping guitars and all out wackiness. Analysis of the lyrics will have any old school Weezer fan overjoyed with their trademark nerd rock ways, digging into the culture of D&D while also having some fun with the hot topic that is feminism, playing with some stereotypes and going as far as to re-enact Genesis 2. The callbacks, both lyrically and instrumentally, aren’t just brief bits of fan service, instead, they’re reminders of what the band can do and will immediately top just a few seconds after you recognize them. The nerdiness is even more introverted, the romance even more anxious and fleshed out than before, and the grunge-pop sound even more satisfying. You can shout it from the rooftops: Weezer are back and better than ever.


•Tom Fraser (@crimeturtle) of Codist ()

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LVL UP – Return to Love

This album has been the ultimate grower for me this year. Like a big mushroom on a vine it has weaved its way into my subconscious, subjecting those around me to many a hum and many a hum. After the triumph that was their last album, Hoodwink’d, I was intrigued to find out what kind of transition the band would make to their first album on Subpop and, let me tell you, guys, it’s pretty spot on. At first I was hooked by Cut from the Vine which, to me, seems like the perfect amalgamation of Weezer and Pile’s slower numbers. Following that I had the album on repeat for months and new favourites emerged with each listen. At the moment The Closing Door and Spirit Was are my earfriends but I implore you to buy it and find your own personal favourites.

Pinegrove – Cardinal

For me, Pinegrove are a love born out of procrastination. Whilst studying for exams I took it upon myself to check the recent Audiotree sessions which may or may not have been the best decision of my academic career. Every song on this album fits neatly on a charm spectrum. Sometimes this charm is delivered in the poppy, upbeat chords of Then Again and other times it oozes from the simple lyrics and tight instrumentation of New Friends. The only downside of this masterpiece is that it has crystallised my hypothesis that one day I will be an old man sitting on a porch sipping moonshine from an icing bag while my bloodhounds hunt corn in the nearby fields.

Uncle Ben’s Express – Spicy Mexican Rice

A cheap and filling lunch, this glorious pouch will have you singing from the steeples and definitely doesn’t contain too much sweetcorn. I also really enjoyed The Pooches new album, it’s very, very good.

•Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

ethian

3. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Arguably this year’s most anticipated album once The Life Of Pablo had been and gone, was also one of the year’s biggest surprises. When Ocean finally broke his four-year silence with a non-commercially appealing visual album, it would have been easy to assume this was his way of justifying a four-year absence whilst also appealing to a wider audience with a studio album that more resembled his beloved debut Channel Orange. However, when he released Blonde shortly after, this was far from the case. At first listen, it could appear that Blonde falls short of Channel Orange in several areas, lacking mass appeal tracks such as Pyramids and not seeming to have as strong implications to sexuality, and race as one might have expected. But for me this is where Ocean shows his genius, from the very fact that on the cover the title is spelled differently, Ocean refuses to be defined as one thing or the other, displaying his ability to create anything he wishes. Blonde is the masterpiece that we were hoping for and is only the beginning for one of the most exciting artists living today.

2. Daughter – Not To Disappear

By far the album I’ve listened to the most this year, Not To Disappear is just so overwhelmingly absorbing that it becomes more complex with every listen. Daughter manage to achieve a perfect balance of an atmospheric sound that incorporates enough surprises and twists that prevent it from becoming formulaic or forgettable whilst also making it simply beautiful to listen to. On top of that, what makes this album truly spectacular is the sharp and disturbingly dark and hopeless lyrics spliced between the musical beauty that make Not To Disappear such an emotive listen. Such a carefully produced masterpiece of despair is further enhanced by the sheer emotional power in frontwoman Elena Tonra’s voice that further transcends the album above almost everything else 2016 had to offer.

1.David Bowie – Blackstar

I cannot possibly give this album justice in 150 words but it is without a doubt my favourite album of 2016. It is a testament to Bowie that this album is unlike anything he had previously released, even in his final days he was still evolving and transforming as an artist, refusing to adopt an arrogant or complacent attitude, instead still having a willingness to innovate and that is the very thing that made him David Bowie. When I first listened to this album before David Bowie died, I couldn’t help but feel there was something more to it, it almost felt prophetic, and then after his death this album just developed a whole new meaning that revealed it’s true purpose. Each track is a perfect combination of what Bowie still had to offer and what we already adored him for. In particular, Lazarus is a touching swansong that gives the album a layer of depth that only Bowie could possibly comprehend fully and solidifies Blackstar as one of the defining moments of his career and the perfect goodbye.

•Dan Drennan (@reptoid_prince)

Image may contain: one or more people

 

Algae Bloom – I am everyone I have ever met

Wolftown DIY is an absolute treasure trove of great UK Screamo bands, so it’s fair to assume that anything they release I’m going to be at least slightly into. That being said, I was in no way prepared for how much I love this record. Combining my favourite elements of Healing Powers (also on Wolftown) with some fantastic use of samples and a more stripped down approach to the heart-on-yr-sleeve-tear-out-yr-throat sound found on most modern screamo records, Algae Bloom have released a beautifully devastating album full of tense buildups and incredibly cathartic releases.

Beast Jesus- In Various States of Disassembly

I don’t really have much time for a lot of modern Shoegaze bands* but Manila’s Beast Jesus incorporate the walls of guitar and the plaintive vocals with fucking massive riffs and a dash of noise-rock. While this might be a short EP, it makes a big impact. Both the carnival-esque riff that makes up most of the second half of Scoliosis Backbrace and the blissed out guitars of Double Tuck make perfect sense here, as well as the blasts of noise and feedback that pop up all over the EP, most notably on Velvet Thunder. Absolute banger pals. Absolute banger. *Flakes and Colour of Spring are tite af and aren’t included in this putdown.

Chance The Rapper- Coloring Book

Ever had a really nice time? A wee moment in time where everything was just dead good and you smiled a bunch? The first time I listening to Coloring Book was one of those times for me. Same Drugs is a standout, being an absolutely gorgeous look at how two people can fall away from each other due to a lack of shared interests, told from the perspective of Peter Pan to Wendy. At the same time, Angels and No Problem are massive party bangers, the latter of which blesses us with a 2 Chainz verse that isn’t completely awful. If that isn’t the sign of a great album then I don’t know what is.

Henry Loveday () – Musician (Click here to hear his tunes)

henry loveday

3. Feelin’ Kinda Free – The Drones

If it’s not creating serious intensity with abrasive, distorted noise and jolting rhythms, it does the same with dark, unfurling ballads – punctuated by a fiery vocal delivery, and pensive (sometimes darkly humorous) lyrics. This album is densely layered with a healthy variety of tones and influences, but it maintains cohesion with instantly memorable melodies and palpable emotion. I’m inspired by the number of refreshing ways The Drones have found to make something equally engaging and visceral as it is thoughtful and experimental – It’s everything I’d want in a garage/psych rock album in 2016.

2. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown

It seems that Danny Brown’s goal is to be remembered as a brave, unique artist. I feel he’s achieved that – not only in his previous albums, but also in his refusal to rest on his laurels. All the emotions, experiences and humour from his previous albums show up here, and he backs them up with such novel, genre-bending songs and production that what you hear is not only very odd, varied, and emotional, but also pretty much incomparable. An incredibly high standard of experimentation and character has been set for Hip-Hop with this album.

1. Blackstar – David Bowie

The influence David Bowie has on me isn’t just through his incredible contributions to music, but in his will to explore and appreciate music. He left us exactly as we knew him: hopelessly immersed in the elation music brings. This album is so beautifully composed, evocative in its lyrics, and sonically presents something of a modern take on Low & Heroes (my favourite era). Every time I hear it I’m overwhelmed by his presence and devotion. Despite how influential and enjoyable his catalog certainly is, I feel there could be no stronger testament to David Bowie’s artistry and conviction than Blackstar.


10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead

Band Adulthood – a term coined in an interview in the back catalogues of music aficionados Pitchfork. In layman’s terms, a band’s adulthood is when they’ll start to release albums that, for the average listener, is passable but for the devotees is another milestone in their favourite band’s discography. This is usually around the time when many say the act in question are past their time and should put their instruments to rest. If we try to apply this logic to Radiohead, we’d be struggling. The band has somehow avoided this pitfall altogether, cavorting melodically past adulthood and transcending into an immortal state, despite Thom Yorke and co. all pushing 50. Many cynics will criticise reviews so positive for being fuelled by not only hype but love for the artist themselves but A Moon Shaped Pool manages to leave a positive imprint on the listener’s mind after every playthrough. Swapping out paramount guitars with ambient keyboard sounds and creating this irresistible, distinct sound makes it clear that you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks but Radiohead will certainly lead the class.

9. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Death Grips - Bottomless Pit

Dwelling into what made your glory days so, well, glorious can be a dangerous task: pull it off and fans will see you as a perfectionist. Fail and others will assume you’ve run out of ideas. Thankfully it’s the former for Sacramento hip hop, rock act Death Grips, a band whose delivery of music has been almost as un-relentless as their sound. What we’ve got on our soon to be destroyed plates here is a meal worth drooling over. A sonic assault on the senses, Bottomless Pit manages to both repulse with its intentionally gross and manipulative lyrics while treating the listeners to some of the most aggressive performances Death Grips have ever crafted. The standout track, though, without a doubt, is Three Bedrooms In A Good House, a song that cannot be tamed. Full to the brim with some classic MC Ride brutal imagery, “Cyborg swelling pregnant can’t abort”,  the reversed instrumentals are further enhanced by the always brilliant production that is present on every Death Grips release. Displaying the accessibility of The Money Store, the punk influences of Ex Military and the utter craziness of The Powers That B, Death Grips can’t seem to falter on their golden run.

8. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost

960

No one can conjure up depth into their songwriting from nowhere and Modern Baseball’s two frontmen, Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens, have had no shortage of the kind of experiences that can lead to an album as personal as Holy Ghost. Since You’re Gonna Miss It All, Ewald has suffered the loss of a family member and Lukens has undergone rehabilitation and both through their lyrics have had to do a fair amount of growing up from their angsty songs about girls and being awkward. An album of two halves but with both just as strong as the other, any fears that Modern Baseball would be incapable of following up on their first two acclaimed records can be put to rest. Modern Baseball won’t let personal issues define them, instead they will use their position to help them develop as people. That’s what makes this record so important and the incredible performances from every member is what makes it such a treat to experience.

7. Touche Amore – Stage Four

touche-amore-stage-four

From opening track Flowers And You, Touche Amore send you on an unrelenting journey through the mind of frontman Jeremy Bolm following the passing of his mother having fought a battle with cancer for many years. It could be easy to fall into a cycle of saying how sad he felt but the unrelenting ferocity and irate delivery that Bolm uses to describe his psyche is an absolute spectacle, especially on Displacement where he sings “she gave me her best, she swore I was her heart, I couldn’t worship the god that let her fall apart”. Skyscraper offers some form of closure and helps to shake up the sound as Touche Amore channel some National elements. The voice clip of Bolm’s mother saying “Hi Jeremy, I just wanted to tell you that just, finally left the hospital. Um, and we’re going to drop off a prescription at CVS so I probably won’t be home when you get there okay? Bye bye” is enough to make the most stone cold of people blubber like a baby. Stage Four shows the way music can be used as a coping mechanism and, just like another album this year, is a perfect example of a record being capable of acting as a fitting send off.

6. PUP – The Dream Is Over

Pup

In the same way that it’s near impossible to find a Californian punk act who don’t sing about drugs, so to is it difficult to talk about PUP’s sophomore album without falling into a cliche that every review has fallen into by addressing this album’s title: after visiting a specialist, frontman Stefan Babcock was bluntly told “the dream is over” due to the fucked up condition his vocal chords were in. While this revelation may have torn the band apart, it wouldn’t be very punk to let this get to them and as a result, The Dream Is Over stands out as one of the most solid rock records of the year.

 As the title of the album would imply, The Dream Is Over is very much about being rock bottom. The self-deprecation that manifests the record is unrelenting and even the titles of some of the tracks like “My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier” helps hammer this home. There’s also songs like “The Coast” that are aware of this and try to learn from it with the lesson from it being that some things can’t be changed and we’re not to blame though the imagery of dead bodies under the ice isn’t any less haunting. In the band’s own words, The Dream Is Over is a “rowdy, noisy clusterfuck” and while it may hark to a low point in their personal lives, this visceral record highlights an act who, health warnings or not, are unstoppable.


5.

gambino-header

No one this year has shaken up their sound as much as Donald Glover has. Going from hip-hop to funk is quite the transfer but one listen after Awaken, My Love, you’ll be thinking Gambino has been doing this for years. The record is a total love letter to not only funk but black music in general with Glover channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix from the get-go with opener Me And Your Mama, hollering over rampant guitars that’ll shake you to your very core. On top of that, there’s the Marvin Gaye influence throughout with some of the most seductive delivery on display here as well as some nice new touches like the vocoder effect used on Redbone that turns Gambino’s voice into an unrecognizable entity.

It’s been such an achievement that George Clinton, one of many influences on this record, is overjoyed with it saying:

When I did hear it, it sounded like a cross between P-Funk and Prince influence. I’m proud that he’s into the funk and glad him and others are bringing some new funk back.

From start to finish, Gambino does enough to make sure the album isn’t just a simple rehash of what has been before. His previous hip-hop efforts may have been divisive amongst critics but Awaken, My Love is one groove that everyone can get down with.

4.

bon-iver-header

An album adorned with cryptic messages both in its songs as well as its artwork, 22, A Million does little to shake off Justin Vernon’s title as being one “of the greatest living artists”. The focus on electro as opposed to the bread and butter acoustic Bon Iver had mastered on their previous records ties into all this and help 22, A Million to feel like even more of a burst of fresh air and evolution. “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” is cataclysmic as its very core, constantly erupting with bizarre electronic instrumentals veering into lo-fi waters yet Vernon’s ability to drive the song over this and the audibly loud handclasps is a testament to the man’s vocal ability.

While it seems to be near enough impossible to avoid the cliche comparison,  this move very much echoes the same shift that constant innovators Radiohead made on Kid A which, to be fair, is an album that shares similar themes of anxiety throughout so maybe it is pretty apt to contrast. If For Emma, Forever Ago was a lone heartbroken man making music in a cabin in his forest then 22, A Million is that same man veering further into the trees and shrubs and seeing where the path takes him. 2016 has brought with it an abundance of amazing records but none of them sound quite as alien or amazing as this.

3.

chance-header

“Blessings keep falling on my lap” Chance The Rapper wistfully chimes and he couldn’t put it any better on his first proper foyer into mainstream territory. Acid Rap blew up and got him a shit-load of attention which he hasn’t let go to waste with Coloring Book, a bombastic release that reinforces Chance’s status as one of, if not the most important rapper in hip hop alongside Kendrick Lamar. Coloring Book isn’t a one trick pony though. It’s a layered hip hop gem that manages to deliver a consistent, ever enjoyable sound while never losing its integrity.

Even with some features from the biggest artists in the world right now like the aforementioned Mr. West and Justin Bieber, none of the tracks which they appear on are totally reliant on being cameo pieces. Arguably the best track on Coloring Book, Same Drugs further touches upon this subject by using an allegory to the classic Peter Pan tale to reminisce about the past and question the present. It’s an endearing song that acts as a nice change of tempo, from what can only be described as “bangers”, that solidifies Chance’s future by displaying his versatility.

2. 

bowie-header

When news broke back in January that music icon David Bowie had passed, little did anyone know that it would be one of many horrible bits of news to arrive in 2016. However, despite all the numerous celebrities who sadly passed away, Bowie’s seemed to hurt the most and Blackstar was the ultimate grievance for not only those who loved his work but those who had never given the man a listen. Influenced by some of the oddest artists such as last year’s album of the year To Pimp A Butterfly as well as Death Grips, Blackstar is undoubtedly the best work Bowie has produced this century, exploring genres like jazz with such curiosity and expertise that it could arguably best the same artists managing to inspire one of the most universally recognised artists.  The themes and lyrics that run strife through the seven track running time, especially on Lazarus that seemed to hold more relevance after Bowie’s aforementioned passing. Blackstar is an extraordinary piece of music and art which, much like Bowie himself, will live on forever. This late in to his career, it’s crazy that Bowie can still surprise as much as he does on here. The themes of nihilism and mortality runs strife through the seven track running time, especially on Lazarus that seemed to hold more relevance after Bowie’s aforementioned passing. Blackstar is an extraordinary piece of music and art which, much like Bowie himself, will live on forever.

1. danny-brown-header

“You ain’t heard it like this before. They don’t do it like this no more” projects a warped sounding Danny Brown on the insanity fuelled When It Rain and he isn’t wrong by any stretch of the imagination. The Detroit rapper has consistently pushed the boundaries of his genre and, much like other hip hop heavyweights such as Kendrick Lamar, innovated by delivering music that is so unusual yet feels perfectly normal by Brown’s standards. Ever since his sophomore album XXX, no offense to his debut The Hybrid, Brown has managed to amalgamate his own quirky and vibrant vocal delivery along with witty lyricism to be, arguably, the greatest in his respective genre.

Brown’s work has no doubt been molded by this Detroit upbringing however Atrocity Exhibition’s DNA consists of some major influences, not least being J.G Ballard’s compilation of novels that shares the same name. Ballard’s work is noted not only for its unusual structure but also what stories it includes with such titles being “Plans for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy” and “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan”.When addressing the controversy surrounding his novels, Ballard claimed that “it was an attempt for me to make sense of that tragic event.” With this LP, it seems like Brown too is trying to do the same, creating content to better understand the tragedy that he’s faced and conceptualize it.

Every inch of this record has been painstakingly crafted in a way to immortalize Brown’s work in the highest quality possible. Although he may bring in some artists along for the ride, Atrocity Exhibition is a one man show where Brown is the eyes and ears for the listener: and with the amount of stuff he’s on, that’s as scary as it is enthralling.


Thanks for reading the annual blinkclyro.com best albums list. First of all, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed this year, especially Will Albin-Clark (@peachishwill) who not only designed the header image for this post but the top 5 album designs which all look stunning. 2017 looks set to be even bigger and better: you can be sure that blinkclyro.com will be here to keep you up to date on all the quality titles bound to drop as well as the rotten ones to avoid.

Big love, Liam x


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Top 50 Songs of 2016

 

 

 

 

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s here! Chuck those negative opinions aside as for the next week we’ll be counting down my musical highlights of the year. While 2016 was full of many negative events (US election, multiple celebrity death, suicide squad, damn daniel etc.), on the other side of the coin music was as entertaining and fascinating as ever. Hip-hop continued to demonstrate its creative power while rock and other genres revitalised themselves to provide us with some of the best singles of their respective artist’s careers.

As always we have the staple “this is my opinion” placeholder to insert before we get cracking on so if there are any songs you think are missing or should be placed higher/lower then keep in mind that this is my list. Since there are 50 tracks to go through, I’ll speed through the first 25 or so and go into a bit more detail as we reach the top 20 picks. With that being said, let’s get the ball rolling…

50. Glue 70 – Casin

49. Crywank – Love

48. Vistas – Sign Language

47. Brand New – I Am A Nightmare

46. Boston Manor -Lead Feet

45. Kevin Devine – Instigator

44. SBTRKT – Let Them In

43. Run The Jewels – Talk To Me

42. Fake Boyfriend – Bumtown

41. Parquet Courts – Dust

40. Pale Kids – Not Listening

39. Blink-182 – Cynical

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC97caHUgKk

38. Weezer – Jacked Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJOsRoY-na0

37. Frightened Rabbit – Die Like A Rich Boy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es8wQcKrrhA

36. Jamie T- Tescoland

35. Hovvdy – Try Hard

34. Honeyblood – Love Is A Disease

33. Skepta – Man

32. Metallica – Spit Out The Bone

31. Young Thug – RiRi

30. Enter Shikari – Hoodwinker

29. Touche Amore – Displacement

28. Kendrick Lamar – untitled 03

27. Biffy Clyro – In The Name Of The Wee Man

26. Sweet White – Genine

https://soundcloud.com/sweet-white/genine-1

25. Joyce Manor – Eighteen

24. Death Grips – 3 Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood 

23. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities 

22. Twin Atlantic – Gold Elephant, Cherry Alligator

21. Mean Jeans – Michael Jackson Was Tight

20. The 1975 – Somebody Else

Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you that The 1975 are making an appearance on this list. Whilst their latest album was a double-edged sword, only just managing to provide more killer than filler, when the band delivered something good it was really fucking good. See Somebody Else for example, a song that dabbles into the topic of modern day romance that frontman, with the hand of some vocal manipulation, executes brilliantly.

19. Charli XCX – Trophy

The ultimate pump up song of 2016, Charli XCX continues her reign as one of the most likeable female vocalists in music right now with a fantastic combination of 00’s club music and peculiar beats.

18. Radiohead – Daydreaming

Beautifully minimalistic and driven solely by piano alongside some glitzy chimes with a Jamie XX flare to them, Daydreaming was the standout track on Radiohead’s triumphant return A Moon Shaped Pool: a calm, borderline lullaby that dips its toes in fearsome waters before diving head first into them during the climax.

17. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”

Showing off the majority of 22, A Million’s religious subtext, 33 “GOD” is a showcase of Bon Iver’s experimental take on their latest record packaged alongside the delicate rock they’ve mastered since their debut For Emma, Forever Ago.

16. Blood Orange – Best To You

Providing some of the best R&B in recent memory, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound hit its peak four tracks in with Best To You. Featuring a stunning vocal performance from Empress Of, Dev Hynes showed off just how good he is at mixing production and songwriting together.

15. Real Friends – Mess

A pop punk song that has lyrics that manage to be fresh for the act due to being about something other than a break up?! Revolutionary! All jokes aside, the crisp production value along with a catchy as all hell chorus makes the track feel like Real Friends have been working hard on their songwriting capabilities since their debut record and, despite what they’re saying in the public eye, are making efforts to progress as a band.

14. Codist – Puddle

Glasgow band Codist came out with their debut record all the way back in January and continued to be one of my favourites throughout 2016. My personal favourite track off of Nuclear Family had to be Puddle that harks back to Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”.

13. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things

The shortest track by far on this list, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s titular theme tune to Netflix’s surprise hit series Stranger Things is, much like the show itself, a total love letter to 80’s electronica with ominous synths lulling you into a sense of dread.

12. American Football – My Instincts Are The Enemy

Showing that the band still had what it takes to retain relevance in a genre that has long since evolved since their one and only record, American Football showed they deserve all the praise they get with their second LP. My Instincts Are The Enemy is a testament to the intricacy this band can provide with just three instruments, pulling off smooth and satisfying tempo changes and delivering beautiful lyrics as if they had never been away.

11. Schoolboy Q – Groovy Tony 

Schoolboy Q may have given us a pretty lacklustre LP in 2016 but he made sure we weren’t left empty handed with Groovy Tony, drenched in eerie production and driven by one of the most aggressive sounding flows in hip-hop.

10. Frank Ocean – Nikes

WE IN THE TOP 10 NOW BABY! The musical Where’s Waldo Mr Frank Ocean returned this year with his long awaited Blonde that kicks off with one of the strongest tracks of his career. Nikes modifies Ocean’s vocals into unrecognisable territory, delivering lines about lost ones and consumerism with a minimalistic background which needs to be listened to for it to be fully experienced.

9. Danny Brown – When It Rain

Not only did Detroit’s prodigal son Danny Brown deliver the best record of his career, arguably one of the greatest hip-hop albums in the past decade, but he managed to shake up his tried and tested sound on top of that. Much like Groovy Tony, When It Rain cranks up that ominous notch up to 11 and packs the visceral imagery to back it up.

8. Moose Blood – Knuckles

Arguably the best track Mooseblood have delivered thus far, Knuckles embodies everything the band have been great at since their debut: providing a killer hook with beautiful lyrics and vocals. While the majority of the band’s sophomore effort is far more grounded in pessimism, Knuckles seems to hit a major realist chord and wonderfully so.

7. PUP – DVP

Unlike other acts of the genre who do a lot of rocking but very little growing up, PUP manage to nail the topic of maturity on DVP which flows seamlessly on from the aforementioned If This Tour… into an even more anthemic style on record The Dream Is Over. Addressing how they handle issues, in this case getting “so drunk that I can’t speak”, as well as others telling them to grow up, the track manages to keep a positive vibe going in its instrumentals whilst juggling some of the darker lyrics on here.

6. James Blake ft Bon Iver – I Need A Forest Fire

While James Blake’s latest record was sub par at best, there was a diamond in the rough in the form of I Need A Forest Fire. Combining Bon Iver’s beautiful vocals alongside Blake’s versatile singing is a genius concept and is wonderfully executed, managing to explore the .topic of new beginnings with total ease.

5. Chance The Rapper – Blessings

It’s hard to argue that 2016 belonged to anyone but if I had to place a bet on it, my money would be on Chance The Rapper. Colouring Book was one of the most enjoyable listens of the year with bucketloads of optimism and hope in a year that very much needed it. Blessings pretty much embodies the album’s core message better than any other track does. A gospel influence is felt not only in its sound but its lyrical content: lines about redemption, fatherhood and faith are subtle with the main hook from Jamila Woods being infectiously catchy.

4. Childish Gambino – Redbone

No artist this year transformed quite like Childish Gambino. Swapping out hip-hop for funk/soul/R&B music is an impossible risk but Gambino somehow survived the transition, quality intact. Redbone shows this perfectly, displaying a wonderful use of vocoder and the aforementioned funk element that made Awaken My Love one of the most refreshing listens of 2016.

3. David Bowie – Lazarus

The loss of David Bowie was one of many celebrity deaths to occur in 2016 but was the one that no doubt hit the hardest. Lazarus pretty much acts as a foreshadowing to it all with lyrics such as “look up here, I’m in heaven” managing to evoke a tear or two out of even the most casual Bowie fan. While it may be a difficult listen considering the context, Lazarus stood out well before the passing of Bowie, providing the perfect balance of instrumentals and Bowie’s unique vocals.

2. The Weeknd – Starboy

Before we get into the top pick of this list, we have but one more track to praise, that being The Weeknd’s Starboy which features on the RnB superstar’s eponymously titled record. Featuring a backing beat that sounds like a less feisty but equally enjoyable Yeezus feature, the partnership with Daft Punk means it’s no real surprise that Starboy finds itself so high up on a best tracks of 2016 list.

1. Kanye West – Real Friends

While The Life of Pablo was an enjoyable albeit messy release, it undoubtedly features the best song Kanye West has released since Runaway. Real Friends puts Mr West in his most vulnerable position since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as he voices his guilt regarding friends and family over a beautifully tragic sounding beat. Think Aphex Twin entwined with heartbreak. The song ends with a poignant howl that evokes the same sadness and, in a way, isolation that we have become accustomed to with Kanye’s more personal tracks. Sources say that when the track was first released, the title was missing the word “friends”. In a twisted way, it’s both a relief to hear Kanye sounding the most real he has in years whilst it’s also uncomfortable to witness the inner turmoil he’s experiencing that has only since got worse with his recent inauguration into a psychiatric ward.

 

 

 

 

~

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10 Worst Albums of 2016

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Oh boy. Seeing as I got a tiny bit of flack for the worst songs list last week which, to me anyway, seemed rather inoffensive, I’m even more anxious about providing this list on what I believe are the worst records of the year. If you’re able to enjoy these albums then I respect the fact you can find something in them that I can’t but this is MY list. I will justify myself though if I get killed by any angry fans of any acts included then I won’t be the first to die for what I believe in. (“Are you comparing yourself to Christ?” “No…I’m just pointing out comparisons”.)

As always, if there are any albums that you think are missing or don’t deserve to be here then don’t forget to drop a comment in the section below. With that being said, let us get on with it….

10. DIIV – Is The Is Are

Image result for diiv is the is are

I really wanted to like this album despite my previous grievances with DIIV, an act who are consistently praised critically. To this day their debut Oshin has one or two gems but is overall a bit bland and it saddens me to say the same about Is The Is Are. There seems to be an awfully samey vibe and while it would be a total lie to say that every song is a repeat of the other, there were a few moments where I found myself questioning whether or not I had a track on loop. I’ve heard many people say that this sticking to the one sound is half the point but to me it just seems over-indulgent rather than being anything particular artsy or foundation shaking. (Sorry Sophie)

9. James Blake – The Colour In Anything

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Considering the fact that James Blake had shown what he was capable of, The Colour In Anything was sadly the first shortcoming for the talented artist. Spread out too thin and consisting of some of the worst songs Blake has ever crafted, Points is more a test of endurance than entertaining, not even a beautiful collab with Bon Iver in the form of We Need A Forest Fire, the album’s one saving grace, is enough to make TCIA anything better than sub par.

8. Bloc Party – Hymns

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“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” is a line that has been used to death but is the only thing that can come close to describing the sort of anguish that Bloc Party’s latest LP brought me. Being one of my favourite acts and introducing me to the indie rock genre with their beautiful debut album Silent Alarm as well as their follow-up Weekend In The City, the group continued to evolve and seemingly improve in different ways over each new record.

With Hymns though, Bloc Party lost much of what made them so interesting to listen to in the first place, swapping out their amalgamated blaring club and garage influences, which resulted in some of the most anthemic tunes crafted this century,  for undercooked gospel-influenced mediocrity. Bloc Party’s sin isn’t trying to change their sound, something that’s a given this far into your career, rather the attempt to craft a mould for something the band just don’t seem to fit.

7. Blossoms – Blossoms

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Generic white indie boy band present underwhelming, pound shop psych/indie-rock that is more likely to provoke a yawn out of you than any reaction that could be interpreted as joy or genuine enjoyment. Maybe their sophomore record will present something a bit more interesting but at this point, Blossoms are off my radar for the time being.

6. Green Day – Revolution Radio

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Green Day have been on the decline for years now with their Uno, Dos, Tres trilogy really testing veterans fans of the band. Revolution Radio may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back as little evolution and boring commentary makes it a challenge to get through. The equivalent to yer da getting his auld band together, watching a five-minute youtube video on Donald Trump and complaining about the same auld shite he’s been going on about for decades.

5. Bastille – Wild World

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I could hark on about vanilla and inoffensive the work of Bastille is but I would really just be repeating what a large amount of people have pointed out already. That being said, even their debut had a few decent tracks that made them at least worth checking out, something that is evidently absent on Wild World. Somehow just as relentlessly boring and unenjoyable than modern day Coldplay: an achievement in itself.

4. Charlie Pluth – Nine Track Mind

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I’d be willing to bet that this album is the reason why 2016 has been such a mess. All over reactions out of the way however, Nine Track Mind features some of the most uninspired pop drivel that pretty much adds to this whole “chart music is awful” rhetoric that many naive listeners will spit out. Marvin Gaye, one of the biggest tracks on here, is the audio embodiment of excrement and everything else is just as hard to stomach: listen to for punishment, not pleasure.

3. Courteeners  – Mapping The Rendevous
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Just like many records on this list, Courteeners latest album’s biggest sin is just how samey and boring it is. Kitchen, one of the worst things I’ve heard all year that I totally overlooked in my worst songs lists, is one of the few attempts to innovate the band’s sound and it’s, to put it lightly, abysmal. My disliking of their music isn’t going to change anything as they title themselves “the biggest underground band” (hahahahaha) but after listening to Mapping The Rendevous, I may or may not be glad that someone at a gig chucked a smoke bomb at Liam Fray.

2.Catfish & The Bottlemen – The Ride

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Yes, blinkclyro.com is now officially a “We Hate Catfish And The Bottlemen” site. In all seriousness though, there’s nothing I can really say about this band that I haven’t already slated them for on my twitter but their sophomore effort is even more dull and unoriginal than I had anticipated. The Ride represents everything wrong with indie rock music at the moment: bland instrumentals with even worse vocals and no sense of any real attempt to be inventive that people will happily lap up due to how accessible it is.

1.Biffy Clyro -Ellipsis 

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GOT YE YA BASTARD

1 (FOR REAL). Corey Feldman – Angelic 2 The Core
Image result for corey feldman angelic 2 the coreSomehow Catfish didn’t come out with the worst album of 2016 though. No, that award goes to Corey Feldman of Lost Boys, Gremlins and Stand By Me fame. His album Angelic 2 The Core has been ripped to shreds for being structurally unsound, much like a DC movie in 2016. While I’ve said repeatedly on this list that the music in question is hard to listen to, this record really takes the cake: you’d have an easier time finding enjoyment out of a Japanoise track than whatever this thing is. 2016, you brought us some of the best albums I’ve ever heard but thanks to this album, our relationship is very complicated.

~

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The Worst Buzzfeed Article Yet? A Reply To “Gigs Are Terrible”

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

If you’ve ever spent more than two seconds on the internet then you’ve no doubt heard of Buzzfeed. Holding the strongest claim to the clickbait throne alongside competitors NME and VICE, Buzzfeed has made a fortune out of their attempts at journalism that focus more on New Girl gifs and less on, well, journalism. While it’s always been a prevalent problem, as shown by the multiple videos on YouTube criticising not only their content but their work ethic, it wasn’t until I came across a recent piece that I reached my threshold. So with that much needed brief intro, let’s get into tearing apart this article called “We Need To Talk About How Gigs Are Actually Terrible” point by point though not each individual one as they all seem to hark back to one another.

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In typical Buzzfeed fashion, right from the get-go, we are told that “x is actually kind of the worst”. Poverty? Pffft, you don’t know true pain until you’ve been bumped into at a gig multiple times apparently.

Now these next three I’ll include in the one point as they all seem to cover the same thing, that being that tickets are too pricey and touts are a major problem which I half agree with. The latter half is especially true with tickets being sold on for a fortune more than they should by second-hand sites, conveniently all owned by the same companies that sell them already like Ticketmaster, and thankfully there’s already legislation in production at the moment to tackle this. However, the point about tickets being too expensive is one that I’m divided on especially with the point the author makes about convenience fee since the tweet doesn’t give any context: Who is the artist? Where are they playing? How many support acts are there? If I go to a gig that takes place at an arena then I expect to get charged upwards of £40 for it and if I fail to get said ticket then I don’t do what most people do, and what this Buzzfeed article seems to accept as the norm, which is buy off touts. Don’t. The longer they continue to support these second-hand sellers then they’ll continue to be normalised in our community.

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Now points 5-10 deal exclusively with standing tickets. The first thing our author tells us is that it’s a pain to queue for a gig just to get a good spot, despite the fact that 1. No one is making you do this and 2. Who the fuck queues for a gig when you can show up for a gig almost five minutes before the gig starts and find yourself near the barrier. We then get more moaning about crowds bumping into you and moshpits which can be answered very easily: get a fucking seating ticket. Everyone who has ever been to a gig in their life knows this and to complain about it is like going to a football match but complaining every time the crowd cheers.

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The next few points concern seating tickets which are just as whiny as the previous points about standing. Complaining about people in seating standing isn’t a gripe unless you happen to be unable to stand yourself but from what the author of this “article” has said so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case with her. The next point about not being able to see the stage is quite easy to as, like with any entertainment venue like a cinema or sports arena, ask the person in front to take off their hat or slouch down a bit so you can actually see instead of complaining about it in a Buzzfeed article.

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After a miscellaneous point regarding the state of public bathrooms, which could literally be applied to any sort of event not exclusively concerts, the author goes on to ramble about festivals. Yup. The list that originally started off about concerts begins to clutch for straws so much that it needs to jump ship and moan about festivals, all of which are pretty much out of the organisers control such as the weather.

 

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It was this point though that threw me over the edge and I had to just close my browser right there and then. Support acts have a hard enough time as it is what with the awful reception they tend to get from people like the author in question. Your favourite band were at one point just a support act so don’t just play off every opening act as if you’re too good for them. If you know for a fact that you don’t like whatever artist is on before your favourite act then do not be there but don’t complain either if you find yourself ages away from the stage because you’re feart of someone accidentally bumping into you. To follow in the footsteps of Buzzfeed, here’s an appropriate reaction pic to how I felt when I read this piece:

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I’ve been doing this music blog thing for a few years now so I feel like I’ve earned the right to complain about fuckwits trying to do everything they can to sap the fun out of what should be one of the most enjoyable nights of your life. I’ve been to countless gigs where I’ve been battered in pits and had cups of pish thrown over me but none of that was enough to put a dampener on that night because when that band you’ve been waiting months to see finally comes on, you forget everything. You’re in a state of pure ecstasy that you wish you could make permanent.

So I’m not so much angry at the person who wrote this article: I’m just really fucking sorry that you can’t have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

~

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10 Worst Songs of 2016

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

As we bid farewell to 2016, arguably the shittest year in terms of right wing racists and celebrity deaths this century, and reminisce on all the high-quality albums and singles the year has provided. Of course, there are plenty that I’ve missed out and it goes without saying that these are personal choices and that if you genuinely like any of these songs then good for you and I am glad that you see something in these that I do not: too bad you’re not writing this.

In addition to that, if there are any songs that you think are missing or don’t deserve to be here then don’t forget to drop a comment in the section below. With that being said, in no particular order, let’s get on with it…

10.Blink-182 – Rabbit Hole

Oh blink-182. One of my favourite acts (can you not tell from the URL?)  you managed to put me at ease after the departure of founding member Tom Delonge with the delightfully solid track Bored To Death off your upcoming album California only to deliver this….thing. Rabbit Hole oddly enough falls into the same pitfall that Bored To Death barely skipped over with the lyrics and sound being too stuck in the past. Every line uttered just sounds like the ramblings off some 17-year old’s Tumblr page and not that of a forty odd-year-old who has shown his songwriting ability by managing to tackle some interesting subject matter. Thankfully the rest of the album wasn’t as abysmal as Rabbit Hole though it seems like the “triumphant return” of one of pop punk’s biggest bands was more than a little underwhelming.

9. Drake – One Dance

I can tell that I’m going to get a lot of slack for featuring Drake on this list but bare with me. Firstly, I’m not huge on Views: it’s somehow more of a mess than The Life Of Pablo with lifeless tracks devoid of any emotion and sometimes effort with One Dance being the epitome of that. Managing to stay at number one for weeks on end, the track is no doubt catchy but overall unambitious despite the afrobeat influences and influencers that appear on it. That’s not to say I don’t like Drake, shown by his appearance of last year’s best album list and the fact I’m willing paying £80 to see him next year.

As the year has gone on, and more intolerable tracks have made an appearance, it seems like the biggest problem with One Dance isn’t that it is objectively bad, it’s just wasted potential. Some may see it as the perfect club track but with Drake’s vocals being almost as drab as the piano mash that kicks off the song, I’m finding it harder and harder to get down with One Dance.

8. Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza

If I took a pill everytime I had to listen to this song while working at my summer job, I’d OD which would be far more enjoyable than enduring Posner’s pish attempt at retaining his long lost relevance. Cooler Than Me was a product of its time and while you could mistake it for any late noughties pop song, it was at least tolerable. At one point during I Took A Pill, Posner mentions that he knows a sad song and due to how close to tears you’ll probably be if you have to listen to it for a second longer, it might be the most meta thing to come out of a year that included a fucking Deadpool movie.

7. Jacob Satorious – Sweatshirt

Considering the massive like to dislike ratio on the music video for this song, it’s not an unpopular decision to have Sweatshirt on this list. The second coming of annoying prepubescent teen pop, Jacob Satorious is harmless but that doesn’t make his music any less frutratingly generic and cringey. The reason why it’s not any higher is that, thanks to multiple remixes and satirical takes on the song, Sweatshirt has potential to make you laugh though that probably wasn’t Satorious’ intention. Despite that though, listen to this at your own risk. (Sorry Teagan Ner)

6. Jake Bugg – Ain’t No Rhyme

Credit where credit is due here: Jake Bugg’s new album isn’t the worst thing I’ve heard this year. While most of his recent LP On My One is sub-par at best, nothing that appears on the album is overly offensive to the ears like some of his discography. However, as soon as I came across Ain’t No Rhyme I felt revolted by Bugg trying to seem somewhat politically involved though it all comes off as impressive as Slaves going on about how we need to “take control” for the millionth time. More on that next week though. Bugg’s attempt at rapping or some variant of it is enough to have you reaching for the nearest bin.

5. The Stone Roses – All For One

If you’re going to return from a long-spanning hiatus, during which your debut album has accumulated a large amount of critical acclaim and a cult status, it’s probably best not to hit out with this as your comeback song. Back in the 80’s The Stone Roses were constantly hailed as one of the pioneering acts of music at the time and whether you disagree with that or not, there’s no doubt that I’d rather listen to anything else they’ve made than this generic BNQ advert drivel.

4. Fall Out Boy ft. Missy Elliott – Ghostbusters

While my affiliation with the Ghostbusters franchise isn’t as strong as the MRA’s who lost their shit with this year’s reboot, I, much like everyone else, found this remix of the classic theme tune very sacrilicious. The Missy Elliott verse is so out of place, not to mention plain as vanilla, Patrick Stump’s vocals seems overdone when the instrumentals are as uninteresting as they are and only when the song finally ends will you find some degree of enjoyment. They might not be afraid of no ghost but they’re definitely feart of making decent music at their current rate.

3. Lukas Graham – 7 Years

I have reason to believe that this track is the cause for many of those working in retail to be in such a sour mood. Having peaked at Number One in February and seemingly managing to stay “relevant” since 7 Years is a song that goes out of its way to try and evoke nostalgia and tranquillity yet only manages to enrage with its bland instrumentals and mind-numbing lyrics. Message to Lukas Graham: if you’re going to sing about being seven years old, something that plenty have managed, at least tell us something interesting that isn’t about how you had no pals.

2. The Chainsmokers – Closer

Call me an over-reacting little waine but The Chainsmokers may be the worst thing to happen to the charts since Calvin Harris sold his soul to make souless, formulaic chart hits. The duo have been very prominent this year and, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t expect to have had to ever write about them again after just how dated and forgetful their first hit Selfie was all the way back in 2014. Closer manages to be somehow worse than all of the other “hits” Chainsmokers have shown off by featuring another artist who is equally as devoid of any entertainment, that person being Halsey. Both artists come together to create a song that, while having a great deal of meme potential, is enough to send you into a generic electro induced coma.

1. Catfish And The Bottlemen – Glasgow

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And to finish things off,  here we have our old friends Catfish And The Bottlemen. The band, being the saints that they are, decided to find it in their hearts to sing a heartfelt song about Scotland’s favourite music thriving city by doing it the only way they can: putting no effort in and consuming far too much alcohol to realise what a mistake they had made. Whether it be just how dire the song is, acoustic does not give you the excuse to be boring, or the blood curling way Van pronounces Sauchiehall Street, there’s plenty to love here! Wait, scratch that, I meant hate. Hate.

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How The Reaction To The Media’s Kanye Coverage Is Stigmatising Mental Health

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s not uncommon for creatives to suffer from mental health issues. A well dissected effected named after famous poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is one such documented phenomenon that suggests that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other writers with some,  including Plath herself, going as far as to end their own lives. The same kind of link can be seen in musicians with Brian Wilson, founder of American Rock band The Beach Boys, being very public about his battle with schizophrenia, specifically pointing out the effect this had on his writing music ability, saying:

I haven’t been able to write anything for three years. I think I need the demons in order to write, but the demons have gone.

So when rapper and music icon Kanye West was seen ranting on stage, which is not uncommon for the Yeezus star, about his support for Trump, naturally outlets and members of the public jumped at the chance to criticise the star. It seemed like West was maybe heeding his own words when he decided to spout out such quotes, as he best put it on I Am A God: “As soon as they like you, make them unlike you”. The word crazy was thrown around relentlessly, something that made an appearance repeatedly back in 2008 when West infamously appeared on stage to take Taylor Swift’s VMA award and declared that Beyonce’s video for Single Ladies was the “greatest of all time”. To this day the moment is brought up at every opportunity despite Swift and West making up afterwards though this was short lived before West’s Famous line (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ I made that bitch famous”) ruined any potential chance of a friendship occurring though Swift was quickly called our for her snakish ways.

With news coming out today about West being moved into a psychiatric ward, further outrage was sent towards the musician. Despite the star previously talking about his battle with depression following the passing of his mother as well as recently being given the news last month that his wife Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris, people were quick to criticise West for being a brat and saying he should man up with many comparing him to other musicians who have triumphed over physical difficulties to perform such as Dave Grohl. What most people neglect to mention is that this recent induction into a psychiatric ward as well as his outbursts occurring on the anniversary of his mother’s death seems to be more than just coincidental. I’m not one to sympathise with someone who said that people of colour should just deal with the fact that they live in a racist country.However, with his aforementioned mental health problems, reportedly suffering from sleep deprivation as well as West repeatedly speaking out against racial issues as recently as this year on his LP The Life of Pablo, it would not surprise me at all if what we’re witnessing is a relapse of sorts.

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Theorising besides, what has enraged me the most isn’t fuelled by the media’s reporting of the news, neither is it some blind fanboyism. Scroll through any of the comment sections of a publication who reported on West today and you’ll witness a flash flood of pure toxicity. NME, who since their move to being a free magazine have become what can only be described as the click bait of music journalism, seem to be the worst culprit of it with their readers showing such a backwards way of thinking in regards to mental health that you’d think that you had hopped into a DeLorean and ended up in the 20th century. Calls for West to stay locked up and to die were just the tip of the iceberg, highlighting the already massive stigma that is attached to mental health. The same people contributing to this are no doubt the same ones who ask what drug an artist was on when they see slightly abstract art. While they may say that West wouldn’t care as he’s a superstar and would hardly mind someone calling him crazy, the fact of the matter is this attitude reinforces the mindset that those who do not act “normal” or control whatever their mental health issues may be, whether it’s BPD or depression, are not worthy of fair treatment or even worse: not worthy of life.

While the title of this article says that the public reaction further stigmatises mental health,the group I’d like to focus on particularly are black men as it seems that, in the perspective of some anyway, they’re incapable of suffering from such a thing. For instance, black men in Britain are 17 times more likely than white counterparts to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness which, when tied into the fact that the biggest killer amongst men under the age of 50 is suicide, is very worrying. The discussion of such a thing in the hip-hop genre has been alive and well recently, what with Kid Cudi being very open about his struggles as well Kendrick Lamar touching upon it on his 2015 record To Pimp A Butterfly as well as interviews. However, with the stereotype of all black men being strong and fearless on top of the already hot topic of toxic masculinity, assuming that West’s recent actions are anything but the result of the shattered psyche of a man who has had a stressful time is foolish.

What’s important to realise about West’s struggle is that this is a perfect example of separating the art from the artist, something that came to mind when I pointed out that NME readers constantly refer to John Lennon, a repeated abuser, as a legend but state that Kanye, a guy who acts a bit arrogant, the devil in disguise. Whether you think that Kanye is the greatest thing to happen to music this century or you think that his work is ego fueled rubbish, one thing that I think everyone can agree on is that not only should no one have to suffer such mental torture alongside a public onslaught but that no one, regardless of fame or fortune, should be scared to speak out about how they feel.

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INTERVIEW: Matt Kean (Bring Me The Horizon)

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Bring Me the Horizon may very well be one of, if not the biggest rock band the UK has to offer at the moment. The very definition of a big deal, the Sheffield band has become top tier festival performers. 2015 was undeniably the biggest year for Sheffield band Bring Me The Horizon, in no small part to their latest album That’s The Spirit which reached number two in the UK album charts after they ditched their old metalcore sound for a less aggressive rock approach. After a dramatic change to the band’s dynamic on 2013 album Sempiternal, this alteration to appeal to a wider group of music fans was inevitable and has ultimately paid off with arguably the best album of their career.

Not wanting to be an act that derails the hype train they’re currently running, Bring Me the Horizon announced a huge UK arena tour for 2016, including a show at none other than Glasgow’s very own SSE Hydro! The six-date stint that kicks off at Nottingham Capital FM Arena will reach the Scottish venue on the 9th of November as the band’s final performance for the tour. I caught up with their bassist Matt Kean to find out how they plan on dazzling the Glasgow crowd come next month and how they plan on tackling the transition from sweaty, small venue shows to a big arena performance.

 You’ve got an upcoming date at the Hydro playing a sold out show in front of thousands of fans: have you, from your experience, found playing in Scotland much different than playing back down south?

It’s always been quite good for us up in Glasgow. We first played up there back around 11 years ago, a really long time ago, and we’ve gone up through all the venues, starting off at King Tuts and gigging at pretty much every other place there. The Scottish crowd is always crazy as well!

Now, you were up here last year, starring at the O2 Academy alongside Mallory Knox. You’ve upgraded to a bigger venue now (Hydro can hold 13,000 people which is more than 5 times the amount than O2 Academy can hold): how do you plan on dealing with that transition come November?

The shows are a little bit different obviously. I think that with the smaller shows, especially when they’re really busy and packed out, it’s much easier to make them intense but in the arenas you have to make sure that you’re connecting with everyone there, even the folk who are sitting down. Oli is really good at getting the crowd involved and getting them moving about, hyping them up: it’s definitely a lot more work but worth it nonetheless.

Your fan base is pretty diverse due to the different sounds the band has explored over your 12 year spanning career. There’ll be those in the crowd who have been there since the metal core days of old and your more rock focused efforts like with the recent LP: do you find this difficult and if so, how’d you plan on balancing the set-list accordingly?

On this tour we’re doing the longest set list we’ve ever done because we obviously want to give people their money’s worth and of course, you try to please everyone the best you can. We’re a little bit selfish when it comes to the setlists though so we’ll no doubt put in what we enjoy playing the most as you do. You’d think it would be a bit harsh to do that but if those are the songs you want to play then, of course, you’re gonna do that rather than trawl through a song you don’t really enjoy playing as much.

You’ve got Don Bronco supporting you on this tour: do you get on quite well and are you looking forward to travelling around the UK with one another?

Yeah yeah! They’re on the same management as us and before we even toured with them, we had met at other gigs and award shows and all sorts of stuff like that. When it came to picking support acts for the tour, we were kind of thinking of bands and that who are easy to tour with and who we get on well with: you don’t want anyone with you that’s gonna be a dickhead!

Lastly, 2016’s been a pretty great year for music with David Bowie, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver, Biffy Clyro and more all dropping albums: what records have been on repeat for you?

Ah *sigh* now that you mention it I’ve not really been listening to that much new stuff *laughs*. There’ve been two bands recently that I’ve been listening to a lot of, the first being Fjord. There a Canadian duo who I’ve had on quite a bit but they’ve only got an EP out at the moment: really chilled out, electronic music. The Japanese House have been on quite a bit as well, they’re on tour around the same time as us so unfortunately I’m gonna miss out on seeing them. Was really looking forward to seeing them.

You can catch Bring Me The Horizon at the Hydro come November 9th. The show is sold out so be on the lookout for second-hand tickets going around Facebook +Twitter: don’t feed the touts! It’ll be a gig you don’t want to miss.

~

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On A Lighter Note: The Funniest Simpsons Moments (Part 1)

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

As bloggers will argue night and day about what is the best programme ever to be aired on television, it’s likely that The Simpsons will be missed out in favour of your Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad though that shouldn’t be the case. While animation tends to get the cold shoulder when it comes to serious recognition, there aren’t many programmes like Matt Groening’s yellow cult classic hit. Back in July, I touched on all the times the show left us a little bit teary eyed though it’s the moments that left us clutching at our sides, bursting with laughter that we all tend to remember most fondly when thinking about one of the longest running sitcom on television. So without further ado, here are some of my picks for the funniest episodes and moments from The Simpsons that you just can’t stop quoting even decades after they were first aired…

Marge Vs The Monorail

An obvious choice to start things off with but when it’s constantly regarded as the best episode of the show, how could I not include Marge Vs The Monorail? Not only does it feature one of the best one off characters The Simpsons has ever provided in the form of a fast talking salesman called Lyle Lanley but it’s also full of some of the show’s funniest moments, including an amazing song that you’ll find nearly impossible to get out of your head.

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“Hey, a letter from my pen-pal, Anya.” “Dear Lisa, as I write this, I am very sad. Our President has been overthrown and…replaced, by the benevolent General Krull. All hail Krull, and his glorious regime. Sincerly… little girl.”

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“My Homer is not a communist. He may be a liar, a pig, an idiot, a communist, but he is NOT a porn star!”

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Homer At The Bat

Much like the saddest episodes revolving around the titular family’s father, so to do the funniest episodes seem to occur when Homer is at the forefront of them and Homer At The Bat is no different. Mr Burns recruits a host of baseball stars to appear on the Nuclear Power Plant softball team after he makes a $1 million bet with the Shelbyville team and what follows is a hilarious mess that ends with an unconscious Homer being paraded as a hero and a serious case of gigantism.

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“When I grow up, I want to be a principal, or a caterpillar. I love you Principal Skinner.”

22 Short Films About Springfield

 

Arguably my favourite episode of the show laughs-wise, it’s no surprise that 22 Short Films About Springfield is a loose parody of Tarantino’s critically acclaimed Pulp Fiction. Following a bunch of intertwined stories that happen around town, the episode produced some of the most iconic scenes from the show, including the above aurora borealis/steamed hams sequence that is common fodder for Simpsons memes. Fun fact: this episode inspired Simpsons creator Matt Groening to come up with a concept of a possible spin-off series called Tales from Springfield though so far the only follow up we’ve had to it was the Futurama episode Three Hundred Big Boys.

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Image result for ratboy simpsons

Homer: And Lisa. My little princess… And who could forget dear Ratboy!
Bart: Ratboy!? I resent that.
Marge: Bart I told you before, stop gnawing on the dry wall.

“Have you been up all night eating cheese?” “I think I’m blind.”

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Last Exit to Springfield

DENTAL PLAN. LISA NEEDS BRACES. DENTAL PLAN. LISA NEEDS BRACES. Last Exit To Springfield is one of the first episodes of The Simpsons I can remember frequently watching as a child, eventually getting to the stage where I bought Season 4 on DVD solely to stick it on. Simply starting off as an episode revolving around Homer becoming the leader of the power plant union, Last Exit to Springfield does what every perfect Simpsons episode does by bringing the laughs as well as the heart though the former is definitely delivered in bucket-loads.

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TOP 5: Scariest Video Games Of All Time

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

While horror films are all well and good at sending shivers down your spine, there’s a certain edge video-games have always had over them: interactivity. When you’re watching a movie and it’s all getting too much, just covering your eyes with your hand is enough to help make you feel somewhat safe. Pick up a controller and stick on a horror game however and you’ve got no other option but to traverse and encounter whatever hellish environments and creatures it has to throw at you, less you find yourself stuck in the same place for all eternity. What follows is a list of games that not only gives Hollywood a run for its money but solidifies gaming as the one stop shop for proper horrifying entertainment: readers beware, you’re in for a scare.

(And remember, if there’s a game you find terrifying that isn’t included then tweet me @blinkclyro and I’ll consider doing a reader feedback follow up piece)

Silent Hill 2

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Let’s start things off with a PS2 classic that has stood the test of time. Despite the series having several hit or miss sequels as well as having its own abysmal big screen adaptation; Konami’s sophomore effort was its pinnacle, managing to combine great storytelling with even better character design. As you find yourself walking anxiously through the titular town as James Sunderland, arriving there in search of his deceased wife, you’ll find yourself dreading every step through the mist infested location. Featuring undoubtedly one of the creepiest video game villains of all time in the form of Pyramid Head, no need to imagine he’s exactly what you think he looks like, as well as some devilishly tricky puzzles, it’s ironic how much you’ll love spending time in a town full of such horrors.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

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While by no means recent, having been released back in 1995 almost 30 years after the short story that it is based on was published, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream manages to create fear in the same way shows like The Twilight Zone mastered all those years ago. Following the tale of the last five humans on earth being punished by a self-aware super computer, the horrific torture and subsequent attempt to escape manages to flood with dread from every pore. Touching on subjects like rape, insanity, paranoia and genocide, the evil and good choices you are able to make adds another layer of horror to this already petrifying old school gem.


Dead Space

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In space no one can hear you scream though anyone unfortunate to be living with you will once you play Dead Space. Set in, surprise surprise, space, you take on the role of ships engineer Isaac Clarke who is sent in to investigate a distress signal on the USG Ishimura with his crew. As things go to shit from 0-100, you’re left to fight your way through the ship against some of the most ghastly monsters you’ll ever come across, who have a nice tendency to rip your limbs off, as well as finding audio logs along the way that shed light on the dark and menacing history of the Ishimura prior to your arrival. Developed by Visceral Games, the death animations are aptly gory and will be sure to etch themselves into your nightmares, as will every waking second the decent sized campaign will offer.

Bioshock

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Going now from the heights of space to the deep trenches of the sea, Bioshock starts off mysterious and never stops making you second guess. Taking place in the underwater city of Rapture, you find yourself arriving a bit late to the party as everything has, to put it simply, gone to shit. The once prosperous utopia has become a grizzly bloodbath with the inhabitants becoming deranged and you unfortunately finding yourself in their way. Despite being granted superhuman abilities thanks to ADAM, a substance which scattered audio logs will inform you about, you never feel truly safe in Rapture, especially not after your first encounter with a Big Daddy. A huge hulking creature with a massive drill for an arm, you can either build up the courage to fight or, sensibly, flee. Crying while doing so is optional but recommended.

Until Dawn

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To finish things off we have a 2015 surprise hit going by the name of Until Dawn. Essentially a choose your adventure style game but with a horror twist, Until Dawn is full of all the tropes and clichés you’ve came to love from your favourite slasher films which all manage to cross the line between tribute and knock off. With every choice you make affecting the chemistry between characters, all tremendously performed by some top class actors such as Mr Robot’s Rami Malek, you can very well end up finishing the game with every character six feet under. Quick reaction times, good intuition and a lot of courage is what will help you conquer what these snow drenched mountains are packing.

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A Brief History Of Biffy

 By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr

I love you guys so much – thank you for the bday wishes. Day off today and then back to making the ALBUM OF THE FUCKING DECADE!!xx” With this one tweet in August, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro sent social media wild. Speculations were thrown about like there was no tomorrow and the inevitable Instagram posts by band members Simon Neil (Vocals, Guitar), James Johnston (Bass) and twin brother Ben Johnston (drums) made sure that the rumours didn’t die out. What follows is a concise collection of the history of the band that help rejuvenate British Rock and put the small town of Kilmarnock on the map as a musical haven.

Big Biff Beginnings

It all started in 1995 when Neil, a guitarist from Ayr, formed a band with Ben and his brother James, writing and performing for 2 years under the name Skrewfish before the name Biffy Clyro came about. Neil stated that the origin of the name comes from discussing a line of Cliff Richard themed pens while in town. “”We’d call them Cliffy Biros. Somehow that turned into Biffy Clyro. Bizarrely, we weren’t high at the time. There’s just not a lot to do in Ayr. The weather is terrible.”

In 2001 Biffy played the unsigned band stage at T In The Park which resulted in them signing up to Beggars Banquet where they released their first album called Blackened Sky in 2002. Critics praised the album for its dark style and Nirvana influenced tracks,a band which Neil points out as being the band that made him want to be a musician. ““I guess for most people it’s the bands you listened to as a teenager than turn you on to making music, so Nirvana without a doubt. Kurt Cobain taught me as a 12-year-old that you didn’t have to be a great guitarist to write a song or to say something, so as a songwriter he’s my biggest influence”

Magic Midway

After Blackened Sky came a further two albums in the space of two years: Vertigo Of Bliss and Infinity Land. The former, released in 2003, was recorded in Milton Keynes and has been claimed by many as the band’s best album to date. Crackling with creativity, VOB was universally applauded and helped the band get a support slot for American rock giants Weezer.

The 2004 released Infinity Land was also well received, resulting in some of the band’s best known tracks like Glitter and Trauma as well as a return to the darker style with the title of the album referencing to a serial killer. In numerous interviews, Neil stated that “It was in a Jeffrey Dahmer book, he talks about his ideal place, which is called Infinity Land – his idea of heaven – which is really grim, being surrounded by corpses and shit.”

2005 was a quiet year for the band with only a single released on valentines day to feed the spoilt fan’s appetites. Neil pursued a side project named Marmaduke Duke and that seemed to be it for the band at the time.

Then came 2007.

Renaissance of Rock

“The last thing we want to do is make something that anyone would expect us to make. We don’t want to go for the safe bet, it’s boring.” said Neil in a Soho Hotel in 2007, promoting the band’s long (well for fan’s anyway) awaited return with their fourth release Puzzle. Regarded by both Rock Sound and Kerrang as the best album of 2007, undoubtedly proving that Biffy were back with a bang and a more arena orientated sound. This new sound indicated that the band had an appetite that smaller venues would not be able to handle unless they kept an entire week free for them.

It wasn’t just critics and fans that were pleased with what they were hearing as other bands, including Foo Fighters, Muse, The Who and Red Hot Chili Peppers called on the band to support them on their tours between the albums release and 2009. This fitted in nicely with follow up album Only Revolutions in November of that year and although its pop orientated sound would influence their latest album Opposites in 2013, the album became the unofficial black sheep of the band’s discography but still managed to reach platinum in the UK and was nominated for a Mercury prize award.

What now?

And that’s the band’s history up to now. Having headlined T In The Park, Reading And Leeds and countless other festivals, it seems like there wasn’t much else the band could possibly do. Biffy themselves didn’t think so. “We’ve made double albums, we’ve played all over the world. Despite all that, we’re still buzzing to show you what we have to offer in 2016.” And they did: with a bunch of festival performances and a solid LP in the form of Ellipsis, Biffy are very much back and arguably better than ever. With a headline slot at TRNSMT this week, the band are set to get things into top gear once again.


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