Putting togeth­er a list of favourite albums of 2016, I recalled writ­ing last year’s col­lec­tion. What a dif­fer­ent world we now inhab­it. Every­thing feels brit­tle and frag­ile, a sense of per­ma­nence lost. The loss of so many great musi­cians and artists this year has been raw and shocking.

How­ev­er… there are plen­ty of releas­es I’ve real­ly enjoyed this year, and inevitably the fes­ti­val cir­cuit has alert­ed me to lots of new artists. Autumn always seems to be tak­en up with see­ing artists live who I’ve been cap­ti­vat­ed with at fes­ti­vals over the sum­mer. There has been a (wel­come) resur­gence of prog over the past few years, as can be seen in the selec­tion below, and its impact seems to be becom­ing stronger – I’m sor­ry to hear though that Team Rock, who pro­duce PROG mag­a­zine, has folded.

David Bowie   Black Star

A won­der­ful part­ing gift from Bowie, and proof that as a rest­less spir­it he was always pre­pared to exper­i­ment and char­ter new ter­ri­to­ry. The album cov­er of Black Star, with its myr­i­ad dis­cov­er­ies, is a thing of beau­ty in itself, to be exam­ined and han­dled with great care.

Leonard Cohen You Want it Darker 

A strong album with beau­ti­ful­ly poet­ic lyrics, redo­lent with Cohen’s poet­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty, and replete with Bib­li­cal ref­er­ences. As an old man, Cohen looks back at his life and loves. His emo­tions shift from anger to wist­ful­ness to an accep­tance of his sit­u­a­tion. The title track­’s lyrics state ‘I’m ready, my lord’… but one sens­es that the roman­tic in Cohen will nev­er be ful­ly rec­on­ciled with his elder­ly self.

Steve Mason Meet the Humans


This col­lec­tion feels very pos­i­tive, burst­ing with emo­tion. Steve Mason seems to have reached a place of con­tent­ment and Meet the Humans should have you feel­ing uplift­ed. Plan­et Sizes is a par­tic­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful track, with over­laid har­monies. Alive is just that, a joy­ous recon­nect­ing with the world, with a gui­tar and har­mon­i­ca, its over­rid­ing sen­sa­tion is a rush of spontaneity

Turin Brakes Lost Property 


A beau­ti­ful col­lec­tion of songs with those goose-bump har­monies that Turin Brakes are known for, such as on Keep Me Around and the slinky jazz-influ­enced 96. Turin Brakes always seem to be a bit under the radar, but see­ing live them this year at Beard­ed The­o­ry fes­ti­val, it was a plea­sure to see they have plen­ty of devot­ed fans. Lost Prop­er­ty ends with a flour­ish of Amer­i­cana… Black Rab­bit is a widescreen vision of the lone­ly open road, with its sonorous and melan­choly guitar.

The Besnard Lakes  A Coliseum Complex Museum 

The Besnard Lakes toured relent­less­ly last year, and came back to the UK for a sec­ond time in the sum­mer, hope­ful­ly attract­ing a host of new fans – this band deserve to be big­ger. Lis­ten­ing to The Besnard Lakes is a mul­ti sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence – their lush, mul­ti-tracked sound hits you with wave after wave of gor­geous lay­ers, car­ry­ing you along. A Col­i­se­um Com­plex Muse­um lures you into their dreamy world with tales of nature and fan­tas­ti­cal beasts – such as on The Bray Road Beast. Lat­er med­i­ta­tive track Necro­nom­i­con is rich with swirling layers.

Wolf People  Ruins

Hav­ing been blown away by the pow­er­ful ear­ly tracks such as the dra­mat­ic Night Witch with its dis­tor­tion and fuzzy gui­tars cre­at­ing a moody atmos­phere, I’m now appre­ci­at­ing the album’s sec­ond half, in par­tic­u­lar King­fish­er with its rip­pling gui­tars, a track which sound­ed so sen­sa­tion­al live at Oslo, Hack­ney with sup­port Dean McPhee’s gui­tar adding extra weight. Also Belong, rem­i­nis­cent of Jethro Tull. In April the band are set to play Isling­ton Assem­bly Hall, proof that Ruins and the last tour have gath­ered new fans and the band can fill a big­ger venue.

Oth­er favourite albums of 2016 include.…

Michael Kiwanuka  Love and Hate

The Brian Jonestown Massacre Third World Pyramid

Look­ing for­ward to 2017… new albums by British Sea Pow­er and Bonobo…

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