The Music Fix Albums of 2016: Part Two

Wow, 2016. What a year. What a strange, unpredictable, and sad year in so many ways. And what a shitty year for music icons. David Bowie. Prince. Leonard Cohen. Lemmy. Sharon Jones. Leon Russell. Pete Burns. Bobby Vee. The list really does go on. There's never been a year like it. You might also argue there's never been a year with so many good things for music, from the power of the Knowles sisters releases, to the sheer depth and breadth of excellent albums - including final masterpieces from Bowie and Cohen. Obviously not everything can make the final 30. Maybe 50 is next year's target. Or not. Anyhow, come with us and spend some time remembering the best of 2016, and maybe, hopefully, discover a new favourite from this year of many emotions.

We're revealing them a little differently this year, so here are the second set of ten albums from our final thirty, in alphabetical order. The first ten were revealed yesterday, the final ten tomorrow, Friday 9th December.

Huge thanks to the team for putting this list together: Holly Newins, Olivia Schaff, Colin Polonowski, Jonathan Tranter, Maisie Newman, Dominic Ross, and Dominic Hemy.

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Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - I Had A Dream That You Were Mine

Wow, where did this come from? The bloke from The Walkmen and a bloke from Vampire Weekend, who’da thunk they’d make one of the most interesting rock albums of 2016? Well they have. I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is dominated by Leithauser’s sledgehammer voice on first listen, from the dominating ‘A 1000 Times’ on he’s front and centre. On repeat listens though the subtle but stunning input from Rostam - i.e. the rest of it - shines through brightly. The chirpy, cheeky melody of ‘ Sick As A Dog’ is all about the music with Leithauser’s vocals supporting, ‘In A Black Out’ is great doo wap and the banjo led ‘Peaceful Morning’ could be heard around a campfire. It’s a pairing that just works. Never has Leithauser sounded so confident and malleable, and each song is a self contained wonder. Oh, and the standout? ‘You Ain’t That Young Kid’ a crazy mix of styles that Rostam and Leithauser pull off with aplomb.
Best track: ‘A 1000 Times’

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Harakiri For The SkyIII: Trauma

Ragging on black metal can be a habit in Dark Hemyspheres, but so much of it is very poorly executed and becomes hugely infuriating; in turn though, it makes bands such as Harakiri For The Sky all the more exciting. With III: Trauma the duo has built on their excellent sophomore album to create a record bursting with pain and torment. This piles on the claustrophobia and isolation relentlessly over eight tracks that are more expansive, yet also more refined and sharper than before. A heavy and bruising effort, the quieter moments sink further into despair, emphasising the cathartic release of the wailing and thrashing. As the excuses and patience for lo-fi unimaginative wannabes decreases, it is albums like this that helps keep the faith in the most ungodly of genres.
Best track: ‘Funeral Dreams’

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Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression

In amongst a number of swan songs from music greats in 2016, this is (potentially) another for the list. Iggy Pop has been quoted as saying that Post Pop Depression could be his last studio album and, like Bowie’s Blackstar, manages to forge new ground while drawing on previous efforts like The Idiot. Post Pop Depression is jam packed with the sarcastic bile and vitriol you expect from Iggy, with fuzzy bass, angular guitar and synth work resulting in a heavy, writhing, mid tempo groove that is dark and sleazy in equal measure. With support from 2016’s best backing band comprising of Josh Homme, Dean Fertita, and Matt Helders, if this is Iggy’s final farewell then it is a fitting one. A final defiant middle finger.

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The Joy Formidable - Hitch

Welsh trio The Joy Formidable haven’t had the easiest of times lately, documented in their third offering Hitch. Documenting the break up of singer Rhiannon Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd, you can imagine their time spent in the recording studio should have been a little awkward at times. However, it seems you can date your colleagues - they’ve come out the other side with a stellar collection of indie anthems built for the live circuit. 'The Last Thing On My Mind' is a future classic, and with lyrics including "I wouldn't say that this is the end / We might get away with a happy ending after all".
Best track: 'The Last Thing On My Mind'

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Lily & Madeleine - Keep It Together

Two out of three ain’t bad, apparently. And when you’re 19 year old Lily and 21 year old Madeleine, two albums in three TMF album of the year lists is pretty decent going. Following 2014’s Fumes should have been tough, it was a clear improvement on their debut from a year earlier. But the sisters made it seem too damn simple; Keep It Together is more complex musically, and adds a new dynamic to their quite wonderful harmonising. Right from the wonderfully woozy ‘Not Gonna’ and it’s opening line “Cuts along your thighs” this is deeper lyrically and sonically. Whether it’s the dreamlike ‘Chicago’ or piano driven wonder of ‘Hourglass’ with its catchy “Hoooo ooooh this is my hourglass” chorus this is mature song making. Even more implausibly the sisters write all this themselves. Where they turn next is something to get us slavering with excitement.
Best track: ‘Westfield’

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Lolo - In Loving Memory Of When I Gave A Shit

Massively underrated and underheard on her 2010 debut under her actual name, Lauren Pritchard, adopted Londoner / New Yorker Lolo went away to figure things out. That she returned with such a remarkably raw and powerful ten tracks is astonishing. Trading on her soulful smoky voice Lolo goes straight for the gut with opener ‘Heard It From A Friend’ (“Yeah I heard it from a friend who / Heard it from a friend / So when you gonna tell me you fucked me over”) and continues the un-romance theme through ‘Not Gonna Let You Walk Away’, dripping with reverb, venom, and the best vocals of 2016. But its real pain is when Prichard tackles depression and its effect; ‘Shine’ reaffirms life from a dark place, the honesty in ‘I Don’t Want To Have To Lie’, and ‘Dandelion’. This is an album about staying true to yourself, not hiding, and talking about the things that are hard. All wrapped up in accessible soulful pop and rock. Remarkable.
Best track: ‘Not Gonna Let You Walk Away’

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Lotus ThiefGramarye

It should come as little surprise that a sprinkling of the "otherworldly" in my music is a good thing in our book, and few can season better than Lotus Thief. Dark and psychedelic, Gramayre takes us on a journey through ancient and forbidden texts in their own inimitable way. Shrouded in mystery and reverb to compliment the ethereal female vocals, this is a stellar melding of celestial atmospherics to crafty, memorable songwriting. Crunching riffs and fretboard fireworks sweep the listener along, an alluring current dotted with pools of calm, blissful serenity. It culminates in an elated climax of swirling guitars, hazy synths and uplifted voices that is both exhausting and euphoric.
Best track: ‘The Book Of The Dead’

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Margo Price - Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Margo Price's album on Jack White's Nashville label is honey voiced pissed off country to make Loretta Lynn smile. For many of us who don’t only follow country music, this is the first album from the genre to – furiously – yank at the heartstrings since Caitlin Rose’s Own Side Now in 2010. What makes Price’s work special is her combination of relative youth with a full life, having too soon gone through the ordeals she sings about, including the tragic loss of a child leading to understandable over drinking. “Authentic” is one of music writers’ most meaningless words, devalued by its use on artists nowhere near Price’s candour. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a, meaningfully, authentic work with no other choice than to break your heart, but with the good natured tender care to try and put it back together again. Listen to the track ‘Hands of Time’, one of many to verify you have a heart worth putting back together. Nothing will make you cry as much this year.
Best track: 'Hands of Time'

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Michael Kiwanuka - Love and Hate

London born singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka released his much anticipated second album Love and Hate a good four years after his impressive debut. Was it worth it? Oh definitely. Encompassing folk, soul and jazz, these ten tracks explore the themes of alienation, loneliness and the quest of finding one’s place in this troubled world. The rich arrangements blanket the songs in a sumptuous warmth keeping the melancholia at bay. As Kiwanuka sings in the funked up blues of ‘Black Man In A White World': “I'm in love but I'm still sad / I've found peace but I'm not glad.” Beautiful.
Best track: 'Cold Little Heart'

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Mystery Jets - Curve of the Earth

Mystery Jets didn't waste any time in securing their place on this year's list, they released their fifth album, Curve of the Earth, just a couple of weeks into 2016. With it being four years since their last instalment, the band have had plenty of time to evolve, this change catalysed by the replacement of bassist Kai Fish with young Jack Flanagan. The Londoners have never settled on one sound but this record ventures far from the indie and pop elements we've seen before - they've branded it a 'space-rock' record, a very fitting label considering the planet-focused lyrics and celestial sound. The anthemic choruses capture the listeners and allow the group room to experiment with the ethereal instrumental. Lead singer Blaine Harrison's entrancing vocals are a match for his delicate piano skills that feature prominently across the album. On upbeat track 'Bubblegum' bouncy synths lift the tempo, whilst dainty strings feature on the poignant 'Taken by the Tide'. Curve of the Earth is consistent, comprehensive and compelling.
Best track: 'Taken by the Tide'

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