alex wexelman, ben shaw, guia cortassa, jordan gorsuch,
kezia cochrane, ross jones, sammy maine, tom johnson, trevor elkin
Our ‘Album Of The Year’ is Mitski’s “Puberty 2” – for an in-depth feature on that record please click here
So here we are again. Another year, another list. Only this time we’ve done it a little differently; no ranking, no top ten, just a whole heap of albums we’ve loved this year and some words on what they’ve meant to us, in this year of all years. I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that 2016 has been a rough ride, but I think it’s testament to the brilliance of these records – and so, so many more – that they’ve managed to still mean something, to leave something lasting within the mess that we’re all still trying to work through. We go in deep on each of these choices; no copying-and-pasting, just a new reflection of what makes each of these records a pertinent character in each of our own worlds.
There will also be one official GoldFlakePaint approved ‘Album Of The Year’, because it’s nice to keep the run going, so keep an eye out for that tomorrow. But, for now, grab a pair of headphones, your favoured hot drink, and work your way through the list below. As always, we hope you find something new to soundtrack your season and the days, months, years, beyond. Thanks for sticking with this website; we’ve got some big plans for 2017 and we hope to see you there.
Look after yourselves and each other,
Our end-of-year coverage is kindly supported by TicketSelect, a ticket price comparison website which finds tickets for your favourite gigs from a variety of online ticket sellers: “One search, all tickets”
Lomelda – 4E*
Punctum Records (Buy)
I find that I wish I was yours
And belonged to all the birds nesting on the porch
And all the trees along the river gorge
And every windswept metaphor –
All of yours until I am nothing more.
There are records that you end up writing about in varying different places, so much so that you feel, before even sitting down, that the pen has run dry; that everything you wanted to say has now been said. We unveiled Lomelda’s 4E* on these very pages, and I went on to write about it in a few other places, and yet I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of what the songs, not only mean, but do to me. An acoustic take on her band’s wonderful 2015 LP, Hannah Read recorded this stripped-back counterpart late one night in a recital hall in Waco, Texas, and from the outset it positively burns with that aching, tender, world-weary heart that has become such a poignant staple of American literary work.
Shaped by a sense of summer-tinged nostalgic longing (or perhaps that’s simply the effect it has on me), the record unwinds beautifully across its nine-tracks, feeling like a true story, rich, vibrant, fully-realised, as Read’s incredible voice sings songs of travelling, of growing old before you’re ready to do so, of a land shaped by endless roads and endless nights, of the stars and the sun and the quiet lives that punctuate the stillness. “I’m not sure many of you will like it much. It requires more patience than I’d like. Forgiveness, even. It is static and small, privileged and careless, indulgent, digital, bare and a lil embarrassing,” Read said, when introducing her work and, aside from the embarrassment, is it every one of those things and more. A timeless, graceful dusting of magic that still creeps in to my conscience now and again, whether I’m in its presence or not; and ain’t that always the way. (TJ)
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Run For Cover (Buy)
“How’d you get so tangled up in my thinking?” sings Evan Stephens Hall on “Angelina”, a 2014 track from his band, Pinegrove. Such sentiments have echoed through my own head at varying points over the past couple of years, as the band’s music became more and more ingrained with, well, me. It takes a special connection for a record or song to feel like an appendage of oneself; that it happens at all is miraculous, and so we should take every chance to shout about it when it does. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to the songs that make-up ‘Cardinal’ since its release earlier this year but, against all odds, the reward from doing so has never once sagged. Each and every listen stirs something, burning through the veins while the words and ways of these rugged, resilient, beautiful songs bury themselves in the same way that memories do, spread roots that sometimes flower at the surface when we need them the most, or when we never knew we needed them at all.
Essentially a collection of country songs, but woven together with voluminous instrumental adornments, that has seen the (astonishing) live band swell to a six-piece, “Cardinal” feels like the ultimate document of that tipping-point between adulthood; the weariness of ageing before we’re ready, the consequences of the mistakes we’ve made and are making, the sheer brevity of human life staring you back in the eye for the first time.
Introduced by the immediacy of “Old Friends”, with its exploration of a life hanging together by a thread, coupled with a searing sense of nostalgia for people and places we once felt apart, remains the year’s greatest opening track. Armed with a set of lyrics that can sweep the rug out from under you with one seemingly plain-stated couplet (“I saw leah on the bus a few months ago, I saw some old friends at her funeral”) it sets the tone for a record that, though short and fleeting, will stay with you for a very, very long time. In more succinct terms; my favourite band in the world.
Yohuna – Patientlessness
Orchid Tapes – (Buy)
Completed after years of upheaval and constant relocation while searching for creative satiation in her life, ‘Patientness’ was the most suitable of titles for Johanne Swanson to name such a beautifully empathetic record, one that casts aside all formidably forceful impressions of negativity with shrewd acceptance and gathered experience. Crafting together fragmented notions, confused energies and overwhelming moods – Swanson arranged something so calm and self-reliant, the record balanced by a finality in its sentimental tone and temperament. “The Moon Hangs In The Sky…” is an awakening, a teaching in allowing recollections of presence in the most unadorned of times as walking home on a Sunday night to embrace you and be thankful – it’s so prescient it’s stunning.
Throughout lies a harmonious attachment between Swanson’s spectacularly impactful solitary moments and the wondrous, evocative arrangements that are arranged with friends such as Emily Sprague of Florist. The wonderful synth that basks in tranquility through “Steel Sinks” is as much a relative as a stranger to the elongated chords that swell around “Apart” and such simple symbolism of contrasting elements bound by a warmth is exactly how Swanson perceives these lives that we lead – with an anxious unknowing of the future, but comforting memories of just being happy existing. (RJ)
Choir Boy – “Passive With Desire”
Team Love Records (Buy)
Choir Boy’s “Passive With Desire” is the kind of record we dream about. Not just a stunning, stirring piece of work that arrives at our feet, mysterious and fully realised, but also coupled with an artist that has an inspiring stance and story all of their own. Released via Team Love Records and spellbinding from the first soft lilt of its swaying electronic pop, it’s an album that feels so essential in the here and now despite the lack of time and place it so beautifully hides.
“I was the Mormon to my punk friends and the punk to my Mormon friends,” Alex Klopp told us in this interview, and that bridging of characters, of shifting moods and ways and desires depending who’s casting their eye upon him is indicative of a record that so beautifully captures the restlessness and relentlessness of just existing in this day and age. Informed by a voice, and a set of songs, that channel the likes of Tears For Fears, while still sounding so excitingly present, “Passive With Desire” remains an astonishing feat, and one of the most resoundingly endearing, awe-inspiring journeys of 2016.
The Hotelier – Goodness
Tiny Engines (Listen/Buy)
“Make me feel alive/Make me believe that I don’t have to die” Singer/bassist Christian Holden places the weight of the universe on the small, brown fawn that he spots while spending time in a winter cabin with a friend in the middle of nowhere. “Soft Animal” is one of the most rousing tracks on The Hotelier’s newest pastoral-inspired album, ‘Goodness’ and one of the most thoughtful. It demonstrates Holden’s ability to mine the smallest of details for the biggest revelations: “The ring around your mothers heart/Grows saccharine then falls apart.” That’s why it hurts when Holden reveals that a rifle shot rang across the woods; is there any beauty that humans don’t tarnish? Let’s not give the impression that ‘Goodness’ is a nihilistic album, it actually is an album that celebrates the beauty found in the world, but Holden does not let humanity off too easily. New England’s interminable fields and exuberant wilderness are the album’s setting as Holden evokes transcendentalism (the inherent goodness of humanity and the natural world), a few snags trip up the band despite their newfound resolution to stand in the light.
“Two Deliverances” is reminiscent to the harrowing hooks found on their breakthrough album, ‘Home, Like No Place Is There’ and it is the first moment of the album where Holden lets us in on his self-doubt. “But in the quiet empty hours of my afternoon what am I supposed to do?” Holden shouts desperately, showing the cracks in his meditative philosophy. You can’t exorcise all of your demons through sheer will. “Settle the Scar” is a memorable track that fully embraces the young tragedies and fuck-ups that the band was so invested in when they first started. Old habits die hard. That’s why the album cover is so stunning; it focuses on the people that all of our young protagonists that litter the lyric books of our favourite emo bands will become.
“Opening Mail For My Grandmother” is a beautiful, soft, and sympathetic digression. It signals a transitional period for a band that is looking for new ways to write about the world. It focuses on an age bracket that is often overlooked and taken for granted. It’s a powerful and lovely image that stands in the midst of a genre that is starkly focused on the heartbreak and discovery of youth. The Hotelier don’t supply us with any easy answers, but they provide a sort of blueprint to catching happiness; to search for the little flickers of light that sustain us. (JG)
Options – Maxed Out
Sooper Records (Buy)
According to his Bandcamp page, Options is “the solo project of multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Seth Engel”, a statement that won our 2016 award for modesty. Engel is not (yet) as well known as the many bands he has produced, but once you’ve heard ‘Options’ you will certainly notice his hand in the work of Ratboys, Pinegrove and CHEW, as well as the five other bands he currently plays in. In that context, “Maxed Out” is probably an appropriate label for an Options album. But this album is no ‘go large’ meal – every song is under three and a half minutes, each note, dropped beat, sigh and cymbal splash is essential and accurately positioned with artistic intent. Engel is all about concise and pinpoint musical expression. He draws on a panoply of tastes and devices you’ll find in emo, post-rock, math-pop and the kaleidoscope of its interchangeable sub-genres, layering and weaving them, rather than piling them in some ham-fisted mash-up. With such solid construction, it’s difficult and probably redundant to single out any individual tracks, but a good entry point is ‘Kool’ an anthemic, bittersweet, blustering affair which cuts through the pretence of cool. Options keeps it real, through that rare combination of talent and something to say. (TE)
CC Mose – Beat Me
Plastic Jurassic (Buy)
What are your favourite opening lines to an album? Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but I’d recommend. It can be a fascinating journey; working out which ones have stuck, which ones instantly draw you in, or make you sit up and listen. There are the infamous ones, such as Silver Jews sublime “In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection“, then the personal ones which just seem to stick for no real reason. I’ve always loved “Loving you has gotten weird” from Whisketown’s Pneumonia LP. This year the accolade fell to CC Mose, the working name of New York’s Chris Robbins who opens his wonderful “Beat Me” LP with a line that acts as both an inspired introduction and a thorough summation of what follows.
“I want to see sideways, when I’m looking straight ahead, and I want to know what death holds for me” Robbins sings, as that little riff is casually, but sublimely, joined by a little drum roll and a second guitar; shifting gently in gear as it meets the words. It feels wonderfully special, the kind of moment that you can see heralded in cult circles in years to come. That track, and the rest of what follows, is just as rewarding; the whole record unrolling like some hazy, romanticised soundtrack to a summer that you wished could stick around forever. It sings of friends and foe, of missed opportunities, of growth and introspection, of trying to grab a hold of life for just long enough to find some kind of truth that will allow to make some sense of it all. It gripped me from those first few words and it’s still gripping me now. A special, beautiful rock and roll record just when you didn’t even realise you needed such a thing.