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10 best tracks of 2016

Charles Bradley – Aint It A Sin

The man described as the “closest living equivalent to James Brown” by Pitchfork released 3rd album ‘Changes’ back in April, with its title taken from Bradley’s majestic, heart-wrenching cover of the Black Sabbath classic. The whole album is drenched in retro-soul sounds, peppered with post-funk grooves and hip hop elements, forming the perfect background to Bradley’s signature garble. This, for me, a particular highlight of many to be found in the soul star’s best release to date.

 

Massive Attack feat Tricky – Take It There

Forming part of the band’s Ritual Spirit EP release in January this year, Take It There featured the long awaited return of Adrain ‘Tricky’ Thaws – his first appearance on a Massive Attack record since 1994’s Protection. An intoxicating, trip hop waltz that reaffirms the assertion that Massive Attack are the masters of their own creation.

 

Minor Victories – A Hundred Ropes

A refreshing addition to the ‘supergroup’ tag, Minor Victories, comprising Rachel Goswell from Slowdive, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai, Justin Lockey from Editors and James Lockey of Hand Held Cine Club. Their self titled, 10 track debut release arrived in June to much critical acclaim, and the organic, lush synth-pop orchestral sound of first track ‘A Hundred Ropes’ made for a surprising and thoroughly welcome addition to this year’s music scene.

 

Van Ts – Blood Orange

Glasgow’s premier surf rock exporters The Van Ts – based around twin sisters Hannah and Chloe Van Thompson – have taken the city, and Scotland, by storm in 2016, thanks to their energetic shows, surefire swagger and most importantly, scuzzy, scorching musical output. None more so evident with the chaotic, raw beauty of  ‘Blood Orange’, taken from July EP ‘A Coming of Age’. Ones to watch for sure in 2017.

 

Mitski – How Deep Is Your Love (cover)

2016 has without doubt been the year of Mitski, with her Puberty 2 album appearing in the top 10 of album lists both in the UK and the US. Her fourth release is more a personal statement than album proper, with the Brooklyn singer-songwriter addressing her own views of the world with vigorous lyricism washed over with folk-punk, emo, and even 60s pop hooks. A live favourite, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ takes Calvin Harris’s original and adds a velvety, rich layer with teeth.

 

Deutsche Ashram – Little Matter (extended version)

Perhaps the best find of 2016, Ajay Saggar’s (King Champion Sounds/The Bent Moustache) new project – a two piece with singer Merinde Verbeek…, released LP ‘Deeper and Deeper’ in November this year. Full of transfixing waves of shoegazey post-punk vibes that cut deep on first listen, Verbeek’s vocals and Saggar’s industrial soundscapes marry perfectly to deliver dark swathes of experiemental dream pop of the highest quality.


Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”

Stark and stirring, Bon Iver returned to our ears with perhaps his most powerful and eclectic music to date in the form of 3rd LP ’22, A Million’. Rich in experimental textures that speak of optimism and melancholy in equal measure, 33 “GOD” features samples from the likes of Paolo Nutini, The Browns, Sharon Van Etten and Lonnie Holley, and perfectly encapsulates Iver’s hard to pin down ragged soundscapes – the likes of which only Bon Iver could create.


White – Step Up

If there’s a party going on in Glasgow, White will either have started it or will appear at some point in the night, such is the presence they have carved out for themselves in the city. Sharp dressers and even sharper musicians, their infectious, frenetic disco pop takes distinct elements of LCD Soundsystem, Prince and Franz Ferdinand and wraps it up in a shimmering cloak of attitude. The aggressive, pulsating Step Up – from recent EP ‘Cuts That Don’t Bleed’ marks a exception to the rule, and in doing so showcases the band’s talent for experimentation and desire to chart their own course.

Ulrika Spacek – Beta Male

A standout of British experimental band Ulrika Spacek’s debut LP, ‘The Album Paranoia’ – released in February this year, was for me the song of 2016. Labelled by DIY as “the soundtrack to a trip through space-time”, the band’s sound is an abrasive mix of distortion, repetition and fuzz that made their debut release nothing short of remarkable – as evidenced by the epic, 6+ minutes of  ‘Beta Male’.


Anohni – Drone Bomb Me

Sung from the point of view of a cilivian, the second single o Anohni’s ‘Hopelessness’ release is an intimate portrayal of the faceless nature of drone warfare, against synth beats provided by Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never. Seductive and sublime in equal measure, the subversive quality of the release marked a level of beauty few, if any other artist captured this year.

5 of the worst things to happen to music in Glasgow/Scotland

Glasgow is, in recent years, happy to report as clean a bill of health as it has ever had, musically speaking. With a seemingly never ending conveyor belt of talent coming out of the city, it’s position at the forefront of Scottish music allows it to stand head and shoulders above most other cities in the UK, perhaps even London. However, like any success story, there has been the odd rough patch to upset the smooth.

Here’s 5 things about music in Glasgow/Scotland that have caused a mixture of outrage, disappointment and desire to vomit your dinner up.

     1. The closure of The Arches

When one of the UK and Europe’s most revered cultural and club venues shut down, it sent shock waves far and wide. A Glasgow institution, the 2,400 capacity venue became a hotbed of creativity right from the word go, when it opened its doors as a theatre way back in 1991, before morphing into a gig venue and club space – one which regularly found itself amongst the best in the world lists. Sorely missed by those who frequented the unique space underneath Central Station.

the arches

     2. Any T in the Park after, perhaps, 2008

Scotland’s ‘premier’ music festival is, lets be honest, a festival in appearance and name only – with lineups in recent years resembling a playlist at Campus on Sauchiehall St. Once a place of joyful frustration in trying to decide between cracking bands that shared the same time slots, those of a ‘real’ music persuasion looked on in disgust this year as Calvin Harris spun ‘Bits and Pieces’.  Just ask LCD Soundsystem, who played a headline slot to less people than a Michelle McManus karaoke gig upstairs in The Horseshoe Bar on a Monday night.Suppose Geoff Ellis has done everyone a favour, we have all discovered the joys of other festivals such as Primavera or Bilbao BBK.

t-in-the-park

     3. Anything George Bowie has ever done

The pied-piper of the coke and MD 20/20 brigade has been offending people’s ears ever since he started with Radio Clyde way back when, with his ‘GBX’ experience show on a Saturday night acting as a war cry for the Kyle’s and Debbie’s of Glasgow to start causing it on the streets of the city centre before, during or after they get their rave on. The last straw for many was the untimely, tragic death of David Bowie, with his ardent followers rubbing salt into the wound by confusing Bowie with Mr Radio Clyde, tweeting that ‘they are gonna miss GBX on a Saturday night’. Where’s the sick bag.

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     4. When they pulled the plug on Connect Festival

Boasting a location that put all other festivals to shame on the banks of Loch Fyne at Inverary Castle, Connect festival. The boutique festival (limited to 20,000 tickets) seemed a perfect antidote to the much bigger T, with a relaxed atmosphere and amazing food ticking all the boxes. 2007’s stellar bill requires a double take even now looking back at it, with Bjork, LCD Soundsystem, Beastie Boys, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Mogwai, Idlewild and many, many other great artists. Granted, 2008 wasn’t as strong – but the setting and non-music related offerings still made it a welcome addition to the festival calendar.

connect

    5. Avicii’s concert at Bellahouston Park

A night which can only be described as a national embarrassment, brought to the city in 2013 thanks to the guys who run Glasgow Summer Sessions. With more than a passing resemblance to America’s presidential race, Avicii must have resembled a Trump-like figure spewing out garbage after garbage, energised by a toothless, non educated support in the form of every bam from Dumfries to Dingwall. With papers saying the gig quickly into ‘drink and drug’ fuelled bedlam, its reported that residents in Mosspark Boulevard planted crosses and garlic in their front gardens in a vain attempt to stop the vampires from shaggin’ in them after the gig.

avicci