Top 10 Most Intriguing Releases 2016.
by Walter Price
Choosing a Top 10 Most Intriguing Releases 2016 (album or EP) was a brain gnawing challenge, but with great admiration for the following artists and the music they offered the world this past year; I am more than pleased to offer The GTC’s 10 most intriguing releases of 2016.
Going from 10 to 1 here are the best of the best of 2016 celebrated in popular articles posted by The GTC this past year:
10. The Lunar Effect – Strange Lands
(featured 17. May 2016)
Back in the day I found connections between Love & Rockets, Psych-rock and Black Sabbath. I have no memory of anyone agreeing with me but in a twist of fate, I have discovered the same connections with added alt-southern rock hints and dashes in The UK’s The Lunar Effect.
The outfit’s sprawling EP Strange Lands is a heavy exploration into new rock territories while maintaining and utilizing brilliant ingredients of rock n’ roll history.
The band’s Jon Jefford offered this about Strange Lands, “The album as a concept is really influenced by space, time and other worlds. We were very aware of this throughout the writing and recording sessions. Everything from the artwork and music to some of the lyrics has an extra-terrestrial feel, questioning who we are. It’s no Ziggy or Floyd but for us, it definitely flowed, even the title Strange Lands. That was originally from a song that didn’t make the cut, but the name stands. “Waking up in a strange land, we’ve all done it.”
9. Thomas Guiducci – The True Story of a Seasick Sailor in the Deep Blue Sea
(featured 19. October 2016)
Story-songs have a long history in formats far and wide but the ones in blues, folk and country have been the ones that have resonated the most with connoisseurs of truth and texture. The mainstream had all but forgotten the way Leadbelly, Marty Robbins, Dolly Parton and Cash took the listener down roads of tales varied, tangible and both ends of heartfelt. But times they are a changin’ and artists with the gift of telling authentic stories are being noticed once again.
Italian blues/folk based Thomas Guiducci’s recently released full-length album, The True Story of a Seasick Sailor in the Deep Blue Sea, is a collection of stories moving in landscapes of heartbreak, hope, whimsical wandering and the abundant recessed nooks of life. Although Guiducci is more akin to the bluesier sides of Mark Oliver Everett and Jeff Mangum than Cash and Parton, the vulnerability in the stories is beautifully comparable.
Experiences have multiple points of view, and Thomas Guiducci’s The True Story of a Seasick Sailor in the Deep Blue Sea is a fascinating first person exploration in layered sonic fabrics well worth navigation.
8. The Y Axes – Umbra
(featured 14. October 2016)
Great news out of San Francisco, one of the most interesting indie-pop bands, The Y Axes, have announced they will be dropping a new full-length album Umbra November 26. After months of releasing a steady stream of out of this world singles this news is, well, great news.
The 11 track Umbra is the first full album since the band’s sassy and playful 2014 Sunglasses & Solar Flares. Based on the before mentioned handful of singles, Umbra will show the band will go from spaced-out garage-pop to a real pop music force. (Don’t worry, there will continue to be interstellar musings.)
The songwriting is much more precise and sonic landscapes vastly well crafted. Often sprawling, beats heavy, a bit retro, definitely catchy sing-along friendly and very approachable. And the fact Alexi Belchere is one of the best voices in pop music and the band is comprised of actual musicians, things are looking bright. So, refreshing The Y Axes have been and by the sounds of it…will continue to be.
7. Chuck Westmoreland – Chuck Westmoreland
(single review featured 23. September 2016)
Chuck Westmoreland has traveled many roads during his music career and subsequent near-decade sabbatical. Outside of his personal life and family, his new single “The Clouds Beyond Us Carry Rain” may be his best avenue or perhaps country road traveled.
Taken from his forthcoming self-titled solo album, the single takes me back to memories of Willie Nelson’s 1993 “Across the Borderline” album. And that is a good thing. Westmoreland is less a country crooner and more akin to a good ole storyteller. Earthy, rough around the edges, immersed in no gloss realism.
The recently debuted Kevin Freeny directed video for the single travels wooded mysterious landscapes as the songwriter carries the weight in thoughts reminiscent of Twin Peaks. Take it in two or three times.
6. Marie Danielle – Hustler
(A. Michael Uhlmann review featured 11. February 2016)
Purely by accident I stumbled upon and was immediately taken by the unique voice of this early 30-something-year-old singer/songwriter – originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – but headquartered on the West Coast in Los Angeles. Clever – although very somber – songwriting and a first German tour to celebrate the release of her debut album “Hustler” (Tonetoaster/Alive), which will be released by the end of February in parts of Europe, made me search for more and schedule a phone interview with Ms. Stoudt, who simply goes by her two first names, Marie Danielle.
“Happy songs may not service you as an artist, well at least that was my case, 2-3 years ago,” she tells me one morning, a couple of weeks ago. That “Hustler,” who is already having an early pre-release buzz, and its songwriting compared to (among others) Lucinda Williams, would even see the light of day, is quite a surprise. Working in a cubicle in the video department of an international entertainment company to “mostly pay the bills”, Marie had put her songwriting, after a stint in New York City, on hold and kept it in solitude and private. A brush with death in an abusive relationship, made her realize “that there is more to life, than a simple desk job.” She sent some of her demo recordings to one of her idols, Simone Felice, of The Felice Brothers, who called her back and invited her to come to Woodstock (NY) to record a debut, with him and David Baron (Grammy-nominated for Meghan Trainor) as producers. As a travel and recording partner; she chooses Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes) just to keep her “sane” as she put it on her Kickstarter page. With enough funds raised, the two were able to cross the continent.
5. Shukura Chapman – Rearview
(featured 20. October 2016)
I hope I get this geography correct. Brisbane based, New Zealand raised, UK born soulful singer-songwriter Shukura Chapman has just released a new 3 track EP titled Rearview. So many attractive and magnetizing layers about this release. Here are just three.
First, Chapman handles drums, vocals, guitar and ukulele herself (additional bass, keys & guitar by Iain Broadley). As DIY artists are some of the most fascinating Chapman surpasses all expectations. Arranging sounds that could be compared to big extravagant by feel productions by Feist and early Björk. Funky beats, bluesy guitar work Prince would flash a smile at. A 70’s-esque lounge charm in spots that is undeniable.
Secondly, that voice. And speaking of Björk, Chapman does this beautiful and sassy voice work on “Release Me” that tingles the senses. Just as Björk had once done. Check out the sneaky low growl she does on the track, it’s that magnetizing thing I mentioned at the top.
Thirdly, for this article but not overall lastly. There have been many varieties of the blues/soul/R&B revival over the decades and some better than others. Shukura Chapman is something different. There are some comparisons I could make to what Lorde is doing. Especially evident on the single “One by One” but Chapman by my ears is lacking the perceived arrogance of Lorde. Which removes the too cool for school attitude and in its place is pure showcased talent in song craftwomanship.
4. Pauline Andrès – The Heart Breaks
(featured 15. April 2016)
Just as you find with releases from Howlin’ Lord, Andrea Schroeder or Frankie Lee, Pauline Andrès The Heart Breaks’ evokes cinematic dreams of that lingering night back-lit by the nostalgic corner jukebox as intoxicated songs of fragmented and stark memories waft and mingle with cigarette smoke, angst, and precarious hope.
The Heart Breaks will certainly silence any previous naysayers who in the past may have considered this distinct voiced singer/songwriter as a novelty thriving in shadows of outlaw honk tonk heroes. Andrès has come fully into her own, creating an unabashed brilliance that, as with all truths, has no confines.
3. Billy Momo – Seven Rivers Wild
(“Swim” Video premiere featured 3. June 2016)
Almost immediately after you start listening to Sweden’s Billy Momo your ears and soul develop the sense that this roots based non-genre specific collective is akin to a family band and their love of their art and how people hear it is beyond what many artists are willing to do. It’s vulnerable and that causes a connection that is unwavering.
The band has a new single “Swim” from their forthcoming album Seven Rivers Wild out 11 November 2016 and their new video showcases the band’s personal side, DIY spirit and invites us all into their world, their perspective. The only way a band-produced clip could do.
Here is what the band recently told me about the new video, “The video is more about being in your right element. It’s the feeling of landing. Coming home, out of the cold, so to speak.
“For us, shooting a video is usually hard work. We always seem to pick the worst locations. Swimming in October, on a bike in pouring rain all day or under a bridge, where people usually go to piss. This one, playing pool with your best mates and drinking all day, was not so hard. Tomas really likes apples, so that seemed only natural. And we really like drinking, so…”
2. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
(featured 15. March 2016)
When I heard about Iggy Pop mulling his retirement from the rock n roll circus I was understanding. What a career, a life full of everything and with recent losses and the music landscapes the way they are, this is the perfect time for the Godfather of Punk to bid us all a hearty, “adios Amigos!”
Then the word of this interesting swan song (allegedly) of an album with Josh Homme / Dean Fertita (QOTSA) and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) surfaced on the internet with eager intrigue. Rightly so, the album is true to the word blast, I haven’t had it stop playing.
I have no idea what I was expecting but what we life long Pop fans are getting is probably his best work since Lust For Life (1977) but that would actually be an odd thing to say since the icon has aged, he’s traveled many roads since and Homme is behind the sounds on PPD. A collaboration that will go down in music history as one of the best ideas, like ever.What I am blatantly hinting at here is that with Homme behind the production there are elements we haven’t heard in Pop music before. Yes, he (Pop) has stretched is long thin arms with various collaborators in the past but this is completely different. Depths and landscapes that bewilder.
Pop’s voice is perfectly aged, wearing his travels and delivering narratives that are more enlightening than expected. This is rock n roll, this is the kind of dark-edged pop music that bends all perceptions. The vocalist isn’t shying away from his past as you will find plenty of references to eras past hidden, purposely not so well, throughout. Throughout 9 tracks of funky.soul, rock n roll, sparseness, sprawling departures and pop greatness. I want to (expletive) love this album forever, it has it all.
At 68 Pop is still a little younger than another musical irreplaceable Icon Willie Nelson but as I watch and listen to these two as they continue to amaze I think all will be okay. two innovators thrive and find themselves introduced to a new generation of younger fans, I feel hopeful.
1. Hellsingland Underground – Understanding Gravity
(featured video review 17. February 2016)
What a busy year for Swedish rockers Hellsingland Underground, they’re in the midst of celebrating their 10 year anniversary, gearing up for festival club dates and all the while we the fans and friends wait for their new album ‘Understanding Gravity’ to hit stores or how and wherever you buy things now.
The first single)video “Earth’s Gonna Shake” in my opinion is their most accomplished work to date. Creating more anticipation than I can shake a stick at. The track in question travels chapters of songwriter Charlie Granberg’s life and perceptions. Pain, loss, worldwide injustices and sure this may sound gloomy but hold on for a bit, the second half moves swiftly and poetically into hope and need for a better future. Granberg told me about the storyline, “It’s one of those songs where I have tried to put it all in there, lyrics wise, instead of writing about a special period, person or subject e.t.c. It talks about everything from my parent#s divorce, childhood friends, old love, and growing up discovering how the world really works. I was trying to describe a feeling of how everything changes all the time. Things you take for granted goes will always transform, die or disappear, sooner or later. But towards the end of the song I describe some kind of hope that I still have for the future. You have to have hope you know. Otherwise; you might as well lay down and die.”
German version also available!