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Best Albums 2016 – Neonfiller’s Look At The Year’s Best Releases

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Best Albums 2016 – Neonfiller’s Look At The Year’s Best Releases

Posted on 14 December 2016 by Joe

After taking some time in June to list our favourite albums so far this year, the time has come to reveal our Best Albums of 2016.

The surprise alternative pop album of the year has not budged from its number one slot, but our extended end of year list has given us the chance to add a further 10 albums to our selection.

There are a few more veteran performers here, but also plenty of new bands with some stunning debuts released this year.

It may have been a horrible anus  in terms of politics and the death of iconic legends but 2016 was still a great year for music. Sit back and enjoy our Best Albums 2016 list.

20. Picture Box – Songs of Joy

 

a4145696296_10

Robert Halcrow uses his brand ‘wonky pop’ to take you on a tour of the lesser known nooks and crannies of his home City of Canterbury, in Kent. The demise of its speedway team, its smelly former tannery and a pet fish shop are the stars of this thoroughly eccentric look at small town England. Read the full review here.

19. American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth

 

wrestlers-2016-pressphoto-evan-cuttler-wattles-650

The brain child of Gary McClure, once of Manchester band Working for A Nuclear Free City and now living in St Louis, this new act’s debut album earns a deserved spot on our list for its personal subject matter and catchy hooks all blended perfectly together with lashings of distorted guitar. Read the full review here.

18. Robert Rotifer – Not Your Door

 

robert-rotifer-not-your-door

Not Your Door is a deeply personal album for Robert Rotifer, taking in his present life living in Canterbury, Kent, as well as his past, growing up in Vienna. But with its themes of family and the very notion of home it aims to resonate with many. Its post Brexit release also offers a thoughtful alternative view on EU relations. Read the full review here.

17. Rapid Results College – In City Light

 

cover

Rapid Results College is such a great name for a band, cemented in modern urban life with tongue firmly in cheek about its pressures, pace and pitfalls. Their debut album left us enthralled, taking in influences such as XTC and their keen focus on melody, all channeled through some of the cleanest production you will hear all year. Read the full review here.

16. Southern Tenant Folk Union – Join Forces

 

joinforces500

After the ambitious Chuck Norris Project of last year, in which the Edinburgh folk collective used film titles by the rightwing actor to protest against his politics, their latest album goes back to basics. This has a more traditional sound, focusing on their bluegrass and Celtic influences, but still with plenty of politics and above all heart. Read the full review here.

15. Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

 

Robert-Pollard-Of-Course-You-Are

Incredibly, this is now the 22nd solo album from the hardest working man in music and proves another high point in an illustrious career. Read the full review here.

14. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky

 

mould-500x500

Third album from the former Sugar and Husker Du man’s most settled line up for years. The key to its success is its ability to tackle the tough issues of life in the most fun way possible, as Mould’s rage and melody once again combine perfectly.  Read the full review here.

13. Woodpigeon – TROUBLE

 

woodpigeon

Heartbreak, loss and a globe trotting meander prove the powerful inspiration for Mark Andrew Hamilton’s latest album. Beautiful and inspiring. Read the full review here.

12. John Howard – Across the Door Sill

 

acrossthedoorsill500

This may just be the best album to date by John Howard, the 1970s singer songwriter who is enjoying a renaissance in recent years as an independent artist. His time capsule preserved vocals are in abundance here thanks to some sumptuous layering to create an entire choir of Howards backed simply by piano. Beautiful. Read the full review here.

11. Martha – Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart

 

 

martha

Many bands have trod the well worn path of capturing the pains of being young within three minute, fast paced pop songs, complete with guitar solos and rousing sing-a-long choruses. But no one does this quite like Martha. This collection from the north east of England act is another deserved entry to our end of year round up. Read the full review here.

10. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

 

51655-nonagon-infinity

Like an extended rock jam, taking in science fiction, monsters and, naturally, some awesome guitar riffs this is another stellar release from the Australian psych rockers, with a little help from some robots and a gigantic wasp. Read the full review here.

9. Dressy Bessy – King Sized

 

Dressy Bessy Kingsized

Fabulous return from a six-year break for the US act. This works particularly well by merging their beefier pre- hiatus sound with the pop nous that made their early work so infectious. Read the full review here.

8. The Wave Pictures – Bamboo Diner in the Rain

 

wave-pictures

Underneath what may very well be 2016’s crappiest album cover lies this year’s best blues LP, as The Wave Pictures take their fascination with American blues to new levels. Read our full review here.

7. Papernut Cambridge – Love the Things Your Lover Loves

 

papernut

Former Death in Vegas man Ian Button and crew have created their very own 1970s pop band. Full of fuzzed up guitar riffs and stomping rhythms there would have been plenty to satisfy the charts back in the day, especially the album’s title song, and its best pop tune, Radio. Read the full review here.

6. Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages – Vol 1

 

ThankfulWeb

One of Hayman’s best pieces of work and possibly his most important, preserving the oral history of the relatives of those who survived the horrors of the Great War as well as paying tribute to the village life these soldiers left and thankfully returned to. Read the full review here.

5. Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield

 

pollock

Childhood memories and the toils of adulthood mix wonderfully on the former Delgados singer’s latest album. With the track Parks and Recreation she has also created one of the best songs of recent years. Read the full review here.

4. Arborist – Home Burial

 

home_burial

Imagine a colliery band on tour of the Appalachians and I guess you are somewhere near this sound conjured up in this stunning debut from the Northern Ireland based act, that also features The Breeders Kim Deal on vocals. It’s Americana, but not like you’ve heard it before. Read the full review here.

3. Free Swim – Life Time of Treats

 

Free Swim

Free Swim’s Paul Coltofeanu is a silly chap, that’s why we like him. We’ve already been enthralled by his collection of quirky EPs but here, on the act’s debut album, he joins forces with chum David Turn to  take the charm up a few notches. Ray Mears, air drumming, Neville Southall’s moustache and angry internet sensation Gordon Hill are among the cast of stars that Paul and David encounter. There’s some fine music here too, which shows they are no mere novelty act. Read the full review here.

2. Evans the Death – Vanilla

 

evans

On album number three London act Evans the Death have upped, shredded, beaten up and garrotted the ante. It’s full of rage, the guitars are heavier than before, the vocals fiercer and the ambition turned to stadium sized proportions, with a brass section and even a funky bass added to the mix. Incendiary album from what very well be Britain’s best rock band. Read the full review here.

1. The Monkees – Good Times

 

The Monkees - Good Times

The comeback to beat all comebacks. Originally planned as merely something to sell on their 50th anniversary tour this album has ended up grabbing the headlines in its own right. With Fountains of Wayne man Adam Schlesinger at the helm, a stack of lost demos to dust off and new tracks from talented Monkees fans such as Andy Partridge and Ben Gibbard, Good Times both pays tribute to their place in 1960s pop history and creates a great, modern day indie and alternative pop album in its own right. A well deserved number one slot. Read our full review here.

Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far was compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far…

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Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far…

Posted on 20 June 2016 by Joe

With 2016 at the half way mark we thought we’d present our list of the ten albums that have impressed us the most so far. All within our broad focus on indie and alternative music, we’ve some old stagers, new bands and plenty of rage. We’ve also got an act at number one who probably never would have thought they’d be acclaimed as the best indie act of the year in 2016 back. In addition to the ten below we also wanted to mention new albums by Shearwater, Pete Astor, The Wave Pictures, Steven James Adams, Picture Box and Rapid Results College, which are all in contention for a place in our end of year extended best albums list.

10. Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

Robert-Pollard-Of-Course-You-Are

Incredibly, this is now the 22nd solo album from the hardest working man in music and proves another high point in an illustrious career. Read the full review here.

9. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky

mould-500x500

Third album from the former Sugar and Husker Du man’s most settled line up for years. The key to its success is its ability to tackle the tough issues of life in the most fun way possible, as Mould’s rage and melody once again combine perfectly.  Read the full review here.

8. Dressy Bessy – King Sized

Dressy Bessy Kingsized

Fabulous return from a six-year break for the US act. This works particularly well by merging their beefier pre- hiatus sound with the pop nous that made their early work so infectious. Read the full review here.

7. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

51655-nonagon-infinity

Like an extended rock jam, taking in science fiction, monsters and, naturally, some awesome guitar riffs this is another stellar release from the Australian psych rockers, with a little help from some robots and a gigantic wasp. Read the full review here.

6. Woodpigeon – TROUBLE

woodpigeon

Heartbreak, loss and a globe trotting meander prove the powerful inspiration for Mark Andrew Hamilton’s latest album. Beautiful and inspiring. Read the full review here.

5. Evans the Death – Vanilla

evans

On album number three London act Evans the Death have upped, shredded, beaten up and garrotted the ante. It’s full of rage, the guitars are heavier than before, the vocals fiercer and the ambition turned to stadium sized proportions, with a brass section and even a funky bass added to the mix. Incendiary album from what very well be Britain’s best rock band. Read the full review here.

4. Papernut Cambridge – Love the Things Your Lover Loves

papernut

Former Death in Vegas man Ian Button and crew have created their very own 1970s pop band. Full of fuzzed up guitar riffs and stomping rhythms there would have been plenty to satisfy the charts back in the day, especially the album’s title song, and its best pop tune, Radio. Read the full review here.

3. Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages – Vol 1

ThankfulWeb

One of Hayman’s best pieces of work and possibly his most important, preserving the oral history of the relatives of those who survived the horrors of the Great War as well as paying tribute to the village life these soldiers left and thankfully returned to. Read the full review here.

2. Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield

pollock

Childhood memories and the toils of adulthood mix wonderfully on the former Delgados singer’s latest album. With the track Parks and Recreation she has also created one of the best songs of recent years. Read the full review here.

1. The Monkees – Good Times

The Monkees - Good Times

The comeback to beat all comebacks. Originally planned as merely something to sell on their 50th anniversary tour this album has ended up grabbing the headlines in its own right. With Fountains of Wayne man Adam Schlesinger at the helm, a stack of lost demos to dust off and new tracks from talented Monkees fans such as Andy Partridge and Ben Gibbard, Good Times both pays tribute to their place in 1960s pop history and creates a great, modern day indie and alternative pop album in its own right. A well deserved number one slot. Read our full review here.

Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far was compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Dressy Bessy – Kingsized

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Dressy Bessy – Kingsized

Posted on 08 April 2016 by Dorian

In recent months I’ve been finding myself encountering more and more albums by well-regarded artists that are, for want of a more sophisticated analysis, a bit dull. They are well played and nicely produced; but fundamentally lacking in spark. My awareness of this dates back to the Green Man festival last year where I was struck by the level of earnestness amongst the newer bands. This is not a bad thing per se but after watching a dozen electronica tinged folk acts sounding a bit sad and serious I longed for some amateurish abandon (a role The Fall filled pretty effectively at least).

So it was, in my current mood, particularly exciting to discover that Dressy Bessy had returned with a band new album, Kingsized, after a 6-year hiatus. Upon listening to the album I was delighted to hear that their sloppy, stroppy approach to high energy guitar pop was in full force and sounding better than ever.

Dressy Bessy Kingsized

On their last two albums, Electrified and Holler and Stomp, the band had tried to adopt a heavier and darker tone with mixed success – losing some of their better pop elements in the process. Kingsized works particularly well by retaining some of that beefier sound whilst applying all the pop nous that made their early work so infectious.

The high-tempo opener ‘Lady Liberty’ is a case in point, and a song that illustrates the band’s best qualities and showcases Tammy Ealom’s vocal delivery perfectly. The overall quality throughout is very high and there are half a dozen single contenders on the album. ‘Cup ‘O Bang Bang’ may well be the best of these and features former Pylon vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay on backing duties.

Probably the most significant change on this release is the use of additional musicians on most songs on the album. Peter Buck adds 12 string guitar on a few tracks and Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey contributes keyboards. In particular, it is the use of a handful of backing vocalists (including Wild Flag’s Rebecca Cole) that adds most depth to this album. Ealom has a wonderful voice that is the just out-of-key enough to sound interesting without sounding unprofessional. The additional of other vocals to bolster her delivery works really well throughout.

It is pretty rare for a band to come back from an extended period of inactivity sounding as good as they did before, and the resulting album is usually a bit of a let-down. So it is particularly gratifying for one of your favourite bands to return with an album that may be their most consistently enjoyable record to date.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Six Classics From The Elephant Six

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Six Classics From The Elephant Six

Posted on 23 September 2010 by Joe

The Elephant 6 Recording Company was a loose musical collective that formed in the early 90’s in Denver Colorado. The collective was principally headed up by Apples In Stereo front man Robert Schneider. Wikipedia has a goodpotted history of the collective.

To coincide releases in 2010 of new albums by Elephant 6 artists The Apples In Stereo  and Elf Power, Neon Filler presents our favourite 6 albums by Elephant 6 artists. (Apologies to those who are surprised not to see anything by The Olivia Tremor Control in the list. There is no denying their place in the collective, or some excellent songs, but in general I find them to be rather hard work).

The Apples in Stereo – The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone

Robert Schneider’s The Apples In Stereo are the best place to start when listening to the Elephant 6 and The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone is their finest hour. From horn blasting opener ‘Go!’ to the acoustic whimsy of ‘The Afternoon’ it never puts a foot wrong.

The album manages to be a great retro homage without ever falling into the trap of being a pointless exercise in nostalgia. Vocal harmony, handclaps and a genius command of melody runs throughout the album. Classic pop, psyche, garage and even white funk (‘The Bird That You Can’t See’) make for a really enjoyable set.

Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

This is probably the most influential album in the list, and the only Elephant 6 album that regularly appears in “Greatest Album” lists. Jeff Mangum’s band are not always an easy proposition managing to be primarily acoustic but also incredibly noisy and abrasive at times.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is influenced by 60s psychedelia but also has a strong folk sound in terms of vocals and instrumentation. ‘The king Of Carrot Flowers, Pt.1’ is a genius off key pop song and sets the tone for the album perfectly.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

The band has a slightly sinister sound and songs like ‘Two Headed Boy’ are fairly warped stories. ‘Holland, 1945’ is a great noisy pop piece filled with nonsense poetry and inventive instrumentation.

It isn’t the kind of record that people immediately click with but it rewards persistence and is the kind of album that you come back to again and again.

Dressy Bessy – Little Music

This choice is a bit of a cheat, being a collection of singles rather than an album proper. However, it is probably the best collection of their music and perfectly demonstrates all that is great about this band. Lead by Tammy Ealom the band stands out from the predominantly male collective.

The band, also featuring Apples In Stereo guitarist John Hill, has an aesthetic is rooted in 60s beat pop but also the slightly bored and detached vocal sound of some of the 60s girl groups.

It is a singles collection and as such it is a very poppy, ranging from cute ‘Lipstick’ to whimsical ‘Gloria Days’ to punkey ‘All The Right Reasons’ but Ealom manages to keep things the right side of cloying at all times.

Recent Dressy Bessy releases have adopted a drab heavier sound, but this is a great place to discover a much underrated act.

Beulah – When Your Heartstrings Break

Beulah are a real loss to the music world, releasing four excellent albums before giving in to the public’s indifference and calling it a day in 2004. Their second album, When Your Heartstrings Break, is probably their finest moment.

Despite a clear 60s influence, some eccentric production and great use of pop horns and strings, they are probably the most conventional Elephant 6 band. With a bit more luck they could have been the first Elephant 6 act to break through into the mainstream.

Songs like ‘Sunday Under Glass’ and the excellent ‘Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand’ are simple pop classics and closer ‘If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart’ has brilliant, if slightly off key orchestration and sounds like a snotty disaffected Beach Boys.

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?

Of Montreal had released several whimsical and fey albums before front man Kevin Barnes went through a transformation over the course of the Satanic Panic In the Attic and The Sunlandic Twins albums.

By the time he recorded Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? he was operating solo, with the concept of the band existing live only, and the sound was much darker. Imagine Prince as a cross dresser who grew up listening to Kinks records and you are some way to understanding the Of Montreal sound at this time.
He is the master of the quirky retro pop song as opener ‘Suffer For Fashion’ shows, but the album is much more than just 60s influenced pop music. Elements of electronica, krautrock, garage and even Prince style funk (‘Labyrinthine Pomp’) permeate the album.

Some of the songs would almost fit onto earlier releases by the band but tracks like the epic repetitive ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ mark a real departure. Lyrically it is dark and bitter, none more so than the excellent ‘She’s A Rejecter’. This is probably the best Elephant 6 related release of the 21st century.

Elf Power – Walking With The Beggar Boys

For their 6th album, Walking With The Beggar Boys, Elf Power dropped most of their psychedelic tendencies in favour of a more conventional alternative pop/rock sound. They sound all the better for it, the quality of the songs shining through.

Elf Power

Opener ‘Never Believe’, the title track and ‘Hole In My Shoe’ are pretty straightforward pop songs, but they are as good as that kind of song gets, direct and full of fizzing energy.

It isn’t an entire change of style for the band. The lyrics are still littered with obscure references and a psychedelic sensibility. There are also still several examples of their quirky instrumentation and production sounds, particularly ‘The Cracks’ but these songs sound better in the context of this album.

By Dorian Rogers,  May 2010

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