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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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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Picture Box – Songs of Joy

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Picture Box – Songs of Joy

Posted on 10 May 2016 by Joe

One of the most enduring memories I have from living in Canterbury was one night seeing a tall, hooded, ghostly figure walking towards me in a dark underpath from the university into the city centre.  As he approached,  in shadow of a nearby streetlight,  I was genuinely worried.

Luckily though he was no ghost or mutant ‘hoodie’, but a tall, friendly monk, who smiled as he passed me by. This for me sums up Canterbury, a city where England’s ancient, religious past mixes, often incongruously, with modern small city life.

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As well as friendly monks, the Kent city also has a rich musical heritage. Stopping into the Cathedral during a Saturday spent in its record shops I was often treated to its choir rehearsing. The then modern day 1940s pilgrims in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale enjoyed a similar treat.

Then in the 1960s and 1970s the Canterbury “scene” of Caravan and Soft Machine dominated and in the 1990s  the Acid Jazz scene bands from nearby Medway frequently played in the city.

But much has changed since then. Music venues are in short supply but at least its musical heritage continues through among others Robert Halcrow, self styled exponent of “wonky pop and Canterbury lo-fi”.

As part of the Gare Du Nord stable of artists, which also includes another musical Canterbury resident Robert Rotifer, Halcrow’s latest slice of wonky pop is heavily influenced by the lesser known nooks and crannies of the Kent city, taking in the demise of its speedway team the Canterbury Crusaders, its streets, hospitals and even its pet fish shops.

Best of all though is one of the year’s most surprising and arguably best cover versions. On first hearing Garden Song, I thought it was a fine flashback to the psychedelic pop of Canterbury’s past. It’s actually written by children’s TV legend Matthew Corbett from his days in the 1970s as part of musical act Rod, Matt and Jane on ITV kids show Rainbow. Children were lucky blighters back then to have such musical talent on tap.

Another highpoint is Disgusting. With the opening line “You think its disgusting, but everything smells. I don’t feel well” reminded me St Mildred’s Tannery, which until its closure more than a decade ago brought a truly unpleasant stench to an otherwise pleasant city centre stroll. From the rest of the song’s lyrics it seems to be more about a hangover, but I’d be surprised if Canterbury’s pungent, former landmark wasn’t near to Halcrow’s thoughts when writing this.

This  album is not just a quirky ode to Canterbury’s lesser known landmarks though. Above all it’s a good listen, full of English eccentricity and quality, albeit wonky, pop.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

To order  Picture Box – Songs of Joy click here.

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Picturebox – The Garden Path

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Picturebox – The Garden Path

Posted on 10 February 2015 by Joe

From the off there’s a real sense of fun on this follow up to 2013’s Home Taping by Robert Halcrow, aka Picturebox.

Now part of the Gare Du Nord stable of artists Canterbury based Halcrow has retained his lo-fi roots but this has more of a full band feel with Alex Williams, Ben Lockwood and Ian Button (Papernut Cambridge) joining him for this hugely likeable slice of guitar and synth pop.

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Opener A Nicer Man, with its Blur like turns of phrase, such as “he’s unflappable, Mr affable”, sets the scenes well as the pop tunes that follow like Graffiti and Happy Ending show a keen ear for melody. Fancyman, a theme to an imaginary 70s sitcom and involving music technology students from Canterbury College, is another highpoint.

It’s not all fun though, there’s a bit of an awkward bitter lover monologue on In Yr Dreams 2Nite that provides a sombre interlude among the jollity. While jarring it is perhaps necessary though as he gives a sense of reality to an otherwise whimsical album that after all is inspired by Canterbury, which has its share of real life problems beneath its Medieval veneer.

For those that enjoyed his Graffiti EP, which we reviewed late last year, this nine track album offers  a more than welcome chance to hear more from an artist that deserves to be heard far beyond Canterbury’s city walls.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Picturebox – Graffiti EP

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Picturebox – Graffiti EP

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Joe

Bonkers is a word that rarely gets used in reviews these days. I’m happy to revive it though to describe the brilliantly bonkers psych-pop of Giving It All I’ve Got, one of three covers on this four track EP by Canterbury’s Picturebox, led by Robert Halcrow.

This track, a cover of another Canterbury artist Luke Smith, alternates between robot vocals, indie pop, 1960s pyschedelia and spoken word from Emily Kennedy. As well as being utterly bonkers it is a darn clever track, managing to pack a lot of fun into its short three minutes.

There’s more fun too, with a rip roaring version of Bit Part, the Lemonhead’s classic indie-pop track from their stellar album It’s A Shame About Ray. Kennedy is back again here filling in the Juliana Hatfield role.

Halcrow’s third cover is an eponymous 2013 track from Papernut Cambridge, the ensemble project of Ian Button, one of the founders of Gare Du Nord records, which has released this EP and will release Picturebox’s album The Garden Path next year.

The creation of Gare Du Nord last year has come at a good time for Halcrow and it looks like with their help he has a good shot of getting a wider audience after years of “self releases and low key café gigs involving tea, biscuits and music,” as he puts it.

The last track to mention is the title track that opens the EP. At just over a minute it is an editor’s dream, delivering perfect indie-pop with no extra baggage and a similar decade spanning feel of Papernut Cambridge’s album There’s No Underground, one of 2014’s best releases.  But while this short track  about spontaneous love is a lovely slice of indiepop it is the Luke Smith cover that shines brightest as we eagerly await more clever musical bonkerness from Halcrow next year.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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