Yes, we’ve come to that point in the year where everyone starts to look back and reflect on the previous 12 months. I have a long-standing dislike of ‘best of the year’ lists and awards – it seems ridiculous to me that any one person or organisation can make that decision, or indeed that there is any plausible way of directly comparing an excellent pop single with a beautifully executed avant-garde epic. So this is not a list of the ‘best’ music of 2016, merely a selection of our favourite sounds that have moved us in some way this year. We’ve probably missed out loads – if your favourite isn’t here please tell us about it in the comments.
(In so far as people release singles these days anyway – the practice has declined so much that there doesn’t even appear to be any artwork for half of the tracks here.)
There have been plenty of great tracks released in 2016, one of my personal favourites was the wonderfully articulate (despite the somewhat misleading title) ‘Fuck the Government’ by The Burning Hell, which managed to mix sardonic humour and nostalgia-tinted romance in perfect quantities to a waltzing backdrop. At the other end of the scale, fellow Canadians New Fries‘ ‘Jz III’ was a barely comprehensible mish-mash of fractured elements, and all the more splendid for it. LA duo Deap Vally‘s purring psychedelic single ‘Smile More’ fell somewhere between the two extremes.
Closer to home, Saint Agnes continued to blow us away with their strutting 70s inspired big rock sound; picking between their 2016 releases is a tough one but I’ll plump for the harmonica infused ‘Sister Electric’. They’ve been closely linked over the past couple of years with the good folk at Roadkill, for whom they’ve played a number of shows. The London promoter branched out into vinyl this year to release a superb split 7″ of surfy garage rock from Dedwardians and The Sly Persuaders.
We were introduced the Pavement shaped lo-fi goodness of Casper Skulls with their Lips & Skull EP and to Brighton rock & rollers Clever Thing, whose hyperactive debut ‘In a Tissy’ enthused us so much that we immediately booked them for one of Croydon gigs (more of which later).
There were great releases from some established Joyzine faves too, with Vienna Ditto putting out the Ticks EP, featuring both a catchy twisted funk title track and the beautifully fragile ‘Tiny Tambourines’. Desperate Journalist gave us a glimpse of what to expect from their forthcoming second album with the brooding ‘Hollow’, while Cassels‘ dynamic ‘Flock Analogy’ was the pick of a great bunch of new material from the post-grunge duo.
2016 has been a strong year for LPs, and without some serious editing this section would have gone on for many pages – with great restraint I’ve managed to limit myself to a bakers’ dozen of 12″s.
It will surprise no-one that reads Joyzine regularly that I’m going to start with You Are My Urusei Yatsura, the album of BBC Radio sessions released by the cult Scottish lo-fi band that were amongst the chief inspirations for my first putting finger to keyboard to write about music. I’m incapable of being objective when it comes to their music, so check out the link above and discover them for yourself.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the global events that shaped the year, there was plenty of anger in the air, captured as well as anyone by Scottish agit-punk duo Deux Furieuses on their Tracks of Wire LP, though US riot grrrl upstarts Skating Polly gave them a run for their money on their debut release The Big Fit. Veteran political singer-songwriter Chris T-T took a less shouty, but no less vociferous approach with 9 Green Songs, an album that is at turns hilarious, scathing and heart breaking.
A whole year of raging at current events probably isn’t healthy, so thankfully there were plenty of moments of enchantment, escapism and joy, with Deerhoof‘s The Magic more than living up to its title, a labyrinth of chameleonic genre-jumping wonders. Asylums‘ Killer Brain Waves provided perfect power punk thrills and had us jumping around Joyzine HQ with wild abandon, while MJ Hibbett & The Validators provided warmth and charm by the bucketload with their album Still Valid.
French for Cartridge provided beauty and wonder with The Golden Hour, their collaboration with chamber ensemble CHROMA, London three-piece First put us in an ordinal quandry by releasing their second album, Shriek, but made up for it with an album of ace twisty, turny alt-rock, while Medway punk treasure Billy Childish burnished his already sizeable legacy with Sq1, the new long player from his group CTMF.
Elsewhere, Bianca Casady & The C.I.A unleashed the eerie spectre of Oscar Hocks, Joe Gideon‘s first solo outing, Versa Vice, was an exemplar of stream of consciousness minimalism and Durham DIY indie-punks Martha followed up their excellent debut Courting Strong with the similarly wonderful Blisters In The Pit of My Heart.
Meanwhile Joyzine’s resident expert on all things heavy and post-rock in nature Wayne Chuter pointed us in the direction of the unsettling industrial drone of Necro Deathmort‘s The Capsule, the sprawling blackgaze of Alcest‘s Kodama, the intricately layered hip hop of Dälek‘s Asphalt for Eden, Japanese post rock masters Mono‘s latest cut Requiem for Hell and Atomic, the latest reinvention from instrumental legends Mogwai.
GIGS & FESTIVALS
We’ve been fortunate enough to witness some truly spectacular live shows this year, from the anarchic chaos of Arrows of Love‘s show at The Lexington to Elephants & Castles‘ heart-felt acoustic show at Deptford Cinema, both of which provided the sort of communal experience that the best gigs often can.
We witnessed the final moshpit of Fluffer Records‘ excellent Custard Thruster all-dayers in an industrial estate in Bow, which featured explosive sets from God Damn, Dressmaker, And Yet It Moves and Dead Pretties, and the first ever London Afropunk festival, with fantastic performances from Ho99o9, Youth Man and Vodun at Alexandra Palace. And there were further excellent all-day shows with Artbeat Festival at The Amersham Arms in New Cross, arranged by the lovely people at Rocklands Music and featuring Deux Furieuses, Rhiannon The Nightmare, MOSES and more, and Walpurgis Nacht at Brixton Windmill, which I shall always remember fondly for introducing me to Otoboke Beaver‘s wild semi-choreographed artpunk blitz.
It was also a good year for shows in unusual places, with art-punk brass ensemble Perhaps Contraption taking their tunes for a walk around the streets, markets and pub gardens of Tooting, while Bridport Dagger worked with Crooked Tree Theatre for a collaborative show in the depths of the Brunel Museum’s underground caisson which mixed theatre and live music.
Long term Joyzine favourites Future of the Left, Joanna Gruesome and Thomas Truax continued to astound with shows at The Garage, DIY Space for London and The Lexington respectively.
And we’ve had a few pretty decent shows of our own too: Joyfest in March at The Windmill saw great performances by The Midnight Barbers, Oh! Gunquit, Dirty White Fever, Dolls and more, while our To Hell With Good Intentions shows at Hoodoo’s have been graced by the likes of Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut, JOHN, Rat The Magnificent and of course our co-promoters Frauds. We’ve got plans in the pipeline already for more shows in 2017, starting with the next THWGI on 4th February with Gaygirl, Bo Gritz and The Jonbarr Hinge.
Have a fantastic new year – we’ll see you on the other side.
Words and Live Photography by Paul Maps
Except for Dirty White Fever image by Keira Anee