The Null Device

Records of 2016

It's the last day of another year, and time to take stock of the year's musical releases once again:

With honourable mentions going to: Asher LevitasLit Harness (immersive ambient/industrial/noise soundscapes; uneasy listening about tranquility amidst chaos) ¶ Factory Floor25 25 (more minimal, x0x-driven electro-house music(k), going on as their debut started) ¶ Fatima al-QadiriBrute (the Kuwaiti-born New York electronica artist's latest release, a concept album about protests and their heavy-handed suppression, following stylistically from the arabesque dubstep of Asiatisch, only more, you know, 2016) ¶ The FireworksBlack And Blue (skronky post-C86 garage indie from London with attitude) ¶ GoatRequiem (the latest from the northern-Swedish masked “tribal” psychedelia combo, equal parts Rousseau and Amon Düül II) ¶ Hana MaruHana Maru (nice indie chamber-pop from Melbourne, with piano and violins) ¶ Steve HauschildtStrands (kosmische analogue electronic ambience, in a post-Tangerine Dream vein) ¶ I MonsterBright Sparks (a concept album, with booklet, about the history of analogue synthesizers, featuring the Moog, Buchla, ARP and Mellotron among others, and done rather well), Jenny HvalBlood Bitch (the follow-up to Apocalypse, Girl mixes deceptively nice-sounding electronic pop with themes of vampirism, menstruation, fraught romance and capitalism) ¶ Josefin Öhrn and the LiberationMirage (10 tracks of propulsive, motorik krautrock/psychedelia done better than most) ¶ The Julie RuinHit Reset (Kathleen Hanna's back with some righteously skronky garage-punk-pop) ¶ LadyhawkeWild Things (the LA-based Kiwi songwriter/producer turning her golden ear to late-80s FM-radio pop à la Diane Warren, with the electronic gloss cranked up and the occasional Millennial Whoop to remind us that it is 2016; somewhere between Taylor Dayne and Taylor Swift) ¶ The Leaf LibraryNightlight Versions and Versions (two variations on their last year's album, Daylight Versions; the former is drony instrumental takes; the latter, remixes by artists including Cavern Of Anti-Matter and Greeen Linez) ¶ MemoryhouseSoft Hate (the Canadian dreampoppers second full-length album goes bigger, with a more expansive sound, though keeping the understatedness at its core) ¶ MomusScobberlotchers (sonically leaning on samples of old Japanese records, as his recent albums have done, Momus engages with the rise of populist xenophobia and personal responses to it; titles include Neo-Weimar, Year Zero and What Are Facts?) ¶ Pascal PinonSundur (languid, minimal Icelandic folk-pop from two sisters, one of whom also is in Samaris) ¶ Penny OrchidsNo Maps (the London klezmerbilly quartet bow out in style) ¶ PikeletTronc (Surprising, comparison-defying songs crafted from wonky loops, improvised electronics, pianos and layers of voice) ¶ SamarisBlack Lights (the Icelandic chilled electronica trio's third album, and their first in English) ¶ She-DevilsShe-Devils EP (loop-based rockabilly-styled pop from two women in Montreal) ¶ ₩€$€‎₦ - ₩ALL OF PAI‎₦ (a boy-girl duo from Reykjavík, making an understated autumnal indiepop with electronic loops, keyboards and the odd acoustic guitar, sounding in places like Pipas, had they signed to a Berlin glitch label)

Were I to choose an album of the year, it would probably be The Radio Dept.'s Running Out Of Love, with Cavern Of Anti-Matter, Kero Kero Bonito and Lush as runners-up.

And then there were the 2015 albums I unfortunately only discovered this year, but which should have otherwise featured on a record: Josefin Öhrn's metronomic psych juggernaut Horse Dance was one such revelation, as is the indiepop yé-yé of Iko Chérie's Dreaming On and I was late in picking up The Spook School's rambunctious queer tweexcore opus Try To Be Hopeful and the darkly luminous Subcontinental dubstep of Aisha Devi's Of Matter And Spirit. But the most poignant member of this list would be Remain, from Californian duo Them Are Us Too. Their sound is somewhere between The Sundays and early-1990s American swirlygoth bands like Love Spirals Downwards, with maybe a bit of The Cure circa Disintegration; drum machines and synthesizers, immaculate processed guitars, the singer's powerful soprano voice and plenty of reverb, making for a work of ethereal beauty. Tragically, I only heard about them because one of them was one of the victims of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Rest in peace.

There is now a mix of tracks from these releases on Spotify, here.

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