2016 Music Review #1: Artists

It’s no secret I like music. I get pretty excited about my favourite tunes and take great pleasure in finding new stuff to listen to.

I’ve been using last.fm since 2005, when it was known as audioscrobbler. I’ve got a lovely long history of stuff built up there, tracking my music taste over the years from Flogging Molly to Sigur Ros to James Blunt and to whatever kind of a mess it is now. I fall in and out of scrobbling as time and convenience allows, so my annual listens aren’t that accurate. It doesn’t account for podcast mixes (which accounts for a large amount of my listening) and music I listen to in my car, as well, but that’s not that much these days, comparatively.

Last.fm got me really excited with the Last.year feature. It’s super pretty, and the stats are really, really interesting for me to dig down into and remember what happened when. I’m too lazy to actually do the analytical legwork myself so it’s nice to have it presented to me. Unfortunately it’s 1st Jan to 1st December - I’d like it if it was updated soon to include December, as there was a few interesting shifts I became aware of (I discovered the band Talisk and they are PHENOMENAL and I listened to them ALL THE TIME after I’d discovered them).

I’m going to do a series of these over the coming weeks to look at what I’ve listened to mostly, starting off with the artists that have impacted me most (by playcount) this year. I’ve included a youtube video of the song I’m digging the most at the moment.

Artists

Total Number of Unique Artists Logged: 889

Top 15

The top 15 artists I enjoyed in 2016 are as follows:

Let’s go through them!

#1 Maybeshewill

What a surprise!

Maybeshewill are a new discovery for me in 2016 - a friend invited me to their last ever gig at Koko in London (official video below). It was an incredible evening with a really emotional highpoint - the band came to their last song and announced that this was the end. The crowd booed, and the singer interrupted, saying “Please don’t let our abiding memory be being booed off stage at Koko”. This genuine, honest, loving applause just grew from the crowd and lasted minutes. They looked a bit broken on stage, it was this big emotional moment and amazing to be part of. I still get a proper emotional wobble when I watch it (video below, 1h 2m) Last 3 songs, big pit, big sing along and it was all over. “We’re gonna go now. This is our last song. Thank you.”

Fair Youth is my favourite album so far, but I rally enjoy Not for Want of Trying, however the mixing on that lets me down, sadly.

This bucks the trend of my listening becoming increasingly electronic over the last few years, and it’s quite refreshing!

#2 Above & Beyond

These guys are an old favourite of mine. I’ve seen them live several times, I really connect with a lot of their music on a deep level. Every time I see them I end up crying because I’m a massive jessie.

This year saw the release of Acoustic II and the accompanying tour. Lewis and I went on an adventure to Manchester, and we had an amazing time. I ended up in tears, as expected, and had a lovely round trip to the middle of England.

No surprise with this one, I probably listened to them more as I subscribe to the Group Therapy Podcast

#3 Biffy Clyro

I’m a wee bit surprised by this one - I’ve been listening to their stuff after ‘rediscovering’ Blackened Sky and beginning to get lost in what I would call the ‘Newer’ albums - Puzzle and Only Revolutions, which I didn’t really connect with when they were released.

I’ve listened to Ellipsis, the album that was released in 2016 also, and it’s been enjoyable but I’m yet to properly connect with it. I’ll see it live, that might help.

#4 Breabach

Breabach aren’t a big surprise for me here. They released their new album, Astar this year, and I went off to see them in Aberdeen with a few others. Breabach gigs are cool at the Lemon Tree - it’s always a sit-down affair, kind of like a folk club. Very enjoyable way to see them launch the new album.

Astar’s formed the bulk of my listening this year with Breabach, but Bann and Ùrlar have been played heavily too.

There’s a bit of an anomaly with this one which is interesting here - Breabach’s piper, James Duncan MacKenzie has a song I’m very fond of, Smelling Fresh, which is contained within The New Paradigm (below) and it’s the only version of that song available on Spotify… That’s probably got something to do with it. The guitar on that sounds so nice, so simple, that foot-tap beat is just the right speed. It’s great,

#5 deadmau5

deadmau5 also isn’t a surprise, I’ve been listening to him loads for years. Strobe (below) is still one of my favourite tunes.

New album came out this year, W:/2016ALBUM/ and there’s a spike in my listening come December - I’ve listened to it a few times and it’s pretty good, few cracking tracks.

Lots of listens to For Lack of a Better Name, but that’s mostly dominated by Strobe and the other big tracks in the second half of that album. Hot damn it’s so good.

Yet to see live, very disappointing.

#6 Daft Punk

Daft Punk are a classic act and a long time favourite of mine, so this is a pleasant surprise with pretty consistent listening throughout the year.

Listening has been Alive 2007 live album - this is a fantastic mishmash of all their songs during the Robot Rock era. I’ll forever be upset I didn’t see this show, but I can only hope they do an Alive 2017.

Tron Legacy Soundtrack is getting played a few times too, this is a cracker and I’ll be enjoying it for a long old time to come. I think I enjoyed the music more than the film…

More recently, the release of Random Access Memories has been super enjoyable - this is such a fresh, ‘in’ sound describing the year it was brought out in perfectly. That 70s, retro-cool, but super clean sound is amazing.

Yet to see live, most disappointed.

#7 Sigur Rós

Good lord I love this band. They’ve got almost twice as many listens as my next top artist on last.fm. They’ve defined a chunk of my music taste and make me very happy to listen to.

I’ve been listening to bits of their Hvarf - Heim EP lots - little live recordings of their songs up to that point. It came out at the same time as the Heima live DVD. The special Edition of that is one of my favourite possessions.

#8 Justice

I’ve been slamming A Cross the Universe - It’s an absolute masterclass in how to mix old music in to new live sounds and make a coherent, exciting set that entertains and enthuses the listener whilst making them feel clever by referencing old songs, songs by other artists and earlier parts of the set.

Justice came back with new material this year, which is super cool. I’ve been enjoying it, but I’ve not yet connected with it enough for it to sink in deeply yet. Given time, it might happen…

Not seen live, very upset.

#9 The Chair

The Chair are a fantastic Orkney folk band who I was introduced to in 2014. Their music has a fantastic energy to it, and the live shows are phenomenal. I got the chance to take some of my close friends to see them at the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen this year - that’s always a special gig! It’s a bit like a homecoming for them.

Both albums are great, but The Road to Hammer Junkie has seen the heaviest rotation from me this year. Humours and The Big Set (video below) are the highlights for me, these are always excellent live.

#10 Emancipator

Iiiiiiiiiiiinteresting. I like Emancipator. It’s pretty chilled out trip hop stuff - I use it as background in work from time to time. Safe in the Steep Cliffs is my favourite album, with a good shout to Soon it Will be Cold Enough.

Honourable Mentions

There’s a few who haven’t made the list, but have made an impact and are worth recording for future reference:

#14 Lane 8

I’ve been introduced to Lane 8 through ABGT and the Anjunabeats family. I’ve really fallen for that minimal, deep house sound he’s pushing, it’s super nice to listen to.

Fingerprint (video below) is my favourite song by a long way, but the others are super strong too. Worth a listen, if he keeps putting out more music I see him climbing next year.

#18 Balmorhea

Balmorhea were introduced to me via Spotify. The name sound a bit like a gastric disorder, but the music is lovely. It’s kind of folkey, chilled out post rock.

I’ve more or less exclusively listened to All is Wild, All is Silent so far. They should climb the list as that gets replayed in 2017 and I expand the music I listen to. If nothing else, the Final 3 tracks - “Night In Draw”, “Truth” and “November 1, 1832” - are worth a serious listen. They form the best album closer I’ve heard in a long time. “November 1” especially requires some love - it really rounds off the whole tone of the album so perfectly.

I’m excited to listen to more from this lot.

#23 Talisk

I absolutely fell in love with Talisk in December and had them on repeat for about 2 weeks - this doesn’t show up in last.fm as I was using VLC on android before I had Simple Last.fm Scrobbler.

Talisk are folk from Scotland - my colleague Derek saw them at the Trad awards and brought them to my attention. They’re a concertina player, guitarist and fiddler. Between the three of them they produce this wonderfully fresh, cheerful and full sound. I’m not used to the sound of the concertina, so it’s perhaps this that’s got me most excited. Definitely worth a serious listen.

#30 Jon Hopkins

I don’t know if it was this year or last, but I fell in love with Jon Hopkins’ Immunity. It’s an excellent album and a gorgeous track - after my first playthrough of the album I ran out and bought the CD, it’s got a permanent home in the car (which is probably why it’s so low in the rankings).

This is a range of electronic styles from quiet, almost ambient to nearly house. It’s a great album with a flow through it.

Immunity is another amazing album closer, and worth a serious listen.

Next week: Albums!

graphing powered by http://www.chartjs.org/, data used was taken from my last.fm account 2016-01-17

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