So we’ve reached the middle of 2016, which seems like a good opportunity to look back on some of the year’s best releases so far. I’ve been pretty pleased with the quality of music that has been released thus far, despite being a little underwhelmed with what some of the old guards of the scene have produced. So without further ado, here are my five favourite albums of the past six months.
5. PUP – The Dream Is Over
There are quite a few words that can be used to describe ‘The Dream Is Over’, PUP’s second full length release. Here are some that come to mind.
Explosive. Relentless. Rambunctious. Clearly demonstrated less than a minute into album opener ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’, this record does not let up for one second, it’s messy skater-esque punk throughout. I’m a firm believer that ‘The Dream Is Over’ is an audible representation of rambunctiousness. It’s boisterous mayhem, and I love it.
The record is almost a celebration of disdain, all about finding the joy in self-loathing. Group chants juxtapose with the solitary nature of the lyrics, and manic riffs pave the way for Stefan Babcock’s piercing shouts. If you’re looking for something to bounce around and smash things to, this Toronto quartet are happy to oblige.
Top Track – Doubts
4. Teen Suicide – It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot
Ambitious and experimental, Teen Suicide’s lengthy double album ‘It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot’ is an absolute joy to listen to. Every time I listen, I find a new appreciation for another song on the album. Emo, Lo-fi, Indie, however you want to describe this music, Teen Suicide’s apparent swan song is an amalgamation of what makes all these genres great. Following the band’s resurrection for one last hurrah, Sam Ray has pulled out all the stops to include almost every sort of iteration of these genres into the songs on the record.
Whether it’s the stop-start nature of ‘Living Proof’, which manages to meld floaty guitars and jazz, or the spacy melancholic droning of “Depression is a construct, heaven is a package deal, don’t need proof to know it’s real” in ‘The Big Joyous Celebration’, there’s a sense that the record itself doesn’t know where it’s going. And that’s just the first two songs! Each song just sort of meanders aimlessly into the next, and it’s a wonderful journey. It’s a very dense album, but well worth anyone’s time.
Top Track – It’s Just a Pop Song
3. Grayscale – What We’re Missing
A good dose of Pop-Punk from Philadelphia-based Grayscale is just what I needed this year. Anyone who is looking for their fix, look no further. ‘What We’re Missing’ is a pure strain of catchy choruses and relatable lyrics straight into your bloodstream. ‘Tense’ starts the record off on a dark and brooding note, which sees the band pull their best Balance and Composure impression as the song closes out with “I hope you wake up sad everyday / Can you feel it? Could you feel it all along?”
The bands’ single ‘Palette’ is a rollicking and bouncy song with a chorus that is sure to have crowds everywhere shouting back to the band in live shows. ‘Irish Curtains’ sees the band dial things back for an emotional anti-suicide plea, before the song climaxes with an intense rendition of the song’s chorus. Grayscale know how to pop-punk, and they do it well.
Top Track -Palette
2. The Hotelier – Goodness
(Kept the album cover SFW – Here’s a link to the official art)
I’d been eagerly awaiting this release ever since I first listened to ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’. The Hotelier’s masterpiece sophomore album was my number one record for 2014, so ‘Goodness’ had some really large shoes to fill. Instead of trying to fill those shoes and awkwardly walking around in a size too big, ‘Goodness’ goes out and buys a new pair that fit just right.
Very rarely does a band shift their style in such a way that both throws you off and then compels you to appreciate what it has now become. ‘Goodness’ steps away from the desperate sadness of ‘Home’ and takes on a sort of subdued satisfaction. Vocalist Christian Holden maintains the poetic lyrical mastery he’s displayed in past releases, but channels it into songs that inspire hope as opposed to despair. I don’t know about you but I couldn’t help but smile a little throughout my first listen to this record.
Top Track – Two Deliverances
1. Basement – Promise Everything
I’ve listened to this album countless times since its release in January, and it just gets stronger and stronger. Basement have long been a band that I have admired greatly. Song content, the growth of their sound, and the consistency in quality across their whole discography is something to be respected. ‘Promise Everything’ represents a slight shift in sound, taking a softer approach than ‘Colourmeinkindess’s blunt honesty and ‘I Wish I Could Stay Here’s wild D.I.Y. nature. In search of a more melodic sound that ‘Colourmeinkindness’ threatened to pursue, Basement have crafted a record that is truly consistent in tone and mood. Bearing similarities to genre veterans Jimmy Eat World, Basement have demonstrated an awareness of the pop-sensibilities that can lengthen the lifespan of their music.
Songs like ‘Oversized’ dramatically demonstrate Basement’s new subdued style, while album opener ‘Brother’s Keeper’ develops this further whilst proving that this is still the same Basement we all know and love, with driving guitars throughout. ‘Promise Everything’ may not contain the bleak and brutal punches that the previous records had, but rest assured, Basement have found an alternative creative outlet, and you can bet your ass that they still know where they came from.
Top Track – Brother’s Keeper
(On a side note, keep an eye out for my live review of Basement’s show in Wolverhampton on 15th July!)