The year 2016 has come to a close (thankfully), and like last year it’s time to look back at my personal favorite albums from the past 12 months. This year the albums consist of mostly post-punk with some cold wave, minimal synth, and dream pop mixed in. Let’s begin the countdown:
10. Winter Severity Index- Human Taxonomy
With post-punk in the midst of a major resurgence, it’s important for bands in this genre to have something unique to allow them to stand out from the rest. In the case of this album, it’s all about the atmospherics which makes this band worth checking out.
9. dIRECT ATTACK- Lapsed Catholic
Speaking of post-punk, the harsher grittier sound with splashes of death rock came into full effect with this album by Direct Attack. Along with Zotz, this was a perfect example of how post-punk isn’t all about ambience and gloss. Lapsed Catholic does offer more variety throughout which gives it the edge over the Zotz album.
8. Hante.- No Hard Feelings EP
With this EP, Hante provides a lush symphonic atmosphere to a darkwave/coldwave framework. The interplay between synth leads and ethereal pads creates an ambience that is otherworldly but also quite catchy and danceable.
7. Xeno & Oaklander- Topiary
With a penchant for analog sounds and experimentation, Xeno & Oaklander manage to create a very melodic collection of songs that provides a nice balance between the early analog drum machine sounds and dense synth washes with layers of reverb. The vocals blend perfectly to create a sound that is bubbly, dreamy, and retro all at once.
6. Lush- Blind Spot EP
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the shoegaze/dream pop band Lush had reunited for a new EP, and honestly it’s like they never left. “Out of Control” is a beautiful single which I played on repeat for many car rides over the year.
5. Box and the Twins- Everywhere I Go is Silence
I discovered this album pretty late in the year, but I’m glad I did because it’s definitely worthy of being on this list. I love female-fronted post punk, and Box and the Twins not only captures an atmospheric post-punk vibe perfectly but also harkens back to 90’s goth rock acts such as Mephisto Walz and early Projekt Records material
4. Savages- Adore Life
On the subject of female-fronted post-punk, Savages was truly the breakthrough band of the year. Achieving a degree of mainstream success, this album takes the sound of their previous work to the next level by adding more variety and experimenting with different guitar sounds. The formula is overall a success, and their wide exposure is well-deserved.
3. Body of Light- Let Me Go
I discovered this band when they opened for High-Functioning Flesh, and in my opinion they stole the show. Fortunately it wasn’t just the live show that impressed me. This album is danceable without becoming an industrial music cliche. They truly bring something new and fresh to the EBM/futurepop landscape. Highly recommended.
2. Jeff Runnings- Primitives and Smalls
It was totally by accident that I discovered this album from the vocalist of dream pop band For Against. Without exaggeration I can say this is the best dream pop I’ve heard in years. The sounds heard throughout are like nothing I’ve heard before, and I’ve listened to my fair share of shoegaze and ethereal-sounding music. The sounds of the instruments aside, the songs themselves are simple and easily hummable without being simplistic or dull. Anyone who enjoys dream pop should give this album a listen.
1. Kaelan Mikla- Kaelan Mikla
Haunting. Unsettling. Intense. Ernest. These are the words that come to mind when I think of the music from this cold wave band that I had never even heard of until this year. Make no mistake, this music is not meant to be dreamy, sweet, or cute despite the seemingly innocent appearance of its band members. The synth sounds are harsh, the drums are straightforward and minimalistic, and the vocals are impassioned and filled with desperation. Synth-driven cold wave at its finest.