So to my favourite 10 albums of 2016. In truth, some of the positions on this list (and on Part 1 here) could be interchangeable, depending on my mood - the Top 5, however, is set in stone.
10) Julia Jacklin - Don't Let the Kids Win
An extremely strong and assured debut from this Australian singer/songwriter. Highly recommended.
9) Heron Oblivion - Heron Oblivion
The pastoral folk of Meg Baird from Espers, meets the crunching electric wig-out of Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson from Comets on Fire. Like Sandy Denny jamming with a full throttle Crazy Horse.
8) Hintermass - The Apple Tree
Jon Brooks (from The Advisory Circle and Pattern Forms) and Tim Felton (from the much missed Broadcast) concoct an album that combines big dollops of pastoral loveliness with occasional splodges of gentle blippy weirdness.
7) Nick Cave - Skeleton Tree
Stark, beautiful, devastating.
6) David Bowie - Blackstar
If I'm lucky enough to still be around in 20 years time and am questioned, by an as yet unborn whippersnapper, about the defining music of 2016, I'll simply whizz over to my hologramic record collection on my trusty hoverscooter and play them 'Blackstar'. And even in 2036, I've no doubt I'll still break down in tears when 'I Can't Give Everything Away' kicks in.
5) Community Radio - Look Now You're Cursed
The third of four Australian acts in my Top 10. Hats off to Brian for introducing me to these guys. 'Look Now You're Cursed' is chock full of superior guitar pop. I'm running out of superlatives - listen to it and buy it here!
4) 75 Dollar Bill - Wood/Metal/Plastic/Rhythm/Rock
Much like the Our Solar System album mentioned in Part 1, I can get lost in this one for hours. Swipe me, it's fantastic! Essentially a duo, 75 Dollar Bill move freely between Malian desert blues, Indian drones, Mississippi delta stomps plus all points in-between and either side. I'm delighted to see 'Wood/Metal/Plastic/Rhythm/Rock' turning up on so many end of year best-of lists - all thoroughly deserved accolades. (Sample the whole LP here)
3) Chook Race - Around the House
I've been banging on about 'Around the House' for the last few months to anyone who'll listen. Even if no-one's listening, I still bang on about it. Check out this poptastic lo-fi jangle-fest for yourself (here) and you'll fall in love with it too. (Please come and tour the UK guys.)
(.........and there's nothing between the top two, so..... )
=1) Alasdair Roberts & James Green - Plaint of Lapwing
Alasdair Roberts' work may be rooted in the folk tradition, but actually extends far beyond mere genre limitations. 'Plaint of Lapwing' is a collaboration with James Green of The Big Eyes Family Players and is released on Clay Pipe Music, a London based label run by illustrator Frances Castle. This album sits easily among Alasdair's finest, the warm analogue feel of the record belying the file-sharing nature of its creation. Never one to stand still, in 2016 Alasdair also contributed to 'Wild Hog', the lovely second album by The Furrow Collective and already has a new solo collection, 'Pangs', prepared for release at the end of February 2017.
=1) David Thomas Broughton - Crippling Lack
When you fall under David Thomas Broughton's unique spell (as I did in 2005 with 'The Complete Guide To Insufficiency'), you're in it for the long haul. Broughton is part superb singer-songwriter, part avant-garde performance artist - his sonorous baritone, guitar and various electronic gizmos are looped, dissected and reassembled to inject sometimes spontaneous elements to each individual performance. 'Crippling Lack' is a huge undertaking for both artist and listener. Three slabs of vinyl weighing in at a hefty 100 minutes - featuring guest turns from the likes of Beth Orton, Rachael Dadd and Aidan Moffat - though crucially, not a single second is wasted. A towering work. (Check out the full album here.)