The first half of 2016 has seen a huge number of releases; albums, EPs and of course singles are all well catered for. How do you choose your musical highlight of the year when we’ve had releases from the likes of Robocobra Quartet, Beauty Sleep, Hot Cops, Ciaran Lavery, New Atlas, Gascan Ruckus… okay, okay. So we thought we’d get a few of our contributors to help us out and select their favourite tracks of 2016 to date.
If this is anything to go by, our end of the year list is going to be full of hard decisions.
►Michael Mormecha – Family
It’s a hard enough task picking my favourite song on Michael Mormecha’s debut album, Lofi Life, never mind my favourite of the year so far. Mormecha’s first solo album is filled with great and varied tracks, but to my mind there can only be one winner. The absolute stand out has to be ‘Family’. It’s a four minute alt-pop song that has Mormecha’s talents on full show, and everything you need in a pop song – sparkling production, clean rhythmic guitars, strong vocals and a truly stirring chorus. The combination of Mormecha singing ‘I don’t ever wanna miss you…” over a bed of guitars, drums and glistening keyboards takes the track, and indeed the album, to the next level. It belongs up there with Mojo Fury’s ‘We Should Just Run Away” and Clown Parlour’s ‘Stanley Kubrick’. I doubt there’s a track I’ve listened to more this year.
►Making Monsters – Call Me Out
Making Monsters’ latest EP Bad Blood, released in May this year, saw the Derry quartet return to the airwaves with what is arguably their best EP yet. Each song on the record could easily warrant a mention here, but after much deliberation I’ve settled with Call Me Out. The track sounds huge, both in terms of production and song writing, with the band delving comfortably into stadium-rock territory. It features all the Making Monsters trademarks – the bone rattling drums, thundering bass, chugging guitar riffs and of course Emma Gallagher’s incredible vocals. The track, which lyrically is essentially about “voicing opinions and sticking up for yourself” according to Gallagher, moves smoothly from the ear splitting intro riff to a quieter verse, before a chorus that was just written to be played live, instantly catchy it begs to be screamed out.
►Pascal – The Good, The Bad and The Forever Sad
A new effort from Danny McClelland, the track is taken from the debut EP ‘The Heart of A Mountain Lion’. Having recently had its video release through Manchester-based label Further Sky, the music video matches the DIY sensibilities of the track and shows the singer-songwriter watching the sunset from the rooftops and enjoying himself with friends. Previously known for heavier alternative outfits such as Ink Spelt Death and Born Only Yesterday,
Danny’s endearing lyrics become richly suggestive of a changing awareness of music for the young creative when set against the low-hanging prairie guitar that introduces the track: “good-bye blue sky, hello rain”. With a vocal delivery that splits the difference between Pavement and Placebo, Pascal demonstrates a change in direction from alt rock trappings to indie authenticity. Although recalling the likes of Car Seat Headrest in its basic lo-fi settings, Pascal brings electronic textures to the front to add a new depth to his own brand of indie rock. Sequenced rhythms are traced by a delicate synth line throughout, before the song finally erupts into synthesized swells in a digital breakdown. An exciting release from the new solo outfit, I’m eager to see how Pascal’s digital-meets-analog indie rock plays in its live performance.
►Rabid Bitch of the North – Green Eyes
After a long wait due to circumstances beyond their control, Northern Irish NWOBHM rockers Rabid Bitch of the North finally managed to release their single ‘Green Eyes’ on Alone Records, accompanied by a launch gig in Voodoo at the start of the year. The song is a chugging battering ram of a track, with frontman Joe Mcdonnell’s often falsetto vocals and a hell of a groove from his bass guitar superbly backed by guitarist Gerry Mulholland’s ferocious riffs and drummer Chris Condie’s confident thrashing of his kit. It certainly showcases the best of this talented band, particularly Mcdonnell’s astonishing vocal range. The accompanying video is at once silly and serious, featuring the band goofing around pulling mock-solemn faces while the actor in the piece slowly succumbs to his jealousy and bitter thoughts. Check it out here:
Rabid Bitch of the North are going from strength to strength, and I for one can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
►PORTS – Remedies
Picking a favourite local track from this year is so hard due to the sheer volume of great music coming the island: the new albums from September Girls and The Bonnevilles have been outstanding, but I’ve decided to go for something from another great record, PORTS’ The Devil Is A Songbird. PORTS included a lot of their folkier stuff from when they were Little Bear, but the track I’ve gone for is a new one, ‘Remedies’. In the past they were a classic folk rock band, in the Fleet Foxes mold, but this song really benefits from their decision to embrace a more widescreen, indie rock sound. It really reminds me of Explosions In The Sky, but Steven McCool’s emotive lyrics and stunningly tender vocals bring the song to places the Texan post-rock legends couldn’t. It’s an outstanding song but honestly I could have picked any one off the album: hopefully it should see them going from being our best kept secret to a revered international act.
►Tuskany – Shapes
Spoilt for choice was my first thought when considering the many great releases of 2016 so far. With a hypothetical gun pressed to my head, I would likely opt for the second single from new boys on the scene, Tuskany. The enigmatic Belfast two piece seem keen to maintain an air of mystery about them but really all you need to know is that they write some killer, foot tapping anthems. ‘Shapes’ is irrefutably the funkiest song you will hear this side of summer. My introduction to the track was during their debut live show and it was immediately apparent that it was the standout of their set. Tuskany manage to set themselves apart from the rest of the indie scene by combining all those sexy synths with an ear pleasing guitar solo and of course those unmistakable falsettos. I only wish that they would stop drip feeding us with releases every few months, just release that EP already!
►Irontown Diehards – Fly High
It isn’t difficult to choose my favourite band or album of the year so far, despite there being many candidates in a good year to date. The band is Irontown Diehards, the Belfast-based Power Rock quartet. I waxed lyrical about their self-titled debut album last month and nothing has changed my mind since or made me think that I went a bit far in my praise. The only issue was which song to choose. In my review, I said ‘Blood on the Horizon’ was the standout track for me on the album. I haven’t changed my mind that it is a great track. But, when the band chose ‘Fly High’ as the single to accompany the album’s release, and to make a truly classy (and risqué) video, they really chose well. It showcases everything good about the band. Stunning song by a stunning band from a stunning album.