What David did, what David's done and what David is going to do.
Welcome back! Part one here if you missed it. Let’s press on!
40. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
There is layered meaning and purpose to an album like Freetown Sound, the third overall for Dev Hynes under the Blood Orange moniker. To those that only know his work through this name and for his pop co-writing, it’s a complete realisation of the sound he has developed in the 2010s. For those that kept an eye on Hynes during his precocious years in Test Icicles and Lightspeed Champion, it’s a full-scale evolution on the back of revolutionary identity politics. Whether you’re day one or day 1001, this is a Sound that speaks to the heart. Hands up. Fists up.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Desiree, Augustine, Hands Up.
This Melbourne collective are as creatively temperamental as they are musically – short bursts of new music and playing live, then nothing. Thankfully, they stuck around in 2016 just long enough to unleash this exceptional debut LP. Open sees the trad-emo quintet develop their smash-cut song structures, disaffected saxophone interludes and blistering guitar parts that almost seem mathematically impossible. They assert their dominance within this field, knock your expectations sideways in 40 minutes flat and then are gone again. It’s anyone’s guess if they’ll resurface again, but Open is more than substantial enough to tide listeners over in the meantime.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Airspace, Revolting, New Holland.
38. Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Let it be known that few bands quite know how to put one in a proverbial chokehold the way Nails do. Give them the floor for 20 minutes and you’ll be a quivering, bleeding mess; gasping for air as the final notes ring out. You Will Never Be One of Us was one of the year’s most brutal, uncompromising listening experiences. It’s not all that often that one circles back around to it, such is its intensity. Every time you do, however, you are immediately reminded as to why. Never Be, true to its name, stands peerless at the forefront.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Violence is Forever, You Will Never Be One of Us, They Come Crawling Back.
In the years between their self-titled debut and Succour, Fear Like Us changed everything. They moved to Melbourne, they changed their line-up… one of them even became a dad. What remained the same, however, was their commitment to earnest, powerfully-honest folk-punk. A potent blend of the personal and the political, this long-awaited follow-up has a lot of heart within its poetic lyricism and rousing choruses. It’s a half-hour of power with a bold, clear emphasis on its power. After all this time, the fire has not burnt out – and Fear Like Us have deeper scars, with even better stories.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Who Killed Reza Berati?, Red Ochre, The Lowest Form of Love.
Though the three men that make up The Nation Blue at least have something substantial to show for their time away – a documentary, albums from High Tension and Harmony, a new baby – there’s a lot to be said about just how sorely they have been missed. With Black and Blue, which were both released on the same day, the Melbourne-via-Hobart trio make up for lost time; whether they’re screaming about suburbs of Canberra or taking a discordant bass-line out for a long, long walk. It’s brains and brawn in a bloody fight to the finish. Who dares wins.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Tired, Wild, I Have No Representatives.
To borrow a sentiment from Miranda Lambert, American Football know they can’t go home again. Still, here they are; wandering the hallowed halls of the house that built them. The boys it raised are now grown men, some with families of their own. A lot has changed in the world outside this house – and yet, when they walk inside, there is also room to reflect on what hasn’t. When Mike Kinsella confesses how he’s “been so lost/For so long,” it’s clear why he’s returned to these front steps. Truth is, American Football never gave up the ghost. Not really.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Desire Gets in the Way, I’ve Been So Lost for So Long, Where Are We Now?
It’s been said that Modern Baseball were inspired to split the two sides of its third LP between its two singers by Outkast’s 2003 classic Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It’s with this knowledge one aligns the group closer with Andre 3000 rather than Big Boi – an analogy that could easily expand out to their place within the scene as a whole. They’re artful, emotional types; enamoured with love and ideology rather than the grandeur of materialism. It’s this that has assisted the band in making a strong emotional connection with a wider audience. Holy Ghost is cooler than being cool.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind, Just Another Face, Note to Self.
Two years ago, Basement rose from the dead with a bone to pick and some unfinished business to take care of. This new lease on life is reflected in Promise Everything, their third album; a record that shows just how far they have come from their early days to now. It’s a smart, textured alternative rock record; one that knows when to reel in and when to lash out. It’s the local hardcore kids growing up, but never once forgetting where they came from. It is, for lack of a better phrase, an album that makes good on its promise.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Promise Everything, Aquasun, Oversized.
32. Shirley Collins – Lodestar
It’s rare that the first word that comes to mind when describing a piece of music is “miraculous.” The reality is it would feel like a disservice to think of Lodestar in any other manner. It is, after all, a 21st century release from a woman who did not sing for over 30 years; not releasing any music for nearly 40. Shirley Collins has long been considered legendary, but over time it became literally that – legend. There is an overwhelming sense of gratitude in getting to hear this beautiful, wise voice sing the songs of the land once again.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Death and the Lady, Cruel Lincoln, Old Johnny Buckle.
In the “gone too soon” pile, Michigan’s Pity Sex heartbreakingly fell apart in 2016 after such a promising return. It’s strange to now simultaneously think of White Hot Moon as a superior second LP to their already-excellent debut as well as – at least for now – a swansong of sorts. Amazingly, it still manages to work in both ways. Playing to the clever Slowdive-esque vocal duality within the band’s dynamics, as well as its fuzz-heavy shoegaze leanings, Pity Sex have never sounded as complete and as realised as they do here. We’ll always have this, at least. Goodnight, Moon.
THREE TOP TRACKS: What Might Soothe You?, Burden You, A Satisfactory World for Reasonable People.