So here are the albums released this year that have been rocking the Studio Brewdio wheels of steel! There's quite an eclectic bunch here, from fallen rock gods to jazz upstarts, folk songstress's to groove funkatiers!
I've bound to have a missed a few so let me know whats been on your list this year and what you're looking forward to in 2017. For me it has to be the new Paramore album out in the spring.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my top 10 of 2016 in no particular order:
"Spacebound Apes" - Neil Cowley Trio
I'll start with this absolutely amazing album by Neil Cowley Trio that shows that a concept album doesn't have to be prog rock. From the floaty meditative sounds of "Weightless" and "Grace" to the uptempo delights of "The City and the Stars" and "The Sharks of Competition", this album was topped off by the beautiful score and story with lovely artwork by Sergio Sandoval. What a package!
"Blackstar" - David Bowie
This year we lost a musical titan in David Bowie. His ability over the years to mutate the music of the time to his own will and yet keep it distinctly his own is a trait I think no other artist has. This album was no exception. On retrospect it is clear he wrote it as his swan song, the epitaph to his career, even the dark production and his choice of jazz musicians playing out of their usual sphere's shows his forward thinking, knowing this would be his last offering and I think we're all thankful for his parting gift.
"Woman" - Justice
The sound of 70's rock meets disco in a electronic dance wrapping. Although not as good as their last album, Justice have kept the same formula that makes you think this is what would have happened if Led Zeppelin had found drum machines and synths instead of guitars and John Bonham.
"Culcha Vulcha" - Snarky Puppy
I wasn't too keen on their last Family Dinner vol.2 offering but this album restored my faith in the Puppies. Aside from the great playing you come to expect from all the musicians involved there's quite a wide range of styles on offer and the production is silky smooth. The experimentation with sounds shows that their return to the studio after so many great live albums is a different yet no less satisfying affair. I especially like the song "Gemini", that guitar tone!
"Live at Brixton" - Public Service Broadcasting
After loving last years studio offering, "The Race For Space", I'm happy to say that Public Service Broadcasting has managed to translate their story like informative music into a live album perfectly. Also covering material from previous releases, it perfectly encapsulates the Jean-Michael Jarre/Kraftwerk sound modernized. I thought it would struggle live but by the contrary it enhances the experience with great visuals and an almost more coherent sound. My personal highlights are "E.V.A" and "Gagarin".
"Spark and Echo" - mark Letteri
Let loose from his day job, Snarky Puppy's Mark Letteri certainly has a chance to flex his guitar playing muscles more with this album. There's elements of Jeff Beck and Tribal Tech era Scott Henderson here along with flashes of Wayne Krantz all wrapped in its own distinct package. With guitar at the fore, Letteri is clearing having fun exploring his pedal collection with my favourites being "Goonsquad" and an awesome cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".
"theyesandeye" - Lou Rhodes
I first listened to this album while sitting around the campfire with my wife while on holiday in France and it matched the mood perfectly, relaxed and reflective. Lou Rhodes has certainly become more mellow since she moved on from playing with the brilliant Lamb. This is a more personal record than she could've achieved with her previous cohorts and yet is all the better for it.
"The Beautiful Game" - Vulfpeck
My favourite find of 2016, just when I was getting a bit bored with new bands, Vulfpeck came along and totally knocked my socks off. What you'd get if the classical studio recording bands of the 60's, such as the Wrecking Crew, were around today. A funky, jazzy, R'N'B explosion with great chops and even greater showmanship. On songs like "Animal Spirits" and "1 For 1, DiMaggio" they sound like the Jackson 5 on steroids and "Dean Town" is a groove masterclass, listen to that bass line!
"Emily's D+Evolution" - Esperanza Spalding
Already a jazz phenomenon due to her brilliant bass playing, song writing and singing, this album saw Esperanza Spalding take on a more rockier edge and I love it. Based on her alter ego, Emily, she uses that troupe to give herself another musical avenue to explore and it works. The high concept of the album pulls off various genre hoping tricks while always sounding like Esperenza. Imagine a psychedelic jazzy rock Tori Amos and you're only half way there.
"Via Zammata" - Dweezil Zappa
What a bad year Dweezil has had. After being sued by his own family over the use of his last name I'm so happy he was able to release this album. There's humour throughout, the metal stylings of "Dragon Master" is a good example, and sly digs at his on going feud with his brother and sister. You can hear his dad's influences on "Funky 15" and "Malkovich" and although Frank would be fuming at the situation the family is in he'd be smiling his head off at this album.