Presenters’ Picks – 2016

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Aaron Heanue

Album: Craig David – Following My Intuition

Following My Intuition is Craig David’s 6th studio album. The album debuted at number 1 in the albums chart, his first album to do so since his debut album “Born to Do It” in 2000. My favourite song on this album is “16”, which is a mash up of Craig David’s old hit “Fill Me In” and Jack Ü song “Where Are Ü”. I also enjoyed the single “When the Bassline Drops” from the album, which features UK rapper Big Narstie.

Track: Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners – This Girl

I have chosen “This Girl” as in my opinion this was the dance song of the summer in 2016! Originally “This Girl” was released by soul-funk band Cookin’ on 3 Burners in 2009. Then this year French DJ Kungs remixed “This Girl” and made it his own. This upbeat dance song peaked at number 2 in the UK charts.

Alan Gulliver

Album: Destrage – A Means To No End

This album came from nowhere like a knockout punch with big powerful riffs melodic overtones and catchy hooks. This band have found themselves this year and reigned in the over-the-top riffing of the past to put together the strongest offering from any band for me in 2016.

Track: Gojira – Stranded

Taken from the album Magma, this song for me was the song of the summer and has the earworm effect on you from the outset. A great song from one of the best live acts this year.

Alan Johnson

Album: Craig David – Following My Intuition

Craig David – one of the UK’s finest R&B talents. Or do I mean Garage – or perhaps these days they call it Grime? Hang on, though, maybe his style’s more just good-old-fashioned Hip Hop.

Forget the labels – Craig David’s ability to cross a range of styles with ease is something I’ve always liked about him, and this album didn’t disappoint with its tuneful solo efforts along with some great collaborations. I particularly enjoyed “16”, a skilful mash-up of Jack Ü & Justin Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now” with the timeless classic which launched his own chart career back at the start of the century, “Fill Me In”.

Oh now, wait a minute – can I add EDM to that list?

Track: Black Eyed Peas featuring The World – #WHERESTHELOVE

There’ve been quite a few of those songs this year whose melodies became lodged in my head – in a good way. There was the one about leaving a spare toothbrush, for example, or that one with the odd line about the stolen mattress. Then there was the highly catchy song inviting everyone to get sexual – an invitation Zara Larsson certainly seems to have taken on board as she enthuses about one particular way she’d like to get to know you.

Whilst these ditties may soon be forgotten, though, I and millions of others shall long remember this as a year marked by division and nastiness. This was epitomised by the public slaughter of an MP: I recall my heart sinking back in June when an almost quivering voice on the radio confirmed the death of Jo Cox. That was news no-one should ever have had to read, and against this backdrop my track of 2016 was an easy choice.

Antonia Jones

Track: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

I know this song was only released in November, but this has got to be my favourite track of the year. Why? It’s catchy, fun and will go on to be one of those songs that will never be forgotten. Bruno Mars has gone and done it again. He brings together a range of different eras into one track – his collection just keeps on growing!

Bob Simpson

Album: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Track: Bruno Mars – Versace On The Floor

As one of the more senior (in years) presenters on Phoenix FM I think my musical head is firmly entrenched in the latter part of the last century. Having said that though, there has been some great new music this year.

My choices for this year have their roots in the past though (what music doesn’t?) Yes, I’m a Bruno Mars fan!

Every track on this album sends various parts of my body into involuntary motion. I’ll leave you to guess which parts! It’s fun, it’s fabulous and does what I think music needs to do. It lifts you out whatever situation you are in and takes you on a journey.

Influences from 80’s funk to early Michael Jackson with a little James Brown and R&B of the late 80’s and early 90’s, the ballads are sweet, the dance tracks superb.

A guilty pleasure? Maybe, but I don’t feel guilty at all.

Brian Ager

Album: Whiskey Myers – Mud

The fourth album from the Texans shows a band who do exactly what they want to do, regardless of musical trends. Like all their previous albums this is an album full of songs and stories of the south, showing their depth of feeling towards their home state.

Opening with the fiddle-heavy Down To The River, the album moves on to the swampy title track, full of their trademark twin guitar attack and featuring female backing singers. Up next is Lightning Bugs and Rain, another switch of styles, this time to a brass backed almost funky song. Deep Down In The South follows in the funkier vein, thudding bass, references to Muscle Shoals, Delta Blues and home cooking, it’s another song of love for the South.

Stone is probably the centrepiece of the album. Opening with piano, the song tells the story of a lonely man on the road searching for happiness. Trailer We Call Home follows, a tale of young couples struggling to get a start in life by living in a trailer. Some Of Your Love lightens the mood, a love song about a man trying to win a girls heart. Frogman, co written by Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, is a tribute to US Navy Seals and their life in battle.

Hank follows, a song of thanks to Hank Williams Jr and the band’s introduction to country music through him. The Good Ol’ Days closes the album on a happy note, sounding very much like a group of friends having a few beers sitting round a camp fire and having fun.

This is a truly wonderful album, musicianship of the very highest calibre at the peak of their powers. If you like southern rock, country rock, or just plain good music, buy this album.

Track: The Answer – Battle Cry

The Answer surprised many fans this year with their Gaelic-tinged album of hard rock, Solas. Battle Cry is the centrepiece of the album, a slow building 6 minute epic that they currently close their live performances with. Great song from a great album.

Chay Appleyard

Album: Asylums – Killer Brain Waves

In a year where a lot of the main music outlets are selecting The 1975’s “I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware Of It” (My fingers hurt after typing that), and rightly so, it’s a great album, but let’s embrace some other good stuff which has braced our stereos in 2016.

It was a toss up between Iggy Pop’s “Post Pop Depression” or Asylums’ “Killer Brain Waves”, the first one is great and my head says I should go for that because it is THAT good. But my friends, with my heart I have gone with the latter. Why? I originally bought the album on the off chance from good things I read on Facebook. They are a Southend band on the verge of charting with their album and I felt it was worth giving a shot.

Two minutes in and one song down – I was hooked. The moment “Second Class Sex” finished and “Seen Your Face In A Music Magazine” began it was clear to me I made the right choice giving it a punt. Great production, all very upbeat songs but each with their own identity, interesting song titles and lyrics, everything down to the artwork. It’s my kinda album.

All in all, it’s wonderful to see that band/artists from your region can go on to make great records. If you look towards Southend you can find some great music at this moment in time. And I like to think, that if Asylums can go on to do more wonderful things, such as what they’ve achieve with this album, then it can encourage and inspire more of us who play music in Essex to do exactly the same. Keep up the good work, lads.

Track: Mumford and Sons feat Baaba Maal and The Very Best – There Will Be Time

I’ve embraced pop a little more this year. I’ve loved “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris and Rhianna (but it’s mainly because I’m a sucker for most things written by Taylor Swift). I have, however, gone for a song which structurally, melodically, lyrically and spiritually engages me as a local songwriter.

Mumford and Sons to me have become a better band since ditching the banjos and picking up electric guitars – but with this song they took African influences and it features Senegalese music icon, Baaba Maal. In my eyes it has made them one of the most ambitious bands since the 21st century began.

I love how it’s laid out, it starts off with ab-libs from Baaba Maal, then the first chorus, both verses are different, the four chorus are musically diverse (single strums with no drums, then slow building drums, then breakbeat drums – the works), Baaba Maal and Marcus Mumford just seem to play off each other vocally – its wonderful to listen to.

The EP “Johannesburg” is in my car currently, and it isn’t going anywhere fast. Fun fact: I used to work in a fish and chip shop in Grays also named Mumford and Sons, it has been in the Grays area since 1912.

Chris Hood

Album: Neil Young and Promise of The Real – Earth

Neil Young is an angry man – nothing new there. Together with new band Promise of The Real, featuring the offspring of Willie Nelson, this album is a series of live cuts of Young’s best musings on Planet Earth, together with studio overdubs and sounds of nature. The 28 minute version of Love and Only Love is a particular treat.

Track: Prophets of Rage – Prophets of Rage

Prophets of Rage announced their existence in May of this year. A supergroup featuring members of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, all the participants are at the peak of their powers for this barnstorming shot across the bows. Plus, anything with Tom Morello in it has to be worth consideration, right?

Chris Siviter

Album: Tacocat – Lost Time

The record I’ve listened to more times this year than any other. A delightfully noisy record full of short punky classics along with lyrics covering feminist themes (amongst other things) make this a must-hear album of 2016.

Track: David Bowie – Lazarus

The death of David Bowie shocked the entire world when it happened only two days after the release of his final album Blackstar. But even in death, he did things on his own terms, staring down his own mortality and continuing to make art until the final curtain. The song Lazarus, along with the moving video is another example of a man who did things his way, always moving forward and even turning his passing into a final artistic tour de force.

Chris Stagg

Album: David Bowie – Blackstar

I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me, but in my opinion Blackstar is simply the most important and stunning musical album to be released in 2016.

Put aside for a moment the tragic death of David Bowie just two days after the release of this album and take it for what it is. Yes, this album was Bowie’s goodbye to the World and final message to us, and yes it does make the album all the more important. But to judge it against the context of Bowie’s death is to do this masterpiece of an album an injustice.

As an album on its own it is incredible. ‘Blackstar’ is a short album at just over 7 tracks and 41 minutes, 10 of which is the title track alone. I’m not going to go into depth about ‘Blackstar’ the track, as it was my song of the year for 2015 (which is available on the Phoenix FM website), but it is one Hell of a way to open an album. Wonderfully bizarre, seemingly able to jump genres and yet not be defined by any, it hypnoses you into a state of musical Nirvana. But every track on this album is beautiful in its own right and can easily be enjoyed in isolation or by listening to the album as a whole.

Particular highlights for me though, are the heartbreaking tracks; ‘Lazarus’ and ‘I can’t Give Everything Away, and ‘Twas a Pity She Was A Whore’, which is it wasn’t for the lyrics would be at home on the soundtrack of Labyrinth. Strange, groundbreaking, contradictory and beautiful; ‘Blackstar’ is just like Bowie himself. It is all those things and more. Blackstar is perfect, and honestly everyone should hear it through at least once.

Track: Korn – Rotting in Vain

When Korn first exploded onto the scene, I was instantly hooked. I had never heard anything like them. Their music alone really struck me, with their seven-string guitars and strange other worldly effects combined with heavy use of dissonance. But it was Jonathan Davis’ incredible vocal style that I enjoyed first and his shocking subject matter that inspires him. His crackly deep to childlike singing, metal screaming and perhaps most famously his use of gibberish, opened another World for me.

Korn had album after incredible album with self titled debut; ‘Korn’, ‘Life is Peachy’ and then their breakthrough ‘Follower the Leader’ with its world-smashing track ‘Freak on a Leash’ giving them global fame. The 90s had one more brilliant album for them in ‘Issues’ which gave them many crowd favorite tracks like ‘Somebody Someone’ and ‘Falling Away from Me.’ But after this, in my opinion Korn lost their way. Sure there was the odd track that was good, but the albums just didn’t have that special something. But they have now rocketed back with a brand new track (and album) that is everything Korn used to be, while still showing maturity and musical growth. Even acceptance of where they had gone wrong in the past.

‘Rotting in Vain’ is heavy, very dark and shows a band that are ready and very hungry for more. This track sounds like a beautiful hybrid of the sounds of ‘Issues’ mixed with the ferocity of their debut. We even have the long awaited return of Jonathan Davis gibberish! This is a fantastic track that seasoned veteran will love and also a worthy introduction to any new Korn fan. Check out the Victorian Gothic music video too that is the perfect dark match to the song.

Courtney-Lee Collins

Album: Various Artists – Now 95

I would say this because I think that it has a wide array of fantastic songs in it and I have a wide taste in music so don’t really tend to follow a single group.

The London Hospices Choir and Paul Carrack – The Living Years

My reason behind this is that whilst I have many favourite songs and usually struggle to choose my favourite of the bunch, I’m a big 80s music fan having been brought up beside it as my parents have listened to it all my life and I love the original song, also I am a massive charity fundraiser so to me the purpose behind the song is close to my heart.

Graham Stannard

Album: The Cortège – Love & Land

I’ve always loved their sound, but they continue to improve with age, especially live. Long time friends of Musical Meanderings, The Cortège have always had the wonderful blend of melody and heaviness I’ve always enjoyed, but this latest EP takes it to the next level, especially as they build towards their trademark crescendos at the end of songs such as Starting Gun. Long may they continue.

Track: Atriohm & Ianuaria – Solstice Extract

I’ve not been listening to too much Psychedelic Trance this year, but am always keen to keep an ear out for any developments on the powerful end of the spectrum and this hasn’t disappointed. From Macedonian artist Atriohm’s new album, only released this month, Million Years Dance, this is a wonderful collaboration with Ianuaria. A finely crafted sonic adventure, with meandering sweeps and satisfying peaks, I’m looking forward to hearing it on a dance floor soon.

Harriet Ivie

Album: DJ Snake – Encore

I have been a follower of DJ Snake over the past couple of years. Loving some of his singles including “Lean On’ featuring Major Lazer and “You Know You Like It” featuring Aluna George. However last August I was so excited to see he had realised his very own album.

I have chosen Encore as my album of the year as I was hooked instantly. With house and dance feels with a few heavy baselines thrown in there it’s an album crafted especially to my taste, I couldn’t think of anything better!

Track: MK & Beck Hill – Piece Of Me

This song stands out to me when I look back on what tracks I have loved this year. Due to its strong beat that instantly put me in a good mood! It is one of them songs that make you want to get up and dance! I was lucky enough to see this track performed by the DJ MK live at V Festival this year, and hearing the crowd sing along and dance makes this track stand out to me this year.

Joe Denby

Album: Azooma – The Act Of Eye

Azooma is a Death Metal band from Iran which completely caught me off guard. All musicians are on top form and there is fantastic musicianship on display.

It blends and perfectly balances technicality, brutality and melody. The album just plays itself and flies by. It reveals more with every listen.

Track: Megadeth – Dystopia

It’s modern yet classic Megadeth. Delicious guitar melodies and hooks. Haunting lyrics. A sure fire future classic.

Kavus Torabi

Album: North Sea Radio Orchestra – Dronne
Track: The Gasman – Motivation

Both artists are favourites of ours on The Interesting Alternative Show. This album and track are career highlights of both to my ears.

Keith Rogers

Album: Rihanna – Anti

A rich and conflicted record at its most interesting when it’s at its most idiosyncratic.

Track: Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling!

A great feelgood track that everyone seems to like!

Libby Holden

Album: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

I have been a huge fan of Bruno Mars since the very beginning and was so excited for the release of this new album and I can happily say I have not been disappointed. Even though it was released at the end of 2016 in November I am still choosing this as my favourite album of 2016!

24K Magic is a devoted resurrection of the soul, funk, and R&B of ’80s and ’90s. What elevates 24K Magic beyond pure pastiche relegated to wedding playlists is how well Bruno Mars, brimming with swagger and schmaltz, sells the flossy fantasy.

If you get a chance take a listen! A couple of my favourite tracks being – ‘Chunky’, ‘Versace On The Floor’ and ‘Too Good To Say Goodbye’. I have also got tickets to his world tour next year, so really looking forward to that. Go Bruno!

Track: Lukas Graham – 7 Years

I first heard this song on the radio in the car at the beginning of 2016 and I instantly knew i was going to love it; it has an amazing melody let alone the genius lyrics, most people can relate to a line or two in the song and I believe that is the beauty of good song writing.

Although originally realased last year, 7 Years reached no 1 in the UK singles charts and stayed there for 5 weeks. It was nominated for three Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Matt Hines

Album: Kate Bush – Before The Dawn

The live recording of the best live show I have ever seen. Before the Dawn captures the magic of the legendary run at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2014.

Track: Mystery Jets – Bubblegum

This band came of age this year with their brilliant album “Curve Of The Earth”. Bubblegum is the stand out track on a brilliant piece of work by the band. A real calling card.

Melanie Watson

Album: Susie Smith – Gong Goddess Future Sounds

Susie is an amazingly gifted gong musician. I have attended many of her workshops and finally this year she released an album so the magic of the gong can now be transported into your home. Gonging is becoming increasingly popular, and the concept of having a gong bath is one that is being embraced.

These sounds are incredibly haunting and transport you in to a different world. Ideal as background music for exercise or as a focal point for meditation.

Track: DNCE – Cake By The Ocean

This brings back memories of the wonderful wedding ceremony I conducted in Malta this year.

Michelle Ward

Album: Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate

Beautiful voice with interesting songs and inspiring lyrics.

Track: Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling!

A happy pop tune that makes everything feel immediately summery. Also produced a great video alongside. Justin back to his best.

Mike Jones

Album: The Boxer Rebellion – Ocean By Ocean

It’s astounding how this band aren’t bigger than they are. Huge American tour, large London gigs but still no real hit. Perhaps this will do it. Not a weak track on this beauty with songwriting skills at a premium. Just can’t get this off the playlist. Love it!

Track: Travis – Idlewild

Easy choice this year for me as this ticks so many boxes. Lovely bass line, haunting lyrics deserving all the attention it got.

Mike Porter

Track: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

I just love the jazz funk sound.

Nick Field

Album: Sonic Boom Six – The F-Bomb

Sonic Boom Six combine rock, hip-hop, electronica, reggae, ska and anything else they can think of and use them all to create a sound that champions a progressive and fairer society without sounding world-weary. Alongside Lazy Habits, whose ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ album is also worth a mention here, Sonic Boom Six are a band who never compromise themselves or their message. They’re exactly the kind of band the world needs right now.

Track: Babeheaven – Moving On

The first band I saw on stage at Latitude Festival this year, and was captivated. This is beautifully atmospheric chilled-out genre-crosser.

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Rick Astley – 50

Very different and a soulful jazz feel. Not a cheesy album at all.

Track: Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners – This Girl

A song that I played a lot when we moved to Clacton – my summer feelgood song.

Nikki Mills

Album: Bastille – Wild World

This was a choice between Bastille’s ‘Wild World’ and Busted’s ‘Night Driver’ but as much as I love Busted and I’m extremely happy they are back together, I’ve gone with Bastille.

The reason for this is because for me it has been a long awaited album. Ever since I had the chance to interview lead singer Dan Smith in April last year and ask him questions about the upcoming album I’ve been excited for its release.

Watching the band perform some of the new songs from the album at Glastonbury and seeing them on the Wild World supporting tour has reinforced how amazing they are. They sound just as good live as they do recorded and I enjoy listening to every track on the album.

Track: Shawn Mendes – Treat You Better

Another tough decision between two contenders, Shawn Mendes and ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers. I’ve chosen ‘Treat You Better’ because it’s a great follow up to his 2015 track ‘Stitches’ which I also love. Shawn Mendes sings with such passion in his songs and writes meaningful lyrics which I without fail always find myself learning and singing along to.

I am going to see him on his Illuminate Tour next year which I’m very much looking forward to and can’t wait to join in singing with the crowd!

Patrick Sherring

Album: Ward Thomas – Cartwheels

Twenty-two-year-old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzie Ward-Thomas have had a great 2016. Cartwheels was their second album and it was the first by a UK country band to go to No. 1 on the album charts. Their mixture of close harmonies and interesting lyrics, wrapped up in a British take on an American country sound means we will be hearing about them for many years.

Track: MonaLisa Twins – Nothing Is In Vain

For much of the year the MonaLisa Twins have played gigs in their adopted city of Liverpool. You can hear the influence of classic Merseysound from the 60s in their music. But they play it for the 21st century in a fresh and appealing way.

They are multi-talented vocalists and musicians. This track, with an ethereal quality, is a great introduction to their music.

Paul Golder

Album: Divine Comedy – Foreverland

Neil Hannon back to his whimsical best with witty lyrics and amazing arrangements – it’s probably his Divinest Comediest album ever. And he rhymes “brainier” with “Lithuania”.

Track: Honeyblood – Sea Hearts

One of a number of great songs released from their excellent second album “Babes Never Die” – a throwback to the brilliant guitar-driven pop you’d see in the charts all the time before streaming ruined them. Amazing live band too – a big sound from just two live performers.

Rob Harvey

Album: David Bowie – Blackstar

This was the first Bowie album I had rushed out to get in ages, and little did I realise it was a swansong.

The album gives me the subtlest of clues to Bowie’s fragility, with songs that feel like a collaboration with Picasso in the palette of his storytelling.

The songs are a mix of Epic, grand, subversive, funny, classic bowie creativity and yet oddly poignant – “I Can’t Give It Away” being my favourite on this masterstroke of a final album, from a true legend.

Track: Neil Francis and Daysound – Deadender

This song was a massive earworm for me this year, as it evokes drama with some truly catchy hooks. It was written originally way back in the 80’s, and they decided to revisit and stay true to the songs original inception. Deadender is a dark pop procession of lush sounds and driving rhythms – a ageless feel that makes me click repeat.

Ruth E Mortimer

Album: Matt Corby – Telluric

Oh Matt Corby … his voice is just incredible and sends warm shivers down my spine. Do you want to sit down, relax and listen to some soothing guitar, and a voice that will make you melt into your chair? If your answer is yes then you seriously need to get this album.

Coming from a guy who was a product of Australian Idol, he has grown into a soulful, soothing musician, and this album displays his versatility and artist intelligence. Check out his Facebook page for some stunning live recordings of songs from Telluric too, really demonstrating this man’s huge talent.

Track: Joy Williams – We Can Never Go Back (acoustic version)

Joy Williams is an artist who has had 3 reprises as a musician – Christian Singer, The Civil Wars member, and now haunting powerful solo artist. Her release of her 2015 album Venus was followed in 2016 with an acoustic Album of some of the songs from that album, as well as bonus tracks, one of which being We Can Never Go Back (acoustic).

The song takes us through the struggle and pain that a lover or friend can’t dwell on the past, and the only way to progress forward from their hurt is to move on. The song finishes with a shift, one which is more peaceful, and displays progression of feelings – and importantly that herself and whomever she is referring to will go on (and on and on).

The song is beautiful, however is difficult to listen to as many would have experienced similar pain and struggle, and the song perfectly depicts this – so listen with caution.

Scott Ross

Album: Phil Collins – The Singles

I always liked Phil Collins so this looks like being a fairly safe bet.

Track: Chvrches feat Hayley Williams – Bury It

This is a band that just keeps getting better and better.

Scott W

Album: Dream Theater – The Astonishing

The American progressive metal group continue on their music odyssey providing an atmospheric, powerful though subtle at times, thought-provoking, character-driven concept double-album set in the future. It’s some antidote to the likes of X-Factor-like talent shows, displaying proper musicianship.

Track: Alter Bridge – My Champion

An uplifting (and loud) reminder of the need to keep going after tough days or tough times, the world is a hard place, though motivation is darn important. Keep plugging away. This choice is dedicated to the Mental Health Community.

Steve Davis

Album: Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Their best and most accessible to date.

Track: Gong – The Unspeakable Stands Revealed

From the album “Rejoice! I’m Dead” – considering the relatively recent passing of Daevid Allen this track conjures up a certain melancholy, but not in a sad way but rather in a spiritual sense.

Steve Roach

Album: David Bowie – Blackstar

A fantastic album for a classic artist to bow out on.

Track: For The Love Of Bob – Fix You

An amazing vocal harmony version of the Coldplay track, which featured on the Phoenix FM-supported “Sound Of Essex” CD released by Studio 6 Music in the summer in aid of the Brainwave tumour charity.

Steve Robertson

Album: Birds of Tokyo – Brace

The fifth studio album from Australian band Birds of Tokyo. This is an album I’ve been listening to more than any other this year and it only came out in November. The mixed melodic and rock sound just works, and means I have been listening to the recent release no matter what mood I’m in or time of day.

Track: Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human

A stand-out single from a singer I saw perform and interviewed at the Standon Calling festival this year. Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – real name Rory Graham performed this live in July when the single was first released and it appeared on the Phoenix FM A-list as a result.

The song has spent 9 weeks at the number one spot in Germany and is now having a second lease of life as it climbs up the UK chart and for me has been the song of the year since I first heard it in July.

Tara Newman

Album: Sheratones – If Your Heart’s Not In It

With an original sound and fresh image, this band stand out by a mile.

Track: Dead Natives – Rollercoaster Scream

This song is catchy and gets your feet tapping. This band have only been together 5 months but they’re songs are going to be massive. Watch out for them in 2017!

Tony Smith

Album: Tove Lo – Lady Wood

So many great mainstream albums released in 2016 so for this category I am going to go with a relative newcomer, Swedish singer Tove Lo and her album that attempts to consolidate the international multi-platinum success of her 2014 debut, “Queen of the Clouds”.

Some listeners may not warm to Tove Lo’s persona, but her songwriting skills are difficult to fault (she’s also co-written hits for Ellie Goulding and Girls Aloud on the side). She is aided on the album by collaborators including Lorde producer Joel Little and Max Martin’s protégé Ilya Salmanzadeh.

Track: Drake – One Dance

Although this song kind of got on my nerves after the first month of its release, it’s worth remembering the track spent 15 weeks at Number One in the UK alone, with a massive 1.8 million sales in 2016 and counting, and was Spotify’s most-streamed song ever! A track that was guaranteed to fill the dance floor again and again, and now that it has had a bit of a break from radio airplay I’m now enjoying the track again.

Was “One Dance” actually any good? Yes, of course it was – its inescapable dancehall rhythms burrowed their way into your ear like Drake never has before – with more than a little help from contributors Kyla and Wizkid.

I must add that I nearly went with Clean Bandit who brought home the most coveted chart accolade of the year with the Christmas Number One 2016, “Rockabye”. Credit also goes to Anne-Marie and Sean Paul for amazing vocal performances on the track.

Tracey Thomas

Album: Passenger – Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea

I love Passenger – I have all his albums and there are so many great tracks it’s hard to pick a fave. I have lots of albums from 2016 that I loved but this stands out.

Track: Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners – This Girl

It’s just a happy summer tune that always lifts my spirits and reminds me of our family holiday this year in sunny Majorca – grandson in the pool, evenings around the port area, white sangria, paella etc etc!

Xanthe Bearman

Album: The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

Snappy Title. My daughter introduced me to this band and I really like their eclectic style. The album has a track featuring a gospel choir, an couple of instrumental tracks, pop style songs and an acoustic song at the end. “Love Me” is certainly one of my favourites as it’s a complete mickey take of popular culture! Lead singer Matty says it was inspired by him strutting around on stage with his shirt undone, arms outstretched, with hordes of teenage girls screaming up at him!

Track: Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop the Feeling!

Such a happy little song from the Trolls movie soundtrack. It’s one of those songs that get in your head and you bounce about all day singing it – I’m a cheery soul so that appeals to me!

Vixter (Vic Damhar)

Album: Kaytranada – 99.9%

Kaytranada released his highly anticipated debut album 99.9% via XL Recordings. Showcasing a blend of genres from soul, funk, disco to house, bass, hip hop and R&B.

Kaytranada, aka Louis Kevin Celestin has cemented his reputation and sound. Every kick, snare, or clap, usually layered with a sample, gives an energetic, funky, house-vibe to his tracks. This is why Celestin stands out from any other popular electronic house producers.

The album features a wealth of guest talent, including acclaimed percussionist/producer Karriem Riggins, rising Toronto vocalist River Tiber, UKG favourite Craig David, Aluna George, BadBadNotGood, Anderson .Paak, Little Dragon, Vic Mensa and Shay Lia.

99.9% also won the 2016 Polaris Music Prize (Canada’s equivalent to the Mercury Prize), which honours the year’s best album.

Track: Dusky – Ingrid Is A Hybrid

Nick Harriman and Alfie Granger-Howell, aka Dusky, are pioneers of the UK house music scene. The duo released the track from their second studio album entitled Outer.

“Ingrid Is A Hybrid” is a superbly textured sound that offers up atmospheric pads, translucent synth and stunningly inventive vocals with classic rave breakbeats. The track takes you into an atmospheric trip, experiencing euphoria through house music, plus adding Dusky’s own contemporary sound stamped onto it.

A pure pleasure to listen to.

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