Albums of 2016 - Shura - Nothing's Real

Albums of 2016 - Shura - Nothing's Real

One of my two favourite pop records of 2016, Shura's debut full length Nothing's Real may have been a long time coming for those of us with her from the outset but it rewards the listening fully and offers a perfect addition to 80's indebted pop with a modern twist that's finding an increasingly prominent place in my record collection.

The entire record is direct and emotional from start to finish, filled with a broken-hearted mood amongst smooth, shimmering textures, take the wonderful trio of tracks that predated the album "Touch", "Just Once" and "Indecision" as perfect example and the brilliant "Indecision", a more 80's indebted, school dance-floor jam with sparkling synths and woozy guitars that is both restrained and luxurious as an example of the more upbeat moments seen best on the bedazzling "White Light".

The softly spoken vulnerability reaches its peak on my favourite two new tracks ("Touch" will always be the Shura song for me) "What’s It Gonna Be?” and "What Happened To Us", both see Shura challenging her lover with forthright questions about the potential end of relationship and hit hard with the tangled web that is human emotion. Despite its often brittle subject matter, Nothing's Real comes across as sexy and poppy and I love it. 

Albums of 2016 - Rachel Sermanni - Gently

Albums of 2016 - Rachel Sermanni - Gently

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I hope you haven't got any plans for the next half an hour, if you have, call them off because I guarantee there is nothing better you can do for yourself that cut to the end of my waffling words here and press play on the beguiling Gently EP by Rachel Sermanni.

Recorded with Rachel's friend Jennifer Austin (who has the final track named in her honour) in her flat and on her piano, the resulting four tracks ebb and flow with an understated yet hypnotising grace and beguiling beauty to results that touch deep inside. The opening "Gently" is pure poetry, a softly waltzing melody made up of little more than Rachel's acoustic guitar and Jen's piano chords, it leaves you with the sort of feeling that makes all your worries float away, dreamlike and devastatingly pretty with Rachel's breathy, ethereal voice and captivated words. That's a pretty accurate summation of the three "Gently" tracks which run into twenty minutes but feels half that, just exquisite. 

Albums of 2016 - The Sun Days - Album

Albums of 2016 - The Sun Days - Album

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Easily amongst the best indie-pop albums of the year, The Sun Days bright, beautiful melodies and warming harmonies (since the release of the record the band have changed vocalist, a hot and steamy show in London's Lock Tavern back in July showed that doesn't matter) don't seemingly match their Gothenburg roots (it's a wonderful City mind), but Album immediately charms the pants of you with its smile-inducing bounce and vigour, the sort of record that can do nothing but bring a smile to your face and have you jumping around your room whilst swooning at the heart-warming vocals.

"Don't Need to be Them" is the one, a killer, killer track that pulls you straight into the quintet's uplifting, positive world with a shimmering spirit and catchy chorus that will be firmly imprinted in your head by it's duration (the entire record is similarly infectious) but that doesn't mean Album is a one track pony, "I Keep on Wondering" and "Busy People" couple knock-out vocal performances and melancholic lyrics with jangle guitars and machine gun percussive drums that sound so upbeat that you're propelled to sing along and think pleasant thoughts. "You Can't Make Me Make Up My Mind" is the first track I heard from the band back in 2014 but it sounds just as fresh and radiant today. I could go on but Squarespace has already deleted my first draft and I'm waffling...

Yes 2016 has been a shitter for many reasons but let The Sun Days raise one more smile before pressing the reset ahead of 2017.

Amy Gillespie - Wintertime (For Blue)

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From a recent favourite, to a heavenly voice I've been familiar with for a while to something brand, brand new to me. London based Amy Gillespie and the ridiculously beautiful "Wintertime (For Blue)".

Perfect for the chilly nights ahead (and armed with a warming glass of whisky) the track is crushingly pretty from the get-go with Amy's evocative vocals and some wonderfully constructed guitar lines painting the most perfect of pictures. Go listen below.

Julie Byrne #2 - Natural Blue

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One of the positives have being awol from the new music scene for quite a period of time is discovering acts you've followed have new material to immerse yourself in, that's summed up with "Natural Blue" by the exquisite Julie Byrne, her 2014 debut Rooms With Walls and Windows was one of my records of that year and if this is any indications, Julie Byrne's second record Not Even Happiness (released on January 27th Pre-order) will be one of 2017's best.

"Natural Blue" is slow drip of emotion and hushed melancholy filled with evocative guitar circles and sparse, atmospheric beauty. Majesty awaits for those unaware with a click below.

Molly Burch #3 - Try

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I doubt I'll do a 'tips for 2017' (I've really not been active enough this year to have a real handle on acts that are genuinely exciting me). If I were to do one, I can safely say Molly Burch would have been included, the heavenly "I Adore You" is probably my favourite track of the year (that or "Baby Love" by Petite Meller but that's arguably a 2015 release)...

"Try", the latest track to be taken from her debut full length album Please Be Mine out Feb 17 on Captured Tracks (and available on LP (w/ limited special edition pink here) sums up my attraction perfectly, a sumptous blend of effortless and endearing beauty which pares Molly's swoonsome vocals with rolling drums and playful guitars. 

Billie Marten - White Christmas

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It's nearly Christmas, believe me when I say I know that this time around... At work we are changing our phone systems and I'm continually on the phone to Vodafone to try and get them to action my emails (never, ever use them people), it also means I'm used to Vodafone hold music and the Buble Christmas CD.

Thankfully as this is my blog, I only post good things about Christmas, like this faithfully sweet cover of "White Christmas" from the lovely Billie Marten. Softening to the touch, go and listen below.

Muna #2 - I Know a Place

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I really like Muna, they were a real stand out at The Great Escape earlier this year, bringing instant similarities between a Haim performance at the same festival some six years or so previous. The trio's first new track since that sums up that sound perfectly, “I Know A Place" is all things 80's with its dark yet mainstream synthetic pop beat and dramatically tight  vocal harmonies. 

It's taken from the LA trio's debut album About U which is due February 3rd, expect this not to be the last you hear of that.