When Wall of Sound started, the main purpose was to be a platform for music fans to be able to voice their opinions and get their writing skills to the point where somewhere will publish their work if it was good enough to read and in the 2 years we’ve been around we’ve seen many budding music lovers try their hand at writing. Our latest addition is Michael Parente who has managed to whip up his informal (and questionable) Wall of Sound 2016 Year in Review just in time…
Right off the bat – it’s probably important to note that there’s a key distinction between ‘best’ and ‘favourite’…and in my opinion, it’s a lot more fun to lean towards ‘favourite’.
Without further ado!
TOP 15 ALBUMS OF 2016
15: Volumes – Via (remaster)
Putting this one at number 15, because I’m cheating a tad with its inclusion. Technically this album was released in 2011, but with its remastered version released recently, it’s become evident how timeless and influential the work truly was. Arguably popularising the existence of ‘Djent-groove’, it’s a shame Volumes haven’t since lived up to this masterpiece (though Erased is a banger).
Must listen: Edge of the Earth
14: Infant Annihilator – The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch
While I’m truly stepping into unfamiliar genre territory with this one, hearing this album blew me away. Brutal and relentless without being tired, constantly subverting expectations.
Must listen: Soil the Stillborn
13: Jared Dines – The Dark EP
I don’t think any of us expected this from Youtube musical humourist Jared Dines – but when he first started premiering material from his debut EP, the deathcore world collectively gasped. Demogorgon is a timeless track – and even in the year of Stranger Things, is (in my opinion) the superior work to reference said demon.
Must listen: Demogorgon
12: The Word Alive – Dark Matter
Though I’d been on The Word Alive train in the early days of Empire, I had drifted in the releases since…that is, until Dark Matter. Or more specifically, one track from the album – Trapped…easily one of the best metalcore songs of the year.
Must listen: Trapped
11: A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations
A Day To Remember continue to put out stellar A Day To Remember records. They’re a classic example of not converting any haters, but feeding their fans with fresh riffs and new grooves. Bad Vibrations could use a trim, but tracks like the title track, Exposed, and Justified prove that they’re not resting on their laurels.
Must listen: Exposed
10: Baauer – Aa
You might only remember Bauuer as ‘the Harlem Shake’ guy – or maybe not at all. His debut full-length Aa may not have been the solid 60 minutes of bangers that club kids were hoping for, but it is definitely one of the best EDM releases of the year (and incidentally, a much more satisfying approach to a full-length dance record than Flume’s Skin, in one man’s opinion).
Must listen: Day Ones
9: Pomegranate Tiger – Boundless
Not a day goes by where I don’t pine for new material A Helix Nebula…and if I can’t have that, I’m more than happy to settle for Pomegranate Tiger’s sophomoric work Boundless. Displays of musicianship that remain engaging without feeling showboaty are a holy grail of progressive genres, and Boundless has this in spades.
Must Listen: Cyclic
8: Earthside – A Dream in Static
Fan of atmospheric prog, and unable to wait for more Tesseract? Never fear – Earthside has you covered (and even has a stunning cameo from Dan Tompkins himself). This album truly is a journey.
Must listen: A Dream in Static
7: Plini – Handmade Cities
Plini is Australia’s Ekali, if Ekali was an instrumental guitar prodigy (how’s that for an obscure reference?). His first full length release demonstrates his mastery of rhythm, space, and timing – and continues his ability to make the listener feel like they’re floating – if you’ll forgive the colourful description.
Must listen: Cascade
6: Hands like Houses – Dissonants
How on earth have Hands Like Houses not crossed over to mainstream Australian success yet? Don’t get me wrong, they have quite the fanbase in the scene, but they’re easily the most radio-ready pop-punk this country has to offer – and I mean that as a compliment. They should be MMM’s answer to CHR’s 5 Seconds of Summer.
Must listen: New Romantics
5: Hellions – Opera Oblivia
I saw Hellions in 2015, and liked them, but wasn’t personally hooked in by their material. Imagine my surprise, then, when I caught them late this year, dropping the hookiest, tastiest hardcore this side of the equator. I promptly rushed home and threw money at my computer until the album played.
Whether it’s the Streetlight Manifesto-infused soundings of Lotus Eater, or the Djentstick-esque breakdowns in Nightliner Rhapsody, this album attacks from all sides.
Must listen: He Without Sin
4: Jacob Collier – In My Room
My main interest in various heavy genres has always been due to the musicianship present – and if said musicianship happens to present itself in the form of a 22-year-old jazz musician from North London, who am I to say no? Jacob Collier’s debut full length runs the gamut from jazz, to funk, to neo-soul, and is a phenomenal journey no matter which stop it makes along the way.
Must listen: Hideaway
3: Lido – EVERYTHING
We’d been getting tastes of Lido’s debut LP for months – and when it finally dropped, it provided (to quote the indubitable Robert California)‘changes to the game…such that the game can never be played the same way again’. From the hyper edited melodies of Murder, to Citi Bike’s cacophony of texture, to Angel, potentially the only EDM track in existence that’s simultaneously raw and emotional *and* a veritable dancefloor banger – EVERYTHING undeniably lives up to its title.
Must listen: Citi Bike
2: Birds of Tokyo – BRACE
What the hell is this? How do Birds go from the (oft described as) mum-rock of Lanterns, to this goddamn masterpiece?
On revision, that may be a reductive analysis – their early work (e.g. Broken Bones, Armour For Liars) is killer, and more recently, tracks such as Anchor or Puzzle showed that they could still write tracks that weren’t low-effort mainstream-radio fodder (not that I blame them for the aforementioned Lanterns et al – who could?).
Album opener Harlequins sets the tone for what is to came – dark, brooding, almost like progressive rock’s version of synthwave…before the rest of album continues to shower the listener with glistening synths and dark, dissonant guitars, before crescendo-ing with the goosebump inducing Mercy Arms.
Of particular note is Birds’ ability to subvert expectations – not only with the album itself, but on individual tracks. Frequently, chord progressions or melodies are established, only to be heightened or twisted by an unexpected shift – and the result is always phenomenal.
No matter how you look at it, BRACE is a left-field, magnum opus – and has the added benefit of satisfying the world’s craving for new Karnivool.
Must listen: Harlequins, Mercy Arms
1: Polaris – The Guilt and the Grief EP
I almost didn’t include this release on my list, purely because it’s become so integrated in my life that I totally forgot that it was released this year – and that’s potentially the highest praise I could give. The album is so whole, so immediately gratifying, that it at once makes a place for itself in your mind, and refuses to leave you unchanged.
Polaris are the Kesha of the metalcore world – they’re not trying to change the genre, they’re simply executing the genre so well that no-one else could possible try to better them.
I’m not saying anything new when I say Polaris are the next big thing to the metalcore scene, I’m merely (and proudly) adding myself to a long list of their supporters.
Must listen: the whole damn EP – c’mon, it’s only 6 tracks
Other notable releases of 2016:
Polyphia – Renaissance
What So Not – Divide and Conquer EP
Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty
Tesseract – Errai
Anup Sastry – Bloom
Top 10 Songs of 2016
1: Birds of Tokyo – Harlequins
2: Enter Shikari – Hoodwinker
3: Lido – Citi Bike
4: Pomegranate Tiger – Cyclic
5: Polaris – Regress
6: Jacob Collier – Hideaway
7: Plini – Cascade
8: Hands Like Houses – Glasshouse
9: The Word Alive – Trapped
10: Architects – Gone With The Wind
Top 5 Gigs of 2016
5. Odesza – May 4th @ The Tivoli, QLD
Next time Odesza are playing near you, round up all your friends who say ‘DJs just stand there and push play’ and force them to come. Turntableism plus live drums, brass, and guitars – Odesza know how to mix performance mediums like no-other. Plus, their Alex Adair remix is still inaccessible outside of their live shows – and is alone worth the price of admission.
4: Caligula’s Horse – November 4th @ The Triffid, Brisbane
After the setback of losing well-loved drummer Geoff, Caligula’s Horse bounced back in finest form, with a phenomenal hometown performance. I’ve always felt their sophomore work The Tide, the Thief, and the River’s End was under appreciated, so it was wonderful to hear them give it the play time it deserves. Add to this the premiering of some new music, in addition to remarkable performances from Osaka Punch and Dyssidia – prog is alive.
3: Northlane / In Hearts Wake – June 17th @ The Tivoli, QLD
Two of Australia’s foremost metalcore acts headlining together, joined by Hands Like Houses? This was always going to be a top 5, from the moment it was announced.
2: Bring Me The Horizon – September 16th @ Riverstage, QLD
I went in to this fairly inexperienced with Bring Me, and came out fully converted. A performance that was multidimensional, with Oli Sykes’ electric stage presence – not to mention Architects’ emotional performance, paying tribute to the tragic passing of bandmate Tom Searle.
1: Enter Shikari – September 20th @ The Triffid, QLD
It’s probably safe to say that there is no year in which I will attend an Enter Shikari gig without listing it as my #1 gig of the year – not just due to my affinity for the band, but due to their simply unbeatable live presence. Even if your music preferences are the furthest things from their blend of post-punk/trance/hardcore/whathaveyou, do yourself a favour and attend one of their live shows. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
What Am I Most Looking Forward to in 2017?
We’ve been promised juicy new music from a number of acts in 2017, and we wait with baited breath. Caligula’s Horse premiered a 20 minute opus from their new album during their recent string of headline shows, which showed a more progressive, raw side of the band previously unseen.
Similarly, Karnivool’s appetiser of new material during their 2016 tour showcased the band’s new direction – a little less Asymmetry, a little more Themata / Sound Awake, and their new album should be one to remember. If The Helix Nebula release new music, and even if no-one else does? I’ll be happy to call 2017 a success.
New Rings of Saturn and Within the Ruins sound promising based on what we’ve heard so far.
And most importantly – Enter Shikari. They’ll no doubt be cooking up a response to the political turmoil the world’s in the midst of, and I cannot wait.
Next Big Band in Australia
Right here I’m going to take a moment to spruik a local Brisbane band I have some affiliation with – Bayharbour. Melodic metalcore, but with an intensity and tightness far greater than often seen with local bands – give ‘em a squiz:
Thanks for reading!
If all went to plan you found this insightful and gave some new perspectives – though more likely you just think I have terrible taste in music.
Feel free to @ me any thoughts / disagreements / general trolling: