Musicandotherthingz Best Newcomer of 2016

For out Newcomers it’s been an exciting year. Some created viral moments, others received established backing and some of them finally got an album out. The exciting new rapping talents of Noname, the imaginative production of Bullion and the virtual one man band that is Jack Garratt all received strong support from out voters but they’re appearing in the following long list with the others. The top three are below and it got very close.

3. Maggie Rogers (17.78% of the vote) 

Millions of people have now seen the moment where an unsure and modest NYU music student plays her track to Pharrell Williams who was teaching a masterclass to the students there. After giving a lot of constructive criticism and technical feedback to the students, up comes Maggie. She explains her story and her struggles in that time and they play her track. The rest is history. Seeing the amazement strike Pharrell and seeing that turn into bewilderment at what he’s hearing whilst she sits, eyes to the floor, blissfully unaware is brilliant to watch and a testament to her talent. She’s heavily influenced by folk music and folk melodies, but she’s enthused these with a dance beat and nudging, delicate production. There is a direct link between the sound she’s creating and the narrative in her lyrics, that together paint a very vivid picture. A breath of fresh air.

2. Sundara Karma (23.33%) 

The Reading Indie rock quartet only just missed out on top spot in what was a rather tense vote. They are not too dissimilar from our winners in many Indie ways, but they ply their sound with a hint of glam rock finesse and attitude. They’ve just released their debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect and it will surely be picked up by teenagers across the country. These will be filling the venues and festivals the band play to and hopefully they’ll be able to go on a creative streak to match their festival and sing-a-long qualities. 

1. Blossoms (24.00%)

We’ve seen this before haven’t we? A bunch of ambitious lads from a Northern town who want to go on an conquer the world. If they follow the right path, then anything is possible for Blossoms. They differ from Sundara Karma in how they try varying degrees of popular rock music and take Pop elements to it as well. With the guiding hand of James Skelly as their producer, they’ve managed to put out brilliant singles and tracks destined for commercial success. They’ve got the hooks and the pop lyrics and with that it’s up to them where they take it from there. 

Owen Riddle

Musicandotherthingz Best Arrangement of 2016

A new category for 2016 was the Arrangement category as we felt that the pure musical map of a song and its delivery was a pretty damn important aspect of a song, indeed there would be no song without it. This was another area in which Christine and the Queens shone, demonstrating her wide skill set. Tegan and Sara’s emotive piano ballad an Radiohead’s ominous shrieking string sections earned them a lot of votes and they appear in the long list. They didn’t crack out top three though who appear below. 

3. Metallica – Moth Into Flame (16.22% of the vote)

Despite their legendary status, many a hipster keyboard warrior will scoff at this group of talented artists who will sell out any venue anywhere. From Mexico City to New Dehli. This year has seen them at the best they’ve been for well over a decade, reenergised by what they see as the ever chaotic world around them. Lyrically Moth Into Flame is far from subtle and James Hetfield’s crosshairs are firmly on one orange stained individual. The arrangement on this track may haunt his nightmares as it meets with the blunt lyrics. The track is purely theatrical with wiry lead guitars tumbling from their heights into the meat grinder that is the rhythm section. Via pounding drum fills, they relentlessly deliver an intricate piece of music from which they stay contained and disciplined. 

2. The Last Shadow Puppets – Aviation (21.62%) 

Even the most ardent fans of Alex Turner and Miles Kane will admit that Everything You’ve Come To Expect appeared exactly as advertised, but there were flashes of brilliance and Aviation is one of them. Hiring the talented and diverse multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett was a smart move as he energised many of the tracks with his cinematic arrangements. From quaking strings to soaring strings, he takes the somg greater depths and heights from the snappy, classic rhythm section produced by Turner and Kane.

1. Chance The Rapper – Same Drugs (24.32%)

Chancelor Bennett and his collaborators produced one of best albums of the year with Colouring Book and from it, he has made an album that showcases hopeful and nostalgic imagery at a time when his home city of Chicago has had a hard year. The subtle piano chords chime aside every lyric and creates a close and intimate track. Almost by stealth however, the song rises in tone and opens up with added choir and backing vocals and is simply a beautiful track that gradually flowers over its duration. 

Owen Riddle 

Musicandotherthingz Best Production of 2016

We kick off our (prestigious) awards with Best Production of 2016. Now for all the categories bar the Popular Vote, a sizeable list of writers, musicians, bloggers and friends have all been busy voting on the various categories. Each individual received a first choice vote worth two points and a second choice vote worth one. From this, we’ve got our results! 

From Emmy The Great to Frank Ocean there has been a diverse range of production techniques and methods on show in 2016. With the likes of Kanye and Childish Gambino coming close in the list. They either mastered their tracks to manipulate classic sounds or featured producers who used every available sound to forge their instrumentation. The long list of nominees are followed by the short list below.

3. Bon Iver – 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠ (15.00% of the vote) 

This was by far Justin Veron’s most ambitious Album to date. He looked to force baroque and folk elements into the kind of juddering and hammering electronica reserved for EDM and heavy dance tracks. Somehow this odd coupling worked when combined with his whirring vocal effects to create a beautiful sound out of this musical mutation. 

2. Frank Ocean – Nikes (22.50%) 

The hazed and oscillating soundscape created here almost lulls you into a daydream. The gliding beats acoustic chords along with the sweeping electronica sifts and shifts around Frank’s almost hypnotic pitch shifted vocal. It almost sounds as if it was recorded in an echo chamber, but this was all generated by a consistently feathered production. 

1. Christine and the Queens – Narcissus Is Back (27.50%)

Heloise Letissier from Nantes is our winner for Best Production of 2016. For her stage Act of Christine, she forms minimalist and sparse arrangements, so this placed greater emphasis on her producing ability and it shines on this track and throughout the album. This track is fundamentally a set of different beats and little more, yet she is able to make each one glisten with sound and energy with the help of only a slight distortion and the perfect isolation of her vocal. She has done so much with so little here and is a deserving winner following on from last years winner Kevin Parker; who is a ‘Do it all yourself’ musician and Heloise is truly the embodiment of that philosophy. 

Owen Riddle