Musicandotherthingz Best British Act of 2016

For British music, there has been a strong resurgence of legendary artists with Bowie, Radiohead and PJ Harvey all featuring in our list of nominees. Wild Beasts and Bat For Lashes further established themselves with solid albums and both came close to the top three along with Radiohead and their wistful and poignant album. They’re in the long list below and out top three follows them. 

3. The Coral (9.76% of the vote) 

The long standing Merseyside group returned with an accomplished reinvention for their seventh studio album Distance Inbetween. James and Ian Skelly kept it close to home, recording in Liverpool and put together their own brand of British psychedelia, with roots in the classic British psychedelic pioneers of the Sixties. They decided to keep their music close and tight around the traditional instrumentation, focusing their manipulated and wiry sounds instead of gradually fading them out in vast acres of space. They rightly received a great deal of credit for this.

2. Blood Orange (17.00%) 

Dev Hynes is already established as a talented and in demand producer so when he takes centre stage, you can expect some exciting and vibrant music and that’s exactly what he delivered as Blood Orange this year. The album Freetown Sound was a celebration of his own Sierra Leone heritage and a close look at the difference views of heritage between Black Britons and African Americans. Whilst understandably, there has been a lot of anger fuelled music in response to the dangers and controversy faced by African Americans, Hynes often took a more emotional and personal look at the events from his own point of view. From this, he channeled the tragedy of the situation with eloquent vocals, soft production and a fusion of Pop, Soul, Hip Hop and Funk. A masterful work which was astoundingly underrated.

1. David Bowie (54.00%)

Again, it is only fitting that Bowie towers over everyone else with a fifty year legacy as a cultural icon and a symbol of British creativity around the world. Blackstar was beautiful, terrifying and poignant and was a strong response to his comeback album The Next Day which wasn’t universally understood. He created dark, ethereal tones and fused conflicting instrumentation as he’s always done. He often generated alternative, complex melodies and hooks that were so obscure, it took a second or third listen to understand. When you did, the rewards were endless. His ominous lyrics reflected the music and the timing of the release, just days before his passing was eerily just like Bowie; an unpredictable superstar. 

Owen Riddle 

The Coral – Distance Inbetween Review

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Since they exploded onto the scene with their self-titled album and then followed it up with the even more impressive “Magic & Medicine”, The Coral have moved away from the considerable limelight that those albums created for them. The singles collection paints a pretty picture of what was otherwise a fairly disappointing series of albums for the band. The band was still able to create great tracks like “In The Morning” and “Jacqueline”. “Distance Inbetween” is something quite different. This LP sees the band take a more psychedelic approach spasmodically echoing bands that have taken a similar approach in recent years such as The Black Keys and even elements of Kasabian. Yet, the band still retain to the core blues sound that has served them so well throughout their career even if this time it’s channelled into psychedelica.

The first single, “Chasing The Tail of a Dream” borrows a little from The Black Keys’ “Turn Blue” album especially with the drumming and this is the case for many of the tracks on the album. The track marks more of a departure from the bluesy style that appears elsewhere and the incredible guitar instrumental where it just seems to wander aimlessly in a style clearly reminiscent of the psychedelica of the 1960s and ‘70s is symbolic of this. The more blues but still psychedelic song “Holy Revelation” is perhaps the stand-out of the style that dominates the album. Armed with a psychedelic riff, what sounds like a cow bell and a driving bassline the track highlights all that is good about their reimagining of their music.

Similarly, the follow-up single “Miss Fortune” continues with the classic 1960s feel. It’s dreamlike, fun and lyrical simple nature make a great track in general but even more so in the summer. The vision of the titular character as someone who “the worlds got running/ but she’s not running scared” just oozes cool. The final single “Million Eyes” gives a similar cool impression that only the very best quality of rock music can. The first half of this moody track is relatively uninteresting compared to the other singles as the band follow the rather standard rock and blues style that many others have before even if it’s to a better standard than most. What stands out most is undoubtedly the last two minutes or so. Reminiscent of songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” the track comes to a complete standstill before kicking off again in an amazing instrumental finish.

By contrast, the titular track “Distance In between” feels a little out of place on the album. The rest of the LP’s psychedelic mood clashes with this more dramatic ballad style. The track as a whole is a solid one but special praise has to be given to the guitar solo again as the band emphasise their immense technical skill with a solo that is simultaneously haunting and beautiful. Equally, the track “It’s You” sees the band stake a claim to sing the next Bond track. James Skelly’s haunting voice starts with the Bond-like refrain, ‘you’re a killer in the headlights, a lover in the morning’ is as good as any. This ghostly feeling continues into the chorus with tightly harmonised backing vocals and a laid back but powerful bass before it spaces out with a Black Keys esk guitar solo. The opening track, “Connector” also highlights the more diverse nature of the album. The song starts incredibly well, sounding almost like something that would be found on a Kasabian album but the song seems to lose some momentum and ideas toward the end.

“Distance Inbetween” sees the band make a purposeful return to the spotlight with new ideas and a new sound which puts it amongst the very best of this year. The album bares all the hallmarks of an experienced band whose technical prowess is second to none; the perfect harmonisation on tracks like “It’s You” and guitar instrumentals emphasise this as well as the bands great creative chemistry.

The Coral – Distance Inbetween = 8.5/10

Callum Christie