Sunday, January 01, 2017

Looking back at 2016 and ahead to 2017 :: Part 2

So, how was it for you? Some of our writers give their personal view.

2016 was certainly a bugger of a year for depriving the music world of some of its finest. Some have already been mentioned in Part One by my colleagues, but one very close to Little Indie was the loss of vocalist/guitarist Tom Knights from Brighton band Lunar Quiet. Just three days before his untimely death at 22, Tom and the band had played for us on our curated night for Blogtober at The Finsbury in London. We had only known the band a few short months, but had been sufficiently impressed with what we had heard to know we wanted them on the bill.

On a more positive note, one of our biggest successes this year was undoubtedly the incredible rise of Chelmsford teen Connar Ridd, better known as FREAK. This time last year he was working part-time in a local Co-op while studying at college, in between which he was holed up in his bedroom beavering away at the tracks which would go on to form his first EP, 'What Happened?'

Then in early February he approached Little Indie, which resulted in our Introducing feature, and in our putting John Kennedy at Radio X on to him - who was so impressed he played two FREAK tracks on the same show - Phil Taggart at Radio One, and piqued the interest of labels, A&Rs and general media folk.

Armed with a set of explosive, hi-energy songs that walk the tightrope between raucous Nirvana-style riffs and indelible pop melodies, he has in the last months gone on to tour with Sundara Karma, play festivals such as Reading & Leeds over the summer, release a single and this video; things can only go upwards next year.

Likewise, we are also feeling positive vibes about three more young Chelmsford teens who make up BILK. With vocalist and bassist both just 17, and drummer a year older, their style is very much what one might expect of three young 'lads, who as they say, "are really just about not taking life too seriously and having a good time writing and preforming our music" - a cross between an early Blur and a touch of Rat Boy. On the back of our post in early November, they have picked up national radio airplay, a PR and an agent, so 2017 could see them taking off big style.

As for Little Indie, we are pleased to say that 2016 saw us hitting never before reached viewing figures, growing in reputation and, as previously mentioned, curating our first live gig night with Lunar Quiet, FLING, White Room and Tibet. Brighton-based White Room are very much a band in the ascendancy. I feel that the heart 12 months will be all-important.

There was good and bad in 2016. The bad included the usual X Factor dross, made even more excruciating by 'rapper' Honey G, the ego fest of Kanye West - which blew out on a public meltdown - and baby Cruz Beckham being touted as the new Justin Bieber with a dire Christmas dirge that only his parents could love; but it was for charidee, which meant it was guaranteed faux praise, 'cos it would be like, well, uncharitable not to wouldn't it.

The good materialised with BERRIES popping some sweet juicy sounds with the London-based all-female rock trio following up their debut offering 'Lights' with the blues-styled 'Waiting', fusing a mix of indie rock and grunge, melodic guitar with catchy refrains. Their debut EP, 'Those Funny Things' didn't disappoint.

The self-released debut single from Manchester noise/dreampop duo Pool Art was something of a dark, close to five-minute epic journey through disturbing guitars and a plethora of chilling echoing vocals and experimental reverb. They followed this with 'Gender Imbalance' just before Christmas. Will be an interesting one to see where they go.

Aussie punk rock sheilas, Bitch Diesel ended the year with a ripper of a track in the rawly shredded 2:15 minutes of 'Manager'. The quartet from Melbourne, who describe themselves as "four broads chasing down fame and fortune in a liquor infused haze", are my sure bet for 2017.

Well, it looks like we’ve reached the end of 2016. I think it says something about the complete basket-case that the year has been that I didn’t actually remember writing a review of 2015 until I was reminded about it a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, you can probably blame me for everything that has happened since that article ran on December 29 last year. No sooner had it done so than Lemmy from Motorhead and John Bradbury from The Specials died. Sorry, everyone.

There were some positives to come out of the year, though. So Pitted opened the year with some brilliant noise. The Wave Pictures leapt from our pages and became 6Music regulars. Nick Cave brought us the most depressing, heartbreaking work of his entire gloomy career and still made it magnificent.

Every meaningful genre of music produced a gem, from the full on RAWK of Heck to the goth of Terminal Gods to the completely-undefinable Less Win. Along the way there were of course some low points. The sophomore offering from Broncho was a huge let down, TOY seemed to have confused themselves as to what kind of band they wanted to be, and Kurt Vile caused me to do something that I’ve only done once before and walk out of a gig before the end (he was boring, pretentious and spent more time changing and tuning guitars than he did actually playing, in case you were wondering).

Ah yes, live music. I could rant on for hours about bands being forced to perform in venues that are too large for them, but that’s not what Little Indie is about. We’re here to prowl the smaller venues in search of those hidden gems (which is how our editor found Lunar Quiet, of course). Obviously our very own Little Indie night during Blogtober was a highlight of the year, right up there with seeing a reformed Lush perform a surprisingly tight set (made all the more special by the news that they’ve now broken up again) and The Cure somehow performing 84 different songs over four nights earlier this month. In fact, the year has ended with a real bang, with eardrum-pleasuring releases from American Wrestlers, Petrol Girls and my album of the year from The So So Glos. Which means that all I am looking for in 2017 is for more of the same. More great bands making more great music so that the relentless gloom of the modern world can seem, for a few hours, just that little bit brighter.

ALISON MACK - Album Reviews
Palace's debut album 'So Long Forever' (8/10) came in November and showed the Londoners to be the best exponents of poignant, heart-on-sleeve lyric writing and stirring vocal delivery is as one might expect. A work full of melodic, often downbeat, intimacy and polished reflection.

While Shura's July debut album 'Nothing's Real' (8/10) was not a flawless record, it did serve as voyeuristic look into the psyche of the West London artist. And the rich and infectious vein of 80s-influenced pop that runs through the Greg Kurstin and Joel Pott-produced work, made for a fine first delivery, fusing a Madonna-esque sheen over misty electronica, reverberant synths and sparky basslines.

The second album from LA band Night Verses, 'Into The Vanishing Light' (8.5/10) was an 11-track record satuated in the atmospheric sound of progressive hardcore. On this follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2013 debut, 'Lift Your Existence', they wove dark textures of ambient noise with bone-crushing post-rock, as Douglas Robinson pulled out an emotive array of vocal screams at one minute, canorus the next.

Radiohead returned with 'A Moon Shaped Pool' (8.5/10), a sharply worked statement woven around the past, present, and future, as Thom Yorke veered from global catastrophes to personal dilemmas such as the break-up of his 23-year relationship.

The debut album from Sydney's DMA'S, 'Hills End' (8.5/10), came at the start of 2016 after a long two years since they released their self-titled five-track debut EP. And to say that 'Hills End' hadn't been much anticipated would be an understatement. Justifiably, as it transpired, the trio producing one mightily impressive debut, beautifully constructed and simply just bonza.

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