2016 in Music

2016 has been an incredible year for music and with our annual awards we reflect over the year’s standout songs and their artists. We might not receive the same attention as the Grammy’s but we like to think the Will 2 Listen’s “Year in Music’ is as prestigious. The only difference is that we don’t wear nice designer dresses or tuxedos and clap our hands as we down bottles of champagne. We prefer to sit in a stuffy office in our hoodies with headphones in our ears, eating Celebrations and drinking coffee. Each to their own.

All of the nominees are winners in their own way having been chosen out of hundreds of other artists’ albums and songs that have formed the sound of 2016. The winners of each category will be revealed over the course of the weekend starting Friday 16th December.


Album of the Year 

 

Kaleo – A/B [Elektra/Atlantic]

Icelandic rock band Kaleo delivered a second album in 2016 which received widespread appreciation. Now they can add this accolade to the list. Single ‘Way Down We Go’ featured prominently throughout the year on notable TV Series including Orange is The New Black and Suits and reach #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart. The album’s first half (A) is a predominantly blues rock affair and has the quality of the old blues greats. The second half (B), while different with it’s stripped back acoustic vibe, added another flavour which effectively gave us two strong albums in one. We are very excited to see where Kaleo go from here.

Nominees

As We Do Our Thing [Jalapeno]
The Allergies

Brave Enough [Vertigo/Capitol]
Lindsey Stirling

Touch [Sleepless Records]
July Talk

A/B [Elektra/Atlantic]
Kaleo


Pop Album of the Year

 

All Tvvins – IIVV [Warner Music UK]

All Tvvins’ debut is a bright and breezy pop rock affair with a lot of upbeat energy. It may be slightly more rock-infused than the other nominees, but has vibrant pop undertones that make it more widely accessible. From the disco vibes of ‘Too Young To Love’ and the rousing chant of “Im On Top Of The World” on the chorus of ‘These 4 Words’ this album is rich with energy and catchy hooks. As a result this album feels live and while there are undoubtedly modern production flourishes here and there, it’s a physical instrument-driven record. However, this is probably the hardest category in which to pick a winner.

Nominees

IIVV [Warner Music UK]
All Tvvins

Long Way Home [XL Recordings]
Låpsley

The Heavy Entertainment Show [Farrell Music Ltd]
Robbie Williams

Lady Wood [Universal]
Tove Lo

I’m Alone, No You’re Not [ATO Records]
Joseph


Rock Album of the Year

 

Metallica – Hardwired to Self-Destruct [Blackened]

With an 8-year gap between studio albums, the anticipation of Metallica’s new record was high. A record of two halves there’s no denying that the first disc has the stronger material, but to have produced their best album in 25 years is an impressive feat. Their thrash roots adhered to, Metallica don’t play like they’re in their 50s. This is the creative energy they had in their 20s and it’s remarkable. The genius of this record is it’s simplicity – Metallica have a knack of recycling the same chords with the patterns slightly changed to make each new riff feel fresh and new. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

Nominees

The Stage [Capitol Records]
Avenged Sevenfold

Promise Everything [Run for Cover Records]
Basement

Broken Lines [Cooking Vinyl]
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra

Hardwired…to Self-Destruct [Blackened]
Metallica

Limitless [Sony]
Tonight Alive


Alternative Album of the Year

Lisa Hannigan – At Swim [Play It Again Sam]

Irish songstress Lisa Hannigan really impressed us with her gentle tones and serene compositions on her third solo album. It’s a record on which you hit play and are immediately welcomed with the comforting embrace of soft guitar and piano melody. At times it can be quite melancholic (as on ‘We, The Drowned’) and at others it’s light on its feet (as on ‘Lo’)  but like a great book you can’t put it down as you get lost in the story. Hannigan’s vocal harmonises exquisitely with the instrumentation and it makes for a sonic journey which has you gripped for the whole ride.

Nominees

After the Rain [Dirty Hit Records]
Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Not to Disappear [4AD]
Daughter

At Swim [Play It Again Sam]
Lisa Hannigan

Anagrams [Melodic]
Stephen Steinbrink

Camp Echo [Propeller Recordings]
Highasakite


Electronic Album of the Year

 

Keeno – Futurist [Med School Music]

Will Keen, a.k.a. Keeno, is such an exciting young producer. His new album Futurist blew us away for its boundary-pushing creativity. Drum ‘n’ bass has been moving forward creatively of late and Med School recognise this by nurturing artists like Keeno. While the album remains drum and bass at heart, the really attractive quality to Keeno’s music is the classical and orchestral influences that are so prominent. The pizzicato and legato string movements of ‘Faithless’ and the piano chord progression of ‘Futurism’ is some of the finest songwriting this genre has ever seen.

Nominees

Futurist [Med School Music]
Keeno

Painting With Dreams [Enhanced Music]
Tritonal

LIFE/THRILLS [Hospital Records]
Metrik

Sketches From An Island 2 [International Feel/N.E.W.S.]
Mark Barrott

Ashes [Kasaya/Seeking Blue]
Illenium


Song of the Year

July Talk – Push + Pull [Sleepless Records]

We’ve chosen the winner of the ‘Rock Song of the Year’ Category as our overall ‘Song of the Year’. July Talk have really impressed us with their unique brand of rock. They have an irresistible intensity to their music which has made them stand out. Obviously, it’s hard to choose just one category winner as the overall winner, but we feel that looking back on this year, July Talk will stick in our minds more vividly. We look forward to them returning to the UK at the end of February/beginning of March. As we learnt earlier this year; their live show is not to be missed.

Nominees

Tilted [Because Music]
Christine and the Queens

Day by Day [FatCat Records]
Tall Ships

Mississippi Sound [Martin Fairclough]
Eddie Martin

Comb Funk [Hospital Records]
Fred V & Grafix

Blast Off (feat. Andy Cooper) [Jalapeno Records]
The Allergies, Andy Cooper

Is This the High Life? [Millionaire Records]
The Puppini Sisters

Push + Pull [Sleepless Records]
July Talk

Prologue [Mercury Classics]
Frans Bak

 


Pop Song of the Year

 

Christine and the Queens – Tilted [Because Music]

When I first heard this song, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it or not. But it has come to be a definitive pop song of 2016 and a much needed one at that. Dealing with issues of identity, isolation and depression, Héloïse Letissier brought the English-speaking market her delicate yet powerful introduction to her unique story. The other nominees in this category are obviously great pop songs with their own catchy edge and message. However, when it came to identifying a song that we’ll be able to pinpoint to this particular year, I think one can look no further than this subtle masterpiece and anthem for the lost.

Nominees

Chewing Gum [N2 Records]
Nina Nesbitt

Backbeat [Republic Records]
Dagny

Party Like a Russian [Farrell Music Ltd]
Robbie Williams

Tilted [Because Music]
Christine and the Queens

These 4 Words [Warner Music UK Ltd]
All Tvvins


Alternative Song of the Year

 

Tall Ships – Day by Day [FatCat Records]

2016 was seemingly drawing to a close and we only had four worthy nominees chosen for this category. All of sudden Brighton-based alt-rockers Tall Ships swooped in and released their new single at the beginning of December. Brimming with life, energy and emotion, ‘Day by Day’ is a dose of what we need at the end of this bizarre year. Lyrically it touches on taking time to take stock of what’s important in our lives, gaining perspective and not sweating the small stuff. Add to that the rousing instrumentation and epic production you have the perfect anthem with which to enter a new year.

Nominees

Civil Engineer [Lo Recordings]
Astronauts

Building Machines [Melodic Records]
Stephen Steinbrink

Fall [Play It Again Sam]
Lisa Hannigan

Wasting Time [Harvest Records]
Day Wave

Day by Day [FatCat Records]
Tall Ships


Blues Song of the Year

 

Eddie Martin – Mississippi Sound [Martin Fairclough]

Blues rock has been alive and well in 2016 but it’s the opening track from Eddie Martin’s Black, White and Blue that takes the crown this year. A formidable force on the guitar, Eddie then combines his rhythm and lead flare with the distant cry of his harmonica. The result? A blues jam with a sound inspired by the titular location and it’s place in the genre’s history injected with the vigour of modern blues rock. Bravo Eddie!

 

 

Nominees

Drive [J&R Adventures]
Joe Bonamassa

No Good [Elektra/Atlantic Records]
Kaleo

Alabama Woman Blues [Polydor Records]
Eric Clapton

Get on Up [We Live Group]
Mi’das

Mississippi Sound [Martin Fairclough]
Eddie Martin


Electronic Song of the Year

 

Fred V & Grafix – Comb Funk [Hospital Records]

There’s been a plethora of great electronic music in 2016 and of the key highlights was the return of Fred V & Grafix. ‘Ultraviolet’ was released as the lead single prior to the release of their second album Oxygen. However, we’d argue that the “B-side” of the single was 10x better and quite possibly the best track the duo have ever made. ‘Comb Funk’ is simple in structure and therein lies its genius. The lush piano and synth chords combined with a buoyant bass line and chopped sampled vocal harmonised to create a track of sheer beauty. Even back in April, we knew this track wasn’t going to be beaten.

Nominees

Comb Funk [Hospital Records]
Fred V & Grafix

Don’t Let This Feeling Fade [Vertigo/Capitol]
Lindsey Stirling

Shelter [popcultur]
Madeon & Porter Robinson

Getaway (feat. Angel Taylor) – Axis Remix [Enhanced Music]
Tritonal, Angel Taylor, Axis

Heading Home (feat. Josef Salvat) [Darkroom/Interscope Records]
Gryffin, Josef Salvat


Hip-Hop/Rap Song of the Year

 

The Allergies (feat. Andy Cooper) – Blast Off!

We love it when an album gives the impression that the artist(s) had a blast (no pun intended) making it. The sense of fun on The Allergies’ As We Do Our Thing is refreshing, not least on ‘Blast Off’ featuring rap vocalist Andy Cooper. The rhythm and rhymes of the track make for a truly entertaining and humorous listening experience, particular with lines like “Straight through the barricade/Ready to drop more flavour than a marinade.” The groove and instrumentation laid down by Rackabeat and DJ Moneyshot is fantastic. The samples are well-chosen and the track serves as the perfect album opener.


Nominees

Today Right Now [Mello Music Group]
Ugly Heroes

Blast Off (feat. Andy Cooper) [Jalapeno Records]
The Allergies, Andy Cooper

Mamacita (feat. Wizkid) [Parlophone]
Tinie Tempah, Wizkid

The Sideshow (feat. Ernie Fresh) [Mass Appeal Records]
DJ Shadow, Ernie Fresh

Pain [A.O.I.]
De La Soul & Snoop Dogg


Jazz Song of the Year

 

The Puppini Sisters – Is This The High Life? [Millionaire Records]

The crowdfunded album by The Puppini Sisters may not have caused too much of a stir, but this swing-filled original certainly caught our attention. The bulk of the Sisters’ material are covers of swing hits but when Marcella Puppini embraces her creative freedom the results can be fantastic. ‘Is This The High Life?’ flaunts the harmonies of Marcella, Kate Mullins and Emma Smith on a bed of jazzy piano and jaunty double bass. It kicks off the album marvellously and demonstrates their own intoxicating and cheeky flare for this genre of music.

 

Nominees

Is This the High Life? [Millionaire Records]
The Puppini Sisters

Afrik [Jazz Village]
Omer Avital

El 456 [Brownswood Recordings]
Daymé Arocena

Think of you (feat. Kamasi Washington & Rose Gold) [Sounds of Crenshaw/Ropeadope]
Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, Rose Gold

Tarova [GroundUp Music]
Snarky Puppy


Rock Song of the Year

 

July Talk – Push + Pull [Sleepless Records]

A band that frankly deserve a lot more attention going into 2017 is July Talk. The Canadian rockers have been one of our main highlights this year. An incredible album (that has earned them a Will 2 Listen ‘Album of the Year’ nomination) and one of the best live shows we’ve been to in 2016, they have seriously impressed. ‘Push + Pull’ is a perfect representation of what makes this band so tantalisingly good – the energy between Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, so potent in their distinct and dynamic delivery of their vocals. Their music plays out like a theatrical performance and crucially; it rocks!

Nominees

Halo On Fire [Blackened Recordings]
Metallica

GREAT NIGHT (feat. Shovels & Rope) [WEA International]
NEEDTOBREATH

Push + Pull [Sleepless Records]
July Talk

My Heart [Play It Again Sam]
Twin Wild

My Champion [Napalm Records]
Alter Bridge


Classical Composition of the Year

 

Frans Bak – Prologue [Mercury Classics]

Frans Bak, soundtrack composer of the critically acclaimed TV series The Killing (Danish and US version), Doctor Foster and Disparue, may not be the most obvious choice for this award. However, we urge anyone not to be moved by the ‘Prologue’ to his album Sound of North. The dark yet quite peaceful nature of the piece aided by the beautiful vocal of Josefine Cronholm, is magnificent to behold. Inspired by life and nature Sound of North is derived from the Nordic Noir movement and lends itself to an organic feel with space – calmness and mindfulness. A moment of peace in an otherwise frantic world.

Nominees

Smoke [Tenuto Records]
Gavin Greenaway

Sunset [Sony Music Entertainment Germany]
Lubomyr Melnyk

The Departure [Apmusica]
David de Miguel

Prologue [Mercury Classics]
Frans Bak

Sonata for Four Hands, FP 8: I. Prelude [Signum Records]
Francis Poulenc, Lucille Chung, Alessio Bax


2017?