February 5th: Eric Prydz – Opus
As tempting as it is to refer to Opus as Eric Prydz’ long-awaited debut album – in fact, I did so eight words into reviewing it – around four years have passed since I paid the grand total of £4 for four-plus hours of his Pryda material over three discs. What Opus does manage, however, is something that, even as a two-hour double record, feels like an organised and cohesive reflection of one of contemporary house music’s enduring figureheads. That’s why it’s our 26th-favourite album of the year.
February 12th: Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
I miss the old Kanye, focused on rap Kanye
Knew Chris Martin Kanye, knew catchy pop Kanye
I hate the new Kanye, the pal of Trump Kanye
Changing Pablo Kanye, a naked wax Kanye
Didn’t mind bold Kanye, flying on tour Kanye
I gotta say, at that time I’d like to see Kanye
Frolic beneath Kanye, pay through the nose Kanye
But this year’s made it too hard to comprehend Kanye
I didn’t mind Kanye, not Daft Punk-sampling Kanye
Knew words from Lupe Fiasco – he worked with Kanye
What if Xavier made a song about Kanye
Because he couldn’t think of something else to write on Ye?
I know I’m not Kanye, should really sleep today
But I love you like J-Slay loves Kanye
February 19th: Jack Garratt – Phase
From the second Amtrac’s now-elusive edit of ‘Chemical’ appeared on SoundCloud, the Jack Garratt hype train was one upon which I dwelled. Following mildly premature coronation as the new act of 2016 by everyone that mattered, Phase demonstrated that it is quite literally all, nothing, or a positive fuckload more than all when it comes to Garratt’s music, yet fortunately the areas in which the rapidly fluctuating dynamics of the recordings felt uneasy became spots for him to flourish in the live context.
Having headlined the Soundcrash stage at Lovebox as LCD Soundsystem played mere metres across the park and sold out his preceding show (at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall) before I’d gathered my loins and located a ticket, that I somehow ended up on the Brighton Dome website in the dying minutes of a Sunday evening with one solitary restricted view seat remaining for his tour’s closing night was nothing short of bizarre. As Towkio’s divine ‘Heaven Only Knows‘ shattered into an obligatory flurry of light, Garratt’s setup – keyboards to the left of him, drum bits to the right – emerged, tailor-made for a man from High Wycombe concluding his biggest year to date to cause an absolute commotion. Two backing vocalists appeared in the shadows either side from time to time, but once they had eased him in with album opener ‘Coalesce (Synesthesia, Pt. 2)’ he began to romp away with a truly exhilarating display.
If the subsequent introductory bark to announce that it was the “LAST FUCKING SHOW” wasn’t signal enough that he was to exhaust every last ounce of energy from the room over the next 80 minutes, the intense drum break to close ‘Breathe Life’ that seemed to have percussive implements flying into his wake should have done the trick. A consummate showman throughout from incessant growls and shuffles to an earnest monologue on unity (as many acts are wont to do in the shadows of Brexit and Trump), Garratt’s nascent star continues to shine brightly.
February 26th: Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom EP
In the first calendar year after a vaguely full-length SOPHIE project, the baffling flock of creators linked to London label PC Music continued to slither their adhesive claws into more mainstream channels, poised to swell and splatter all over when the pop industry feels most stagnant. Collectively, they put out another compilation record and packed out Heaven to celebrate. Danny L Harle went huge by releasing a intensely twinkly trio of radio-ready cuts (‘Broken Flowers,’ ‘Ashes Of Love’ with Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, and ‘Super Natural‘ with Carly Rae Jepsen) on Columbia Records. Most crucially, though, they appeared to set up residence inside Charli XCX. Vroom Vroom, with production from SOPHIE on all four tracks and writing from more conventional pop figures, was an incredibly brash launch vehicle for such a relationship – by the year’s end, ‘After The Afterparty’ was rising across global charts alongside news that SOPHIE and Stargate would lead the credits on a full album in 2017.