Playlist: Most Underrated Tracks of 2016

(Photo credit: Elizabeth Peyton)

Many people go the entire year without digging through the rubble to discover great new bands and artists before they explode on to the scene, but what fun is that? I think half of the fun of listening to music is trying to find really good new bands and songs before all the fans and the press do. I couldn’t end the year without naming some of my favorite songs that particularly deserve much more hype and praise than they’ve already received and songs that may have unfairly eluded some best of 2016 lists.

1. Isaac Gracie – Last Words

London-based singer-songwriter, Isaac Gracie, had a big 2016. He debuted his first track “Last Words” (which was made Zane Lowe’s “World Record” on Apple’s Beats 1), released his debut EP (Songs From My Bedroom), signed a record deal with Virgin EMI, and drew comparisons to the likes of Jeff Buckley and early Radiohead.

2. Marching Church – Heart Of Life

Marching Church (pictured above) are a Danish band formed by Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (who’s also a member of two other bands, Iceage and Vår) and they released their second LP this year called Telling It Like It Is. I’m not familiar with much of their discography, but once I heard this unique, strange, and wonderful track “Heart Of Life” off their new album, I knew I found a band worth investigating.

3. Free Money – What Did I Miss?

Free Money are a four-piece rock band from East London that have fully gripped my attention as of late. They formed in May, released their debut single, “Headful”, then released a second single “What Did I Miss?”, the latter of which is already an energetic anthem of youth.

4. Same Streets – Ain’t Got Nothing

Same Streets are a four-piece rock ‘n’roll band from Nottingham, England and I knew when I heard them earlier this year that they had something really special. The band’s sound is marked by the raw vocals of James Gooch and their great songwriting is evident in tracks like “Ain’t Got Nothing” and “Wired.”

5. White – Living Fiction

White are yet another of Glasgow, Scotland’s finest new bands. They’re an interesting concoction of funk, electro pop, new wave, and rock and if I had to compare them to anyone, I’d say they sound a bit like Haircut 100, Orange Juice, David Bowie, and perhaps like a new wave version of Suede. Either way, the band nailed it with their track “Living Fiction.”

6. The Little Kicks – Goodbye Enemies, Hello Friends

Another Scottish band, The Little Kicks, are definitely one of the more established bands on this list, having already released three albums with their fourth one, Shake Off Your Troubles, coming out in March next year. The band has described their sound as electronic, indie, disco, and pop and their new track, “Goodbye Enemies, Hello Friends” is about as good as pop songs get.

7. Louis Berry – .45

Louis Berry is a young Liverpudlian singer-songwriter who’s already well versed in 50’s and 60’s rock ‘n’ roll. Though he’s drawn comparisons to guys like Jake Bugg, he’s got something that Bugg doesn’t have: a distinct voice that ages him about 10-20 years. His gritty vocals and high-energy guitar playing make him a name to watch out for in the coming years.

8. Warbly Jets – Alive

Warbly Jets are a four-piece band based in LA, whose debut single “Alive” was debuted by Matt Wilkinson on Apple’s Beats 1. They’re influenced by lots of classic British bands like Oasis, Supergrass, and Primal Scream, but make no mistake: these guys make music for the modern world and if their future releases are anywhere near as good as this, they might just bring guitar music back into the charts.

9. The Pale White – That Dress

The Pale White are a three-piece rock band from Newcastle, England and they’re fresh from supporting bands like The Amazons, Band Of Skulls, and The Pigeon Detectives. Armed with big riffs and lots of promise, they’ve also received radio support from BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and have released a great trio of songs: “That Dress”, “Second Place”, and “Let You Down.”  The band are due to play Live At Leeds Festival next year, so I hope to catch their set.

10. Sticky Fingers – Sad Songs

Although The Courteeners’ Liam Fray unilaterally christened his mediocre band “the biggest underground band in the world”, I would argue that Aussie band, Sticky Fingers, are much more deserving of that title (not to mention a much better band). Although tainted with controversies, Sticky Fingers have managed to release three full-length albums with their music videos scoring millions of views and they’ve even sold out shows before officially announcing them (and all without a major label). One of their new tunes “Sad Songs” is an absolute stunner, though the band’s future is now up in the air.

11. The Blinders – Swine

The Blinders are a three-piece band based in Manchester, England and they join the ranks of many other great, new, political punk rock bands like Vant and Cabbage. Their song “Swine” has got a riff that will rock your world and lyrics that will make you want to mosh until you pass out. Their music video displays the easy point-scoring message of “f*** the Tories” on the lead singer’s guitar and the video ends with his jump through the drum kit.

12. White Room – Think Too Much

White Room are a five-piece band from Brighton, England with a promising new sound. My favorite track of theirs is probably “Think Too Much”, which reminds me a bit of The Coral and Small Faces and I find myself replaying this track over and over again because it’s just pop rock bliss. Though it’s worth mentioning that the band’s sounds is very diverse and this track differs greatly from their other tracks “In My Head”, “Freaking On”, and “You’ll See.”

13. The Shimmer Band – Freedom

The Shimmer Band are a five-piece band from Bristol, England with a sound that’s so big it’s hard to overestimate. The band have already supported the likes of The Strypes, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Stereophonics, The Vaccines, Blossoms, and Milburn and they even sold out a run of UK headline dates this year. Their gargantuan tune “Freedom” is reminiscent of Britpop, psychedelia, and most notably, Primal Scream, and lucky for me, I’ll get to see them supporting Manchester band, Cabbage, next year.

14. James Cherry – Break Somebody

Leicester, England singer-songwriter, James Cherry, was one of this year’s most promising new artists. His soulful, emotive voice and his unique sound that he calls “agressive soul” are two things that he can claim as his own and he’s also got a knack for great songwriting as well. His tracks including “Break Somebody”, “Cry Myself To Sleep”, and “No Shame” are all good indications of what’s to come in 2017.

15. Clay – Stay Calm!

Clay are a four-piece band from Leeds that are part of an emerging trend of successful indie pop bands in England. The band, led by frontman Joe Harvey, have had a pretty huge year with the release of many new singles like “Stay Calm!” and they also released an EP called Heaven and have received radio support from the likes of Phil Taggart, Zane Lowe, and Huw Stephens. Next year, they’re due to support Declan McKenna and they’ll also make an appearance at Live At Leeds Festival, which I hope to catch them at.


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