My Five Favourite albums of 2016

Now the end of the year is approaching, I thought I’d write a piece about my favourite music in 2016. We’ve already announced our 2016 awards nominations, which was voted for by a number of people both within the Belles and Gals team and without, but this is a more personal look at my favourite music in 2016 – in fact two of the five albums were actually released in 2015, but they were a big part of my listening this year.

Pilot – Emma Moore

I started Belles and Gals back in January and the original idea was that it was simply a way of me sharing my favourite music. I had no plans to write reviews, do interviews, have our own sessions or host our own gigs, I thought it was a great way to get to know people in country music (before January I didn’t know a single other person who liked country music). Then I heard a song called ‘Paper Roses’ by Emma Moore – adored the song and thought it would be great to feature it. It was then that I realised that the site would be a great way to help publicize songs and artists – it was at this point that Belles and Gals really started for me.
Emma is the most featured artist this year on Belles and Gals and I was absolutely delighted when I heard that she would be recording her debut album ‘Pilot’. The album is simply fantastic. Alongside ‘Paper Roses’ you have amazing songs such as ‘Alone’, ‘Daytime Black’ and ‘The Bottom of the Bottle’ – Emma has one of the best voices on the UK country scene and I get the feeling that 2017 will be a huge year for the Blackpool based singer songwriter. I am also over the moon that Emma will be headlining our first ever show in Liverpool – couldn’t have picked a better artist.

The Blade – Ashley Monroe

Soon after starting the site, it was time for C2C 2016. I’ll admit to being completely unprepared for the festival – the site was just 5 weeks old and I only decided to actually head to C2C the day before, spending the Saturday there. A few days later, Ashley Monroe did a solo show at the Bush Hall in London as part of the C2C series of concerts. During the gig, Miranda Lambert made a guest appearance, which was a truly fantastic moment, but the overriding memory of the night was the voice of Ashley Monroe – I felt mesmerised from the start to the finish. I had listened to ‘The Blade’ a few times before, but after the gig I couldn’t stop listening to it and it was easily one of my most listened to albums of the year. This is one amazing album.

Portraits – Hannah Rose Platt

‘Portraits’ is another album that was released in 2015, but I only heard if for the first time earlier this year. Before I listened to the album, it was simply another one on a long list that I had compiled, but by the time I’d had my first listen, it went straight to the top of that list. The highlight song for me is ‘1954’ which literally stopped me in my tracks when listening to it, but to single out one song does the album no justice. Hannah is a phenomenal songwriter and the delivery of the songs is just perfect. I was lucky enough to see just how good she is first hand when she recorded our first session at Belles and Gals and I literally cannot wait for her next album which will be appearing in 2017. If Belles and Gals had been around in 2015, this would certainly have won our best album award. I cannot wait for Hannah to headline our second live show in February this year.

Big Day in a Small Town – Brandy Clark

Social media is a big part of running Belles and Gals and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much excitement as that which surrounded the release of ‘Big Day in a Small Town’. The excitement built and built and when the single ‘Girl Next Door’ was released, we had a brilliant early glimpse of the album. With all of this excitement, the pressure was on – would the album actually deliver? The answer was a resounding yes. The moment ‘Soap Opera’ starts, you know you are listening to something pretty special and the amazing songs just keep coming and coming. ‘Love Can Go to Hell’, ‘Three Kids No Husband’ and ‘Since You’ve Gone to Heaven’ are personal (and brilliant) favourites, while ‘Daughter’ is one of the most enjoyable and original songs you’ll ever hear. After the release of the album I had the brilliant opportunity of interviewing Brandy Clark – perhaps my own personal highlight since I started this site!

The Weight of These Wings – Miranda Lambert

The Weight of These Wings might be a latecomer to the 2016 party, but what a latecomer. A couple of months before the release I found out it was to be a double album and I actually felt a tinge of disappointment – yeah some double albums are great, but I’m all for quality over quantity and some double albums can sound a little diluted. However, now I know just how good the album is, I actually feel bad about these negative thoughts. The Weight of these Wings is simply amazing from track 1 to track 24 and it’s one of those albums that just grow with every listen.
Songs like ‘Tin Man’, ‘Vice’ and ‘Pushin’ time’ are just instant classics, while there are moments when you are just blown away by both the lyrics and the vocals. ‘Ugly Lights’, ‘We Should be Friends’ and ‘Use My Heart’ are all just perfect and the album just keeps giving and giving. If I write a similar piece next year, there is every chance that ‘The Weight of These Wings’ will be on the list again.

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