Best Albums of 2016
picked by 5 German selectors

Bal <BR>“Ursprung”


Bal have a special place in my heart. When I discovered them in Heidelberg, my hometown for five years, singer Stephan and drummer Max were part of a formation called Eine Schöne Männerband, playing a heartwearming farewell concert in our flat.

The first and, alas, only time I saw their current band Bal live was during an equally heartwearming mini-festival in a shed outside the city where the group is based in. Their own take on calm, slightly funky Indie Pop brings to mind Erlend Oye and a vintage version – including glockenspiel and dry-sounding drums – of Alt-J.

“Ursprung”, the band’s debut album, perfectly captures the relaxed atmosphere and general joie de vivre of life in Heidelberg. If you can’t visit it yourself, let the music of Bal take you there. (Philipp Fischer)

♪♫ Listen: “Vier Vier Zwei” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Bal on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Die Höchste Eisenbahn “Wer bringt mich jetzt zu den Anderen”

Die Höchste Eisenbahn “Wer bringt mich jetzt zu den Anderen”

Die Höchste Eisenbahn is the outstanding supergroup in the field of underground-ish music with German lyrics: Its members are Moritz Krämer, Francesco Wilking (Tele), Max Schröder (Tomte, Olli Schulz) and Felix Weigt (Kid Kopphausen, Spaceman Spiff).

Completing the spider web of who-knows-who-plays-where-and-does-what, it is not surprising that Gisbert zu Knyphausen (who was part of Kid Kopphausen) and Judith Holofernes (singer of Wir sind Helden) joined the group at its very beginning for two tracks which appeared on their first EP “Unzufrieden” in 2012.

“Wer bringt mich…” is their second album. Combining light, melodic tunes and existential lyrics Krämer and Wilking alternately rather mumble than sing, in 13 songs that reflect life in its entity. Because what else is life if not a collection of heavy feelings one smudges while trying to keep the positive mood going? (Antonia Verdier)

♪♫ Listen: “Gierig” + album stream (Spotify)

Die Höchste Eisenbahn on Facebook, www.

Golf<BR>“Playa Holz”

“Playa Holz”

Going on tour in Asia without having released one single album can be quite risky, but these four guys from Cologne clearly love experiments like that one.

Their debut album “Playa Holz“ is full of creative dynamics. The first single “PingPong“ already predicted the rise of their unique “Dada Sound“, how they love to call it.

“Playa Holz“ is an album that always puts a smile on your face, just because Golf are being Golf, which means : smart, sexy, funky and down to earth.

Those are exactly the reasons why this young bunch released one of the most exciting Pop debuts of the year. (Yannick Philippe)

♪♫ Listen: “Zeit zu Zweit” + album stream (Spotify)

Golf on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram, www.

Gurr <BR>“In My Head”

“In My Head”

Berlin-based duo Gurr, which is pronounced like the sound pigeons make, made 2016 their year. Their fanbase – which included some very heavy music nerds earlier, coming from their first EP “Furry Dream” – has grown into a considerable crowd. International press paid attention to their first record. And a club-tour is planned for 2017.

Gurr have left most of the punky sound which was particularly used on “Furry Dream” behind, but kept their surf-rock/lo-fi roots for their debut album. “In My Head” is – unlike the title would suggest – a light-weighted record one would rather locate on the sunny side of the US than in the cold capital of Germany.

Besides “Moby Dick”, a track which will certainly be played at the next indie party you’re at, “Walnuss” is the star among the album’s tracks: not only is it the only song which is recorded in German (the English version “Walnuts” has been published seperately), but also has the ability of telling you about the insignificance of life while sounding like the joyfullest tune one could imagine. (Antonia Verdier)

♪♫ Listen: “Walnuts” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Gurr on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

HEIM <BR>“Palm Beach”

“Palm Beach”

Though it seems that not a single description of HEIM manages to avoid mention of the early sound of Dinosaur Jr., they are probably best localized among established German indie groups like Die Nerven or Messer.

While these common comparisons fit from one song to the other, HEIM have a general tendency to mislead their listeners. Not only is there no sign of palms or beaches – the first half of “Palm Beach” has a warm nostalgic indie ambience (“Das alte Versteck”), while the second half crushes this impression with a slowly building discharge of noise (“Nein”).

Though musically ambivalent, HEIM’s lyrical focus lies on resignation, refusal and stagnancy, resulting in a melancholic as well as angry take on guitar-driven German indie. (Paul Crone)

♪♫ Listen: “Nicht mehr da” + album stream (Spotify)

Heim on Facebook.

Keshavara <BR>“Keshavara”


Is it Electro? Is it Pop? Or Hip-Hop?! Cologne once again affirms its status as Germany’s music capital with the release of Keshav Purushotham‘s debut album as Keshavara.

With “Keshavara”, the DJ and singer has released one of the most eclectic albums of the year. On it, he mixes sounds ranging from dreamy to discoid, with psychedelic Hip-Hop, Indian melodies – his father is renowned Jazz drummer Ramesh Shotam – and Brainfeeder-style instrumentals in between.

He pushes the electronic pop formula the city has become known for even further, incorporating field recordings and vocal samples from Indian Gurus. The song “Melancholy Sunshine” tells it as it is: on this album, “everything feels so fine.” (Philipp Fischer)

♪♫ Listen: “It’s Raw!” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Keshavara on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Messer <BR>“Jalousie”


The band’s most difficult album wasn’t the second one. Their newest and third attempt “Jalousie“ must have been much trickier. A new label, a new guitarist and a new design were kind of a challenge for the band from Münster.

The result is an album full of disgust, hate and darkness. “Jalousie“ not only brings you 41 minutes of the loveliest depression you have ever had in your life, but it also shows the evolution of a band that hasn not forgotten about their past but still managed to keep progressing.

Messer’s third album is the perfect combination of Post-Punk and elegant avant-garde and should therefore not be missed in the top lists of this horrible year. (Yannick Philippe)

♪♫ Listen: “Die Hölle” + album stream (Spotify)

Messer on Soundcloud, Facebook, www.

Moderat <BR>“III”


Moderat have long passed the point where there is a need for a lengthy introduction. The combination of Berlin-based Sebastian Szary and Gernot Bronsert aka Modeselektor with Sascha Ring’s project Apparat is still to be cited, notably as a credit for the nice fusing of their names. After that, it seems the sum of the two has outgrown its parts and Moderat are more established than ever.

Their status is best exemplified by their easily sold-out tour in the beginning of January, where the planned mid-size venues for their presentation of “III” had soon to be upgraded – which was no surprise, as its predecessors, “II” in 2013 and “Moderat” in 2009 were acclaimed by audience and critics alike. Their third full-length is once again remarkable, as it furthers the project with a new clarity.

With a less rave-oriented structure and a stronger focus on Ring’s vocals, “III” is the densest version of Moderat yet – while a live recording of the abovementioned tour (“Live”) still accounts for their techno origins. After all, “III” and its live version (completed only by an overwhelming audio-visual performance) are a plausible explanation for why their quality is a secret hard to keep. (Paul Crone)

♪♫ Listen: “Eating Hooks” + album stream (Spotify)

Moderat on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Sea Moya <BR>“Baltic States” EP

Sea Moya
“Baltic States” EP

What a refreshing listen! Sea Moya’s psych-infused melting pot of musical influences is just stunning and one could be tempted to just name them. However, since name-dropping would be pointless, let’s focus on what makes this EP so good: its freedom.

A big word, as we all know. But it’s the first one that came to my mind when listening to these tracks. Personal associations aside, there really is something deeply liberating about the way Sea Moya arrange their vast material and about how easily it sticks together.

Also, the drummer’s beat repertoire seems endlessly rich and it is this never-ending rhythm which is crucial to the sound of the whole band. Now what is music more about than freedom and rhythm?! (Jakob Lebsanft)

♪♫ Listen: “Nothing Is Real” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Sea Moya on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Urban Homes <BR>“Jams”

Urban Homes

Cologne’s Urban Homes are to EDM what Post-Rock once was to rock music: Their sound is a statement on pretty much everything that happened within the genre’s limits since the legendary TR-808 drum machine came out.

But “Jams” is not about redundant hipster antiquarianism. Whilst being profoundly familiar with dance music’s vocabulary, Urban Homes’ syntax is actually part of a subtler language that is their own. Based on lengthy studio jams, the strength of these songs lies in their spontaneity and their formal looseness.

Nonetheless, with their unpretentious sense for emotive direction, Urban Homes never leave the listener behind. Challenging music – and just plain cool! (Jakob Lebsanft)

♪♫ Listen: “4/20 Jam” + album stream (Soundcloud)

Urban Homes on Bandcamp, Facebook, www.