Best Albums of 2016
selected by Raivis Spalvēns

100 baltas dvēseles <BR>“Vienaldzība/Indifference”

100 baltas dvēseles

This is 100 baltas dvēseles (100 white souls) second album after rather big break.

If their debut album, with wide range of instruments, was more into poetic postrock and alternative indie, then the latest album with clever use of electronics and mixing invites listener to experience a whole new musical aesthetics.

“Vienaldzība/Indifference” is like a poetry book – best read in silence.

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

100 baltas dvēseles on Bandcamp, Facebook.

Ainavisti <BR>“-“


Ainavisti (Landscapers) in 2016 released one of the finest Latvian jazz albums. Their take on multiple jazz styles like hard bop and new jazz helped the band to create a juvenile and cheerful sound.

Whole album leads listener into (I dare say) the unknown world of Latvian jazz where the sense of the landscape and nature is of greatest importance.

♪♫ Listen: “Full Moon Chronicles” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Ainavisti on Bandcamp, Facebook.

Aminata <BR>“Red Moon”

“Red Moon”

Aminata is well known on Latvian music scene as a backing vocal singer for Latvian pop musicians and as a jazz singer, but she got larger recognition after participation in Eurovision 2015.

After Eurovision she has released two albums and “Red Moon” is the second one. Even if the first thing you notice about Aminata is her distinguished and powerful voice, you must bare in mind that she`s also a very talented and smart pop music and lyrics writer.

♪♫ Listen: “Fighter

Aminata on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.

Audience Killers <BR>“Floating Islands”

Audience Killers
“Floating Islands”

It`s not easy to make conceptual popmusic album that isn`t about love or heartache, but synth-pop band Audience Killers have managed to make conceptually integrated album “Floating Islands” about… floating. The whole album is like a big float on a boat through the calm sea or on a slow moving carousel or ones inner world. Even if someone finds Audience Killers sound similar to Sigur Ros or M83, it is clear that Latvian band has their own voice and specific sense of music.

♪♫ Listen: “Sounds Like You

Audience Killers on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Carnival Youth <BR>“Propeller”

Carnival Youth

Carnival Youth are one of the most successful Latvian bands that also make a great career outside homeland.

With their first album “No Clouds Allowed” Carnival Youth proved that they know how to make good music that will stick in one`s mind.

It’s the same with the second album “Propeller”. But this time Carnival Youth show that their sound has ripen, melodies have become sharper, but their signature – joviality – has remained.

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

Carnival Youth on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Dora <BR>“Two Sides”

“Two Sides”

Dora is a project created by two experienced and well-known music makers – Jānis Šipkēvics and Gatis Zaķs. Previously both have closely collaborated in different musical projects, but with Dora it seems that they managed to get closer to the nature of the sound and music itself.

Despite “Two Sides” include music that has been composed for different projects – theater performance and visual arts projects, – the whole album gives the impression that it was created in one take, to remind about the depths and width of the beginnings of the sound.

♪♫ Listen: “Dividends

Dora on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Elizabete Balčus <BR>“Conarium”

Elizabete Balčus

Elizabete Balčus’ experimental and in many ways expressive album “Conarium” came as a surprise at the end of 2016.

With her latest album, the academically trained musician has created something completely different from the 2011 artpop album “Wooden Horses” (that made her the best debutant on Latvian music scene).

“Conarium” can be described as mix of different musical styles – where folkmusic goes hand in hand with electronic music and conventional instruments such as flute and piano makes friends with fast beats.

Someone could compare Elizabete Balčus to Bjork, but I think she`s more like grown-up Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

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

Elizabete Balčus on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Elizabete Lāce <BR>“Mōaigā”

Elizabete Lāce

Harpist Elizabete Lāce just like other artist from this list – Elizabete Balčus – is a member of a pop band Sus Dungo. And Lāce just like Balčus has released one of the best experimental albums.

Difference is that “Mōaigā” (Landside) is more profound and conceptually monolith, it pulls listener into an obscure and unexplored place that at a first glance seems eerie, but at the end it feels like well known safe place.

“Mōaigā” is the first ever recorded harp music album in Latvia, and I take the liberty to say – it`s one of the best contemporary music albums of 2016.

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

Elizabete Lāce on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Franco Franco <BR>“Moon+Light”

Franco Franco

Franco Franco was founded in 2010, but since then the band has released only two EPs.

Their first EP, “Color Me” from 2013, was more like an ordinary homemade pop rock, but with “Moon + Light” Franco Franco has shown that their vision and sense of music has substantially changed.

Now Franco Francos’ signature is simple, tuneful and precise melodies.

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

Franco Franco on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube.

I L L A <BR>“ap to stundas laiku pirms rītausmas”

“ap to stundas laiku pirms rītausmas”

I L L A is one of those rare post rock bands that works hard and after the work – the result is stunning.

Their conceptual album “ap to stundas laiku pirms rītausmas” (“near that hour before dawn”) has a structure that is widely used in academic music – every piece has title for example “Adagio” and “Lento” thereby giving a hint what will be the mood of particular piece.

The whole album is polished near to perfection and it offers a fresh look to the potential of rock music.

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

I L L A on Facebook.

Kārlis Auziņš <BR>“Images In Regard of the Central Reference System”

Kārlis Auziņš
“Images In Regard of the Central Reference System”

Saxophone player Kārlis Auziņš with a help of colleagues – piano player Artur Tuznik from Poland, contrabass player Joel Illerhag from Sweden and drummer Jakob Hoyer from Denmark – has recorded abstract yet heartfelt jazz album.

On this meditative record Kārlis Auziņš and co. has accurately assembled musical styles from different cultural backgrounds yet letting music speak in commonly understandable language.

♪♫ Listen: “His Presence” + album stream (Soundcloud)

Kārlis Auziņš on Soundcloud, Facebook, www.

Melo-M <BR>“From the Forest We Come”

“From the Forest We Come”

Cello trio Melo-M is formed buy academically trained musicians and after they released their first self-titled album in 2005 Melo-M was immediately nicknamed as “Latvian Apocalyptica”. But Melo-M comparison to Finnish cello metal band Apocalyptica is rather poor.

During Melo-M career the band has released five albums in which cello trio paid tribute to Latvian and global rock and pop songs, even world and classical music. But with “From the Forest We Come” Melo-M took a step a little bit further – they composed for themselves and made great indie academic music album.

♪♫ Listen: “Streams of Consciousness

Melo-M on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Northern C <BR>“Northern C”

Northern C
“Northern C”

Last year electronic music project Northern C released quite clever self-titled debut album that innovatively combines electronics with voices and instruments like guitar and bass.

Also the lyrics are of great importance touching personal and common themes. The whole album has a clear message about a person’s state of mind today.

♪♫ Listen: “Fun/Rest” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Northern C on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Rīgas modes <BR>“Fantastiski”

Rīgas modes

One of the most vigorous Latvian bands, Rīgas modes (Riga fashion) got recognition after their self-titled debut EP in 2014. But with the group’s first album “Fantastiski” Rīgas modes made it to the top – “Fantastiski” was awarded with Austras balva (award for best Latvian record in 2016, similar to Mercury Prize and Polaris Music Prize).

Although Rīgas modes’ lyrics are in Latvian, mostly witty and sarcastic texts about the actual reality around us, their jovial and smart music is speaking in a universal language.

♪♫ Listen: “Pieķerti nozieguma vietā” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Rīgas modes on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

The Briefing <BR>“Favourite Place”

The Briefing
“Favourite Place”

The Briefing is a Latvian indie pop band whose second album “Favourite Place” is significant for paying respect to 80`s rhythms and vibes, its joyous intonation and beautiful lyricism.

“Favourite Place” contains catchy and rhythmic songs that first of all deserve to be performed and live in concerts.

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

The Briefing on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Židrūns <BR>“Židrūns un tas, ko nevar nest”

“Židrūns un tas, ko nevar nest”

Židrūns (popular male name in Latvian neighboring country Lithuania) has released three albums, but from record to record the bands’ musical language and expression has varied.

So it’s rather difficult to describe the style of music Židrūns are playing, but it contains something from punk and grunge to melodic indie rock.

The group’s latest album “Židrūns un tas, ko nevar nest” (meaning “Židrūns and the thing you can’t carry”) sounds more fun, expressive and peculiarly cheerful.

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

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