Best Albums of 2016
selected by Elias Maroun

Etyen <BR>“Out of Love” EP

“Out of Love” EP

While we introduced Etyen’s fantastic collaboration with violinist Saideh Eftekhari back in July, a few months later the young producer gave us an atmospheric 6-track EP “Out of Love”, demonstrating he’s full of love to sound details.

However, the title aptly suggests a change of mood compared with Etyen’s previous offering, “Happy New Year” from 2014. More lower frequencies, unexpected samples, cosmic synths and unsetting rhythm structures make it a fascinating insight into an ever-evolving musical mind.

♪♫ Listen: “Out of Love” + album stream (Bandcamp)

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

Fadi Tabbal <BR>“How’s Annie”

Fadi Tabbal
“How’s Annie”

“How’s Annie” is the third solo album of Fadi Tabbal, musician and producer well-known in the Beirut’s alternative scene as a member of bands like The Incompetents and The Bunny Tylers.

Under his own name, Tabbal focuses on explorating the more ambient/psychedelic colours of his main instrument: guitar. But listening to “How’s Annie”, every once in a while you’ll think he’s rather leading a synth orchestra.

♪♫ Listen: “How’s Annie” + album stream (YouTube)

Fadi Tabbal on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, www.

Filter Happier <BR>“Trying to Rush Everything” EP

Filter Happier
“Trying to Rush Everything” EP

After three years of playing together and letting their old name Banana Elephant go, the Beirut-based indie quintet now named Filter Happier finally offered us their debut EP.

Contrary to the title, “Trying to Rush Everything” is a collection of unhurried songs better described by colours and emotions – space-y, well-thought-out, sensible and simply beautiful – than by music genres.

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

Filter Happier on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram.

Interbellum <BR>“Now Try Coughing”

“Now Try Coughing”

Beirut-based quartet Interbellum, led by singer and guitarist Karl Mattar, revives punk rock euphoria in the most fantastic way on “Now Try Coughing”, their second release since they formed late in 2015.

As they record everything live in the studio & straight onto cassette, seems and in a way is a documentary of their relentless concerts. Though experienced musicians, they clearly enjoy playing together is if they’d just started their first garage band.

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

Interbellum on Facebook, Bandcamp.

Kid Fourteen <BR>“Dream Kids Never Sleep”

Kid Fourteen
“Dream Kids Never Sleep”

With his solo project Kid Fourteen, the Beirut-based musician and singer Khodor Ellaik explores the darker and weirder stretches of synth/post punk. And actually one of his new tracks has been remixed by Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart.

“Dream Kids Never Sleep” is his debut album under this monicker, a harrowing yet captivating experience full of emotions and a few memorable melodies like in the unexpectedly catchy track “Find Your Lover“. Unforgettable.

♪♫ Listen: “It’s a lovely night” + album stream (Soundcloud)

Kid Fourteen on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook, www.

Mme Chandelier <BR>“Post-Coital Tristesse”

Mme Chandelier
“Post-Coital Tristesse”

You’ll find quite a few releases from the independent label Ruptured on this list, and “Post-Coital Tristesse” is one of them.

Solo debut album from Anthony Sahyoun, the guitarist of rock group Kinematik, brings experiments with guitars and analog synthesizers that were recorded, dismantled and rebuilt.

And then probably processed again.

♪♫ Listen: “minimal potato” + album stream (Soundcloud)

Mme Chandelier on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Munma <BR>“Three Voices”

“Three Voices”

As the album’s title suggests, Jawad Nawfal a.k.a. Munma decided to focus on human voice on his latest effort, “Three Voices”, released via Ruptured label, in all its dreamy glory.

Nawfal is a legend of the Lebanese electronic scene and producer experienced in the film/audio-visual context. Here, he asked “various writers, mostly women, to write personal texts and recite them in spoken-word form in the studio.”

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

Munma on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Safar <Br>“In Transit”

“In Transit”

“We are melancholic but also hopeful,” the Lebanese duo of Mayssa Jallad and Ellie AbdelNour told us back in 2015. Over the last few years, they’ve become THE Lebanese band to go for elegant and tender songwriting executed with the less-is-more axiom.

Released on the Beirut label Ruptured in the very last days of 2016, “In Transit” seems like the ultimate compilation of their first three years together – and their first three EPs: “23 Kilograms”, “Carry-On” and the most recent “Gate 03”.

As captivating as the album is, we’re also taking it as a great promise for their proper full-length debut.

♪♫ Listen: “Seasons” + “Gate 03” EP (Spotify)

Safar on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, www.

The Wanton Bishops <BR>“Nowhere Everywhere” EP

The Wanton Bishops
“Nowhere Everywhere” EP

Singer and bluesman Nader Mansour likes to combine classic sounds that originated from Mississippi Delta a hundred years ago with modern rock and Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms.

He takes this eclecticism onto a new level on adequately titled “Nowhere Everywhere”, where electronic and dance elements further complicate his music genre-wise. At least theoretically. The moment you play it, you’ll feel it’s still good ol’ blues.

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

The Wanton Bishops on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, www.

Wake Island <BR>“OUT”

Wake Island

Montreal-based Lebanese duo of Philippe Manasseh and Nadim Maghzal have their influences clearly rooted in music styles starting with “electro-“, but they don’t mind adding acoustic drums or a 20-person choir into the mix.

For “OUT”, they isolated themselves for a few weeks of self-education and experimentation. The resulting nine tracks prove that every once in a while you need such a self-imposed artistic arrest to really feel free again.

♪♫ Listen: “Never Entirely There” + album stream (Bandcamp)

Wake Island on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, www.

Who Killed Bruce Lee <BR>“Distant Rendez Vous”

Who Killed Bruce Lee
“Distant Rendez Vous”

Acclaimed four-piece Who Killed Bruce Lee, born in Lebanese, based in Germany, has been known for killer grooves and catchy riffs since their first EP released in 2013.

Last year, they successfully crowdfunded their second album “Distant Randez Vouz”, with funky grooves behind dark sound, garage-y guitar riffs and their very own interpretation of catchiness.

♪♫ Listen: “Born Addicted” + album stream (YouTube)

Who Killed Bruce Lee on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

WonderGaap <BR>“Soda on the Roof” EP

“Soda on the Roof” EP

It makes sense to put WonderGaap on this list next to Who Killed Bruce Lee if just because a week ago they performed as their support act in Beirut. And like us, they are big fans.

But a couple of weeks earlier, WonderGaap premiered their new EP, “Soda on the Roof”. A colourful collection of five indie-rock / brit-pop tunes, it shows that after half-a-decade they remain as young in their hearts and full of creative force as on the day one.

♪♫ Listen: “To the Meadow” + album stream (Spotify)

WonderGaap on Facebook.