FtM 2016 List ...

This is our list of the best of 2016. Sadly lacking the budget (and studied objectivity) of other Welsh cultural awards, it was decided by an evening of fierce argument in a Conwy pub, then a chip shop, and finally on the steps of a house - the list is in order, and Bendith is the deserved top selection for 2016, after a photo finish.

  • Bendith
    A collaborative project between Bethel's Plu and Carwyn Ellis of Colorama, this part instrumental debut album has remarkable depth, and is a thing of beauty. If it had been vinyl the grooves of our copy would be worn and dull by now. There is an EP to follow in 2017 - promising more experimental musical bliss.

  • 9Bach
    Undoubtedly Anian is a brilliant follow up to Tincian, but 9Bach claim a podium place based on two live performances. First, at the Pontio in Bangor, they played a key role in Llechi, a mesmerising celebration of slate and local history. Then at the Galeri, Caernarfon, a date as part of the Anian tour was one of the most spellbinding and absorbing concerts imaginable.

  • Brython Shag
    We said: "... what you would get if you locked four very talented musicians in a small town back street pub with only a copy of the Sounds of the Suburbs 80's new wave compilation for inspiration, and the instruction to play for their lives". A joyous, runaway rollercoaster fusion of visceral guitar, drum, bass and vocals. Epic & blazing.

  • Band Pres Llareggub
    Band Pres Llareggub's second album Kurn is: "Impossible not to love ... is quite superb: exuberant, inventive and full of life". On stage too they brilliantly fuse their hip hop and New Orleans brass influences; a must for any festival booker in 2017, and anyone who can shuffle their feet to a beat.

  • Tudur Owen
    An established comedian, who also runs a cafe that manages to regularly make perfect chips and irregularly host a comedy club - Tudur is a master storyteller with the charisma to effortlessly hold an audience. Included here as the preview of his 2016 Edinburgh show at the Blue Sky Cafe was polished, clever, articulate and very, very funny.

  • Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog
    More bands should spend maximum time on the music and minimum time on the album title - Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog's fourth release, IV, is 'vibrant, alive and authentic'. Live they delivered too - notably at Sesiwn Fawr, and, almost surreally, in a whitewashed Wrexham shop during Focus Wales.

  • Mr Huw
    Five albums in Mr Huw has released a set of inventive, electrifying indie pop. Live there is a heavier sound; a band with clipped, dense guitar energy at its heart giving vivid, dark life to the melodies. Just superb.

  • Sera
    An acclaimed and striking new album, Little Girl, endless live shows (including an Elton John support slot) and Sera's distinctive mix of folk, pop and Americana has elegantly marked out its claim for national attention.

  • The Goat Roper Rodeo Band
    2016 saw a very good album from Rhuddlan's finest country blues trio, and an evolving live show with the same intensity of energy that drove The Pogues: on stage Jim Davies' acoustic guitar sounds like it is possessed by the ghosts of rock stars past, underpinned by brother Tom's fluid, dancing bass. Sam Roberts' soulful voice is heart rending. Awesome.

  • Lewis & Leigh
    The last few years saw three excellent EPs from duo Lewis & Leigh, but then a 2016 album, Ghost, that was a sudden developmental leap - it is startlingly good. The muted Americana, folk, exquisite guitar and perfect harmonies that shape it should be career defining.