Usually there’s a track-a-day write up on the 20 for… playlist but you’ll forgive me if I wish to put 2016 behind me and pretend it never happened. It’s a shame that so much good music will be indelibly marked with the events of 2016, both the political cataclysms and personal nadirs. But if you can stomach it there’s plenty of gems to be found among the wreckage of the year we’d all rather forget. Stuff that’s worth clinging to when trying to tell ourselves it’s all going to be ok.
What’s that sound I hear in the distance? Could it really be that the AOTY horn is sounding already? It must be: I can see critics emerging from their homes, lifting their hands to shield tired eyes from the light of the winter sun, thrusting forth stone tablets onto which they’ve etched their AOTY lists. It is a sacred duty they are compelled to fulfill – though they no longer quite know why they’ll soon amass upon the hallowed ground before the Great Hall of Lists. Then they’ll look at each other and solemnly intone, “did Kanye release a record this year? I dunno. That then. Maybe Radiohead.”
There’s only one definitive list though. This one. What makes it definitive? It’s mine. The fact nobody seems to agree with any of my choices only makes it more definitive.
So click on, young wanderer, if you wish to know what really were the best albums released this year. But remember: the real Album of the Year may just be the friends we made along the way. Continue reading
If you ask me – and since you’re on a blog solely written by me I’m assuming you are sort of asking me, or at least not telling me to shut up as I blurt my opinions into your faces – it’s been a pretty good start to the year. There haven’t been many records that have really kicked me in the face and demand attention, but there have been plenty of rather good ones. It feels like 2016 is acting like a wily poker player, keeping it’s cards close to it’s chest while staring me down with a cold, blank gaze. And like anyone half decent at poker it’ll probably fleece me of all my cash before it’s done.
Though I will at least get some shiny new records in return. Poker players don’t tend to give you those once they’ve cleaned you out.
Open Mike Eagle and Paul White have dropped the best record of the year thus far for my money. From the moment I heard it Check to Check’s perfect portrayal of a web-junkies daily life rang shamefully true for me, as I’m sure it will for many others. Having Siri tell us computers run the world at the end is a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes but Mike’s verses are so good I have to include it here. Wooden Indian Burial Ground are the band I’ve probably listened to the most, with their Thee Oh Sees/Ty Segal esque garage psych come surf rock circus packed with dumb hooks infecting my brain and keeping me coming back. Witness Sad Audience and try to resist.
Despite being a fan of everyone involved I didn’t quite fall for Nevermen‘s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to things. Their record is so overstuffed and over-produced listening to it is a tiring experience. But Wrong Animal Right Trap’s hook keeps creeping into my consciousness at weird moments, so it deserves an inclusion as the song my brain chooses to play itself while I’m not looking. On the other hand I did fall head over heels for Esperanza Spalding‘s intoxicating pop-jazz. Emily’s D+Evolution has been the surprise of the year for me so far, with the kind of sound that I tend to mentally file under ‘pleasant enough,’ say sounds alright and then promptly ignore forever. But something about her keeps drawing me back in.
Back in my usual wheelhouse metal has a really good start to the year. Latitudes added a wee bit of metal genre du jour black-metal into their palette and realised their potential on their fantastic record Old Sunlight, Melvins and Beehoover continued to be Melvins and Beehoover respectively -which is perfectly fine by me – whereas Conan, Slabdragger and Hag brought the riffs in typically sludgy and furious fashion. Oranssi Pazuzu undoubtedly stole the show though with their strange and wonderful melange of psych-jazz-metal on Värähtelijä, which might just be the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I’m not sure – I’ll let you know when my head stops spinning. Speaking of psych it’s welcome moment of overground exposure continued with some excellent releases from Mugstar, Woods and Causa Sui. Haikai No Ku, Blown Out and the Cosmic Dead also released some Good Shit but they aren’t on spotify and so aren’t on this list. Also not on this list – Nonsun and Lycus. As much as I liked their records I’ve decided not to put any 20 minute slow-as-a-sloth-made-of-treacle momentum killers on my playlists this time out. You’ll get yourself to bandcamp and have a listen when you’re done here if you know what’s good for you.
And then of course Iggy Pop returned with Josh Homme in tow, sounding like David Bowie on Gardenia, just days after his old friend and collaborator passed on. It was a weird coincidence that initially put me off but by the time the album dropped I’d grown to love the song in all it’s laid back filth and pomp. Then of course there was Bowie’s own Blackstar, an album imbued with such power by his passing it makes the whole thing feel like a black magic ritual. I Can’t Give Everything Away was the song he chose to bookend an unsurpassable career with so it’s plenty good enough to close out this humble little playlist. I joined the chorus of people paying tribute with a piece you can read if you can bear to relive that sad day. I’m not sure I can.
And that’s just the stuff I was paying attention to. If you think it’s been a slow year so far then I’m not sure what you’re doing with your time. It’s been nuts.
This post will in all likelihood be buried in the avalanche of words written about the life and art of David Bowie. Which is as it should be – there are literally millions of people trying to articulate what he meant to them, not to mention a whole battalion of takes of varying temperatures on his influence on music, art, literature etcetera, being written right now. And he’s earned each and every one of them. There’ll be better informed and better written pieces on him published in the coming days and months than this one.
But I’m going to write something anyway. This is no time for pulled punches or half measures. I feel like getting What Would Bowie Do? tattooed on the inside of my eyelids as a reminder every time I catch myself being half hearted, being less than my entire self. If I’d done that when I was 15 I’d probably not be stuck doing administrative work for 37 hours a week, totting up each wasted hour I’ll never see again while staring listlessly into excel spreadsheets. Because Bowie would just go ahead and do it, wouldn’t he? Of course he would. He was David fucking Bowie.
And besides – this is supposed to be a music blog. If I can’t write about the death of David Bowie what the fuck can I write about?