2016 has of course been another great year in music, so (as last year) here are some brief, if rather belated, thoughts on my musical highlights of the year.
Albums of the year
My top 5 albums of the year are:
David Bowie: Blackstar (what a way to go out). None of the tracks off this made my best of CD largely because I assume all recipients already own the album or will never buy it!
Bob Mould: Patch The Sky (a living legend at the peak of his powers)
The Parrots: Los Niños Sin Miedo (top notch Spanish garage punk)
Soft Hearted Scientists: Golden Omen (Welsh psych pop at its finest)
Gigs of the year
Bubbling under: Joanna Newsom at the Phil (review here), Shonen Knife at the Arts Club Loft (review here), Low at The Epstein Theatre (review here), Youth Hostel at Sound City) (review here) and The Wedding Present at the O2 Academy 2 (review here).
Songs of the year
Every year I compile a ‘best of’ CD for friends. I set a few rules – only one song per band/singer, and only songs released that year. If you want a copy, give me a shout.
This year’s track listing is:
- The Goon Sax – Boyfriend. A gay unrequited love song by this Aussie three piece that includes the son of Go-B Robert Forster. Sparse and far from virtuoso.
- Bob Mould – Hands Are Tied. Typically driving number from Patch The Sky, but features some nice Beach Boys-esque backing vocals in the chorus.
- Meilyr Jones – How To Recognise A Work Of Art. After a great posh spoken intro this develops into a big pop hit with a hint of Pulp, and some great falsetto at times.
- The Posies – Squirrel Vs Snake. An atypically political song by the legendary power poppers (on Solid States, an album I was happy to pledge for ahead of time as they can be relied on for their quality output), this one nasally sung by Jon Auer, I think.
- Thee Oh Sees – Dead Man’s Gun. Controlled chaos with a great riff. As this one’s not on Spotify, here’s the video:
- Mexrrissey – Cada Día Es Domingo. A Mexican version of Morrissey’s Everyday Is Like Sunday from their No Manchester album of Mexican versions of his songs. As good as that sounds, if not better. Sadly, the concept only stretched to seven Moz (solo) numbers.
- Martha – St. Paul’s (Westerberg Comprehensive). A Replacements-referencing highlight of the Durham band’s Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart.
- Willie Nelson – Somebody Loves Me. This year’s wizened legend revisiting the old American songbook, this time the works of George & Ira Gershwin.
- Dressy Bessy – Lady Liberty. This year’s fine indie pop comeback, as the female-fronted Americans return with their first long player since 2008.
- The Fall – Wise Ol’ Man. Yes, another year, another new Fall release. Sadly this time just an ep – which in Fall-land means one ace new track, another half-hearted effort and some live tracks and remixes. Still, one great new Fall song is worth the entrance fee.
- Emitt Rhodes – If I Knew Then. Previously seen as the successor to Paul McCartney, he disappeared after his fourth album in 1973, with 2016’s Rainbow Ends being his next release. Worth the wait.
- Of Montreal – It’s Different For Girls. A typically quirky highlight from their umpteenth record, Innocence Reaches.
- The Parrots – No Me Gustas Te Quiero. Downbeat Spanish garage from Los Niños Sin Miedo.
- Shonen Knife – Jump Into The New World. Starts off like The Wedding Present circa George Best before rocking as only these Japanese girls can. From the latest, harder-rocking Adventure
- Soft Hearted Scientists – Glimpse! Spooky Welsh psych from (short) double album Golden Omens.
- Chook Race – Hard To Clean. Second Aussie indie pop classic in this selection, from second album Around The House. Discovered via the Big Takeover and The Rider podcasts.
- Sturgill Simpson – In Bloom. A surprisingly effective countrified, doomy cover of the Nirvana song off Nevermind, from A Sailor’s Guide To Earth.
- Dinosaur Jr – Tiny. Grungy pop at its finest from Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, their eleventh studio album.
- Cate Le Bon – I Was Born On The Wrong Day. Another slice of Welsh oddness.
- White Lung – Hungry. Off the Paradise album that I don’t actually own (yet). Instead I came across it on a freebie Mojo magazine CD. This one only just snuck into the track listing.
- Audacity – Baseball. Some scuzzy American garage fromm fourth album Hyper Vessels. A find courtesy of the always enjoyable The Ledge podcast.
- The Jayhawks – Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces. The harmony-drenched opener to the alt.country outfit’s first album in five years.
- Tacocat – I Love Seattle. Another slice of spikily perfect female indie pop.
- The Wedding Present – Secretary. A killer, short, exceptionally fast track from their latest, best-in-a-very-long-time album Going, Going.
- Leonard Cohen – Leaving The Table. An appropriately downbeat ending to a CD from a year with so many musical deaths of note. Leonard announces he is “out of the game”. RIP.
Surprisingly, only a few of these artists have featured on my Best Of CD’s in the recent past – Tacocat and Leonard Cohen in 2014, The Fall on four of the last seven (i.e. every year they have released anything…) and Bob Mould twice.
Event of 2016
A sad series of musical demises, with the most devastating for me being the sublime Leonard Cohen.
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Here is most of my 2016 CD on Spotify: