Friends, it’s been a Milestone Year. Middle fingers and lots of changes for the better. A “Big One” (subtext: there’s a post all about it below). Put these songs on repeat, it’s been a hell of a good music year too.
Whew, 2016. This year of musical loss has been a one where complex records have connected most with me. On the theme of death, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker and Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree were the most prophetic. Sometimes they were a little too sad for me, so I return to them in small doses.
At the top of the year I loved Gallant’s great debut, and the rest of it continued with interesting alternative R&B/Pop releases from Rihanna to Frank Ocean. The production on records from Beyoncé, Radiohead, and Bon Iver fascinated me. It seemed perfect for Radiohead to bring out the sonically mature album that A Moon Shaped Pool is, and I reconnected with my once favourite band again on it. My record of the year is Bon Iver’s 22, A Million with its’ intimate tone and constant unraveling. It has a puzzling sense of timing and I kept returning to it, the one album that always had me putting the volume up, no matter how loud it was (I actually just want to inhale this record).
The genre-bending D.D Dumbo doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. It’s organic, wise beyond it’s years and Australian. Pop music is again moving towards a more alternative space where it challenges the boundaries of genre… Except for the good Rock, which went back to basics this year with flame-bearers Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus and Margaret Glaspy. I was fortunate to see Lucy Dacus live and her debut No Burden is a calculated statement of captivating stories, live and on the record. Shrug Rock is now definitely a movement and dammit, it sounds great! Car Seat Headrest’s Teens Of Denial is one of the most badass statement-making Rock ‘n Rolling albums of the decade. Angel Olsen made a deft move from a shy singer-songwriter to time-traveling rocker and LVL UP made the most infectiously noisy lo-fi Indie Rock record. Beyonce, the titan of Pop that she is, used all the genres in her album and got away with it because LEMONADE is a masterpiece.
At the most difficult times I returned to simpler, singer-songwriter records. Chris Staples put out the most reassuring lyrical album with gentle storytelling and humour. whilst Pinegrove’s confessional debut Cardinal is a sing-along record that is as relevant playing in the background when entertaining as it is if you’re crying into your whiskey. Don’t judge me.
There are releases that just didn’t make the top spots or that I need more time with: Mitski, Kyle Craft,Michael Kiwanuka, Wilco, A Tribe Called Quest, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Frank Ocean, Big Theif and Solange.
1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
3. D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated
4. Lucy Dacus – No Burden
5. Pinegrove – Cardinal
6. Beyoncé – LEMONADE
7. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
8. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
9. Chris Staples – Golden Age
10. LVL UP – Return to Love
I also made two playlists this year of Best Of tracks, or the best of what I’m listening to. You can listen to the first playlist in the previous blog post. The latest playlist is the 2016 Best Songs of the Second Half-Year, which is below. It’s 30 tracks/2 hours of the best songs I’ve found from June/July till now, available on Tidal, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play and Spotify; and as a best effort (not all tracks) on YouTube, Deezer and Soundcloud.
Looking on the bright side of 2017, I’m thinking of how much great new protest music there will be coming out of the States…
This year is halfway done and already it’s been a great one for music. So with that I give you my first half-year list. Let’s see how it goes. NPR’s Robin Hilton has identified the trend of ‘Shrug Rock’ and I hear a lot of it around (it’s great)! There’s so much diversity on on this list though, I’d like to guarantee that you’ll find something you like… but you’ll have to listen for yourself. There is everything from trippy millennial-speak pop anthems (Beck’s “Wow”) to Paul Simon-esque honey warm melodies and African guitar riff appropriation (River Whiles “All Day All Night”) to alternative R&B beat-heavy hooks with falsetto (Gallant “Weight In Gold”) and a beautiful epic post-rock (Explosions In The Sky “Logic Of A Dream”). Also one band sounding a little like Animal Collective, and another R&B star sounding like she was a heavily influenced by the last Tame Impala record… As always, I do sequence the tracks but feel free to hit shuffle if that’s how you roll.
Just a note on availability, it’s a sign of the times that not all tracks are available across all services.
Listen here for YouTube (30/30), Spotify (28/30), Deezer (25/30) and Soundcloud (16/30) playlists:
Listen here on Apple Music (29/20):
And here for Tidal (30/30):
I’ll never live it down if I don’t document the best albums of the year that my son was born in, so here goes…
1. David Bowie – The Next Day
2. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
4. Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Low – The Invisible Way
6. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
10. Dawes – Stories Don’t End
1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend
2. Shearwater – Animal Life
3. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
4. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
5. Tame Impala – Lonerism
6. Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge
7. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
8. Dry The River – Shallow Bed
9. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
10. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Special mentions go to Japandroids and Alt-J for almost making the list.
1. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
2. Wilco – The Whole Love
3. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
5. The Black Keys – El Camino
6. Decemberists – The King Is Dead
7. The Antlers – Burst Apart
8. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome
9. TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light
10. Lady Gaga – Born This Way
Special mention goes to The Naked And Famous for their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You. It really is a gem, but it missed the top 10 by a drum beat.
Last night I went to the public launch of the new Ja.fm website, which is a streaming radio station for Afrikaans music, run by Jacaranda FM. It was a great launch where Coenie de Villiers and Die Heuwels Fantasties played fantastic sets. The crowd were totally into it, and there were good vibes all round.
Now I think this is just what the Afrikaans music community needs. It’s obvious that streaming radio and music services are the future (see the international success of Spotify and in South Africa, 2OceansVibe Radio is rapidly gaining market share). For one website to embrace ALL Afrikaans music is a great step forward, especially since listeners are empowered to vote for what they like. There’s bound to be some controversy surrounding the songs that get added…which of course fuels listener involvement. It’s a win all round.
Here’s hoping that Ja.fm opens up the boerewors curtain to everyone.