Charlie Parker, Otis Redding, Mekons, The Rolling Stones. David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, KRS-One, Low Culture, Sonic Avenues, Mind Spiders, Steve Akamyk Band, Black Mountain, Wilco, Ausmuteants, M Ward, Ex-Cult, Conor Oberst, Regina Spektor, PJ Harvey, Kate Tempest, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (2), Bruce Springsteen, Future of the Left, Run the Jewels, G0ggs, The Lasters, Traditional Fools, Nots, Oh Boland, Crown Court, Leather Towel...
2016 was really great...
Except for the death and dismantling. I disappeared into my favorite rap records of yesteryear: Amerikkka's Most Wanted (which Cube should re-release as simply "I F-ing Told You"), Nation of Millions, Return of the Boom Bap, and a lot of Beastie Boys (that 5 Burrows record is grossly underrated).
2017 & forward will be interesting. I'm curious to hear from the sonically inclined. There was an anti-trump album assembled last fall, but it was tepid indie rock. Indie rock can't change a thing and never really had anything to say anyway. I'm more interested in hearing something like Nation of Ulysses’ 13 Point Program to Destroy America. We need another one of those.
Here's a start: 16 likable songs released (or reissued) in 2016:
01 G0ggs - Falling In. Best song for 2016 from maybe the year's best record. I'm suspicious of supergroups as anyone (maybe more so), but Ty Segall + Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw put together a thunderous record. Builds nicely and really sets the table, don’t it?
02 PJ Harvey - Ministry of Defense. So devastating and perfect. She’s Joe Strummer, except maybe better.
03 Ausmuteants - New Planet. Many great bands are striving for DEVO. Ausmuteants do it best (Mind Spiders = a close second). Another super album from these gentlemen.
04 Savages - The Answer. I saw ‘em a few years ago. Lead by a female version of Ian Curtis, the band didn’t seem quite ready. I think they are now.
Wish me luck
This was a hard year
And I can't see
No brighter future
Wish me luck
I saw the answer
It was a girl
Will you go ask her
I saw the answer
Will you go ask her
Love is the answer
05 Black Mountain - Florian Saucer Attack. Seemed like a good slot for lyrical ridiculousness & 80s post-punk devotion.
06 Bad Sports - Don’t Get Your Hopes Up. I refuse to take this band seriously (previous record was called Bras. Bad Sports Bras, get it?), so I don’t read too much into their lyrical nihilism. I just like their sound.
07 Mekons - 1848 Now! Ah, the “Year of Revolutions.” Clever, Mekons. Best band in the history of the world. I will fight you on this notion.
08 Mekons - Simone on the Beach. Very next song on the album, I simply kept it rolling. Saw ‘em live again at Bottom of the Hill in October. Best live band in the history of the world. I will fight you on this notion. Seriously, I will slap you in the face and kick your shin.
09 Oh Boland - Mutton Island. I don’t know much about this band. If the Kinks were an Irish garageband circa 1991…
10 Steve Adamyk Band - Swallow You Whole. I’m a shameless consumer of pop-punk anthems. Dirtnap Records had a banner year delivering hooks: The Low Culture, Sonic Avenues, Mind Spiders, Bad Sports… all fun.
11 Big O - Just One More Day. This year’s release features every recording of every song during his Whiskey residency. It’s not Otis Redding at his best (that’s in front of the MCs) but it’s still better than almost everything.
12 Wilco - Cry All Night. Squint your ears and you can still hear Uncle Tupelo among the expertise.
13 The Roots - My Shot Remix. I let my oldest select a favorite this year. Nice to hear Busta Rhymes chime in. I missed that voice.
14 Count Coolout - New Rap Language. Soul Jazz’s Boombox 1: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro, and Disco Rap 1979-82 is great. This isn’t the best rap on the record, but it is pretty interesting and fun. I think I found Kool Keith’s dad. The lyrics. The delivery. It’s a vintage, disco version of Dr. Octagon.
Parental Explanation: I’m hiding a couple of the year’s best from my six-year-old by placing ‘em at the bottom.
15 Kate Tempest - Europe is Lost. Wake-up calls make great rap songs. Bleak, but the album is operatic and hope emerges late… as it typically does. Before that, though, we get lines like:
Caught sniffing lines off a prostitute's prosthetic tits
Now it's back to the house of lords with slapped wrists
They abduct kids and fuck the heads of dead pigs
But him in a hoodie with a couple of spliffs
Jail him, he’s the criminal
That’s more than I care to explain to a first grader… at least in those terms.
16 Run the Jewels - Talk to Me. Killer Mike is this decade’s Chuck D, more explicit... but so is his decade.
Two that almost made it: Ausmuteants side-project Leather Towel - Siding With Yoko & A Tribe Called Quest - We The People. Awesome songs.
Album cover of the year goes to The Lasters who assembled individual colleges for each their first pressing of 200. I adore the one I found at Red Devil Records in San Rafael. On the back, song titles include: “You’re Like Walking Pneumonia,” “The Lasters Go Antiquing,” “Ivory Tower of Beer,” and “What’s Up My Ass?” Brilliant punk from LA.
Nick Cave made three records this year. All of them justifiably somber. The Rolling Stones did a proper blues standards album. Future of the Left was full of piss and vinegar. Great records, all.
Here’s to a future of fighting & loving music in 2017. Happy New Year, Todd
Song accompaniment for this post: Well, this one's all about song. Hmm. Here's one that almost made this year's list: Leather Towel, Siding with Yoko.