It's my first post of the new year and, though late to the game, I wanted to share my favourite music from last year. 2016 was a notoriously terrible year (not that this year is exactly peachy so far!), but thankfully the same can't be said of the music that came out last year. It was, to quote Lisa Simpson's insensitive future fiancé, like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt. I feel spoiled by the amount and variety of quality music I've been enjoying from last year's offerings. There are the gorgeous vintage European pop sounds of The Yearning and Lia Pamina, the visionary retrofuturism of Adrian Younge, the moving, classic songwriting of Big Smoke, the raw garage rock of The Mystery Lights, some fresh takes on dream pop, and many outings in psychedelic-influenced, experimental pop. Some of these albums have quickly become all-time favourites, not just favourites of the year. Below is a playlist of songs from my most-loved releases of 2016, including albums, singles and EPs, in no particular order. A list of my top eleven albums (I could not narrow it down to ten!) of the year – again, in no specific order – follows it.
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- Britta Phillips - Daydream (Luck Or Magic)
- Big Smoke - Honey, I (Time Is Golden)
- Margo Price - Hands Of Time (Midwest Farmer's Daughter)
- Kadhja Bonet - Fairweather Friend (The Visitor)
- The Yearning - When I Lost You (Evening Souvenirs)
- Le Super Homard - Maple Key (Maple Key)
- Gloria - Show Me Your Trail (Gloria In Excelsis Stereo)
- Lake Ruth - Helium (Actual Entity)
- Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn - Ready To Love (Something About April II)
- Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - A Wonderful Seed (Until The Hunter)
- Julia Jacklin - Pool Party (Don't Let The Kids Win)
Name your price download.
- Beverly - Victoria (The Blue Swell)
- Nice As Fuck - Door (Nice As Fuck)
- The Limiñanas - Dahlia Rouge (Malamore)
- The Mystery Lights - Follow Me Home (The Mystery Lights)
- Gaye Su Akyol - Eski tüfek (Hologram İmparatorluğu)
- La Femme - Le vide est ton nouveau prénom (Mystère)
- Lia Pamina - Créeme (Love Is Enough)
- Cat's Eyes - Everything Moves Towards the Sun (Treasure House)
- Innerspace Orchestra - One Way Glass (One Way Glass single)
- Whyte Horses - Peach Tree Street (Pop Or Not)
- Charlie Hilton - Pony (Palana)
- Prudence Rees-Lee - Fair Witness (Fair Witness single)
- Olympia - Smoke Signals (Self Talk)
- Juniore - Panique (Panique single)
- September Girls - Quicksand (Age Of Indignation)
- Heron Oblivion - Your Hollows (Heron Oblivion)
- Delphine Dora - Alpha centauri (Le Fruit de mes songes)
- Morgan Delt - Sun Powers (Phase Zero)
- Charles Bradley - Ain't Gonna Give It Up (Changes)
- The Honey Pot - Almost Exactly Beautiful (Inside The Whale)
- Beautify Junkyards - Constant Flux (Other Voices 08 single)
- Lush - Lost Boy (Blind Spot EP)
- Exploded View - Stand Your Ground (Exploded View)
- Bat For Lashes - In God's House (The Bride)
- Adrian Younge presents The Electronique Void - Black Noise (Black Noise)
- TOY - Dream Orchestrator (Clear Shot)
- Jarvis Cocker - Theme From "Likely Stories" (Likely Stories EP)
- The Galaxy Electric - Nightmares (Everything is Light and Sound)
- Jenny Hval - Female Vampire (Blood Bitch)
- Leonard Cohen - Traveling Light (You Want it Darker)
- John Cunningham - I Can Fly (Fell)
- Paul Kelly - Sonnet 73 (Seven Sonnets & A Song)
- The New Lines - Love and Cannibalism (Love and Cannibalism)
- Mild High Club - Homage (Skiptracing)
- COTE - London (London single)
- Samara Lubelski - What's Up Rider (The Gilded Raid)
Top 11 albums:
Like so many, I am angry, confounded, saddened by the state of the world. 2016 just keeps kicking us in the arse. I won't spill any trite words about the power of music in troubled times. I don't even think making ourselves feel better is entirely the point. I'm wary of self-tranquilising to the point of becoming numbed or complacent; we need that sense of horror and anger to foster meaningful action. Anger, I think, is not something to be afraid of if it is not hateful or violent or self-destructive. That said, I'm aware good people need to draw strength from where they can – to be inspired, to experience catharsis, to feel soothed, to preserve their mental health – in order to be effective, to go on, to heal. And that's where music can come in. What I like to turn to runs the gamut from angry and cynical, to inspiring and thought-provoking, to calming and reassuring. Here are a few songs I thought I'd share.
Starting at the angry, cynical end of things, Jarvis Cocker's blunt song 'Running The World' from 2006 pulled no punches in describing exactly who has the power in the world, and is unfortunately truer than ever. The song is an incisive, darkly funny critique of capitalism and politics.
Barry McGuire's classic scathing protest song, 'Eve Of Destruction', perfectly captured the countercultural mood of its day. Written by nineteen-year-old P.F. Sloan, it was a number one hit for McGuire in 1965, and it's hard to imagine anyone spitting out these lyrics of disgust and frustration better than he does in his blistering growl. Many of the lyrics are, obviously, specific to political circumstances of the time, but much of it still resonates and could apply as readily today. Particularly potent is McGuire's delivery of the line about religious hypocrisy: "Hate your next-door neighbour / but don't forget to say grace." Also, message aside, I am a fan of the fact the word 'coagulating' is incorporated into a rhyme.
It's interesting when a work of art's message feels relevant again and you find its meaning becomes clearer than before. I guess I always saw this as a somewhat fatalistic song about impending doom in an age of atomic fear, but now it's hitting me as a rebuke against complacency, against refusing to see potential catastrophe, and against the normalisation of things that should rightly invoke alarm. Sloan saw it as "a love song to and for humanity" and "a prayer" and hoped it would help "open a dialogue", but instead he and McGuire were ousted from the music industry.
"This is a cold war, you better know what you're fighting for" sings Janelle Monáe so powerfully on 'Cold War', from her 2010 Afrofuturist pop masterpiece, The ArchAndroid. The line 'I was made to believe there was something wrong with me' always chokes me up, and now more than ever, too many are afraid of their children growing up to feel like this. Monáe has said of this and other songs of hers: "I try to create songs that are uplifting because this world can drive you insane". 'Cold War', though it faces a sense of pain and injustice head-on, is not a bitter resignation; it ultimately uplifts:
Update: song has now been deleted from Soundcloud and is not available anywhere else yet.
A welcome surprise came a few days ago in the form of a new song from Lucky Soul, a band that has been sorely missed. They were last heard from on 2010's A Coming Of Age, an album that matured and expanded the meticulous retro pop sounds of their 2007 debut, The Great Unwanted. On both albums, they produced pop music that had hooks to spare, with heartfelt lyrics that were both wry and earnest.
Six years on from their last release, '(Hurts Like A) Bee Sting' shows their pop chops are not at all rusty. The effortless hooks, the level of songcraft and Ali Howard's distinctive voice, sounding better than ever, make this recognisably Lucky Soul, but there are some new flavours here as well. The downbeat disco style is a new sound for them, but as usual, they try on genre not for the sake of it, but because it fits the song's mood. They also get more political in their lyrics (not entirely surprising for a band who have a song about Billy Bragg): "Didn't take you so long / From the back room to the boys' club / Into the quarters of the king".
This is apparently from a 7" but there is no word on a release of that yet. There are also hints of a new album in the works; on social media, they cryptically posted coordinates that fans deduced were the location a mastering studio. Here's hoping that comes sooner than later; now they've whet my appetite, I miss them even more.
I'm feeling spoiled this year thanks to all the quality Christmas music I've found online that the artists have generously made available for free download. Below is my list of finds. Got any more to add?
If you haven't already, please be sure to visit Filles Sourires and check out the excellent Christmas Project that Guuzbourg has put together. Almost all the songs were recorded especially for Filles Sourires, which means it's the first time they've been heard anywhere. The only track that's not new is Watoo Watoo's, but it's still a very worthy inclusion that suits the mix nicely. All up, that's nine Christmas-themed songs featuring, bien sur, lovely female vocals in French, with an interesting array of styles represented. What a treat!
Of the new songs, my favourite (at least today) is probably Hektor's cover of Les Wampas' 'Ce soir c'est Noël'. This is a sophisticated, satisfyingly fizzy piece of electropop, with some chunky electric guitar riffs that stop it feeling too lightweight. I love the cute-but-slightly-aloof voice of frontwoman Carine Péralba (pictured), whose delivery here has a deadpan quality to it that suits the feel of the song.
Watoo Watoo's gentle pop never fails to impress me, and their 1999 song ' Les Visiteurs de Noël' is another highlight for me in this collection.
Head there now! -> Fille Sourires Christmas Project
I'm hoping to get in a little bit of Christmas blogging this year, but I can't be sure I can do much, as I have to take it easy right now. But I didn't want to miss the chance to tell you about Last.fm's campaign to get a decent song to the top of the UK charts this Christmas. Understandably, they are fed up with the fun being zapped from the long-standing tradition of the Christmas No. 1, with it now being dominated by the Simon Cowell & Co empire of TV talent shows.
Fortunately, Last.fm users have voted for a very deserving band. Lucky Soul are the best pop band around at the moment. They make stunning, heartfelt romantic pop songs full of a zillion hooks, with melodies that soar and swoop in all the right places. I can't get enough of their album The Great Unwanted, as well as the B-sides I bought from Emusic. Hooray for bands that are filled with so much pop genius that B-sides are not merely for lesser leftovers, but for equally brilliant creations!
out of print
- February 19 2017
- February 2 2017
- December 24 2016
- December 23 2016
- November 25 2016
- November 19 2016
- November 11 2016
- October 29 2016
- October 7 2016
- September 1 2016
- August 29 2016
- July 30 2016
- July 19 2016
- July 14 2016
- Tue, Aug 29 2006
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