Fuck 2016. You took Princess Leia, you took our faith in democracy and you took my guts away. Last year, I ranted about the crap music I hated in 2015 but things are different now. I look back over the past 12 months and, in between the hospital flashbacks and crushing pessimism for the future of humanity, there’s a handful of albums that I thought were brilliant. Here’s my Top 3.
White Denim – Stiff
Southern Rock isn’t a genre known for its intellectually stimulating material. Skynyrd’s most famous song is a grand statement of “Not All Southern White Men”. Stiff is a collection of clever, classic tunes that sound fresh and familiar all at once. Fusing rawk with classic RnB grooves and icing that cake with a powerful and soulful vocal, there isn’t a bad note on this record.
Wolf People – Ruins
Wolf People was a name that I’d hear every now and then, but it wasn’t until I heard ‘Night Witch’ on the radio that I discovered how great they are. Ruins is a studied homage to 1970s Folk Rock and the earliest Heavy Metal. Like White Denim, hearing Wolf People is like discovering some brilliant unreleased material from your favourite old band. When the Ruins tour came to Brum, I was lucky enough to chat with the band before their live set blew me away. Their music is honest, they love music more than anybody else and their riffs kick ass.
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
Some bands sound like machines precision-engineered to produce particular kinds of music. Emotional Mugger is like Dr Frankenstein dug up a bunch of dead rock stars, stitched ’em together and let it loose in an all-analog studio. Whereas the above albums have a pleasant familiarity, Emotional Mugger is ugly in all the right ways. I didn’t catch Ty Segall & The Muggers live, but their 6 Music session is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry – Shine A Light. Every song from the ‘Trains’ chapter of The Great American Songbook™, recorded on an actual train and at stations. Incredibly atmospheric, earthy and raw.
Bob Log III – Guitar Party Power / Bump Or Meow Vol 1. Seasick Steve? This is more like Shitfaced Steve… IN SPAAAAACE!!!
So it wasn’t all bad, right? This is just the best I could think of, there was a lot of music I enjoyed this year, despite the usual disappointments… but we’re not here to talk about that. I, uh, promise-
THINGS THAT WERE SHIT AND LET ME DOWN ON A PERSONAL LEVEL
I can’t hold it in.
I am not and have never been a Pixies fan, so a £35 balcony ticket was always going to be a bit wasted on me. That said, I like to think that I can see the good in most bands’ live. 2 hours of what I assume are the Pixies’ dullest songs gave me zero positive memories to come home with. The band closed on ‘Into the White’ and the entire room was filled with dense smoke. It is the only memorable part. I get the feeling that the Pixies – completely disengaged from the audience – would have been happy to play the full 2 hours behind the smokescreen. Or to an empty room.
Justice’s album Woman
Nothing Justice can do will ever come close to ✝, this is a truth I am beginning to accept. There’s one ballsy, heavy track on Woman but I can’t remember what it’s called. It all feels a bit too much of a cash-in on the current ’80s borrowed-nostalgia trend that Justice basically started themselves years ago.
That’s yer lot
I’m done. Hopefully, there’ll be even more great stuff to talk about next year and then you won’t even believe that it’s me writing all this celebratory rubbish.