Lakenheath Old Boys

We are all former students at Lakenheath High School and other public schools in East Anglia. We were in school in the 70s and 80s and drank deeply from the well of British culture of those decades - the pints, the telly, and of course the footie!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Music of 2016

In Memoriam: David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Phife, Maurice White, Mose Allison,... The list seems endless and I’m writing this before the final tally is counted. In 2016, every morning, I was confronted with the news that another artist had died this year. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that will think of 2016 in terms of how many were lost. To read about the terrible suffering that Prince experienced which drove him to pain-medicines that ended his life was terrible. It seemed to me that he had recently engaged in a yet another higher gear, and then he was gone. I took solace in what these giants left us. David Bowie for instance hung on bravely to deliver “Blackstar” days before he passed, a record that rewards every time you listen, and which cements his legacy as the very brightest, the most innovative, the furthest forward thinking artist in rock and roll in my lifetime. He was a vital presence right to the last and this record is a breath-taking signing off point. I consume most of my music during my commutes to and from work.

This year, I eagerly waited for those first and third Wednesdays when Mr. Rice and Peas would post his Monday night WERA-Arlington “Soul Shake Reggae Radio” show on Mixcloud. His show is a pitch-perfectly curated list of the very best and rare reggae recordings from the 60’s and 70’s. There’s not a show yet where he didn’t serve up record after record after record with those sweet-spot satisfying sounds. The shows are archived and well worth repeated listens.

I saw relatively few shows this year, but I enjoyed the ones I did thoroughly. The Charles Bradley show at the 9:30 Club started with a riotous performance by the Seratones, but the moment “the Screaming Eagle of Soul” hit the stage, you knew that the Daddy had taken charge. Sometimes the last minute decisions are rewarding; I hadn’t planned on seeing WAR, but a unexpected free moment sent me down to the Birchmere to hear those songs from my childhood radio. Another nostalgia trip for me was the Squeeze/English Beat show at the 9:30. Two shows, not supporting new records necessarily and jam-packed with hit after hit. The other memorable one this year was seeing YES playing their “Tales of Topographic Oceans” record at ART/Park on the embankment of Niagara Falls. YES have found some bloke who is a dead-on soundalike for Jon Anderson, and Steve Howe as the remaining original can still play thrillingly.

I enjoyed these records a lot this year:

Blackstar-David Bowie
Art Science-Robert Glasper Experience
Paul Simon-Stranger to Stranger
Charles Bradley-Changes
the Bad Plus-It’s Hard
Charles Lloyd and the Marvels-I Long to See You
DeLaSoul-and the Anonymous Nobody... 

Songs are still my main focus and these were the ones that did it for me in 2016:

Memory-Violent Femmes - Everything I heard off their record sounded as if there had been no gap at all between this year and 16 years ago when they last released a record. I loved their sound then, and I love the sound of this song.
The Wheel-PJ Harvey - Admittedly a harrowing vocal that references the death 28,000 children of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan (at the time of recording; the Aleppo deaths later this year drove that number up drastically). It’s a tough message delivered through Polly Jean’s always interesting musicianship.
Car-Porches - This guy’s love-song to his car is a wry update of Queen’s “I’m In Love With My Car.” Stick it on the next time you hit the open road.
Silly Bone-Streets of Laredo - This is the song that I was looking for when Eric was little to hook him in musically. The music is pop-y and hooky, and the lyrics are just silly enough to engage a kid’s imagination. Mine too. Really fun stuff.
I’ve In Love-Teenage Fanclub - Another favorite band with a strong return in 2016. 
Sour Candy-Bleached - Every year there’s one song where the girl singer’s voice satisfies that need of mine to be reminded of the Mo-Dettes, and the Go Go’s. This is this year’s pick.
Bottle Rocket-Working For A Nuclear Free City - My top pick for Worst Band Name on my list. 4 Lads from Manchester would have been less embarrassing. Still, I’m glad I wasn’t put off listening to this. The driving rhythm and flashes of guitar grabbed me by the lapels and shook me good.
Freaky Feedback Blues-Benji Hughes - Here’s a soulful sounding song with a warm organ and call and response between the singer and his crew of back-up singers. Just try not to nod your head to this one.
The Outsiders-Kweku Collins - I love the bright finger picked guitar, and introduction of hip-hop beats over his soulful vocal.
Creeping-Obonglayar - Easily my top pick song of 2106. The spooky atmosphere and general WTF-ness of this sound captivated me early and never let me go.
Perfect-Atmosphere - It’s a pretty old-school rap delivery but the hopefulness of the “I’m not perfect but, I try” message resonated deeply with me.
Whoa-Henry + the Invisibles - This owes a lot to artists like Dilla, Glasper, and Musiq Soulchild. The soul vocal over a jazz piano with a punchy hip-hop beat and a Whoa chorus that draws you in. Just a Man-Nori - A lovely soul influenced ballad by an artist with a terrific voice. I’m reminded of Sade at her most romantic. Hear in After-De La Soul - What a terrific idea to team up Damon Albarn with the genius of De La Soul. It’s got Albarn’s wordly influences, the sharp thoughtful raps, and a great chorus from De La. The best Gorillas record ever. Long may this collaboration last. Shut Up Kiss Me-Angel Collins - There’s a catch in Collins’s throat, but she’s not crying. There’s a fierceness to her vocal delivery and just great rock and roll that marks her as one to listen to and watch in the future.
Edge of Town-Middle Kids - The way she sings about feeling “upside down and inside out” engaged me from the start. This is another fiercely emotional rock and roll song.
Some Sunsick Day-Morgan Delt - There’s an interesting tinkling keyboard that introduces this song before a swoon-y underwater vocal comes in riding a fuzz guitar. It’s one of those songs that hit my ears and made me think, “Oh, wasn’t expecting this...” It’s an over the ear headphones song that then builds to a big finish.
In Your Head-Tiger Waves - How many times have I been tricked by a song described as reminiscent of those lovely Beach Boys harmonies and been disappointed? Not this time. These Austinians got it right; summery and perfect.
Semaphore-Flock of Dimes - Runners-up worst band name on my list and again I’m glad I wasn’t put off listening to this. It starts with a long vocal that builds into a tight groove with interesting sounding guitar effects. Lava-Pleasant Grove - What I liked about this song was the way the tension builds and builds and builds before they turn that corner to the bridge and then it’s a football chanted chorus which really satisfies.

OK, that’s enough from me. What were those endorphin releasing moments in music for you this year?


Blogger The Blue Devil said...

Excellent stuff, mate. Thanks for getting us going with the music discussion this year. Your The Greatest 2016 Mix is still in heavy rotation in the car. It's really nicely programmed with some rockier stuff at the beginning and some earbud stuff toward the end. I cannot get "Silly Bones" out of my head, so much so that I've been driving Katie to distraction by just randomly singing "I've got silly bones" on occasion. LOL!

I was honestly surprised at how robust the art of making albums was this year. In the digital era, I had just about given up on full-length albums as an art form. But there they were roaring back in 2016. I didn't always agree with the critics, who slavered over Beyonce's "Lemonade" and Bon Iver's latest Autotuned effort, both of which left me cold. Here are the ones that got a lot of airplay on my iPod and in the car this year:
James Blake - The Color of Anything
Brad Mehldau Trio - Blues and Ballads
David Bowie - Backstair
Charles Lloyd - I Long to See You
Leonard Cohen - You Want it Darker
Norah Jones - Daybreaks
Frank Ocean - Blonde
Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful
Madeleine Peyroux - Secular Hymns
Stacey Kent - Tenderly

Let me know if you need any of these.

6:11 PM  
Blogger gooner71 said...

I totally spaced on the James Blake because it was earlier in the year, but that's an excellent shout. Thanks for the reminder. And the Mehldau disc is great too.

1:50 PM  

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