People often put their end of year lists in order. I don’t. This can be problematic if one is trying to find out exactly what spoke to the write. Honestly I have such varying opinions on music, and my tastes change literally dependent on the season. Every season deserves its own unique style and who am I to pigeonhole something that wants to fly away? My main reason for loving music this long is because it is something that is immediately understandable, something so inherently satisfying in comparison to all other forms of art. Late at night before I fall asleep I listen to music to try and soothe myself, preparing for the next day.
Initially I thought “Hmm, let me pare this down just a little bit.” So, this list is reduced though still an imperfect representation of what I listened to and truly enjoyed this year. I know it is a bit in poor taste to have a non-round number to adhere to but this is what came about. This is the best I could do and as usual, I know this remains woefully inadequate to everything that went on in 2016 in the year of music. Quite a few bands did not make the cut for the simple fact that they needed to give me a specific moment, one that was something of a rush. My goal for all music is to try and realize that I am in the present moment when I am listening. Very frequently I find myself in one rush or another as I try my best to put myself together for another day.
What helps to make this list less labor intense (read: less stressful) than what I usually do is I tried to track everything I listened to over the year. A lot happens in the year though I am interested to see how little of my favorites from the first quarter of the year made it onto this list. In a way, the beginning of 2016 feels a lot more innocent than what ended up happening for a whole slew of reasons. Plenty of people saw their lives change for the worse and 2017 offers little to no hope of change. However, it is during these most stressful and trying times that artists truly shine, as they respond to a call for something more, something heavier.
These albums certainly captured the moment of chaos, of despair, that permeates the world right now. Danny Brown’s “Atrocity Exhibition” certainly does this with great vigor, as does the futuristic nightmare that is Anna Zaradny’s particle accelerator of “Go Go Theurgy”. A Tribe Called Quest’s “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” opts for the dark mood as well, though the energy is a bit more reserved. Other variations on this sadness come from the anxiety of Preoccupations with its late 80s-influenced verve. By far the saddest comes from the tragedy that defines the sprawling scope of Roy Montgomery’s “R M H Q: Headquarters”.
To ensure that the list does not totally represent pain there is the peppy work of Kero Kero Bonito’s “Bonito Generation” which presents these problems with a sense of hope. Soothing in nature and wordless is Gas’s epic “Box” which brings all the light and darkness that project explored, a perfect kind of reissue. Closing it in a wintry tradition that only I seem to observe is the oddly beautiful experience of Will Long’s “Long Trax”. Produced perfectly, the deep house that Will Long produces is the kind that feels so rich, so satisfying, and exactly what is needed after such a brutally long year.
Hopefully 2017 continues the pace of putting out this kind of music, the reassuring kind. Until then feel free to suggest anything I might have missed over such a busy year.
- Mary Lattimore – At the Dam
- Anna Meredith – Varmints
- Kane Strang – Blue Cheese
- Esperanza Spaulding – Emily’s D+Evolution
- Aluk Todolo – Voix
- Bitchin Bajas and Bonnie Prince Billy – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties
- A Pleasure – Jream House
- The Avalanches – Wildflower
- Jerry Paper – Toon Time Raw
- Derek Piotr – Drono
- Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denail
- Four Thing – Four Thing
- Autechre – elseq 1-5
- The Dead C – Trouble
- Frank Ocean – Blonde
- Parquet Courts – Human Performance
- Jefre-Cantu Ledesma – Summer
- Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
- James Blake – Overgrown
- Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
- Anna Zaradny – Go Go Theurgy
- A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
- Gas – Box
- Kero Kero Bonito – Bonito Generation
- Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek – Schaum
- Solange – A Seat At The Table
- Preoccupations – Preoccupations
- Roy Montgomery – R M H Q: Headquarters
- Will Long – Long Trax