So, that 2016, huh? It would seem shallow to comment on the year musically without mentioning that, in a wider sense, it’s been a pretty momentous and frankly shitty twelve months. But I don’t want to get into politics here, so let’s leave it at that.
The other popular theme of 2016 has been the deaths of famous people, including many musicians. The one that affected me the most deeply by far was the passing of Leonard Cohen. I don’t talk about him much here, because he fits into a different mental box to pretty much all my other listening, and also because I don’t think I could do him credit, but his words and music are super-important to me and I’m sad there won’t be any more. For the same reason, You Want It Darker isn’t competing for the prestigious title which I’ll eventually get around to bestowing on 5 lucky albums in this post.
So. Anyway. I listened to a great deal of very fine music in 2016. And I’ve spent the past couple of weeks going back and listening to a bunch of stuff from earlier in the year to try to combat recency bias. And, following on from a great tradition, here’s what I thought…
Towards the minimal end the dance/electronica spectrum, Dorisburg’s Irrbloss made me very happy. Towards the maximal end, there were so did the awesomely unhinged bits of acid-fried analogue insanity in Africans With Mainframe’s KMT, and maybe even more so Xosar’s Let Go.
In the more-or-less classical world, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Orphée was sublime, and Colin Stetson’s Sorrow (A reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony) was powerfully original. Edging into the ambient, Bethan Kellough’s Aven was a hugely exciting debut, and Svarte Greiner’s Moss Garden felt like it was breaking significant new ground, while Rafael Anton Irisarri’s A Fragile Geography was simply bewitching. And on the doomy drony front, St Francis Duo’s Peacemaker Assembly and Jon Mueller’s Tongues were both, in their different ways, just huge.
Defying even those vague genre boundaries, I loved the hypnotic techno/jazz/kraut/disco/something of Oren Ambarchi’s Hubris, and the gentle but compelling American primitive of East Of The Valley Blues’s EOTVB.
But, finally, here are my 5 picks for my actual final actual albums of 2016:
- Claire M Singer’s Solas, a wonderful combination of classical strings and pipe organ drone.
- Katie Gately’s Color, a brilliantly bonkers and OTT avant-pop thrill ride.
- Laraaji & Sun Araw’s Professional Sunflow, a unique and wonderful bit of new-agey experimentalism which just gets better every time I hear it.
- Monolake’s VLSI, a hugely welcome return from the master of skittering techno and epic sound design.
- Tord Gustavsen, Simin Tander, Jarle Vespestad’s What Was Said, a meeting of restrained Norwegian jazzy piano and classical Afghan vocals that I had no business liking but ended up falling head-over-heels for.