Everyone complaining about 2016 hasn’t been paying attention to a bunch of great albums that have come out this year. Also, it’s not like you flip a calendar page and life is suddenly better and celebrities and pets stop dying. Anyway, there were a lot of albums this year that I really could not stop listening to. Here are some of them and my thoughts about them.
Absolute Power play a style of Hardcore that makes me think of the late 90’s and early 2000s politically motivated thrash. Think Charles Bronson and Los Crudos. These 16 songs in about 14 minutes make me feel like skating as fast as I can to get to some show at Who’s Emma.
Anthrax- For All Kings
I have never been crazy about Anthrax. I love Caught in a Mosh and Madhouse, because I am a fan of metal. This album though, from beginning to end is both catchy and crushing. They play with tension in mind. Building and releasing it over and over to make this a truly engaging but somehow still simple sounding album. Also, for the booze nerds, there are two songs on this record, one after the other called Evil Twin and then Suzerain. Digging deep on that one, but I think there might be some libation enthusiasts in Anthrax.
Big Lies No Hustle Dry Chinaski– The Skin Graft Icarus
I cannot say enough good things about this guy. His mix of old school boom bap rap music influences and well thought out political diatribes is inspiring. He also has a hype dog. The layers of samples pulled from EVERYWHERE will make your head spin if you are a student of pop culture. The best song is the one where he takes Men’s Rights Activists to task.
PJ Harvey- The Hope Six Demolition Project
I have spent most of my adult life listening to music about anarchy, the destruction of the world and the systems on which it relies, the futility and excesses of modern life and the effects of living without consideration for the earth or any other people living in it etc… This PJ Harvey album encapsulates all of those very dark themes while focussing mostly on America (her last album “Let England Shake” did the same for England) and surrounds them with eerie melodies using horns more than she ever has before. The airiness of her voice transforming to soaring notes keeps you involved and the lyrics paint vivid pictures of what she is (and all of us should be) concerned about, what with the world falling apart and all.
G.L.O.S.S. Trans Day Of Revenge
This is 5 song EP by a band of queer and trans people playing some of the best d-beat I have heard in a long time. They turned down a record deal and broke up this year. I don’t care, these five songs rip. The songs with lyrical content about, well, a Trans Day Of Revenge and the Black Lives Matter movement are the best ones.
Tanya Tagaq – Retribution
I’m not a religious man. That said, listening to and really digging into this album elevates you to plains outside of your normal realms. Though this album is almost entirely violin, drums and voice, this is not easy listening. Intense and aggressive at times and almost so quiet you can’t hear it at others, this record takes you on a journey, but only if you let it.
I know that we haven’t spoken in quite sometime and I am sorry to reach out with this troubling news.
I first fell in love with you in the summer of 1986. The loudness and brashness of your sound was unlike anything I knew of at the time. My parents loved 60’s bubblegum and boring 70s rock. The horn blasts and somehow equally sultry and cute vocals over top of them was unlike anything I had ever known. I was hooked from then on.
No matter what you have done since then, I have pledged my allegiance. I considered myself a member of the Rhythm Nation when I was 10 years old. By then I had started to develop my own tastes and they included Public Enemy and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Those horn blasts that I had first heard from you were now the base of what I liked most in my ears.
Around age 13, when I started making mixed tapes, you always had a spot. Every other 13 year old boy I knew bought the tape or CD just because of the art, where your then boyfriend was covering your breasts. A bold move for a pop star at the time. Maybe a cheap marketing move, but the record that was behind that cover was outstanding. At times a smooth and soulful and other times aggressive. The lyrical content introduced my 13 year old self to a lot of ideas I had only heard dirty kids on playgrounds and basketball courts talk about before, but you made it sound poetic.
Truth be told, I had so much respect for you that when Velvet Rope came out, I didn’t really listen to it, I knew where my tastes had evolved to. That said, anyone tried to talk shit, I had your back. At the time I only liked Bad Religion, No Means No and SLAYER. I liked knowing you were doing your thing though.
By the time of the wardrobe malfunction, I was kind of surprised you were even still performing. I had assumed that you would rest on your laurels of having more number one singles from one album than anyone in history.
Over the last 10 years, my tastes relaxed in rigidity and revisiting your early work reminded me of why I fell so hard for you in the first place. The thing is, the relaxation of my tastes also introduced me to a lot of newer artists that, like yourself (almost certainly influenced by you) were bad (nasty?) women that didn’t take shit and managed to make songs that everybody loved. Then you put out Unbreakable and I felt validated. That album was a logical culmination of everything you had done so far. I was lucky enough to see you on that tour and it was one of the best stadium shows I had ever seen.
But you know all this. This is not why I am writing.
I am writing to let you know that I think I need to leave you. It is no fault of yours. I have fallen for another. You see, in 2003 a friend of mine told me to give the girl from Destiny Child’s solo album a listen. I heard the song Crazy In Love and was floored. But big deal right, it’s one song. Sure it’s the best song since your brothers recorded I Want You Back, but one song, right? This woman had a few hits (“If” and “Together Again” and “Escapade” sized hits) and pushed some envelopes (a video for each song on an album, that video with the robot hand, marrying the biggest rapper since Tupac) and I knew what she was up to, but she was no Janet. Then in March this year I woke up at about 10:15 after a night of work to see that there was surprise Beyonce album. Every single tweet and facebook status I read said something about Beyoncé – Lemonade. By 10:23 I had a Tidal account and was watching as Lemonade shattered what I had ever thought pop music could be. Since it came out people have talked about the black power undertones and the feminist overtones and is it a break-up album and blah blah blah. None of that matters. What matters is that this is maybe the greatest confluence of talent, marketing and art I have maybe ever seen/heard. I know that it was a team of people that all believed in this woman, Beyonce, to be the face of the most enthralling, well thought out pop album maybe ever. I rank Lemonade among Purple Rain, I Get Wet, Reign In Blood, Fear of A Black Planet, The Shape of Punk To Come and Rhythm Nation as a perfect album.
I know you’ve heard it, and I am sure you understand that I now pledge allegiance to Queen B.
You will always have a special place in my heart Janet.
P.S. Did she just say “When he fuck me good, I’ll take his ass to Red Lobster”?
Against Me! – Shapeshift With Me
I may be the only person that likes every new Against Me! record more than the last. Laura Jane Grace has gone from jangly, sloppy folk punk, to a slick radio rock phase and now, with the rhythm section that she has, has decided to write a bunch of punk rock songs that slide from abrasive fugazi influence all the way to a pop rock reminiscent of Green Day b-sides. Watching a band and songwriter progress for the last 15 years is rewarding in it’s own way.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – The Skeleton Tree
This is another of those “I think they get better with every album” things, but with Nick Cave, there has never been something I won’t listen to. While his albums are always on the sad side of angry, this album finds Nick Cave in a truly spooky and ethereal mood. Somehow the guys who put out all the saddest songs made something sadder. And it’s entrancing and entertaining too.
De La Soul- And the Anonymous Nobody
There are a lot of reasons this album is great. The main one being that there are no lifted samples on this record. No stolen bass lines or horn blasts. The bass lines and horn blasts that you hear were all recorded over the course of however much time in a studio and then those jam sessions were farmed to make the beats on this album. Besides that, the songs are great and the guests are numerous and impressive.
More you should listen to if you like the stuff already listed:
Rihanna- Anti (Cyndi to Beyonce’s Madonna?)
NOFX- First Ditch Effort (their slowest record ever and somehow the best one in more than a decade)
Tragic Hearts- Drugged Out On Danger (Pop-Punk with soul)
A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here, Thank you 4 Your Service (duh)
Sect- S/T (Straight Edge Hardcore played by all the guys that made you love Straight Edge Hardcore 20 years ago)
Haymaker- Taxed, Tracked, Inoculated…Enslaved (this sounds like what a real fist fight feels like)
Greys- Outer Heaven (noise/art rock)
Belvedere- Revenge of The Fifth (that thing where your old friends put out an album way past their prime…only to show you they are still in their prime)
Can you believe I am DJ’ing a wedding in August?
Also, be on the lookout for a podcast that me and my friend Pat will be putting together called “Your Favourite Band Sucks”