Personally, I am glad that 2016 is ending. I don’t think I can take another year like this one has been. To begin with, my personal life has been challenging as I watch my mother’s quality of life diminish and my ability, both physically and mentally, to keep up with my own health changes and ever-increasing limitations. Then, when I attempt to take refuge in my favorite hobby, only to watch as an ever-increasing number of artists are leaving this life to join the after-life. At least their art lives on. But, the most disappointing aspect of 2016 was lack of music that will stand the test of time. Most of what was released this past year was what I would call serviceable.
Also, I am beginning to witness a couple of dreadful trends, of which I should not be surprised. Back in the Eighties, it seemed as though the Rolling Stones or Talking Heads could have farted in a microphone, released it as an artistic statement called art and every critic would have believed that album should have set the world on fire. Personally, I think Kanye West and Beyoncé have moved into this rarefied category. During my research I noticed that the latest releases from these two mega-stars were fawned over, all the while I found these two releases rather redundant and behind the trends. Had the two released their albums two years ago, I who agree to the assessment of the genius of their artistic vision. Instead, I found these releases reactionary and not so much visionary. And, you can add Bon Iver to my overrated list. I just cannot hop on his band wagon.
Now, I understand that I’m getting old, but I felt the older artists have released solid albums this year. Take a listen to albums by David Bowie, Cheap Trick, The Monkees, Peter Wolf and so many others. Theref0re, I would rank this year as a slightly below average for the quality of the albums released this year.
Over the next three days, I am going to be giving you my Top 50 albums of 2016. So, on with the countdown.
50. The Rolling Stones – Blue and Lonesome. Many of my friends were excited by the prospect of the Stones covering blues songs. Only thing, this album should have been recorded 30 years ago when they could killed these songs.
49. Ken Sharp – New Mourning. This man has been acting as if he were Superman by releasing three of the most important books about Power Pop music since 2015, with two more on his planning board. Then, this year, Sharp released one of the finest Power Pop albums. This is Power Pop at it’s finest.
48. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression. Here is my second old artist who everyone thought was over-the-hill.
47. Anderson .Paak – Malibu. Sure, .Paak recorded a soul album with jazz qualities, but it was an original take.
46.Beyoncé – Lemonade. It may just be me, but I think this album is overrated. Sorry folks, I just think this album is solid, not a classic.
45.Nick Cave & the Seeds – Skeleton Tree. There was a time when the release of a Nick Cave album was a major event, but this album just sounded a too much like paint-by-numbers.
44.Rihanna – ANTI. Once again, I think this young superstar is coasting bit on this album.
43. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool. I used to love this band. But, I really think they have been believing their press clippings. This whole music of anti-music was derided back in the Seventies when Lou Reed released his “classic” Metal Music Machine. And, it should be today.
42.Blood Orange – Freetown Sound. Blood Orange has been raking in the big bucks as a song doctor. On his own album, BO has recorded a modern set of R&B. It will be interesting to watch his career develop.
41.Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial. I think this band has some potential. It’s always nice to discover a new pop-punk band. Or, are they playing power pop? Who cares?!?!
40.Arvidson & Butterflies – Arvidson & Butterflies. This has been a great year for power pop, and this new band hit a home run on this album.
39. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo. I think we are getting to the point that critics are going to believe that everything West does is brilliant. I disagree on this album.
38. Frank Ocean – Blonde. A few years ago, Ocean released a brilliant debut album. There was no way he would able to equal that first album, but he sure came close.
37. M83 – Junk. Back in 2008, MGMT released a brilliant album called Oracular Spectacular. M83 has release an album in that vein that is just as fun to listen to.
36. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings. Back during the early 2000s, there was an American Idol show for country singer/songwriting. Of all the contestants, my older son had picked a teenaged Lambert as the contestant with the brightest future. She finished third but has had the greatest career. On this album, Lambert records a sprawling album that loosely chronicles her divorce from Blake Shelton. Graham, you were right, she was the talented contestant.
35. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker. Oh, did you hear Cohen recorded an album about him facing death? Yes, it is exactly what you thought it would be.
34. Mayer Hawthorne – Man About Town. I love blue-eyed soul, and Hawthorne is the best purveyor of this sound. It may not be his greatest album, but any album by him is going to be fun AND sexy.
33. Mudcrutch – 2. Tom Petty’s original band is back and better than ever. This country rock album is a throwback to the sound of the Seventies. Petty’s never sounded so loose before.
32. Champagne – Beach Closed. Champagne is yet another great power pop band that released a great album this year. Next summer, when the beach IS closed, this is the album to put on.
31. Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night. The 21st Century has been good for Elton’s creativity. It’s like he has rediscovered his early-Seventies muse with Bernie Taupin’s help, of course. Many of the songs sound as it they had been recorded for Rock of the Westies.
Well ladies and gentlemen, there are the first 20 albums of my Top 50 Albums of 2016. I dare you to guess which album ends up being my #1. Lord knows that I keep changing my mind. We will see tomorrow what albums are #11-30.