My daughter was laughing at me the other day. She was asking when I was going to be putting up my annual blog about the music that I had liked over the last year. Now that she herself is a discerning music critic – she takes great joy in puncturing my musical bubble and calling into question my musical resonance. She accuses me of being ‘too mainstream’ in my choices. Whilst I like to respond that there is nothing wrong with liking mainstream music – I like ‘good music’ and don’t necessarily care how many people agree or disagree with my choices. It’s all good banter and it masks the reality that my daughter is deeply concerned that her musical taste is much too similar to that of her old dad. And it is – but then she has grown up on a diet of Icelandic post-rock and Dublin-rock.
I found it much harder this year to identify the music that has defined my year. I feel that I have downloaded less. I feel that I own less and feel less of a connection with my music than at any other time. It is easier to listen to the music on Spotify and to reject the dodgy sounds and albums quicker. I found myself listening to more ‘retro’ stuff. Dusting out the old playlists from my younger days and reliving my early dabblings with Marillion, Dire Straits, Simple Minds etc.
That said, I am still listening to my album of 2015 a lot still – I love that Coldplay album . . .
So what has made the Top 10 this year . . .
10 Resevoir by Peter J McCauley (from Liminals EP)
I have always been a big fan of Rams Pocket Radio and Pete McCauley has dropped the RPR moniker for the Liminals EP that was brought out earlier in the year. I particularly enjoyed the track Resevoir for its mix of techno-pop and delicate piano-based melody. Though, to be fair I could have actually included any of the tracks on this.
9 Songs of experience by Richard Ashcroft (from These People)
I think I have an odd fixation with either the first or last song on albums. I get strangely drawn to them and this is the last song on Richard Ashcroft’s most recent album. There are a couple of good songs scattered through the album but to be fair – through most of the record Ashcroft sounds like a rather negative, dis-spirited man who is reflecting on his glory days. The album as a whole feels like he is shaking a metaphorical fist at all these people who might have ruled him out in the past. Maybe he is just chalking it up to experience . . . .
8 I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful but so unaware of it by The 1975 (from I like it when you sleep . . .)
The 1975 were a bit of a revelation this year. My daughter was into this band originally and she liked their first album (The 1975). She awaited this launch with great anticipation and was not disappointed when it came out. She also managed to talk me into taking her and one of her friends to their gig in Dublin around easter and this was for me, one of the gigs of the year. Although there was no doubt that the teen girl market had well and truly managed to try and buy every ticket so that they could scream loudly and irrationaly at the band on stage – there still were enough musos who could appreciate a well-rounded musical experience when they saw one.
7 No Shadow by David C Clements (from The Longest day)
Track 4 from David’s first solo album is one of my favourite tunes of the year. It’s a song of realism. What’s to love without the pain? Without the loss? I just need someone on my side – I get so tired of the people in my life – I want my feet on solid ground – I’ll cling to you we’ll carry on . . . . Its not optimistic . Its not pessimistic. Its David looking at the reality of life and realizing what grounds and what becomes important.
6 Glass Eyes by Radiohead (on A Moon shaped Pool)
I have a love/hate relationship with Radiohead. I used to love them – I loved Pablo Honey, the Bends and even OK Computer but like many others felt that they had lost their way with a lot of tat in recent years. However, this most recent album – A moon shaped pool was a modern masterpiece and again one where I could easily have picked a number of tunes from to emphasis their melanchonic, reflective, musical poetry. Burn the Witch is the first song on the album and also stands out with its energetic violin and techno mix.
5 Everything and Nothing by Hammock (on Everything and Nothing)
So this song is the title track from my album of the year. I discovered Hammock by accident on Spoitify over the summer and this has quickly become my soundtrack to the year. This is an alternative collection of music that can often be heard in my office at work. It provides a light musical touch that resonates with my love for all things Sigur Ros. It allows me to listen bu the think and to work at the same time. Yet, its uplifting beat and musicality also don’t distract. The album is a vibrant mix of styles and musical themes. I also particularly like the track called Marathon boy.
4 All my hope by Crowder (on American Prodigal)
I could just as easily have listed My Victory here I have to admit. This is a great album from David Crowder. He has always been an artist I have admired as he can seamlessly cross genres from bluegrass to country to rock from one song to next with a splash of techno through in for good measure. He also creates one of the most difficult riffs to copy as he usually plays the most obscure of chords so any chance of playing along is out the window! This is a great album of songs.
3 Bad Decisions by Two Door Cinema Club (from Gameshow)
This album was very close to being my album of the year as I always enjoyed listening to this. It is such an upbeat burst of energy. I always like songs that start slow and then just kick in – this time with a pseudo-80s riff of epic proportions. I love the energy and enthusiasm that two door provide. Its like summer beach pop music but its music that cheers you up and makes you all the better for listening.
2 She Burns and Be like you belong by Foy Vance (from The Wild Swan)
You know you have made it when you find the album on the itunes albums for less than £5. I have followed Foy Vance for a number of years. I’ve been to gigs where there was only a handful of other like-minded individuals. I’ve seen him pre-moustache and dapper hat. I’ve seen him when it was just him, a guitar and a loop pedal. Hope is one of my all-time favourite albums. The new promised album did not disappoint.
There are on a few songs on this that I like. Musically I love the way that She Burns sits in the middle of the album and captures your attention. But, Be Like you belong is def one of my favourites of the year. Its understated manner builds through the song as Foy reminds us of his previous attitudes towards Hope (resonating with his first album . . .)
“I still have hope,
Though it failed me so,
And now I’m weak where I once was strong.
Time’s moved on
All that was gone
My stronghold is
I live to long . . .”
1 My shot and You’ll be Back (Original Broadway Cast Recording from Hamilton: An American Musical)
SO, this year my daughter was the first to get into this piece of musical theatre. I later caught the bug too and both of us are BIG fans. Hamilton is a very trendy production in New York written (and performed) by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The production is very cleverly written as it meanders through the characters and history of the beginning of the United States. The recurring themes are cleverly woven through the story up to the premature death of Alexander Hamilton. A particularly good performance is also made by Jonathan Groff who plays King George III with the recurring theme . . . you’ll be back. It’s a theatrical phenomenon and one that both Erin and I would desperately love to see live!
What nearly made it?
My fixation with Coldplay continues and I nearly added two dance remixes onto the list – Hymn for the Weekend and Up&UP (Freedo mix). I also got a nice Christmas album called These Christmas Lights from Matt Redman which had some nice tracks including O Little Town – though I have been deeply concerned about Matt’s pronunciation of the word ‘Angels’. I also enjoyed the album Have it all (live) by Bethel and in particular the son Be enthroned.
Campfire II: Simplicity by Rend Collective. Don’t get me wrong I do love Rend but I did feel that this album was quickly becoming money for old rope and I begrudged the £12 I paid for the priviledge of getting another different version of the same tunes. Let there be light by Hillsong worship also disappointed a bit.
So what does 2017 bring musically . . . who knows . . . . .
You can also listen to my playlist on Spotify here