33 reasons 2016 wasn’t all bad

metronomy

I’ve collected my favourite songs from last year in a 2 hours and 8 minutes long playlist. That might sound long. But that’s before you start listening, here.

  1. Frida Hyvönen – Imponera på mig (First single and an immediate female empowerment classic from one of the best Swedish language albums in years.)
  2. Metronomy – Night Owl (2016’s best pop song from England’s most under-rated pop song masters.)
  3. Kanye West – Waves (Say what you will about his person, but his musical genius is undisputed. This is just one example from a brilliant album)
  4. Tindersticks – Second Chance Man (Perhaps last year’s most important song on a personal level, a brooding theme song for my own self reflection.)
  5. Snakeships, Anderson Paak – Money On Me (2016’s best argument to buy a convertible or move to the US West Coast.)
  6. Frank Ocean – Nikes (The musical universe on ‘Solo’ took a while to get into, but when Frank sings “I’ll let you guys prophesy, we’ve gone see the future first” it’s an apt metaphor for the level he is operating at.)
  7. Willie West – I’m Still A Man (Lord Have Mercy) (Released by a Finnish label (!) in the autumn on 2015 – with the instrumental version appearing in the trailer for the 2016 film Paterson – this minimalist soul jam about being left for another man, sung with verve by 78 year old Willie West, is retro soul at its absolute best.
  8. Blood Orange – Best to You (Perhaps 2016’s most immediate start to a song, which is then followed by Dev Hynes’ melodic and airy disco funk sounds.)
  9. Håkan Hellström – Pärlor (A shameless attempt by Sweden’s biggest artist to become Bruce Springsteen, but as an outcast anthem it’s impossible to discard.)
  10. Angel Olsen – Intern (She used to be a bit too brooding, but on her 2016 album Angel got the balance just right. “I don’t care what the papers say, it’s just another intern with a resume” is one of my favourite lines from last year.)
  11. Anderson Paak – Come Down (2016’s best Kendrick Lamar replacement.)
  12. Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane – Black Beatles (A frustratingly uneven duo, but when they get it right, as they did with this unexpected mega hit, they‘re addictive.)
  13. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (This arty Brooklyn post-punk orchestra keeps moving the needle forward in their own way, here with one of last year’s best guitar driven choruses.)
  14. Amanda Bergman – Blue Eyes (One of my favourite voices in music, this is a slow burner that seems ready made for driving at night.)
  15. Skepta – Shutdown (The definite London anthem of 2016 (even though it came out in 2015); an in your face aggressive and hilarious flag bearer for the current grime revival.)
  16. Nick Waterhouse (feat. Leon Bridges) – Katchi (unapologetically catchy retro rnb/funk from a ridiculously underrated artist.)
  17. Eleanor Friedberger – Open Season (Perfect 70s sounding easy listening rock, a playful nod to Neil Young’s masterpiece ‘On the Beach’.)
  18. Basia Bulat – Infamous (A perfectly crafted folk pop number with a strong chorus that I thought would (and should) become a hit.)
  19. The Comet is Coming – Space Carnival (Psychedelic jazz funk is not normally my cup of tea, but Space Carnival packs one of the catchiest trumpets I’ve ever heard. One of the most pleasant surprises last year.)
  20. Alexis Taylor – I’m ready (The Hot Chip singer’s album is a minimalistic gem that is about the most soothing thing to be released in 2016. Beautiful, understated and underrated.)
  21. Vince Staples – Pimp Hand (Perennially angry and publicly feuding West Coast rapper who continues to avoid melodies and catchy hooks, which is just fine with rap skills like these.)
  22. Maria Andersson – Lift Me Up (2016’s best build-up, it’s actually pretty much all build-up, wrapped around one repeated verse.)
  23. Pusha T – H.G.T.V. Freestyle (Dry beat, dry flow, ominous base, and that excellent rhyme “9 to 5 money is just as sweet as the grave shift / El presidenté, Blowbama, blow by ya /Chopper next to me in every picture, Osama”.)
  24. Klangstof – Hostage (Smooth. Ridiculously smooth.)
  25. Fekky, Giggs – Gossip (2016’s best siren/gunshot/cowbell grime tune.)
  26. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD” (It seemed too ambitious and convoluted at first, but the emotions that Bon Iver manage to evoke are simple and difficult to escape.)
  27. PARTYNEXTDOOR (feat. Drake ) – Come and See Me (Turns out that this year’s best Drake song was not made by Drake, although he did play his part in this relationship melodrama.)
  28. Lambchop – NIV (These alt country veterans deliver a surprisingly light and catchy gem with some brilliant synth hooks and unexpected auto tune.)
  29. Okkervil River – Okkervil River R.I.P. (What better way to return to form than with a lighter sound and an eulogy for your own band?)
  30. Peter Bjorn & John – Breakin’ Point (another lecture in pop song writing from my Swedish favourites.)
  31. Lee Fields & The Impressions – Never Be Another You (Lee Field’s old man soul continues to hit a nerve with his honesty, brilliant band and a voice that has lived.)
  32. Marlon Williams – Dark Child (Retro alt-country that makes the most of Marlon’s voice, an effortless croon that is difficult not to get caught up in.)

Don’t be ashamed or disgusted with yourselves

There was a festival Way Out West. It even had that name. I arrived by train. Late as always. My sister waiting at the wrong place. She’s only lived there for eight years or so. Stress was around me. The wheels of my black cabin bag that my mother gave me bombarded the cobble stones outside the station. Damp sweat in the humid evening. A quick hug, throw in my bag in the car. I told my sister to drive me to where The Radio Dept. and Warpaint were playing. It’s full she answered. Sweat on my forehead. I closed my fist. I downloaded the festival app on my sister’s phone. There I would be able to see the status of the queues to the various clubs that were part of the festival had.

“I threw up in an English garden”. The words from Destroyer’s ramblings in Bay of Pigs (Detail) came to me. I told my sister to drive to where Okkervil River and Destroyer played. I felt like a captain at sea; pointing towards new land. The app refused to install. We passed by the club where Warpaint would play. The queue was creeping around the entire city. More Converse All Stars that anyone had ever seen in one place.

We arrived at the white theatre where Okkervil River would start playing in five minutes. I ran out, screamed to my sister to stay in the car. She shook her head, looking at her distressed brother as I ran after indie pop concerts in her home town. Around the corner I realized that also here I would never be able to get in. There would be no Destroyer for me that night. Instead I saw my London favorite Chad Valley. He was only somewhat short of magical.

Today, in a post-holiday funk while setting up meetings, writing articles, booking flights to the city where I missed both Destroyer and Warpaint, I am overwhelmed by Destroyer’s 2011 album Kaputt. It took some time, but once you let the lush arrangements, the Sunday trumpets, the soft voices, and the long ramblings about Chinatowns and stories about people on the fringe of things, you don’t want to step out. Among people so far away from this office reality, I pretend, if only for a bit, that there is some connection between that world and I. That my recent holiday was a part of me and not something detached. Oh well.

Don’t be ashamed or disgusted with yourselves
Don’t be ashamed or disgusted with yourselves
Don’t be ashamed or disgusted with yourselves

Its just a life story so there’s no climax

First day, first morning commuter train, first early morning, first office coffee, first office with correct lighting. And when I come home I eat a meal that is too big, sign up for a gym that is too cheap. Sit in front of the computer going back 2007, falling to silence, falling into the questions. ‘Its just a life story so there’s no climax’ Okkervil River front singer Will Sheff belts out in a real kick as chorus in Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe from their fantastic 2007 album The Stage Names. ‘Hey I’ll watch it!’

Welcome to your new life, thank you, no problem, set your alarm, put on some old music, look back, close your eyes, wave goodbye.