Three times during 2016 my breakfast was sliced through by shock news. Once in January when David Bowie died just two days after releasing `Blackstar`. Once in June when the result of the EU Referendum turned out to be to leave which I was certain it wouldn’t be. Once in November when the US Presidential Election was won by Donald Trump. Had these been the only shocks of the year then it wouldn’t have been quite so bad, terrible though these things were on different levels. However they are merely snapshots that show what a turbulent dog of a year it’s been. Personally, professionally, politically I can’t recall a time when things seemed so adrift and out of my control or my reach. It reminds me of being a teenager when everything is scary or strange and nothing seems to be possible. Adult life teaches you that of course it often is. Yet now all the ideas I had about the country and the world have turned on their head and I have no idea about anything. Oh and lots of icons from my past are dying while my friends and I sit and talk about our ageing parents and austerity rather than anything more fun. It’s grim enough to be a black farce only where’s the jokes?
Course 2016 has also been the year of Pokemon Go which seemed to cheer people up as well as the resurgence of physical media (vinyl, books) and apparently sprouts. For some the appearance of a new iPhone is enough to cheer them through any adverisity and I admire their boundless optimism. Yet for everything we’re given look at what we’ve lost. I’m not going to run through the grim list but whether or not there are more than usual the difference has been how beloved a lot of these people were which is more than just being a celebrity. These were people in different fields whose loss really did mean something to generations from the 60s, 70s and 80s. OK some were fairly old and had been unwell yet coming in such a cluster does unsettle however much cynical hard hearted people looking from the sidelines might care to differ. It feels like a final obliteration of your past even though we know everyone dies.
I can’t talk about work and I won’t talk about my personal situation but suffice to say both currently match the dark edge that 2016 has drawn around us. It almost makes the phrase Happy New Year seem redundant because we know it’s just not going to be is it? I think recent generations have grown up with the idea that things will get better yet when the social framework starts to crumble how can we be sure?
Admittedly we’re not a war torn decaying nation, yet there is a sense that a combination of circumstances is pulling at the threads that have seemed to bind us together till now. Or did those threads even exist?
It’s an odd time to be blogging because on the one hand you want to address these things yet on the other who wants to read an endless string of moaning depressing posts? I have been tempted to end this blog several times during 2016 so flabbergasted have I been at the turn of events yet increasingly it feels like to have a platform like this, however small by comparison to many, is a value in itself. So I’ve signed a new contract in my head to continue with it in 2017. Unless of course things get so crazy mad that the Internet is disconnected and in twelve months time we’re all living on nuts and berries.
To lighten the load of this final post of the year, I thought I’d do that thing and list my top albums of the year …
Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam- I Had A Dream That You Were Mine
Former Vampire Weekend genius in new collaboration that is earthier than his old group yet still kissed with sonic greatness.
Field Music- Commontime Tight, taut and perfectly formed I’ve always liked Field Music but now they’re inspirations are less obvious and they’ve come up with their best album to date.
The Dowling Poole- One Hyde Park The collision between prog and new wave deliver a second album of acerbic observation wrapped up in lovely tunes.
Beyonce- Lemonade One of the greatest singles artists makes a real album sort of album. Musically diverse and often bitter and hurt `Lemonade` is the sound of greateness. Then again even `Crazy in Love` is a bit odd isn’t it?
Metronomy- Summer 08 Bonsai pop!
Laura Mvula- The Dreaming Room An amazing voice and angular tunes for the brilliant second album.
Onerepublic – Oh My My Moregeous tunes across an hour. Any of these 16 tracks could be a huge hit, it’s like listening to a greatest hits album and all their albums are like this. In a year like this pop music suddenly seems even more important and `Better` feels like the anthem for 2016.
David Bowie – Blackstar Of course.
So then all that remains is for me to wish everyone a year that exceeds your expectations. Wouldn't that be good?