The year is nearly done and dusted. Yeah, yeah, thank fuck for that and everything, but it’s not all been bad – and our Liz Buckley has chosen some excellent tunes to prove just that.
I think come this December I’ve have undergone every reaction possible to what’s unfolded in front of us in the last 12 months: horror, sadness, frustration, defeat. You’ll recognise this, you’ve felt it all too. But the grieving process pushes us forward and the greater the onslaught of public, personal, political and polemical blows, the more I started to tire of the communal fist-shaking at the concept of a ‘rogue year’.
Moreover, I then sank into thinking every year from now on was very clearly going to get worse, and we should probably look on 2016 as some sort of ‘no idea how lucky we were’ heyday; after all, we’re of an age where our heroes will continue to die off purely by virtue of being a generation older than us and it’s not like climate change is suddenly going to become super once Christmas is under our belt.
Then. Then I started to find it funny. The ridiculous earnestness that accompanies the wailing over our shared problems. And we’re all guilty of this, don’t get me wrong. So coming home from a gig one night last month, I saw my friend Joe’s brother define the mood of a (*beats hand-on-heart*) poignant photo with “hashtag 2016” and laughed myself hoarse. Relief, probably. Or hysteria. Mine and Joe’s periodic use of “hashtag 2016” since then is probably my favourite memory of #2016.
But that isn’t to say it’s all bad, mate. There are a million things still to be grateful for and I refuse to fall down. A dear friend was given between “a few months and 10 years” when he was diagnosed with cancer… some 10 years ago this July. So I hug August 2016 and every month thereafter for being a year in which we still have him.
We still have so many precious people, songs, animals, books, experiences to be grateful for, and as long as we have breath in our bodies, our friends at the bar, Johnny Marr on the radio, Adrian Edmondson on the stage and Iggy Pop at number one, it ain’t so bloody bad. (And if anyone tells me that to even dare mention people we love is somehow a jinx on them, that person alone will be the next to die.)
That said, it’s also been the year in which I asked Adam Clayton from U2 what he did for a living, so that’s keeping me up at nights. (#2016)
The Monkees – Me & Magdalena
Three of The Monkees are still alive, which is loads out of four, and they are back, BACK (I’ve gone a bit Smash Hits there, sorry) with one of the best albums of their career. In fact, even sadly-no-longer-with-us Davy Jones sings on a previously unissued/reworked track on their Good Times! record, so we get a full complement of Monkees on the new release, despite the obvious ‘dead’ drawback. The year 2016 will not defeat the Monkees!
Me & Magdalena was their 50th anniversary comeback single, written for them by Ben Giddard from Death Cab for Cutie, and is the sort of summery, jangly heart-soaring love letter you’ll want to listen to on repeat, well, for the next 50 years.
PJ Harvey – The Community of Hope
No year which features Polly Harvey can ever be a bad one, although I do remain perpetually furious that I’m not her. This year has been blessed with a whopping three London gigs proper from PJ Harvey so I grabbed all three by the hand and had a lovely time pretending for a few hours that everything is as great as she is.
I’m choosing The Community of Hope as my favourite track from her The Hope Six Demolition Project album, partly as I went to one of her Brixton shows with my friends Rory and Pandora, and their daughter bounces up and down to this track with sheer joyous abandon. Their daughter’s called Hope and we all need Hope right now.
It’s also fun because I never thought I’d hear Polly Harvey sing the word “shithole”, especially to a child.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
You think you’ve had a bad year? Well you can get to fuck, my friend, as whatever kind of a time you’re having, the Cave family have been through far worse. What’s astonishing is the Skeleton Tree album, which was a work in progress when Cave and his wife Susie’s son Arthur tragically died in 2015, has come to fruition to become one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching but hopeful albums you will hear this year.
In the film One More Time With Feeling that accompanied the release to spare the band the indignity of answering questions about their grief, the main message is one which ultimately says, it’s OK. They’re managing. The pair have made “a pact to be happy”, to not be beaten.
Their son Earl (Arthur’s twin) had final veto on all that was released. Warren Ellis, long term Cave co-writer and Bad Seed, looks after them with the kind of protectiveness that makes me wish we all had a Warren. Earl absentmindedly strokes his mother’s hair as they walk into the studio together to hear the finished results and it’s moments like that that let you know… they will be all right. So the least we can do is be all right too.
And I called out, I called out
Right across the sea
I called out, I called out
That nothing is for free
And it’s alright now
And it’s alright now
And it’s alright now…
Leonard Cohen – Leaving the Table
I know what you’re thinking. Leonard Cohen isn’t all right. He’s dead. But Leonard Cohen was massively OK with being dead; he kept saying so in interviews and lyrics, so I’m having to take his instruction on that.
This song made me bawl my eyes out on the train when I first heard it, as it was clearly him saying goodbye just weeks before he bowed out, and I still can’t listen to it without crying. So now I’m doing that to you. No problem.
Steve Mason – Planet Sizes
The lovely Beta Band’s Steve Mason came back with an album produced by the equally lovely Craig Potter from Elbow and as often happens when you pile up lovely things, there’s an amazing starburst in this track that makes me feel like my chest is opening. Steve Mason reminds you what it feels like to love. And what bigger recommendation is there than that?
Teenage Fanclub – I’m In Love
How best to use up my penultimate choice in a list of just seven tracks that also all have to be on Spotify, one wonders openly? I would certainly recommend 2016 albums by Savages and the Spiritualized side project Be (which includes sounds made by actual bees), and then Cate Le Bon and new country star Margo Price have also done sterling work and Thee Oh Sees’ brilliant new album came out in mid-November and is also something I nearly included.
The Lemon Twigs seem fun and I really enjoyed Tim Gane from Stereolab’s Cavern Of Anti-Matter record and recent Dingwalls gig. OK, I’ve cheated enough – as if this choice could ever be anyone other than Teenage Fanclub. And Teenage Fanclub singing “I’m in love” is everything you’d want it to be.
Iggy Pop – Paraguay
Iggy Pop, as I think I’ve previously established, is the world’s best person (solid fact, doesn’t need citation) and 2016 is the first time in his 17 studio album, five decade-spanning career when Iggy has had a solo number one record in the Billboard charts. *sets off streamers* God love 2016!
His album Post Pop Depression, which was recorded in the California desert alongside Dean Fertita and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Matt Helders from the Arctic Monkeys, has brought him new fans, young and old, countless awards and accolades and features in all the ‘Best of the Year’ charts.
The whole album is packed with new favourites but I woke up one morning a few weeks ago convinced I’d written an amazing riff in my sleep, only to realise it was in fact Iggy Pop’s Paraguay. Which made a lot more sense actually, as I can’t write songs. So I am choosing Paraguay as my choice as it’s the best song I wish I’d ever written.
This is also the year where Iggy Pop liked a photo of my cat Meep on Instagram, so I think we can all agree it’s a pretty special year actually.4987 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.