As we wrap up 2016, it’s time to chime in with the obligatory favorites of the past year. Jumping right into the topic, here are the jams that rushed blood to my mind, made my limbs flail into the evening Autumn air, and helped me burn the midnight oil just a little longer than I should have. Enjoy!
- Quaker City Nighthawks (QCN), “Liberty Bell 7“: Holy S@#^! I love this Texas band who put a real swagger into their swamp rock boogie. Add to my New Year’s Resolution: See QCN up close and live in concert. Their 2014, “Fox In the Hen House,” is also a knock-out stomping tune!
- LCD Soundsystem @ ACL Fest 2016: I blew my chance to see James Murphy and company during a SXSW performance years ago but, as they say, things happen for a reason. I have became a massive fan during the intervening years leading up to this year’s ACL Fest. The best part of seeing LCD live for the first time was the privilege to see the band with my wife, Edith, and our children: nine-year old Manuel, eight-year old Carolina, and two year-old Tomás. They’ve become ardent fans since that October evening in this vibrant city where music defines us!
- Portugal. the Man, “Noise Pollution (Version A, Vocal Up Mix 1.3)”: Expectations are riding high (for me) for their upcoming album. They have serious shoes to fill after their previous collaboration with Danger Mouse on 2013’s magnanimous Evil Friends break-out album. If this single is any indication of what lies in store, PtM won’t disappoint die-hard fans.
- PJ Harvey – “The Wheel”: Eccentric and defiant yet uncompromising and appealing, PJ has become Alternative nobility after years of being at the forefront of the alt.rock scene.
- Leonard Cohen – “You Want it Darker”: Always a distant admirer of Cohen since 1992’s, The Future,” his final work would become the album to convert me into a serious fan. Pitchfork’s album review – just a couple weeks before his death – originally piqued my renewed interest. Packed with overtures of the final mile and employing his trademark poetic clarity, the thematic tales of finality become more relevant when my Mom suffered two strokes a few days later after its release. These are hard times: the intense theme by a deceased of a splendid poet on the eve of a tragic and shameful election only intensified my desolation and rawness. But it turns out Cohen’s album and these personal incidents were the tipping point for a creative revival. Exceptional music defines a person’s life, like tree rings, and Cohen’s final oeuvre masterfully encapsulates this personal period.
- Car Seat Headrest – “Fill In the Blank“: As mentioned awhile back on Facebook, I am showing up late to Will Toledo’s rock revivalist party. Finally, here is some indie spirit blaring away with sharp wit and keen lyrics. Focused on youthful themes of angst, insecurity, and awkwardness, Headrest’s universal insight is what makes rock and roll timeless and relevant, even to 48 year olds. Grab this indie treasure before the commercial world robs us of its eternal beauty.
- Japandroids – “Near to Wild Heart of Life”: This two-piece Canadian band has been one of my favorites of the decade, and 2017 will herald their return after a five-year hiatus. To top things off, Americana folk hero Townes Van Zandt is cited as one of the band’s latest influences going into the studio for this album. How do you like them apples!?
- Michaela Anne – “Where Will I Be”: This emerging folk heroine is an elegant and soulful tumbleweed in his tune about roaming the American landscape in pursuit of identity, home, and peace. You can smell the air she visits and see the majestic terrain, big sky, and piercing coldness where her endeavors deliver her.
As my boy would say, keep on rockin’ in the free world. See you in 2017.