I bought a lot of music this year, but there can only be 10 in the top 10. And that’s coming on Friday…so for tonight, I’m going to post the “also-rans.” The albums that either don’t *quite* make the top ten…or that don’t come anywhere close…or were ineligible for one reason or another…or whatever. And also a few other things… There’s a lot to write about, so let’s get right to it.
To start with, the “Bottom Ten” are what would be on the list if I’d done 20. So basically entries 11-20. And here they are! (I’ll comment on these, but not on a lot of the rest.)
The Bottom Ten of 2016:
11. Gord Downie – The Secret Path
Gord Downie is the lead singer of the Tragically Hip (spoiler alert–you’ll hear about them again on Friday). I’d be lying if I said I was a fan of either The Hip or Gord solo before finding out earlier in the year that Gord is suffering from inoperable brain cancer. On hearing that news, I realized I’d been missing out, and I got in. I’m glad I get to celebrate his work while he’s still with us. “The Secret Path” is a beautiful concept record about the life/death of Chanie (aka “Charlie”) Wenjack, a First Nations boy who fled his residential school in Canada, trying to get home, and died in the process. It was one of the first events to ever really get Canada thinking about the need for reparations with their First Nations population, and Gord has been a big supporter of that cause in recent years. I learned a lot from it, and the music is just lovely, even when it’s sad. Just BARELY missed the top ten. It was a VERY hard decision to keep it out.
12. Nice As Fuck – Nice As Fuck
Another one that was really hard to cut from the top ten. And if you’d told me it’d be in the bottom ten even 2-3 months ago, I’d have thought you were nuts. Great album of protest songs, led by Rilo Kiley alum Jenny Lewis. Fun and topical. Nothing not-to-love about this one.
13. Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
It is incredibly stupid how hard I had to check my spelling on those two made up words. And also the Descendents misspell “descendants,” too. For being fronted by a doctorate level scientist, those guys sure don’t know their asses from their elbows… Anyway… It’s a punk album by one of my favorite punk bands, and it sounds just like them. 🙂
14. Eric Clapton – I Still Do
Indeed he does. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one. It has been touted as potentially Clapton’s final album (although I doubt that) so based on that alone, I picked it up. It’s said that a siren sings its sweetest right before it dies–it’s where we get the term “siren song.” While saying this is the sweetest thing Clapton’s ever done is a pretty big overstatement, it is very definitely the sweetest I’ve heard since “From the Cradle.” It’d be a decent one to go out on. But I hope he doesn’t.
15. Metallica – Hardwired…to Self-Destruct
Bad title. Decent album. It’s not their best and it suffers from the “Justice” syndrome–the bass guitar is barely there at best…and Lars’ kick drum is apparently the most important thing in the mix, since it’s right on top… But, terrible mix aside, the songs are pretty solid. Even though I’m only talking about the negatives, I really do like it more than I liked a lot of stuff this year.
16. Hayes Carll – Lovers & Leavers
Probably the most intimate and personal record we’re likely to get out of Carll. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and this album is a different side of him, but it’s a welcome one. It’s a deep listen, and if I had let it get its hooks in a little deeper, it very well may have hit the top ten. Grows on me a little more each time I put it on.
17. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
I’ve been impressed with everything Bob’s done since “Silver Age” a few records back. This is more of the same.
The Concrete Confessional – Not quite as good as their previous record, but it’s good, fast, hardcore heavy metal. Makes you want to put all ten middle fingers in the air and scream along.
19. Billy Talent – Afraid of Heights
This album suffers a little from the band not having their regular drummer with them. The band sounds a little distracted by that…but when a guy’s MS flares up, he’s got to sit it out. With all the best wishes for recovery and return to the band, the group soldiered on and released an album that while haunted by absence, still delivers some strong hooks.
20. Wilco – Schmilco
By FAR the album title of the year. Nice return to the rootsy side of Wilco. At the same time, I wouldn’t necessarily call any of it “catchy.” But it is a good listen and a very welcome return to form for us long-timers.
…and now a brief list of the stuff that didn’t even come close, with significantly less commentary, except for on this first thing.
Disappointment of the Year: Anthrax – For All Kings.
It’s not a BAD album. In fact, it’s a very good metal album. But it’s not an Anthrax album. There’s no FUN in this band anymore. Scott Ian has gotten so wrapped up in proving that his band “deserves” to hang with the bad boys of metal that he doesn’t realize he’s got NOTHING to prove. And that’s sad. I didn’t fully realize that until I saw the video for “Blood Eagle Wings” which depicts torture and gore in a way they’ve never even approached before–it’s been pulled off of a lot of media sites for being too visually graphic, and that’s JUST not like them. They’ve gone down a path I don’t really want to follow anymore. If I want Slayer, I’ll listen to Slayer. Lyrics like “Zero tolerance for extremism – in the name of religion. Zero tolerance for racial hate – no police state. Zero tolerance for politicians – on the left and the right. Zero tolerance for killing children – what would your god say to that motherfuckers?” I don’t expect my favorite bands to share my religious views or whatever…but what the fuck is the band that wrote “I’m the Man” doing pretending they speak for the atheist moral majority? I like a lot of the music…but I’ve got enough of a problem with who Anthrax has become that I just don’t want to listen to it. That’s very disappointing.
Other Stuff I Bought:
(In no particular order)
- Against Me – Shape Shift With Me – Didn’t live up to their previous one, but I don’t think it could have.
- The Jelly Jam – Profit – Liked it, didn’t love it.
- Iggy Pop – Post-Pop Depression – Sounds like he was working with Josh Homme…and he was. Pity I’ve found Homme’s work plodding and boring since “Songs for the Deaf.” Made me sleepy.
- The Head and the Heart – Signs of Light – Decent background music.
- Cheap Trick – Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello! – Okay, not great.
- Conrad Keeley – Original Machines – Also okay, not great.
- Andrew Bird – Are You Serious – Listened to it a couple times…and that was enough. Not bad, but not my cup of tea.
- Lazarus Soundtrack – Ineligible because it’s a soundtrack and it’s mostly recycled Bowie songs…but I really did love it. Would have been in the top ten, if it’d been eligible.
- Rufus Wainwright – Take All My Loves – Again ineligible because it’s mostly recycled material…but it’s lovely, and I’m proud of him for finally writing his opera.
Stuff I Missed (But Plan to Get to Later):
- Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
- Norma Jean – Polar Similar
- Thrice – To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere
- Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night
- The Monkees – Good Times
Bands I Got Into This Year (Who Didn’t Have New Records):
- The Tragically Hip
- My Morning Jacket’s pre-Evil Urges material
- Ryan Adams
- Porcupine Tree
- Steven Wilson (who I already LIKED, but I had no idea how much)
- Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet
- Solo Paul McCartney (which I was of course already AWARE of, but I didn’t own any until now)
Concerts I Attended:
- Brian Wilson
- The Who
- Nick Lowe
…and that’s it for this post. This was the LONG one. The Top Ten on Friday will be much more concise and only list those ten records. Thanks for taking the time to get to here, if you did. 🙂
And for the record, on the concerts, Brian Wilson and The Who are a dead split for my favorite show of the year. The Brian Wilson show was a TON of fun and I loved hearing all of “Pet Sounds” live…but The Who is The FUCKING WHO.
See you in a couple days. Until then…buy some of that stuff.