Monday, January 9, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2016

Apologies for the long layoff between posts, but the awful year that was 2016 had one more kick in the pants before saying so long. It's been a rough couple of weeks that included flying back to Illinois for a funeral that became funerals, followed by a nasty illness that picked off family members one by one. All of this meant forgoing some traditions here at LTL I normally anticipate and enjoy. There was no celebrating Mike Nesmith's birthday on Dec. 30. More importantly, for the first time since 1990, I didn't watch Big Country's New Year's Eve show from Barrowland, circa 1983, complete with post. Finally, I never got to compile my favorite albums of 2016. I know the last thing most of you want to do one week into 2017 is see another list, but please indulge me. I like to be able to look back on these things and see what I was into at the time. For example, just today I saw the Balconies had my No. 5 album in 2009. Had completely forgot about that one. OK, real quick like...

The High Llamas - 'Here Come the Rattling Trees'
Five years was a long time to wait for this one. Some fine moments, but not quite up to the standards of the rest of Sean O'
Hagan's discography.

Dexys - 'Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul'
'One Day I'm Going to Soar' was a miracle. This album of covers and standards is good but minor by comparison.

The First Six Out:
The Wedding Present - ' Going, Going...'
I never quite took to the first four songs. Otherwise, it would have been a cinch for my top 10.

ABC - 'The Lexicon of Love II'
The real hero here is Anne Dudley. Upon first listen, her arrangements literally gave me goosebumps.

Red Sleeping Beauty - 'Kristina'
The Swedes' first album in 19 years is a beautiful mix of pop and electronica.

Bubblegum Lemonade - 'The Great Leap Backward'
Laz makes a triumphant return to the Rickenbacker.

The Monkees - 'Good Times!'
Produced by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger and with songs written by a stable of stars including Rivers Cuomo and Andy Partridge. Could have been (should have been) a nightmare, but it really is a good time.

The Monochrome Set - 'Cosmonaut'
Heroes from my youth with two great albums the past two years. Didn't see that coming.

The Top 10
10. Le SuperHomard - 'Maple Key'
French band keeps the spirit of Stereolab alive.

9. Charles Bradley - 'Changes'
Nobody lays it all out there like Mr. Bradley. Respect.

8. David Bowie - 'Blackstar'
His best? No, but there are moments I would put right up there.

7. Community Radio - 'Look Now You're Cursed'
If you love indie pop, better tune in to this one. The first of three on this list from Australia.

6. The Holiday Crowd - 'The Holiday Crowd'
Thinking we may have similar record collections. Orange Juice are all over this one.

5. Real Numbers - 'Wordless Wonder'
Slumberland band reminds me of Expert Alterations. They were No. 5 last year.

4. Chook Race - 'Around the House'
The Swede wrote me five months ago... " I don't think an album could be any more 'you', without having your full name emblazoned across the cover in fluorescent ink." You were so right. Thanks for the recommendation.

3. The Goon Sax - 'Up to Anything'
My in was Robert Forster's teenage son, but I ended up liking James Harrison's songs just as much. I suspect if I was 30 years younger this would be my album of the year.

2. The Perfect English Weather - 'Isobar Blues'
Wendy and Simon Pickles of the Popguns turn it down just a little bit and end up rivaling their best work.

1. Pete Astor - 'Spilt Milk'
Indie-pop icon returns to his roots with help from James Hoare of dearly missed Veronica Falls. By far my most played album in 2016.


charity chic said...

Sorry for your losses Brian
An interesting list there - I'm off to check out Chook Race!

Judge Pop said...

Hi Brian - Sorry to hear about your difficult last few weeks. Such a terrible time of year for it to happen too.

Thanks so much for doing the list and putting us up there with teh great Pete Astor - who I saw play in the summer when I was playing a bit of guitar at a gig with The Fireworks; he was soooo good. Also plenty of other varied artists I know and some to check out too - Maple Key looks interesting.

Echorich said...

Very sorry to hear of your's and your family's losses. May 2017 bring some light into the darkness that was 2016.

I enjoy this list and, were it not for my planned reflective Bowie week, I would have uploaded my Albums list for 2016 as well....Sunday or Monday will see it appear. We cross paths a few times, as tends to happen.

Happy New Year to you and your's Brian!

friend of rachel worth said...

Hi Brian sorry to hear about your end of year. Some things to check out on the list

friend of rachel worth said...

Here are my top 30 in order if interested

The Swede said...

So sorry to hear of your dreadful festive period Brian - sending all good wishes to you and your family.
Both the Pete Astor and Goon Sax albums were in early drafts of my own rundown, but didn't quite make the cut in the end - each are mighty fine pieces of work though. A few titles here for me to investigate and/or revisit.

Brian said...

Thanks for the good wishes, everyone. Debbie and Carrie had nothing on my family. My grandmother passed away, and her sister went right after her 60 miles away. Nutty.

CC, As you would expect around here, lots of jangle with Chook Race. Good stuff. Hope you like it. I'm a little behind over at your place. I'll get caught up this week. Hope George hasn't been sticking it you too much.

Judge Pop, I usually do an album covers list, but I couldn't get to it this year. TPEW would have been No. 1 with a bullet. Sounds like no hard feelings on being No. 2 to Pete. Perhaps it helped you took the top spot with Pop Fiction in 2014. I'm kidding. I know nobody cares, but I have a thing for lists. Hope you're selling lots of albums. Happy New Year to the Pickles!

Echorich, Looking forward to seeing what you've cooked up. In the meantime, I'm enjoying your series on Bowie. Has it been a year already? Wow.

FORW, I signed up for Spotify just so I could see your list. Of your 30 picks, I only know 20 of them. Gotta do my homework, and listening to your mix will be two hours of bliss, I'm sure. Thanks for sending the link.

Swede, You introduced me to much more than Chook Race this year. It was a pleasure following your blog in 2016. If you keep posting, I'll keep reading.

Walter said...

Sorry as well to hear about your losses, Brian. It is a very interesting list and I have to investigate about some artists the next days. But Pete Astor is one of the best records last year for sure. I don't know why this record got on my personal rundown but it was worth to name it there.

MisterPrime said...

I must admit that Pete Astor album (glorious white vinyl too!) has had a lot of airplay around these parts! I'm going to send you an email just now that might amuse you too (or not...) Happy New Year.

C said...

A little late catching up here, Brian, but just wanted to add my condolences and so sorry to hear that you had such a rotten time all round over the festive season, what an end to what a year.
I know what you mean about Anne Dudley as mentioned re. ABC, always such great arrangements. For a second there, too, I thought our good friend and fellow blogger The Swede had been keeping quiet about an exciting recording venture of his own (before I noticed the placement of the apostrophe in your description of Red Sleeping Beauty)!
Happy New Year.

McPop said...

I'm very sorry for your losses and illnesses over the holidays.

Thanks for posting your top 10 list. Only 2 of the albums I'm familiar with and like both quite a bit, Real Numbers and Goon Sax. I will definitely check out others especially Pete Astor, Community Radio and Chook Race.

My favorites of 2016 include albums by Teenage Fanclub, Legal Matters, EZTV, Look Park, Cotton Mather, TUNS, Nada Surf, Posies, Jangle Band. I want to especially highlight "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away" by Erik Voeks who put out a great debut "Sandbox" in early 90's then went quiet for many years until he resurfaced a few years ago gradually releasing EPs and singles followed by the album this year. He is an outstanding power pop singer songwriter in the same vein as Tommy Keene, Michael Penn and Matthew Sweet. Check him out on bandcamp.

Brian said...

Walter, Thanks. I left a little note to you over at your place about your friend Heidi. Sorry for your loss as well.

C, That's really funny. I really should read my copy more closely before publishing. The Swedes'/The Swede's is quite confusing, and it never crossed my mind. Our pal the Swede did sound even more talented than we thought for a second there.

McPop, Thanks for your list. There are a couple here I too considered, but there are quite a few I missed completely. Last year you turned me on to EZTV. I wonder what will grab me this year? I'll let you know.

The Swede said...

Haha! I can't believe that none of you realised I have an established recording career - in my dreams! Really though, I just wanted to drop back and add a word of thanks to McPop for his recommendations - a few more for the list. I'm listening to Erik Voeks as I type - great stuff.

Brian said...

Beware of McPop's recommendations, Swede. He will get you to spend cash you don't have!

Rol said...

Definitely some to check out there. I reckon the Wedding Present album would have been much better if Gedge hadn't front-loaded those four tracks but mixed them into the running order.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brian.....

Really sorry to read of the dreadful time you had over the festive period. Feel bad that I haven't been over at your place (or indeed many other folks' places) this past two months.

Thanks again for all your amazing writing during 2016. You're by far the most enthusiastic and honest blogger out there - never afraid to tell if from the heart and you've a great talent for superb one-liners that are tucked away in the middle of sentences. The 'oh that's low' line in the Depeche Mode posting really made me laugh out loud.

Keep on keepin on in 2017. More power to your fingertips.

Brian said...

Thanks, JC. We're just all out here aspiring to do what you do. Yikes. I almost wrote "you're the inspiration," but then I remembered that horrible Chicago song.