- Cate Le Bon – ‘Wonderful’ (Crab Day)
Cate Le Bon released her best album yet in 2016, Crab Day. If the title Crab Day strikes you as odd and mysterious, well, try listening to the music. It’s just so…eccentric in a totally fascinating way. I don’t know what’s going on with this song, but I want to find out.
- Leonard Cohen – ‘You Want It Darker’ (You Want It Darker)
2016 had more than its fair share of music legend deaths, but for me the biggest (though not necessarily the saddest or most tragic) was Leonard Cohen. Cohen produced classic albums in every decade from the ’60s to the 2010s which is no mean feat.
The song title may be a reference to a looming death, but also refers to requests from fans to go even gloomier and I must say I have always had a desire for Leonard Cohen’s music to be darker. Leonard Cohen produced by Trent Reznor. THAT would be awesome.
- Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – ‘High Castle Rock’ (The Rarity of Experience)
Hey, do you like ’70s guitar rock jams? You dig that duel-guitar section in Television’s Marquee Moon? Well, have I got a track for you.
The Rarity of Experience was one of my favourite albums of 2016. It’s mainly instrumentals. It’s not really post-rock but it’s not wild lead guitar gymnastics either. Just good psychedelic rock jams.
- Frankie Cosmos – ‘Embody’ (Next Thing)
The best, strongest tunes from 2016 came from Frankie Cosmos. While Greta Kline’s brilliant studio debut album, Zentropy, went for 17 minutes, her follow-up Next Thing is a whopping 28 minutes. I seriously think it would have been better if it was shorter though because, like The Ramones, her skill, lyrically and melodically, is getting straight to the point. There’s no fat hanging off the bones here. The musical world of Frankie Cosmos is small, inward and economical. And I like that.
While Greta Kline does have a penchant for writing sad songs about the death of her pet dog, this song is about embodying grace and lightness which is passed on through love and friendship. So, yeah, it’s a little ray of sunshine.
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Distant Sky’ (Skeleton Tree)
One of the things I like about Nick Cave is that he works hard. He has his own office, apparently clocking in from 9 – 6 Monday to Saturday, leaving only the Lord’s day to rest. He’s not one to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. This disciplined work ethic has led to a consistent body of work spanning the decades. Only legends like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen have comparably impressive discographies. While musical trends come and go, Saint Nick continues to do what he does underneath it all. As Mark Kozelek name-checks in his recent song ‘Exodus‘, Nick Cave won’t stop moving, like “waves in the sea.”
While most of Skeleton Tree was written before the death of Nick’s son, Arthur, lyrics were added after this traumatic event and looms over every track. ‘Distant Sky’, a duet of sorts with Danish soprano Else Torp, is a devastating listen partly because of how the premise of the song is set-up. It begins with Nick taking his wife’s hand up to the heavens (“Call the gas man! Cut the power out! And we can set out for the distant sky.”) knowing that “soon the children will be rising. This is not for our eyes.” We will die, but our descendants will live on. The future is not for us but for our children.
But no. Half-way through the song he enters with a cruel cosmic betrayal: “They told us that our Gods would outlive us. But they lied.”
Skeleton Tree was the most deeply moving, potent album of 2016 and will go down as one of his best works.