Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Front Burner 2016

Here we are again with a list of the new albums on my "front burner" for the past year. I'm certainly making no claims to evaluating all the music that was released this year. I also spent quite a bit of time with music recorded before 2016 this year and, unfortunately, none of that is represented here. What follows is simply a list of the 16 releases of 2016 with which I spent the most time. It was a good year.

My 16 Favorite Albums of 2016:
1. Shearwater • Jet Plane & Oxbow (22 Jan)
2. Savages • Adore (22 Jan)
3. David Bowie • Blackstar (8 Jan)
4. Kate Tempest • Let Them Eat Chaos (7 Oct)
5. Eliot Sumner • Information (22 Jan)
6. Margaret Glaspy • Emotions & Math (17 Jun)
7. Frightened Rabbit • Painting of a Panic Attack (8 Apr)
8. Angelica Garcia • Medicine for Birds (30 Sep)
9. Agnes Obel • Citizen of Glass (21 Oct)
10. Trentemøller • Fixion (16 Sep)

11. Public Service Broadcasting • Live At Brixton (2 Dec)
12. Kate Bush • Before the Dawn (2 Dec)
13. The Tragically Hip • Man Machine Poem (16 Jun)
14. Tangents • Stateless (8 Jul)
15. Kid Canaveral • Faulty Inner Dialogue (29 Jul)
16. Glass Animals • How To Be A Human Being (26 Aug)

I'm trying something new this year and adding a Spotify playlist with two songs from each of the releases above. (The Kate Bush live album is a notable exception here, as this release is not in the Spotify library as of this post.) If you're even slightly curious about any of the albums in my Top 16, check this out: 

In some ways, the playlist brings me full circle regarding Front Burner mixes. As a handful of you already know, I've been sending out Front Burner mix CDs to interested friends throughout 2000-2010, and was still copying my personal mix by request after that.

Looking for more great music? 
For the past three years now, I have been honored to have my Top 10 records of the year posted among some other great year-end lists on the blog of my friend, Bret Helm: 

Bret does a great job with this blog and I wholeheartedly encourage you to check it out. The other lists at that link are just as worth a look and have certainly provided me with some great new music to explore. There's a Spotify playlist there, as well!

My Favorite Album of 2016:
Shearwater • Jet Plane and Oxbow

This was my most listened-to recording of the year. It came out in January, and really never got very far from my ears. (Although I've been scaling way back on my music purchases, I actually bought this gem on both vinyl and CD.) I've been a Shearwater fan for many years now and, honestly, they just seem to get better with each album. In the most confounding, volatile, and contentious year that America has seen in as long as I can remember, this is a protest record. A protest record of a very different stripe, though. Here's how Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg describes it:  
"My idea for 'Jet Plane and Oxbow' was to try to make a protest record that wasn’t dumb or preachy. The more grand or triumphant the songs sounded, the more conflicted the lyrics became, which I really liked. It reminded me of a breakup letter — the kind that’s furious and tender at the same time, because it’s written with love."

Two Very Honorable Mentions
David Bowie's 'Blackstar' album was released on his 69th birthday on January 8, 2016. On January 10, the news was released that Bowie had passed away following an 18-month battle with cancer. It seemed to catch everyone completely off guard. That fact alone would have made 'Blackstar' a special recording, but the album itself was excellent! Even recording while battling a fatal illness that had to be taking a toll on him physically and emotionally, the man created a work of art that easily stands among some of his best work. And it stands as a poignant farewell to his fans. 'Blackstar', the powerful Savages album, and 'Jet Plane and Oxbow' were all strong candidates for my #1 album thoughout the year. In my list, those top three are fairly easily interchangeable.

It turns out that Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg is also a big David Bowie fan. As they were heading out on tour for 'Jet Plane and Oxbow', the band managed to find the time to work up their version of not just a Bowie song or two, but the entirety of his 1979 'Lodger' album. Midway through the year, Shearwater had started a crowd sourcing fundraiser to offer 'Shearwater Plays Lodger' to fans. It's truly a labor of love, and makes it abundantly clear that there is a Bowie influence in Shearwater.