My Favorite Albums of 2016

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Another year gone by, another year filled with musical delights. We lost quite a few musical legends starting in December of 2015 – Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael to name just a few (and let’s not mention an overall list of artists who have left us in 2016). I lost my Aunt unexpectedly back in February the morning after attending a Black Sabbath show. The year was filled with unexpected highs and unexpected lows for me. As with anything in life, sometimes you have to feel bad to feel good (and vice versa). I made some friends, lost some friends, and reconnected with some old friends. Throughout it all, I had music playing. Here are my top albums of 2016:

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David Bowie – Blackstar

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Where were you when you found out David Bowie died? Seems like a dream or a hypothetical question, doesn’t it? Sitting on the couch last night, sipping on a drink while watching some old silent movies from 90 years ago (hipster alert!), I saw something come across my Facebook feed that seemed like a hoax – “David Bowie dead at age 69 after an 18 month battle with cancer”. I still couldn’t believe it. I waited an hour or so and checked again – confirmed as true. I couldn’t believe it. David Bowie seemed indestructible, and even odder – had released an album 2 days ago. My initial impressions “David Bowie ★ 1st impressions – I have enjoyed this record the 1st two times I’ve listened to it. Gratuitous sax is an apt description, but it fits the music well. My favorite Bowie album (by far) is Station to Station, and this one reminds me a bit of that one. Much better than The Next Day, but as far as modern Bowie goes I’d rate it below Earthling and Heathen. Some of my favorite Bowie lyrics “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” along with lyrics that I absolutely hate “Man, she punched me like a dude”. Happy 69th to David Jones aka David Bowie. A solid record.” In the context of David Bowie’s death, I’ve given Blackstar about a dozen more spins. And my perspective has changed.

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Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk

Here Come The Warm Jets

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Fresh off a stint in Roxy Music, Brian Eno began putting out futuristic and bleak solo records. Still a few years away from becoming the Godfather of Ambient, these early records featured vocals on almost all the tracks and are similar in feel to David Bowie’s 1976 to 1980 output (where he was assisted on 3 of those records by…Brian Eno). Sometimes overlooked in favor of his instrumental work, they are records that really fit the description of “ahead of its time”. 1974’s solo debut Here Come The Warm Jets has been described as “glammed up art-pop” which is as an apt of a description as I can think of. The nonsensical lyrics come to a fore in album standout Dead Finks Don’t Talk. Eno employed a free associative view to the lyrics, believing the vocals were just another instrument. ‘Finks is post-punk before punk even existed, avant-garde yet pop in structure. Eno even throws in a bit of an Elvis Presley impression at the 1:16 mark. An absolute highlight and a nice starting point for Brian Eno’s 40 years of solo work. Here Come The Warm Jets hit #26 on the UK charts and has been a consistent seller for Eno, since its release 40 years ago. In 2014 Brian Eno has already released 2 records and provided guest vocals on Damon Albarn’s record. We haven’t even talked about Eno’s career as record producer for some of the biggest names in music over the last 35 years. Perhaps another time. Until then, here’s where it all starts. “Oh cheeky cheeky / Oh naughty sneaky / You’re so perceptive and I wonder how you knew”

A Geek’s Guide to Music in 2013

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Another year gone by too quickly. Nothing left to do but try and recount all the great music releases of 2013. We saw the return of David Bowie, (3) new Mark Kozelek records, band reunions, and high-profile hip-hop releases. We also saw people upset with Miley Cyrus quite a bit and while I don’t enjoy her music I thought that the controversies were overblown. I was really looking forward to the new Eminem record but ended up liking only a few songs. Kanye West’s new record didn’t really do anything for me and I couldn’t get into the long-awaited My Bloody Valentine. My list is lacking some of those albums that are on other sites – some of them I didn’t dig all that much and some of them I just didn’t replay very much.What can I say? I march to my own beat. On the flip side, I loved every Mark Kozelek related album, discovered a few gems, and rocked out to Black Sabbath. So here’s a look at 50 music releases from 2013 that I played over and over again. I’ll see you in about a week with the 1st article of 2014.

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Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

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2013 is proving to be an amazing year for the return of artists who first rose to fame in previous decades. For electronic tinged music, this is especially so. Earlier this year we saw the unexpected return of David Bowie, with a strong album that brought to mind his “Berlin Trilogy” musically and visually (that cropped cover of the Heroes album is a conversation starter). The Pet Shop Boys followed suit a few months later by delivering their strongest album in years, a hard-hitting, beat heavy masterpiece. It only figures that with the 70’s and 80’s represented this year, the final part of the trilogy would be filled with a band who really took off in the 90’s, Nine Inch Nails.

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The Pretty Things – Loneliest Person

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The Pretty Things unfairly owe a bit of their fame to associations – bassist Dick Taylor was the original bassist for The Rolling Stones and David Bowie covered two gems by The Pretty Things for his 1973 covers record, Pin Ups. A shame they aren’t more of a household name – each of their albums from across their career offer up highlights that most bands would die for. 1968 saw the band releasing the very first Rock Opera with their S.F. Sorrow album – released a full year before The Who’s Tommy. As with most story based rock albums, the details can get a little confusing over the course of a record (though the gaps in the story were printed in the albums liner notes by way of paragraph like chapters). The story is very sad, involving a young man named Sebastian F. Sorrow whose dreams and aspirations do not turn out as planned. The album’s closing track, “Loneliest Person” is an acoustic masterpiece that just may be one of the saddest songs ever recorded. Phil May’s vocals are simply perfect, allowing the listener to empathize with the character’s plight by tapping into the universal feeling of wanting to be loved. Haven’t we all felt like S.F. Sorrow at some point? The track was released in 1969 as the flip side of “Baron Saturday”, also taken from the S.F. Sorrow album. The lyrics are simple but to the point, the chorus laying it all out there: “Yes, you might be the loneliest person in the world / You’ll never be as lonely as me”

David Bowie – Station to Station

Part 16 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

1997 was a very strange year. The wave of bands playing an updated version of Britpop was coming to a close, signaled by the 1-2 punch of “D’You Know What I Mean” by Oasis and “Song 2” by Blur. The Cure jumped onto the electronica bandwagon (a media term for rock bands who dabbled in electronic music) with the release of “Wrong Number”. Personally, I was also recovering from the brilliance of the movie Muppets Treasure Island. In the midst of all these things, MTV was playing a video for a song by David Bowie called “Little Wonder”.

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