In the two thousand and sixteenth year of our Lord I listened to a lot of music; live, digital, vinyl, cassette and in our basement, not sure if that’s alive or not some days.
2016 saw the store that I work at, Record Collectors Paradise, celebrate a year of existence. And it was a very good year. We made lots of friends in the Edmonton, and international, music community. I was privileged to listen to a lot of great music in the store, one of the perks of working there; and the opportunity to take some choice pieces of vinyl home as the fruits of my labour. Bruce Romaniuk, the owner, is one of the best men I have ever worked for. Thanks for a very good year Bruce.
I didn’t just spin records, I also had the privilege of listening to a lot of really good live music. Edmonton seems to have had a resurgence in the live scene with new venues like “The Needle Vinyl Tavern” bringing in some great acts and established venues such as the Winspear continuing their tradition of great music. It was also the year that I got to hear my son Joel lead a band of his own and listen with pride as they did their first gig. It was worth the sacrifice of turning our basement into a recording studio and practice space. I hope the best for “The New Romancers” in 2017 and who knows, perhaps we can jam on “Alone and Forsaken” some day.
Having rambled on it is time to get to the list. I don’t do best of lists, or top ten, or play favourites. I am making a list, that I have checked twice; and listened to more than twice. But that is all it is, a list. In no particular order: Peter Gabriel and Sting live at the Northlands Coliseum. I have been listening to Peter Gabriel since the mid 70’s and to see him play live was a total blast. He doesn’t just play a show, he presents a show. He works the stage, the audience and the band and it all comes together in a spectacle that amazed and left me wanting more. Sting was an admirable showman but I never gravitated to his music in the same way as I did to Gabriel’s. An A+ show, the sound was probably the best I have ever heard in that venue.
We had the privilege of seeing an up and coming band perform songs from their new album the day before the official release. The band was Whitney and they played on a double bill with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who were the band that I actually paid to see; but I left with a deep appreciation for both bands. The Unknown Mortal Orchestra put on an amazing show with superhuman use of their instruments, they worked hard and I loved the show. But Whitney surprised me. I didn’t know anything about them until that night and now they are the sweethearts of Indie rock, and rightly so since they have worked hard and crafted a superb album.
Speaking of surprises, “Who the f#ck is Sturgill Simpson” is a buzz word now after his nomination for a Grammy, album of the year no less. It surprised a lot of people, but not me. I had been listening to him for a while, this is actually his third album and my second favourite. I actually like “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” more than “A Sailors Guide To Earth”, although it is a good album and fully deserves to be recognised as such. Having said all that; he puts on a damn fine show. Sturgill Simpson leads a tight band that knows how to rock, how to stroll, how to do R&B, and how to croon philosophy and make it sound like a foot stomping country ode. Despite a dreadful venue with shitty sound and a drunken obnoxious crowd, they put on a great show that makes me want to see him in a proper show hall such as the Winspear or the Jube. Won’t you please come back, Sturgill?
Speaking of country music, we got to see Corb Lund at the Jubilee Auditorium in February and that was a rollicking rocking affair. I have seen Corb Lund perform numerous times and have all his albums so there were no surprises awaiting me, he delivered exactly what I expected, a solid show that had us tapping our toes and singing along. The surprise of the evening came in the form of a one-off song by Geoff Berner, a sometimes singing companion of Corb Lund and company, and their rendition of “That’s What Keeps The Rent Down Baby”. Well played gentlemen, well played. After the show, there was the usual meet and greet and Corb graciously signed a business card from Record Collectors Paradise, it was a good evening.
Another Canadian act that impressed me in 2016 was The Strumbellas and their album “Hope”. We got to see them perform live and they are a great show band. They engage with the crowd, they banter casually and effortlessly and then launch into heartfelt occasionally raucous tunes. They do Canada proud.
Another Canadian band, it was a good year for us, that impressed me with a stellar album was BadBadNotGood and their album IV. I had listened to them previously but this album put a cap on it. A great listen, better on vinyl and big speakers because there is a lot going on and you don’t want to miss it.
Another album that has a lot going on and deserves more than one listen is “Skeleton Tree” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. We went to the premier of the movie that documented the process of recording this album and it tugged at my heart strings, it moved me in my spirit and it made me stop and think. And then I listened to the album in the quiet of my home and it did all those things again. Powerful music from a man that I consider one of the true geniuses of music and lyrics. Spiritual, provocative, humble, moving, thought provoking and at times even bordering on rock and roll. This is not just a record, it is a statement.
And another statement, David Bowie and “Blackstar”. A few days after the album was released we found out what he was trying to tell us.
A few other gems that I listened to in 2016 were “Awaken, My Love” by Childish Gambino. This album was a departure from his previous material so don’t put off buying based on that. It moves into whole new areas and Donald Glover proves himself a master of R&B grooves and catchy hooks. A really solid listen.
Emeli Sande delivered “Long Live The Angels”, the follow up to her amazing first album “Our Version of Events”, hard to believe that they were four years apart. The wait was worth it in my opinion as she delivers a really tight and moving album.
Another act from the British Isles, Emeli Sande is from Scotland, is Slowly Rolling Camera and their album “All Things”; caught my ear this year. It is soulful, energetic and fresh. A new take on some songs that sound old beyond their years. That doesn’t make much sense; they sound good, that makes sense.
Glass Animals, “How to Be a Human Being” where a late addition to my list thanks to Joel’s addition of their album to our collection. Prior to listening to the album in our basement, I had never heard of them, but I thoroughly enjoy them now.
I enjoyed Ksenija Sidorova on the accordion at the Winspear with Bill Eddins and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. There were moments during her performance that I was lost in the music. A wonderful place to be.
To the left is a photo of us with The Zolas, a great band that we got to see three times this year and hope to see again.
And last but not least on my playlist of 2016, Syd Arthur “Apricity”. I got into Syd Arthur through remixes that they titled “A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble”, gotta love that title. They are a progressive psychedelic jazz band that harkens back to Pink Floyd, King Crimson and that whole scene. A modern take with a freshness that is good to hear.
Speaking of Pink Floyd, a nice segue there, I have chosen them as my band of renown for the release of their previous material in the package “The Early Years 1965-1972”. I look forward to seeing Roger Waters in 2017 so check back to this blog in 12 months to see my review. Until then, it’s been a very good year and I look forward to dancing into 2017 with music both old and new, cheers my friends.