As previously touched on, 2016 had me spinning wheels trying to get back to the past for most of its duration. As such, I spent most of it listening to songs I loved in 2006. But there were a few songs and albums that helped me sit still in the present for a little while last year, and reminded me there are things to look forward to in the future as well. Now that we’re 14 days into 2017 I thought I’d share some tunes (in alphabetical order) that made me love 2016.
Bastille – Fake It
Bastille grabbed my attention immediately when I saw them open for Muse in Coventry in May of 2013, and unlike a lot of new bands that catch my often short-spanned interest, they’ve kept it ever since. Their sophomore effort, Wild World, has been in my rotation ever since it dropped, and this song is often the one I jump to first. Fake It has basically been my anthem as I struggle to pretend I belong in a job I’m entirely not cut out for, and convince myself to stop constantly clawing for the door back to 2005. At the same time it’s simply a fabulous song that makes me thankful I’m still paying enough attention to new music to have noticed Bastille in the first place.
Tom Chaplin – Cheating Death
My most anticipated album of 2016 — and for that matter ever since my dear Keane parted ways at the end of 2013 — was Tom Chaplin’s solo debut, and when it finally came, it most definitely did not let me down. I’ve long known how special Chaplin’s voice is — he’s probably the best live vocalist I have ever seen — and his songwriting ability is now apparent as well. It’s been a bit bittersweet since I, selfishly perhaps, miss Keane more than I can express, but The Wave stands on its own as a treasure in my musical journey. All four of Keane’s LPs landed in perfect step with momentous points in my former career, so it seems just right that Chaplin’s new chapter landed right when I’m trying to start one as well. I have several favorites on The Wave — it runs up and down the whole spectrum of emotion as it chronicles his battle with addiction — but bonus track Cheating Death has especially been both cathartic and encouraging for me.
House of Wolves – Oh You Little One
Several years ago, on obtaining my first smart phone, I went through a short phase where I tried the exploratory frontier of Pandora instead of exclusively clinging to the same five bands’ catalogs. The one great discovery to come of that was a band called The Coral Sea, whose elegant and relatable melancholy I kept listening to for years. Last year I was thrilled to discover the songwriter responsible for it, Rey Villalobos, was still writing songs under his own name (which translates into “house of wolves”). Last year’s self-titled release House Of Wolves is exquisite front to back and was easily one of my favorite albums of 2016. I could have picked any song on it, but Oh My Little One has a particular hold on me, stirring my sense of fragility and strength all at once.
Keane – Tear Up This Town
In a year Keane fans were kept busy riding The Wave or waiting for news from Mt. Desolation, most of us didn’t see it coming when our old friends briefly flashed back into our lives with this unexpected gem penned for the film A Monster Calls. Just when I was coming to terms — or trying ineffectively to do so — with life without the band that’s essentially been a magic feather for me, it was nice to have a little dose of sound that’s distinctively Keane. I hope it won’t be their last, and don’t expect it will, but if it is, at least I got one last run with the thrill of a new song from one of my oldest favorites.
The Last Shadow Puppets – Sweet Dreams, TN
After seven years in absentia, Alex Turner and Miles Kane’s second carnation of The Last Shadow Puppets could have gone in any of several directions, and first offering Bad Habits didn’t leave me feeling like it was going to be up. But when the whole package came, Everything You’ve Come To Expect far outdid its own title for me. It had all the strings and swagger of the duo’s debut, but with enough new direction to avoid any redundancy. My instant favorite was the power-crooned Sweet Dream, TN, which sounds like a twisted Roy Orbison tune and showcases what a top-notch vocalist Alex Turner has matured into. One of my few disappointments of 2016 was never getting the chance to hear this live (I could have if I’d run a little faster through the streets of Manhattan, but that’s another story for another day), but fortunately there’s always YouTube.
Chris Martin – Hymn For The Weekend (acoustic performance on Conan)
Coldplay’s Hymn For The Weekend owns credit for one of the more dramatic changes of heart I’ve ever had about a song — I didn’t much care for it on first listen in 2015, but it so took over my mind, body and soul as to become one of my most-listened-to tunes in 2016. Chris Martin’s stripped-down acoustic version of the song, on the other hand, took no time at all to slug me wherever feelings come from. It might be cheating to include this on a “songs of 2016” list, but I felt it carries a life of its own outside the studio version, bringing the song’s emotional side to the surface and letting Martin’s vocals especially shine in an occasion he isn’t bouncing through a full aerobic workout while singing it.
The National – Find A Way
Since I already just shirked the logical standards for a end-of-year blog post as far as release dates are concerned, I might as well just include this unreleased beauty. The National debuted this song — which might be called Find A Way and might appear on some sort of release maybe this year — at one of the few shows they played last summer, which I was fortunate enough to bear witness to. It’s The National at their rainy-day best, and if it’s any indicator of what’s to come this year, it’s a 2016 memory that I’ll likely be able to jam into a 2017 listicle as well.