And the years roll on. We have closed the fifth year of this blog yesterday with the top 10 of the most views of 2016, so it is time to bare the bottom so to say and publish my favourite 10 records of 2016, but not before I wish all the readers a great 2017. May all your (musical) dreams come true.
2016 was a year that brought some great and some fantastic records. I had expected to have a giant struggle to come up with just ten records, but to my surprise that wasn't hard at all. Only between the number 10 and 11 it was hard.
You will see that the proportion records from my home country is incredibly high. I don't think that I've ever had this high a score in my year list. Six out of ten, not the number 1 position though, is a lot. Even in the runners up there still Dutch records to be found. Like 'Jupiter, part 1' by Blaudzun that came very close. A great year for NL music or as I wrote somewhere am I getting more patriotic? No, not by acquiring or listening to music. They simply really stick out.
There's one album that I would like to focus on specifically. Technically it's a re-issue, but it also sort of is not, as these songs were never together on an album before. 'X-Features' by New Zealand, circa 1980 punkers, Features is an album to check out if punk is your thing.
I'm sorry to say that 'Dearestly' by Lauren Mann became that number 11. A lovely record, with a great pop feel and many well-sung songs. It is just that I like this one just a little better.
Every album by Shane Alexander is good, but not a single one convinced me as a whole like Bliss does. On Bliss he presents a mix of songwriting skills with a deeper level of emotion. Owning his own recording studio may have given that little extra push of being able of working at a song just this little longer as the bill is only running on himself, not the studio. With 'Heart Of California' as the centre piece of a well-balanced album full of introspective ballads and mildly rocking songs. Bliss is a winner deserving a lot of attention.
9. Fading Lines. Amber Arcades
A fading face on the cover of Fading Lines. Amber Arcades or Annelotte de Graaf, came up with a perfect debut album, after tickling the world first with an EP. Based on a mild form of psychedelia Amber Arcades takes us on a trip through indie and alternative rock songs as light as a feather due to her ethereal voice. It seems that Ms. De Graaf took the right decision to quit her day job and migrate to the evenings.
8. O. De Staat
With its fourth album De Staat finally makes it in my end of year list. Although I'm following the band live ever since its second album, it seemed the band was not able to really catch its live energy on record in a way that makes the record exceptional. With O that problem is solved. O bounces, jumps, kicks, sparkles and what not, in all the right places. Torre Florim and his men have produced a perfect mix of rock, dance, hip hop rhythms, metal and a dash of pop. And one of the most beautiful covers of the year, although mine has been customised at one of the shows.
A supporting slot can lead to a spot in an end of year list. I would never have heard of The Avonden had I not attended the show of I Am Oak in November. The Avonden played a great show with its short, somewhat weirdly lyriced songs. The Ramones without the punk as far as the length of the songs were concerned. The Velvet Underground without the madness of John Cale, but with the otherwordly worldviews of Marc van der Holst. All this is captured beautifully on the band's second album.
6. Blue & Lonesome. The Rolling Stones
How surprised the world is with this new album by this band that is around since 1962 has been noted enough. I am just surprised by the joy of playing caught on this album full of blues covers. Songs from the 50s and early 60s when the band was in its defining years, before it found its own voice. By sticking to the original sound captured with all the modern tools available, The Rolling Stones avoided the biggest trap in front of them. It's original and not modern blues, with a star role for Mick Jagger on harmonica and his singing. All else is played in his honour it seems.
Was there ever an album by two acts that blended together so perfectly? I honestly do not know. Rats on Rafts and De Kift augment their respective songs in a great way. Both are more alive than in the original recordings, which each have its distinct qualities. Rats on Rafts injects its noise guitar and rhythms into De Kift's songs while De Kift throws in its exuberance and its melancholy version of life at the same time. What comes out is a simply superb album.
Should anyone care to ask, I'd answer that I don't like country songs. I've learned by now that old habits die hard. I just love Karen Jonas' music and voice. With Country Songs she takes her act to a higher level, which ought to result in a sort of breakthrough to a larger audience. It doesn't come much better than this in the music she plays. With her sidekick Tim Bray on guitar duties Country Songs is full of life, looked at from all sides. From happy to sad and just what it is, life comes by in all its facets. Brought to life by the woman with the best voice in country and things that lie close to it today.
Elenne May must be the act with the most posts this year on this blog. Three EPs and two live shows, but no review of the whole album. Perhaps I'll do one later, but everything has been said. Together Veggie Patch makes a beautiful album that I have played a lot since its October release. Adorned with a beautiful cover, i.e. all three beautiful covers, Elenne May's album shows what this band is capable of, which is a lot. Mysterious songs take a hold of me and play themselves out with lots of atmosphere and making use of silences where ever possible and necessary. This is the cover with which the adventure started. Blindfolded like I was at the time, unfamiliar with the beauty that was to follow in 2016. But Veggie Patch In The Desert is not the best Dutch album of 2016....
Meet Carol van Dyk and her "Mini Me". In any other year this album would have been on the number 1 spot, but not this year. Damaged Good sums up everything Bettie Serveert is good at. Indie or alternative rock, mixed with a little experiment here and there and Carol van Dyk. From the very start the songs tell it all and go at full speed. 25 Years in the business and still going this strong, is not something a lot of bands can brag about. Bettie Serveert can and quite rightly so.
★. David Bowie
Well, what to say? Perhaps it's better to say nothing and just bow my head for Blackstar and the career of David Bowie. If you do not get this album, you're missing one of the musical adventures of a lifetime.