The idea that 2016 sucked is a full-blown meme at this point, but the sentiment makes a lot of sense.
Terror attacks devastated Paris and Orlando, civilian children are being killed daily in Aleppo and the U.S. presidential election was a mean-spirited wallow in tribal politics even before it became apparent it was heavily influenced by foreign governments and fake news.
The music world didn’t offer much respite. Quite a few brilliant artists were lost this year, including David Bowie, Phife Dog, Sharon Jones and Leonard Cohen.
Music junkies around the world suffered a kick to the ribs that mostly flew under the radar.
In late November, invite-only music sharing website What.CD came to an end after a server was raided by authorities. Over nearly a decade of existence, What.CD had become the standard-bearer for music trackers, and in the wake of its demise, a lot of former users wondered if it had hosted the most expansive and meticulously mapped library of music ever collected.
Safe to say no one is going to pull a young Jeff Tweedy and demand to have their memories of 2016 restored.
On a positive note, the strength of the music released this year offers quite a bit of redemption for 2016.
In my opinion the year lacked an obvious standout album, but there were so, so many good albums that came out this year I can’t really gripe.
This year, rap was dependably kept loopy, which for me is a huge positive. Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, A$AP Ferg and Danny Brown all put out inventive, great albums. Even Top 40 radio got in on the act as DRAM and Lil Yachty collaborated for one of the year’s biggest singles and featured a red, plastic recorder in the music video.
If you emotionally earnest rock music is more to your liking, 2016 offered an embarrassment of riches. Just like every modern comedy seems to include a painful undercurrent of loss and regret or at least a sad subplot, catharsis or an appeal to pathos seems to be a necessary part of modern rock music.
Martha, PUP, American Football The Hotelier and Modern Baseball all revived various emo sensibilities to thoroughly enjoyable effects. (I didn’t skip Joyce Manor, their release just wasn’t particularly good).
Angel Olsen, Mitski and Car Seat Headrest both put out albums including a ton of personal detail and incredibly quotable lyrics. A Giant Dog mixed an appetite for destruction with observations about aging out of a scene. Jeff Rosenstock put out a 17-song punk opus called Worry.
While normally R&B is a bit of a blind spot for me, there were some brilliant releases in 2016 grabbed my attention.The sisters Knowles–Solange and Beyoncé– both put out excellent, charged albums, Blood Orange’s latest offering was superb and while I still don’t really get Frank Ocean, there were definitely songs on Blonde even I realized were excellent.
While this year’s disappointments were so large that they cast the immediate global future in an anxious shadow of uncertainty, the steep decline of Western Civilization sounded as good as ever.