2016 was full of personal and professional triumphs and external troubles. Here is my bloated 2016 cultural year-in-review list.
David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia)
Anna Meredith, Varmints (Moshi Moshi)
Bent Knee, Say So (Cuneiform)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Ears (Western Vinyl)
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, Stranger Things Soundtrack (Lakeshore Records)
Chromb, 1000 (InOuie)
PJ Harvey, The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant)
Swans, The Glowing Man (Young God)
Bon Iver; 22, a million (Jagjaguwar)
Ian William Craig, Centres (FatCat)
Ital Tek, Hollowed (Planet MU)
Maxwell Sterling, Hollywood Medieval (Memory Number 36 recordings)
Jaga Jazzist, Starfire (Ninja Tune)
Elysian Fields, Ghost Of No (Ojet)
Klara Lewis, Too (Editions Mego)
Gnarwhallaby, exhibit A (Populist Records)
Peder Mannerfelt, Controlling Body (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)
John Zorn, Madrigals / Painted Bird / Commedia Dell’Arte / Sacred Visions (Tzadik)
Vicky Chow, AORTA (New Amsterdam)
Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Rest In Fleas (Northern Spy)
Zwoyld, 200 000 (Bandcamp)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity (ATO)
Tristan Perich, Noise Patterns (Physical Editions)
Alessandro Cortini, Risveglio (Hospital)
Nicotina es Primavera, Animal Cerámico (Bandcamp)
I went to dozens of concerts and events in 2016. Here are some of the most notable. All in NYC except where noted.
Jan 8 and Jan 19: Holy Holy at The Highline
Mar 10: Messiaen’s Turangalîla-symphonie at Lincoln Center,
Mar 19: Matmos at National Sawdust
April 1: Magma at Le Poisson Rouge
May 10: Diamanda Galas at the former St. Thomas the Apostle church in Harlem
June 13: Anthony Pateras and Erkki Veltheim for The Inland Concert Series at Church of All Nations in Carlton, Melbourne
July 28: Jaga Jazzist at Le Poisson Rouge
Aug 10: Senyawa at a loft on Bowery for Blank Forms
Aug 14: Kris Davis Quartet play John Zorn’s Bagatelles at the Village Vanguard
Aug 16: PJ Harvey at Terminal 5
Sep 10: Wet Ink present a multi-channel concert at St Peter’s Church in Chelsea
Sep 14: Suzanne Ciani at Roulette
Sep 18: ELO at Radio City Music Hall
Sep 27: Morton Subotnik at Issue Project Room
Oct 8: Glenn Branca at Roulette
Oct 22/ 23: John Zorn at National Sawdust / The Guggenheim
Oct 29: Ghédalia Tazartès at First Unitarian Church, Brooklyn
Nov 3: Mivos Quartet and others play Patrick Higgins at Pioneer Works
Nov 11: Aurélien Bory’s Plexus at BAM’s Harvey Theater.
Dec 4: Ashley Bathgate at Dither Festival, 17 Frost Theater
Dec 11: Vicky Chow at National Sawdust
and Tredici Bacci, everywhere
The Neon Demon
I also keep a Tumblr blog where I talk about events I check out and other cultural obsessions.
Find out more on JG Thirlwell on foetus.org.
We reviewed JG Thirlwell’s Venture Bros. Original Score Volume Two on July 21.
The year began with the death of David Bowie and then just got worse. Prince died in April, and throughout the rest of the year, dozens of other well-loved, talented, influential artists continued to leave this earthly plane. December continued the onslaught of pop culture deaths, with George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Richard Adams (Watership Down), and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other.
Still, there was a lot of amazing pop culture in 2016, which definitely helped ease the pain of these sad passings, as well as the foreboding political climate of the US (not to mention countries around the world; too numerous to mention). Here’s hoping 2017 is less traumatic for all of us.
By Tyler Hodg
It’s been an inarguably great year to be a Netflix subscriber; the catalogue of lush original content has grown to its highest peak to date and while the service still provides a large amount of stinkers–we shall never talk about Fuller House, Marco Polo, or any of those new Adam Sandler films again—its substantial programs far outweigh its competitors. Below is a list of some standout content that Netflix has delivered over the past year. (more…)
By Tim Murr
Lucio Fulci’s Zombie comic from Eibon Press
Stephen Romano and company have made a huge splash with their first series, an adaptation/on-going series based on the Lucio Fulci classic Zombie, the infamously gory 1979 Italian flick that served as an unofficial sequel to George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. The comic features fantastic art in glorious color and comes packed in sturdy slipcases. Only available through the Eibon Press website, this series is a great way to create niche collectible comics. With adaptations of Gates Of Hell and Maniac and the original series Bottomfeeders coming soon, it looks like Eibon Press will be the publisher to beat in 2017. (Read more.)
Dark Palms, Hoxbar Ghost Town
The debut album from the Pacific Northwest band took goth and post-punk and created a highly entertaining, propulsive slab of rock and roll. (Read my full review.)
Phantasm RaVager directed by Don Coscarelli
The fifth and final film in the Phantasm franchise arrived in October and was a worthy farewell to a group of characters who phans have loyally followed since 1979. There has been some knee-jerk negativity directed at the film, but I found that on repeated viewings the movie gets better (but I liked it right away!).
High-Rise directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons, and Elisabeth Moss, High-Rise is a dizzyingly moving adaptation of the JG Ballard novel from 1975. Set in a fictional mixed-use high-rise building, it’s a microcosm of class struggle in an alternate historical 1970s Britain. Brilliantly cast, beautifully shot, and fairly fucked up, High-Rise is one of the few book-to-film adaptations that lives up to its source.
Sherlock Holmes And The Servants Of Hell by Paul Kane
Paul Kane is the world’s leading expert on Hellraiser and powerhouse of a writer. In this book, Kane does a pitch-perfect Conan Doyle as he mixes the world of Sherlock Holmes with the world of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, pitting the world’s greatest detective (not named Batman) against The Order Of The Gash. It is a very cool book and it’s a lot of fun to see Holmes and Watson going up against Cenobites and… an “old friend.”
First and foremost, it has to be said that there are many movies that were released this year that I have not yet had the privilege to see. Several of those have yet to be released in theaters, or haven’t made it to DVD yet, so I’ll save that for another post. That being said, let’s get on with the list. This is also not the easiest list to put in any kind of order, so I’m not going to number them.
By Tyler Hodg
Hi, my name is Tyler Hodgkinson and I am a total horror n00b. In this series, I’ll be taking a look at classic, cult classic, and modern horror films with ignorant eyes. Its concept is scary simple. (more…)
1. Some new record releases that were thrilling in 2016:
David Bowie, Blackstar
Syd Arthur, Apracity
King, We Are King
Parquet Courts, Human Performance
Kendrick Lamar, untitled unmastered
A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Emitt Rhodes, Rainbow Ends
Mudcrutch, Mudcrutch 2
John Beasley, Monk’Estra Vol. 1
Eric Bachman, Eric Bachman
Luther Dickinson, Blues & Ballads
Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
East Of Venus, Memory Box
Still making sense out of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million (but I think I like it a lot) and still can’t stop listening to The Epic by Kamasi Washington, a 2015 release but a towering achievement!
2. Reissues, boxed sets & previously unissued music that I was happy to hear, happier to own:
Crooked Fingers, Crooked Fingers and Bring On The Snakes reissues
Midlake, The Trials Of Van Occupanther 10th Anniversary Edition
The three-LP “Loser Edition” of Wolf Parade’s Apologies To The Queen Mary
The Crowded House catalog reissued in deluxe fashion
Fleetwood Mac, Mirage (finally!)
David Bowie, Who Can I Be Now?
Gillian Welch, Boots No. 1
Art Pepper & Warne Marsh, Unreleased Art Vol. 9: Live At Donte’s; April 26, 1974
My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves (deluxe edition)
Patti Smith, Horses: Live Electric Lady Studios
The Meters, A Message From The Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968-1977
3. Various Artist compilations that make me glad that in the digital/Internet/technology-will-be-the-end-of-humankind era we live in, curation of various artist compilations still happens:
Celestial Blues: Cosmic, Political And Spiritual Jazz 1970-1974
The Girls Want The Boys! Sweden’s Beat Girls 1966-1970
Tanbou Toujou Lou, Haiti 1960-1981
Various Artists, (The Microcosm): Visionary Music Of Continental Europe 1970-1986
4. Favorite records that I produced or worked on (that finally came out in 2016), of which I’m particularly proud:
Big Star, Complete Third
NRBQ, High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective
Judy Henske & Jerry Yester, Farewell Aldebaran
Game Theory, Lolita Nation and The Big Shot Chronicles
JD Souther, John David Souther; Black Rose; and Home By Dawn
The Crowded House deluxe reissues
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, The Criteria Sessions
5. Best shows of the year (no order, all awesome):
Emitt Rhodes, Grammy Museum
Systema Solar, SXSW
The Bangles & The Muffs at the Whisky
Case/Lang/Veirs at the Greek
Three nights of Wilco at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel
Judy Henske & Jerry Yester, at both the Grammy Museum & McCabe’s and Jimmy Webb actually performing on a lovely summer evening in MacArthur Park!
And this just in: sneak Beyonce performance at the Lemonade screening with a full all-female band complete with strings, horns and background vocalists!
6. Music books that were super cool:
Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run
Robbie Robertson, Testimony
Guy Clark, Without Getting Killed Or Caught: The Life And Music Of Guy Clark
Trouble Boys: The True Story Of The Replacements
Patti Smith, M Train
Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History Of L.A. Punk
7. More about Bruce’s book Born To Run:
As a life-long Bruce fan, the surprise of an autobiography (both book and audiobook!) and accompanying book tour, was a bit mind boggling. Coolest thing? None of it sucked, in fact, the book is charming, funny, arresting, insightful, honest and human. While I and a truckload of other super nerds would have liked more insight into the recordings and songwriting, a book by Bruce was something I never thought I’d see. Just like all his musical work in the past, Born To Run is life affirming and a place from which to draw inspiration in difficult times. We all deserve some transcendent rock and roll as we peer over the edge of 2017, I find some of mine here.
8. Runner up in Bruce-ville
The release of the Christic Benefit shows from November of 1990. It was my first Bruce show as a fresh L.A. resident (I was there the 17th). A mind-blower in that he had not performed solo since the early 1970s—before he had a record deal with Columbia. He was nervous, but still managed to debut brilliant new songs like “Real World” and “Soul Driver” among others. The solo versions of these songs performed on these two nights, remain the definitive versions. Extra bonus, a photo by Greg Allen, my partner at Omnivore adorns the cover of the Nugs release!
9. Music Film: The Beatles, Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years
Never having had a chance to see The Beatles live (I don’t think I’ll be able to say this for much longer, but I’m too young to have seen The Beatles live), it was a treat to see this documentary in the theater. The film itself was fun, but the really great part of motivating my ass to the theater (and not waiting for streaming, on-demand, Blu-Ray, DVD or whatever method the ones and zeros bring us our entertainment these days as we calcify on our couches), was seeing the bonus concert at Shea Stadium on the big screen. It was large, it was loud, and it was glorious good fun!
10. Favorite album design/packages
I love music. I love it so much, I made it my life’s work. I also love all the things music comes in—the packaging, the artifact. Yeah, yeah, I know, streaming. Whatever. I really like all my cool records and don’t really like the idea of renting music. Just ain’t for me. I love art, photography, liner notes, and package design and how powerfully they co-mingle with music, each amplifying each other.
A few I dug the most this year were…
David Bowie, Who Can I Be Now? LP set
Various Artists, Waxing The Gospel: Mass Evangelism & The Phonograph 1890-1900
Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool deluxo-LP/CD
Sloan, One Chord To Another LP/45 set
Grateful Dead, July 1978: The Complete Recordings
Pearl Jam, Live At Third Man Records vault package
The Band, The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary
Check out our reviews of 2016 releases from Ominvore Recordings.
Book: Swing Time by Zadie Smith—Friendship and class collide is an insightful and moving way.
Movie: Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins—Amazing performances chronicle the coming of age story of a young man in Miami.
Album: Rabbit Hole by Billy Crockett—Master producer releases his own collection of heartfelt and poetic songs.
Television: The Crown on Netflix —Who knew that history was so interesting? John Lithgow is amazing as Winston Churchill.
I’m a rabid collector of soundtracks on vinyl, so I decided to break out my Favorite Ten Soundtracks separate from my Favorite Ten Albums, in general. For both lists, I’m only picking albums released in 2016 (whether a first release or re-release). I’m also only picking albums that had a physical vinyl release. The lists themselves are in no particular order.
The Neon Demon, Cliff Martinez
I’m a big fan of Cliff Martinez. The work he’s done recently for Nicolas Winding Refn’s films has been especially outstanding. (In addition to The Neon Demon, he did Drive and Only God Forgives.) This record has been in constant rotation at the house. (We had it cranked on set while shooting the music video for my song “Leavin’ By Sundown.”)
Biutiful, Gustavo Santaolalla
This is an older soundtrack, but Silva Screen did a special limited run vinyl release this year as part of the British website Zavvi’s “Secret Soundtrack” series. They put out some amazing soundtracks this year, but, sadly, the “Secret Soundtrack” series has been discontinued. This particular one really turned me onto the work of Gustavo Santaolalla. (I’m particularly fond of the soundtrack he did for the videogame The Last of Us which was originally released on vinyl by Mondo in 2015.
Luke Cage, Adrian Younge
I found out about Adrian Younge’s work early this year and became an instant fan. I love his melding of hip hop beats with Morricone-esque grandeur. I have yet to see this Netflix show, but the soundtrack is phenomenal. Serious head bobbin’ vibe.
Stranger Things, Vol 1 & 2; Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
It feels redundant to point out the awesomeness of this soundtrack since it’s become so mainstream. But it’s just so good! Even beyond John Carpenter pastiche, it has a groovy synth vibe that is undeniable. (I did see this Netflix show and I did enjoy every minute of it.)
The Fountain, Clint Mansell
Mondo’s release of The Fountain soundtrack on vinyl is fantastic! Mansell had another great vinyl release this year with High-Rise, but I’m going with The Fountain as my pick. Beautiful, epic, and inspiring.
Taxi Driver, Bernard Herrmann
Waxwork did a fantastic re-release of this soundtrack in 2016. Though they are mostly known for horror soundtracks, they did a killer job on this album. From the artwork to the sound quality, it can’t be beat. I have a soft spot for this soundtrack as it takes me back to a time in my life when I used to watch this movie all the time.
Twin Peaks, Angelo Badalamenti
This is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, so to finally see it released on vinyl this year was quite exciting. As per usual, Death Waltz did a top notch job with both the art and the sound quality. Even though I listened to this soundtrack hundreds of times in my younger days, it really did feel like hearing it for the first time on vinyl.
Fight Club, The Dust Brothers
The packaging alone qualifies this album for my list. Mondo went all out, forcing you to actually rip open the cover to get to the vinyl inside. I’ve always wondered why the Dust Brothers haven’t done more work in recent times, but this album is a great reminder of the top-notch work they did in their prime. Electronic beats dripping with exhilaration and nostalgia.
The Revenant, Ryuichi Sakamoto
I have yet to see this film, but the soundtrack is magical: a great mix of different sounds which create vast, evocative soundscapes. I’ve grown so fond of the soundtrack, I almost don’t want to see how it’s used in the film since the music contains such vivid imagery on its own.
Rome Armed To The Teeth / The Cynic The Rat And The Fist, Franco Micalizzi
This Death Waltz release early in the year really took me by surprise. I was expecting the typical run-of-the-mill 1970s Italian “waka-waka” soundtrack. Instead I got one of my favorite records of the year. The first disc actually reminds me of Adrian Younge’s vibe a bit. If this album hasn’t been sampled by a hip-hop producer yet, it’s just a matter of time. The beats are large and the horns are super fly.
Take Me To The Alley, Gregory Porter
I absolutely love Gregory’s 2013 record Liquid Spirit and his new release does not disappoint. The songwriting, vocals, and musical arrangements are impeccable. The title track “Take Me To The Alley” is beautiful. My girlfriend and I had front row seats to see him perform here in Nashville in June (our second time seeing him perform). He takes the songs to a whole new level in a live setting and his band is truly amazing. (His drummer Emanuel Harrold is especially stunning!)
This is Anohni’s first solo release. She was previously known for her work in Antony and the Johnsons. I’m a huge fan of their records. She changes up her style a bit on this new project, but it’s just as awesome. (It’s less “chamber pop” and more electronic.) Dark lyricism and haunting vocals. Killer lines like: “Explode my crystal guts / Lay my purple on the grass.”
We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, A Tribe Called Quest
I’m an old school Tribe fan. There was a time in my life when The Low End Theory was constantly playing. Even though it’s been 16 years, the new album in no way feels like a cheesy “we’re obligated to like it since they got back together” album. There have been some amazingly creative hip hop albums these last few years and I think this album stands up there with the best of them.
A Seat at the Table, Solange
I’m always a fan of mixing up genres, which Solange does wonderfully on this album. I’m also digging this new “minimalist R&B” vibe that’s been cropping up lately. (Sadly Frank Ocean’s Blond/e was ineligible for this list since it didn’t come out on vinyl in 2016.) The music itself has a soundtrack vibe that I dig. Don’t touch my hair!
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson
Although my own music is typically classified as Americana, I don’t listen to a whole lot of Americana in general. That being said, this album knocked me out the first time I heard it. With Sturgill’s Grammy nomination, it’s great to see him getting so much mainstream recognition. This album is an “art” album in the best sense of the word.
22, A Million, Bon Iver
The first time I heard this album, I didn’t know what to think other than, “I need to hear that again!” I’ve been a Bon Iver fan after seeing them perform at the Ryman touring for their previous album. The music and performance that night was beautiful. (And they had two drummers!) This new album sounds like it’s from another place that exists out of time. Modern, but ancient. I’m normally not a big fan of over-the-top vocal effects, but everything just meshes perfectly on this record making for a moving listening experience. (And I’m a sucker for the mysterious song titles and symbols in the album art.)
Sign “O” The Times, Prince
Of all the great musicians we lost this year, Prince probably hit me the hardest. Through all his eras, he’s been there right with me through all my own. It was a treat to get this new 2016 vinyl re-release to replace the scratched up original copy I had. What is there really to say about this album that hasn’t already been said. It’s probably my favorite Prince album… which is saying a lot considering how many incredible albums he put out.
I’m a longtime Opeth fan, so it’s always fun seeing what new directions they explore with each album. I liked their last couple albums quite a bit, but I think this one tops them both. The songs are melodic, yet still heavy and chaotic at times. Lyrically I feel like Åkerfeldt has opened up a new door. I’ve always appreciated his lyrics in the atmospheric sense, but the lyrics on this album feel more personal. Ironically, my favorite track on the album might be the instrumental “The Seventh Sojourn.” It’s epic and powerful… especially at loud volume!
The Complete Cathedral Oceans, John Foxx
John Foxx was another new discovery for me this year. Once I delved into this gorgeous five-LP collection I was immediately hooked. Trippy, ambient soundscapes that will transport you to an alternate universe.
Exodus Of Venus, Elizabeth Cook
I really dig the latest release from fellow East Nashville resident Elizabeth Cook. This is one of the freshest Americana records I’ve heard in some time. Each song has its own sonic personality so the record is exciting to listen to. There are shades of country, blues, and psychedelica with some Stevie Nicks vibes sprinkled in. The lyrics are dark and original. Most importantly the songs just groove. (Can’t help but bob your head to “Evacuation.”)
In absolutely no particular order…
Things that I saw:
Tim Hecker’s live set at RBMA MTL
The grace of Moses Sumney
The Lobster (if the US release date counts)
Things that I listened to:
Yves Tumor, Serpent Music
Kanye West, TLOP
Blood Orange, Freetown Sound
Solange, A Seat at the Table
Frank Ocean, Blond/e
Marie Davidson, Adieux Au Dancefloor
River Tiber, Indigo
Klara Lewis, Too
Nicolas Jaar, Sirens
Dave Harrington Group, Become Alive
Autolux, Pussy’s Dead
James Blake, The Colour in Anything
Caretaker, Everywhere at the End of Time
Mica Levi and Oliver Coates, Remain Calm
Mica Levi, Jackie OST
Julius Eastman, Feminine
Beatrice Dillon, Can I Change My Mind?
Demdike Stare, Wonderland
(It should be noted that I haven’t had the chance to listen to Childish Gambino or Tribe Called Quest’s new records yet.)