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…)
As ever, my Best Of list is a list of… things. Stuff that made me happy. When looking back at 2016, it’s hard not to feel a crushing ennui for all of those we lost and a general clusterfuckiness, but there were some gorgeous, delightful bright spots. Mine are, in no order whatsoever:
Another week of separate story arcs, this episode takes us to a new location altogether: Oceanside. It’s not the most intriguing plot ever created for television, but the unknown will keep you interested. I rather thought that this episode’s beginning felt more like they’d borrowed writers from Fear The Walking Dead. It starts out with two girls on a beach. They’re obviously from another encampment, and they find another girl washed up on the beach. The older one doesn’t want the younger one to kill the girl.
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.
2016 was not the best year in recent memory. Not only did we lose some of the most iconic musicians of the last four decades, but we also had to witness the rise and fall of cultural phenomena known as the “dab” (progressive form: “dabbing”). I believe that most Americans, and do I dare say, most inhabitants of our planet, are ready to put 2016 behind us.
With that being said, here are some of the more memorable moments that should be preserved, or at least not forgotten, from 2016.
Greatest Musical Shock of 2016
Let’s start with something morbid! Prince is no longer with us. The news of the iconic guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, and double-breasted jacket wearer hit news junkets like a ton of MineCraft bricks. As is recent tradition, I, along with the rest of the western world, bought and played his music, ensuring that his estate coffers would be filled for whoever might be indulging in his vast financial empire. But on a more serious note, we lost one of the most talented, creative, and truly pioneering musicians that has have graced a stage. This is not to mention his widely appreciated criticism of the music industry’s royalty and ownership laws: something every working musician and songwriter is fighting against these days. Farewell, you purple genie: you will be missed.
Greatest Television Show of 2016
This one is not easy. If there were any redeeming quality for 2016, it would be television. With unparalleled shows such as HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s Stranger Things, it’s near impossible to choose. But for the sake of simplicity, I am going to limit myself to shows that only premiered in 2016. With that said, I have narrowed it down to one: HBO’s Westworld. This show needs no introduction. It has it all: western shootouts, robots, mysterious old men, time jumps, Anthony Hopkins, that guy who whose only job in the park is to bump into people and get shot, and in a long standing HBO tradition, lots of naked people. All that being said, it is one of the most well-written stories on TV right now. The acting is incredible, and despite not knowing if it would have a second season, the show still managed to pull off a crazy, unexpected finale that satisfied audiences but maintained the need for more. Here’s to season two coming out sometime!
Greatest Live Musical Performances of 2016
Everyone has seen the “big guns” do their live shows on YouTube. There’s no point in praising what has already been praised (just ignore my last paragraph). With that being said, one of the greatest shows I saw this year, one that very few people got to experience, was actually a whole festival: Live on the Green 2016 in Nashville. For those of you who don’t know, Live on the Green is a FREE music festival in the heart of downtown Nashville that goes on all summer. Every Thursday there is a massive outdoor show that usually includes the top independent, rising artists of the last year. In the final weekend of the festival, a second stage is set up and the music lasts from Thursday through the whole weekend. That is where the magic really happened this year. To name a few artists that graced the stage this year:
Judah and the Lion
The variety of these performances alone was enough to draw me in, but the fact that each one of the shows was of the same quality and caliber as the next completely blew me away. In one weekend my confidence in live music was restored. If I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be Rayland Baxter. He just has a way with live performance that is relaxing but engaging at the same time. However, Judah and the Lion definitely go home with most entertaining show. I mean, what other show has four guys with a mish mash of instrumentation and electronic tracks, twerking on stage, and singing “Ignition” by R. Kelly. No one. But, I got to see it with my own two eyes, and so did my mom.
Greatest Unknown Band of 2016
Being a resident of Nashville, I come across a lot of bands that deserve way more attention than they actually get. One of those bands is PET ENVY. Am I friends with them? Yes. Do we have the same producer? Yes. Have I played shows with them? Yes. Is my mentioning of them in this article a favor to some friends? Absolutely not. This band is fantastic both as a recording group and as a live performance. They deserve every bit of praise they get. Without trying to use any fancy musician adjectives to describe them, I will say that they maintain the entertainment of pop rock while including the superior technical skills, as musicians, that each member undoubtedly holds. It’s hard to get both of those things in the same room, but when it happens, it is unmistakably fun! Keep up the work, guys!
Greatest TV Personality of 2016
John Oliver. I’ll say it again: John Oliver. I am not going to go into great detail with this one because it’s not necessary. He, like so many other satirical news reporters, helped us through the painful process and outcome of the 2016 election cycle and kindly reminded us that 2016 is a year that needs to be erased from the annals of history. Cheers to that ridiculous, little British man.
Greatest Known and Unknown Songs of 2016
Two songs captured my attention this year: “Giuseppe” by Trash Panda and “Over Soon” by Bon Iver. Bon Iver’s 22 a Million has earned split reviews over the past few months mainly because it has a handful of songs that are great and a handful of songs that aren’t. “Over Soon” stands outside of either one of those categories. It does all the Bon Iver things that a Bon Iver song should do, but it also branches out into the more electronic tonality upon which the whole album is based. What captured me most was the single note on which the song builds. There is something incredibly relatable and comforting about a single note that continues through an entire song. It is like a foundation for a house: the house being the rest of the arrangement and the decorations being the lyrics and melody. This song is truly a masterpiece of arrangement and deserves a lot more praise than it has received.
As for Trash Panda, I am less inclined to think deeply and more inclined to speak plainly. It is a simple, unknown song that has a cool reggae feel without coming anywhere near the “chukka chukka” of an actual reggae song. As for the lyrics, it culminates its sarcastic lip in the third verse when it takes a clear shot at President-elect Trump, questioning how he was able to gain the trust of millions simply through his personal charm and gusto. Catchy, well-written songs that maintain social relevancy are hard to come by these days. Well done, Trash Panda. Stay trashy.
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.”)
By Tyler Hodg
WWE Story Time, a collection of tales from former and current WWE wrestlers set to cartoon depictions, has proved itself to be a decent source of humor and entertainment within its two installments. The issues I had with the debut episode, such as the poorly rendered animation, subdued subject matter, and short length, have not been rectified; however, the stories themselves make the second episode better than its predecessor. For this reason, it’s best to examine the anecdotes individually, and to continue using this format with reviews of future episodes.
This week on the TENTH episode of TV or GTFO, Sachin and Gary finally acknowledge the show whose lead character, Steve Urkel, is somehow, one of the most iconic TV personalities ever. Family Matters ran from 1989 to 1997, amassing a whopping 215 episodes and becoming the crown jewel of ABC’s TGIF Friday lineup (along with Full House and Perfect Strangers).
It’s the story of a Chicago cop, Carl Winslow, and the comedic adventures of his curiously fluid family, one that seems to add and remove characters at the drop of a hat. It also shows how wildly different the show became from its pilot episode to its series finale; Urkel isn’t even present in the premiere, but is very obviously the focal point of the show by the end.
Will this show ever stop making us think about Urkel having sex? Did Urkel murder his fellow astronauts? Where the heck are his parents? Why does Carl think an appropriate gift for his son is a 20-year-old used kevlar vest with a bullet hole in it? Why did they replace the actor playing Harriet so late in the series run? Why is the iconic, and awesome, theme song not present in any of these episodes? Who are these children and where did they come from? Join us to find out, and in the meantime, jam out with “Days Go By!”
Don’t forget to like and subscribe to TV or GTFO on iTunes or in your favorite podcast app, or you can check out the episode right here!