Ever the contrarian, Andy Reilly seemed to quite enjoy the past 12 months
Whisper it but I enjoyed most of 2016. Yes, we all know it’s been the worst year ever for politics, the economy, currency, famous people you like but probably never met dying, racism, intolerance and terrorism but if you’re going to base your mood on things like that, well, you’re going to feel rather glum when you take stock in life.
For me, it’s the small things in life that make life worthwhile. A smile from someone that matters, achieving goals in the work place, a self-service machine that works properly so you don’t have to wait on an employee to resolve a non-existent issue, a last-minute winner after a pulverising second half of football and tunes that drive you onwards, lift you up and take you away from the darker moments that threaten to bog us down.
Sure music is listed in the small things when someone tallies up their life…but it’s the small thing that soundtracks your life and is there for you every day. I had a lot of great moments in 2016 and a lot of those moments involved these tunes or occurred around the same time and have been connected in my mind.
Let’s not kid ourselves on, life is grim for a lot of people…but there aren’t many bands or acts talking about it. You don’t need to be an 80s Leftie or Red Wedge backer to combine music and politics but there should be some form of connection between the life of ordinary people and the music that speaks to them. With that in mind, the playlist rightfully starts with Sleaford Mods. It was a non-album year for the Mods, touring extensively, but they did release the TCR EP. The title track kicks off the playlist but you could easily choose I Can Tell or Dad’s Corner from the same release.
There’s also space for Fat White Family, one of the few bands who have broken through to a good level who haven’t been polished and spit-cleaned to the point of being indistinguishable from any other act. They’re a bit unsettling at times…but they’re all the better for that.
I also thoroughly enjoyed 2016 because I made it to the US of A for a couple of weeks and had a very enjoyable music tour. This was back in the good old days of America, the pre-Trump era when the biggest problem in the country was warm apple pies falling from window-sills as they cooled. I made it to Nashville and New York…and if you feel so inclined, I talk about these places in depth on the site.
With that in mind, you can’t overlook a track called Tennessee Song with its big line of “Let’s go back to Tennessee”. There’s also a song by a Nashville based R&B pop-star Cappa who released a pretty decent EP Queen Of Hearts this year. As un-Nashville as (some people think) you can get, Cappa is a fantastic reminder that it’s Music City…not just the home of country music.
LVL UP and NAF were two bands I caught live while in New York, both excellent and both playing in relatively small venues in and around the Bowery and the Lower East Side. You can keep your Sex In The City Tours or a coffee in Central Perk, that’s the sort of New York attraction I was looking for…and who knows, with the rate of gentrification, they may not be around for too long!
Mind you, you don’t need to go around the world to see great music, if you’re based in Glasgow (and if you’re not based in Nashville or New York, why would you be anywhere else other than Glasgow), there’s still some decent music to see on a weekly basis. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of bad acts and there’s a lot of bad music being highly praised and promoted by what I assume are bad people…or people who previously developed a good reputation in breaking new bands but who’ve now sold all of that out to make money or shove their friends into the spotlight.
Just watch yourself on the Twitter because not every recommendation is as genuine as it seems…at least with mine you know it’s just some idiot rambling, not someone who is getting a benefit or two in return!
But the playlist does include some good Scottish talent. Man of Moon, Campfires In Winter and Honeyblood are all at various stages of their career and all have impressed me live and with their recorded output.
There’s also a band called Teenage Fanclub I’ve included, keep an ear out for them, they could go places. And there’s some decent talent not on the playlist, The Van T’s are still a big hope for the future, there was some lovely stuff from Olive Grove Records and St Judes Infirmary returned…and hopefully they’ll feature on the 2017 playlist.
The Super Furry Animals also returned with a song…okay, it probably isn’t technically that new a song…but it was a new release and it was brilliantly bonkers and as uplifting as you could hope for. If you’re still greeting about Brexit, stick Bing Bong on and you’ll be happy for a few minutes. Okay, that may not seem like much but a few minutes happiness can seem like a lifetime in these cold and distant days.
As for big bands making albums, there were a few clunkers. I’m still hoping that the Warpaint record clicks at some point but nope, it’s not happening yet…and I’m the sort of guy that goes to see the Warpaint bassist on her solo tour…so that was disappointing. Even more disappointing than the loss of Johan Cruyff and Gary Shandling on the same day – that was sad but the next day you move on…the Warpaint album has remained pretty poor every day since the first time I heard it.
Radiohead made a good album though, probably one of their best in bridging the gap between their distinct fanbases and Parquet Courts remain cooler than me, you and the vast majority of folk kicking about these days. A genuine New York not giving a fuck style…which is something that we should all probably try and develop a bit more…but we know we won’t because we don’t have the heart or conscious to be that way. I’m practising saying “FORGET ABOUT IT” in the mirror about 8 times a day but it’s a lot harder to pull off in real life.
Look, there’s no point in me being glib about it all…there are loads of folk going through some really hard shit these days and with the ruling classes becoming even more removed from those who need help most, it’s only going to get worse. I get that, I’m not stupid. Equally though…if your life isn’t that bad or you aren’t that affected, don’t suggest that everything is awful…it demeans the plight of people who are really suffering. Also, maybe try and do something that will make something better for someone else. It’ll make you feel better too.
And….do it with proper songs in your head, with energy and impetus that will get you up and doing something. Cut back on the acoustic warblers, the chin-strokers and the camp-fire WonderWallers, if there was any protest song worth saying that Guthrie missed, Dylan mopped it up so put the acoustic guitars down and wrap your message in something with a bit of power and energy.
This is the playlist to my 2016…it’s not been as bad as you would think: