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2016 Music

As always, here are some quick thoughts on my favourite new albums of 2016, ranked from ‘favourite’ to 'least favourite.’ I liked them all, so don’t take the rankings too seriously. Completely based on just what I dug most by instinct.

1. Tragically Hip - Man Machine Poem: Maybe context played a role. I don’t know… Maybe “Machine” being one of the my favourite songs of the year elevated this. I don’t know… I listened to it more than any new album this year. If it is the last Tragically Hip, it’s a fantastic way to go out. Bold and weird – different and the same in that Tragically Hip way.

2. Steven Page - Heal Thyself Pt. 1: Instinct: The best album Steven Page has been involved in since “Maroon” maybe even “Stunt.” A fantastic meditation on the creative process and its relationship to the real world and living life. It’s a little navel-gazing, but nowhere near as much as you’d expect when you hear it’s about a musician/writer working through how to be that and an adult with responsibilities and relationships. I can’t wait for the second part of this two-part album series, Discipline.

3. Sam Roberts Band - TerraForm: I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with this as I would like, but it seems to complete the Sam Roberts Band pattern of two excellent albums followed by one that’s merely good (We Were Born in a Flame and Chemical City followed by Love at the End of the World; Collider and Lo-Fantasy followed by TerraForm). It’s good. Some bits really speak to me, but it also doesn’t feel complete somehow. One of the weirder bits is when I figured out that “Tourist Trap” is basically a Hives song… and that’s good, because I love the Hives.

4. Arkells - Morning Report: After knowing of the band since it hit the national stage a bit and kind of digging it, I went back and got their first three albums this year – only to find out, like, a week later that they had a new album coming out, too! It’s a fun rock album. I really dig the first two singles.

5. Leonard Cohen - You Want it Darker: This isn’t this high because of context. It’s this high, because it’s a really good album. Something I really dug was the way female backup singers were used more sparingly. Their overuse on Popular Problems really bugged me. Otherwise, this stands up there with his best work.

6. Tommy Hawkins - Amy (EP): A six-song EP by Hawksley Workman and John D'Arcy that completely captured me.

7. Metallica - Hardwired… To Self-Destruct: A bit overblown. A bit too much of the same. Yet, I can’t say what I would change or cut out. I got the deluxe edition with the third disc and dig the new version of “Lords of Summer.”

8. David Bowie - Blackstar: This never quite grabbed me the way it grabbed others. I haven’t listened to it in a while. I really dug the oddness of it.

9. Gord Downie - Secret Path: I’d call this the 'forgotten’ Downie album of the year, but, because of its pairing with a Jeff Lemire graphic novel, I saw this all over the place. I only got the album and it’s strong work from Downie, exploring the tragic final days of a Native child who ran away from a Residential School to find his way home, eventually succumbing to the elements and dying. A reminder that, though we know and love the Hip, Downie’s put together an incredibly strong body of solo work.

10. Neil Young - Peace Trail: That last song is weird, man. Neil Young just doing what Neil Young does. I’ll take it every year, man.

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway: This was an odd record. It’s the Peppers, year, but oddly downbeat even when it’s not meant to be.

12. Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Holy fuck do I love “Gardenia.” Song of the year. The rest of the album is good, but never really stuck with me. Sounds a bit like Pop doing Reed, which is cool.

13. Bob Dylan - Fallen Angels: Another covers album. Very enjoyable. I love how we’ll get another one this year (a triple LP no less!) all in the midst of the Noble Prize for Literature.

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And, here’s a ranking of the reissues/live albums/comilations/whatever else fits that mould albums from 2016:

1. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker: This came out later than expected, but the DVD concert is really good and so are the bonus tracks along with great liner notes from Ethan Johns. Pretty much what a deluxe reissue should be.

2. Danko Jones - Live at Wacken: I love Danko Jones and it’s about time we got a live album/DVD.

3. The Dears - Acoustic 1996-2010: Murray Lightburn kind of doing an acoustic triple 'best of’ in this digital-only release. I like the middle one best, because that covers No Cities Left and Gang of Losers, but it’s all strong.

4. Jack White - Acoustic Records 1998-2016: I would have rather just seen a b-sides/non-album tracks compilation, but this was FINE. Worth it for the songs I didn’t have/hand’t heard/variations.

5. Motörhead - Clean Your Clock: The last Motörhead live album. Lemmy’s voice was beginning to sound ROUGH, but the breadth/variety was better than the last couple of live albums.

6. Matthew Good - I Miss New Wave: Beautiful Midnight Revisited (EP): This is Matthew Good doing updated versions of five songs off Beautiful Midnight. The version of “Load Me Up” here is amazing. A couple of songs aren’t really changed too much. But, this is the sort of thing I love to see musicians put out as gap-fillers between albums.

7. Barenaked Ladies - BNL Rocks Red Rocks: Fun. It’s still weird to hear someone else do the Steven Page songs. But, come on, Tyler Stewart doing a cover of Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll is pretty cool.

8. Neil Young and the Promise of the Real - Earth: I understand the gimmick of using nature sounds, but it doesn’t quite cohere the way Young wanted. Otherwise, it’s a solid live album. I dig the new songs and that stuff like “Vampire Blues” gets done live.

9. The Beatles - Live at the Hollywood Bowl: A nice artifact of what a Beatles live show in America was like.

And, now, onto 2017 (three albums already coming out that I know of!)…