2016 has been overshadowed by bad news, both politically and for the music industry itself.
Yet the shifting social landscape and loss of musical icons doesn't seem to have galvanised any one artistic movement in response, surely that's on the horizon for 2017. But while this annus horribilis may not be remembered for a particular genre or artist capturing the cultural zeitgeist, it did reinforce the simple point that the concept of an album is not dead yet. From Bowie and Cohen quite brilliantly using the format as a last will and testament, Beyonce's lavish visual album for Lemonade, to Kanye and Frank Ocean bypassing some methods of traditional distribution, it's clear that the digital age of single song downloads hasn't killed the album as an artistic statement. Vinyl has helped to massively bolster sales of physical products too, emphasising the artistic merits of the album beyond simply the music on the record.
With that in mind, many well-established artists delivered records vying for position with their best work. Bands such as Weezer, Green Day, Biffy Clyro, and Against Me! may not be making many end of year top ten lists, but their output in 2016 has been impressively solid. Even Metallica returned with a record that lived up to its hype. Elsewhere other artists produced records that at an earlier point in the year would certainly have made my list; Ray LaMontagne, Brian Fallon, Iggy Pop, Shearwater, Wye Oak, A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Mould, PJ Harvey, Joseph Arthur, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones, all comfortably fit into that category. Of particular note was the album, which kept appearing on my list and then just falling frustratingly into a lower position. Underworld's Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future is a glorious album. It's two men at a very different point in their lives using the music of their youth to paint a portrait of life post 50, and the result is uplifting and hopeful in a way that many other albums weren't this year. I'm delighted that Underworld has picked up a Grammy nomination for such a great record.
One final mention before sharing my ten favourite records of 2016 is for Jimmy Broomfield. Performing under the name Heart Of Oak, his debut EP, aptly titled EP 1, was released this year. It's a collection of songs that are deeply personal and wonderfully intimate with their bare bones performances. His song-writing is both clever and witty and if you're looking for some home-grown talent with a promising future you need look no further than Heart Of Oak's website.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top Ten Albums Of 2016
St. Louis' hip hop scene is explored in the latest Budweiser documentary.
The ever overlooked St. Louis, Missouri is our next stop for the Budweiser Made in America documentary series, and an appropriate point ahead of Jay Z's music festival.
Almost every major city in the United States has some sort of musical identity which is exactly that sort of thing that inspired Jay Z to create Budweiser Made in America festival. It's all about looking at different genres from all over the country and uniting them in two major cities: Philadelphia and Los Angeles. However, there are plenty of musically rich cities out there that just barely get noticed - even in spite of some of the major stars that have come out of them.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.