2016: A Musical Year In Review

For those of you that have known me for a while, you know that music is a very important part of my life. Spending three years building an awesome worldwide community of music lovers at Whyd only solidified my need to share and talk about music. Since I haven’t been making playlists recently on Whyd or sharing music on social networks, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the music I listened to in 2016. I always love getting music suggestions, and I might be one of the only people in the world that will actually listen to that band that I absolutely need to hear. Get at me with those recommendations!

Shit That Sounds Like Country But Isn’t Country

Ever since Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers and all those bearded, plaid-wearing, foot-stomping, hay-chewing folk rock groups started bringing banjos and upright basses to indie rock, I began to shift away from the British, Lower East Side and Detroit garage rock. I started craving Bluegrass, Americana – really anything with lots and lots of acoustic guitar, even going so far as Rodrigo Y Gabriella. Throw in a slide on that guitar and you’re getting into my pants – I’m looking at you Ben Harper.

And that country twang voice just does it for me, personified best by Dan Tyminski. Will I be voting for Donald Trump in 4 years? Let’s not go that far. I still hate the mass pandering that is “stadium country,” with the fake cowboys and the superstars that repeat the same four lines about their truck, dirt roads, and blonde girls in short skirts.

Highlights:

Heartless Bastards – “Only For You” – energy for the morning.

The Shouting Matches – “Three Dollar Bill” – twangy harmonica bringing the Blues back to life.

Sturgill Simpson – “The Promise”Elvis + Johnny Cash in one of the most seductive voices around.

The Wood Brothers – “Luckiest Man”How could a group called the Wood Brothers not be included here? 

JJ Grey & Mofro – “The Sun is Shining Down”An epic sound that crosses genres with solid guitar riffs.

Nathaniel Rateliffe & The Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”Call-and-response chain gang shit to get the toes tapping.

Music For The Soul, Soul For The Music

I come from Ann Arbor, about half an hour outside of Detroit, one of the most important places – if not the most important place – in the history of music. From Berry Gordy and Motown Records, including Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin; Madonna and her new genre of rock, to the birth of punk in the 80s, electronic house music in the 90’s, indie rock in the 00’s with The White Stripes, plus a new breed of hiphop with Eminem at the same time. No other place in the world has held such an important physical location to so many different types of music. I’m not saying that just because I’m proud of Michigan, I’m saying it because not even places like New York City, LA, Chicago or Liverpool can lay claim to that honor. Detroit might be bankrupt, ablaze by arsonists, with audible gunfire on a nightly basis, but its musical soul is more full and complete than anywhere else in the world. #Fuckyeahdetroit

It’s not surprising then that soul music and Motown in particular took up the biggest portion of my listening this year, and it was thanks to a wide variety of singers and groups that have burst onto the scene mimicking the successes of past soul groups while mixing styles, burning the old ethos, giving light to new musical ideas that sound so familiar but are honest and fresh.

Modern Soul Albums to listen to:

Anderson EastDelilah – yes he’s a white dude, yes he’s awesome. Be seduced.

BosleyHoney Pig – yep, another white dude that you would have never expected. A bit more poetic and fun, like if Randy Newman came from Detroit. 

BROSVol. 1 – a couple of bros that could have come directly out of one of the Shaft movies.

J.D. McPhersonLet The Good Times Roll – a modern Doo-wop sound upbeat enough to dance to.

Leon BridgesComing Home – who out there hasn’t been seduced by Leon Bridges? Even with the hype the dude is the most authentic revival of the old Detroit soul spirit. 

Major and the MonbacksMajor and the Monbacks – that gospel-ish choral sound with a singer that pours his heart out in every word.

Sonny ClevelandSonny Cleveland – the name says it all

St. Paul and the Broken BonesHalf the City – yet another white dude representing: lots of horns, lots of funk

Album I Spent the most time with

Despite my turns towards the acoustic bluegrass and the soul revival that I’ve been enjoying, the album (yes I still listen to entire albums and not just playlists) that I listened to the most this past year was something much more coherent with my past musical preferences of pop and indie rock. I discovered the album late in the year but I had it on repeat for about a month which is a testament to how much I loved it when literally every other song in the entire history of recorded music is constantly at my fingertips.

best music of 2016

The album, Daybreaker, actually came out in 2015. It’s by a group called Moon Taxi, from Nashville, Tennessee. Also a city with a large claim to some of the biggest contributions to the history of music, Nashville is right up there with Detroit. But Moon Taxi is not a country rock group, they are a progressive indie group with a singer that sounds exactly like Anthony Kiedis. The music itself is an upbeat blend of inspirations taken from across the rock gamut. It’s hard to explain exactly why this album hit me so hard. Perhaps it’s because of the familiarity with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (one of my favorite groups of all time) or perhaps it’s because the songs are so catchy from the first listen.

If you’re an RHCP fan, do yourself a favor and give Daybreaker a listen.

Honorable Mention

I’m going to have to eat my words here. Many of you remember the early Whyd days when there was one person that I hated in the music world more than anyone else…. Bruno Mars. That “Grenade” song is an abomination, a naked attempt at grasping out for money and attention in a song with absolutely no redeemable music quality. “Lighters” is a song written about itself in order to make a concert experience a vicious cycle of commercial exploitation.

It was these songs that made me want to delete any of Whyd’s community members’ accounts if they posted a single Bruno Mars song. And I successfully avoided the Bruno Mars wave of popularity for several years.

Until now.

24K Magic is undeniable. It’s a marriage of so many styles and inspirations to come together into a funk masterpiece that I take back most of what I said about the man over the last few years. It builds on the success of “Uptown Funk.” It doesn’t take the easy route. It doesn’t rely on clichés. It infects your feet with the dancing disease. Chapeau, Bruno.

I’ll admit it, 2016 has been a weird year, but I’m looking forward to 2017!

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