“At least we’ll get some good music out of this”, they said. That half-thought was hardly any consolation the morning after – not only do we have to deal with him, but the Third Coming of Green Day as well? If any “great art” has come out of the reaction to the Donald Trump administration, I haven’t seen it yet. Yes, people are angry, and yes, people are motivated, but it’s not an inspiring anger. There’s no nuance to it. No cleverness. No finer point to put on it. The problem is not that his policies are harmful, it’s that they are blatantly so – we are now on our third round of “call your elected officials and tell them not to kill you”. The problem is not that he lies, but rather that he lies like a 5-year old with cookie all over his face. It’s not even the fact that his administration may have colluded with a hostile government, but rather how brazen and open they are about it. It’s not like any of this is a secret. His low approval ratings are unprecedented, especially given the circumstances he inherited. His healthcare bill and his tax bill are the two most unpopular pieces of legislation in modern history. If he was the villain in a Disney movie, he would be written off as too unrealistic; no one’s going to buy a character that’s this much pure ego, are they? He is beyond satire; even the great impersonators like Anthony Atamunuik don’t really make me laugh the way the GWB ones did, because the truth is always stranger than fiction. Trump deploying the term “Pocahontas” at an event to honor Native Americans? C’mon, that’s a gag in a C-grade SNL skit if I’ve ever heard one. Defending a pedophile because at least he’s better than some random Democrat? That’s a throwaway panel in a Tom Tomorrow cartoon. And so on.
Alas, 2016 has now drawn to a close, an event which ought to make everyone say “finally, thank God”. Though make no mistake, 2017 could very well be worse; as much damage as Trump has done to our country this year, just imagine what could happen when the man actually holds executive power. From a music perspective, who knows – hard to imagine we’ll lose as many legends as we did this year, though to be frank here all the stars of the 60’s and 70’s are really getting up there aren’t they? Granted, some of these deaths were particularly tragic – Bowie kicking off a week after releasing his best album in decades; Prince passing despite remaining as youthful and busy as ever; Keith Emerson dying by his own hand. Christ, who’s next? (12/8/2016: turns out I didn’t have to wait long – it’s Greg Lake.)
So it’s bittersweet in a sense, but 2016 was really a great year for new music (so long as what.cd wasn’t your primary source), though I say that with my usual disclaimer that I’m not even close to caught up on the year yet. My year end list is going to look a lot different than everyone else’s, mostly because I’ve heard like three of the albums that are mainstays on the yearly Top 50s. So I’m just going to split this up into the stuff I really liked, and then everything else I feel like writing about. And we’ll just call it at that. Rather than prattle on about the respective qualities of all these albums (many of which I’ve already written about on this site…follow the links on the titles if you want to read those), I’ll tackle them from the perspective of time, since a lot of these are from people that have been around the block a few times. I mean, a lot of these acts I’ve been a fan of for over a decade; I turned 30 this year, my son turned 2, I have a daughter on the way…time is marching on. So let’s start: