2016 in Music

It has been a while here on Sandy Beats….life has a way of getting you distracted with other things. However, music has been a constant for me, and 2016 has been filled with some great albums. Music is most definitely an art, but like paintings, photographs or sculptures I am drawn to those things that can be enjoyed many times over a long period of time and that speak to me on an emotional, spiritual or intellectual level. While I enjoyed some of the top albums that you will find on critic’s lists, I found so many of them as something that was great in that moment, but did not carry on its greatness after the moment had passed. With that in mind, I am not a music critic, I crafted this list based on what I listened to the most and what I remember the most from the year.

  1. Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
    The desperation in the lyrics and the expansiveness of the sound on this record caught me on first listen. I’ve enjoyed previous efforts from Frightened Rabbit, but this record has spoken to me all year. Seeing the band live at LouFest and meeting three of the members at City Museum(!!) later that day was a live music highlight this year.
  2. The Strumbellas – Hope 
    This one is no surprise as this was my most listened to artist of 2016 (according to Spotify). I first heard the band in 2015, and then realized I had found them just in time for their 2016 release. This record is so full of introspective lyrics and catchy hooks I just could not stop listening. Their performance at Life is Beautiful is one of my top 2 festival performances this year.
  3. The Lumineers – Cleopatra 
    There are times when it seems that albums are made for you at specific times of your life. I feel this way about Cleopatra. Songs about life, loss and love never get old, but this trio has a way of communicating them on such an emotional level. They provided my favorite festival performance of the year. Looking at those who were around me, it was nice to know I was not the only who who shed a tear or two at the show.
  4. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here … Thank You For Your Service 
    This is the newest record on the list, and may have been higher up had it come out earlier. As I tell pretty much anyone who will listen, this is the hip-hop that America needs right now. Amidst the overproduced and under-talented pool that is mainstream hip-hop, ATCQ comes back and seems as fresh as they day the first busted out onto the scene. The songs on this record cover a variety of relevant topics including racism, classism and the President-Elect Trumplethinskin. The first live show of my life featured Phife Dawg (RIP) and to this day I’ve not seen a better MC in person.
  5. John Paul White – Beulah 
    I loved the Civil Wars, probably to the point of obsession. When they split up, I was heartbroken. What they did with their two records spoke to me on a such an  emotional level, I did not know if I would hear that from music again. Well, John Paul White proved me wrong. While I will always miss the Civil Wars, I am so very pleased that JPW released a record that is as raw and honest as the Civil Wars but also very different.
  6. Catfish & The Bottlemen – The Ride 
    I have a renewed faith in modern day britrock after learning about Catfish and Bottlemen a few years ago. These songs are super catchy and have a maturity not seen in the previous album.
  7. The Head & The Heart – Signs of Life 
    This was my most anticipated release of 2016. The Head and The Heart are consistently one of my most listened to bands, and I’d say they are one of my favorite bands. This is very different from their previous two records, but growth and change are good, and I think this album clearly illustrates that.
  8. Young the Giant – Home of The Strange 
    I’ll be honest to say that I’ve been more of a fan of YtG live than I have their studio releases. That all changed with Home of The Strange. Amerika is one of my most favorite songs of the year, and is particularly relevant noting the political changes to the United States. While I won’t say that YtG has not been amazing, I think this record really shows a maturity and sense of strength in whom the group is as a unit.
  9. Grouplove – Big Mess 
    If this record was not on the list, I am pretty sure my Sandy Beats collaborator, BEGT, would end me. Regardless of that, this is my favorite of the Grouplove records, and the songs live with me long after I listen to them. This was also one of my top concerts of the year. Grouplove brings so much passion and energy into their performances. It would be difficult not to like them.
  10. Travis – Everything at Once 
    I dare say that I’ve been a fan of Travis for almost 20 years. I greatly anticipated the release of this album, and enjoy that they are the Travis of my youth (and their own youth) while also growing as a band. This record spawned one of my favorite Travis songs, “Idlewild”.

Honorable Mentions:
Paper Lights – Great Escapes 
Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust 
David Bowie – Blackstar
The Avett Brothers – True Sadness 
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth 
Drive-By-Truckers – American Band 
Mogwai – Atomic 

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite songs of the year (not previously featured) on Sandy Beats.

A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People”

 

The XX – “On Hold”

 

Travis – “Idlewild”

 

Young the Giant – “Amerika”

 

Judah & The Lion – “Take it All Back 2.0”

 

The Broods – “Heartlines”

 

MUNA – “Loudspeaker

 

Moby & The Pacific Void Choir – “Are You Lost in The World Like Me”

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Repeat One & The Head & The Heart Preview

In direct response to @begt I have a couple Repeat One selections. Granted, by having more than one, they aren’t technically Repeat One’s. However, here at Sandy Beats we do not always follow the rules. This post is no exception.

Next week @begt and I will make a trek to my hometown and the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheater to see The Head & The Heart and Iron & Wine. It will be a great trip seeing a couple great bands (and my family and hopefully some friends along the way). I was not really much of a Head & The Heart fan until about a year ago, and so in their honor, my first Repeat One is my favorite off of their current record Let’s Be Still called “Josh McBride”.

The second Repeat One is more traditional, in that, I am listening to it on repeat pretty frequently. Readers of this fine blog are aware of my love affair with the music of Moby despite not posting about him as often as I could. His latest release is a song from the newest Paul Haggis movie called Third Person. The video features a few scenes from the movie as well. The song is called “The Only Thing”. The lyrics, the visuals and music make this song my Repeat One.

I’ll leave you with that. Between last Saturday and next Saturday I have 4 shows to see. The first one was a great way to start off the week, The Hold Steady,  the final show will be Cut Copy. I’ll see you on the flip side.

New Music: ‘Innocents’ from Moby

On September 30th, the musician known as Moby will release his 11th full-length album Innocents. While the official release is still a week away, NPR Music has the new record available for First Listen.

If I cannot be honest with the readership of this blog, who can I be honest with…right? No music review is unbiased. We all have our biases and tastes. However, some people will claim a lack of bias. In this case, I am claiming no such thing. I adore Moby’s music. I celebrate his entire catalog, and have been anxiously awaiting this release since he shared the video for “The Lonely Night”. I don’t believe that Moby is free from error or misjudgment, and I will say that some people may not enjoy his music (we all have faults…). My relationship with Moby’s music is long and storied (well, on a personal level). From the moment I first heard “Next is the E” as a 13 year old new to the world of techno to walking down the aisle with my new wife to “Feeling So Real” on our wedding day…he is the only musician I ever had a desire to meet and thank for his music. He was the first performer I saw live more than once, and both Everything is Wrong and Play CD’s have had to have been replaced due to listening to them too much. Okay…enough with the gushing…on to the music…

I’ve found the last two of Moby’s releases, 2011’s Destroyed. and 2009’s Wait for Meto be very atmospheric and themed and without some of the trademark “disco” that Moby is known to inject into his music. These records were also composed almost solely by Moby in his home studio in NYC.  I enjoy both of these releases, but have been hoping for a more robust release from him (I was and still am pretty enthralled with his 2008 release Last Night which took his disco love to a whole new level). Innocents does not seem to have an overarching theme like his last 3 releases. The album does not need to be listened to as a whole and often the music feels a bit disjointed from one track to the next. As “Everything that Rises” starts you can sense that this record is different. You know it is Moby, but this song already sets the tone for more energy than his previous release. “A Case For Shame” could have been on Destroyed. as the components are very similar to much that record. Moby revisits the style so prominent on Play and 18 with sampling soulful spirituals on “A Long Time”. He also incorporates a little disco funk on “Don’t Love Me (ft. Inyang Bassey)”. Moby also uses more guest singers than previous albums. Almost every track has a featured singer. This definitely adds to the flavor of the record. If I were to compare this record with one from Moby’s past, it would be Hotel which happens to be one of my favorites.  Like that album, this one contains a few dance-able anthems like ” Saints” and “The Perfect Life (ft. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips)” (see below). I am pretty sure that @Begt would want to join that rooftop party watching the sun set over Los Angeles. I know  I would.

This track in particular speaks to me. Overall the record is not outstanding, but it is a return to and evolution of some of Moby’s previously used styles. I like that he has put a West Coast spin on some of these tracks now that he is a permanent resident of L.A. Moby is not touring to support this record, instead he is performing 3 shows over 3 nights at the Fonda Theater near (walking distance) from his home in L.A.

I look forward to hearing more from Moby in the future, and will, in the meantime, lose myself in these songs.

New Music Monday: Moby

It is too late on Monday evening for me to start a post about Moby. When it comes to music and my life there has been one artist that has been with me the longest (of my own choosing). That person is Mr. Richard Mellville Hall better known as Moby (who is in fact related to Moby Dick author Richard Mellville).

Moby is known as an electronic music pioneer. He delved into the scene in the late 1980’s after being in the Vatican Commandos, a hardcore punk band. His electronic styles have changed, evolved and have been revisited throughout his career.

After releasing his two most well-known records in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s (Play & 18), moby has continued to push the boundaries of electronic music and the actual production of music. While being outspoken is not new to this man, the last decade has seen Moby come to more prominence based upon his personal beliefs and values than his music. A devoted Vegan, he has spoken out about animal welfare for years, and even titled is 1996 punk record Animal Rights. He is also a proponent of Net Neutrality and argues for the disbanding of the RIAA.

His next record Innocents will be released in October. The first single, A Case for Shame was released last week. According to his Facebook Page, he will be releasing a self-made video for the song. In the meantime, you can enjoy the song without any stunning visuals (edit: I’ve added the official video shot and directed by Moby):

I could write a book on Moby, but I will have  to save that for another time.