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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Lyrics and Music

I am a sucker for lyrics. I love the music in a song, don’t get me wrong. The melody, the structure, unique instrumentation…but lyrics are what I come back to. Like anything in life, it is not universal, but I pay attention to what the song  is saying, and often will fall in love with a song just based upon lyrics alone. For this entry into the Sandy Beats, I am going to highlight a few songs with lyrics that have particularly struck me.

First up is a new song. I don’t have the confidence that @Begt has listened to this song as she  tends to avoid the subject when I bring it up…Folk Trio The Lumineers hit it big a few years back with “Ho Hey”. The song was everywhere. Just this year they released their first two singles from their forthcoming Cleopatra. The first single released “Ophelia” made me forget that we had been waiting almost 4 years for a new song. Their second single, the namesake for the album, “Cleopatra” has made it clear to me that the 4 years was worth it.

The lyrics that are particularly impactful for me are near the end of the song:

“But I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time

And the only gifts from my Lord were a birth and a divorce
But I’ve read this script and the costume fits, so I’ll play my part”

I am not one to interpret lyrics as I think they mean something different to the listener, so there you have it.

As you may have noticed from my first post of the year, the band I am listening to the most so far in 2016 is The Strumbellas . Their lyrics just hit me. Their second single off of the forthcoming Hope is no different. In “Shovels and Dirt” the Strumbellas once again address mortality with the lyrics:

” Well it ain’t worth living if you don’t get hurt

I got a head full of darkness and darkness is good

cuz’ if we all die young and the we don’t get hurt”

Finally, NYC based Sharon Van Etten has proven to be a good soundtrack for me for the last few years. One of the songs from Tramp called “We Are Fine” has been one of my favorites since I first heard it.

“It’s okay to feel
Everything is real
Nothing left to steal
‘Cause we’re alright, we’re alright”

I’ve listened to a few live versions as well as the recorded version many times. Her emotion seems to come out each and every time.

What are some of your favorite lyrics?

The Year of the Monkey

“We must let go of the life we had planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us” – Joseph Campbell

I will go with a quote and some music inspiration for this evening’s post. Which is also the first of the year. Which is terrible. @Begt and I have been slacking something fierce.

I’ve noticed that I have a new rotation of songs about every two months. I still keep some of the old ones in the mix, but, I feel like I get 3-4 bands I am obsessing over each few months. What am I going to do about that? Well, dear reader, I am going to share that music with you. This is a music blog after all.

The band that I’ve listened to the most in 2016 is not, shockingly enough, the band who I saw for my first show of 2016, The National Parks. The band I’ve listened to the most so far is the Toronto based folkpop group, The Strumbellas (sweet name, right?). I was hooked after listening to We Still Move on the Dance floors (their second release), and am eagerly awaiting their upcoming album. Here is “Spirits”, the first single (I am madly in love with this song and video).

Continuing with the folk vibes (because why the hell not?) is The Native Sibling, a sister and brother duo from Santa Cruz. I am pretty sure that The National Parks radio station on Spotify lead me to these two…and I am so glad that it did! Here is “Darkest of the Night Skies” from their release Letters Kept to Ourselves.

Because it is America and I like my folkpop, the next song is my #RepeatOne so far in February 2016. I do not know why it has taken the Lumineers this long to come out with their first single of their second album, Cleopatra, and I’ll be honest, after hearing “Ophelia”, I really do not care. This song was totally worth the wait. I do hope that by the time she reads this, @Begt will actually have listened to the song.

The next song isn’t new. But the band who is responsible for it just came out with a new record. So that counts. I am sure that I’ve never sung this next song at the top of my lungs in my car today (or really any day in the last month or so…I promise). Charlottesville, VA based bluegrass/newgrass band The Infamous Stringdusters pack a punch with “Where the Rivers Run Cold” off of their 2014 release Let it Go. The only thing missing is a mandolin. But, I will take a dobro in a song anytime its offered to me.

Switching up genres a bit for Brightside a Venice based “California Roots Rock” band. I was fortunate to see them open up for Brett Dennen late last year. As soon as they started playing their beach-vibe rock I was hooked. “Home” from West of Lincoln is definitely one of my favorites.

Going back to the folky Americana vibe, and the final song of this post, we have John Paul White, formerly of The Civil Wars, with a song called “Simple Song” from a compilation entitled Southern Family. I dearly miss the Civil Wars, but am happy that JPW is continuing to write and sing.

Well, there you have it. My first post of 2016. Enjoy the music. And to bastardize one of my favorite quotes from Maurice Moss, I’ve come here to write my first post of 2016 and drink some Scotch, and I’ve just published my post.