My top 10 songs of 2016

Another year, more great music released. Here are 10 songs I loved for various reasons:

Spindles – Revolution

I had a long wait between first hearing this song and it finally being recorded. But at one point shortly after its release, I reckon I listened to this song at least once a day for about three weeks. I craved it. I thought about writing an essay based on the lyrics.

Spindles had other great songs (no official release yet beyond a few internet uploads) and played some fantastic shows – from the little library at Jura Books to the wide open desert at Roxby Downs. But if I have to pick one song it’s still this one.

 

Dispossessed – Thronebreaker

2016 was a huge year for Dispossessed. At the start of the year I was hearing favourable murmurs about this new band out of Sydney. In March when I saw them I agreed they were great but was surprised at how young they were. Since then the band has lost members, had all their gear stolen, had one of their members be the subject of a public shaming campaign by the Daily Mail. They’ve also toured, gained loads of mainstream press attention, and released a fantastic album. Vice called them “the most important band in Australia.” I think it’s just great to see a proudly multi-racial and political band from western Sydney smashing it.

 

Camp Cope – Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams

I first saw songwriter Georgia Maq play a few years ago. I don’t know how old she was at the time, but she looked like she could have needed parental supervision to go to her own gigs. Camp Cope bassist Kelly I have similarly seen around the place since she was very young – I think her first musical effort was with all-femme scremo outfit Palmar Grasp.

So what a pleasure then to discover Camp Cope’s debut album – showcasing some great songwriting from Georgia MAq aided by wonderful melodic bass playing from Kelly. If I’m being totally honest, a few of the songs are still a little too teenage angsty to really resonate with me. But this one – linking the experience of sexism with 9-11 conspiracies in a way only the internet generation can – is just brilliant.

 

Curse Ov Dialect – Greed

I can’t say I’m really in the loop these days when it comes to new music, but one thing that helps me find out about new releases is scrolling through the new additions folder at 4ZZZ community radio. And that was how, at the start of the year, I made the unexpected discovery that legendary Melbourne hip hop crew Curse Ov Dialect had released their first album in seven years. I suppose layering all those weird samples and coming up with the tongue-twisting lyrics must take a while.

Of course, the album is fantastic and endlessly rewarding – a year on I’m still listening to it trying to work out what half the songs are about. But while Curse Ov Dialect’s beats and lyrics are dense and strange, their music is still somehow danceable and singalongable. They are also an amazing live band, which hopefully we in Brisbane will get to witness some time soon.

 

Babaganouj – Would you like me?

I’m not wilfully obscure or anything, it’s just that the music I find interesting is usually some tuneless racket that gets played in front of 50 people in a random location. As an analytical person too, I like music that has some kind of broader context beyond just sounding nice.

Indie pop is not always my preferred genre. But sometimes there’s just a band so good at what they do that I can’t resist. And that’s where Babaganouj come in – these guys just continually release glorious pop songs that light up the airwaves. This was my favourite of the year.

 

Nahko and Medicine For The People – Love letters to God

It took me way too long to discover Nahko and Medicine For The People’s last album, but by the start of the year I had it on high rotation. In April when they came out to Australia I was in Melbourne, and even discovering the show was sold out wasn’t enough to stop me from going – some desperate manoeuvring at the front door got me a ticket to a show that was all the better for having a room packed full of devoted fans.

A while later the new album came out. It didn’t quite grab me the way the previous one had; I think I would prefer the songs with a bit of a rawer production. But it’s grown on me a bit, and in this song the regular themes of Nahko’s music are all there – spirituality, forgiveness, resistance, transformation.

 

John K Samson – The oldest oak at Brookside

Like most years, in 2016 I spent many hours listening to Canadian band The Weakerthans. Unlike most years, I also got the gift of new music from Weakerthans songwriter John K Samson.

These days the instrumentation is pretty mellow (especially compared to his time playing bass in Propagandhi), and the songs are less personal – mostly now the character sketches that were always part of his songwriting but also are surely influenced by his other job of writing and publishing novels. There is a bit of an environmental message flowing through, which you can possibly pick up in this song.

I have to admit, that nasally voice and those minute lyrical observations are like a kind of comfort food to me. And his albums are like little books of stories that every time you open them you find some new detail. I couldn’t really pick a favourite song, but this tribute to an old oak tree in John’s home town of Winnipeg is one of the most immediately satisfying.

 

Carb On Carb – Eden terrors

Don’t look too closely at the release date – this album came out in 2015 but I first heard it this year. Once I had heard it though I listened to it an awful lot through the year.

It’s never hip, but I’m a bit of a sucker for emo music. Fortunately Kiwi two-piece Carb On Carb do the musical style very well while mostly avoiding the melodramatic treatment of falling in and out of love that can make the genre so punishing.

 

The Dead Maggies – Billy Hunt

I didn’t know the music of The Dead Maggies all that well when I decided in August I would hitch down to Nimbin the next day to go to their gig – it just looked like an interesting show. The next day I was picked up on the road by the Maggies’ tour van, saw them play, hung out with the band, and before you knew it I was heading down to Tasmania for the HOBOFOPO festival of folk punk organised by the band.

The Dead Maggies’ music is fun but also very informative about Tasmanian history. Like this one, about convict and serial escapee Billy Hunt who dressed in a kangaroo skin and hopped away from prison only to be shot by a hungry hunter.

 

Virginia Sook – Mandarin song

I mentioned this song in this list last year actually. It got recorded this year and also was performed at a memorable music event – my birthday party. Sitting around a fire in my backyard, a guitar was passed around and some amazing songs played – including this one.

I don’t say this to boast that I have friends who play music – I say this because I honestly believe that the music made by our friends and neighbours can be as good as what’s on the radio and the big record labels. Better even because we have an added connection to the songs and their meaning. The best birthday present I could ask for is friends sharing their musical creations. Plus this song is awesome.

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