Three 2016 year-end music lists, and why I wrote them
So far, I’ve made three year-end of lists.
The first, for hmv.com/ca, was a list of albums (international) that flew under-the-radar this year. The other two, both for Inside Vancouver, are a year in review, which basically sums up some of the higher profile releases to come out of Vancouver in 2016; the other, just posted, is a list of 2016 Vancouver albums that you might have missed.
All had restrictions, up to a point. For the HMV list, the titles (naturally) had to be available, digitally and/or physically, through the retailer. And, though the albums are obscure compared to records by Frank Ocean, Beyoncé and Radiohead, I wanted them to have at least some mainstream appeal, and/or to have been listed on at least two or three year-end best-ofs.
The Inside Vancouver lists were, of course, restricted to albums by Vancouver-based artists. I bent the rules a little, though, by including in the year-end round-up Carly Rae Jepsen and Tegan & Sara, on the basis that they at least once lived here (in the case of Tegan & Sara, one of the sisters did, and may still) and employ(ed) local musicians.
I also included Art Bergmann, who is still living in Alberta, as far as I know, but whose The Apostate, his first record in decades, counts as a major Vancouver release, if anything does.
As for the 2016 albums that came in under-the-radar, so to speak, I had to make up a rule – eight-songs-or-less-and-you’re-out. Otherwise, composing the list would have been just too overwhelming – I discovered over two dozen other releases, often digital only, of eight songs or less (eight seems to have been the magic number for a lot of Vancouver bands this year) by new and emerging Vancouver acts.
From finding the records, to researching what if anything others had written about them, to actually listening to them and in some cases (gulp) trying to come up with something original to say, that last list was a killer.
But it was gratifying, too. I discovered a lot of cool music coming out of this city. Personal favourites include punk records by Glad Rags and Spring Breaks; the indie-pop of Douse; the Northwest garage-rock revival of the Bad Beats; and the adult R ‘n’ B of Sophia Danai’s Love Royale (which, admittedly, I have yet to give a proper listen, though I like what I’ve heard so far).
I also recalled how much I liked songs like Twin River’s “Cut” and Chris Storrow’s “Raise the Bar” (which I love love LOVE); and discovered the feel-good charms of The Tourist Company’s “Pedestals” and the feel-bad vibes of Petunia and the Vipers’ cover of a Hugh Laurie (!?) song, “Put It on the Market”.
But by far the biggest discovery was a new Lee Aaron record. As far as I know, local and even national media totally missed Fire and Gasoline, the first rock album by Aaron (who had multiplatinum sellers with records like Metal Queen back in the day) in 20 years. (Apparently, Aaron’s publicity machine decided to bypass promotion in Canada in favour of Europe and the U.S.).
Finding the record was the kind of last-minute, three-clicks-down-the-rabbithole journey that makes researching these lists so rewarding. (I only found out about the album when I found myself here; and nowhere does the review mention where she’s based. I only knew she might be Vancouver-based because, when I interviewed her years ago during her lounge-singer phase, she was living here while doing a residency at a Granville Street bar.)
Meanwhile, the list for hmv let me work the knowledge I’d already gleaned from perusing others’ year-end lists to find both anomalies as well as common but non-obvious denominators. No surprises here, but I was pleased to be able to include Midwest Farmer’s Daughter by Margo Price (who put on one of favourite shows of the year at the Imperial).
As for all those 2016 EPs released by new local artist, I’m still considering whether to try to make the time to listen to all of them and find my favourites. The world, I’m sure, awaits breathlessly.