What a spiteful year 2016 has turned out to be. I won’t hazard how subsequent years may turn out with the impending leadership change in Washington, D.C., but for now, 2016 has just been a veritable shitstorm.
In terms of music, 2016 has been lackluster. I encountered a lot of albums that were likable but very few I could really love. In a few instances, some of my favorite bands turned out some of their most interesting music in their careers, but I couldn’t muster excitement for them.
- Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth: Sturgill Simpson played a two-hour set with no encore at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle in November. He spent the first hour performing songs from his previous album. Then he spent the next hour playing A Sailor’s Guide to Earth from start to finish with a whole lot of room for jamming. That’s something a composer would do.
- Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4: Insistent.
- MONO, Requiem for Hell Of the two albums MONO released in 2014, Rays of Darkness was my favorite. I didn’t imagine the ideas on that album could be exploded.
- Solange, A Seat at the Table: Solange not only out-Lemonaded Beyoncé, she also out-Blonded Frank Ocean.
- Shaprece, COALS: Björk, if she were black.
- Drive By Truckers, American Band: I’ve known about Drive By Truckers for years, but I finally took the plunge with this album. So that’s who took up the Uncle Tupelo mantle.
- Cocco, Adan Ballet: This album won’t dislodge Rapunzel or Bougainvillia as a fan favorite, but it’s some of the best work she’s done since Sangrose.
- Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle: This pairing of Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin looks unlikely on paper, but intuitively, you could tell the universe was ready for it.
- Utada Hikaru, Fantôme: I’m beginning to realize Utada Hikaru was PBR&B before Solange started hanging out with Dirty Projectors.
- Ty Herndon, House on Fire: It’s tough not to read some autobiography into this album, the first Ty Herndon released after revealing he’s gay. It’s also tough not to get swept up in the confidence and energy pouring out of the speakers.
Other notable albums:
- Eluvium, False Readings On
- Santigold, 99 Cents
- Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness
- Blood Orange, Freetown Sound
- AHOHNI, HOPELESSNESS
- Pixies, Head Carrier
- Colin Stetson, Sorrow: A Reimagining of Gorecki’s Third Symphony
- John Adams, Scheherazade.2
- De La Soul, and the Anonymous Nobody
Tags: cocco, drive-by truckers, favorite edition, henryk gorecki, mono, shaprece, shawn colvin, solange, steve earle, sturgill simpson, ty herndon, utada hikaru
Sturgill Simpson posted a photo of the crowd at his Seattle show on Nov. 11, 2016. I was standing pretty close to the stage, and sure enough, I spotted myself in the pic. His show capped yet another active year of concerts, which included a trip to Portland and two weeks of modern American symphonic music.
Sō Percussion, Jan. 31, 2016
Like Kronos Quartet before it, Sō Percussion commissions original works that often push technological boundaries as much as musical ones. The first time I saw Sō in Austin, the quartet performed Dan Trueman’s neither Anvil nor Pulley, which required performers to use old game console controllers to manipulate a Bach keyboard piece.
For this concert, Bryce Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings features the Chordstick, a custom instrument that combines a hammered dulcimer with an electric guitar.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Feb. 5
The big piece performed at this concert of mid-20th Century New York City composers was Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman. 2016 would eventually find Seattle Symphony programming four Feldman pieces in various concerts. Crowd reaction, of course, ranged from the usual restlessness to outright departure.
Seattle Symphony, Berio: Sinfonia, Feb. 6
I hadn’t planned on attending this concert till my music theory professor devoted an entire class on the piece. The fact Roomful of Teeth performed with the symphony was another incentive.
Kronos Quartet, Feb. 20
Sorry, the live performance of Beyond Zero: 1914-1918 did not convince me to pick up the DVD, but it’s always nice to hear Franghiz Ali-Zade’s Mugam Sayagi.
Ty Herndon, Feb. 25
It was a sparse crowd at El Corazon, and Herndon played a stripped down set of his hits. He also previewed “If You” and mentioned his new album would be out in May. House of Fire arrived in September, albeit with a larger promotional splash.
Jeremy Denk, March 18
The Goldberg Variations and Ligeti Etudes in a single night. Yeah, it was a good concert.
John Adams, Scheherezade.2, March 19
Oh wow, did Leila Josefowicz bring her A-game. I picked up the Nonesuch recording of this work when it was released because it’s an amazing display of athleticism. I think I like this work more than Adams’ first Violin Concerto.
Stephen Sondheim, Assassins, Feb. 26
As much of a Stephen Sondheim fan that I am, I’ve so far only seen two of his works on stage. Honolulu Community Theatre did Sunday in the Park with George back in the early ’90s. ACT Theatre did Assassins. That’s a show that will test your startle response.
Rhye, Apr. 21
Seattle Theatre Group scheduled Rhye and Courtney Barnett for the same night, and I wanted to see both of them equally. I ended up going to Rhye because Barnett’s show sold out. Despite illness, Milosh sounded awesome.
Santigold, May 14
I couldn’t decide who I wanted to see more — Santigold or the SG1 Dancers. It turned out I loved them both.
Seattle Symphony, Beethoven and Gershwin, June 11
A scheduling conflict prevented me from attending the first [untitled] concert of the season, so I traded the ticket for a program of Beethoven and Gershwin works. The evening started with the Seattle premiere of Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour, which the crowd seemed surprised to enjoy.
Seattle Symphony, Tuning Up!, June 17-July 2
After years of attending SXSW, I decided I was going to stay away from Bumbershoot. Then Seattle Symphony announced a two-week summer festival of American modern works, and I couldn’t part with my money fast enough. The clerks at David and Co. thought I was a performer because I was there for every concert. George Perle, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe — I was definitely the target market for this festival.
Matt Alber, June 26
A bout of pneumonia prevented me from seeing Matt Alber in 2014, so his show in June was a nice way to participate in at least one gay pride event this year.
Explosions in the Sky, Sept. 2
I thought it was odd Explosions in the Sky announced a whole bunch of Pacific Northwest dates without including Seattle, so I opted to travel down to Portland and catch them at the wonderful Crystal Ballroom. The day after I bought my ticket, the band announced its Bumbershoot date. Bullet dodged.
Sigur Rós, Sept. 20
The last time Sigur Rós performed in Seattle was in 2012, and the show sold out by the time I could access the Seattle Theatre Group site. This time, I got into the pre-sale. The amazing light show was equal parts Einstein on the Beach and TRON.
Seattle Symphony, Prokofiev and Beethoven, Sept. 24
For this concert, the symphony premiered a piece by Gabriel Prokofiev and included The Love of Three Oranges by his grandfather, Sergei. It had been so long since I listened to Three Oranges that I anticipated Peter and the Wolf instead.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Oct. 28
I’m not as versed in the works of Witold Lutoslawski, but then who is?
Sturgill Simpson, Nov. 11
Sturgill Simpson doesn’t do encores, and why should he when he plays two hours straight? That show pretty much made me wonder why I’m still going to rock concerts in my mid-40s. How could Simpson have the endurance to do those shows for six months, when just watching him exhausted me?
Tags: concert edition, explosions in the sky, jeremy denk, john adams, kronos quartet, matt alber, rhye, santigold, seattle symphony, sigur ros, so percussion, stephen sondheim, sturgill simpson
I didn’t know what to make of Pete Burns the first time I encountered him in the video for Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me ‘Round (Like a Record)”.
Boy George and Annie Lennox had already blurred the androgyny lines in the years leading up to Dead or Alive’s debut, but Burns took it a step further. His rough baritone stood in sharp contrast to Boy George’s soulful tenor. He shook his hips and wagged his finger like a woman, but the eye patch and black clothing made you think he could kick your ass in the alley.
If I had been better conditioned to internalize my homophobia, I would have been repulsed by Burns’ feminine wiles. Instead, I would mimic his moves in front of the radio.
He was confusing, and that confusion was fascinating. He was scary and inspiring, no doubt offensive to my Catholic family to whom he would have probably given zero fucks.
I thought about buying Youthquake when it came out, but I wanted to make sure it had at least two other hits before I sank my allowance on it. Dead or Alive would score a second hit in the US with “Brand New Lover” on the following album, Mad, Bad and Dangerous. By then, I had already cycled through urban radio before eventually settling on college rock.
But I made sure to at least own “You Spin Me ‘Round” on 7-inch.
Over the years, I would encounter Pete Burns and shake my head over the transformation in his appearance. In my mind, he was a skilled acrobat on the thin edge of masculine and feminine, but he obviously disagreed.
Despite all the loss in 2016, Burns is the closest to home the Reaper’s scythe had hit. Prince was my brother’s artist, and David Bowie was once-removed in his influence on my life. Burns, however, was one of the first signals that I would not lead the heteronormative life of a first generation Filipino son.
Looking back on it now, he was probably the first public figure to plant the idea in my mind that being queer was not only acceptable but a source of strength. Yeah, you could be a sissy but a sissy who could kick someone’s ass in the alley.
Tags: dead or alive, gay influence, pete burns
It’s probably way too early to start anticipating 2017 first quarter releases, but I’ve already placed a few orders for next month.
The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody, Jan. 13, 2017
I lost track of the Flaming Lips right around 2009’s Embryonic. I don’t even think I checked out The Terror, which would have been an appropriate title for 2016.
Renée Fleming, Distant Light, Jan. 20, 2017
As probably the only indie rock fan who genuinely liked Dark Hope, I’m totally on board with Renée Fleming performing Björk. I’m hoping she uses her alto range.
The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir, March 3, 2017
Nonesuch has already started posting excerpts from this album, and I keep wondering when someone is going to make a jukebox musical out of Stephin Merritt songs. I don’t think Merritt is necessarily the best interpreter of his songs, but since other singers haven’t yet taken up his music, it’s not a hypothesis I can prove.
Quruli, Sayonara Stranger, Dec. 28, 2016
Quruli, Zukan, Dec. 28, 2016
Quruli, TEAM ROCK, Jan. 25, 2017
Quruli, THE WORLD IS MINE, Jan. 25, 2017
For Quruli’s 20th anniversary, HMV is reissuing the band’s albums on vinyl. I’ve already placed orders for TEAM ROCK and THE WORLD IS MINE. At the time, I gave Antenna a good review, but I’ve changed my mind since then. Zukan and Sayonara Stranger are also important titles to own, but they’re not priorities for me personally.
The Killers, Hot Fuss, Jan. 13, 2017
This reissue has been delayed multiple times since May 2016. What?
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Jan. 13, 2017
I’m still skeptical about this reissue, since it too has bounced around the release schedule for nearly a year now.
Tags: duran duran, looking ahead, quruli, renee fleming, the flaming lips, the killers, the magnetic fields