This is the most important album of 2016. Gord Downie’s liner notes best explain why.
Chanie Wenjack (misnamed Charlie by his teachers) was a young boy who died on Oct 22, 1966. He was trying to walk home, along the railroad tracks, trying to escape the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where his home was, nor know how to find it. Like so many kids from residential schools – more than anyone will be able to imagine – he tried. I never knew Chanie. I will always love him.
Chanie Wenjack haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we think we are. History will be re-written. All of the Residential Schools will be pulled apart and studied. The next hundred years are going to be painful and unsettling as we meet Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him – as we find out about ourselves, about all of us – and when we do, we can truly call ourselves ‘Canada’.
This is for Chanie Wenjack, for his family, for the thousands of families still trying to work their way through this – today.
Never mind the smug snickers of laughter and the haters alike, this is the best album of 2016. Here The Monkees manage to accomplish a feat none of their contemporaries, including The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, were ever quite able to convincingly pull off – a re-formed re-group that actually sounds like the original. Lovingly produced by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger with songs supplied by two generations of songwriting genius courtesy of Harry Nilsson, XTC’s Andy Partridge, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, the aforementioned Schlesinger, Boyce & Hart, Goffin & King, Neil Diamond, a Noel Gallagher/Paul Weller collaboration and contributions from the boys themselves Micky, Michael and Peter. This album not only legitimately recalls the innocence and jubilation of the swinging ’60’s it also fully and convincingly revisits the summer of love, except this loving summer fest was the summer of 2016 some 50 years later. Dig?
Key tracks: Good Times, You Bring The Summer, She Makes Me Laugh, Our Own World, Me & Magdalena, Love To Love, Little Girl, Wasn’t Born To Follow, I Know What I Know
As time rolls on there’s always that one special album of unique importance to emerge out of every passing decade that, for one reason or another, floats to the very top of the collective consciousness. In the 1970’s that record may very well have been Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. In the 1980’s it might possibly have been Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk and lastly it’s most likely that Radiohead’s Ok Computer is the record of note to have that distinction from the 1990’s. Only time will tell whether Ray LaMontagne’s blissed out “Ouroboros” album of song cycles will eventually end up being remembered as this decade’s special shining moment. If not, it’s certainly in good company and, if nothing else, should be remembered as a much sought after guaranteed chunk of cult classic vinyl.
Key moments: Part One, Part Two
On record as being “sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars banging out crappy music”, Iggy Pop released Apres back in 2012, an album of Iggy crooning his way through 10 suave mostly French classics. Before that there was Iggy’s 2009 jazz album Préliminaires inspired by French author Michel Houellebecq’s novel La Possibilité d’une îlebeing. With the exception of two new millennium Stooges albums, one has to travel back even further in time through Iggy’s solo catalogue, 13 years in fact, all the way back to 2003’s balls to the wall hip shaking Skull Ring to hear anything close to the perversely rocking raw mature power that is Iggy Pop’s nuanced and artful instant classic Post Pop Depression. Filled with shades and echoes of two of his fellow fallen brothers in arms, Lou Reed and David Bowie, Iggy Pop, the granddaddy of punk art and intellect; the last man standing, fills these boots and wears them well, like only Iggy Pop can.
Key tracks: Break Into Your Heart, Gardenia, Chocolate Drops
His first album of new music since the tragic loss of his teenage son, this is a deeply, deeply moving record. Everything about the music here feels entirely devoid of affectation, completely lacking any sense of posturing or bravado whatsoever. This is a humbling, honest and frightfully brave record, both as stark as it is beautiful. Cave has reached down deep as far as a person can go to gather up the unmistakable strength and courage neccessary to make this record and the solemnly cathartic music it beholds.
Key tracks: all 8 of them
On what ultimately turned out to be his deathbed, David Bowie shocked us all by releasing his most promising and inspired work in almost 40 years. Not since 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) has Bowie fully wielded so much sway and authority over a recording project with this kind of cohesiveness and integrity from beginning to end. Focused, raw, exposed and playful while vulnerable yet powerful and uncompromising all at once, this is vintage Bowie at his finest. Feeling almost like a seamless continuation of his famed experimental German period Blackstar holds up against the very finest moments of Bowie’s back catalogue pre ’80’s commercial era and beyond.
Key tracks: all of them
This is Emitt Rhodes first album of new material in 43 years. That alone should spark the interest of even the most cynical of listeners. With the aid of ex-Jellyfish Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and Jason Falkner along with guest appearances from Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs, Jon Brion, Nels Cline & Pat Sansone from Wilco, Probyn Gregory & Nelson Bragg from the Brian Wilson Band this cast of thousands stand in unison squarely behind their man, helping him realize his follow up to 1973’s aptly named Farewell To Paradise album as if no time had passed between albums at all. Rainbow Ends is one of the finest singer-songwriter pop albums the 70’s never produced.
Key tracks: Dog On A Chain, If I Knew Then, I Can’t Tell My Heart, Put Some Rhythm To It