Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 5th 2019
2016 was not as bad as everyone says
After a recent article on the songs of 2018 a mate challenged me to do the same for 2017 and 2016, as, apparently, the music those years was awful. Well, 2017 has been done and it was surprisingly easy and fun.
2016… not so much. Finding my ten favourites was really easy because there were not that many songs I liked in 2016. Much like 2017, a great deal of rock passed me by in 2016, and the pop that was there was… yeah...
Look, in the annals of history, 2016 is going to go down not for its music, but for the sheer number of famous people who died during the year. Deep breath: Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, Glenn Frey, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Glenn, Merle Haggard, Florence Henderson, Harper Lee, Garry Marshall, George Michael, Arnold Palmer, Prince, Nancy Reagan, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Rickman, Doris Roberts, Garry Shandling, Alan Thicke, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin… and many more besides.
David Bowie in 2008
Not a good year.
Maybe that's why music, in general, was not good in 2016: it was such a depressing time. Still, I will try to find the positives, and there were certainly some good songs, and a few that are great songs. My top 10 are all great songs; my top 5 would have been great in any year, no matter what.
So, to start with, the list of honourable mentions: '1955' (Hilltop Hoods featuring Montaigne and Tom Thum); 'A Love Song' (Ladyhawke); 'Bang Bang' (Green Day); 'Bullsh*t' (Dune Rats); 'I & I' (Lost Under Heaven); 'I Love You Always Forever' (Betty Who); 'January 26' (A.B. Original featuring Dan Sultan); 'Just Your Fool' (The Rolling Stones) (this was close to getting into that top 10); 'Let Me In' (Rick Springfield); 'Life Goes On' (Fergie); 'Perfect Illusion' (Lady Gaga); 'Play That Song' (Train); 'R-Type' (Anna Meredith); 'Sober' (blink-182); 'The Sound' (The 1975); 'Where The Light Gets In' (Primal Scream and Skye Ferreira) (this last one was close as well).
Not the longest of lists.
Still, there is a top ten, and it is a top ten that stacks against most other years well. As I said, picking a top ten was actually quite easy. Now, I would like to point out these songs deserve to be in the top ten. I won't just ram a song in there to make it up to ten; if I can't find 10 good songs, I won't put ten up. But, as the honourable mentions list indicates, there were two songs that were close to making it, so ten is good.
'Victorious' by Wolfmother
Wolfmother's first, self-titled album was one of my favourites from 2006. I wasn't as sold on their next two; they weren't bad, just not as good. But then came 2016's Victorious and the title track and it felt to me like they were back, and it was awesome. It sounds like a throw-back to the 1970s, but the production is tighter and cleaner and, well, I am glad. I like Wolfmother, and this album and this track are, to my mind, a welcome return to form.
'Life Can't Get Much Better by Good Charlotte
I've found Good Charlotte hit or miss. Some good songs, some average, some not so good. This one, though, with its optimistic tone and joyous sound, is one of their very best. Maybe they've grown up, but I just really liked this song, its message and the way it is performed and presented. Nice.
'Closer' by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey
This is probably one of those guilty pleasure songs of mine. I don't know why I like it – the story the lyrics tell is quite good, if not a little sad, but doesn't relate to me at all; the music is standard modern pop fare. But it is just there as something that sticks in my mind and I find it immensely singable and not a little thought-provoking.
'You Are Killing Me' by The Dandy Warhols
I have a few Dandy Warhols albums and, despite what some might say, the band are so much more than that song 'Bohemian Like You' which seems to have been used for too many TV commercials. This track is proof of that. The lyrics are blunt and to the point and really good. I guess it spoke to me because this was about the time my marriage started to fall off the rails ("You are killing me / And everything you love about me…") and I felt like this spoke to me, but listening to it now it does not hold that same personal connection – it's just a really good song.
'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' by Bob Evans
Not a proper video
Very good cover version of the Buzzcocks classic, stripped back and slowed down and made into a sad love song, not the cry of anguish of the original. Done for an ABC (Australia) compilation album, it is well worth tracking down. Just glorious.
'Bored To Death' by blink-182
I've liked blink-182 for a long, long time. Their pseudo-punk posturing aside, their songs are catchy, punchy and great for a general singalong (or shoutalong in my case). Come 2016. 'Bored To Death' hit the airwaves and I was instantly drawn in by the lyrics. Ditto for 'Sober' (honourable mention, above!), but this one spoke to me a little more. " And it's a long way back from seventeen / The whispers turn into a scream…" and I am there.
'What's The Pressure?' by Laura Tesoro
Live at Eurovision
This song possibly passed many by, but, as I have mentioned in previous columns, I am a sucker for Eurovision, and this song (*representing Belgium!) is so cool! Just a fun track, full of Europop goodness. Look, it's one of those songs I can't explain why I like it, but I do. The best song of the 2016 contest, should have done better. (I know many will say the Australian entry was better, but this is my list and I found this song just that much more appealing.)
'We're Not Gonna Take It' by Dee Snider
I have talked about this song in another column. The re-recording of the Twisted Sister classic by the band's lead singer as a striking ballad is done so superbly that it gives the song a whole new meaning and poignancy. It was redone for a cancer trust; I sincerely hoped they got what they needed out of it on the back of this magnificent track.
'Let's Go Out' by Alex Lahey
This is the first Alex Lahey track I heard and I automatically fell for it. Much like Amy Shark (see the next song or the 2018 list), her lyrics are timeless; this was me and Barbara ("Hey, remember that time / That we slept together? / And we just slept") in 1987. I'm old enough to be Alex's father and yet she can write songs that I feel relate to my youth. Just brilliant.
'Adore' by Amy Shark
For the second time, my favourite song of a year is by Amy Shark. This is the track I – like most others – first heard her perform and it captured me straight away. Like so many of her songs, her lyrics are timeless; my 16/17 year old self would have understood what these lyrics were about back in the 1980s, especially after losing Barbara and Clare and going through life in a daze of missing them. And I'll say it again – if Amy's music can make a guy approaching 50 contemplate his past like this, she is a songwriter of some talent.
Amy Shark in 2018
And that's my list! The problem I find with doing lists like this is that I look at the work of young ladies like Amy Shark and Alex Lahey and realise the reason so much of my own stuff isn't published / performed / accepted is that I am not as good as a new, younger generation of writers coming up. It does depress me somewhat…
Anyway, as usual, comments / suggestions / anything are always welcome. And if you have a request for a year I haven't done yet, let me know that as well! This is only the eighth "Songs Of The Year" column I've done, they seem to be popular, and there are heaps more out there! What do you want me to look at?