This week MostlyFilm is looking back on 2016 – the cultural year, rather than the cavalcade of horrors which have replaced “news”. To start with, let’s talk music…
Susan Patterson’s Album of the Year
Konnichiwa – Skepta
I came late to Skepta’s music. Sometime in 2015 I first heard him saying the line When I was in school, being African was a diss, Sounds like you need help saying my surname, Miss on Wizkid’s Ojuelegba and it was the clear London accent and wit that made me seek out his music. I was hooked.
Skepta’s music made me laugh (We’ve been here so long
I just heard the speakers yawn), it charmed me This is what music sounds like in my dreams. Mental), it affronted me (although I’m sure Kate Winslet thinks very highly of him), and that was just Same Shit Different Day (2012). I admired him because though his own label , Boy Better Know he owned his own work. He was free to make and distiribute whatever he wanted. He didn’t need to dumb down, nor white-up for, for a mainstream record company.
The lead track Konnichiwais the lyrical story of his rise and success. It tells you everything you need to know about Skepta and his philosophy. He loves his mum and dad, his old mates, distrusts the police, knows he’s good, knows he’s lucky.
Skepta is an extraordinary artist. Konnichiwais an extraordinary album. It deservedly won the 2016 Mercury Prize.
Mr Moth’s Pop Awards 2016
Macklemore Memorial Award for Good/Shit Line-Walking
Perfect Illusion, Lady Gaga
This might be good, might be awful. I honestly can’t tell, and that is exciting. The key-change alone made my day, first time I listened to it. Perhaps not for the right reasons, but that doesn’t matter, does it? Death of the author applies to pop songs, right?
Comeback of the Year
On What You’re On, Busted
The song is OK, not brilliant but you can see they’re going for a second-La-Roux-album vibe and that’s cool. I’m always up for that. The award is, I guess, just for existing in the first place. Busted! Back together! I said it would never happen, that McBusted was the best we could hope for, but no, here they are. And if they’re not exactly boshing out Year 3000-style bangers, at least this isn’t the godawful shite of the resurrected Take That.
Skwod, Nadia Rose
Yeah not really a debut, but Skwod is Nadia Rose making a real impact for the first time. A beautifully controlled performance on the record and in the video, with charm to spare.
Best Alternative Version
Sia ft Sean Paul – Cheap Thrills
This is a great song to start with, but it needs something. Some little extra oomph to get it to greatness. WEIRDLY – since usually this is the thing that ruins all songs and makes you want to burn them. Burn them all – the addition of Sean Paul blabbering over the top is exactly right. It pushes against Sia’s irresistible hook and creates a melodic tension that will not be denied. Fun video, too.
Phenomenon of the Year
Sure, they’ve been around forever, and this year’s crop aren’t even this year’s crop (if you see what I mean), but they’ve been inescapable this year. Mo, Zara Larsson, Tove Lo – three voices you won’t have gone a month without hearing. An unstoppable triumvirate of Northern European vocal talent, their paths have veered from nearly unlistenable to genuinely brilliant.
Filthy Fucker of the Year
HE KNOWS WHAT HE DID
No Money, Galantis
Essentially, “The band my kid likes” but you know what, they’re pretty good. My daughter was a bit fan of both Peanut Butter Jelly AND No Money, without linking the fact that they were by the same band. Organic development of musical taste ftw! And No Money is seriously good pop, with a splendid video – a clever, well-executed tale of urban magical realism that doesn’t feel the need to be brash and showy while nevertheless creating a strong story with memorable visuals.
Worst Thing of the Year
Sweatshirt, Jacob Sartorius
Yep. Still the worst thing. Creepy little fuck.
Spank the Monkey’s Best of 2016
My 35th consecutive Pick Of The Year compilation works to the same rules as the previous 34: my favourite tracks from the last twelve months’ releases, confined within the limitations of my chosen delivery medium (which, for the 19th year running, continues to be the compact disc). Here’s what the 79 minutes and 36 seconds of Täähä Menöö Hyvi! Pick Of The Year 2016 looks like.
- KATE BUSH – King Of The Mountain (from Before The Dawn)
- DAVID BOWIE – Lazarus (from Blackstar)
- KID CARPET – Tiny Light (from Dogmeat)
- RUTH THEODORE – The Carcass And The Pride (from Cactacus)
- RIZ MC – Englistan (from Englistan)
- YLVIS – Old Friends (single)
- PET SHOP BOYS – The Pop Kids (from Super)
- SAUL WILLIAMS FEAT. EMILY KOKAL – Burundi (from MartyrLoserKing)
- MASSIVE ATTACK FEAT. HOPE SANDOVAL – The Spoils (single)
- UNDERWORLD – If Rah (from Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future Together)
- BILLY BRAGG & JOE HENRY – The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More (from Shine A Light)
- THE DIVINE COMEDY – How Can You Leave Me On My Own (from Foreverland)
- ABC – The Love Inside The Love (from The Lexicon Of Love II)
- KATE TEMPEST – Ketamine For Breakfast (from Let Them Eat Chaos)
- DONNA LYNNE CHAMPLIN – Face Your Fears (from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Original Television Soundtrack (Season 1 – Volume 1))
- KOJEY RADICAL – Kwane Nkrumah (from 23Winters)
- ENKEL – Pappilan Hääyö (from Pappilan Hääyö)
Taking a detached look at that listing, it’s interesting to note that in these post-referendum times, it’s largely made up of British music. Still, it’s reassuring to me that it’s a Britain which includes the likes of Riz Ahmed and Kojey Radical: the former has become enjoyably omnipresent in our culture this year, and I think the same could happen to the latter given a bit of time and space.
As ever, a full justification of the tracklisting can be found on my own blog, along with an explanation of why the CD has a Finnish title this year. It’s the fault of Enkel, the band responsible for the final track, who I discovered on a trip to Helsinki earlier this year. Despite them being a tiny folk outfit with little appeal outside their own country, they appear to have full international distribution for their debut album. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Nordic regions, Ylvis – who had a viral worldwide hit with The Fox three years ago – are still releasing music, but it’s locked down so tightly that you literally can’t buy one of their digital tracks without a Norwegian credit card. It’s no wonder that people are reduced to ripping their songs off YouTube videos, or so I’m told.
Anyway, that’s why the Spotify playlist above doesn’t have Ylvis on it, as their most recent material is only available for streaming and download in Norway. (The playlist is also missing Kate Bush, who’s presumably withholding her live album from streaming services because she’s a Tory.) Still, at least with Ylvis we always have the videos. Get ready to have your emotions played with aggressively.