Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: the 1975

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2016 Mix

Makeup For the Silence - Best of 2016!

So I’m a liar. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Between some job-related scrambling and a three-day-long headache that ended with a CAT scan and a few many fistfuls of Advil/Tylenol/HeavierStuff, I didn’t manage to get this thing online before the new year swung around.

The good news is, three days in, this year is basically the same as the last, so you can still listen to this. It’s cool. I promise.

I know 2016 was supposedly an annus horribilis – and we did lose many more musical icons (not to be confused with Mandy Moore, Musical Icon) in a single revolution than we ever should* – but honestly, if 2016 had ended on November 7th, I think we’d all be talking about the year just past in much different terms. And while I’m pretty dubious that 2017 will be anything but a disaster for our most vulnerable and an introduction to vulnerability for a whole bunch more of us (who hadn’t considered we’d be there, perhaps ever, in our lifetimes), the truth is 2016 itself was actually a pretty good year – personally, and I think collectively. So while next year’s mixtape might just be a track-list etched by a thousand bent fingernails on the walls of the work camp, this year’s mix pretty fairly reflects what was, by and large, a positive experience when lived from day to day.

I’m gonna miss it like candy.

The seventh** edition of my year-end mixtape arrives in much the same way last year’s did: with maybe six songs that were locks to make this list from the jump, and then a lot of rooting through the 300-odd tracks on my Top Tracks of 2016 playlist***. I’ve, as always, avoided any big pop hits – otherwise this years list might just be O.T. Genasis feat. Young Dolph on loop – but I’ve backed away from the tradition of keeping tracks from my Top Ten albums off of the list. Truth is, even when I wasn’t listening to those albums, it was certain tracks from those albums I kept coming back to, and this year’s mix would feel incomplete without them. They’re the anchor pieces.

If last year’s mix trended darker, this year’s feels a little brighter, a little more hopeful. It’s not all wide-eyed; if anything, this year’s selections are a little more introspective than the last. But even its denser moments generally offer something to dream on.

It’s also the first mix I’ve made where every track is available on Spotify****. That’s probably largely reflective of my listening habits – Spotify’s ease of use, and of playlist compilation, led me to spending less time on SoundCloud and the like, because even once you find something good, it’s frankly a pain to grab music from elsewhere and then sync it to Spotify, especially when I often go weeks without touching my MacBook. I do 90% of my personal computing on my mobile now. The medium is the message, or something. (The message, however, is rarely on Medium.)

Enough of the rambles; on with the show.

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2016

  1. Empty – Garbage
  2. Purge – Frameworks
  3. Fall On Me – Kitten
  4. Bury It – CHVRCHES (feat. Hayley Williams)
  5. Tiger Hologram – Swet Shop Boys
  6. Zadok – Myrone
  7. Bottle It Up – Sherwood
  8. Me & Magdalena (Version 2) – The Monkees
  9. Sell My Head – Tancred
  10. Humblest Pleasures – Turnover
  11. Blood In The Cut – K. Flay
  12. Goodness, Pt. 2 – The Hotelier
  13. Broken Drum – Cash Cash (feat. Fitz of Fitz & the Tantrums)
  14. I Am Chemistry – Yeasayer
  15. No Time Valentine – Roy English
  16. All Night – King Neptune
  17. Rebecca – Against Me!
  18. U-turn – Tegan & Sara
  19. The Sound – The 1975
  20. May I Have This Dance – Francis & the Lights
  21. Deep Six Textbook – Let’s Eat Grandma
  22. 17th Street Treatment Centre – John K. Samson

click image to download

I’ll be back tomorrow with some more thoughts on the Year In Music and my personal listening habits, and then we’ll get into the business of counting down. I’m not sure I’ll go in quite as deep as I typically do this time around (that aforementioned work stuff, again), but I’m not ruling it out either.

*one of whom will be showing up on my Top Ten in the coming weeks

**You can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.

***I’ve archived my 2016 list and rolled my 2017 one right on top, so if you were subscribed, you should be following 2017 now. If not, follow along right here.

****…for now. Of course, tracks on Spotify come and go on the wind and the whim, so I still strongly recommending downloading. That said, you can stream it here.

#7 Album of 2013 – The 1975 – The 1975

#7 – THE 1975 – THE 1975 [spotify]

(feat. track – “Settle Down” [spotify])

There was a lot of talk around this year’s South By Southwest as to whether, given the ever-increasing corporate spending and the continuing presence of attention vampires big name superstars, the music festival was relevant anymore as an avenue for breaking new bands. I don’t think that one piece of anecdotal evidence is any sort of proof one way or the other, but speaking from my own experience, nobody had a more deafening buzz last year than The 1975, and all those buzzers were right. (Naturally I didn’t manage to actually catch the band there).

The 1975 tickles all of my sweet spots – big memorable pop melodies tempered by splashes of pathos; vaguely danceable mid-tempo grooves; a distinctively-yet-not-annoyingly-voiced singer; little production quirks that act like tiny beacons for anticipation each time I hit replay; smoove 80’s sax. (Let’s be honest, everyone loves a little smoove 80’s sax.) It’s the sound of Blue era Stephan Jenkins, just returned from a short English holiday, soundtracking a John Hughes movie.

If that all sounds a bit kludgy and roundabout, well: it is. The 1975 is a composite, a collage. It’s the borrowed bits and reconfigured parts of other bands. Each constituent piece remains easily identifiable – a U2 chime in one of Adam Hamm’s guitar leads here; a Peter Gabriel cadence in Matthew Healy’s vocal there – but the thing as a whole feels like something new. Taking all the best bits of different bands and smashing them together shouldn’t work this well, but The 1975 are those guys with the moving van, the ones that somehow Tetris all your stuff so that it fits in a space half as big as it should need – through what seems like magic and luck but is clearly really skill, the end product is seamless and efficient. You can question the artfulness of the result, sure, but it’s hard to deny the artfulness of the process.

The outcome is an album that’s easy to like on first listen but doesn’t go stale with age. It’s a bit overlong, sure, but I seem to pick a new favorite flourish up each time i give i a go. Sometimes I get the nagging suspicion that, just maybe, I should feel guilty about loving something so precisely calculated; ultimately, though, I just want to celebrate that all those calculations check out. The 1975 adds up so well.

2013 Year In Review

Motley Crue – Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)

Last year, I wrote up a lengthy State Of The Scene report, almost inadvertently – it began as a few stray comments I intended to send in along with my Pazz & Jop ballot, and spiraled out into something much larger.Those comments, unsurprisingly, didn’t get printed (though two of my picks did manage to get called out in this piece!)

The irony is that, this year, there would be no sense in me sending in something similar. What, last year, seemed to me so far off the critical radar that I felt compelled to shine a spotlight on it, is this year such a glaringly obvious trend that there’s nothing I could write that wouldn’t be redundant of the excellent, and well-read, work this year by folks like Ian Cohen and Leor Galil. What was a thousand words last year can, this time out, be reduced to an #emorevival hashtag and a few links.

The real kicker? Not a single artist that could reasonably be called an emo revival act made my list of albums or singles that I submitted to the Voice this year, nor will any make my Top Ten here. I don’t think any are even making the final cut on my 2013 Mix. These acts are calling back to a generation of emo which precedes the discovery of melody, or theatricality, or ambition, or edge, even cartoony edge. There’s precious little of that sort of stuff in my personal canon – American Football’s album and the first two Owen CDs; Mineral‘s The Power Of Failing; early Bright Eyes, if you want to count that – but noodly sadboy navelgazing has never really been my scene.

Even the stuff I liked most from that era, like Jimmy Eat World‘s Clarity or Death Cab for Cutie‘s The Photo Album, place song structure, harmony and production values at their fore. Of all the things you could ape about late-90s emo, “lack of vitality” seems like a poor choice, and yet it’s the dominant mode of the day. So you can write an intricately fingerpicked, multi-movement suite without a single memorable hook or any shift in emotional tone? Congrats, you’re Yngwie Malmst-emo! Pick up your award at the circular file under my desk.

What excited me this year?Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace waving her identity like a battle flag on True Trans. Bands with guitars that made me want to dance, from Haim’s Days Are Gone and Chvrches The Bones Of What You Believe to SmallpoolsEP and The 1975’s self-titled album. Wonderful comeback albums from two acts that could be called emo revival, except that they were part of the terribly uncool* era of emo we’re currently trying to pretend never happened: Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock And Roll and Paramore’s Paramore.

*Even a metal purist acknowledges hair metal as a part of the genre’s history, even an important (if embarrassing) step in it’s development. Why is it that old-school emo fans consistently privilege cool over historicity and narrative?

Follow-ups from acts that made my list a year or two ago and managed not to disappoint, like OMD (the perfectly-titled English Electric) and Mansions’s Doom Loop. Nu-twang that sidestepped clap-n-stomp blustering of Mumfordcore in favor of something a little more personal, like Twin Forks’ EP and Lacey Caroline’s Songbird and Jimmie Deeghan’s Cheap Therapy. Side projects of old favorites that not only delighted but surprised, like WhitewaitsAn Elegant Exit (Rob Rowe of Cause & Effect) and The Here And Now’s Born To Make Believe, Part 1 (Alan Day of Four Year Strong). My every-third-year nu-gaze treasure, this time around from The History Of Apple Pie, Out Of View.

And pop. Pop! So much pop! It was the year of the superstar: Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Jay Z, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Drake and Katy Perry all put out albums that were deeply intriguing, each one for vastly different reasons. Some were great; most weren’t; even the failures contained some combination of perfect singles and deeply ambitious overreaches that made me want to figure out what went wrong, and why, and how.

And if this was the year pop superstars reasserted themselves, the pop underground held its own too. Some of my favorite pop jams came from folks who didn’t even register a blip on the mainstream radar, like Kelsey Chaos’ Out Of This World and Tilian’s Material Me, Cady Groves’ “Forget You” and roboteyesself-titled. Even Carly Rae Jepsen, the most unfairly-scarlet-lettered One Hit Wonder in recent memory, got in on the fun with maybe my favorite song of the year, ”Take A Picture“.

So you can count me out on scenes for now. This is the state of my scene, and that’s a scene of one. It’s a post-genre world, and the freedom to run from what doesn’t click with you is just as exhilarating as the freedom to dig into something new or uncool. That’s where I stood for a long time, before the 2000’s emo revolution sucked me in, and it’s to where I gladly return. Everything old is new again. It’s the same old, same old situation.

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