If you’ve been paying attention to UBL at all this year I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of posts. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever had as rough a year as 2016 and I’ll be happy to see it go. Unfortunately one of the first things that happens when I’m really down is that I lose the ability to listen to and enjoy music. It’s a real shame this year considering there were so many albums that I had been excited for. And while I thought briefly of taking a quick listen to as many albums as I could, I knew I would regret not giving each album the time it needed to really sink in. So instead I’m going to look back a few albums that managed to break through my funk, the concerts and performances that were the sources of light in an otherwise dark year, and reflect on the lessons I continue to learn as a music blogger.
The first album to really crack through my doom and gloom was Anohni’s Hopelessness. I’ve been a fan of Anhoni’s since I first heard her signature warble in the background of V for Vendetta. I tracked down every song I could get my hands on and fell in love with her music more with each listen. I was intrigued when I saw the press release for Hopelessness which promised a departure from her previous releases under Antony and the Johnsons. While there’s more electronic and pop influences featured throughout Hopelessness, Anhoni’s ability to craft heartbreaking, honest music is as strong as ever. It was wonderful to sit down and take a break from the seemingly never-ending chaos of my 2016 and let Hopelessness completely consume me.
Radiohead is a band that I have consistently revisited in times of distress. Really, the release of A Moon Shaped Pool came at the time when I needed it most. It was easy to get lost in the depths of A Moon Shaped Pool thanks to the band’s ability to intricately layer each track so that there’s something new to discover with each listen and the addition of the London Symphony Orchestra. Escapism is something I truly needed this year and A Moon Shaped Pool was thankfully there for me.
While I didn’t write much this year, I did write about some truly great releases from some very talented musicians. It was hard to sit down and write most of the time and there are several drafts still sitting on my desktop that will never see the light of day. That being said, the posts that were published were all for albums and singles that I felt were not only worth giving more exposure but also music that helped me break through all the personal things that were keeping my mind blocked. I feel like I could spend pages and pages writing about these albums again. For now all I want to do is thank the people that took time to reach out to me and share their music. Words can’t really say how much it helped me through a really rough year.
While I didn’t go to many shows this year, the ones I did attend were pretty amazing. Kicking off my year by knocking Muse off my concert bucket list was a great start to 2016. I was thankful that I took a lot of videos of the astounding visuals that were put together for the show. It was great to revisit those happy memories and experience that residual high at some of the harder moments that happened this year.
While I didn’t do a review for the show, I did manage to get out to see The Used play through their sophomore album In Love and Death. I have many fond memories of this album and turned to it a lot when I was going through tough times. It was an emotional evening that I desperately needed and a reminder that it had been way too long since I had last seen the band in concert.
Another emotional evening involved the final Detroit show for Motion City Soundtrack. Easily one of my favorite bands of all time and a band whose music I’ve consistently turned to during both good times and bad. It was an evening that I desperately needed and wonderful hearing most of my favorite songs for the last time live and, as always, the band put on a fantastic show.
Another show that I seriously was in need of, though I tried to think of any reason to get out of, was Mo Pop this year. The sweltering heat mixed with the fact that things finally seemed to be settling back into place were pulling me to spend that weekend in doors enjoying the glorious air conditioning. However, there were so many bands that I had been excited to see that I knew I would be filled with regret so I sucked it up and went and can easily say it was probably one of my best weekends of the year.
Thinking of Mo Pop reminds me of an important lesson I’m taking from this year and that’s that you should never overlook an artist. My mom always used to tell me that I should try foods that I don’t like from time to time because your taste buds change as you get older. The longer I’ve been blogging about music, the more I think that this can also be expanded to your musical tastes. Music festivals have opened me up more to performers whose music I had never really appreciated before seeing them live. But the biggest reminder of that this year was rediscovering bands that I had previously passed on now that my musical horizons have broadened a bit.
The biggest example of this would have to be Beyoncé. Despite all the hype surrounding Lemonade, I still was skeptic that I’d like it. After all, I had heard this kind of buildup before surrounding other releases from artists that I hadn’t been a fan of before. But when an album continually breaks into the top 5 of every best of list out there how can you not give it a chance? So I put it on and started doing some research and lo and behold, I liked this album. I liked this album a lot. The fact that Jack White, J. Tillman (aka Father John Misty) and Ezra Koenig were brought on to collaborate and the usage of one of my favorite Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs were obviously huge draws for me. Most importantly it’s nice to be reminded that like your own tastes, musicians continue to grow and evolve their sound.
While, for the most part, I would like to completely strike 2016 from my memory, thinking back on the music that helped me get through it reminds me that it wasn’t all bad. I look forward to checking out all the albums that I never got around to listening to. Mostly I hope that things slow down enough so that I can get back to appreciating music because there are some albums and tours to be excited about in 2017.