It’s time for the annual markontour tribute to the late, great John Peel’s Festive Fifty, championing the best new music of the year. As usual, there is very little of a festive nature and not quite fifteen tracks. The rules are only that every song must have been released (in Britain) during 2016 and I can’t choose more than fifteen (but a couple of bonus tracks are allowed, usually for great artists who passed away during the year). For those taking advantage music streaming you can find the playlist here on Spotify.
1. Frankie Sinatra, The Avalanches – Fun, fun, fun, partly at the expense of the great crooner, who apparently hasn’t got the voice to sing calypso.. Evokes the Fun Lovin’ Criminals.
2. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, Jack & Amanda Palmer – Seeing this father and daughter duo perform a moving show at Le Poisson Rouge, NYC, in July was one of the highlights of my year (the link above is from that show). This powerful ballad charts the poignant, live-fast, die-young times of James Adie, Red Molly and their eponymous motorbike.
3. Poem, She Drew The Gun – A fantastic new lyricist, getting angry about the absence of compassion in 2016 Britain. Listen after watching the equally compelling ‘I, Daniel Blake’.
4. Aerosol Ball, The Felice Brothers – A joyous, foot-stomping return to form. The rain in Maine is made of Novocaine, apparently, as the Bros continue to document north America’s underbelly.
5. Slipping, Jagwar Ma – After a hypnotic late-night set at the Glastonbury Crow’s Nest, these Aussie pyschedelics were always going to be on the Festive Fifteen this year.
6. (I’m The One) Big Big Fun, White Denim – There’s a slightly jokey-sleazy feel to this. “Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee / You’re never gonna find someone / To do it quite like me, girl”. Queue cowbells.
7. Bamboo, Hinds – Full of inventive, charming, crazy energy, I so much want to see this Spanish foursome live, because their debut album sounds like they had a cracking time making it.
8. Improving Solutions, The Murlocs – Recommended by the lovely woman in Record Paradise, Melbourne, this local band is the slightly less psychedelic off-shoot of fellow Melburnians, King Gizzard And The Wizard Lizard.
9. Silent Movie Susie, The Big Moon – Full of attitude & explosive live. I can’t wait for the debut album.
10. No Woman, Whitney – I’m not generally a fan of the falsetto (Beach Boys apart), but this is glorious. Nb the high-ish octave is the only connection with Ms Houston.
11. I’m Gonna Live Forever (If It Kills Me), William Tyler – Great song title and the spell-binding guitar playing has kept me company on many a long-haul flight around our beautiful planet this year.
12. I Need You, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – A beautiful love song that also takes up Cave’s grief at the death of his 16 year-old son this year. “We love the ones we can / ‘Cause nothing really matters when you’re gone / Standing in the supermarket / Holding hands”.
13. Picture a Vacuum, Kate Tempest – Incredible at Glastonbury, her 2016 album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ is a work of gritty poetic genius. Here Tempest glides us in from the fiery centre of the solar system to ruminate on what Earth’s “most successful child” has done to its home.
14. The Numbers, Radiohead – Life would be considerably the lesser without Radio 6, which one sunny day this year enabled a few hundred thousand like-minded souls to share the pleasure of listening to Radiohead’s magnificent new album for the first time!
15. I Can’t Give Everything Away, David Bowie – An incredible last testament from a uniquely creative artist. Hard to listen to without a tear.
16. BONUS TRACK #1: So Long Marianne, Leonard Cohen – Another massive loss in 2016. I was a fairly late convert to Cohen, but it was this track, about the Norwegian lover he met on a Greek island “when we were almost young”, that converted me.
17. BONUS TRACK #2: Kiss, Prince – Trump, Brexit, Bowie, Cohen, Prince – the end of year retrospectives are going to be pretty grim, but at least they’ll have an amazing soundtrack. This is also a song that the C40 house band, UC40, covered in their debut gig this year.