Music in 2016


Normally I do these lists in the week between Christmas and New Year, but this year I only wrote a post about my Whisky of the Year in that week. This happened, in part, because I kept discovering new music in the last couple of weeks of the year, which I couldn’t listen to enough before writing a list. The biggest reason however, was that I got a bit tired of writing things since I was doing a lot of that for our club’s magazine.

So, yesterday I was talking to my friend TT about this and I decided I’m going to write the annual music top X list today. Last year was a year with quite a few releases that peaked my interest, but unfortunately it also was a year of records that didn’t really deliver.

The ones I had high hopes for but just didn’t really keep me interested were, for example, released by PJ Harvey, Regina Spektor, Bon Iver, The Veils, Marissa Nadler (x2), St. Paul & The Broken Bones and some others. Most of these records were pretty good, but just not as good as what came before.

Unlike last year where I could only select a top 7 and give a lot of others a shared eighth position, this year I am almost back to having a top ten. I’m almost at a top 10, but the tenth record I had initially selected is one that I’ve not spent enough time listening to, to justify it being in the list.

Initially I had written a paragraph about being back to ten records in my list. Then I decided to kick #10 out, because it felt that a lot of random records could fill that spot.

I wrote a new paragraph about there being nine, instead of seven last year. After that, while writing the entries below, I suddenly remembered a record that I recently discovered and have been listening to a lot, but somehow had not added to my Spotify list (which is my main source of this endeavor).

So, I should actually rewrite, or ctrl-Z enough to get my ‘we’re back to ten records’ paragraph back, but that would mean risking the loss of everything that’s below. So, sod it.

#10 Applewood Road – Applewood Road

I’m one-upping myself once again. In 2014 I had quite few country records in my list. Last year that went down a bit, but this I seem to be back at that. Applewood Road is a bit folky, a  bit bluegrass-y (since it’s quite sparse and recorded around a single microphone) and quite lovely.


#9 Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days of Oakland

Another quite ‘American’ record for which I don’t have a clue which genre it sits in. What I do know is that it’s bloody awesome to see him perform on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, and that the entire record is pretty brash, which makes it’s pretty great.


#8 The Deer – Tempest & Rapture

Yup, more Americana. Another quite gentle record, but one I’ve listened to quite a lot over the last couple of months. This one I only discovered in December or so, and especially Winter to Pry has a certain way of being quite dark, but sounding much lighter than it actually is. Which I like.


#7 Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth

This is some moody stuff. It’s a bit like a slow and more abstract version of PJ Harvey (who is writing lyrics that are a bit too tangible at the moment). It’s slow and maybe even a bit ambient. It works quite well for me when I’m trying to read for example, or just at work although I prefer work music to be a bit more up-tempo. But again, this is quite moody.


#6 Paul Cauthen – My Gospel

The most country record of my list. It’s not entirely ‘redneck’ and has some rock and soul influences too. What got me immediately is Paul Cauthen’s voice, which is incredibly deep and loud. It carries the same weight a trumpet can in a band. It carries the entire music, which is cool. I also like the album in total, with some really voluminous tracks on it.


#5 John Moreland – High on Tusla Heat

A bit less deep voiced than Paul Cauthen, but quite a gravelly voice to go with the sparse arrangements of mostly just a guitar. John Moreland sings about regular things, doubts, love and Oklahoma. And his love for Oklahoma. It’s pretty quiet and calm, but the songs are gorgeous.


#4 Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

I don’t think I have much explaining to do for this one. I’ve been in love with Leonard Cohen’s songs for ages, and I think most people can (or should learn to) appreciate his beautiful lyrics. Even though his voice is less ‘singing’ and more ‘speaking’ towards the end of his life, it’s still gorgeous. It’s a fitting record for someone in his eighties writing a last chapter.


#3 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Nick Cave’s many side projects have been my favorites for years. Last year his latest record came out, accompanies by ‘One More Time with Feeling’. A movie about him making a record in the aftermath of his son’s untimely death.

It’s quite a bleak record, and some songs don’t really resonate with me at all. However, there are some stellar tracks on the record as well (hence its #3 position). I wonder how this is going to work out live, in October…


#2 Mitski – Puberty 2

I don’t know anything about Mitski. I don’t know why the record is called Puberty 2, while there is no Puberty 1 to come before it. What I do know is that this is a great record. It’s taking some clues from older PJ Harvey records, I think. Based on the way the songs can be quite noisy and loud.

NPR’s All Songs Considered pointed me towards this record, and I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s been in my ‘phone playlist’ for a long time now. Don’t expect any poetic lyrics or anything, but just a good bit of indie rock music.


#1 Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

After not seeing this in the list earlier, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is here at pole position. I didn’t really expect much of the record after King of Limbs being a bit of a, well, less interesting record.

When this came out, though, it’s far more like the Radiohead of some years ago with quite the incredible level of song-craft.


The fun bit of doing this review in March, instead of in December is that I can already look forward a bit to the 2017 top 10. By the way things look now, it’s going to be quite amazing. Already there have been some stellar releases that have been on repeat at work and during commute (Valerie June, Courtney Marie Andrews, Laura Marling, Hurray for the Riff-Raff) and there’s a lot more coming in the coming 9.5 months…

The releases I’m looking forward to the most, and that I know of, are Old Crow Medicine Show, Jason Isbell, Future Islands, Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, The National, and there’s probably going to be others.

If you have some suggestions for me, please let me know!


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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5 Responses to Music in 2016

  1. Marco says:

    Bedankt voor de introductie van Paul Cauthen en John Moreland. Ik houd van whisk(e)y, lees je artikelen maar houd vooral van goede (country) muziek. You really made my day!

  2. Marco says:

    Nog een paar : Steve Young ( oa Seven Bridges Road ) Chris Whitley ( album Living With The Law met Dust Radio ) Guy Clark en Gene Clark ( No Other)

    Het is allemaal van de vorige eeuw, maar te goed om te vergeten. Doe je zelf een plezier en luister er eens een keer naar als je tijd en zin hebt. Het zijn de Brora’s en Porthopedie Ellens van de American. Naar mijn bescheiden mening.

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