2016 ... where to begin. So many greats telling us we have to light our own kindling now, and remember the lessons they taught us. So many fresh horrors to face but so much love as well. Whether to fail to seize this moment in history and be a spectator as your precious time passes you by; or to use your voice, your ears, your heart and all the rest to really live. It's a scary thought, yet fear is the mind killer, as they say ... and we have heard far too much from fearful men this year.
So here I am, at a year end list for Spacelab. Well, Bowie was obviously so amazing with Black Star that you can't really compare that experience to anything else. Let us therefore respectfully let the Thin White Duke depart in grace, mirth and majesty but I'll focus instead on five records that deeply moved me on a personal level from less familiar faces.
1) Globelamp - The Orange Glow
2016 was all about things often being other than what they appear and the ways in which we process strength, anger, solidarity, the sacred and the profane as the dust settles. Elizabeth Le Fey's The Orange Glow might be about the snares of the music industry, the dangers and benefits of hoping, the death of a close friend or innocence or often a reflection on her more than strained experiences with Foxygen's Sam France. Whichever facet you latch on to, this is an album that is very, very good and deserves to be absorbed fully. Sadly, it seems a lot of people have wanted to keep Elizabeth from speaking her truth. Consider that it is better to give someone an ear than to lose unique or fragile voices due to tone policing those who are processing anger and healing through art and activism. Whether this fairy tale twists dark or light, the entire record is completely invigorating and got me through the tough times more than any other this year.
2) Miserable - Uncontrollable
Kristina Esfandiari, to state it plain, does not make fake music. The find the coolest reverb hipster wars of the gaze revival don't apply here. Imagine instead you found a still pool full of secrets and once you go through the looking glass you are bound to be changed by the lessons. Every song aches with import but the artist's catharsis is never presented in a cloying, exploitative way. If the songs weren't so comforting and warm, almost like a shot of heroin's rich and scary pull, you'd almost feel like a voyeur if you weren't totally distracted by the moment. Regardless of the listener's take, the woman at the calm center of these beautiful songs sounds dead set to be strong no matter how many vulnerable moments come before the wave crests.
3) Prince Rama - Xtreme Now
Prince Rama prove on Xtreme Now that "now is the time of emotion" but get you into your body and out of your head as well with these simply incredible anthems. There is almost nothing more invigorating to sing along with (obviously Beyonce not withstanding) than Taraka Larson's big hook moments in 'Your Life In The End'. Accepting time is a flat circle and the joy in ego death has never been so colorful or fun a party starter. I wish I could blast this album to all of America to give everyone a refreshing jolt of possibility and boundless light.
4) Psychic Ills - Inner Journey Out
This is definitely a time we needed to do some soul searching in America and I found some of my best meandering thoughts accompanied by the Jesus & Mary Chain caught in a desert haze mirage of this album. The joyful, lonely yet romantic sounds of Psychic Ills Inner Journey Out record will make you feel like you experienced every part of an epic road trip by the time you are through. I know whoever I was talking to in White Hills on Twitter one night really digs this as well, and since that band is psychedelic as heck... you know they wouldn't settle on any old cactus juice enhanced sounds. This is the real deal awesome.
5) Nothing - Tired Of Tomorrow
This slot almost went to Savages for their excellent Adore Life, a sentiment we could use more of than being tired of tomorrow, ha. But I listened to this more, and it was an exhausting year. I wasn't as enamored as everyone experiencing this sound for the first time but Nothing are a strong enough band that they still make their own records and simply write killer tunes. Even when the record bins of yesteryear are being sorted in the back of the most erudite snobs mind, a riff or morose line soon comes along that is so good you just let go. And that, my friends, is rare.