I suspect today’s choice could prove to be divisive. The moment I heard this track I loved it, but I suspect it may not be everyone’s cup of tea: so fragile it makes Keane seem like Motorhead, this is Sparks by Tom Adams. What clinches it for me is the predominantly instrumental back half of the track. No video for the track as such, it could be interpreted as a rallying point for all of us trying to make sense of 2017 – Hold on, keep the spark alive….
Adams is from Cambridge and his big break came when attending a Nils Frahm concert and Nils invited someone from the audience to come up and play (something Springsteen and Wolf Alice have also done this year).
My next choice are a US band I have come very late to, but delighted now I’ve finally caught up! With a real treasure trove of a back catalogue to explore, they spoiled me even further in 2017 by releasing another critically acclaimed set of articulate, melodic, beautifully crafted songs – either critiquing Trumpism or articulating a troubled marriage (with lyrics written by a husband and wife combination) or possibly both simultaneously. At number 12 it can only be The National and ‘The System only Dreams In Total Darkness’.
I first saw Mac DeMarco perform at the Laneway festival in Sydney in 2015. He was lauded at the time as the new guitar/poet, with soft lilting vocals over soothing melodies. This year’s new album “This Old Dog” is very similar in style to his early stuff and consequently doesn’t rise to any great heights. However, the one stand out track in my mind opens the album. “My Old Man” has a catchy hook and lyrical content that resonates too well:
“look at the mirror
who do you see
surely not me”
A reflection on life, love and the genetic determinism of fathers and sons, it’s worth a listen.
PS Following on from the Tash Sultana observation, DeMarco also had his mum heavily involved with his performance at Laneway in 2015. In the end the concert organisers made her MC for the day.
My number 12 band were pipped to my ‘tracks’ top spot in 2015, but they no doubt took solace in the fact that I made “Get to Heaven” my favourite album of that particular year. The Mancunian quartet were back with their fourth such collection, “A Fever Dream”, which I felt didn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor. Nonetheless, they had a fair crack at doing so, and I could quite easily have included first single “Can’t Do” or ‘album track’, “Big Game” as stand-out moments. However, in the end, I plumped for opener, “Night of the Long Knives”, as it was the opening number when I saw them play a wonderful set at Charing Cross’s “Heaven” club on the longest day of the year. Number 12…