January 12th, 2007

Stuffed CD

Reflections on 2006's music and looking into 2007.

As is usual for Decembers, "best of 2006" lists of albums began cropping up on the forums I frequent in December 2006. I tried to make my own one, and I started to wonder if perhaps I was abnormal as I struggled to think of any truly classic masterpieces beyond Agalloch and Pure Reason Revolution's albums, or anything perhaps not of masterpiece stature but nonetheless great and memorable apart from Wolverine's latest and a couple of others. The more I read, however, the more I see that this complaint is widespread and those who loved 2006 appear to be in the minority. I'm surprised at what has passed for "classic" music in 2006: OK, sure, the fact Joanna Newsom uses a harp as a lead instrument is pretty cool, but beyond that, her music has little to distinguish itself; Mastodon's Blood Mountain seems only to be considered notable by people who don't regularly listen to metal (it strikes me as a solid but unremarkable release); and that dreadful Scott Walker album flies straight over the line of experimentalism and is firmly within the territory of shoving a fork up your arse, twisting ten times, and calling it experimental. Very little at all caught my attention last year.

2006 was, of course, also marred by sadness with the passing of Syd Barrett. It was the first time any artist I've actively followed has died while I've been a fan - in fact, no band I follow has even split up while I've been following them, let alone a death. That sort of stuff had always happened before I'd become aware of the artist. I also always thought that, with the universe's sense of humour, Syd was going to outlive every other member of Pink Floyd and just potter around in his reclusive privacy forever and a day. So his death hit me hard. He may have been essentially dead to the world since the early seventies, but the fact he was still around meant something. I consider him to be the greatest of all members of the Floyd, a man of unparalleled but crazed genius (though I am also a big fan of Gilmour). So Syd's death combined with rather uninspiring output made 2006 generally a very unremarkable year in music for me.

However! On the bright side, 2007 looks set to be an incredible year in music, possibly even better than my previous holy grail year, 1999. 1999 had the best albums by some of my favourite bands: Porcupine Tree's Stupid Dream, Agalloch's Pale Folklore, Opeth's Still Life, and Anathema's Judgement. However, this year, it seems like almost every band I follow that's still active is putting out an album, and so are other bands who I like a fair bit but would not necessarily "follow". Albums are forthcoming from the likes of Blackfield, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Anathema, Orphaned Land, Opeth, Neil Finn, Neal Morse, Sculptured, Circus Maximus, Symphony X, Marillion, Rush, Pelican, and possibly even U2. And I have to wonder when Martin Phillipps will finally decide to release the next Chills album. And bloody hell, Cynic are even reforming for a tour this year! What a year of music. If I'm really lucky, I may even get to see Muse and Arcturus in concert. I'm feeling quite optimistic and excited.