David Bowie

(Photo: courtesy of the artist)

You could do worse than to measure your year out in songs. I've done that even more than usual this year thanks in part to this humble platform. All I know is that:

  1. A lot of great music was released in 2016 (despite the well-documented constant presence of loss).
  2. I still barely managed to scratch the surface, although I put in a great effort.

That's the big qualifier for this month's extra large, year-end edition of Waking Life. Also note that I decided not to include early release singles from records coming in 2017.

To relate it to my mixtape days, I always sought out the rare 120-minute blank cassettes so I could potentially stuff 30 songs into the space. This is like that, only it's 75 songs clocking in at over five hours because I couldn't possibly cut it down any more from the initial 150. Besides, why not? It's a whole year, after all.

There were plenty of identifiable musical patterns in 2016, most notably of course that of who and what we lost. Yet even from those significant losses -- David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Leonard Cohen -- we gained in such a way that it might also be called The Year of the Farewell Recording.

Other perfectly reasonable labels might include:

  • The Year of the Debut -- Margaret Glaspy, Minor Victories, Adia Victoria, Sunflower Bean, Flock of Dimes, etc. 
  • The Year of the Emerging Female Voice -- Angel Olsen, Mitski, Big Thief, Mothers, Daughter, etc., or
  • The Year of the Long-Awaited Return -- The Avalanches, A Tribe Called Quest, Stone Roses, Wolf Parade, American Football, Lush, etc.

And yet, it's obviously incomplete. But that's okay. It's still a cross-section of some of the music I loved in 2016 -- the new big deal artists, tried and true vets, insistent bangers and seemingly minor cuts that may resonate with no one but me.

All of it brings bliss at the end of an arduous year. The latest fruits of waking life.

Happy New Year!