Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 2016 Song of the Year

It's probably pointless to crank out another end-of-year post. I already kind of did two, and if I ever want to be a respectable adult person, I need to stop moping about my crappy 2016.

But, it's been a tradition of mine to celebrate my favorite shows and songs each year. And even at 7 PM on New Year's Eve, I guess it deserves at least a half-assed effort to keep that tradition going. 

There's no sense in attempting to do a "Year in Shows" post. I only attended one show this year, and it was more to hang out with an old friend than to enjoy the music. (Because -- sorry, Black Lips, but your "thing" doesn't do it for me any more). Frankly, the fact that the Black Lips are the only band I saw perform live this year is at least as disappointing as attending no shows at all would have been.

Still, I still listened to a lot of music this year. And as I tried to work though so many confusing things -- financial stress, career anxiety, fears over my health, and deep feelings of sadness and loneliness as I watched some of my oldest friendships die right before me -- I turned to the music that best suited the sense of confusion and withdrawal that defined my head space this year. 

That opened my eyes and ears -- and I guess my heart and soul -- to all kinds of music that I'd never heard before. And that's a very good thing.

No song spoke to my confused feelings more than Let's Eat Grandma's "Rapunzel."  

It's a dark, disturbing song that's worth your time. The themes - of feeling lost, of feeling wronged, and of possibly feeling that one is living out a life that isn't his or her own -- very much resonated for me this year. 

Indeed, the lyrics of the coda -- combined with the gloriously eerie harmonies -- still leave me numbly staring into my screen even as I listen to it now:

"And there is something strange in my mind
And there is something weird in my head"

None of my introspective nonsense even takes into account the phenomenal piano or drums on this track. Or the fact that the song was written and performed by teenagers -- artists who are far, far younger than their contemporaries in my earbuds this year. 

So, there you have it. I thank Let's Eat Grandma for making me feel slightly less unstable in my 2016.....or at the very least, for allowing me to feel less alone in my instability this year.  Yours is my song of the year.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Defense of 2016

"FUCK 2016!" 

Go ahead and say it, if you haven't gotten it out of your system yet.

Here it is: December. The month of the "In Memorium" article.  I certainly don't need to write the list out for you by this point.

I'm not going to pretend that it was a good year. I've had good years before -- great ones, in fact. I know what they look like.

This wasn't one of them. Not by a long shot.

Still, amidst the chorus of jeers for 2016, I'll make one concession on its behalf. Because we have to be adults about this: people die. And they rarely do it on a convenient or pleasurable schedule. But we all die.

Few of us, however, ever come back to life. And that's what was special about this year.

Because in 2016, the mighty Glenn Danzig was reborn.

For more than 20 years, it's been the cool thing to mock Danzig. For his silly image. For his shitty attitude. For his uneven releases.

Even those of us who defended Glenn the most over the years have had to accept Danzig being Danzig, even when it disappointed us.

But then, in 2016, Glenn Danzig won us all back. And it was a joy to experience.

It wasn't just the Misfits reunions shows -- although the evening I spent furiously searching for live streams from the Denver show was certainly the highlight of my musical year.

This was actually a gradual process that started a few years ago. It began with small moments that a lot of people might not have noticed at the time: 

There was the borderline-stunning return to form on 2010's "Dethred Sabaoth."

There was Samhain's "30 Bloody Years" tour in 2014, when Glenn looked happier to be on stage than at any other time I'd seen him.

There was the long-awaited release of the weird and wonderful "Danzig Legacy TV Special" in 2015, during which Danzig's fucking tooth fell out of his head and rolled across the carpet mid-set. And instead of pitching a fit, the guy simply smiled, sheepishly grumbled to Doyle about what had just happened, and left it all in the final cut.

There was the unusually friendly and generous series of interviews he gave to Loudwire and Rolling Stone.

By the time he made that hysterical cameo on Portlandia earlier this year, it was becoming obvious that Glenn Danzig just wanted to have some fun. And in that context, the Misfits reunion makes perfect sense.

Still, who really believed it would happen? And who believed it would be any good?

That's the even greater miracle of 2016: the Misfits reunion shows were outstanding. The band sounded great, the crowds were ravenous, and there was nothing weird or awkward happening on stage to ruin the night. 

Compared to reunions this year by Guns n'Roses (...successful, but uninspiring), Dokken (...thoroughly disastrous), and LCD Soundsystem ( scam) the Misfits shows were the only ones that came across as vital, visceral or relevant.

So say what you want about 2016, and all it took from us. Because it sure took a lot.

But in 2016, we got Glenn Danzig back. And I'll celebrate that.