As a remarkable year in music draws to a close, Getintothis’ Peter Guy offers his annual reflection and ponders a more extraordinary future.
“There we were, now here we are, all this confusion nothings the same to me.
This is confusion am I confusing you?”
It’s all just noise. We are, we are told, surrounded by noise.
When I was growing up ‘noise‘ was something I made a lot of. Or so I’m told. Anyone who knows me probably finds that hard to believe, however, noise is something which has followed me around for much of my 37 years. And I don’t anticipate this trend being bucked anytime soon.
My first memory, of my first day at nursery involves three young boys who would become my close primary school friends – Adam, Alex and Stuart were building a large fantastical structure on the wiry industrial carpet that were prone to be fitted in schools in the 1980s. The type of carpet that should you skid on your knees would result in second degree burns and scaring akin to being attacked by a large shark. Over the course of the early part of the morning, Adam, Alex and Stuart had built their impressive wooden block structure and it now towered above most children’s heads. That was until I was dropped off by my patient and saintly grandfather, who watched in horror as his blonde-pudding-bowl-haired enfant terrible darted across the fuzzy-felted carpet and proceeded to destroy the magnificent skyscraper with several flying kicks of his blue patent shoes.
As the children balled their eyes out and the walls of wood came tumbling down, a reception class teacher came rushing through exclaiming: ‘What is that noise?‘ Four-year-old Peter Guy had arrived.
Noise nowadays is a byword for chaos and confusion. A perpetual pest on the senses and we are ever-increasingly in the grip of terrifying white noise; harsh, screaming and so loud it doesn’t just deafen but blind and knock us off balance. In our quest for more of everything: information, technology, better standards of living and happiness we consciously choose to shower ourselves in noise. And if we don’t not only is it near unavoidable, but we’re seen as either lower rate citizens or losing out in the noise game.
Much of this year’s television – or the television that is considered of cultural importance (Hypernormalisation, Black Mirror etc) – has concerned itself with information, technology, how we receive it and digesting our future. Yet the sheer volume of noise means it’s sometimes near indecipherable to digest tomorrow, let alone our future. Post-truth politics is now the norm while Question Time is closer to the bear-baiting original format of X Factor or Jeremy Kyle than a serious current affairs panel programme. But you know all this. Surely? You’re all playing along on Twitter. Our living rooms and mobile phones are the new communal worldwide pubs and last orders is never called.
It seems somewhat ironic then, that within this perpetual battle for sense and structure that it is our true noise-makers – our musicians and artists – that provide a regular platform for clarity and space (as an aside, if you want a televisual companion piece, surely the quiet, wholesome beauty of Planet Earth II is the visual accompaniment to this year’s best new music, but I digress…) – and it is quite often immersing oneself in music that helps provide relief and something of a safety net from the outside unsettling world of unrelenting, crushing noise.
And in 2016, these paradoxical worlds of noise provided the most dramatic 12 months imaginable.
With sociological and political uncertainty abounding it was the very reason why Solange, and her contemporaries, demanded quite literally a seat at the table through their musical message – and how we, as the listener, desired it more than ever. And while the new, emerging musicians roared stridently we similarly felt profound sadness at the musical giants who passed away; theirs was a loss we as music fans felt so deeply because some of the light, hope and truth they provide through the gift of song was taken away.
But the noise, keeps coming. And as 2015 closed with a tempered sigh of resignation as we mourned the passing of The Kazimier in Liverpool, we embraced the new noise and the vigour and power to renew it always offers.
This year, Liverpool music always felt like it was reshaping. A friend of mine, David, recently said he didn’t go to music events in the city centre anymore – but that was very much what many of us were forced into doing; be it promoters, artists or fans – we reacquainted ourselves with many of the older venues on offer as bands that would have surely been booked for The Kazimier were now in the more traditional spaces while pockets of smaller venues – and the odd bigger ones were to become utilised.
Intriguingly, 2016 seemed like Liverpool music’s busiest yet – for all the uncertainty about audiences and the lack of independent spaces there was never any respite – and wealth of festivals all year round again was plentiful. Punishing even. I’ll concede that these last 12 months was certainly the first when I truly started to feel my age and at times, while the mind and soul willed us on the body simply said ‘that’s quite enough of that‘. It was also the first year that we felt the positive rush of nostalgia and youth rushing though our veins as the glory years of Oasis were revisited both on screen and in art form in suitably bombastic and brilliant fashion.
But, in truth, it’s still the new noise that keeps us thirsty and invigorated, and the discovery of new artists, new spaces, new innovators and new media that drives us on – and 2016 was simply awash with it. Whether Getintothis captured it is up for debate – but I like to think we did our best…
Best 15 Gigs of 2016
As previously alluded to, 2016 was a year of change – the default setting of The Kazimier was gone – so to was that sense of community that the space afforded. In the early part of the year audiences were noticeably down and there was a genuine sense of loss. However, by late Spring, Liverpool shook a leg and everything picked up, that’s what we’re good at. And so once again, assembling the top gigs of the calendar year was no easy task. We were miffed to miss out on some good ones (Mick Head at St George’s Hall – no press were allowed, Psychic Ills at Magnet and Fucked Up at the newly revitalised EBGBs) while there’s inevitably a few which don’t quite make the cut (Joanna Newsom at the Philharmonic Hall and Money at Leaf another two that spring to mind).
However, there was one band that seemed a constant throughout the year – both on record and through live performance – and that was The Magnetic North. Having not heard their debut album, it was through a press release and the very notion that an album had been created about a neighbouring town to my own home town that I was immediately drawn in. Prospect Of Skelmersdale would become one of my go-to albums of the year and led me to research and write about the new town which I had covered as a young journalist starting out for the Ormskirk & Skelmersdale Advertiser. Once again, I fell in love with the myths and urban tales and marveled over its eccentricities and somewhat associated sadness. All of which – and more – is covered in the band’s album; a must-listen.
That The Magnetic North would then bring the album to Skelmersdale and play DIY club, The E Rooms, which was formed to help the youngsters and artists in their small community was the stuff of dreams becoming reality. The night itself was something else; young and old gathered from Digmoor to Sandy Lane, from Tanhouse to Old Skem – joined by national press, notable Liverpool musicians, label reps and artists from Skelmersdale – and boy, the band delivered. With Skem’s Cat Called Dog kicking things off, Domino Records and Liverpool quintet We Are Catchers followed suit in what was their best performance to date with added flute and injected rhythms, before the main drawer took to the stage. What makes them quite unlike any other band around, is the three central musicians – who in turn, are so unlike each other; Hannah Peel is imbued with that sense of magic around her keyboards and assorted instrumentation and fizzes with an understated charm, Erland Cooper bounds around the stage with his bass, energy and assured wit while guitarist Simon Tong appears almost detached, an island, just doing his own thing amid a cavalcade of wondrous, almost mystical music.
There were two other occasions we caught the band; down in the woods during Festival No. 6 (review and gallery) and later in the year in a similarly enchanting performance at Liverpool’s Central Library (review and gallery) but the band’s trip to Skelmersdale will live long in the memory.
1. The Magnetic North, We Are Catchers: The E Rooms, Skelmersdale
3. Three Trapped Tigers, Lawoftheland, Taws: Buyers Club, Liverpool (review)
4. Bill Ryder-Jones, John Grant, Richard Hawley: The Drama Studio, Sheffield (review)
5. Louis Berry, Jalen N’Gonda, The Mysterines: Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool (review)
6. The Zutons, The Coral, The Matt Barton Band, Howie Payne: Mountford Hall, Liverpool (review)
7. Goat, Hookworms, Jane Weaver, Mugstar, Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation: Albert Hall, Manchester (review)
8. The Early Years, Xam Duo: Aatma, Manchester (review)
9. Steve Mason, Nick Ellis: Arts Club, Liverpool (review)
10. Ulrika Spacek, Shrinking Minds, FUSS: Studio 2 at Parr Street, Liverpool (review)
11. John Carpenter: Liverpool Olympia (review)
12. Ex-Easter Island Head, Kepla: Philharmonic Music Room, Liverpool (review)
13. The Brian Jonestown Massacre: O2 Academy, Liverpool (review)
14. Johnny Echols and guests perform the songs of Love: Sefton Park (review)
15. Steve Gunn, Nathan Bowles: Philharmonic Music Room, Liverpool (review)
16. Explosions in the Sky, Entrance: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (review)
And if you’re after knowing what was our most bizarre and quite possibly poorest live showing we’ve seen in a good time, click here.
Best Event of 2016
There was certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Liverpool over the last 12 months and I found myself drawn to more and more away from live music. The John Moore’s Painting Prize and the lazers in the Toxteth reservoir plus some odd goings-on involving half-naked pig men in bras in the Open Eye Gallery were personal highlights from this year’s Biennial while staples Liverpool Irish Festival, Light Night and the Voodoo Ball all were hailed as triumphs once again (full round up of all the best arts event in 2016 here).
However my top three events of 2016 couldn’t be more contrasting – which just about sums up the year.
Running in at third is, Ryoichi Kurokawa‘s stunning digital experience at FACT. Not since Kurt Hentschläger migraine inducing ZEE have we been thrilled so much by a senses-destroying digital piece of artwork. Kurokawa enveloped us with interstellar void-like panaramas which shape-shifted and plunged us into new worlds of colour and textures before blowing our inner ears with deafening noise and high pitched clicks and glitches. It was visceral yet beautiful and compulsive too; so much so we stayed in for the experience three times before entering the white washed walls of the outside galleries and wondering for much of the remainder of the day what we’d experienced. For a fuller experience check out Sinead Nunes reflection on the rise of superlative digi performance art in the city.
In a galaxy far, far away, a nine-breasted woman entertained the masses in November in a show few people will ever witness ever again.
Yep, after 11 years of trying Club EVOL finally ensnared Peaches – and it was truly worth the wait. It almost seemed like fate, that after missing out so many times down the years, that Liverpool would finally have Peaches play to them in a venue which could finally match her supremely provocative performance art – the Invisible Wind Factory (review and gallery) and on her 50th birthday. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Dancing vaginas, Yeti-like monsters, a 40 foot inflatable phallus with gushing liquid and so much more (all of which explicit to the max) was played out as the IWF transformed into a hyper-sexual vision of the future – imagine 70s New York meets Blade Runner.
The Faux Queens and Stealing Sheep added Merseyside verve to the occasion to ensure this was no ordinary gig on a Friday evening but a once in a lifetime spectacle with impossibly good fun the likes of which we’re unlikely to see again.
However, in the city that never sleeps, this year’s Liverpool event was undoubtedly the world premier of Steve Reich‘s visionary piece Different Trains performed for the very first time with visuals and played out at the world’s oldest fully functional passenger railway station – Liverpool’s Edge Hill Station.
What unfolded on that cold rather grey evening was simply extraordinary. People had travelled from around Europe to experience the event while Boiler Room, The Guardian and BBC all live streamed it.
Mats Bergstrom‘s opening of Electric Counterpoint was an exercise of outlandish musicianship which had me recalling moments of Popol Vuh‘s Einsjäger & Siebenjäger while the centre-piece of the evening saw a quartet from the London Contemporary Orchestra reduce people to tears as the combination of sweeping orchestration married to film-maker Bill Morrison‘s imagery (the profoundly moving pictures of the Jewish concentration camps was quite terrifying) was literally something else.
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) September 29, 2016
It all seemed slightly surreal too; standing there on a sloped cobbled street on the fringes of the city drinking lacklustre red wine amid such evocative artistry while real-life electric trains whizzed past as the steam ones simultaneously chugged on across the makeshift stage. Each one accompanied by wry grins or the odd cheer. When it finished there was a genuine sense of wonder in the air, people mooched about digesting it all not quite knowing what had unfolded. We then made our way back to the station.
For the full treatment, read Joe Giess review which includes an accompanying gallery plus a live recording from Parr Street Studios.
The GIT Award 2016
The fifth GIT Award was perhaps our best yet – moving from The Kazimier to Constellations proved a real treat. We welcomed new faces to the judging panel in the shape of 6 Music‘s Gideon Coe and Jon Hillcock, the Unsigned Guide‘s editor Louise Dodgson and Vevo‘s Dot Levine. The launch at Buyers Club including Pink Kink, Ohmns, Nelson, Trudy and the Romance and Harvey Brown was one of my personal favourite events while in March we announced this year’s set of nominees.
From Deltasonic-signed psychedelic collective The Vryll Society to Polydor Records’ fuzzy-poppers Clean Cut Kid through to do-wop trio Trudy; electronic machinehead TVAM, Heavenly Recordings’ slacker rock & rollers Hooton Tennis Club and mutant-rock outfit RongoRongo; through to fast-rising soul pop band MiC LOWRY and death metal behemoths Dragged Into Sunlight; through to critics’ pop diamonds Stealing Sheep and Domino Records’ visionary Bill Ryder-Jones; through to cosmic Rock Action Records’ droners Mugstar and bedroom electropop L U M E N – this year’s shortlist represented a kaleidoscopic musical picture few cities in the world could match.
On the night, Tayá followed in the footsteps of Louis Berry and Låpsley (who both featured in a whopping new piece of artwork) by winning our One To Watch Award. And Bill Ryder-Jones was revealed as this year’s GIT Award 2016 winner. Liverpool Vision‘s Kevin McManus followed in the footsteps of The Kazimier‘s directors crew and Africa Oye organisers by collecting the Inspiration Award. Later in the year he was named UNESCO City of Music producer.
We closed the year with a mighty fine 2017 launch party at Liverpool Music Week featuring former nominees Xam Volo and RongoRongo plus a raft of new artists. It was a hoot. We will be back in 2017 – and entries are open.
Hero of 2016
Looking through the list of former Local Unsung Heroes on Merseyside and it’s easy to see the parts they’ve played in the new music scene; whether that be shaping a festival, providing the imagery or colour of what plays out before our eyes and ears or perhaps even being a new kid on the block who provides a label or platform for the artists to develop and share their talent.
This year’s hero is a bit different. He’s one who many people from different generations of Merseyside music know and love but perhaps more than ever is needed within the community. He provides not just the knowledge and passion on a daily basis through his music podcasts and inimitable social media offerings but sometimes extends the paternal arm around shoulders or ears when we’re not sure if things are going quite right.
He’s also an ever present fixture in the myriad of festivals that the city has to offer, often providing the best musical interludes or dance floor offerings that some of the main drawer artists fail to match. Whether it was in the wet and cold of Liverpool Music Week‘s closing party, tucked away somewhere at LIMF or certainly offering a sober set of eyes and ears while the world loses it’s shit amid the mess that is Liverpool Psych Fest. Interestingly, he’s also been the go-to guy when the city needed to reflect on the passing of David Bowie, spinning tracks in the early hours at Buyers Club and making sense while we partied like lunatics. Speaking of which, he’s fast becoming the Godfather to the latest set of loons playing wired rock and roll around the city’s various lofts and bunkers.
In what’s been another whirlwind 12 months, there’s few people who have offered steady assurance (armed with a box of killer tunes) to so many than Bernie Connor, and that’s why he’s our Hero of 2016.
2015 – Robert Lewis
2014 – Christopher Tyler
2013 – Sam Wiehl
2012 – Tom Lynch
2011 – Joe Wills
2010 – Gary ‘Horse’ McGarvey
2009 – Mark McNulty
2008 – Andrew Ellis
Label of 2016
No easy choices this year – as exemplified by our first democratically assembled top 100 albums of 2016 there were more than 70 individual record labels making up that pile.
I could probably draw some conclusions about how it’s great there’s such a wealth of choice and isn’t it great to have so many independents flying the flag for new music, however, having spoken to many of these indies the truth is, running a label is perhaps harder than it’s ever been. That said, huge props to all that do. Our perennial favourites 4AD (Liima, Merchandise, LNZNDRF) served up some new gems and Rocket Recordings (Goat, Josefin Ohrn) while XL Recordings had another stormer with big hitters Radiohead and Kaytranada backed by Låpsley‘s strong debut offering. Elsewhere the Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian stable delivered a trio of our albums of 2016 in Whitney, Ryley Walker and Bon Iver.
However, for our label of this year goes to one which has influenced the soundtrack to our favourite festival and one of our most memorable nights of the year – as well as two of our top new band discoveries – and that’s Sonic Cathedral. Having DJ-ed almost every year at Psych Fest (usually at some ludicrous hour in the morning; thus showing commitment and stamina for the cause) and delivering new albums by Xam Duo and The Early Years – plus other delights such as Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, Spectres and a special EP of Kraftwerk covers, there’s was a year of glorious unabated noisy abandon. It was marvellous to be caught up in it.
Festivals of 2016
Barely a week passes in Liverpool now without some form of festival. Gone are the months of respite – nope, Liverpool is quite literally capital city for festivities. Unlike previous years in my annual review where I’ve reflected upon the highs and lows of each event, I will instead point to some personal highs. The reason is obvious – I’d be here all day – and further, we’ve provided extensive coverage of all in great detail – of which I will list below.
That said, Threshold Festival which kicked off 2016 once again proved a genuine big hit with many of our contributors who now rate the Baltic Triangle event as perhaps their favourite – and it’s understandable – what with the vast array of arts on offer plus a genuine sense of fun amid the diversity of musicianship on offer, Threshold has done what so many other festivals fail to do – bring atmosphere and inclusivity to their event: festival goers now feel a sense of belonging. The same could be said for newcomers Positive Vibrations Festival (review and gallery) and Liverpool Disco Festival 2016 (review and gallery) as fun and vibrancy were perhaps the overriding factors over that of major music bookings. Perhaps that’s their key to long-term success?
Liverpool Sound City, meanwhile, proved an up and down affair but my personal highlights were Black Ice‘s superb talk in the Titanic Hotel while the array of dance artists in the cavernous Baltic Warehouse was a stellar bit of curatorship – Floating Points the undeniable weekend set of the festival. Paul Higham‘s extensive feature including the 17 best artists from the festival plus what we learnt provides a clear picture of one of the city’s flagship music operations.
When once the summer time signaled we could all down tools and enjoy a little break, with the advent of Liverpool International Music Festival, our seasonal break was no more. And in 2016, LIMF upped its game once again – to such an extent, we can now view it as a serious heavyweight contender – we’d argue it is the best in the city for offering new talent a fair crack, the diversity is second to none when it comes to bookings and with the night-time programme back in the city, there’s a greater emphasis on the entire festival having a more rounded coherent programming. While these year’s special commissions offered slightly less than 2015, the overall LIMF effect was seriously impressive – and the itsLiverpool Stage unmissable. With council cutbacks inevitable in 2017, we sincerely hope it doesn’t impact what is fast becoming a big player in the UK’s festival season.
On paper, Liverpool Music Week looked slightly underwhelming, what unfolded was anything but – and it was the homegrown artists who outshone some of the bigger bookings. Whatever Louis Berry has for breakfast, we want some, as his gig in Leaf was a near out of body experience while She Drew The Gun and Clean Cut Kid both matched Berry in selling out their shows. If there’s a criticism, and we’ve alluded to it in previous years, LMW’s format is in desperate need of change – 11 days of straight gigging is impossible for even the most hardy of music fans – and smaller shows such a Dream Wife (which was ace) were in need of a little bit more love. That said, with John Carpenter and a chaotically-fun closing party finale, Liverpool Music Week 2016 should be hailed an unequivocal triumph.
Similarly triumphant was a sunsoaked Africa Oye (review and gallery) while Lemar brought the pizzazz to Liverpool SoulFest (review and gallery) and Skeleton Coast in Hoylake (review and pictures) proved a hit for emerging new artists.
Elsewhere, the Getintothis team were up and down the country like proverbial yoyos: Download proved wet and sometimes wild, the Glastonbury Festival (review and pictures) was it’s usual all-encompassing monster, Rebellion Festival in Blackpool reminded us in glorious detail that punk’s very much alive and booting (review and pictures), Green Man (review) and End of the Road (review and pictures) once again were superlative mid-tier offerings, the mania of Boomtown (review) almost proved too much, the pop oddity that was Fusion Festival (review and pictures) came to the North West, Festival No. 6 was almost ruined by the car-park furore (review and gallery) but we still had a ball, Off The Record, which combined awesome new artists and insider’s talks (review and gallery) and fellow Manchester festival Neighbourhood (review) had a fine inaugural years, Fest EVOL overcame a mini hitch and expanded to its most ambitious offering to date (review and pictures) and Beat-Herder was hailed as the finest boutique the north has to offer (review).
And as if to emphasise just how good we have it, the city once again led the way at the Festival Awards with Cream, Liverpool Music Week, Sound City and Positive Vibration scooping major honours. It was quite the achievement. If somehow you’re short on festivities – next year Liverpool has another to look forward to with the birth of Wrong Festival – a uniting of underground rock and experimentalism. It looks very good already.
But there can be but three and here’s our top 2016 festivals…
Overseas Festival 2016
The last 12 months has seen the Getintothis team travel the globe in search of new music – and the festival season proved our most fruitful yet.
Way Out West in Gothenburg proved a treat (review and gallery) as did Electric Castle in Romania (review) and Sziget in Hungary (review and gallery) however there was simply one unequivocal overseas event which had everyone talking.
Organisers of Barcelona’s Primavera Sound may well have put together the line up of all-time – and boy did it deliver. Having waxed lyrical almost every week since returning home more than six months ago, we’ll simply urge you to get your ticket for this year’s festival – and if you were there this year, consider reliving the majesty in our epic review here. It really was an unforgettable experience.
Finally, to add balance, a word of caution to all festival organsiers was delivered by Laura Brown…
Top 10 Getintothis‘ Posts of 2016
It was only our second year as an independent entity since moving away from the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, and my, how the ship sailed. As a website we’ve increased from a post a day just a couple of years ago to now publishing around eight and on some ludicrously busy weeks around a dozen. It’s a staggering achievement given that we’re still an entirely voluntary enterprise. None of which would be achievable without the commitment of a small team of sub-editors who spend their own time editing the schedule which I put together each week.
What was once a make-it-up-as-we-went along approach there’s now some semblance of structure – however, in the world of music it’s rare everything goes to plan. That said, in 2016, we made an incredible leap publishing some of the finest pieces yet; in fact going through the 205 pages of published material we’ve produced this year was an enormous and humbling task – it’s fair to say, Getintothis has come a long, long way since its inception in April 2007. With that in mind, posting our top 10 posts of the last 12 months is far from definitive – these are merely a snap shot, in no particular order, of what came to mind while I trawled through, and I’ve selected them for various reasons; be it they struck a chord with myself or readers, or they’re superbly written or just very funny. I think overall, they provide a fine indication of what we’re trying to do which shows a solid insight into the cultural happenings unfolding not just on Merseyside but around the world – thanks to everyone who got involved and to those who read them.
1. For Black History Month, I suggested Janaya Pickett reach out to the Merseyside black community to see where we’re at as a city in helping artists – what came back was something altogether different, as few felt comfortable in speaking out and it was perhaps unsurprising given the National Action organised White Man March and the rise in unease given the refugee crisis, Brexit and a resurgence of black politicism in the form of Black Lives Matter and other campaigns. Instead Janaya reflected on her own multicultural past and the legacy of Liverpool’s Afro-Caribbean community in her feature on Black Scouse.
2. More than ever in 2016, we spoke to artists who we really cherish. And what came back was a brutal, uncompromising and sometimes laugh out loud picture of artists new and old with still very much something to say.
We spoke to Savages on adoring life and their search for perfection, Merseyside purveyors of noise, Conan talked doom, touring and opening their first recording studio, Earl Slick spoke candidly to us on working with Bowie, the forgotten guitarist of Liverpool, Lee Southall chatted about life after The Coral and his forthcoming album,.
We spoke to Welsh Music Prize winner, Meilyr Jones as he declared his love of Byron, Keats and how poetry has infused his art, founding member of The La’s Mike Badger talked rockabilly, rhythm and Lee Mavers‘ ego, Eleanor Friedberger relayed the sacrifices the modern day musician has to make particularly in these worrying financial times, tying in with Slavery Remembrance Day, Akala talked about his social consciousness in music.
Ahead of Liverpool Music Week, Go Go Penguin talked about the influence of Blue Note and the jazz resurgence in rock, Swans frontman Michael Gira was in characteristically fatalistic mood and Nicky Weller talked about the Mod aesthetic when she brought The Jam exhibition to Liverpool (which culminated with a gig at the Arena).
Later in the year, Hannah Peel talked dementia, hallucinations and always dreaming in song, Cats Eyes talked Pacino and The Beatles ahead of their Leaf gig, Baltic Fleet returned with his new album and James talked Trident and escaping Madchester ahead of their double-header with the Charlatans at the Arena,
However, our classic interview of 2016 goes to Patrick Clarke‘s exclusive first chat with the enigmatic and wily front-man Ashley Martin of underground Liverpool legends The Pies as they prepared to finally release their debut album – a full 30 years in the making. “We want to change the world,” proclaimed motorway-bridge-daubing Martin. Well, we’re not quite sure if that’s on the agenda – but this hilarious exchange was worth waiting for.
3. We now have around a dozen monthly columns on Getintothis, and one that proves both popular and a regular education to both myself and readers is Lost Liverpool – and in 2016 there were some corkers.
Paul Fitzgerald provides the regular delving into the city’s myths, folklore and former treasures and several favourite columns tied in with the topical themes of cultural hubs which have been lost over the passage of time including Trading Places, Macmillans and the Holmes Buildings as well as a two parter on the Beat of Bold Street (part one and part two). Elsewhere, there’s a fond reflection of when Arthur Lee teamed up with Shack and brought California sunshine to Liverpool city centre’s Wolstenholme Square plus an exploration of ‘that French film‘ and a sometimes hilarious insight into the debacle of the Lennon tribute gig at the Pier Head.
But my personal favourite was a look at The Liverbirds – Britain’s first all female rock band – the tale of four Liverpool girls who went to late 60s Hamburg to make their rock dreams come true, and had such a good time, they never came home.
4. You were more likely to talk politics than new music at a gig these days and as such we published more politically orientated pieces than ever. Jono Podmore asked what has the EU ever done for me? It turned out to be a fair bit – which made the UK’s decision look even more disappointing. Crushingly, so. And Joseph Viney offered his desperate take on Brexit insisting “it’s impossible to lie back and think of England when you’ve been so rudely pushed to your knees.” With Jeremy Corbyn resoundingly returned as Labour leader, Jono considers why powerful vested interests are so keen to brand him as unelectable.
Best of all though, was Jono‘s examination of the rise of the right, the Brexit effect, Trump and the looming threat of fascism – it’s a frightening compulsive read.
5. Back to the future we ventured throughout 2016. While we’re writing and shouting about more new music than ever, we extended our feature writing at pace throughout the year and anniversary features proved hugely popular among writers and readers alike – take a deep breath – because here they are…
We wrote about the Manic Street Preachers‘ post-Richie Edwards commercial peak Everything Must Go at 20, the collaborative wonder that was Brian Eno and David Byrne‘s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts at 35, ten years on we looked at Sufjan Stevens‘ Illinois and Burial‘s Drowned World both proving career highs, we explored Weezer‘s difficult second album Pinkerton and The Fugees classic The Score both of which celebrated 20 years.
Later in the year, we looked at three timeless classics – Joni Mitchell‘s Blue, Carole King‘s Tapestry and The Rolling Stone‘s Sticky Fingers at 45, there’s also Massive attack‘s Blue Lines at 25, 30 years of royal iconoclasm courtesy of The Smiths‘ Queen Is Dead, Big Black‘s Atomizer at 30, 40 years of The Modern Lovers and we were all a little made up when REM‘s social media dudes shared our take on their mid-career peak with Lifes Rich Pageant at 30 on the official Facebook page.
Elsewhere we turned our attention to The Fall‘s Bend Sinister at 30, Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica turned 25, Beck‘s zenith (Odelay) and DJ Shadow‘s sampling spectacular Endtroducing both reached 20, as did the Spice Girls‘ Spice. Infected by The The was pored over in detail as it entered its 30th year while Michael Jackson‘s Dangerous reached 25 and Love‘s seminal LP Da Capo proved as fresh as ever at the grand old age of 50.
And away from the albums, our man Banjo reflected on the magnificence of Tomorrow Never Knows – the track that arguably was the dawn of psychedelia while a huge cast of musicians gathered together at Leaf or Liverpool Acoustic‘s celebration of 50 years of Revolver.
Billy Bragg, meanwhile, was moved to share our reflection on the much-missed Kirsty MacColl.
Thinking of Kirsty MacColl today. Huge talent, greatly missed. https://t.co/uwGSSkYjsC
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) December 18, 2016
However, my favourite read of all our anniversary features was Luke Chandley‘s examination into the infinite allure of rock’s greatest showman, Freddie Mercury 25 years gone.
“I will forever love Mercury for being an idol that people should look up to. What he achieved, what he produced and let us have for keeps is the mark of a man so incredibly excellent that no words can really do him justice. Maybe I’ve wasted my time but I’ve given it a go. And in another 25 years, when I write what Freddie Mercury means to me then, I’ll give it another shot. Another 25 years of parties and another 25 years of home runs, I’ll still love the showmanship and the talent of Freddie: another 25 years on.”
6. But forget all that nonsense, because – completionism is pointless! Yep, you heard it, every band only has three great albums so you can pretty much forget about whopping record collection you’ve carefully amassed down the years – it’s all gotta go. So said our man Rick Leach and in doing so invited half the internet to go on the attack.
7. Mental health was once again a subject we discussed and supported throughout the year and two pieces for two very different reasons caused much discussion. Janaya Pickett‘s soothing of the psyche – music as therapy for illness and loss was a fascinating read while contributor and Liverpool musician Paul Riley spoke openly in his Depression a love letter for Mental Health Awareness Week. Both are seriously worth your time.
8. For almost two years Shaun Ponsonby has injected mirth and mischief into Thursday afternoons with his wry take on pop culture and wrongs that need writing in his column Cosmic Slop. The bigger the idiot the bigger the tongue-lashing. Trump, Kanye and Bieber were obvious targets but more intriguing questions were posed like why the fuck aren’t venues catering for the disabled and was Janet better than Michael? All the while Shaun took his battles online – sometimes even taking on his personal icons, like, say, Prince (oh, what’s that, he told you four times in his column..) Truth be told, I was going to pick out my personal Cosmic Slop (it’s here) before he himself did the job for me. Ever the generous soul, he picked out ten of his favourites – so devour at will.
Better than all his Slops though, was his Disco Didn’t Suck feature which expertly charted the sociopolitical side of a music culture which has often been unfairly maligned.
9. Sex, let’s talk about it. We did. In 2016 we finally bust a nut and published more filth than ever before. One of our contributors wrote about how she lost her virginity to Shakira‘s Waka Waka in a lovelorn lament to sex and music while Shaun Ponsonby was hot and bothered for much of the year as he weezed over Zayn Malik‘s Pillowtalk before finding little to wank over with the Joe Jonas, ahem, release.
But my personal favourite was Janaya Pickett‘s exploration of female pleasure in pop by looking at one of 2016’s finest breakthrough artists, Anderson .Paak. Janaya questioned why “there’s hundreds, probably thousands of songs by men denoted to women giving pleasure and equal that amount by women seeking to please… yet why are there so few songs are out there about female pleasure?” Good question.
10. Finally, and at long last, 2016 seemed like the watershed moment for the re-evaluation of Oasis. Twenty years on from those heady days in the mid-90s came a raft of new Oasis moments and with it, Jamie Bowman reflected upon the glory days from The Zanzibar to Knebworth, the documentary Supersonic (review) was released and captured the euphoria, ambition and downright cheek and later in the year, Getintothis enjoyed an evening out at the Chasing The Sun exhibition to relive our youth at the Old Granada Studios. We’d plump for one or any of those pieces as they were a joy to publish, sparking memories from our glorious teenage years. Better still, and one of the best pieces of music journalism we’ve read in years was Angus Batey‘s essay for The Quietus on why Be Here Now was the band’s finest ever album. Absolute Gold.
Albums of 2016
As I said earlier in my introduction, escaping the noise became more important than ever for me this year. And one noticeable thing I did less of was listen to music at my computer. I’ve always bought new music – of course – but through shaping Getintothis I am very lucky to be sent a staggering amount of new music. Often as we’ve alluded to on these pages time and again that consumption process can feel gratuitous and excessive. So more so than ever, in 2016 I found myself listening to music in my bedroom or commuting – anywhere really away from the computer. Of course, music sounds particularly dreadful through a laptop so there’s obvious sense in taking music away from the computer in that regard, but more so because it is good to escape the distraction of notifications, emails and social media while simply living with the music.
This is perhaps why Whitney‘s album Light Upon The Lake spoke loudest to me in 2016 – it felt so natural and like a great retreat; it’s a beautiful listen which sounds homely but sonically adventurous too – and to see the band live you understand what musicianship is on display; the drums alone are like jazz-infused crashes while tight, snare-filled hip hop claps the next.
Closer to home, it’s been grand to see some superlative offerings breakthrough into the national media’s consciousness; most notably She Drew The Gun, who took their debut Memories of the Future from the small clubs of Liverpool to Glastonbury‘s John Peel Stage (having won the Emerging Talent prize), Mugstar‘s sprawling career-best Magnetic Seasons and that Låpsley debut which signals a fine emerging talent.
But more than ever, as Paul Higham alluded to in his introduction to our top 100 of 2016, we should still cherish the format of the album, it’s the best music medium we have – and this year, more than any in recent times, produced more riches than you could ever possibly want.
1. Whitney: Light Upon The Lake (read Greg O’Keeffe‘s review from their Manchester gig)
It’s a common contemplation in contemporary pop culture to moan about the relentlessness at which we quite literally consume real life. Are we living life or merely being eaten up by the machinations of our very existence? I dunno. It certainly seemed easier when adventures involving Panda Shandy and dicking about down the back field were genuine childhood escapism options.
Whitney, a Chicago outfit shaped around singing drummer Julian Ehrlich and former Smith Westerns guitarist Max Kakacek, seem to hark back to world where time didn’t just leisurely pass you by, but near stood still; a time when looking out the train window meant taking in the passing fields not thinking what administrative computer chores you had to attend to upon arriving home. Here is a band who seem transported from gentler times, they capture a changing of Spring to Summer, breezy and fresh with a mournful whiff of wistfulness. They’re cool and almost carefree.
What makes No Woman such a wonderful debut collection is not just its seeming simplicity and considered brevity but a sequence of magnificent musical motifs; the sweeping strings of Golden Days, the bottleneck bluesy stomp of Dave’s Song, Red Moon‘s 90 seconds of tootling trumpet and the title track’s burst of brass which decorates the album like early morning sunshine.
“I left drinking on the city train, to spend some time on the road,” sings Ehrlich on the album’s opener – this is an album to dream the days away, think of simpler times and escape. And it sounds simply divine.
2. Bon Iver: 22, A Million
3. Kaytranada: 99.9%
4. The Magnetic North: Prospect of Skelmersdale
5. How To Dress Well: Care
6. Ulver: ATGCLVLSSCAP
7. The Early Years: II
8. Ulrika Spacek: The Album Paranoia
9. Christine & The Queens: Chaleur Humaine
10. Three Trapped Tigers: Silent Earthling
Worst Albums of 2016
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Getaway (are they the worst band on the planet? Hmm, I’m sticking with Muse)
2. Catfish and the Bottlemen: The Ride
3. Sting: 57th & 9th
4. Kings Of Leon: Walls
5. Pixies: Head Carrier
Venues of 2016
Let’s not mention the ‘K‘ word. The last 12 months have potentially been the most exciting in recent times with promoters, artists and venue owners all scrambling for position. As a result some surprising small venues have entered the mix and been at the forefront of our thoughts.
Who’d have thought the likes of Magnet would play such a part in the live gigs arena for Liverpool – because it did.
So too 24 Kitchen Street, which may have been used to housing a raft of different electronic club nights but it’s now the default home for hip hop. We still had a soft spot for Studio 2 while the Philharmonic’s Music Room celebrated it’s first birthday with a variety of superb gigs. Constellations has risen to be the premier place in the Baltic Triangle for alternative leftfield live music, performance art and Simpsons shows, Black Lodge Brewery launched holding a several impromptu knees ups while Camp & Furnace (save for Psych Fest) appears now to be home for football and bingo. Yup, a lot has changed in 2016.
We fell in love once again with Leaf, and while the Academy and Arts Club are far from our favourite places to watch live music they did show off some of the finest gigs of the year.
This writer made fewer trips to the Arena than ever before because there was a new daddy in town in the shape and faded grandeur of the Olympia which hosted the likes of The Coral, Primal Scream and John Carpenter – all of which were live feasts. At long last Liverpool’s favourite indie disco night returned in the suitable setting of EBGBs – we talked to the head honcho Jules Bennett about several decades of partying behind those decks.
Then of course, there’s The Invisible Wind Factory which opened in characteristically theatrical style and as the year progressed became more and more utilised for a variety of different offerings (more of which later) but our favourite – for sheer intimacy, seeing some of our favourite live bookings of the year and offering the best ale on tap is Buyers Club.
2. The Olympia
Films of 2016
People keep saying we’re living in a golden age of television. They’re wrong, there’s just more of it. And most of it is awful. Sure there’s some good stuff but I’m struggling to think of anything quite as funny as Peep Show (Fleabag is up there, though) and when it comes to lapping up Netflix or Sky Atlantic dramas nothing comes close to the holy trinity of The Sopranos, Mad Men and The Wire (and yes that includes Black Mirror, Game Of Thrones, Westworld, The Missing, Peppa Pig… the less said about HBO‘s rock and roll carcrash Vinyl the better).
And while I’ve yet to work out how to illegally download or stream the likes of Mr Robot or The Night Of, I’d argue we’re actually experiencing a pretty good time for cinema as for a couple of years running there’s been a generous portion of seriously good films on the big screen. Once again, I’ve had to limit my picks to just ten so there’s no space for either Star Wars film (though it’s worth reading Shaun Ponsonby‘s funny take on what it’s like to be a Star Wars virgin) and I rather enjoyed the Beatles film (review) which served as a brilliant reminder as to just how ridiculous a cultural phenomenon they actually were. But here’s my pick of 2016.
1. Hell Or High Water
2. The Revenant (review)
3. Embrace Of The Serpent
4. I, Daniel Blake (review)
5. Oasis: Supersonic (review)
6. Green Room
7. Nocturnal Animals (review)
8. The Neon Demon (feature)
9. Son Of Saul
10. Arrival (review)
Tracks of 2016
in another break from tradition Getintothis’ Singles Club editor Matthew Wood took over our annual selection box of singles and you can read his rundown on the entire top 40 here – as well as a reflection on what the single actually means in 2016.
However, I couldn’t resist posting my top 12 tracks (kinda like an old school swapshop tape mix for a mate) and it kicks off with the most killer riff and savy drum break of the year; I’d urge you to buy Ulver‘s quite preposterously awesome album ATGCLVLSSCAP – but first off give Cromagnosis a spin below – it’s nine minutes of unadulterated class.
1. Ulver: Cromagnosis
2. How To Dress Well: Salt Song
3. Bon Iver: 22 (OVER S∞∞N)
4. DMA’s: Delete
5. Whitney: No Woman
6. Kaytranada: Breakdance Lesson N.1
7. Beyonce: Formation
8. Rihanna: Kiss It Better
9. David Bowie: I Can’t Give Everything Away
10. Car Seat Headrest: Fill In The Blank
11. Christine & The Queens: Tilted
12. Radiohead: Present Tense
Downs of 2016
1. The subject of death was ubiquitous in 2016. And many of our heroes left us behind.
We paid tribute to Stump‘s Mick Lynch, Colin Vearncombe of Black, Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire, The ‘fifth Beatle’ George Martin, ELP‘s Greg Lake and Keith Emerson, A Tribe Called Quest‘s Phife Dawg, The Lapelles young frontman Gary Watson, Prince Buster, Jacko’s secret songwriting weapon Rod Temperton, Chess Records‘ Phil Chess, Dead Or Alive‘s Pete Burns, Lyrical pioneer Leonard Cohen – and then on Christmas Day, we learned of the death of George Michael.
Closer to home, tragedy struck in the early hours of February 14, when Warrington rising band Viola Beach and their manager Craig Tarry were killed while on their first tour abroad in Sweden. They subsequently reached #11 in the UK singles chart with their track Swings and Waterslides and saw a posthumous album released (review), before Coldplay proved good eggs by playing their track from atop of Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage. In October, Warrington’s Bank Park staged the likes of Starsailor and a raft of new artists for a tribute festival for the five lads (review).
In May, Tramp Attack founder and friend to many in the Liverpool music community Kris Ealey died suddenly with Jamie Bowman paying tribute to a much-missed friend. The following month The Sums‘ Lee Watson died aged just 45 and in July the entire community was once again saddened to hear of the passing of the much-loved Stan Ambrose. In October, Liverpool clubland pioneer Mark Jenkins died; Paul Fitzgerald paid tribute to a man who broke down barriers through music, art, style and good times.
Of course it seems almost crass to compare or weight the magnitude of the various artists’ death, yet the passing of David Bowie and Prince really hit hard among our team of contributors. Their musical legacy and impact was immeasurable and our extensive team reflections (Bowie here) and (Prince here) provide a fascinating insight into the power of song and how its creators have shaped so many people’s lives. If you’re up for an added (by which we mean around another six hours worth) Prince bonus we’d suggest you check out his entire catalogue rated and at the same time plug into resident superfan Shaun‘s quite remarkable podcasts charting his entire career in microscopic detail.
If there was any ‘positive’ to come out of all this, it was the shared sense of celebration through their music. And this was keenly felt when Liverpool united for a couple of parties with Bernie Connor hosting a night dedicated to Bowie at Buyers Club, while we joined forces with Bold Street Coffee‘s Sam Tawil and partied into the early hours with a night of purple all in the name of Prince. It was real emotional and we made many new friends.
2. The very real threat to our arts spaces is never far away and as we closed the year one of our favourites was facing an uncertain future. There’s a multitude of reasons why we gave 24 Kitchen Street our number one venue in 2014 and the mere fact it is now now fearing for its future due to further development underlined why many feel the powers that be don’t offer enough support to thriving independent arts spaces. Jon Davies wrote expertly on the matter before the crucial council planning meeting dealt a major blow in the club’s long-term battle for survival.
Elsewhere our man Banjo looked at the increaingly marginalised Bombed Out Church and lamented the current situation. Perhaps the most keenly felt and high profile venue closure of 2016 was London’s Fabric – Ste Knight reflected on the closure and the wider issue which could impact upon the entire UK clubbing landscape. If there was a bright side to all this it was the club’s subsequent reprieve in November.
3. All Tomorrow’s Parties has been a festival highlight for many – and for years. But more recently it has become a byword for chaos and uncertainty. It’s slow, grisly demise should never have happened like it did in 2016. Following the mess that was Jabberwocky, it came as something of a surprise with the announcement that they were to relocate and hold further festivals including the likes of Roky Erickson, Thurston Moore, Ex-Easter Island Head. What unfolded was nothing short of depressing. Paul Higham reflected and lamented in full following the cancellation of the final Drive Like Jehu event.
4. The year post-truth became an acceptable word. Can we just call it lying?
5. Surely it’s time the BBC bucked their ideas up when it comes to music coverage. Okay, so 6 Music is perhaps one of the few things they’re getting right but has there ever been a time when the BBC covered music quite so poorly. Across all its various channels there’s barely a decent programme been devoted to music television in 2016 – and the only regular option for live music is the abject hopelessness of Jools Holland or a cursory tokenistic guest on the likes of Graham Norton. The less said about the quite preposterously dire BBC Music Awards the better.
By far the greatest music TV moments of the year were throughout Sky Arts‘ quite remarkable Soundbreaking series which was a who’s who of 60 years of popuar music going behind the mixing desks and beyond the boards getting to the very heart of the tales of rock and rock, soul and pop, hip hop and dance – each and every episode presented something fresh, vital and a new take on the story of popular music – if you’ve yet to watch it, I suggest you make some time.
6. Festivals bring out the very best and the very worst in people. T In The Park seemingly brings out the inhumane. Fights, sexual abuse and generally behaving like animals, it was of little surprise the festival announced it was taking a break in 2017.
7. Gig etiquette reached new lows in 2016. We’re not just talking about talking. Nope, in the last 12 months we’ve seen a man in his 50s so drunk he decided to have a sleep in the middle of the dance-floor disrupting the entire show. There’s a myriad of other tales we could collate, but instead have a gander at this – and try to be good to people when you’re next down the front.
8. Donald Trump.
9. She may have had a whopper of a single a couple of years back, but I think it’s about time we all gave Azealia Banks a very wide berth. She’s just not very nice at all.
10. Vomitstep – it’s hard enough to even type that word, let alone digest the mere fact it exists. Just try listening to it – Ste Knight regurgitated this piece so you don’t have to.
Ups of 2016
1. Let’s be honest, we sometimes take Cream for granted. It’s frankly ridiculous to think how James Barton’s empire has grown and redefined dance music all over the world. In 2016 the Cream team reminded us quite a colossal proposition they are.
They kicked off their year on Merseyside with one of the events of the music calendar with their Cream Classics (review) event at the Anglican Cathedral – the night married Cream anthems with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the effect was wondrous.
They followed up by selling out and absolutely obliterating Creamfields with another stellar line up before going on to win Best Major Festival – that’s seeing off the likes of titans Glastonbury plus Leeds & Reading Festival – no mean feat given the Awards are harnessed for guitar orientated events. They then closed the year by keeping up half of the Wirral and showing off in spectacular style with their colossal steel yard on Bramley-Moore docklands – it was like something out of Mad Max.
In customary fashion, Banjo celebrated the superclub’s finest moments with a special feature.
— Creamfields (@Creamfields) December 27, 2016
2. Not far behind Cream in terms of ambition and bringing the party to Liverpool was the Kazimier‘s new playground – The Invisible Wind Factory. We stated our case last year with the octagonal shaped hole that was left in the region’s culture programme when the bulldozers moved into Wolstenholme Square so arts lovers breathed a collective sigh of relief when we were finally treated to an initial look around and our chat with the Kazimier team indicated a fresh approach and new vision – make no mistake this wasn’t going to be Kazimier Mk II.
So it proved with their first event – the elaborately named Omphalos – Energy Eternal review and pictures (review and gallery) – a marriage of pagan ritual, vocal operatics, pyrotechnics and sci-fi theatre. It was very odd, I loved it.
There followed an impressive launch (featuring the likes of Stealing Sheep and Paddy Steer), an all-dayer with some of Liverpool’s finest new rock & rollers for Strange Collective‘s EP launch, a new dance ENRG series staging the likes of Floating Points and Black Madonna plus a raft of gigs including Hooton Tennis Club, The Vryll Society and Parquet Courts. Not to mention that Peaches show.
Elsewhere, The Voodoo Ball made a successful transition and the returning 10 Bands 10 Minutes saw out the year with a festive Christmas cracker. But what makes the IWF an enticing proposition is that this is just the very start – it’s ludicrous to think the Kaz was when those people stepped inside and let their imagination run wild in 2007; just think – with the sheer space and technology now at their disposal what will follow suit. It is the start of something very special indeed. We can feel it.
3. Once again the spirit of independence was alive and well throughout the entirety of 2016 – it positively coursed through Liverpool’s veins.
And you could barely move for new labels springing up. The likes of M62 Records took to Kitchen Street for their launch while a Pink Punk Party was headed up by Lying Bastards who signed for Fly On The Wall Records after a successful trip overseas.
Feral Love and Youth Hostel announced their arrival by being the latest acts to join Carl Hunter and Edge Hill University’s The Label Recordings while later in the year Rooftop Records emerged out of Parr Street garnering four new bands and spitting out four corresponding singles and a big party in late August.
All over the city pockets of music communities were in action with the rise of Mersey Swing, the continuation of the rockabilly scene and Liverpool’s Grrrl Power launched at Constellations. Somewhere – quite often in people’s living rooms – Sofar Sounds were hosting the likes of Natalie McCool and She Drew The Gun at their impromptu parties while Holly McNish headed up the Neu! Reekie! event at Leaf Tea Shop. for
The emergence of Smithdown Road Festival was a good thing as it grew to be a genuinely big day out while The Florrie hosted a series of cracking events including Jamie Reid‘s Casting Seeds (photography gallery) and Jimmy Cauty‘s installation Aftermath Dislocation Principle – if you caught either you’ll know to keep an eye out for what’s in store in 2017.
4. MiC LOWRY‘s breakthrough year was simply breathtaking.
And boy, how they deserved it. After years of slogging and honing their craft they picked up a GIT Award nomination and then darted around the UK on a sell out headline tour. But nothing could prepare for us for the news they had been invited to support Justin Bieber on his European tour including six sellout nights at O2 Arena. Simply following them on Twitter showed they were living the dream – and there’s so much more to come. It couldn’t happen to five more likeable fellas. Hats off.
Check out our chat with the lads here.
5. Vinyl was the dominant format in 2016 – with an uplift in sales.
Annual sales of vinyl albums widely reported that vinyl is outselling digital downloads in the UK for the first time since the iTunes store was launched here in 2004 – with listeners spending £2.4 million on vinyl records in the week running up to Chrsitmas, versus the 2.1 million pounds spent on digital downloads. Record Store Day once again proved a winner with Probe, 3B and Dig Vinyl joined by newcomers Jacaranda, Buyers Club and FACT also joining in.
Rick Leach countered the argument with his piece on the revival suggesting the format is in fact the emporer’s new clothes while Andy Holland kicked up a fuss when he bemoaned the nostalgia business and the rise of the boxset while Paddy Hoey hit back saying we should celebrate and positively revel in the greats.
On a personal note, it was a thrill to be asked by The Charlatans‘ Tim Burgess to host the launch of his second book Tim Book Two at Leaf‘s beautiful sister venue Oh Me Oh My in July. The book looked at vinyl adventures and married each trip to shops around the world with vignettes from icons of the music world. The added bonus of the in-conversation event was the addition of Joy Division and New Order drummer Stephen Morris, and despite some initial nerves, the night was a resounding success with Tim reading some very funny chapters from his book and Stephen injecting some wry tales from musical folklore. Vicky Pearson was on hand to capture the evening.
6. Similarly to MiC LOWRY, She Drew The Gun had their breakthrough year – and there was a collective ‘yes’ from anyone who knows them.
Having long been championed on these pages (since Louisa sent that hand-drawn first demo EP in fact!) She Drew The Gun have expanded to a superb live outfit and fully formed band – and they emphasised their intent by winning Glastonbury’s emerging talent competition before releasing their superlative debut album Memories of the Future.
They showed off it off in style at their record launch at Buyers Club before closing the year out in riotous fashion with a right ol’ knees up at their sellout Liverpool Music Week headline gig in November.
Where Louisa and the gang take it next is anyone’s guess but you can bet there will be a big message behind their quietly affecting beauty.
7. Solidarity was high on Liverpool’s cultural agenda in 2017 – and I reckon it’s just as well, as we needed it.
Musicians carried on from 2015’s efforts with their support for Syria while there were numerous gigs for the homeless – which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, is now becoming something of an ever-increasing worry on the streets of Merseyside.
The Lunatic Fringe provided one gig before later in the year the Musicians Against Homelessness added to the fight; the year closed out with Rory Wynne heading up another bill in December at Buyers Club.
Mental health, meanwhile, is increasingly becoming a subject not raised in hushed tones and Bill Ryder-Jones once again was proactive in leading the discussion – this time taking up the role of Patron for the Liverpool Mental Health Festival which combined talks and music in an expanding event across the city. More of this next year, please.
8. It wasn’t so much a comeback – more a mighty, roaring return – The Coral owned 2016.
Combining a newfound rockism married to their characteristic otherworldly aesthetic, the Wirral outfit slotted in like they’d never been away; lifelong fan, Patrick Clarke reflected on 11 times The Coral had ruled the world while I wrote about their triumphant new album Distance Inbetween.
Nick Power‘s enlightening and often funny tour diaries including bedlam in Birmingham and thrills in the Peak District were a joy to read while they also found time to release a tasty new EP of remixes and a triumphant hometown cracker at the Olympia alongside The Sundowners and rising Wirral prodigies The Mysterines. Jessica Borden captured their magnificent year in her end of year love letter.
9. There was a beacon of hope for the arts delivered in October, when Liverpool City Council revealed their masterplan for a new ‘Creativity Zone’ in north Liverpool’s docklands. The proposed ‘ten streets’ plan showed some forward planning which had tongues wagging – what it all means is yet to be fully deciphered – but at long last there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Firmer plans meanwhile are already being laid over in the Baltic Triangle – with the colossal new space Northern Lights – an arts hub, theatre, design studio and performance space are all to be unveiled in a warehouse which will supposedly dwarf everything else in the area. It sounds like one hell of a proposition. Across town and the ABC Lime Street Cinema development looks to becoming more of a reality and our story was one of the most talked about of the summer while Leaf expanded their empire with a new venue in Manchester plus a new space over in the heart of Liverpool’s business district. Look out for mini club Meraki coming to the north docks too – they’re up and running in January.
10. But we close our ‘ups’ of the year with what we’re all about – new noise.
The big wheel keeps on turning – and over the last 12 months we’ve wrapped our ears around a whole load of new music, here’s a small sample of what we’ve been recommending:
Pink Kink Ohmns, Feral Love, Mersey Wylie, Sheer Attack, DUSST, Pure Joy, Cavalier Song, Dream Wife, Let’s Eat Grandma, Tom Low, Mark Lawless, Michael Seary, Lilium, I See Rivers, Cut Glass Kings, Venus de Milo, danye, FUSS, Psycho Comedy, Jalen N’Gonda, Mary Miller, Peter J Smyth, Car Seat Headrest, Lou Doillon, The Haze, Hicari, Cal Ruddy, Atlas Eyes, God On My Right, Echo Beach, Peaness, Del Florida, Paris Youth Foundation, Mad Alice, Ali Horn, Sex Swing, Samurai Kip, Motherhood.
On Merseyside there seems little chance of the wealth of new music plateauing with a whole load of fresh artists and bands emerging almost daily. That many of these enter the regional and national consciousness so fast is a testament to where the city’s at.
We’ve said it before, but it’s always worth reiterating, it’s easy to get lost amid the bubble and not appreciate what’s on our doorstep – but even a cursory glance at some of the words above all shows where the city is at. It’s moving at such a dizzying pace that it took us till summertime to publish our Ones To Watch in the annual New Breed column (read the full feature here) – the reason was simple – there is so much new music, we wanted to take stock and see where we’re actually at.
We took the same reason to stop chasing premiers (who’s that arsed anymore?) when we launched our new music column – Deep Cuts (part one here) and (#2 here) – because we want to actually listen and enjoy the music before agreeing to write about it. Sounds daft, eh?
Congratulations – you got this far!
No really, congratulations, this has been quite the undertaking collating what’s been a momentous year for so many reasons – and looking ahead we’re pretty sure 2017 will be no different. Which is a genuine ballache assembling this end of year review but on the flipside should make for something special in reality.
In 2015’s EOY review I talked about how Getintothis was like my very own shed. Well, in 2016 the shed had expanded into some kind of Homebase warehouse where I found myself lost far too many times and sometimes found it difficult to escape. I probably wouldn’t have emerged with any sanity intact had we not had such a sterling team on hand to help out, so big thanks is in order for our editing team of Adam Lowerson, Banjo, Cath Bore, Craig Macdonald, Peter Goodbody, David Hall, Rick Leach, Janaya Pickett, Paul Higham, Ste Knight, Tom Konstantynowicz, Vicky Pearson, Nathan Scally, Del Pike, Shaun Ponsonby, Martin Waters, and web technician Simon Lewis. We simply wouldn’t be what we are without the invaluable time and efforts these folks and our dozens of regular contributors bring to Getintothis.
The final thank yous are reserved to all the readers and those who lend their support throughout the year – it’s hugely appreciated. Extra special thanks to those who have donated to sustain the website, they are: Harry Sumnall, Liam Riley, David Wiggins, Joe Grimes, Michael Donnelly, Stephen Hanlon, Ian Johnsen, David Jeffery, Mike Deane, Jay Rehm, Ben Fair, Rory Taylor, Tim Derby, Chloe Pallett, David Braithwaite, Jose Ibanez-Madrid, Rebecca Sowray, Guy Lovelady, Carlos Romero, Tom Powell, Graham Smillie, Kerry Ingle, Independent Music Promotions, Rosina Duff, Mark Scorah, Mike Stubbs, Iain Bold, Michael Edwards.
The donations ensure our survival – so if you can help, please do – to find out more – click this link.
My plan of action for 2017 is to try to take stock and soak things up a little more while attempting to get lost a little less in the noise which plainly doesn’t matter yet suggests otherwise.
Otherwise, onwards once more.
Happy New Year.