Rod Yates CELEBRATES THE YEAR’S MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS … AND TAKES A QUICK LOOK AT WHAT AWAITS IN 2018, TOO.
Rod Yates on 2017’s highlights ghts and lowlights in toons
Oils Is Oils
On February 17, Midnight Oil held a press conference on Sydney Harbour to announce they were reforming and embarking on a world tour, their first since splitting in 2002. Of the more than 50 gigs they played this year, few could have topped their warm-up at Selina’s, the Sydney beer barn they ruled in their heyday and where in April, they once again proved their might. None of the members are publicly committing to plans past this year, but making a new album would surely be less painful than serving under Kevin Rudd.
Father John Misty’s Acid Attack
In April, the man known as Josh Tillman released one of the year’s best records in Pure Comedy. Somehow he managed to do this while taking a micro dose of acid every day to deal with anxiety. Mercifully he stayed clear of the brown stuff.
One Direction Are Better in Separate Directions
Well, at least one of them is. In May Harry Styles released his is debut self-titled solo album, shocking the world rld by not being crap. In fact, it was actually pretty ty great, Styles proving himself a surprisingly mature ature songwriter, announcing his arrival not with th a brainless pop hit but an earnest five-minute-40-second ute-40-second ballad called “Sign of the Times”. es”.
An Antidote to Terror e
The death of 23 people – some of them children – at Ariana ana Grande’s concert in Manchester on May 22nd was one of 2017’s low points. The One Love benefit concert in the same city only y weeks later (headlined by Grande) proved how healing music can be. Hell, it even brought ught Liam Gallagher and Coldplay’s Chris Martin together to duet on Oasis’s “Live Forever”, ever”, thawing a relationship that first froze years ars ago when Gallagher referred to Martin n as a “pot plant”.
Trump Made Music Rage Again
Fiona Apple’s “Tiny Hands” was only a minute long, but contained the refrain “We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants”; Billy Bragg re-jigged Dylan’s “The Times Are A Changin’” into “The Times Are A Changin’ Back”, and released a minialbum called Bridges Not Walls that was his “way of trying to make sense of what’s going on”; former Pink Floyd man Roger Waters embarked on a U.S tour, his show featuring projections of Trump in brightly coloured lipstick, a Ku Klux Klan hood and as a pig; West Coast rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle released “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)”; while three quarters of Rage Against the Machine teamed up with Cypress Hill’s B-real and Public Enemy’s Chuck D in Prophets of Rage and released a self-titled album that urged listeners to “burn that fucking flag”.
The Vinyl Revolution Continued
2016 was the biggest selling year for vinyl since the 1980s – until, that is, 2017, when numbers continued to rise thanks in no small part to the 50th anniversary edition of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the topselling record of the year. Overall vinyl sales in 2017 are expected to top 10 million. In a world of convenience and shrinking attention spans, it’s an oddly comforting trend. As for how many people actually listened to the vinyl they bought? Well, let’s not ruin a feel-good story with details.
Aussies Stormed The Charts
It was a good year for Aussies on the charts, with more than a third of the number one albums belonging to local artists. Take a bow Kasey Chambers ( Dragonfly), Dune Rats ( The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit), Busby Marou ( Postcards From the Shell House), the Waifs ( Ironbark), Bliss n Eso ( Offthe Grid), Paul Kelly ( Life is Fine, his first ever Number One album in 36 years!), Gang of Youths ( Go Farther in Lightness) and – surely a recount is in order? – Anthony Callea. Each spent a week in the top spot, and if it wasn’t for that pesky Ed Sheeran probably would have enjoyed a longer tenure.
The Future Is Female
When considering the Australian breakout stars of 2017, the women are leading the way. Sydney songwriter Alex the Astronaut received a glowing endorsement from Sir Elton John for her single “Not Worth Hiding”; Melbourne’s
Tash Sultana sold out shows in America, Europe and the UK before returning home to headline venues such as Sydney’s 5,000-seat Hordern Pavilion, all without a debut album to her name; Alex Lahey ( I Love You Like a Brother), Meg Mac ( Low Blows), Caiti Baker ( Zinc), Vera Blue ( Perennial), All Our Exes Live In Texas ( When We Fall) and Ecca Vandal (self-titled) released some of the year’s best albums; while Perth’s Stella Donnelly took out the inaugural $25,000 Levi’s Music Prize at Brisbane’s annual music conference Bigsound.
Liam Gallagher’s Return
Let’s face it: music needs Liam Gallagher. In an age of media-trained pop starlets too afraid of offending their own shadow, in waltzes Gallagher Jnr. with a damned fine solo album in As You Were, throwing verbal haymakers like he’s still the biggest rock star on the planet. His brother Noel remains a steady target: “That kid’s a fucking twat,” he told Rolling Stone. “He’s a prick, he’s turned into the middle class… The way he does Oasis songs it’s like someone’s sucked all the fucking life out of it.” So there.
Pre-game Entertainment Can Mean Something
Remember when Meat Loaf sang so out of tune at the 2011 AFL Grand Final he was almost charged with bringing the game into disrepute? And that time at the NRL final in 2002 when Billy Idol rode a frickin’ hovercraft to the stage, only for the power to go out when he got there? Amazingly, 2017 proved it’s even better when things actually go to plan. For a code that seemingly specialises in PR nightmares, the NRL having Macklemore perform same sex anthem “Same Love” ahead of this year’s grand final was a stroke of genius. Afterwards the rapper tweeted: “Performing ‘Same Love’ at the #NRLGF was one of the greatest honors of my career. Thank you @NRL for the opportunity & supporting equality.” Somewhere in his cave, Tony Abbott was squirming.
Don’t Call It A Comeback…
Actually, you can if you want. 2017 saw some acts return from the wilderness with albums that justified their reputations. We’re looking at you Gorillaz ( Humanz), LCD Soundsystem ( American Dream), At the Drive In ( Interalia), Fleet Foxes ( Crack-up), Slowdive ( Slowdive) and Broken Social Scene ( Hug of Thunder).
There Were Some Cracking Albums
In addition to the records listed in this feature, here are some of 2017’s other releases that are worth your time: I See You by the XX; Near to the Wild Heart of Life by Japandroids; After the Party by the Menzingers; Prisoner by Ryan Adams; Semper Femina by Laura Marling; More Scared of You Than You Are Of Me by The Smith Street Band; DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar; Melodrama by Lorde; Villains by Queens of the Stone Age; Sleep Well Beast by The National; Colors by Beck; and Messeduction by St. Vincent.
Gone But Not Forgotten
When the clocked ticked midnight and 2016 gave way to 2017, we hoped we’d bid farewell to music’s anus horibilis – what else could you call a year that claimed David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen et al? Sadly, the Grim Reaper wasn’t finished. At the time of print, 2017 has seen giants such as Chuck Berry, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, Glen Campbell, Tom Petty, J. Geils, Gregg Allman, indigenous singer-songwriter Dr. G Yunupingu, Husker Du’s Grant Hart and soul sensation Charles Bradley, to name only a few, all breathe their last. Vale.
For a code that specialises in PR nightmares, having Macklemore perform same sex anthem ‘Same Love’ ahead of this year’s NRL grand final was a stroke of genius.