2016 in review

As 2016 comes to an end, I have come to the conclusion that it wasn’t a great year for music. We’ve lost too many great musicians (a trend I fear will continue as the pioneers of rock and pop aren’t getting any younger), and few releases have managed to really grab me. There were a lot of albums I liked, but few I loved.

But despite the negatives, a few artists shone a lone light among the depressing news. Here are a few of my favourite musical moments for 2016, in no particular order.

Guns n’ Roses reunites… and doesn’t suck

The reunion we thought would never happen. But it did. And it was good. Really good. Guns n’ Roses’ fire burned bright and fast two decades ago, but they managed to rekindle the magic. Attendance was all over the place, but strong enough that they’ll be touring into 2017. Can we hope for an album once they’ve milked the reunion shows?

Adele – 25 tour

The return of Adele, and what a return it was. What an amazing singer, and I feel privileged to have seen her.

Lady Gaga – Joanne

“Joanne” is the album I’ve been waiting for from Lady Gaga.About half the tracks veer away from her usual dance-pop and show the pop star’s versatility and depth as an artist. Hopefully this is a coming of age record for her, and she moves away from the gimmicks and focuses on the music.

Ghost – Popestar

While this is just a stopgap EP to give the band a reason to tour before entering the studio for the follow-up to “Meliora”, “Popestar” further cemented the band’s unique sound. The lone new composition, “Square Hammer”, is a glorious blend of pop, classic rock and metal, and the covers all bear the Swedish metallers’ stamp.

The Popestar tour also ranks among my favourites of the year.

Sabaton – The Last Stand

Another metal band from Sweden, Sabaton released its most consistent album to date this year. They caught a lot of flack from a fraction of their fan base for expanding their sound, but personally I think it sounds like vintage Sabaton. Only better. I loved this record. Kudos to their Heavy Montreal performance too.

Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

Former Yes singer Jon Anderson teamed up with Flower Kings’ Roine Stolt, and they came up with an album that sounds more like vintage Yes than anything Yes has done since the singer left the band. It’s full on nostalgia, but it’s a great album.

Neal Morse Band – Similitude of a Dream

While we’re on the topic on progressive rock, Neal Morse followed the amazing “Grand Experiment” with a double album of pure prog rock bliss. Worth a listen to any fan of progressive rock, young or old.

Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. tour

This is a 2015 tour that stretched into 2016, and Montreal was lucky enough to get a return engagement. I’d say this year’s concert was even better than last year’s. This time around the entire album was played, along with choice cuts from Wilson’s career. Simply breathtaking, this concert moved my wife to tears. It was that good.

The Strumbellas – Hope

This Canadian folk/pop group released their third album, “Hope”, this year. It’s marvellously simple, catchy and uplifting. Their aftershow concert after Osheaga was worth staying up most of the night too.

Nightwish – Endless Form, Most Beautiful tour

I was lucky to see this tour for the second and third time this year, including a performance at Heavy Montreal with their full festival stage show. I never liked Nightwish, but since they added Floor Jansen on vocals, I think they’ve transformed for the better. The concerts were simply fantastic.

And that’s about it for me. In a year that took so many musical giants from us, few albums offered any kind fo balance for me.  I liked many, but few really made an impact. In fact, my favourite album of the year is technically a 2017 album! (Keep watching this page to know what it is)

Here’s hoping that 2017 turns out to be a better vintage for music!

Thank you to everyone reading this blog, and happy new year! I’m working on a few good articles for January.

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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