Picture yourself waiting for a bus twenty years from now. It arrives, driverless, you pay your fare of £6.20 and take a seat furthest away from anyone else. You take out your phone to listen to some music and decide to take a nostalgic trip back to 2016. Modern day music doesn’t satisfy you because it’s just hectic drivel where the listener is supposed to make sense of it for themselves, good to see the Courteeners are still going strong. You scroll through the playlist, selecting a song you recognise out of a seemingly unforgettable playlist and sit back listening through the wireless headphones you’ve paid Apple to implant in your mind. “Oh, 2016”, you think, “you weren’t as bad as the history books suggest”.
Evident to the fact you are nearly forty and riding the bus, it seems your life had peaked some time ago and that’s no different with music. You used to despise that middle-aged man whom insisted they made “Real Music” back in his day and that everything released now is some pessimistic insult or other but now you have become that man. You take refuge in this playlist and you are transported back to a time when only global warming, far-right fascism, terrorism and Van McCann were a threat to the world.
The playlist starts off strong as Harbour the Feeling by Yak blasts and you gain the sudden urge to jump around the bus screaming the repetitive lyrics like Oli Burslem used to before live music was banned. The heavy guitar riffs of Yak please you, like they did throughout the whole of Alas Salvation when you first heard it back in 2016, you think. This song just set you up for another prodigious guitar band when Uber Capitalist Death Trade by Cabbage blasts. 2016 was a good year to be a Cabbage fan, you thought, as they were releasing good music in the form of an EP every fortnight- it seemed. Whilst some bands of that time also used to produce more Ep’s than YouTube views, none of them matched Cabbage in terms of maintaining standards and the hype around them. In fact, you were one of the people who said they were going to be the next big thing, a saviour for guitar music almost. Cabbage’s anti-societal lyrics were relevant to you but then again you did also relate to ‘Kitchen’ by the Courteeners one time. Only the once you assure yourself.
The shuffle on your phone was doing an adequate job until THAT song came on. It seemed like a good song at first and then the vocals are introduced and you wished you were under the bus rather than inside it. You check your phone to find out who was to blame for your displeasure and, sighing, you should have known it was Sundara Karma. You never really got the underserved hype around them, when Flame was released everyone was drooling over them on twitter. The lyrics were always cringeworthy to you and this track, a failed and blatant attempt to rip off the 1975, was a repressed memory that later affected your relationships with people. Another band that social media used to love that you never actually liked was The Last Shadow Puppets. Their 2016 album Everything You’ve Come To Expect featured some songs to your taste like Aviation and Miracle Aligner but Sweet Dreams, TN just came on and it made you feel how it did 20 years ago, bored and in need of a shower. How did Alex Turner ever get away with singing such creepy lyrics? Normally accompanied by him dry humping Miles Kane too, the image comes into your mind. It’s the Future but still there’s no showers on buses unfortunately. “I ain’t got anything to lick without you baby” sang over boring instrumentals and forced Americanised vocals. You click for the next song.
I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are SO Beautiful Yet SO Unware Of It- with an album title like that it’s no wonder why Matty Healy is now in jail but at least he left us some good music behind. Maybe good is an understatement, this was one of your favourite albums of 2016 if you remember. With pop classics like Somebody Else and The Sound it’s really hard to comprehend why the band used to get so much hate. The song that just came on was Love Me, which you love because you adore David Bowie and all his rip-offs. The guitar appeals to your fun side and you yet again want to jump up and dance but that is still socially unacceptable in the future.
Who was that band you loved but slowly faded away because of their inability to sustain a good writing standard amplified by their hype? You’re thinking hard on this one. ‘Was it Blossoms?’, you can’t remember but the shoe does fit. Their first album was good but then again, was it? They did have songs like Charlemagne and Blown Rose but then they did also have them other 5 songs that ooze averageness throughout. This doesn’t stop you from listening to the song and nearly crying to yourself as My Favourite Room plays. You are hoping the 1975 come back on shuffle after this song to make your happier. You did like blossoms in 2016 but you realise that was just due to the fact there was nothing else really around at the time. The NME’s persistent focus on Blossoms being ‘The Future of British Music’ whilst hailing their 60’s sound began to annoy you after their 17th front page. It was a good job NME died a painful death shortly after Ratboy did. The 1975 were the next band that played on your phone but it prolonged your disconsolate mood as the slow acoustic intro of She Lays Down greeted you. It’s your stop and you get off the bus, saying thank you to the non-existent driver and promising yourself you would get out of that habit soon.
Reminded of the NME, you start to think about all the average bands that shortly got exposed as frauds after its demise. Catfish and the Bottlemen should have stopped after The Balcony, a thought that came into your mind as you remember The Ride was released in 2016. Van McCanns insistence that this was their best work in interviews, before its release, set you up for an album to rival Is This IT. It hardly rivalled the sound of the cat that just fell out of a tree near you, good to see the Courteeners are still going strong. Without even mentioning the lyrics or naff instrumentals, the production was terrible, all this your opinion of course. You are glad with the fact they split up after their third album ‘90’s Comedown Machine’ but still somehow naively confused as to why people say they ripped off the Strokes.
Finally, to your relief another good song played and it was none other than The Lemon Twigs. Their album Do Hollywood was another favourite of yours back in your teens and it’s easy to see why with this experimental record. It was unashamedly glam-pop and well written, a conclusion you drew with the current song I Wanna Prove to You.
2016 killed some fondness you had for bands above all things. You forgot about Slaves until Hypnotised played and memories of you in a sweaty mosh pit in Birmingham, shouting the word ‘dribbling’ in unison with a girl who didn’t like the smiths, came flooding back. You couldn’t remember why you went off this band so played a couple of songs off Take Control and realised the reason when you found yourself saying “haven’t I heard this one already” on several occasions. Such a safe and easy album which was the fitting for a ‘punk’ band from Kent, you rightly concluded.
Dismissing the shuffle system, you had employed on the bus, you look through the rest of the playlist. Names such as Radiohead, David Bowie and Kings of Leon all bring back fond memories for music of that year for you. Jamie T, DIIV and Bon Iver have the opposite effect. The sigh of relief you breathe is heavy, as the fact that Jamie T stopped making music after 2017 enters your mind again.
As you approach your house and unlock the door with your finger print, (I was cautious to be as inventive with the future as Back to the Future was), you resign to the fact that music never got as good as it was in your youth. Even though back in 2016 there was a sense of waiting for ‘something big’ to come along, it never did. Dreams died shortly after that year, I’m sure Trump even tried to criminalise dreams at the end of his office. The only thing uneventful and boring about the year 2016 was the music released.
Words by Jack Wager.