PRINT December 2016

Music: Best of 2016

John Roberts

Prince performing at the Forum, Inglewood, CA, February 19, 1985. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images.

1 PRINCE (1958–2016) “Raspberry beret, I think I love her.”

2 SOPHIE, PRODUCT (Numbers) This is the sound of Botox-laden lips exploding, nostrils filling with the caustic fumes of burning plastic, and rubber melting into indefinable sculptural forms. A singular and innovative musical work. Truly beautiful.

3 AGNES MARTIN (Tate Modern, London) A master study in rhythm, silence, repetition, and subtlety. An exhibition of virtuosic musicality.

4 DONT LOOK BACK (D. A. Pennebaker) Criterion Collection’s 4K-digital-transfer restoration of D. A. Pennebaker’s 1967 film makes a ’60s Dylan feel entirely present-day, oscillating between genuinely captured moments and others that feel contrived and styled with Hedi Slimane–level awareness.

5 GELBE MUSIK (Mathew Gallery, Berlin) A glimpse into Ursula Block’s thirty-three-year stint as proprietress of Berlin’s gelbe MUSIK, one of the most important galleries/shops for those interested in the intersection between avant-garde music, performance, audio, and visual art.

Laurie Anderson, Heart of a Dog, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 75 minutes.

6 HEART OF A DOG (Laurie Anderson) One of my favorite films of the year and a gentle reminder that music is a vast and complex language, capable of wild storytelling.

7 MARTIN HOSSBACH The eponymous Berlin-based label of left turns, founded by musical polymath Hossbach, continued its glorious path into the unknown this year. Your Contribution, a charming collection of piano works by the artist Christian Naujoks, was a standout.

8 BEYONCÉ, “FORMATION” (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia) This year-defining anthem from the world’s greatest living performer is a pleasurable balance of humor, singularity, and the political.

9 PETER EVANS AND JOE MCPHEE (Issue Project Room, New York, August 13) I saw Evans and McPhee engage in an abstract and improvisational conversation between trumpets in this truly individual, multidisciplinary performance venue housed in an ornate marble room. Bizarre and inspiring.

10 JOHN SEABROOK, THE SONG MACHINE: INSIDE THE HIT FACTORY (W. W. Norton) New Yorker writer John Seabrook investigates the inner workings of pop music with deeply entertaining results, touching on the psychology of hit production, the occasionally shady back end of the industry, and the role of technology in its advancement.

John Roberts is a New York–based music producer, artist, and cofounder of The Travel Almanac magazine. He recently released his third full-length album, Plum, accompanied by a fifty-minute super 8 film on his Brunette Editions imprint, a publishing outlet focused on interdisciplinary works.