It’s been a strange old time, this year of our Dark Lord that is 2016. As I remarked in my musical round up of the year, it’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times. The best of times if you’re a music fan. The worst of times if you’re, well, a human being. While the world around us has devolved into the opening of an apocalyptic novel written by a deranged child on his twitter feed, the plethora of ‘good choons’ has been somewhat staggering. So, swings and roundabouts, eh?
In the same way that my traditional ‘top ten’ album roundup sprawled its ugly way across twenty-five long-players, so too has my end-of-year playlist gone way beyond what could be considered medically advisable. While in 2015 I had to split it into two playlists to contain all the excellent stuff I wanted to throw on there, this year my playlist was over eighty songs deep and over six hours long before I decided I’d need a new approach. Either that, or to check myself in to a medical institute.
So, I made five playlists.
Wait, where are you going? I haven’t even explained the theme!
Given the absolute shitshow that has been 2016, I figured I’d see if I can engineer some kind of group therapy session for humanity through the medium of other people’s music. I know, it might be a long shot, but there’s very little else I can offer at this point, and I needed a theme to justify the whole ‘five playlists’ thing. So I did what anyone would do in these circumstances, and turned to the Kübler-Ross model.
The what now?
Well, the Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, postulates a series of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients prior to death, wherein the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s since become a stand-in for actual psychology when dealing with all kinds of grief. Now it’s the titles of five different playlists, each of which run the length of a C-90 mixtape, thrown together by a horror novelist for no particular reason.
Let’s start our musical journey of grief, shall we?
When faced with the likes of Brexit, Trump, Aleppo, Paris, Berlin, and the phenomenon that is Shopkins, I know my first tendency has been to run away, emotionally, and not deal. It’s a perfectly sane, if not particularly helpful response. So, here’s ninety minutes of music to escape the world to.
Let’s face it, this is far more appropriate a response to the year than anything else. From the surge in fascism, the plethora of idiocy abounding, to the end of truth as we know it, sometimes you just need to rage. What a good time, then, for metal to be a spitefully excellent as it ever has been. Here’s 90 minutes of bile, anger, and rage, all accompanied by some mighty riffs and pummelling drums.
In the model, bargaining is the process of begging for things to be different. Praying, pleading, getting on one’s knees in whatever way works for you. That’s a pretty tough thing to convey musically, so here’s 90 minutes of stuff that didn’t fit into the other four playlists. Hey, I never claimed this would be perfect.
Sometimes, you just need to wallow in the grand misery of it all. It’s like starving a fever, or feeding a cold, or sitting and watching romantic comedies when you’ve just had your heart ripped out by some unfeeling harridan or rogue. Here’s 90 minutes of unrelenting bleakness, to make you feel all Christmassy.
The hardest part, for me, of 2016, is trying to work out what is the sanest of these states to occupy. I must admit that I feel utterly bewildered by how things have gone this year, and somewhat guilty that I’m going to fare so much better than so many others. As we move into 2017, the challenge is to find a way forward, a way to make the world that seems so utterly horrific better than it is today. The only way that I can see to do that is to move beyond anger, beyond bargaining, beyond depression, beyond denial, and accept the way the word is now. That’s not to say we all just shrug our shoulders. We must accept the things that are terrible because that’s the only way to fight them. To bring the world back to be the one we thought we lived in, we need to fight for it. We need to stand up to intolerance, push back against the forces that seek to repress us, and repress others. To do that, we need hope. Hope that what small things we can do as individuals can inform the greater whole. As Woody Guthrie’s guitar used to declare, ‘this machine kills fascists.’ Here’s 90 minutes of music that fills me with hope, that 2017 won’t be the clusterfuck we all fear, but the year when humanity can pull back from the brink, and become a force for good in the world.