IMPERFECT TEN – Stefaan’s moments of 2016
I’ve tried not to make this just another “best 10” post where the same list of artists and albums you see everywhere else is just reshuffled and regurgitated. This one is a bit weirder and, hopefully, more wonderful than that.
1. Moments of blood, silence and love: “River”
“Leon Bridges – River” is the video that captures much of the mood of 2016 for me. There is sorrow, reflection, violence, a sense of loneliness and loss … but ultimately, if we keep crossing rooms to hold on to the people we love, this love will bleed into your days like light bleeding into dawn.
2. Candy skin and the power of details: Van Minnen
No other artist has baffled and awed me as much as Mr. Van Minnen this year. His Instagram shows his watercolours in various stages of completion, from runny blots of brown to translucent, glowing and insanely detailed pieces of art. His visual language of contemporary candy gelatine mixed with art archetypes and sheer creative courage have been an inspiration to trust my own process when it comes to my work, ambitions and adding layers to my personal life.
3. Goodbye to all that: watching “Black Sabbath” live
I did not see this one coming. Hands down my best concert experience of the year was the goodbye tour of Black Sabbath. As much as I worship this band’s early work, I had also seen Ozzy clowning about on one of his earlier tours. So when I was waiting for their last stand at a festival where viking ships and massive devil dolls are the usual fare, I was expecting more of the same. Boy was I wrong. When Tommy Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ozzy hit their stride, something magical happened. Suddenly, everyone there was witnessing and experiencing a single intense moment where anger, fear, outrage and angst were at once condensed and temporarily suspended. Especially ‘War Pigs’ clicked into the Zeitgeist like a razor-sharp Iommi riff cutting into a Geezer’s groove. (Note: Death Grips in Brussels was a close second, though.)
4. Reading poetry and being changed
I spent much of 2016 reading and re-reading poetry. I discovered and devoured the best of Ted Hughes, loved ‘Hold Your Own’ by Kate Tempest and re-read all of Tomas Tranströmer, all of Philip Larkin and much of Tony Hoagland. I’m pasting one of Mr. Hoagland’s best bits below because for me, it carries the same sentiment as the “Rivers” video and its unapologetic energy infuses even the quest for happiness with an authenticity sharp enough to draw blood. Sometimes, keeping to a path of love and acceptance can be painful in the face of overwhelming injustice and cruelty. “so I shove joy like a knife / into my heart over and over”
Reasons to Survive November
November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.
The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.
– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.
I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself
with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.
But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,
and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over
and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.
5. Mirror mirror on the wall:- KNOTORYUS gets tapped by the Antwerp Fashion department
This is a picture of my wife, holding the magazine she worked on with Walter van Beirendonck, Paul Boudens and the Antwerp Fashion Academy for the class of 2016 graduating show. Writing a sentence like that feels pretty, pretty good, I tell ya.
6. COME TO ME (2016 live version)
This song was first released as a fairly naïve love song on Björk’s debut, but the new version made for the Vulnicura tour completely transforms it into a rich, layered and painful elegy to a past relationship. Arca adds a layer of oozing darkness, violins come sweeping in with the force of past regrets, but it’s really Björk’s voice with all its naked sincerity that makes “Come to Me” such a haunting experience. The fact that it’s originally created as a happy tune but can’t help absorbing the pain of her divorce from Matthew Barney makes it completely unique and somehow more truthful than any ‘sad song’. (Note: “True Love” by Radiohead is a close second here)
Order ‘Vulnicura’ here.
7. I’m totally wired: The Fall on Record Store Day
One of the best memories of 2016 is doing Record Store Day with my daughter. Flicking through the vinyls with her by my side, occasionally reeling from the fact that she’s grown so much that she can rest the top of her head against my shoulder when she’s feeling tired or bored, was just a fantastic, totally pure moment of joy. She went home with a Justin Bieber limited edition and I took ‘The Fall – Classical” with me, including one of my favourite tracks of all time “Totally Wired”. Happiness.
8. Yes it is Spiritual: Jay Z
He didn’t release much -and even this early 2016 track is actually a few years old- but for me “Spiritual” was hands down the best one of 2016. The lyrics are stretched taught, like muscles holding on to something or pushing something away. He’s got one foot in politics, one foot in grown-up emotions and yet never stumbles over the beat. It’s very personal, very broad and just very very good. Let’s hope 2017 shows more of Mr. Carter in top form. (Note: “Frank Ocean – Solo” is a close second here.)
9. Kids’ stuff: Aphex Twin
The music of Aphex Twin has the uncanny ability to make me happy with the weirdest things. There’s just something about his art that gets my neurons firing at the right frequency. All of his releases (much more work than we are used to, by the way) have been stellar this year, but this video, art-directed by a kid on Youtube he happened to like, is one of my favourite things to happen in 2016.
10. 2Dope Queens
If you know me even a little in real life, you’ll know this list was originally more than twice as long, three times as wordy and fifteen times as pretentious than it is now. My taste in comedy is probably the most pretentious of all. (Bill Hicks, Dave Chappelle and then there’s the rest. Ask me about it.) But seeing as this “Imperfect Ten” is all about being honest about which moments have touched me in 2016, I have to mention this podcast by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. It’s silly, sometimes downright ridiculous and not as impressive on your podcast listening list as, say the collected teachings of Alan Watts. That’s all true. But this is also true: it’s the podcast I’ve enjoyed the most in 2016. In a year when the alerts on my phone screen included a terrorist attack on my city, the death of Bowie, the death of Prince and the victories of some very scary forces over large parts of this world, having an alert on your screen that basically says: “Hey, we have some new stand-up comedy for you” and knowing every episode features funny voices of many colours, genders and ages was a real joy. Thanks Jessica and Phoebe!
Read Immi’s favourite things in 2016 pop culture you might’ve missed HERE