2016 has been so relentless in its awfulness that it’s tempting to not dig for diamonds in this manure mound of a year and just hold my nose and turn away until January. (Come on, 2017, you’ve got to be better!) But even as the passing of way too many cultural heroes broke our hearts and politics broke us into warring camps and the world often seemed just plain broken, some fine music was made that helped us cope, or at least distracted us for a while. And though I’ve been preoccupied for the past few months with moving across the pond to England—a personal bright spot, I’ll admit, and the start of an exciting new adventure—I found it fairly easy to muster a list of 10 great albums. I can even spare a pang or two of residual guilt over some notables that I’ve left off. For instance, I really admire Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” and Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool,” just wish I liked the songs more. I’ll begin the countdown with a sentimental favourite and post the rest of my picks over the next few weeks, peaking with an altogether unsurprising choice for the #1 slot. (Spoiler alert: It’s Bowie.)
10: ABC – The Lexicon of Love II
34 years after the first “Lexicon of Love” was released—I’ll repeat for emphasis, 34 years—suave crooner Martin Fry and his henchmen return with a follow-up that is more fun than it has any right to be. If “Lexicon II” is not quite as memorable as its classic predecessor, which spawned the new wave staples “Poison Arrow” and “The Look of Love,” this similarly themed set of romantic pop is still winning throughout. The hooks are top-notch – “Kiss Me Goodbye” could be a hit if radio still played this kind of music—and the lush, string-steeped production gussies up Fry’s reliably florid lyrics. Check out this doozy of a verse, from “Flames of Desire”: “The spirit of romance in your smile/Sweeping me back two thousand years/To bathe in the waters of the Nile/In Cleopatra’s tears.” And Fry’s voice is still so clear and honey-luscious, you‘d never know 34 years have passed.