New year, new sounds

Little Mix''Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Photos.
Little Mix''Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Photos.
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The past 12 months haven’t really been the best.

Whichever way you slice it, the results of several destabilising elections and referenda, a dwindling economy, terrorist atrocities, global extremism and a refugee crisis don’t make for happy times.

Normally in such situations, we look to art and culture for distraction, but all our musical pioneers are dying off, along with a fair few actors and other assorted national treasures.

We’re doomed, basically. Or at least, that’s what it felt like for great swathes of 2016.

There have been moments of respite - the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, a new series of First Dates and so on - but as we head towards 2017, there’s a sense that January can’t come soon enough.

It’s not like all the bad stuff’s suddenly going to stop as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. But we can hope.

You might, for example, choose to focus on the forthcoming Brits to distract yourself from the horrors on the news.

More of a TV event than a music show these days, the Brits are always a bit like pizza, to paraphrase Woody Allen - even when it’s terrible, it’s still pretty good. It’s unlikely anything that happens on the awards show will top the moment Madonna’s cape failed to release for sheer drama, but they can give it a go. Maybe Perrie from Little Mix can try to hit Zayn Malik with a trophy? (Less of a shout out to her ex, more a painful thump in the thorax!)

The trophies this year, incidentally, were designed by Zaha Hadid, another of the many big names to pass away in 2016.

Fixating on next year’s festival line-ups might also be a way of getting through the upcoming cold months and avoiding current affairs. Brexit isn’t happening any time soon, but Glastonbury will take place in June, as it almost always does.

In an unprecedented step, organisers Emily and Michael Eavis have named a headliner already - Radiohead - perhaps to quell some of the annoying speculation.

There are plenty of other names in contention, some better than others, all sufficient to provide a necessary distraction from the ‘real’ news.

Also in the summer, Tom Petty is playing a rare show as part of the annual British Summer Time in London’s Hyde Park. Petty and his Heartbreakers will have Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks with them as support. Find a better day out than that and you’ll be going some.

Muse, Major Lazer and Bastille are among the early announcements for Reading and Leeds Festival. V has yet to announce its headliners, but they’re generally pretty starry A-list types.

If you prefer to stay in and listen to music, rather than stand in a muddy field, there are a great number of albums to look forward to next year too.

January alone sees releases from Run The Jewels, Zara Larsson, The Flaming Lips, You Me At Six, Bonobo, The xx, Foxygen, Mike Oldfield, Menace Beach, Iggy Azalea and Major Lazer.

Later on in the year, we’ll see albums from Brits Critics’ Choice runner-up Dua Lipa, Ryan Adams, a comeback from The Jesus & Mary Chain and Elbow’s seventh album Little Fictions, while unscheduled but promised are new offerings by Depeche Mode, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Fleetwood Mac, Gorillaz, HAIM, John Mayer, Phoenix, Justin Timberlake, Beck, Bjork, Arcade Fire, Missy Elliott, Cheryl Cole, Liam Gallagher, Katy Perry, Neutral Milk Hotel, MGMT, Ride, St Vincent, Father John Misty, Sky Ferreira, Lorde, The War On Drugs, Clean Bandit, Taylor Swift and LCD Soundsystem.

As for new bands to keep an eye out for, a good place to start would be the BBC’s Sound of 2017 longlist.

Now, lists like this - which tend to be self-fulfilling, in that they almost guarantee the success of the artists that appear on them - are not without their critics. But whether they’re the chicken or metaphorical egg, you can’t deny the likes of Cabbage, Maggie Rogers, AJ Tracey, Anderson Paak, Nadia Rose and RAYE are worthy of further investigation.

So while 2016 may have taken some favourites from us and thrown the world into disarray, 2017 might just be a brilliant year. The soundtrack to it, at least, is going to be outstanding.