2016 Song of the Year: Comet Control, “Artificial Light”


Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

More than any other of the various kinds of year-end posts, lists, and hyperbole, picking a favorite song of the year — a single track — is a deeply personal experience. What was your favorite song of 2016? What’s your favorite song ever? These things define us. They help us define ourselves to ourselves. After a point, it stops being music and it starts being a part of who you are — your own canon. It’s not just about what’s in constant rotation either on the mental jukebox, the physical turntable or any of the various other sound-producing devices in our daily lives. That can certainly be a part of it, but the question becomes about something more fundamental. What speaks to you in a language that you feel like no one else knows? Six months from now you might not remember what was number 19 on your top 20, but you can be damn sure you’re going to remember your Song of the Year.

Mine is “Artificial Light” by Comet Control.

Now, I guess what I’m saying is that if you have a different pick, I’m not inclined to argue with you, but when it comes to meeting my bizarre version of the criteria above, the closing track from the Toronto heavy psych/space rockers’ second album, Center of the Maze (review here), was second to nothing. After a tumultuous, spacious, sprawling seven songs before it, the five-piece outfit, who made their self-titled debut (review here) on Tee Pee Records in 2013, nestled themselves into unparalleled sonic warmth — an aural kindness to their listeners that shimmered and glowed for its duration, from the opening unfolding of its drifting organ and central guitar line to the outgoing resonance that hummed quietly to its fading finish. For what Comet Control were expressing in the track, their execution simply could not have been more perfect.

It was by no means the sum total of what Center of the Maze had to offer. Expanding on the breadth of their first outing, Comet Control seemed to revel in straddling the line between space rock and heavy psych. Earlier cuts like opener “Dig out Your Head” and the following “Darkness Moves” pulsated with cosmic push, and “The Hive” and “Criminal comet-control-center-of-the-mazeMystic” seemed to have an easy time finding room for themselves between the styles, the latter track making a foundation for itself in acoustic guitar before bursting in with thicker tones. The band — guitarist/vocalist Chad Ross, guitarist Andrew Moszynski, bassist Nicole Howell, drummer Jay Anderson and keyboardist Christopher Sandes — lived up to and beyond the potential of the debut, and as a culmination of that, “Artificial Light” was the album’s greatest achievement.

They seemed to know it. One gets that sense both because they made it the closer and because of the was side B as a whole was arranged, with the ’60s organ bounce of “Golden Rule” leading into the more languid “Sick in Space,” which itself was something of an arrival in its languid flow and delivery of the title-line at the very end, setting the stage for “Artificial Light” to take hold and push further, which it did gorgeously. Recalling some of the high points of Ross and Moszynski‘s prior band, the woefully underrated Quest for Fire — who also released two full-lengths through Tee Pee before breaking up in 2013 — “Artificial Light” coated itself in a wash of lush dream-folk keys and guitar and Ross‘ sleepy vocal melody, but was no less defined by that than it was by the engaging hook of its two-stage chorus, beginning with the lines:

I’ll be your eyes
I’ll be your heart and your breath
Spread your wings
Or fall to your death

These lyrics balanced a very real human emotionality with the peaceful fluidity surrounding, a meeting of the worldly and otherworldly that, rather than establishing a contrast between them, seemed to pull them together and remind the listener how much the one needs the other. At 10 minutes long, “Artificial Light,” when you really got into it, still felt short, but I honestly think that would be the case even if the track topped half an hour or more. It could just go on perpetually, like space or the horizon. Comet Control captured a little piece of the infinite, made it their own and molded it into a gift they then presented to their audience. In its gentle presence and subdued melodic welcoming, I’m not sure how it could’ve been taken any other way than that.

I heard a lot of really great individual tracks this year. I did. See below. But the more I heard, the more special “Artificial Light” became. It was a song to which I almost constantly returned — defined my summer, hands down — and I know that as we move into 2017 and beyond it will continue to be one I’ll go back to and that I’ll continue to see my affection for it grow with time. In other words: a favorite.

Yeah, I know last year I did this as a list. The year before I had it this way. I reserve the right to change it up. Either way, as noted there were a lot of pretty special tracks I encountered this year, and I’d love to hear from you on what your favorites were as well. Here are some more of mine in no particular order:

Mars Red Sky, “Under the Hood”
Slomatics, “Supernothing”
Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues”
Asteroid, “Them Calling”
Hexvessel, “When I am Dead”
King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising”
SubRosa, “Troubled Cells”
Heavy Temple, “Pink Glass”
Worshipper, “Step Behind”
Greenleaf, “A Million Fireflies”

The list goes on. Like I said at the outset, I really do believe a favorite song is a deeply personal choice, so if you agree, disagree, whatever, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading. More to come as we start to wrap up 2016.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to “2016 Song of the Year: Comet Control, “Artificial Light””

  1. Michael says:

    No matter how much music I listen to there’s so much that I miss! With that in mind, here are my top songs of 2016.

    Radiohead – “Daydreaming”
    Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Girl in Amber”
    Black Mountain – “Space To Bakersfield”
    Heron Oblivion – “Rama”
    Rival Sons – “All That I Want”
    Russian Circles – “Vorel”
    Wight – “The Love For Life Leads To Reincarnation”
    Asteroid – “Pale Moon”
    Wolf People – “Salts Mill”
    Wo Fat – “There’s Something Sinister In The Wind”

  2. Miller says:

    Elephant Tree – “Echoes” is still tops of the year for me followed by every single song on the Swan Valley Heights debut. Seriously, my favorite track on that album has been every one of them at some point since its release. Greenleaf “Pilgrims” gets on my list and we agree on “Drinking from the River Rising” by King Buffalo, it’s amazing. 1000mods – “The Son” is another one I stop and just listen to it every time.

    Been an amazing year for music, it really has.

  3. Sam Judson says:

    “Black Hawk” – Blaak Heat
    “Gardenia” – Iggy Pop
    “You’re Gonna Be My Ruin” – Greenleaf
    “Biker No. 2” – Brant Bjork
    “Shadows” – Red Fang

  4. Regicide says:

    No real song of the year, but my riff of the year is the opening of Toward the Sands by Holy Serpent.


    To give some perspective, last year’s riff of the year was Forest Clouds by Windhand


  5. Luis Raposo says:

    I cannot stop to listen “Blue Side of the Collar” by Child. Probably the song of the year

  6. rick says:

    I think the biggest departure musically from my eventual album list also includes my SOTY, King Gizzard’s “Robot Stop”. Missed em twice at the failed Levitation Festival in Austin, still kicking myself for not trying harder to get to one of them amidst the turmoil of the weekend. Album also is killer from start to finish, and with it being a loop, the entire thing could fall under SOTY. Honorable mention to Conan’s “Thunderhoof”, some of the mightiest riffs ever levelled upon my dome.

  7. Lodger says:

    I can’t get enough of “Beast” by The Wounded Kings

  8. shirtless mike says:

    Asteroid – Them Calling
    Beelzefuzz – The Righteous Bloom
    Black Rainbows – Golden Widow
    Comet Control – Sick In Space
    Elephant Tree – Aphotic Blues
    Greenleaf – Pilgrims
    Howling Giant – Clouds of Smoke
    Lord Mountain – Under The Mountain
    Lord Vicar – Leper, Leper
    Mars Red Sky – Friendly Fire (probably my song of the year)
    Mountain Dust – Dead Queen
    Salem’s Pot – Desire
    SubRosa – Troubled Cells

Leave a Reply