Albums of the year – 2017

Trees in Pacific Spirit Park

[note: you can see my previous editions in the Albums of the year tag – also, I’ve embedded the playlist (of a top 20, but I won’t discuss them all, below].

So, like other years, here’s the top 10, in alphabetical order by artist.

Arcade Fire – Everything Now

I really wasn’t sold on this album on first listen. It came out while we were in Germany, so got a lot of play in the car…and, well, nothing really stood out. But then I saw them in concert this fall & I got it. This is a live album. The songs, all fine in headphones, suddenly come to life in concert. Playing them loud on a good system is also rewarding as there’s a lot of depth and subtleties to the tracks. It quickly went from an also-ran to an absolute favourite this year.

Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights

Perhaps the most achingly personal album of the year. Julien Baker’s songs of ache, longing and defiance as she deals with the fallout from (if I understand correctly) turning to sobriety is both sad, gut-wrenching and incredibly powerful. Weirdly, despite the material, I find it  a hopeful album. Defiance in face of terribleness that really suited 2017. It’s a turn-out-the-lights (oh, i see now!), put-on-the-headphones and just dive into this incredible world kind of album.

Beach Fossils – Somersault

This album is a departure, growth even for this band. Long a jangly-indie-pop outfit that to me always felt a bit like a poor-man’s Real Estate, this album features lusher arrangements and a growth in instrumentation. This makes for better songwriting and thoroughly enjoyable, if perhaps safe, record. This album really grew on me through the year, after my initial uncertainty.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kendrick’s second time on my best-of-year list, and, the second rap album since Madvillainy to end up on endless repeat for me. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t been better said elsewhere, but after the importance of To Pimp a Butterfly, how amazing to watch this artist turn inwards and produce perhaps an even better album.

Lorde – Melodrama

Pop perfection. Amazing lyrics. Stunning production. My guess is this is one of 3 albums (DAMN. & Sleep Well Beast being the others) that will remain in heavy rotation for years to come.

The National – Sleep Well Beast

I wasn’t sure what this album would be like – after their last, the band sort of dispersed and pull out side projects including producing (and contributing to) the amazing Day of the Dead Grateful Dead covers album. And it turns out that they came back refreshed, willing to experiment with new sounds and time signatures and just knock it out of the park. It’s an uneven album, but where it works, it really, really works.

Slowdive – Slowdive

Well, they’re back! and.. and it is really, really great! It should probably be noted that either you like shoegaze or you don’t, but this is both classic Slowdive and perfectly of the moment.

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

New York is probably my favourite track of the year. I don’t know if it is about David Bowie, but it is who I think about whenever I play this song. A long time ago, I wrote about using music to find focus, and last year I got around to making a 5-song playlist that I update from time-to-time with music I want to hear over again that helps with this. That track was added this year. The rest of the album is pretty great too. She’s high on my must-see list, but somehow, never tours where I am. One day!

Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

The most fun album of my set this year. So much going on. Club-ready tracks with a memoirist’s eye for detail in the lyrics, there’s something for everyone here – shut up and dance, or sit down with headphones and really focus.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

I’m not sure anyone in rock spends as much time on production as The War on Drugs. Sumptuous, lush, ephemeral, fuzzy – all words I’ve variously used to describe this album. I love to put this on and just kind of float off on the music.

 

 

 

 

Albums of the year, 2010

Proving Jeremy Keith’s assertion that the best place to store upcoming posts is the submit button, I see that my 2009 best of is still a draft. Not this year’s! I dug 2010, musically. Definitely several albums came out that will remain on heavy rotation for quite a while. So, in alphabetical order, here’s my 2010 albums of the year:

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

I said to Leah at some point that this album sums up how I feel about where I live. I dig my house, not sure I like where it is. And this album is that too. 30-something angst , a nuanced look at the suburbs as a proxy for what it is to be older, but still retaining that idealism of a few years earlier.

Beach House: Teen Dream

A dreamy, folk/pop/indie rock album that, if I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about. But I can’t get enough of the delicately layered textures, the warmth of the sound.

Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot – the Son of Chico Dusty

So this album is probably the most fun album of the year. And really show just how much of a driving force behind the Outkast sound Big Boi really was. Mining the same traditional space as Outkast did, but pushing forward the sound to be contemporary & fun, this album is worth a listen even if you don’t generally like hip-hop (which would include me)

The Black Keys: Brothers

Definitely the album I’ve played the most this year, as evidenced that Liam can now sing along to almost every track. I’d say this is likely my personal favourite of the year. Fantastic bluesy, dirty rock.

Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma

An over-the-top, masterful collage of various elements of techno (Drum’n’bass,house,downtempo), not to mention jazz amongst other genres, this album should be have been an unlistenable mess. Instead I suspect it is the album that producers will be trying to emulate for years to come. Complicated, intelligent music that rewards multiple listens.

LCD Soundsystem: This is Happening

Somewhen, James Murphy learned the art of melody, adding it into his already fairly full bag of tricks to make this album just that much better from his previous. Even silly tracks like ‘Pow Pow’ are somehow more polished than any of his earlier throw-away tracks. And tracks like ‘I Can Change’ continue to sum-up 30-something life better than virtually anyone else.

Owen Pallett: Heartland

Nerdy, both musically & lyrically, this album demands multiple listens paying close attention on headphones. It was a grower not a shower for me – I almost dismissed it after first listen, then, listening again on my headphones walking around town, I discovered both just how bizarre and how incredible it is. Do yourself a favour: find some alone time and dedicate it to this album.

Robyn: Body Talk (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2)

Pop at its best! My total guilty pleasure of the year, although I feel somewhat vindicated by how much love these are getting. There’s also a slew of pretty impresive remixes of a lot of these songs out there. If nothing else, check out both “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” and “Dancing On My Own”.

Vampire Weekend: Contra

When I first bought this, I didn’t like it much, and I ‘shelved’ it (well, didn’t play it for a while). Then I started hearing “Run” on the radio some, found myself really enjoying it, and this fall, dug it out again. And I’m so glad I did. A much more mature, confident album than their debut, they seem to have embraced their contradictions and found a new phrasing that’s really working for me.

So I know that’s only 9, not the traditional 10, but I’m stopping there. Instead, here’s a few other albums that I liked, but couldn’t figure out how much in order to include them above. Honorable mentions, if you will:

  • James Blake: The Bells Sketch/CMYK/Klavierwerke EPs.
  • Janelle Monae: The Archandroid
  • Neil Young: Le Noise
  • Optimo: Fabric 52
  • Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz
  • Girls: Broken Dreams Club
  • Holy Fuck: Latin