Shadow, take me down
Shadow, take me down with you
For the last time…
For the last time…
If there’s one phrase that captured my mood this year, it was the above. Whether I was confronting my chronological age, or the fact that crooks and liars had invaded our government, I just didn’t care anymore. Not that I plan to go down without a fight, but constantly questioning whether “up” is really “up” and “down” is really “down” is exhausting.
Speaking of questioning long-held beliefs and scientific truths, while this post will focus on individual songs as per usual, I must admit I found myself liking a number of full albums this year. Yes, you read that right, albums. It truly is a brave new world.
In any case, here are some of my favorite songs for your 2017 playlist.
Best in Blondes: Chromatics, “Shadow” (Twin Peaks: Music from the Limited Event Series). This song made the perfect bridge between the original Twin Peaks of Julee Cruise and Twin Peaks: The Return, a show which so encapsulated this sh*tstorm of a year. Also, if you haven’t yet caught up with The Return, or are planning to revisit episodes at some point, you might want to pay special attention to the lyrics of songs featured at The Roadhouse—they are enlightening.
Best in Bogeymen: Dark Rooms, “I Get Overwhelmed” (A Ghost Story: Original Soundtrack Album). Speaking of soundtracks, I generally do not care about the Original Song category at the Oscars—mostly because there are very few songs that are truly integral to the movie—but this year “I Get Overwhelmed” proves to be the exception to the rule. I really hope this at least gets nominated because, in addition to being a beautifully haunting song, it works so well in the film.
Best in Blues: ZZ Ward featuring Fantastic Negrito, “Cannonball” (The Storm). This was probably my favorite album of the year and you can’t go wrong with almost any song on it, from “The Ghost” to “Let It Burn” to “Bag of Bones.” I chose “Cannonball” because I can never get enough of Fantastic Negrito.
Best in Break-Ups: Lorde, “Liability” (Melodrama). Did I say The Storm was my favorite album? Damn. I feel like I’m on the playground having to pick my “best” best friend. Or, you know, Sophie. Lorde may have the edge here, but luckily we still live in a democracy and NO ONE CAN MAKE ME CHOOSE.
Best in Billys: William Patrick Corgan, “Aeronaut” (Ogilala). I was never a fan of The Smashing Pumpkins but I’ve always liked Billy Corgan’s voice. So, hearing it in a stripped-down “unplugged” style was a nice surprise. Not sure about the look he’s working in this video though.
Best in Beths: Beth Ditto, “Fire” (Fake Sugar). Once again, contrary to my natural tendency towards singles, this was another album where it was hard to pick a favorite song. Ditto was previously lead vocalist for the indie rock band Gossip, but I had never heard of her before this album, her first as a solo artist. I look forward to hearing more from her.
Best in Björk: Björk, “The Gate” (Utopia). Is this what aging does to you? Have I become someone who likes Björk? Honestly, the realization is just so disturbing I don’t know what to say except that this song is a tremendous follow-up to the raw bundle of emotions that was 2015’s Vulnicura.
Best in Bloghaus: Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Deadly Valentine” (Rest). Speaking of Europeans I usually can’t relate to, this is a song that I liked on first hearing it, but it was the video that really sold me. I love everything about this concept. I do wish she was singing in French though.
Best in Boyfriends: Poolside, “Everything Goes” (Heat). As per usual, the Math Greek sent me a number of musical selections over the course of the year, including albums by both ELO and Philip Glass (of course). However, this song from L.A.-based duo Poolside was the only one from 2017.
Best in the Basin: HAIM, “Want You Back” (Something to Tell You). Staying in the Los Angeles Basin, this pop confection from my favorite valley girls is straight up infectious. HAIM always seem able to make me smile.
Best in Bulb Burnout: Overcoats, “Leave the Light On” (Young). How could I not like a duo that puts a song called “The Fog” on their debut album? “Leave the Light On” reminds me very much of “Year in Music” regulars Sylvan Esso. I recommend the slightly more eerie “Nighttime Hunger” as well.
Best in Bounce: Sylvan Esso, “Radio” (What Now). I put this single on my list last year and was excited when I learned it would be part of a whole new album to come out in 2017. Unfortunately, the new album did not live up to the promise of “Radio” and turned out to be rather disappointing as a whole (though not quite as disappointing as the new Arcade Fire). However, this catchy tune and video, with its meta-commentary on consumption culture cannot be denied a spot here.
Best in Business: MGMT, “Little Dark Age” (Little Dark Age). Not much from MGMT has made it onto my radar since their first album in 2007; however, this single from their upcoming 2018 album is a delightful throwback to the sound of my youth.
Best in Black: Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black” (If All I Was Was Black). Speaking of throwbacks, check out Mavis Staples’s new album, written and produced by Jeff Tweedy. The smoothest delivery of the roughest message you could imagine. The whole album is fantastic.
I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself—that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.
—Jeff Tweedy on the “message” of If All I Was Was Black
Best in (Not) Black: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “White Man’s World” (The Nashville Sound). Speaking of feeling complicit, another white man confronting the realities of structural racism and sexism is Jason Isbell. Not that he hasn’t spoken about similar socio-cultural issues before, but it’s nice to see an acknowledgement of one’s ignorance and privilege laid out like this.
Would that in the coming year more white people could bring themselves to acknowledge their privilege in a similar fashion.
A girl can dream…
For previous Year in Music round-ups, see
Unapologetic B*tch: The Year in Music (2014)
Surf’s Up: The Year in Music (2015)
The Year in Music 2015: Missing Links
Getting in Formation: The Year in Music (2016)
* Note to email subscribers, there is embedded video in this post that may not appear in your email. Please click through to the actual post to see the complete list of selections.