2017/12/26

My 2017 in music

I bought music from emusic.com until I cancelled in the summer. Thereafter I bought albums from artists or labels via Bandcamp or from their own ecommerce sites. So my list is even less complete than usual, but I'm thinking quality over quantity. For a year that sucked politically, it sure was a good one musically.

Land of Talk - Life After Youth

The first Land of Talk album in seven years continues to thrill me. "Loving" and "World Made" stand out in a set of outstanding songs. Elizabeth Powell's guitar is up front again where it belongs, along with some peculiar and interesting keyboard work, and her singing is personal and affecting. Life After Youth takes me back to Land of Talk's first great EP, Applause, Cheer, Boo, Hiss, the intensity of which I don't think the band ever reached on their full-length releases—until now.

Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm

I had been only a casual Katie Crutchfield fan, but when I first heard Out in the Storm, bam, it hit hard and has not let up. The title song is the standout for me, but only one of many. It took her long enough to leave whoever the guy was. He got way more songs than he deserved. But damn, those are good songs. I'm envious of Crutchfield's ability to make 1-4-5 chord patterns sound fresh.

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Whiteout Conditions is an album I liked right away and then over time came to love and appreciate deeply. I am fine with an all-Karl-no-Dan album, because this is a very strong set of songs. "Play Money" right off the bat, "High Ticket Attractions," so many good songs by the time you get to the brilliant pair "Juke" and "Clockwise." Brill Bruisers got more notice, but I think this album will be more enduring. At least for me.

Chastity Belt - I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone

With I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt have put together a very fine album with no low points. Their ensemble playing is better than ever, the songs are killer, and Julia Shapiro has learned to use her voice very effectively. Wish for 2018: see this band live.

Aimee Mann - Mental Illness

Aimee Mann came out of the same early 1980s Boston punk/new wave scene I did. Obviously she came quite a bit further out. But then she went pop with 'Til Tuesday, and I did not follow her career...until I found this album on emusic. The songs are fantastic! "Goose Snow Cone," "Lies of Summer" and "Patient Zero" are only three among many.

Louise Burns - Young Mopes

Young Mopes was the first album I bought in 2017 and it's still one of the best. Louise Burns has combined great songs with production that really works to feature her gorgeous voice. "Who's the Madman," "Pharaoh," "Storms" all in a row, the 1960s psychedelic of "Dig," the fantastic title song.

The Pack a.d. - Dollhouse

The Pack a.d.'s previous album Positive Thinking was released only last year. I thought it was brilliant, not only the Pack's best work but one of the best albums I had heard in a long time. I still think so, which is why when they came out with Dollhouse it took me a while to get to it. I don't think it's as powerful as Positive Thinking, but it's very stong and clearly personal. I will be spending more time with this in the months to come.

PINS - Bad Thing

I love PINS to death, and I've been waiting for another album to follow the brilliant Wild Nights. An EP was what we got. Love the (remote) collaboration with Iggy Pop on "Aggrophobe" and the audacity with snakey guitar line (from Lois Macdonald) of "All Hail." Apparently they are still doing a great live show (can't wait for them to tour this way again). But four new songs (plus a Joy Division cover), one of which nicks a bit from a previous song, is a bit thin.

Cherry Glazerr - Apocalipstick

This is my "honorable mention" album. I love how Clementine Creevy (not even 21 years old) is unabashedly a guitar player in these guitar-averse times. She has also written some good songs here, and I enjoy her singing as well as her playing.

The rest

Biggest disappointment: Feist's Pleasure. After the powerful Metals, this feels very artificial, sometimes even lazy, and just not up to snuff in the songwriting department.

More disappointment: The Courtney's II, Allison Crutchfield. Just expected more.

I want a new Potty Mouth album too after their brilliant EP. Until we have one, the single "Smash Hit" will do quite nicely.

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