The Liner Notes
2017 looked a lot like 2016 in terms of how I consumed music — I bought and spun a lot of wax. In other words, there was a different kind of intentionality when it came to my listening habits.
In years prior, the majority of my listening was focused on the music of that particular year, whereas the last couple of years have found me looking back at records and genres I was less familiar with or slipped under the radar.
One way isn’t better than the other, but it does illustrate the difference between what crate digging brings to my ears versus streaming.
Still, one glance at the volume of albums in the playlists below and you get a sense I devoted at least a little time to the music of 2017.
So in the spirit of this unique year of listening and procurring, I thought I’d try something different and restrict this listt to my 10 favorite LPs.
What’s different about that, you ask? Isn’t that what I always do?
Well, yes and no.
I’ve always given you numbered lists but they’re usually top 20 plus. Longer lists feel more fluid and less locked down i.e. the more music I list the less significant any one position is. It’s comfortably noncommittal.
All LPs are my favorite.
So a shortened list just seems like a fun challenge. To see what I come up with when I restrict myself to focusing on 10. What would it say about the music of 2017? What spoke to me?
In a way, it’s the perfect synthesis of my two current listening habits: the seemingly endless choices available via streaming versus the limitations inherent in my record collection and wallet.
It was not an easy endeavor, believe me.
10 Best Albums Of 2017
10. Gord Downie Introduce Yerself
After a long fight with brain cancer, Gord left us with a final gem – a heartbreakingly beautiful collection of minimalistic songs about life and people. Intimate, sincere and endlessly inviting.
9. Bitchin Bajas Bajas Fresh
Fuses ambient, modal world production with jazzy new age electronic leanings that, like all Bitchin Bahas recordings, works way more cohesively than it should.
8. Vince Staples Big Fish Theory
Continues Vince Staples’ synthesis of laid-back West Coast rap with left field dance and wavy electronic production. This is groove crossover rap experimentation at its best.
7. The Mountain Goats Goths
John Darnelle and company are no strangers to concept albums, but Goths — a story of the rise and fall of Goth — is a cut above. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but the lyrical inside references and musical homages brought many knowing smiles to my face. “And outside it’s 92°, and KROQ, the ROQ of the 80s, is playing Siouxsie and the Banshees”. A valentine to time and place.
6. milo who told you to think?!?!?!?!?
Dropping Esher-like, oft cryptic, multilayered rhymes over chill jazzy, leftfield production, milo has delivered a densely contained meditation on the search for truth and meaning.
5. Yazz Ahmed La Saboteuse
Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed has created a contemporary spiritual jazz album that integrates Arabic psychedelic jazz with modern soul funk fusion that is a joy to sink into. Having worked with such artists as Radiohead, she knows a thing or two about weaving the esoteric with the melodic.
4. Kendrick Lamar DAMN
What more is there to say about Kung Fu Kenny’s genius? Last year he gave us one of my favorite albums made up of demos from “To Pimp A Butterfly”, and now he gives us barbed, introspective bars over banger production that subverts commercial tropes and mutates into something greater than its parts.
3. Sampha Process
It’s hard for me to think back on it time when I was more hyped for debut by artist than this one. As a collaborator he has been on some of my favorite records over the last several years and has one of those voices that slays me. An R&B record like no other this year, it is, as the title suggests, Sampha coming to terms with a painful loss. It’s an electro soul LP with the powerful “(No one knows me) like the piano” at it’s soulful axis.
2. Open Mike Eagle Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Structures have souls. They are made up of the lives that traverse and inhabit them. Open Mike Eagle laments, champions, critiques and looks back on the destruction of his childhood home, the Robert Taylor Homes housing project in Chicago. “They blew up my auntie’s building/Put out her great grandchildren/Who else in America/Deserves to have that feeling/Where else in America/Will they blow up yo village”. It is a deft poetic collision of a pointed indictment on gentrification with a celebratory love for the resilient spirit of the displaced.
1. Father John Misty Pure Comedy
There isn’t much more I can say that I didn’t say on the midyear post about Pure Comedy, so I’ll leave you with something I think gets overlooked amongst the dense, critical, near overwhelming sarcastic tone of the LP and that’s that it ends with the wise, non-cynical enlightened upturn of “In twenty years or so”. Taken as a whole with this final punctuation, it’s arguably the most profound musical experience I’ve had in years. So much so it brought tears to my eyes the last time I committed to the album. “But I look at you/As our second drinks arrive/The piano player’s playing “This Must Be The Place”/And it’s a miracle to be alive”.
Favorite Song Of 2017
Poolside “Everything Goes ” , Mavis Staples “Little Bit”
To be fair, several songs could’ve occupied this spot. In years past, it’s always been obvious what should go here. Not so much with 2017. Instead I leave you with a tie of sorts; Poolside’s house infused nod to Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” and Mavis Staples’ swinging gospel social commentary “Little Bit”. Both seem more than appropriate for the times.
If you’re an apple music subscriber here is the playlist to all my favorite albums this year. Click here.
If not, here’s a YouTube playlist for you. Click here.
Per usual, enjoy the music! And feel free to share some of your favorites below. Always love hearing new stuff.
Hau’oli makahiki hou!