Sunday, December 24, 2017

Music of 2017

I loved a lot of music this year, and I consider these four albums worth writing about!

Big Thief - Capacity
A friend had a record on across the room I simply could not ignore. While everyone else focused on our board game, I was taking in the faint background music smoldering over at the record player. These days it takes a certain calibre of "indie rock" to strike me the way Big Thief's prior album, Masterpiece, did that night, and the follow-up,  Capacity, is no slouch either. Masterpiece dealt a full hand of punchy rock and rollers, but  Capacity makes its best plays with character sketches on the dark and light fringes of life experience with the kind of warmth one feels handling weathered photographs of long-passed relatives.

(Favorites: "Mythological Beauty" & "Watering")

Katie Von Schleicher - Shitty Hits
I had zero expectations when I put this album on one evening while cooking dinner. The first few songs breezed by during my initial prep. Then, as I was cutting some carrots, a flutter of saxophone at the end of the 4th track ("Soon") knifed through my wandering mind. Three seconds so delicately treated and unexpected that I rushed over to the phone with a shudder, asking "Did I just hear that??" to an empty room. It was the first of many aha moments on Shitty Hits. The songs, guys! They're packed with little pop delights--and not the kind that wear out quickly. The Beatles spring to mind a dozen times. Yeah, I mean it. I've listened to it more than any other this year.

(Favorites: "Paranoia" and "Life's a Lie")

Broken Social Scene - Hug of Thunder
No band in my adult music-listening lifetime has put out an equivalent 1-2 to BSS in 2002 (You Forgot It In People) and 2005 (Broken Social Scene). For a time they came to define indie rock to me and largely still do. There's just no way to improve on what they did. And yet! Hug of Thunder is the most fun I've had with BSS in years. There's fresh energy that helps the band sound loose and whimsical. Seeing them twice in two nights early this year helped, I think, but I know how many people have been hoping so badly for a record of theirs to capture some of that early wonder. I'm so happy about what this band is and what they've made here.

(Favorites: "Halfway Home" and "Stay Happy")

Lorde - Melodrama
"Green Light" is definitely the best first song of the year. I mean, we get about :45 of the sophomoric Lorde one might anticipate following Pure Heroine, but she suddenly drops her snarl and pivots from spite to freedom as a piano churns and propels her release from expectations. ...And that's how you write and produce the first minute of a young star's sophomore album. She's 20 now, after all, and self-realization is painted all across these songs, whether wrestling with new love's push/pull or chronicling the psychological games we use to overcome harder times. There are few with her ability to speak to and for her generation at this time.

(Favorites: "Green Light" and "Writer in the Dark")

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