Musical Overview, Including Top 10 Albums – 2017

January 8, 2018


Musically, I was feeling pretty distraught at the end of 2016, with the death of What.cd (the best music library in the history of the world). I wrote a lot about it. In 2017, I started out with a what.cd replacement but quickly abandoned in and have fully given myself over to Spotify.

Here are some things I noticed:

  • I bought significantly less music this year streaming music v. When I was pirating it. Like probably a 50% drop. Anecdotally, after one year, my paying $8/month for streaming is a net loss for artists, compared to my prior behavior. So, do with that what you will.
  • For these lists, I’m not 100% sure I took into consideration everything I listened to this year. For previous “best of” lists, I’d go into iTunes and sort by date added to see what was eligible. There is no such (manageable) feature for the Spotify universe. So I was a bit at the mercy of my memory. I think I got everything, but I’m not sure.
  • The things I go back to my iTunes library for, because they aren’t on Spotify: Joanna Newsom discography and old Lil Wayne mixtapes.
  • I discovered some great new things through Spotify’s weekly Discovery and Release Radar playlists. Two of my top 10 albums came to my attention this way, and four of the artists in my Runners Up section.
  • Overall… I think I like my Steal Things + iTunes + buy things system better, but this one is definitely less work.
  • I still go to about a live show a month, I’m still listening to new music, and still listening to new artists.
  • Here are my top 100 songs of the year, according to Spotify. (Spoilers? I’m not even sure this link will work for you?)

I also have a daughter now. Thet’s cool. But that also means that I’m not writing as much this year. Only publishing one year-end music piece, so let’s just dive into the top 10. Runners up are after that. Playlists and Spotify links mixed in. Here’s a highlights playlist:

Top 10:

10. Conor Oberst – Salutations

Conor Obers - Salutations

Conor Oberst, most known for his angsty work as the lead singer of Bright Eyes is a long-time favorite of mine. In 2016 he released an album called Ruminations, which was the last thing cut from last year’s top 10 list. In 2017, he released the same damn album, but with a full band this time and a handful of new tracks. Some of the versions of the old songs are worse, some are better. But amongst the new songs there are some real standouts. If you stopped listening to Conor Oberst when you exited puberty, try picking him back up again.

9. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket

(Sandy) Alex G - Rocket
Apparently this dude’s been kicking it for awhile but 2017 is the first time that (Sandy) Alex G has come to my attention.

He’s got some janglin’ low-fi pop sensibilities that wouldn’t be out of place in an early Elephant 6 setting. It’s mostly guitar, drums, fiddles & the like but there are a few really noisy tracks that aren’t my favorite.

8. Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry

Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry
Hey, a new Wolf Parade album… and it’s pretty darn good, if you like Wolf Parade albums. I’d call it my second favorite one after their unstoppable debut which is easily a top 25 album of all time for me. (No, that list doesn’t actually exist)

Co-Lead-Singers Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner do their their thing, switching who sings lead more or less each song and it seems like they’ve got some of their original energy back. Still bummed I’ve never seen them live.

7. The Mountain Goats – Goths

Mountain Goats - Goths
Mike & Sandy Becker (those are my parents) Family Favorite™️ the Mountain Goats are back, with another album that isn’t my favorite Mountain Goats album, but has some solid tracks on it.

Mountain Goats albums are good forever, and I often find that listening to one a couple years after its release has better results for me. I think I saw them live 3 times this year?

6. Japandroids – Near to The Wild Heart of Life

Japandroids - Near to the wild heart of life
Kind of forgot this album came out in 2017? Almost missed the list. Everyone’s favorite Canadian Indie Loud Rock Duo is back with their most ambitious release back… and I don’t like it as much as their previous two less ambitious releases. BUT it is still really good and loud and they should make music together forever.

5. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar - Damn.
This was at the top of almost everyone’s album of the year lists, but it did not connect with me the same was as his previous two albums. Who knows. Still great work, still one of the most interesting and important artists making music today.

4. Tristen – Sneaker Waves

Tristen - Sneaker Waves
Jon & Lydia Becker Family Favorite™️ Tristen is at it again with one of my most personally anticipated albums of the year. Sneaker Waves does not disappoint! Perhaps this is in contention for my Favorite Tristen Album.

Go see her live, whenever you can. I think Lydia and I paid to see her as an opener 2 or 3 times this year for various artists, and she was able to win over every crowd of people who had no idea who she was.

3. Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Spoon - Hot Thoughts
It should be illegal to be as consistently good as Spoon is. I think this is my favorite Spoon album? That sounds crazy to say, but I guess there it is.

2. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3

rtj3
This, on the other hand, is my LEAST favorite Run The Jewels album. A ringing endorsement for the #2 album on my list? That said, it balls extremely hard.

I think when it comes down to it, I think Killer Mike is the most interesting lyricists out there. EL-P makes some of the best beats out there. This album tries some new things and while it is generally successful, it doesn’t have the same urgency as their previous two releases. But I think this was close to my most played album of the year because it’s so much damn fun.

1. Dieg Cig – Swear I’m Good at This

Diet Cig - I swear I'm good at this
So. Much. Fun.

Another loud rock duo, like the Japandroids, except this one is led by a woman, and they are from New York not Vancouver. This is a discovery for which Spotify’s algorithm’s gets 100% of the credit. They must have been pushing it pretty hard because it came up independently for both my father and I and we both recommended it to each other.

2017 – Runners Up & Odds & Ends

Trophy Dad – Dogman EP
Susto – & I’m Fine Today
Destroyer – ken
Why? – Mow Lhean
Mister Heavenly – Boxing the Moonlight
Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell Live
Sufjan Stevens, James McAlister, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner – Planetarium
Yucky Duster – Duster’s Lement EP
Oso Oso – The Yunahon Mixtape
The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
Jens Lekman – life will see you now

See you again next year.

p.s. I did update my data sheet for the past 12 years of lists, if that interests you:

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