2017’s music got me through 2017. I really tried to whittle this down to an acceptable level and managed to take a few off the list, thus this epic scope of music had been much more so, virtually an entire week’s worth of music. Even so I have a solid couple days’ worth of listening on here. Yet it ended up being difficult to remove anything else. Honestly in a year where so much happened, so much that felt so bad, it is good to know that these bands realized the badness and counteracted it as best they could. Sometimes in the darkest moments it is art that can best offer salvation, a reflection upon the zeitgeist.
Going through this list, what I noticed was a slight shift away from my mellowed attitude. I guess 2017 did not give me a lot of options regarding how to get rid of a lot of the negative thoughts that sort of followed me around. New York City felt particularly grim for much of 2017, a whole hopelessness sort of embodied it. That’s why in the winter of 2017 I listened to a ton of the most abrasive things I could find, hence the brutality of Krause and Gnod. Most interesting was how Gnod, usually a relaxed psychedelic outfit, went into harsher terrain. Krause already lived in that rough neighborhood and called it home. King Krule’s “The OOZ”, while not nearly as aggressive, still maintained that sense of bleak, with probably one of the most damned enjoyable things I heard all year.
Others took a slightly different tact. Stripping things down to the essentials Big Thief delivered something so intimate and haunting. Absolutely devastating, Big Thief seemed to capture the day after, the poignant self-reflection that all must go through. Going even further without needing to say a single word Gas brought a darkened spell over everything, with abstraction and distance working in its favor. Never quite approachable, Gas’s work conjured up ghosts of those long past, an electronic elegy of sorts. The Caretaker’s intimacy sort of mixed the two together: while eschewing the distance of Gas it goes for something that feels much closer. Yet with the Caretaker’s work the sense of loss hurt so much, a decayed beauty that never could be the same again.
Warmer textures prevailed on Posse’s last effort. Scaling back a bit their slowcore hopeless of “Soft Opening” they choose a kinder path to travel down, leaning into a dreamer atmosphere. The dream world of sound had a fine year, with multiple bands taking on the world of the surreal. Slowdive took twelve whole years to return to shoegaze yet it was worth every year, with a strangely triumphant breezy atmosphere, one that felt emotionally moving. Going purely into the abstract Marker’s self-titled debut went for a spaced-out vibe, one that made it feel classic despite its recent vintage. Something about Marker’s cloudy day approach really worked to its strengths, as it never got too close almost out of fear.
Fear definitely informed Sun Kil Moon’s “Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood”. Unusually prolific in 2017, Sun Kil Moon put out a lot of albums but this one perhaps held up the best, as his stream of consciousness take on current events and his ruminations on his own mortality had a poignancy to it that the other efforts simply lacked. This worry informed Ryan Power’s effort, his first in a bit of a while. Unlike Sun Kil Moon, Ryan Power offered reassurance in spite of the discomfort. Mac DeMarco took a similar tact, as his worries about aging came to the forefront of his album, showing a maturity to his songwriting that he previously hadn’t explored. On Tyler, The Creator’s album he too took on the concept of the self, looking inwards and being honest with the listener. The Mountain Goats veered away from the autobiographical tact, instead writing an entire story about the rise and fall of a titular character, making one of their strangest yet lushest album, the tragedy of the Goth.
Tragedy rests at the very heart of Kendrick Lamar’s aptly named “DAMN.” With this album, Kendrick Lamar probably got as close to the listener as he possibly could, featuring more about his life with that brilliant closer. Autobiographical albums were particularly important as they have a fine pedigree, as Moses Sumney’s small details displayed, right down to the exact make of minivan. Grant Wallace Band took an entire journey on “By This Time Tomorrow” with much of the album working akin to the narration of an epic road trip. LCD Soundsystem even got in, with a few of their pieces coming close to an outright confessional, which felt at times to close into contact with their home city’s own intense introspection for all of 2017.
Of course, with all the down that 2017 brought there was a need for sunnier sounds. Fleet Foxes never fail to deliver sort of epic sprawling journeys, and they continued that fine polished tradition. The War On Drugs delivered a similar sort of experience, with an almost triumphant take. Thundercat indulged in this temperament as well, with wildly playful funk jazz fusions. Torben Unit dove into a psychedelic 70s jazz style with their casually cool debut, assured and wild in all the right places. Going further down that path of retro yet futuristic, Charlotte Gainsbourg virtually demanded attention with a peculiar highly addictive kind of poetry.
Poetry came to define the highly taut stabs of the hyper experimental Gábor Lázár, whose works referenced Mark Fell and SND’s work while taking the abstraction of the groove even further. Further messing with groove and any discernible rhythm Evol continued onward into their funhouse-inspired deconstruction of rave music. Going into an odd synthesis of pop, dancehall, and dehumanized scatting, Errorsmith’s many years in the works album might have been the most accessible bizarre thing released in 2017. Equally as strange the scattered late-night mixtape of Zach Phillips showed off an entire slew of artists, many of whom had only been on the periphery before, with each piece having a charming raw quality to it.
IMYRMIND went headfirst into a sort of intimate raw live mix with his album, which felt akin to a late-night set recorded in full. Claro Intelecto dove further into darkened hues with his most brooding album in a while. DJ Sotofett presents Jesse perhaps embodied all of this, the experimentation and the embrace of the groove with their flawless album, which felt fully realized, edited to absolute perfection.
Yes, I had a good 2017 in terms of music. Things really worked out music-wise. I know I missed out on a lot of things (I always do) so if anybody has any recommendations on what else I should check out please let me know. Have a fantastic 2018!
- Thundercat – Drunk
- Gábor Lázár – Crisis of Representation
- Krause – 2am Thoughts
- Sun Kil Moon – Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
- Gas – Narkopop
- Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
- Fleet Foxes – Crack Up
- Mountain Goats – Goth
- Big Thief – Capacity
- Slowdive – Slowdive
- Gnod – Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
- IMYRMIND – Uniwersum Luxus
- Grant Wallace Band – By This Time Tomorrow
- Torben Unit – Torben Unit
- DJ Sotofett presents Jesse – Twotinos
- LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
- Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
- Claro Intelecto – Exhilarator
- Errorsmith – Superlative Fatigue
- Ryan Power – ‘They Sell Doomsday’
- The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End Of Time – Stage 3
- Evol – Tunnel Flop
- Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
- Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
- Zach Phillips – How to Slip Away
- The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
- Marker – Marker
- King Krule – The OOZ
- Posse – Horse Blanket