The Music I Loved in 2017
The older I get, the harder it is for me to keep up with all the new music that comes out. Both parts of that sentence are hard for me to admit. Fortunately, I’m practiced at denial. So, with that caveat, here’s a look back at my year in music listening.
My favourite album of 2017 was The War on Drug’s A Deeper Understanding. Although it’s not as good as the band’s Lost in the Dream, my top record of 2014 and likely my album of the decade, it features “Thinking of a Place,” a brilliant 11-minute, 14-second masterpiece that I played so often that I’m afraid to look at my iTunes play count. And that’s not the only great number on the record either (check out “Holding On“). Once again, Adam Granduciel has managed to create such a moody and powerful atmosphere.
I loved that album from the first time I heard it, but that wasn’t the case with Sleep Well Beast by The National. I’ve been a fan since 2005’s Alligator and saw the band in a far-from-full Horseshoe Tavern that year. But for the first time, I was disappointed in a National release. Fortunately, my friend Biff suggested I spend a bit more time with it. I did and slowly fell in love with the album (check out “Carin at the Liquor Store” or “Guilty Party“).
Several other old favourites served up fine new records. These included Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness, Goths by The Mountain Goats, Jason Isbell’s The Nashville Sound and Soul of a Woman, the posthumous release from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. And while I am a huge fan of The Hold Steady, I’ve found Craig Finn’s sole efforts underwhelming — until this year’s We All Want the Same Things.
All that might suggest I was afraid to stray from artists I already knew, but that wasn’t the case. New discoveries included the self-titled debut from Cigarettes After Sex, Molly Burch’s debut Please Be Mine, Jay Som’s Everybody Works, Hurray for the Riff Raff’s The Navigator and Alison Crutchfield’s debut Tourist in This Town. (Meanwhile, Crutchfield’s sister Katie, better known as Waxahatchee, put out yet another great album this year. It’s called Out in the Storm.)
Finally, falling between the old faves and the new finds, there were three sophomore efforts that were among the year’s absolute best: Big Thief’s Capacity was an truly impressive follow-up to last year’s promising Masterpiece; Antisocialites showed that Alvvays ain’t going to be a one-hit wonder; and Valerie June, whose Pushin’ Against a Stone made my 2013 list, returned with the compelling The Order of Time. Definitely no sophomore slumps for these three women.