Hard to believe that twenty seventeen is already almost over.
I specifically remember back in the early-nineties as a preteen imagining ahead to the year two thousand. I would fantasize about things such as what I would look like as I aged, if I’d still be reading comics, and even doing simple math in my head calculating how old I would be once I reached the specific year being imagined. Twelve year old me would be in for a surprise seeing what the me of twenty seventeen has become. Some good, some bad, all of it me, and I am still managing to perfect the style which is able to portray the best version. Often disappointed and sometimes surprised, I am able to take this all in stride while enjoying one of my first loves: music.
I was given the passion of music by our creator, but he forgot to finish the job when he meant to include the talents belonging to a musician. Maybe my own doing. Oh well. Nevertheless, as they say, I persisted, and I have managed to find a great deal of enjoyment from listening to the music created by others. It is an escape. It is transformative. It is a window inside the soul of anyone who creates.
I fell in love with music as a young boy, and there always were scattered compact discs lying across my floor. My selected choices to own early on were schizophrenic to say the least. It was a gradual progression as I had to make all these discoveries on my own. I loved getting lost in the liner notes of the albums I listened to. That was how I discovered new bands. The “thank you” notes from inside the innermost folds of the album brought me to some of my favorite bands I still listen to today.
Fast forward. Twenty seventeen.
Spotify encroaches my personal space and forces upon me an algorithmically designed playlist every week assuming it can project what I will enjoy in their vast library of music. Sometimes wrong, but mostly right I have evolved to utilize these playlists to discover bands I hadn’t heard yet, as well as new albums from bands I had heard but would have otherwise missed. The digital age in music is a wonderful thing for those looking to get lost in what is to offer.
I’m continuing with my own tradition driven solely by everything I’ve described above with no end in sight, and what follows is the first installment of a three part series highlighting my favorite music of the year.
These are my five honorable mentions of the albums that almost made it to my top twenty records of twenty seventeen.
25 circa waves | different creatures
To start things off I wanted to highlight a band grasping so desperately to the sound of brit pop nearly two decades after its peak. Sometimes an album has such a heavy determination to be cheesy that it cannot avoid enjoyment. Go ahead. Swallow your pride. Ignore the immediate reaction to be pretentiously biased to your own choice in music. Don’t underestimate a band from the UK in twenty seventeen who sound like they missed the delorean time quake back to two thousand four. I am describing here the second album from Circa Waves which has come to me as my first exposure to the band that sounds like they so desperately desire to share the stage with the kooks or the fratelli’s opening up for the strokes in a fictitious description of their successes. The first half of the album is overwhelmingly superior to the later, but it is still a good record throughout regardless.
Favorite tracks: different creatures, fire that burns, wake up
24 sylvan esso | what now
The older I get the more I enjoy indie electronic music. The xx, dj Seinfeld, Future Islands, and anything Danger Mouse touches are just some of the examples of the genre of music that is becoming more of a personal staple than the occasional novelty that it once was. I remember hearing about Sylvan Esso a couple years ago and stubbornly refusing to give them a chance. With seeing this album released earlier in the year, and the positive reviews that came along, I ignored all premonition of dislike and I listened to it in between a couple episodes of the “Labeled” podcast. Since then I’ve been able to tack on another band to the growing list of indie electronic bands currently releasing music that I would recognize more than a simple hook sampled for the Apple commercial I saw a few weeks ago.
Favorite tracks: die young, the glow, radio
23 j roddy walston & the business | destroyers of the soft life
I remember the first time I heard J Roddy Walston. It was a Sunday. Midnight. I just arrived at the hotel room I used as temporary living while working in the city. I had PBS on the tv while I tried to sleep. Unsuccessful. Walston & the Business transformed the public broadcast into something otherwise known as paid television. This didn’t seem ordinary. How was something this enjoyable on PBS at this hour. I fell asleep with the tv on and woke up with the songs in my head. The new record is a bit different, but still enjoyable. The home to what is arguably the best chorus of the year comes from this record (refer to Numbers). Walston may not see many more successful albums or any radio fame, but enjoy this moment with him as this may be the peak of something fun.
Favorite tracks: numbers, the wanting, bad habits
22 Beck | colors
I forgot about Beck. After he explored folk (which I hear he did pretty well) I became disinterested. It’s been more than a decade since he has made anything that interested me specifically. I may be a snob or a prude but I had a difficult enough time welcoming the dance anthems that Guero brought after his initial grunge period. Asking me to be ok with anything in addition to that is more of a request than I am able to reckon with. Alas, Beck returns with more dance anthems in Colors. My only hope, after this incredibly enjoyable record, is that he continues the slide back to where he originated and makes another interpretation of grunge with a future record. Now wouldn’t that be a good time.
Favorite tracks: no distraction, I’m so free, wow
21 lorde | melodrama
I have a few guilty pleasures in music. They are the skeletons in my closet that, if you know me at all, I’ve revealed a long time ago. Pink, Eminem, Maroon 5, Third Eye Blind, Chicago, and Vanessa Carlton’s 1000 Miles are among them. Here, with the new album from Lorde, is an example when a guilty pleasure may turn out to be not so guilty. I first was known to speak of Lorde when the single Royals was banned from SF when the KC Royals played the SF Giants in the 2014 World Series. At that point in my life I was working inside the city and it was hilarious how serious native SF people took this ridiculous joke. With that said, I think Lorde may ditch the guilty prefix and become just another addition to my musical pleasures.
Favorite tracks: green light, liability, the louvre