By now, I should be compiling my lists of favorite novels and short stories of the year.
Unfortunately, in November my laptop decided to go to the great electronic scrap heap in the sky, and I am a complete idiot, and I didn’t have my reading list backed up.
I am waiting at this moment to see what pieces of my data can be retrieved (at a prohibitively large cost that I will still gladly pay because there are so many things I need–back up your shit, kids), but my best of reading lists may not happen until January. Or ever!
So, in the meantime, while I try to avoid a complete nervous breakdown (that about sums up 2017 as a whole pretty well, don’t you think?), I thought I’d take a minute to talk about my favorite music of the year.
It’s been a really good year for music. At least, for things I like. I tend not to pay too much attention to the greater popular music scene: I know what I enjoy, I strive to find new things that I like, I don’t care who’s winning awards or on the cover of magazines. But in any case. This year has had some excellent standouts.
My three favorite albums this year have all been by amazing women.
K. Flay- Every Where Is Somewhere
The first words I ever heard K. Flay sing were “The boy I love’s got another girl/he might be fucking her right now.”
Immediately, I was like who the hell is this woman? and went to find everything she had ever done.
I fell in love with her early songs and EPs, alternately charmed and wowed by her hip-hop/alternative sound. Her 2017 album, Every Where is Somewhere, certainly sounds different from much of that earlier work, but it rapidly became one of my most listened-to albums of the year. It landed at just the right moment to feel timely and timeless. Something about it manages to encapsulate all of my anxieties and angers and fears, each song hitting harder than the one before.
Take “Black Wave,” a song that has literally made me scream. For me, this is all the feelings of fear and betrayal and distrust I feel as an American in 2017 wrapped up in three and a half minutes:
The songs on Every Where is Some Where cut deep, but they aren’t without hope and beauty. I don’t know if this album would have reached me so well in any other year, but it’s a good one in any case. I want everyone to know K. Flay. I want her music to be everywhere. Because she’s truly a great talent.
Lana Del Rey- Lust For Life
Look, I love Lana Del Rey beyond reason. There was no way I wasn’t going to like Lust For Life. So it’s hardly an objective judgement, but I still think this is one of the best albums of the year. If I have any criticism, it’s that it feels a bit uneven, almost like two different albums shoved into one (more on that in a sec.) But honestly, if I had a chance to collaborate with The Weeknd and Sean Ono Lennon and Stevie Nicks and A$AP Rocky then I would too, no matter how uneven the results might end up.
So, there’s the first half of the album, the one that sounds like the Lana I’m used to:
Vintage sounds (in the case of “Lust For Life,” there’s a lot of play on fifties girl groups), doomed love, cheeky call-outs to her old songs.
But then there’s the second part of the album. Lana gets political.
She’s always used symbols of Americana as an aesthetic. “God Bless America-and All the Beautiful Women In It” fits right into that stylistic tradition. But it feels to me like for the first time she’s struggling, like a lot of us are, with what America means, now.
Sometimes it doesn’t quite work. “Coachella-Woodstock On My Mind” is a silly, shallow clunker (not sorry). But to me the earnestness, the simple attempt to reckon with 45’s America, is enough. This is an artist who has been all about image and aesthetic (as so many artists are) suddenly trying to say something deeper.
So, yeah. I’ve listened to Lust For Life approximately eleven billion times already. At the moment my favorite is “Heroin,” a long, wandering song about Charles Manson and mental breakdowns and addiction, with a kick that lands hard for me. But really, they’re pretty much all great. I think Lana has perhaps the most beautiful voice in modern music, and she does some unexpected and really interesting things here.
Kesha’s mostly been a ‘workout’ artist for me–someone I put on when I’m at the gym and I need to get pumped up and don’t listen to otherwhise. So I’m not ashamed to admit that Rainbow was a total surprise. I knew she’d been through a lot of terrible things. I didn’t know she could put out an album like this, powerful and heartbreaking and fun all at once.
First of all, who doesn’t love “Woman”? It’s the empowering, takes-no-shit song I think all of us need this year.
Rainbow has a couple of empowerment songs like “Woman.” songs about brushing off the haters and learning to love yourself instead of what people want from you. But it also has love ballads and countrified bops and some beautiful, unclassifiable oddities. “Spaceship” made me cry the first time I heard it.
A lot of Rainbow made me cry, actually. In a totally beautiful way.
So if you haven’t listened to Rainbow, if you think Kesha’s not your style, I urge you to give it one try. She’s a really amazing songwriter with a powerful voice, and while I think this is her best work I think it points to even better things to come.
Other albums I loved in 2017?
Well, thanks for asking. Sylvan Esso- What Now? Declan McKenna- What Do You Think About The Car? Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 3 Bishop Briggs’ self-titled EP (put out a full album already!)
Some songs I dug:
Sir Sly- & Run:
BORNS- Faded Heart:
Bishop Briggs- Dream:
& probably a hundred other things I’ve forgotten that I will remember when I press publish.
That’s my 2017 in music.
Hope you find some new stuff to like!