2017: Give Each Other Hope

At the time, I didn’t originally put together a year-end mix for 2017, though I did count down my 25 favorite tracks—I retained most of them here, with a few substitutions (“Losing All Sense” for Grizzly Bear instead of “Mourning Sound”; The xx’s “Replica” instead of “I Dare You”) and tracks from the year’s top albums.

A few other additions: a topical, propulsive anthem from the ever-unpredictable Canadian All-Star indie collective Broken Social Scene (with Metric’s Emily Haines on vocals), a gem from Slowdive’s surprisingly durable self-titled reunion album and a song from another British group’s own reunion album, The Clientele’s Music For The Age Of Miracles. I had never knowingly listened to them until “Lunar Days” once popped up on shuffle on Spotify and I immediately fell for it.

Iron & Wine’s slow-building “Call It Dreaming” leads this mix off and is still my favorite, but nothing encapsulates this year better than “Try Harder” by Mavis Staples. 2017 was personally a rather tough year to get through—in addition to this country’s awful new administration (there exists no kinder word to describe it), for the first time as an adult, I suddenly lost two close friends (one to a heart attack, the other, cancer.) Staples (then 78!) repeatedly wailing “Don’t do me no good to pretend / I’m as good as I can be,” over a primal, guttural guitar riff remains cathartic and still inspires me to keep moving forward.

Go here to listen to my favorite tracks of 2017 on Spotify:

  1. Iron & Wine, “Call It Dreaming”
  2. Laura Marling, “Soothing”
  3. The Clientele, “Lunar Days”
  4. Dua Lipa, “New Rules”
  5. Grizzly Bear, “Losing All Sense”
  6. Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie, “Sleeping Around The Corner”
  7. Perfume Genius, “Wreath”
  8. The War On Drugs, “Pain”
  9. Jessie Ware, “Your Domino”
  10. Sylvan Esso, “Die Young”
  11. Waxahatchee, “Never Been Wrong”
  12. Ted Leo, “Used To Believe”
  13. Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Deadly Valentine”
  14. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Cut To The Feeling”
  15. Tennis, “My Emotions Are Blinding”
  16. Goldfrapp, “Tigerman”
  17. Erasure, “Still It’s Not Over”
  18. Mavis Staples, “Try Harder”
  19. Aimee Mann, “Patient Zero”
  20. Lana Del Rey, “Love”
  21. Saint Etienne, “Magpie Eyes”
  22. Dan Croll, “Bad Boy”
  23. Alvvays, “Plimsoll Punks”
  24. St. Vincent, “MASSeduction”
  25. The xx, “Replica”
  26. Slowdive, “Sugar For The Pill”
  27. Stars, “We Called It Love”
  28. Spoon, “Tear It Down”
  29. Tori Amos, “Reindeer King”
  30. Sufjan Stevens, “Mystery Of Love”
  31. Joe Goddard feat. SLO, “Music Is The Answer”
  32. Emm Gryner, “Imagination”
  33. Lorde, “Perfect Places”
  34. Sparks, “Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)”
  35. The Mountain Goats, “Rain In Soho”
  36. Nicole Atkins, “If I Could”
  37. Alison Moyet, “The Rarest Birds”
  38. Jens Lekman, “Evening Prayer”
  39. Broken Social Scene, “Protest Song”
  40. Destroyer, “Le Regle du Jeu”
Advertisements

Best Tracks of 2017 # 10-6

10. Mavis Staples, “Try Harder”
On her third collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, she’s now making music as relevant as the protest gospel-soul she pioneered nearly 50 years ago with The Staples Singers. Built on an insistent, guttural guitar riff, it’s no exaggeration to say that “Try Harder” is right up there with “Respect Yourself”, especially when she sings, “Don’t do me no good to pretend,” again and again, laying bare the wisdom of acknowledging evil in order to combat it.

9. Lana Del Rey, “Love”
Despite having put out four albums in six years, Rey is still more of a singles artist—I can imagine her eventual hits comp will be all-time, with this arresting ballad as just one of its crown jewels. Taking aural inspiration from Phil Spector, crossed with her usual Angelo Badalamenti-isms (would it have been too on-the-nose for her to have appeared on Twin Peaks: The Return?), her declaration here “to be young, and in love” is deeply felt and understood.

8. Waxahatchee, “Never Been Wrong”
Right off the bat this has an agreeable Pixies/Breeders vibe that never quits; I also hear a little vintage Matthew Sweet and maybe some Jill Sobule, too. Fortunately, Katie Crutchfield transcends any hint of ’90s pastiche, as moving beyond her previously low-fi aesthetic for full bells-and-whistles production only further fortifies the strength of her words and melodies.

7. Stars, “We Called It Love”
This highlight from Fluorescent Light is almost Stars-by-numbers at first—another catchy mid-tempo gem to surely take its place on a killer compilation one day. However, after a few plays, all its little nuances begin to surface, and then crystalize to the point where the song, with its observation, “I don’t believe people ever change,” freshly resonates.

6. Sufjan Stevens, “Mystery of Love”
From the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack (which I have yet to see—it opens in Boston on the 22nd), musically this could’ve easily fit on Carrie and Lowell, but not tonally. After absorbing that album’s raw grieving and immense loss, it’s almost cathartic to hear Stevens sing a gentle, spiritual, and altogether happy love song again. It emits a rare sense of wonder that I always seek (but not often find) in the art I consume.