2017

2017

The Thesis

Years that end in “7” are all the best years for music in each decade over the last 60 years.

The Data

Favorite Albums of 2017

  1. Heartless – Pallbearer
  2. The Navigator – Hurray for the Riff Raff
  3. Big Bad LUV – John Moreland
  4. MASSEDUCTION – St. Vincent
  5. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
  6. Capacity – Big Thief
  7. A Deeper Understanding – The War on Drugs
  8. American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
  9. Trinity Lane – Lilly Hiatt
  10. Hug of Thunder – Broken Social Scene
  11. Out in the Storm – Waxahatchee
  12. The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  13. No Shape – Perfume Genius
  14. The Dusk In Us – Converge
  15. Hot Thoughts – Spoon
  16. What Now – Sylvan Esso
  17. Melodrama – Lorde
  18. Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
  19. Slowdive – Slowdive
  20. Take Me Apart – Kelela
  21. Nightmare Logic – Power Trip
  22. RTJ3 – Run the Jewels
  23. Prisoner – Ryan Adams
  24. The Order of Time – Valerie June
  25. Hallelujah Anyhow – Hiss Golden Messenger
  26. Ctrl – SZA
  27. Sleep Well Beast – The National
  28. Crack-Up – Fleet Foxes
  29. All American Made – Margo Price
  30. Dark Matter – Randy Newman
  31. Drunk – Thundercat
  32. Process – Sampha
  33. Witness – Benjamin Booker
  34. Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear
  35. Antisocialites – Alvvays
  36. Purgatory – Tyler Childers
  37. Soul of a Woman – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
  38. From a Room Vol. 1 & 2 – Chris Stapleton
  39. Love What Survives – Mount Kimbie
  40. Ti Amo – Phoenix

The Names

Kendrick Lamar. Drake. Future. Jay-Z. Tyler, the Creator. Run the Jewels. Taylor Swift. Ed Sheeran. Sam Smith. Lorde. P!nk. Kesha. Paramore. Imagine Dragons. Coldplay. U2. Foo Fighters. Queens of the Stone Age. Mastodon. Feist. Bjork. St. Vincent. LCD Soundsystem. Spoon. The National. Father John Misty. Fleet Foxes. Iron & Wine. Ryan Adams. Jason Isbell. Margo Price. Chris Stapleton.  Pretty impressive roster for one year.

Hip, Hop,  the Hippie the Hippie, to the Hip Hop and You Don’t Stop

Hip-Hop officially took over in 2017.  People have been saying for years that hip-hop’s popularity has unseated rock and roll.  Well, this year, it unseated what we consider traditional pop hits as a whole.  Sure, if we take a look at the total numbers, the red-headed wonder, Ed Sheeran was king of the Billboard charts in 2017.  But, if you look at the long list of hits for the year, hip-hop had the most hit songs of any genre by far.  Drake, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, Cardi B, Migos, Future, Rae Sremmurd, Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Childish Gambino, 21 Savage, and the list goes on.  Not only within the genre, but how its beats infiltrated other pop artist’s songs, such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift and Lorde.  It’s been a steady climb, but hip-hop has never seen this amount of chart success, ever.

The Return of the Singer/Songwriter

The singer/songwriter never really went away, but the hefty rise in Americana music over the last 5 or so years had given headway to an amazing set of songwriters in today’s music landscape.  All supporting and challenging each other to do incredible work.  Since 2013o, nobody in folk/rock/americana has put together a more consistent string of albums than Jason Isbell, Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor, and John Moreland.  Collectively, they have released 11 albums since 2013 and all of them are simply remarkable.  Throw in releases from B.J. Barham, Robert Ellis, Sturgill Simpson, and Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee Segarra ; and then even more recent releases from Angel Olsen, Big Thief (featuring Adrianne Lenker), Margo Price, and Valerie June – and you’ve got an amazing renaissance of songwriters that are challenging the status quo with a simple melody and some poignant lyrics.  It reminds me of a time like the early to mid-70s when you had the likes of Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Jackson Browne, and Neil Young putting out classic album after classic album full of great songs from start to finish – no filler to be found.  You can say what you want about pop music trends.  You can say what you want about the absence of rock innovators.  You can say what you want about the album being a lost art-form that consumers just don’t care about.  But, these artists are selling out theaters.  They’re challenging the status quo at award shows.   Above all, they’re making people care about what they listen to again.

Let’s Not Forget…

I listened to close to 100 albums that were released this year. I purchased close to 50 physical copies of those albums on either CD or vinyl. It’s been several years since I’ve consumed that much music in a year. It was incredibly difficult to keep this playlist to only 70 songs. But, some folks had to be left out. Big hit-makers like Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, Chainsmokers with Coldplay, The Weeknd with Daft Punk, and every other member of One Direction not named Harry Styles.  As even as huge of a year for hip-hop (as stated earlier), you won’t find Migos or Cardi B on this playlist.  I’m going to be a bit honest.  I don’t understand why everyone thinks they are so great.  Maybe it’s just my age.  Even though I saw them in concert (and it was awesome), I left Foo Fighters off the year-end list.  No U2.  And there were two really good country albums that I chose not to highlight on my playlist, but will give some love here to the five people that are reading this – LeeAnn Womack’s The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone and Colter Wall’s eponymous first full-length.

Shameless Plug

My buddies in the Kenny George Band released their debut full-length album this year.  I could’ve included one of their tunes in this playlist and you wouldn’t find pause.  It’s an excellent alt-country rock album from a talented group of musicians.  It also features some pretty cool album artwork.  Purchase a mail-order physical copy here or purchase it digitally here, here, or here.

In Conclusion (the Case for…)

So, it would be unfair to declare 2017 the best year for music in the 2010s since the 2010s aren’t over.  We’re also too close to these albums to really know how we’ll feel about them a decade from now – much less twenty or thirty years from now.  But, if I were to open up for debate, I would point toward where the decade began… 2010 was a banner year for music.  Especially for indie bands that were gaining mainstream-sized attention.  LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, The National, Deerhunter, Spoon, Broken Social Scene, The Walkmen, Beach House, Titus Andronicus, Sleigh Bells and Hot Chip.  Kanye released what is considered his magnum-opus.  EDM masterpieces from Flying Lotus, Four Tet, Caribou, and Gorillaz. Hip-hop stand-outs from Big Boi, Drake, Curren$y, and Nikki Minaj.  Pop albums by Rihanna, Robyn, Kesha, and Janelle Monae.  So, in conclusion, the verdict has yet to be determined.

Playlists

https://tools.applemusic.com/embed/v1/playlist/pl.u-AkAmm5pFrV6P6?country=us

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2007

2007

The Thesis

Years that end in “7” are all the best years for music in each decade over the last 60 years.

The Data

Classic Albums

  • Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem
  • Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Spoon
  • In Rainbows – Radiohead
  • Graduation – Kanye West
  • Kala – M.I.A.
  • The Boxer – The National
  • The Reminder – Feist
  • Neon Bible – Arcade Fire
  • Icky Thump – The White Stripes

The Names

Radiohead, Jay-Z, Kanye West, The White Stripes, etc. Some of the greatest artists of the 2000s not only releasing albums that year, but releasing stellar, critically acclaimed career highlights. Indie darlings such as Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Spoon, Feist, Animal Collective and The National are all considered to be on the Mount Olympus of Indie Rock and released fantastic albums in 2007.

“Indie” Music Breaks Through to the Mainstream

2006 was a huge year for “emo” pop bands. Groups like AFI, Panic at the Disco, My Chemical Romance, and Taking Back Sunday ruled the modern rock airwaves and dominated the majority of video play on MTV2. Bands like Fall Out Boy and Paramore continued that trend. However, the chart success from bands like MGMT, Arctic Monkeys, and Modest Mouse seemed to blur the lines more than ever between mainstream music and the “indie” music of once coveted-secrets like Spoon and Arcade Fire. The rise of popularity of the indie scene began around 2003, when car commercials and television shows (such as The O.C.) boosted the public recognition of these bands. And with songs like Feist’s “1234,” Spoon’s “The Underdog,” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” getting regular rotation on digital juke boxes in dive bars and clubs, it was safe to say that “indie” music had totally broken through to mainstream culture. “Hipsters” had become a target revenue demo for Starbucks and Urban Outfitters everywhere, and this music was going to get them in the doors.

Let’s Not Forget

Because of the large scale of incredible “indie” music in 2007, I left a lot of pop chart success stories out of this playlist. Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and Britney Spears all had albums and hits that were huge sellers. In the R&B/hip-hop world, I decided to leave Soulja Boy and T-Pain off the playlist. They had huge years in 2007, but I just think their music sucks. Also throw Fall Out Boy, Good Charlotte, Linkin Park, and Kings of Leon into that pile.

In Conclusion (the Case for…)

What other years would be considered the greatest year in music of the 2000s? I think both 2002 and 2003 have strong cases. 2002 saw the release of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, Beck’s Sea Change and Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf. Throw in other highlights such as Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight, Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot it in People and excellent debuts from Iron & Wine and The Decemberists. However, 2002 was a terrible year for pop and hip-hop. Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, and Nelly ruled the clubs. Ja Rule was hip-hop’s biggest thing. And, how quickly we’ve tried to forget that as a society. Although, there was Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane, Justin Timberlake’s Justified and The Eminem Show that all had redeeming qualities.

2003 fared much better in the hip-hop realm, especially. Jay-Z’s The Black Album, Outkast’s swan-song double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, 50 Cent’s classic Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and Ludacris’ Chicken and Beer. Throw in rising stars like T.I. and Freeway alongside underground gems by Little Brother and across-the-pond sensation Dizzee Rascal, and 2003 was a banger of a year for hip-hop. The Black Eyed-Peas re-invented themselves and crossed over into mainstream success with Elephunk. No matter what you think of where they took their crossover-pop hooks from there, it’s hard to deny how great some of the tracks are on that album. The pop charts saw another smash from Britney Spears and the debut albums by Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé. John Mayer’s Heavier Things, Muse’s Absolution, Evanescence’s Fallen, Linkin Park’s Meteora and The Darkness’ Permission to Land all saw success on the pop-rock charts. Then there were the critics’ darlings – classic, classic releases such as – Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, The White Stripes’ Elephant, The Strokes’ Room on Fire, The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell, Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism, The Postal Service’s Give Up, Sufjan Stevens’ Greetings from Michigan, My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves, The Decemberists’ Her Majesty…, Cat Power’s You Are Free, and a slew of other indie-rock darlings that put out excellent albums in 2003.

So, yeah, I can’t definitively say 2007 was the greatest year for music in the 2000s. In fact, I think I would say it was 2003, but it was a stellar year nonetheless and saw arguably the greatest releases from some of the most respected artists of their generation.

Playlist

https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/2007/pl.u-ZmblljjHj9AgA

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/papertiger78/playlist/6jwpjI292BpO13eZDpJoDR

1987

The Thesis

Years that end in “7” are all the best years for music in each decade over the last 60 years.

The Data

Classic Albums
  • Appetite for Destruction – Guns N Roses
  • Joshua Tree – U2
  • Bad – Michael Jackson
  • Sign O’ the Times – Prince
  • Sister – Sonic Youth
  • You’re Living All Over Me – Dinosaur Jr.
  • Document – R.E.M.
  • Paid In Full – Eric B. and Rakim
  • Hysteria – Def Leppard
SST Shines

1984 was maybe SST’s year of underground masterpieces with the release of the two epics -Minutemen’s Double Nickels On the Dime and Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade. By 1987, however, the label had tripled the size of its roster and amount of releases, and 1987 produced two more masterpieces – Sonic Youth’s Sister and Dinosaur Jr.’s debut, You’re Living All Over Me. Where SST stalwarts such as Black Flag, Descendents, Minutemen and Hüsker Dü were all built on their punk roots – Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. looked to classic rock of the past to help form their sound. These two albums (along with contributions of The Pixies) would go on to influence the early 1990s Alternative scene more than anything else before them. Along with two more releases by Meat Puppets and an amazing sophomore effort by fIREHOSE, 1987 cemented SST Records as an underground record label that wasn’t messing around anymore. The magma was heating up, and the volcano was about to explode.  The mainstream music industry had no idea what was coming.  Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” might not have happened until four years later, but looking back, you can see the signs of it coming in 1987.

Alternative Music Gains Steam

Bands that mainly had success on college radio or “alternative rock” formats, were starting to get played on mainstream radio. In huge part due to MTV beginning to blur the lines of what was popular and what was critically lauded. Midnight Oil, The Cure, R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs each had Billboard charted hits from their 1987 albums. None of these songs exactly screamed “Mall queens gather round!” either.  The underground was starting to crossover. Nothing signaled this more than the success of U2’s Joshua Tree. Before 1987, a U2 single never even cracked the top 25 in the US, and only once in the Top 40. That all changed with the release of The Joshua Tree. Not only did they immediately become the biggest band in the world, but they shocked the world by beating out The King of Pop for the Album of the Year Grammy in 1988.

British Overload

Even though maybe not considered their best albums, it was pretty remarkable that Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and The Wedding Present all released albums in 1987.

Rap Is Here To Stay

N.W.A. Public Enemy. Boogie Down Productions (fea. KRS-One). Ice-T. All of these legendary artists released either their debut single or debut album in 1987. Run DMC and the Beasties took hip-hop to another level in 1986, and these artists (among others) were determined to capitalize upon that momentum. LL Cool J released his sophomore album and the single “I Need Love” proved to be hip-hop’s first love ballad. Also making LL, hip-hop’s first true heartthrob.

Rock and Roll Veterans

1987 also saw strong output from some of rock and roll’s aging veterans.  George Harrison and Robbie Robertson released two solo efforts extremely unique to their discography up to that point.  Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd continued to add to their historic discographies.  Not even featured in the playlist, there were also releases from Neil Young and Crazy Horse, David Bowie, and Van Morrison.  Even though, they weren’t bad albums, I decided to leave them off my playlist because those albums weren’t considered landmarks in their careers.

Let’s Not Forget

This playlist is already 4 and a half hours long, so I had to make some cuts somewhere. Here are the artists that made their mark on 1987 (big or small) that I decided to leave out.  Rick Astley was all over the charts in 1987.  I just decided to save listeners from yet another Rick Roll.  1987 was also the year of mall queen, Tiffany.  1987 also brought us Richard Marx.  Let’s just move on and forgive 1987 for that one.  The legendary Smokey Robinson released a solo album that my mother listened to over and over and over in 1987, and I decided thirty years ago that I would do anything and go anywhere to never hear anything off that album again – and I love Smokey Robinson.  Hair bands – Girls, Girls, Girls by Motley Crüe, Great White’s Once Bitten…, and Whitesnake’s self-titled album all came out in 1987.  Kiss released an album they probably want to forget.  Swans, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Butthole Surfers, and The Descendents all released albums that were cherished by some folks who were into the underground rock scene. I didn’t include Ice-T in my playlist, and I also failed to mention DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince released their debut album in 1987.  And, one album that I highly recommend that I didn’t highlight is Warren Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene.  It’s one of the songwriting genius’ more overlooked albums, but features contributions from Neil Young, Brian Setzer, Bob Dylan, Flea, and R.E.M.

Conclusion

I’m going to stand by 1987 as the greatest year for music in the 1980s.  1984 produced some amazing albums (Purple Rain, Ride the Lightning, Born in the USA, Let It Be) that are all bonafide classics, but all in all, I feel 1984 was kind of top-heavy in the album department.  1984 produced many, many, many one-hit wonder singles, though.  So, I would consider arguments for 1984.  The other year that I feel stands out is 1986.  1986 was an monster year for metal with Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, and Somewhere In Time.  There were also the classic albums, Graceland, Licensed to Ill, Raising Hell, The Queen Is Dead, and Lifes Rich Pageant.  All in all, 1987 was a year that represented almost nearly every important artist of the 1980s, and produced from top to bottom the strongest compilation of album releases of the decade.

Playlist

This Apple Music Playlist is more complete, WordPress just won’t allow it to be embedded.  Click the link below instead…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/1987/pl.8323a34fba9249949844a23ed1ab7969

Spotify is missing some of the songs.

 

 

 

It’s all in the 7’s

lucky 7s

I’ve always had this theory that in every decade, it’s the year that ends in “7,” that generated the best music of collectively of any other year.  2017 has continued to provide a strong argument for that thesis.  Over the next 7 posts, I will be sharing playlists of music from 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017 (though, not in that order).

Just a fun little exercise that most people won’t care about, but I have a few friends that would find it interesting.

I’ll have the first one up tomorrow.

His Purple Majesty

img_1418-1

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  There’s been a lot going on.  I’ve been a little preoccupied.  It’s much more difficult to maintain a blog when you have regular freelance design projects, oh, and a newborn to help take care of.  More on that later… I couldn’t let the death of Prince go unacknowledged in my personal internet diatribe, though.  I’m not going to pretend that I have something important to say about him that every music journalist or musician hasn’t said. This is just an account of my relationship with his music – no matter how boring it might be.

Being born in 1978, and not having any older siblings (an important factor), I didn’t really get into Prince until later in life.  However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up with his music.  My first sighting of him was due to a babysitter watching MTV – I believe it was the “Kiss” music video.  Every one my age, of course, remembers the Batman soundtrack.  His music was played at the dances I attended throughout my youth.  However, not even Prince could get me to retire from my permanent role of wallflower.  I had a cassette of his greatest hits.  Still, it wasn’t until my freshman/sophomore years in college that I purchased the Holy Trilogy of albums – 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign O’ the Times.  The genius was finally realized, and I never looked back.  I kept adding to my collection one at a time – very randomly… Parade… a pirated version of The Black Album… and so on.  Though I was looking backwards at his music at different eras, his latter day output felt much like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years – Musicology is a fantastic album and should not be ignored.  Unfortunately, I never saw him live in concert.  I tried to purchase tickets to his show in Charlotte in 2011.  It proved to be more difficult than Radiohead tickets – and a bank breaker to boot.  

It’s been interesting this past week mourning him.  I had to relocate CDs that I haven’t listened to in ages.  There are very limited ways to stream anything by Prince (except for stupid Tidal).  Don’t get me wrong.  I actually love that!  I mean, I’m sure you can torrent his entire discography, but I love that some music fans out there are actually going to have to find a used copy of some of his post-WB era albums – if they’re interested.


It’s been a rough start to the year in the world of music.  Bowie, Haggard, now Prince. Bowie’s death was just as tragic.  In fact, it’s probably safe to say that I’m actually a bigger fan of a select part of Bowie’s discography.  But, Bowie wasn’t woven into the fabric of my youth.  I mean, sure, there was this.  But, we all try to forget that ever happened.  Even though I wasn’t an active participant in the contemporary music scene as a young child growing up in the 1980s, his music was still constantly surrounding me.  He was an icon – much in the same way as Michael Jackson.  I think that’s why I’m taking Prince’s death so much harder.  It’s as though something familiar, that was always supposed to be there, is now gone.  In that way, in my mind, Prince had transcended being an actual human being.  He was just part of life in the universe as we know it.  There are very few musicians/artists left on the earth that I view that way.  Maybe McCartney?  Hell, even I see Dylan and Springsteen as just men who will someday leave us – and that’s saying a lot.  Prince was different.

So… Here’s a playlist to download.  I know lots of people have already been listening to him over the past week.  His albums are at the top of almost every chart.  But, maybe one of the 5 people that read this will find it useful.

33 Vol. 5

This is the last ride.  The pop singer addresses the audience.  He lies about unrequited love.  We all scream for truth, but he denies us.  Please don’t put your life into the hands of a rock n roll band.  Reach out for me.  Hold me tight.  Hold that memory.  Feelings getting stronger with every embrace.  Give me the bones of what you believe.  I could show you incredible things.  Magic?  Madness?  Heaven?  Sin?  It’s a bad religion.  The father, son, and holy ghost?  They all turned away love when they needed it most.  I’ve been riding with the ghost and this is the last ride.

Download here, or click the image below.

Vol5