December 31, 2017
I generally don’t like ranked lists, so here, simply, is my favourite music of 2017. Read on, or scroll down for the link to the Spotify playlist.
Whether consciously or not, many of these songs seem to touch upon themes of struggle, hope, reconciliation and/or finding joy within all that. There are questions asked, bridges built, high roads taken, forgiveness offered and fucks given.
Some of these songs speak for themselves, but allow me to say a few words about some of the others.
Hurray for the Riff Raff makes two appearances because “Living in the City” is such a great, catchy song with some grit under its nails (something Lou Reed would have been proud to put on his New York album), and “Pa’lante” (which means, essentially, “forward”) is such a powerful expression of resistance, memory and perseverance. It seems to hit the zeitgeist-y sweet spot for what was 2017, especially considering the state of Puerto Rico.
Some of these songs ask timeless questions (“Do We Chose Who We Love”) or very contemporary questions (“Do We Chose Who We Love”). And what’s more contemporary than Benjamin Booker‘s plea, “I just want to believe in something; I don’t care if it’s right or wrong.” The warm, old-school soulfulness of the song makes you want to help him find an answer.
“Thinking of a Place” by The War on Drugs takes you on a meditative drift down a lazy river, carried by the whims of the current, punctuated by meandering Neil Young/Lanois-esque guitar solos, as the scenery changes subtly. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.
The band Tinariwen, from Mali, was new to me this year, but their “desert blues” sound really caught my ear. I love great electric guitar sounds, and they have it in abundance (I think there are 6-7 guitarists in the band?). The pulse of the music is so captivating.
Mavis Staples is a treasure, never failing to satisfy. She teamed once again with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy for another great album, If All I Was Was Black. It was hard to pick one song, but “Build a Bridge” is the one that speaks to the times we live in, offering hope and a positive vision of how to proceed.
If 2017 gave us a more wistfully beautiful song than Ron Sexsmith‘s “Shoreline,” I’d like to hear it; I need to use up this metric tonne of kleenex I got on sale at Costco.
What could wrap everything up after the powerful statement of “Pa’lante”? The quiet and humble lesser-known George Harrison composition “That is All” as sung by former Torontonian Kate Fenner, an artist I had lost track of until a very recent rediscovery of her 2017 release, Middle Voice.
Here’s hoping that 2018 finds you on the high road to a more hopeful future. Sing, dance, love, believe, forgive, build bridges, move forward and give as many fucks as you can.
Hear the playlist on Spotify.
Waiting on a Song – Dan Auerbach
Living in the City – Hurray for the Riff Raff
Do We Chose Who We Love – The Waterboys
Believe – Benjamin Booker
Thinking of a Place – The War on Drugs
Hope the High Road – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Tiwayyen – Tinariwen
Build a Bridge – Mavis Staples
Shoreline – Ron Sexsmith
Things are Changing ‘Round Here – Jerry Leger
Have to Forgive – The Building
Pa’lante – Hurray for the Riff Raff
That is All – Kate Fenner