This being the occasion of my thirty-first annual Top Ten Albums list – yes, thirty-one years, that’s practically forever, you know – the truth is I cannot recall a time when I did not finish out each and every year in this way.
It is time for me to do it again now, so let’s just get on with it.
10. Lana del Rey – Lust for Life
A guilty pleasure, perhaps. No. No, not that. I buy hook, line, and sinker into her whole old Hollywood, strung out faux-glamour schtick, exactly like I bought into Ziggy Stardust and Tom Waits’ Seventies-era barroom crooner thing. She belongs here, I know it, even with a chorus like “God bless America / And all the beautiful women in it.” I buy into it all.
9. Edward Ka-Spel – High on Station Yellow Moon
(dark ambient, 2017)
He’s one of my most favorite storytellers. On his own as well as with his bands, The Legendary Pink Dots and Tear Garden, Edward Ka-Spel has snatched me into innumerable strange and beautiful places through the years. This one is a two-song concept record (the gall!) about living on a space station after the destruction of the Earth. It’s excruciating and wonderful.
8. Kate Tempest – Everybody Down
(hip hop, 2014)
I’ll tell you who Kate Tempest is. She’s a young, white, female poet from that part of England where the people pronounce “th” like “f”. This is one of two hip hop albums she’s made, and she remade its story into a novel later on. I listened to it all the time this year. All the time.
7. Milo – Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!
(hip hop, 2017)
He calls the hip hop he makes “underground art rap.” I don’t know what that means but I hope he makes more.
6. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
This is an album of funny observations about the human condition and it sounds like music Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson might have made in 1972. It is a masterpiece and it deserves to be so much higher than #6. It is in fact, without a doubt, criminally negligent of me to rank it so low. I’m terrible at this.
5. Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want?
Roger Waters is still really mad. In both senses of the word, I suppose. With all that Pink Floyd money, you’d think he’d be happier at seventy-three, but no, he’s still mad. Plus he curses a lot. I am glad I lived long enough to hear this album.
4. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me
It is time, no, it is long past time, I’ve been exceedingly slow, for me to fess up at last and admit that Phil Elverum is my favorite music artist ever. More than Peter Gabriel. More than Edward Ka-Spel. More than Roger Waters or Robyn Hitchcock. Everything about this guy – who records all by himself and then mails his albums off from his own house with the outgoing address written in his own hand – is perfect.
3. Kissed Her Little Sister – Ram
(lo-fi electronic, 2017)
Kissed Her Little Sister, now, it might be awful. I can’t tell. I listen, almost pathologically, to the last three albums they’ve made about searching for God and Dennis Wilson and I can’t imagine what there is to like about any of it. I’m probably listening to it yet again as you read these very words.
2. Ill Wicker – Under Diana
(acid folk, 2014)
What is Ill Wicker? They sound like a flawless hybrid of Incredible String Band and Comus, but they’re more than that, so please forget I said it. There’s something rustic and occult about them, like maybe they’re witches or something, and this Under Diana contains no fewer than four moments of pure weightlessness for me.
1. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent
What did you listen to this year?