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My favorite music of 2017

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  
(pop, 2017)
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 
(folk, 2017)
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? 
(rock, 2017)
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 
(indie, 2017)
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  
(rock, 2017)
In October, I saw Protomartyr play live and it made me love this album more and that’s something that’s never happened with me before. Also, in the thirty-one years of this list, there’s never been an American rock band with my Album of the Year before. They sing about night-blooming flowers, homeless people spouting premonitions of defenestrated kings, Snyder-men leadening the drinking water, automatic writing by phantom limb, a horse that insults people after getting struck by lightning, and some other things, too. It’s far and away the best stuff of the year.

What did you listen to this year?


  1. I could not name 10 albums in my lifetime.

    1. It's an illness with me. I was a very solitary kid who got lost in music rather than books, and I've never quite gotten over it.

  2. A lot of ISIS nasheeds, of which two - Skoro Ochen' Skoro and Halummu Halummu - are stuck inside my head and I can't get them out.

    I also listened to Sektor Gaza and Lyube.

    So, basically, jihadi nasheeds and Russian hard rock.

    1. Sounds ike fun. I'd google some of that, but I am almost sure I'm already on some watch lists. Quiet and single middle-aged dude, keeps to himself a lot, associated with a few fringe political groups...

  3. My favourite music this year has been by Mic Righteous, Wretch 32, Stormzy, Kendrick Lemar, NF, Logic, TLC. And when it comes to pop, Cold Bandit.

    1. I don't know these, other than Kendrick and TLC, of course.

      Listened to some Mic Righteous today. I really like British rappers. There's something about the accent and hip hop that just works for me - more than most American hip hop, actually. I know it's why I was drawn to Kate Tempest.

      It's nice to have someone stop by here that knows way more music than I do.

  4. And Roger took Holly and Jess from Lucius on tour with him, and they were the band I was obsessed with last year. The show closing version of "Comfortably Numb" they did here in Oakland was on YouTube afterward, and it was epic.
    Right now I'm obsessed with the Coastal Sound Youth Choir's Indiekor. They are and actual youth choir (65 14 to 21 year olds, and their conductor, Carrie Tennant) who do covers of indie rock songs backed by a rock band called the Salteens.
    I've been very much in love with the music of Neko Case for years and years, and I think this version of "Letter From an Occupant" blows the New Pornographers' version of their own song out of the water.

    Also I have been listening to Mongolian bands doing their overtone singing, and wondering at how identical to rock and roll the music is.

    I'll check out the albums on your list. Thank you for posting them.

    -Doug in Oakland

    1. I've been listening to a few clips from Coastal Sound Youth Choir today, and I really like their versin of Bon Iver's "Flume." Peter Gabriel did a great version of it on his covers album back in 2010, but this one brings out what's best in the song even better.

      There's a guy who goes by Arrington de Dionyso who used to front a great band called Old Time Relijun who can do Mongolian throat singing (the two-tone Tuvan thing).

      The famous physicist Richard Feynman became obsessed with throat singing late in his life and hatched a plot to get to Tuva to hear it first hand, which is chronicled in a book I have called "Tuva or Bust!"

    2. Didn't Feynman die right before they came through with clearance for him to go? I think I remember reading that about him. Fascinating guy.
      Oh, and I almost forgot, the Fantastic Negrito. His base of operations is literally two blocks from my mailbox, and somehow I never heard of him until I read about him in the twitter feed of a blogger from DC... I like this video because of the footage of places in Oakland I am familiar with and the cameo by the East Bay Dragons, who are a famous black motorcycle club from Oakland.

      Also, he looks a lot like a friend of mine who died of cancer back in 2000, so that drew me to him a little.
      I listened to that Protomartyr song, and now there's a whole Protomartyr section in my YouTube feed, so I'll be checking out some more songs.

      -Doug in Oakland

    3. Cool. I'll check out Fantastic Negrito when I get home today.

      Come next Tuesday, I need to start trying to find a whole new slate of great albums. I never imagined when I was 13 that this would turn into a lifelong task... sometimes exhilerating, sometimes merely going through the motions.

  5. I listened to some of these.

    Edward Ka was interesting. Ambient is always so very interesting.

    Kate Tempest was actually good enough to make me forward to my hiphop-loving friend. I don't really listen to stuff with rap myself though. I've only found a few artists that have agreed with me there. She comes close, but not yet sure if this sticks.
    Milo is a straight no from me though.

    The Roger Waters song was nice, but didn't stand out to me for some reason.

    Low-fi music is my aesthetic, but I'm really not listening to it as much as I should. Ram is really cool, thanks so much for recommending it!
    "we're gonna live in computers, and the love we have will last" fucking amazing

    Under Diana didn't need more than the first second or two to pull me in, it's wonderful. If you zone out you barely even remember this are modern beats, not medieval ones.

    Sorry to say I find your #1 good, but not as good as some other items on your list. Songs from that album were either "pretty good" or "pretty good but maybe a bit boring?" Maybe it's because I don't always pay close attention to the lyrics though. I can hear some clever things being said, but always fail to keep my attention on it.

    2017 was definitely a good year for music, too. I discovered a ton of new artists, and a bunch put out new albums! Hopefully 2018 will be even better. Year of vaporwave in the mainstream maybe?

    Best wishes to you, make it a great year again!

    1. I don't have any one specific thing to recommend you in return. Feel free to ask for specific kinds of music, and I can probably pick out something cool.
      I'll leave you with this though: have you tried listening to XOXO's Nishiki Prestige? The two-minute opening of that album's closing track I just can't get enough of for some reason. The entire album is really interesting though.

    2. It's all so subjective - what people find compelling in music - that I'm amazed anyone finds a large audience.

      I keep being told that as people age, they tend to listen to stuff that sounds like what they listened to growing up. I try not to do that. I never listened to metal or hip hop at all until just a few years back, and I believe I've changed my ears a bit.

      I'm at work and not in a place where I can dig into music, but I will give XOXO a go at home, and definitely the end of the album!

  6. That is an interesting list Harry! How about some Justin Timberlake? LOL! "Under Diana" on your list, I liked. Happy New Year!! I agree 2018 is going to be great! Big Crow Hugs!

    1. Hi, Stacy. I can defend this list this year against claims that I only listen to irrelevant hipster nonsense by pointing out that three of them (Lana del Rey, Father John Misty, and Mount Eerie) appear on a lot of mainstream year-end lists. I've really gone soft.

      I am very hopeful about 2018. I think it might bring some big changes for me, at last, and it's about time. Looking forward to it.

    2. I really liked your sample of Ill Wicker. I'll have to delve deeper into into your list.

      What did I listen to this year?
      My music list is confined to what's on my MP3 player. Which is stuff from the 60's to the early 90's with a couple of dozen exceptions stretching to the present. On average though I don't get more adventurous than Linkn Park, which my son introduced me too.

      What's worse I've come to like Sinatra and other easy listening types that even touch New Age music.

    3. That's three mentions of Ill Wicker now. I think that's great that that's the one people have noticed.

      Music ought to be entertainment. I've never quite accepted that. Somehow, the 15-year oldme believes he's going to achieve enlightnement if he keeps searching for new sounds. That's a problem withme, not people who listen to music to relax and enjoy.

  7. I heard an interview with Roger Waters, just yesterday. He was shunned from a community production, involving local children -- one he's been doing in many communities for a decade -- because of the belief, by the city's mayor, that he is anti-Semitic. I think the gist of it was that he is pro-human and being pro-human put him at odds, a time or two, with the Israeli side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. So, therefore, the mayor of wherever bought into the anti-defamation league's conclusion that Waters is an anti-jew.

    I have no idea if he is or not; I just mention that I heard the interview yesterday. I love his work, and intend now to check out his album, the one you listened to in 2017.

    I have never heard of anyone else on your list, which speaks volumes of your eclectic tastes and speaks even louder to my isolation from new music. Perhaps that's something else I should put on my goals for 2018: diversify my tastes, and sample new things (lest I get old, eh?)

    31 years is a long time to do anything. That's admirable dedication. Why, when you started doing these lists I was graduating high school, not needing a gun with Billy Idol, being notorious with Duran Duran, and giving love a bad name with Bon Jovi. Did any of them make your first list? ;)

    I'm going to throw this post in my Pocket and come back and sample some of this music tomorrow after the party. I could use more eclectic in my life. ๐Ÿ˜Š HNY, Harry Hamid!

    1. Roger Waters has been doing battle in the music press with people like Nick Cave and Thom Yorke, both of whom play in Israel. I tend to agree with Waters on the issue, but I'm not anywhere close to casting Cave aside for thinking differently. Actually, I'd probably still listen to Waters even if I didn't agree with any of his politics.

      Before I started doing my top ten, I listened to VERY radio-friendly 80s stuff like Rick Springfield, Daryl Hall and John Oates, etc. Then in 1987, I found Phil Collins' Genesis and started following it back into its strange prog 70s roots and things were never the same.

  8. I think when you reach the level of Roger Waters accomplishments you can do about anything you care to do. Celebrities do all sorts of odd things. Some actually try to improve our world but many just open restaurants or endorse products. I thought the lyrics on the Roger Waters song you included were good but not the best protest type of lyrics I've heard. You ask what I've listened to - anyone who scrolls through my blog will find out.

    1. You have a fantastic amount of music on your blog. Any more and it would qualify as a music blog.

      Your comment got me thinking about whether Waters has ever written anything that counts as quality, and universal protest songs. I'm not sure... The whole "Final Cut" album was an angry reaction to British politics in the early 80s, but it doesn't really have anything that can be taken out of context.

      He's not Bob Dylan. He has some great stuff, though. I wonder whether he thinks he's doing protest music...

  9. Happy New Year, Harry! You have much more sophisticated musical taste than I do. Which is my middle-aged (i.e. old), cluelessly bourgeois way of saying I haven't heard of any of these musicians/bands except for Lana del Rey. And even then, I don't know what her music sounds like, lol.

    1. Happy New Year (and congrats on your retirement)!

      It's going to be a great year. You can catch up on all kinds of cool music (much more than me) now that you have that wide open schedule...

  10. Happy New Year, Harry! Impressive list but I must admit that I know hardly any of them. The only band I discovered this year that I really liked was Avenged Sevenfold.

    1. Happy New Year, Mr. Shife! I have heard of Avenged Sevenfold but don't know anything by them. I know the name because I got an album last year by a group called "Vengeance Tenfold" and everytime I see the name Avenged Sevenfold, I think it's this other band.

      The two names are sort of oddly similar...

  11. Music hasn't really figured massively in my life for a long time (that's my wife's thing). I am enjoying the new Paloma Faith album at the moment.

    Guess I'm a Radio 4 bloke.

    1. I like that response: "My wife is in charge of the music, really..."

      When I was a kid, I ended up buying mountains of horrible music because there was no way to know what non-commercial stuff sounded like except by reading about it in magazines or books and then buying it.

      So being able to hear anything I want online has left me nearly incapacitated. I wish I had a partner or someone to delegate themusic to sometimes...

  12. I'm ignorant when it comes to music. I never can remember the artists names or song titles and I have trouble understanding words to songs, so I really like instrumental stuff. I like classical music and have a few waltzes on my playlist for walking/running. I'm always afraid that I'll break out waltzing while walking down the trail and people will think I'm insane. Other than that? Old, dorky stuff. Neil Diamond. Enya. Some country music (the older stuff, not the new pop-country), some New Age, lots of rock, some alternative. I'm always looking for something new so I'll have to check out your favorites.

    1. Hi, Pixel! I don't have the breadth of music knowledge I had when I was younger, and I don't remember songs the way i used to. I chalk it up to it just not being as iimportant to me anymore and definitely NOT to age.

  13. Replies
    1. She's totally atypical of what I normally listen to, but the more I listen, the more I want to listen.


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