The Best Albums of 2017

First, a few words about Arcade Fire.

I never thought the day would come that I would be ashamed to like this band. 2017 in music proved that possibly only Beyoncé is sacred. Anything that you liked yesterday could just as well be fodder for infinite Internet memes today and tomorrow. If you’re not saying or doing something important right now, do you even still matter? Just ask Taylor Swift.

With their fifth album “Everything Now,” Arcade Fire sought to satirize and critique that Internet culture. And where Father John Misty succeeded and generated the right kind of controversy, Arcade Fire’s album rollout was hindered by a marketing campaign in which the band issued phony reviews and literal fake news. At one point they halted the sale of “Everything Now” fidget spinners because they had their own fidget spinners to sell. And every Internet gimmick that in one artist’s hand would be genius in another would be U2 dumping “Songs of Innocence” on your iPhone.

Arcade Fire may have been good once, but they’re now in the same cultural doghouse as U2, Coldplay and even Nickelback, undisputed fair game for whatever labels and jokes you want to assign. I don’t know whether Arcade Fire was ever “cool.” Hipsters certainly do not like them anymore. But “Everything Now” was an excuse for all the haters to come out of the woodwork. “This band has been bad since “The Suburbs!” And they’ve always been overrated!”

The problem is that the music itself didn’t rise above the online reaction and marketing rollout. “Everything Now” is their worst album, and on the whole, it’s not especially good. The lethargic reggae beat of “Chemistry,” the arrhythmia that is “Peter Pan,” the generic punk and country of both “Infinite Content” tracks: this is the worst stretch this band has ever recorded. And yet as I’ve sat with this album more, it’s grown on me. Songs like “Put Your Money On Me” and “We Don’t Deserve Love” are dreamy earworms that linger in your mind, but they’re not the soaring rock anthems that have traditionally served as Arcade Fire album finales. The title track and “Creature Comfort” are two of the best singles of the year, the first an upbeat indie dance jingle with melancholy lyrics about media saturation, and the second a violent track with a club beat and a message about suicide.

So it pains me when I have to pretend as though I’m wrong to call Arcade Fire my favorite band, as though they belong to some other cultural entity that isn’t woke to what’s actually good. Arcade Fire were great before, and they can be great again, but it doesn’t mean they’re worth ignoring now.

As for what I most enjoyed in music this year, I’m not a good enough judge of what’s fashionable to know whether any or all of these artists are actually cool or important, but I refuse to be ashamed about any of them. These are the Best Albums of 2017.  Continue reading “The Best Albums of 2017”

The Best Albums of 2012

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you expect me to write a list about movies? Well, it’s my blog and I can do what I want. And there’s no way I’m making a Top 10 list until I see “Django Unchained” on Christmas Day anyway, so you’re just going to have to wait.

But despite never having done one before, I really wanted to make a Top 10 list of my favorite albums of the year. I listened to more music, went to more concerts and read more music criticism this year than any year in the past, and likely several years combined. I wanted to share the music I’ve discovered this year, but I also wanted to test myself in writing about music, which as several friends have previously informed me, I shouldn’t be ashamed of.

Does that make me an expert? No. It’s almost a guarantee that a few of the albums I have here will appear on my list exclusively. Some of those that are universally loved don’t really come into my wheelhouse (for what it’s worth, I enjoyed “Channel Orange”), and although I listened to enough to make a decent list, I still have a long way to go.

Almost all of these albums are artists I discovered in the last year alone, ousting out albums by long time favorites like Bruce Springsteen, Jack White, The Killers, Silversun Pickups, Smashing Pumpkins, St. Vincent and David Byrne, Aerosmith (did you honestly listen to this? I didn’t), two by Neil Young and two (so far) by Green Day that didn’t register with me as strongly.

What I did come up with however shows that although I’m mostly a rock guy, I cling to music that is arty, dreamy, poppy and heavy. Hopefully next year I can claim to have a list as diverse. Continue reading “The Best Albums of 2012”