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Here it is: my fashionably late list of favorite albums for 2017. I kept putting it off because I wanted to do write-ups for at least the top 20… but it’s already 20 days in to January and who am I kidding? So I only did write-ups for the Top 10. Well, technically for the Top 11, but you’ll see what I mean about that.
Warning: a huge wall of text and embedded music players are to follow.
Our generation seems to have agreed that 2016 sucked. But for those of us who survived, still navigating through the strange networks of reality and society, great music keeps pouring out. New music does not bury what came before it. It does not stack on top of it. It grows within it, expanding in every direction in a three dimensional axis. New music influenced by old music influenced by music older than it influenced by music newer than it.
Attempting to map musical history has become as complex as etymology. Words like “terrible” and “terrific” can mean something completely different even though they pull from the same root word. Just the same, music can take influences in completely different directions, contrasting interpretations and deepening the original listen.
As hard as I’ve tried to keep up with all new music that comes out, I’m still surprised by what I find. Music that came out 10 or 20 or 30 years ago I never heard of that sounds as if it could have been recorded today frequently comes into my ears. Some of them like Cornelius’s Fantasma from 1997 had been under my radar my entire life, seemingly sitting in a pocket of their own isolated genius. Studio’s Yearbook 1 from 2007 (a cool 10 years ago) had snuck under my nose since then but sounds as if it was a textbook for chillwave which would flourish just two years later. It’s understandable that things would go by unnoticed during pre-Internet eras, but this is the era of Spotify’s music recommendation algorithms, Bandcamp’s ease-of-publishing, Wikipedia’s endless editing, and Google’s data ubiquity. Somehow, despite all of this, it’s just as difficult to stay up-to-date. With enough time, I could just as easily have a List of 500 Favorite Albums of 2016.
Of course, time is the problem. Time is always the problem. The more tools we have to discover, the more overwhelmed we can become. This is both exhilarating and debilitating. But we still need more time. We never have enough time.
This is 2016. Retro has become a redundant word. Remix is part of any standard paint set. Revolutionary is commonplace. We often wonder what the future of music will sound like, and I think we now know: everything.
But I am biased. Anyone who says they like “all” music is either fooling their friends or fooling his or herself. My interests these days lead me to quirky pop hooks, entrancing soundscapes, gorgeous walls of sound, insatiable wit, ingenious creativity, and unbridled emotion. And the albums that tend to nail more than one of these things tend to be closer to the top of my list of favorites–which begins after the break.
Sort of dropped the ball this year. I usually do write-ups for at least the top twenty, but I only had time for the top ten. I blame the gym.
This was one of the most quality-rich years of music in recent memory. It was not only a monumental year for hip-hop and a wide range of electronic subgenres, but indie rock felt like it was more prevalent than recently as well. Much of this is thanks to shoegaze/dream pop becoming popular again, as well as post-rock and noise rock.
As I said, I’m short on time, so I’ll keep it concise and continue on to the list:
The antithesis of a favorites list: a list of disappointments. I’ve played almost every major MMO on the market since 1999. I’ve seen some good games, some decent games, and some bad games. But, honestly, mostly bad. Here’s my depressing top ten.
List of my most anticipated television seasons of 2012.
Been doing this every year since 2003, although it’s only recently that I started doing fifty a year. I only do write-ups for the top twenty though, although if I have the time I might finish the rest. I suppose I take the critical coward’s way out by saying this is my fifty “favorite” albums and not the fifty “greatest” albums, but it is highly subjective so I recommend you make your own list if you care enough to call me out on it.