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Top Five Albums – 2017

It seems bonkers that this is my 8th annual Top Five Albums post. What’s not bonkers is that it’s the only post on this site all year. I’m nothing if not consistent.

First, here are the previous years for comparison:
2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

Second, this was the year of the concert for me. Early in the year Julie and I went to Radiohead. That was followed by a trip to Seattle with my son to see U2’s Joshua Tree tour. I killed two birds at that concert as Mumford & Sons opened. Later in the year we saw The National at “The Schnitz” (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall). This concert was simply amazing. The Schnitz is a perfect venue for music and The National did not disappoint. To date it is my second favorite concert of all time, only being surpassed by the U2 Elevation concert in February of 2002. I attended that show in Kansas City and it included U2’s tribute to 9/11. While nothing can compete with that emotionalism, The National came pretty close. Julie and my daughter saw The Killers just a few weeks ago (I was happy to skip that one). But, I was super bummed that I missed out on a chance to see Elbow here in Portland. All in all it was a great year of live music.

Like 2014 & 2015 I need to file a couple of complaints. U2, you’re killing me. Songs of Experience is dreadful. Arcade Fire, be careful. If I’m not mistaken Everything Now is your 5th studio album. I’ll give you a pass on releasing something this bad…but you’ve been warned.

Most, if not all of these albums, plus a few more from 2017 can be found on this Spotify Playlist: URL | Spotify URI.

Now to the things I did like…

Honorable Mentions

  • Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
  • Kendrick Lamar – DAMN
  • Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
  • The Shins – Heartworms
  • Vagabon – Infinite Worlds

Top Five

5. Big Thief – Capacity

Big Thief is new to me, but I’m glad I found them. Maybe they’re new to a lot of people as this is only their second album. This is an excellent album. I like it not necessarily for the music, but for the lyrics. Each song tells a story…some of them not easy, but all of them good. Mythological Beauty is one of my favorites.

4. LCD Soundsystem – american dream

You might be fooled into thinking this is a feel good album based on the music, but like Capacity it’s emotional, and sorrowful, and sad. But man is it a good listen. It’s tough to combine techno and somber, but you just have to love an album with a song entitled Emotional Haircut.

3. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

If you read the 2014 Top Five you’ll remember The War on Drugs holding the top spot. This album is just as good. Yeah, they still remind me of Springsteen. Did you know that The War on Drugs is made up of a 38 year old one man band? Yeah, me neither. This is another album filled with sadness. Maybe that’s the theme for this year.

2. Elbow – Little Fictions

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. I have no clue how this band is not more popular; especially within my demographic. I love love love this album. Musically, lyrically, all of it. It’s a slow grey day with a whiskey and a cigar kind of album. And yeah, more sadness. Go listen to the song with the album’s name, Little Fictions. It’s my favorite song of the year.

We protect our little fictions
Like it’s all we are
Little wilderness mementos
But there’s only you and me here
Fire breathing
Hold tight
Waiting for the original miracle

1. The National – Sleep Well Beast

The previous high mark for The National was number three in 2010 with High Violet, but they get the top spot this year. Indie rock? American rock? I’m not sure what genre they live in, and ultimately it doesn’t matter; the songs on this album aren’t easy. Turtleneck, the end of I’ll Still Destroy You, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, are all musically manic and lyrically morose. If you’re going through the five stages of grief this should be the soundtrack for your life. And seeing them perform these songs live adds a whole different dimension. Pitchfork says of this album that Tom Berninger isn’t singing about how to enjoy life, but how to endure it. Agreed.

Favorite song: Guilty Party

You’re sleeping night and day
How d’you do it?
Me I am wide awake
Feeling defeated

I say your name
I say I’m sorry
I know it’s not working
I’m no holiday
It’s nobody’s fault
No guilty party
We just got nothing
Nothing left to say

Another year gets away
Another summer of love
I don’t know why I care
We miss it every summer

I say your name
I say I’m sorry
I’m the one doing this
There’s no other way
It’s nobody’s fault
No guilty party
I just got nothing, nothing left to say

It all, all catches up to me
It all, all catches up to me all the time

I say your name
I say I’m sorry
I know it’s not working, I’m no holiday
It’s nobody’s fault
No guilty party
We just got nothing, nothing left to say

I say your name
I say I’m sorry
I’m the one doing this, there’s no other way
It’s nobody’s fault
No guilty party
I just got nothing, nothing left to say

It all, all just catches up to me
It all, all catches up to me all the time

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Top Five Albums – 2013

Two things changed the way I listened to music in 2013. Spotify & Vinyl. Almost every album that I listened to this year was through Spotify first. I did not make a single purchase without first testing the album out for free. I love Spotify. This year also ushered in the return of the turntable into the Hamilton house. It’s been over two decades since I last had a record player. But the boy came home from school one day wanting to get into vinyl (he’s a third grader). So we did. I love that it’s turned music back into a physical experience for me. From the crackles and pops to having to turn the album over, it’s made music fun.

Previous Years

This Years Honorable Mentions (Good, but not quite good enough)

  • Sleeping at Last – Atlas
  • Local Natives – Hummingbird
  • The Naked and the Famous – In Rolling Waves
  • Lucius – Wildewoman
  • Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
  • Volcano Choir – Repave
  • Sigur Ros – Kveikur
  • The Strokes – Comedown Machine (This was a tough choice…it could have easily made my Top 5. It’s a very good album.)

The Top Five

I’ve put these five albums in a Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure: Listen

5. The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still

5

This sophomore album is really good. Looking back, their first album (self-titled) should have been included in my Honorable Mentions for 2011. This album is more grown-up, more emotional, and the harmonies are even better than they were in their first album.

Best Song: Gone

 

4. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

4

The National never seem to disappoint. While this album is not as good as their High Violet album from 2010, it still delivers. You’ll notice two things on this album: Matt Berninger’s vocals & Bryan Devendorf’s drums. This album is just as melancholy as previous albums, maybe even more so. But it will hook you.

Best Song: Hard to Find. Demons is a close second.

3. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

3

Reflektor is a very good album, but not the best the band has ever produced. It will be hard for Arcade Fire to top Suburbs from 2010. This album is a different sound for Arcade Fire. It reminds me a little of when U2 changed things up with Pop. You know it’s them, but it doesn’t exactly sound like them. Still, it’s a very enjoyable album.

Best Song: Here Comes the Night Time

2. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

2

In 2011 my number one album for the year was Elbow’s Build a Rocket Boys!. I remarked then that I was shocked that it wasn’t included on any official top album lists for that year. This year I have the same shock that Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is no where to be found. It didn’t even make Rolling Stone’s Top 50 for the year. Utterly confusing. The first song, Miracle Mile, hooks you and it doesn’t let go. This is foot-tapping, dancing in the living room good.

Best Song: Tuxedos

1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

1

I really don’t now how to start other than saying…this album is amazing. It’s dark, deep, and spiritual. I have a tendency to be drawn to the spiritual implications in lyrics and this album is rich with them. I won’t bore you with listing them out, or try to interpret them. This album covers youth, wisdom that comes with age, fear of getting older, and questioning God, but I never felt preached at. I ended up singing along, nodding in agreement. Every song is excellent. In fact, it’s extremely difficult to pick my favorite…but if I were forced I’d have to go with Unvbelievers, the second song on the album. Here are the lyrics:

Got a little soul
The world is a cold, cold place to be
Want a little warmth
But who’s gonna save a little warmth for me?

We know the fire awaits unbelievers
All of the sinners the same
Girl, you and I will die unbelievers
Bound to the tracks of the train

If I’m born again I know that the world will disagree
Want a little grace but who’s gonna say a little grace for me?

We know the fire awaits unbelievers
All of the sinners the same
Girl, you and I will die unbelievers
Bound to the tracks of the train

I’m not excited, but should I be?
Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?

I know I love you
And you love the sea
But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?

See the sun go down
It’s going on down, and the night is deep
Want a little light
But who’s gonna save a little light for me?

We know the fire awaits unbelievers
All of the sinners the same
Girl, you and I will die unbelievers
Bound to the tracks of the train

I’m not excited, but should I be?
Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?

I know I love you
And you love the sea
But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?

I’m not excited, but should I be?
Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?

I know I love you
And you love the sea
But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?

Top Five Albums—2010

Everyone has their lists this time of year, from top grossing movies to the top searches on Google. It only makes sense that I add my own list for 2010…albeit a short one. My top five albums for 2010 are not based on anything other than what I liked the most. Of course, I listened, and purchased more than five albums this year, but these are my favourite. Enjoy.

1. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More.
A truly incredible album. Folk, Country, and Rock all wrapped up into one unique sound. Driving, beating anthems, and moody, passionate real life lyrics. With spiritual undertones and love lost, it could be anyone’s story. I’ve yet to tire listening to this album. For those in the UK, yes this was released toward the end of 2009. But in the US it wasn’t released until February, 2010. So I’m cheating a little…playing to both audiences. If there’s a way for me to sneak it into my top five for 2011 I might do it.

Best Lyric: In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. Awake My Soul.

2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs.
While Sigh No More could be anyone’s album, The Suburbs was my album. I immediately connected with this album about the result of suburban sprawl, the new culture it creates, and the culture that is left to die downtown. This is clearly an “American” album (even though the band is from Montreal). I’ve wondered how British listeners would relate to songs about the suburbs when the cities here in the UK are very different from the US. When I hear these songs I immediately think of Dallas and Houston and wonder what cities the British listener thinks of.

Best Lyric: You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount;
I used to think I was not like them but I’m beginning to have my doubts, my doubts about it. City With No Children.

3. The National – High Violet (Expanded Edition)
To be honest, any of my top three albums could have been number one, but High Violet has to settle for number 3. The National have been around for a while, but I just found them this year. After purchasing High Violet first I’ve gone back and purchased their Boxer album and their self titled debut album. Boxer is also very good. High Violet is moody, and melancholy, and gloomy, and full of emotion. Matt Berninger’s voice is like a drug…you can’t get enough of it. My most listened to tracks: Terrible Love, Bloodbuzz Ohio, and Conversation 16. Listening to High Violet causes me to see myself in a movie, driving down a foggy lane with high hedges, in the middle of the night, not knowing where the road leads. Any album that can transport me to “another place” like that easily fits in my top five.

Best Lyric: I still owe money to the money to the money I owe. Bloodbuzz Ohio.

4. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
For some, mainly those that follow me in the States, this will be a controversial inclusion…primarily because of the language and themes found in this album. But musically speaking, this album is a masterpiece. Yes, it’s rough. Yes, it can be hard to listen to at times. Yes, it’s probably possible to write a song without using the F-bomb 896 times, but then it wouldn’t be Kanye, and it wouldn’t be as good. One thing that must be done when listening to this album…you must constantly remind yourself of the album’s title. The songs here definitely comprise a dark, twisted, and sometimes beautiful fantasy. I don’t for one second think that some of the themes found in this album represent real life for Kanye West. Also worth mentioning is the list of cameos by other artists: Bon Iver, John Legend, Beyonce, Jaz-Z, and samples from King Crimson. Rolling Stone has this as their #1 album for 2010.

Best Lyric: The youngsters who were programmed to continue f**king up, woke up one night digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys. Who Will Survive In America.

As an extra bit of reading related to why I think it’s okay as a Christian to include an album like this in my top 5: Mark Driscoll – Why Christians Go Postal Over Facebook, Jay-Z, Yoga, Avatar, and Culture in General

5. Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Deluxe Version)
I’m still not quite sure why this is a Brandon Flowers album, and not a Killers album…they are one in the same in my opinion. This is a great anthemic album, yet some might giggle at my inclusion. I guess I’m drawn to the lyrics and Brandon has written some good ones. Every song can easily be sung along with, except for Swallow It, which is a ridiculous song. The best songs on the album are: Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Only the Young, and Playing With Fire.

Best Lyric: This church of mine may not be recognised by steeple,
That doesn’t mean that I will walk without a God. Playing With Fire.

The good albums that didn’t quite make it:
Vampire Weekend – Contra
Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws
The Acorn – No Ghost

Let me know what you think, but be nice about it. And let me know what your top albums were for this year. While I listen to a lot of music, I’m sure I missed some very good albums.

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