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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

Top Five Albums – 2014

My one and only post related to 2014 is this one. I took a new position last April at Puppet Labs; and haven’t slowed down since.

Like two years ago, this was not a strong year for albums – songs, yes – but not complete albums. And specifically, I was really disappointed with U2 and Coldplay. U2’s Songs of Innocence was not great, which pains me to say. Coldplay had a couple of nice songs on Ghost Stories, but it was no where near a complete, solid album.

Previous Years

Honorable Mentions

  • Jack White – Lazaretto
  • The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
  • Interpol – El Pintor
  • Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield
  • Real Estate – Atlas
  • Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything – Still no US love for Elbow.

The Top Five

5. Beck – Morning Phase

I’ve never been a huge fan of Beck. His early stuff is almost repulsive. But this is a good album.

4. The Black Keys – Turn Blue

There’s nothing overly special about this album. It’s the Black Keys, and they’ve been doing this for years. But they continue to deliver and this album is no exception. Turn this one up loud.

3. Delta Spirit – Into the Wide

Apparently Delta Spirit has been around for a while. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But in 2015 I’ll be returning to their back catalog. This is a really nice album. Take Shelter, Into the Wide, and Push It are all excellent songs.

2. Vancouver Sleep Clinic – Winter

If you like Bon Iver, you’ll like Vancouver Sleep Clinic. It’s the same Justin Vernon, just a new project. There’s only 6 songs on the album, but I just repeat the whole thing…over, and over, and over.

1. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

This was my wife’s find of the year, and her favorite album. She got it on vinyl for Christmas. Maybe these guys get their own genre – because they’re hard to describe. Honestly, at one point I thought John Cougar Mellencamp, then Bon Jovi, then the Boss, then Tom Petty…it’s odd. I don’t particularly care for those guys, and would hate to put The War on Drugs in the same genre…so I won’t. Under the Pressure, Red Eyes, Eyes to the Wind, and Burning are excellent.