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2017 Year End Best Of

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2017 was a confusing and difficult year for me, personally. After 7 years working for a bank, my position was eliminated at the end of March. I got a decent layoff settlement and then spent 8 months looking for a new job.

Looking for a job is worse than having a full-time job. Not only is there a lot to do – people to talk with, things to look up, places to go -- but there is also the added pressure of feeling that, somehow, you have messed up, that you are somehow an inadequate worker, that you have failed the economy if not society itself by failing to find a place in it. This brings a massive cloud of uncertainty, which is a nice depressing accompaniment to the fear of bankruptcy that an 8 month job search will inspire.

I am a devout saver and am generally kind of frugal, but 8 months is a long time. Being uncertain of what would happen, of when I would find work and have an income again kept me from purchasing much music in 2017. I went to almost no concerts because I was worried that if I spent $48 (plus “convenience” fees) to see Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash that later I might not be able to pay my mortgage! I know other people who were laid off and stared hard at bankruptcy and losing everything, and I was genuinely worried.

So most of the music I listened to in 2017 was either old things that I already had or promos that were sent to me. I have a massive list of records from 2017 that I want to buy when I have income again, but I am not including them here because, really, who knows how good something is until you have spent some time with it? The lists below show the things that I did listen to and that I enjoyed. This is the wheat separated from the chaff of the very meager music harvest of 2017…

  1. Slowdive by Slowdive – Yes, I know, this is a band from when I was much younger releasing a new record. But dammit, this is not just the best shoegaze album of the past few years, but a full-fledged classic of the genre. It might be a little retro to list this, but as long as you stay offa my lawn I am fine with that…
  2. Ariadna by Kedr Livansky - This record, on the other hand, is new, fresh, and also brilliant. This Moscow DJ takes dream pop and techno and ambient and dub and just sort of floats back and forth between them while singing in Russian over top. New and different and really good.
  3. Circles by Fading Tapes. – I get a lot of post-rock promos, and this is the best post-rock record that I heard this year. It is jazzy and droning and long and fascinating.
  4. Horse Of the Other World by See through dresses – New wave synthpop is my sweet spot.
  5. New Energy by Four Tet – This ranges from dancefloor to abstract dub, all with those amazing rhythms that Kieran Hebden gives us.
  6. Door Girl by Shilpa Ray – On her latest record, Ms. Ray sings over very retro style music, her band channeling the innocent pop of the early 1960s. They do-wop and harmonize their response to her throaty calls. Another wonderful album from a fascinating singer.
  7. Harvester of Bongloads by Goya – Doom Metal three piece makes existentialist stoner masterpiece. They make getting high seem to be as meaningful as Kierkegaard’s search for God. And they do it over a ponderous, thudding beat.
  8. Mammock by Ruins!Ruins – Post-metal from the forests of Siberia. There is a lot of beauty in this record, as well as some great head-banging riffs.
  9. Field Theory by Broads - Cool post-rock / electronica fusion.
  10. I Went To the Mall Yesterday And I Got Sick by Dicaprio – Atlanta math-rock / post-punk trio making really interesting music on their first release.
  1. Taeppe by Landing – Landing only had one release this year, and it is a given that it tops at least one of my lists. I love that this EP starts with an 8.5 minutes wandering ambient tune and ends with a 4 minute pop song.
  2. I’m Gonna Yurt by Yurt – Technically came out in 2016, but I didn’t hear it until earlier this year. It is catchy and happy and really well done. Hoping for more from these girls in 2018.
  3. Parsons Rocket Project by Parsons Rocket Project – It’s about damned time a local act started making ambient post-rock.
  4. Fear by Tombstones in Their Eyes – Sludgy western dream pop.
  5. Lean Into It by Bike Thiefs – Messy Canadian punk form suburban Toronto. This is wonderful simply because it is not by-the-numbers Green Day style punk.
  The Wheel & The Alphabet: A Tribute to Karl Hendricks. I am serious people: stop what you are doing and go listen to some Karl Hendricks. If you don’t, well, then you really are a bigger jerk than me.  
  1. Break the Glass b/w Mad World by Superchunk - Break the Glass is a really catchy Superchunk tune, and they do good with the Corrosion of Conformity cover on the b-side.
  2. Spiral b/w Wave Is Not the Water by Wye Oak – Each of the two members of this band sings one side. I think I like Jenn Wasner’s Wave Is Not the Water just slightly more, but both are great songs and will have to tide me over until their next release.
  3. I Got Cut b/w Up Against the Wall by Superchunk – Two lovely pop songs from the ‘Chunk.
  1. Slowdive at The Variety Playhouse on Wed.11.May. I never got to see Slowdive the first time around, but they were really amazing in concert this year.
  2. Paul Simon at Chastain on Fri.2.June. Both my girlfriend and I grew up listening to his music, so we splurged and went to see him. He was incredible, playing for three hours with a great band hitting all points of his long career. Interesting thing I learned: if you want to see older white people dance, play anything off of Graceland! Who knew?
  3. Adam Ant at Variety Playhouse on Sat.23.Sept. I have always liked his music, but I was too young to see him the first time around. Mr. Ant puts on a hell of a show.
  4. Jupiter watts reunion at The EARL on Sat 4 Mar. I really liked this band, and it was great to see them play the old songs once more. This show was a lot of fun.
  5. Tortoise at Terminal West on Thurs.23.Mar. This was the fourth time I have seen Tortoise live, and they never fail to delight.
  6. Landing at 529 on Mon.10.July. Dragging my girlfriend to see an ambient pop band play after midnight on the day we drove back from a beach weekend in Florida was, in retrospect, kind of a mistake. I thought Landing was in great form this evening though, and my relationship has (so far) survived her exposure to ambient music.
  7. Austra / Dot.s at Terminal West on Wed.1.Feb. I liked Future Politics, Austra’s latest. Live they were interesting, but not as interesting as local opener Dot.s, who are a really great new wave band.
  8. Pylon Reenactment Society at The EARL on Sat.21.Oct. Vanessa Briscoe Hay has put together a really good band to play her old songs.
  9. Shilpa Ray at The Drunken Unicorn on Wed.15.Nov. It was awfully nice of Ms. Ray to come to Atlanta for my birthday. She looked very tired on stage, but still sang her heart out.

And that’s it for 2017. Thank goodness the year is over and I am settling in to a new job. I hope to write more reviews in 2018, and get out to see some live music. I am really bummed out that a slew of old industrial acts (KMFDM, Front 242, Ohgr) all toured this year and I was too broke to see them…

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