Music: 2017 in review

MUSIC

Musically, 2017 was an odd one for me – I felt a big disconnect with new releases and instead immersed myself in nostalgia and the past, either via existing favourites or previously undiscovered gems. Usually I rely on my listening data from last.fm (today is my 11th last.fm anniversary) but trawling it for 2017 releases is both depressing and a bit misleading, so I’m taking some liberties with the data this year and going by feeling.

So here’s the music I enjoyed in 2017.

    

A L B U M S

Normally I struggle to narrow down a top 3 and this year was no exception, albeit for a sadder reason – as I said, 2017 was largely a year of musical indifference for me. I struggled particularly to connect to albums and several new releases from bands I love were disappointing. That said, the albums I enjoyed the most came from long-time favourite artists of mine and very few new artists feature.

Most of this year’s music I found either ‘alright’ or ‘boring’, nothing really blew me away. That goes for The National’s Sleep well beast, which I enjoyed but nowhere near as much as their earlier work. Why?’s Moh Lhean is a similar case – Alopecia is one of my all-time favourites and subsequent releases haven’t been great. This one came closer and I liked it but again, nothing life-changing. I like both of these albums on the whole and for their overall cohesion and mood; there are stronger tracks but nothing really sticks out too much and in that way nothing really jars either. Looking at the other albums I enjoyed this seems to be the common thread through all of them.

I love the Knife and Fever Ray and Plunge was the only release I was truly excited about this year. I grew increasingly distanced from the Knife with their final releases and their more aggressive, political direction and in many ways Fever Ray’s new album feels like a continuation of this. It took me a while to get into Plunge (which I really feel tries too hard in many places) but it engaged me in a way that everything else failed to this year and grows on me with each listen. Plus Mustn’t hurry feels like Fever Ray 1.0 and in my year of feeling musically nostalgic this alone was probably what ultimately won me over.

Favourite albums:

Others I enjoyed, in no particular order:

  • Björk – Utopia
  • Mew – Visuals
  • Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
  • St Vincent – Masseduction
  • LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

Albums I missed in the past and really enjoyed last year:

  • Markus Krunegård — Rastlöst blod (2014) &  Härskarens teknik (2015)
  • The Kills – Ash & Ice (2016)
  • The Veils – Total Depravity (2016)
  • Faun – Luna (2014)
  • Indochine – Le Birthday Album 1981-1991 (2004)
  • Nolwenn Leroy – Bretonne (2010)
  • Willy Mason – Where The Humans Eat (2004)

T R A C K S

Favourite track:

Others I enjoyed, in no particular order:

  • Perfume Genius – Slip Away
  • Loma – Black Willow
  • Heilung – Krigsgaldr
  • New Pornographers – Play money
  • Mew – Ay Ay Ay
  • Rhye – Taste
  • The National – I’ll still destroy you
  • Wolf Parade – You’re dreaming
  • War on Drugs – Pain
  • Matthew Good – Decades
  • The Horrors – Ghost
  • Hanne Hukkelberg – Duper
  • Phoenix – Ti amo
  • The xx – Test me
  • St  Vincent – Hang on me
  • LCD Soundsystem – Call the police
  • Susanne Sundfør – No one believes in love anymore

Tracks I missed in previous years and really enjoyed last year:

  • Babygirl — Overbored
  • Markus Krunegård — Helli
  • Indochine — 3ème Sexe
  • Faun — Blaue Stunde
  • Beware of Darkness – Dope

L I V E

Most enjoyable gigs I’ve attended this year:

It truly was a year of musical nostalgia for me, if not caused then aided by seeing one of my favourite bands performing their debut album: Interpol celebrating the 15 year anniversary of Turn on the bright lights. That album shaped so much of my musical taste and came at the most formative time in my life – I never thought I’d see the band live let-alone hear them play those songs and the experience was amazing.

Objectively the energy at the show was pretty weird (it was the Route du Rock festival in Saint Malo, France, on August 20th – 15 years to the day of the album’s release) and the crowd pretty reserved, but perhaps it’s also the nature of the songs – to me at least they were always enjoyed in private and the album while undoubtedly cathartic, is mostly introspective.  I don’t think a casual listener would have been overly impressed, it just wasn’t that kind of performance, but I mostly tuned out the crowd and had a very private listening experience, and for that the show was deeply affecting and special to me.

Also while I was in France* I had a second super cool festival experience, watching Breton legend Alan Stivell, fellow folk icons Malicorne and South Africans (though they’re so beloved by the French they’ve probably been unofficially adopted by now) BCUC, all at Paimpol’s Festival du chant de Marin. I was at the festival with my mom whose connection to Breton music is very deep, so even though Stivell’s energy was just plain weird and it objectively wasn’t a great performance being there with my mom (who’d last been in Brittany 39 years ago) made it really special. Malicorne were great to watch as were BCUC – it was so damn cool watching our countrymen dominate that crowd,

Back home, the nostalgia continued! I loved watching Texas at Kirstenbosch and Oh Sees at Endless Daze, which was the only local festival I attended in the year. Van Coke Kartel’s final show at Mercury tops my list for most energetic and enjoyable show to shoot and Lucy Kruger’s album launch was probably the most intimate and musically beautiful.

Cape Town lost what was my favourite live venue when Club Med was forced to close its doors – I’ll never forget the shows there and many were among some of my most exhilarating to shoot. The last one I ever attended therefore holds a special place in my heart: Ashes, Vulvodynia and Peasant’s night of carnage from early March. 

*Seeing as it took me a year to post my Sweden pics, the Brittany ones should be up sometime around August…till then there are a bunch on my instagram here

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Nostalgia is great but only in small doses – hopefully 2018 will slap me about my ears and I’ll be able to connect more with current musical releases. I really miss being excited about music.

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