Out of the increasingly eclectic list of albums that makes its way into my Spotify playlists (and eventually my physical collection, wherever possible), here’s the stuff that I enjoyed the most in 2017, and that I would absolutely recommend, with no reservations, to anyone whose favorite type of music can best be described as “stuff that challenges me in some way but that is always super catchy”. (Is that not a musical genre? it should be.)
It’s that time of year again where I run through the list of songs that inspired me, entertained me, or just plain got stuck in my head for amusing reasons, more than any other songs in the last 12 months. Most of these were released in 2017. Some came out in 2016 and I either didn’t hear them until this year or didn’t come to fully appreciate them in time for last year’s list. I’ve given brief explanations and YouTube links for the Top 30. For the rest… just check the reviews where they’re linked, if you’re curious.
And as always, many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2017 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.
Artist: John Reuben
In Brief: The Christian rapper – who has become increasingly uncomfortable with how both aspects of that label describe his work – makes a surprisingly strong comeback after an eight-year absence. Reubonic is as offbeat and weird as a lot of his best work, and it has no pretense of wanting to be mainstream, but it also makes some excellent points in intriguing ways.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Jennifer Knapp, Haim, Coldplay, Radiohead, P.O.D., John Reuben, and Arcade Fire.
The beginning of a new year, 2010, and a new third digit in our numbering system for years that indicates I’ll likely never see another year with “0” in that slot for the rest of my lifetime, means that for the first time, this relatively young music fan gets to look back at entire decade (these things being commonly delineated by that third digit even if the technical scientific approach says our decade isn’t over until the beginning of 2011) and try to sum it all up in terms of the music that was meaningful to me over the course of nearly a third of my life. That’s right, I’m just a smidgen over 30, which means that the 2000’s (or the “Ought Nots”, as I’ve decided to call a decade of learning what not to do in retrospect) were my first full decade of being a true music fan. I might have come of age and finished high school and college in the 90’s, and I have my fair share of nostalgic tunes to whisk me back to those days. But this most recent decade was when I truly opened up, with the advent of file sharing and social networking making it remarkably easy to burst the bubble of “Christian music only” that I started out with, to go beyond the basic pop/rock styles largely dominant on the radio, and to really dig deep and find my own musical personality, unburdened by rumors of danger beyond the comfortable fences I had previously built for myself.
Some interesting themes pop up on this mix I made in the spring of 2007. A few are intentional, just due to how well certain songs fit together: Sleeping and dreaming. Travel and transportation. Retreating to quiet, natural places. Other themes might not have been intentional at the time, but are interesting upon looking back at them now: How people deal with loneliness. Wondering if your life has a clear, God-ordained purpose. Gender roles and sexism. What it means to show empathy, and when to cut fake friends loose. Some heavy stuff here, particularly in the back half, which is interesting because I was relatively happy at this point in my life.
In with the New:
Meg & Dia
Out with the Old:
Peter Bradley Adams
A lot of these old playlists I made for myself are an interesting window into what I was thinking and feeling at the time. This one is especially so. Amidst a lot of the usual “this song was fun and bouncy and maybe a little bit snarky” fare that tends to grab my ear in pretty much any stage of my life, I can tell as I go back and listen to some of these songs that I was really wrestling with deeper concepts of legalism vs. grace, a death in the family and the thoughts it left me with about what sort of legacy I’d leave behind when it was my time to go someday, and some of my own hopes and fears about one day becoming a parent. Looking back and trying to figure out what my younger self wanted to remind me of when he picked these songs has been quite cathartic, actually.
In with the New:
Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Out with the Old:
Rock Kills Kid
All Star United