Artist: The Killers Album: Pressure Machine Year: 2021 Grade: B-
In Brief: We get a surprisingly subdued version of The Killers on album #7, which sees the band downshifting into sensitive folk/rock mode and away from their usual synth-heavy glammy indie rock. It suits the story Brandon Flowers is trying to tell, of the mundane struggles and headline-making tragedies of everyday people in the small Utah town he grew up in. Musically speaking, it’s not their most exciting record, but it’s got some powerful storytelling that often transcends the more simplistic style.
Revisiting the music of the 2000s was a trip that seemed like it would be an easygoing, nostalgic one when I first came up with the idea. I’d had so much fun a year ago, cataloguing all of my favorites from the 2010s, that I decided I wanted to redo that exercise for the decade prior, and do justice to some great records from the years 2000-2009 that I had discovered in the meantime. My most enduring favorites would hold up pretty well, I figured, but I’ve changed a lot as a person in the last eleven years since I wrote up my first version of a Top 100 list for the 2000s, so I assumed there would be some flash-in-the-pan stuff that I had a short-lived fascination with then, that didn’t stand up well to the test of time and would be easy to dump in favor of new entries. And boy, did I have loads of old-but-new-to-me albums queued up and ready to explore in Spotify – entire discographies from bands I’d fallen in love with in the 2010s and figured, “Well hey, they were probably putting out some really good stuff that was completely off my radar in the 2000s, bet I’ll find a ton of new favorites along the way!” Powering through all of that turned out to be the exact opposite of easy, and I’m still not sure after giving all of those albums at least two full listens that I was able to fully digest a lot of them. I kind of had to pick the most promising candidates, give those a final listen, and then move on. In fact, I can’t think of a list I’ve done for this blog that has ever caused me to stress and second-guess myself as much as this one did.
Though I’m sure many of us are tempted to remember 2020 as something of a “wasted year”, I genuinely have to say that it had far more excellent music in store than I would have guessed. Given that most of my year was spent in my makeshift office at home, hunched over a laptop and sometimes not leaving the apartment for days at a time, I can only imagine how utterly unbearable it would have been without new music as an avenue for exploration. I probably racked up more Spotify streams this year than in any previous one, what with the extra time afforded by not commuting to and from work or running most of my usual errands. I feel like that led me to branch out and try new things a little more often than in a normal year, whereas much of my listening time in the car during a normal year is dedicated to music I already know I like. With that said, I do feel like I got outside and got that much-needed Vitamin D whole doing a healthy amount of activities such as hiking and enjoying local parks and scenic drives with my family (we even managed a few road trips, despite the logistical difficulties of minimizing human contact while traveling during a pandemic), and it was great to road-test a lot of 2020’s best records during some of those excursions, as a way of making sure my visual memories of them wouldn’t be tied to sitting in the same boring spot all year. Whether the music was dark and cathartic and moved me to more authentically express my sorrow and anger at the current situation, or it was lighthearted, imaginative, and full of hope for brighter days ahead, these are the records that did the most to help keep my morale up during a year when answers, hope, optimism, and faith in humanity were in extremely short supply.
Artist: The Killers Album: Imploding the Mirage Year: 2020 Grade: B
In Brief: The Killers’ “even-numbered album curse” has finally been broken. Even without their longtime lead guitarist, album #6 has no shortage of strong anthems in the vein of classic Killers, with strong guitar and synth parts, and punchy choruses you’ll want to caterwaul along to with Brandon Flowers. For the most part the band sticks with what works for them here, making this a more consistent listen than Wonderful Wonderful, even if I still think that record had stronger highlights.
First on my to-do list as the year comes to a close is to list the individual songs that inspired and entertained me the most in 2018. Some of these may have come out in 2017, or in a few extreme cases, as singles in 2016 that didn’t make it onto an actual album release until more recently. Either way, it was all new to me this year, or else I heard it in late 2017 and I had a belated reaction to it. Explanations and video/audio links are given for the Top 30 – for the rest, if you’re curious, just click the review links where provided to learn more.
As always, many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2018 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.
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.)
Artist: The Killers Album: Wonderful Wonderful Year: 2017 Grade: B-
In Brief: The Killers are probably always going to strike me as a highly inconsistent band. I can’t decide whether I want them to be more serious or more silly, and they often swerve in one direction when I’d expect them to go in the other. But they make a good case for both sides of their personality on their fifth album, which shows some genuine maturity in places without casting off their fun, glammy side. I’d say it’s their best work since Hot Fuss, actually.