And we shall finish our 2017 retrospective with my favorite, most dear category: music.
This is where it all began and ended, something I’ve now been doing for years and years and years and years and that I – For better or worse. – consider all year. Thus, here’s the best music of 2017, to me. Hopefully you’ll agree with some, disagree with some, but come out of it with some new things to listen to.
This Makes Me Want To Get High: Alice Coltrane’s The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
For my birthday, I spent a few days in Palm Springs with friends and someone brought along some LSD. I had never done the drug before, nor had I ever truly had a psychedelic experience. The journey with LSD was giggly and enriching and the soundtrack was this amazing Alice Coltrane compilation that came out in the Spring. It’s a spiritual journey in and of itself which, when a little drug is added, sets you off into the sky. I “highly” recommend.
Best Time Warp: Pauline Anna Strom’s Trans-Millenia Music
Similar to Coltrane, Strom’s RVNG Intl release was an awakening. It toured you through the sky via an artist creating in the eighties without sight. This album is a marvel and it feels like you’re imagining the future from the past. It’s excellent.
Best Madonna Reference: Moon Diagram’s “Moon Diagrams”
This little album was a wonderful exploration of musical styles but the title song off the title album was the most effective for me since it interpolated the opening sonic line from Madonna’s “Holiday” in a very strange, backhanded way. Perhaps this wasn’t literally the intention (It can’t not be!) but that’s all I hear and all I want to hear.
If I Were 24, My Ass Would Be Shaking Like Woah: Kelela’s “LMK”
Transported directly from the mid-nineties, this Kelela song – like much of Take Me Apart – made me want to get really, really, really dirty on a dance floor while potentially crying. If I were younger, this would have been my bump-and-grind song.
Me Now, My Ass Gets Shaking Like Woah: Charli XCX’s “Out Of My Head”
Yes, okay, sure: I’ve definitely broken it down to this song several times in the shower. Pop 2 had a handful of good tracks but this collaboration with Tove Lo and ALMA was spectacular. It certainly is PC Music pop production at its finest.
Best Guest: Jenny Hval
Hval – whose 2016 album tied for top pick of that year – seemed “quiet” in 2017 but she was the queen of collaborations, particularly with house and techno artists. She started the year guesting on a Kelly Lee Owens track before working with Carmen Villain and, eventually, Lindstøm. She was the go-to guest and I’m very anxious for new music from her. Quite a way to keep fans on the hook!
Best 2014 Discovery In 2017: Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter”
I know I’m late to this song but a boy sang/rapped this at that gay sleepaway camp and I was so charmed.
Best 2016 Discovery In 2017: Mary Lattimore’s At The Dam
I listened to this very emotional, very beautiful modern classical ambient electronic hybrid album a fuck ton in 2017. It was so moody and so welcoming, lending tenderness that can go toward manic happiness and deep sadness. Lattimore is a star.
The “OK, All Your Albums Are The Same: I Get It” Award: Björk
Queen Björk put out another good album but the biggest takeaway from Utopia was that she has a specific formula that you can trace back to Medúlla: start off with a big, emotional song; taper into another ball buster song that is typically a single; coast for two or three or four songs where it’s mostly gibberish and mood; come back for another ball buster or single; peter out. I love you, Björk, but the sequencing is getting old.
You’re Back! And Good!: Hercules & Love Affair
Good to hear Andy is back with the good music again. This was quite a sweet album.
Best TV Soundtrack: Ben Frost’s Music From Fortitude
Frost had a very busy year, not only releasing an album and art music but also the forty song soundtrack to the show Fortitude. It doesn’t disappoint. There’s also a stellar cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” in there too.
Best Movie Soundtrack: Ben Frost’s Super Dark Times
You might have thought that 0PN’s whatever Good Time soundtrack was good (It’s not.) but Frost’s moody, dark, gritty backdrop for the little film Super Dark Times was incredible. A perfect pairing.
Best, Uh, Comeback: Ssion’s “Comeback”
Who’s excited for his new album? Me with a capital ME.
Still Want More: John Maus
Screen Memories was great and songs like “The Combine” and “Touchdown” and “Pets” were fantastic new entries into his canon but the six year wait was kind of…a let down? Not that the album was bad (It wasn’t.) but the album felt like hold music for something bigger and better. Where is it, John? I want more.
Got Just Enough: Goldfrapp’s Silver Eye
Unlike Maus, Goldfrapp’s long awaited return was perfectly filling. It was dark and light, moody and dancey: they knew what fans wanted. Thank you, Allison, et al!
I bought a hat from Discwoman early in 2017 and didn’t get anything in the mail. After realizing nothing came, I sent an email. The above is what they sent back. Um. Rude? It’s a challenge now to love them and their related artists since they were so fucking rude. (Also, now that I’m looking back at this, the date that the hat was “sent” was…before I even ordered it.)
Best Facsimilie: Honey Dijon’s “Why”
This was a pitch perfect cover of the Carly Simon song. Also, where has Nomi Ruiz been?
Don’t @ Me: Katy Perry’s “Bon Appetit” & “Swish Swish”
I know I am the only person in the universe to say this but I rather liked both of these Katy Perry singles. Yes, she tried to do way too fucking much with that last album and got oversaturated fast but I enjoyed these silly songs. She’s a silly artist! That’s her point of view. Don’t expect anything more or less. I was pleased and am hashtag team Katy when it comes down to her and Tay Tay.
Best Near Fifteen Minute Jam: Superpitcher’s “Andy”
This was the best song from Golden Ravedays. The flip side – “Yves” – was quite good but this one was the standout.
Better In Theory: Superpitcher’s Golden Ravedays
…however, releasing a periodic album over the year made me 1.) forgetful and 2.) comparative. It was a bit too scattershot and uneven to really “enjoy.”
If What Scandinavia Sounds Like This, Awesome: Varg’s Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3: Gore-Tex City by Varg
Know zero about Varg but this album was a very curious tour of ambient techno Nordic darkness. I loved it.
Best Album Artwork: Varg’s Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3: Gore-Tex City by Varg
And what cute and frightening artwork! Just like the album.
Oh, So This Is Who The New 0PN Is: Kara-Lis Coverdale
We’ve all been looking. We found her. Praise be KLC.
Unsure Why You Came Back But OK: Fever Ray
The album was good but also: why? It felt like someone took a lot of gender studies and queer studies classes and then thought they’d put it into an album. I do love that! But also: why? It came out of nowhere. Granted, this country does make it too hard to fuck. I can agree with that.
Best Music Video: Dua Lipa’s “New Rules”
Who is Dua Lipa? I do not know. For what I can tell, she is a beautiful young witch who was trapped in a music video and has been perfecting her dance moves for centuries. It paid off because this video is incredible!
DIY Award: Maggie Rogers’ “On + Off”
This song was one of the best of the year but this video was just…so delightfully unpolished? I don’t know but it was so authentic and art school and abstract and literal. This type of video is very hard to make when you “try” so kudos to Rogers for just doing. Also: great, chill choreography – and nice use of props.
Best Lyrics: Alex Cameron’s Forced Witness
I know nothing about Alex Cameron but this was the funniest album. With lyrics like “they made a meme out of me” and “Our love was like a fire / Yeah, I pissed on it so I could sleep” and “I’m a man on a mission – you’re a stripper out of luck” and “Yeah there’s this woman on the Internet / Even if she’s some Nigerian guy,” you couldn’t help but giggle. You keep doing you, Alex!
Best Bruce Springsteen: Alex Cameron’s Forced Witness
Fuck, is he Bruce Springsteen? So many songs I was like, “Wow, this is who I wish Bruce Springsteen was.” Alas. It’s Alex Cameron!
This Should Have Cost Money: Yves Tumor’s Experiencing The Deposit Of Faith
In advance of Tumor’s Warp debut, he released the most amazing album – for free. It was so incredible and should have cost money. I cannot wait for more music from him.
Best Vocal Sampling: James Place’s “Courage To Ask”
This song folded in words from both Maya Angelou and James Baldwin to great effect.
Most Desired Comeback: Delia & Gavin
Given Delia Gonzalez’s wonderful return with Horse Follows Darkness and Gavin Russom’s coming out, it is high time for the former DFA crew to revive their act, Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom. They were maybe the best working abstract electronic duo of all time? In my opinion, at least – and definitely for the 2000s.
Catchiest: SZA’s Ctrl
It took a while for this album to “click” but, damn, did it click. It clicked so much so that I was haunted by literally every song for a week since they were stuck in my head. She can definitely make an earworm!
Best Rerelease: The Other People Place’s Lifestyles At The Laptop Cafe
This 2001 repress, rerelease, etc. was a wonderful reminder of a more innocent day of dance music, before it became “the new rock” or whatever.
Best Remix: Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know (Planningtorock Tribute Remix)”
Technically, this came out in 2016 but – Damn. – this song is just so perfect and so queer and so necessary. PTR needs to release new music ASAP. Also: I very much appreciate that the word “boy” is pitched down so much that it almost sounds like “void.” Think about that: “There’s a void, I know…” How 2017 of you, PTR.
Best Noise: Alessandro Cortini’s Avanti
This ambient noise album was so enriching and rewarding. It was also so transportive, taking me all around the world through a snowy haze. It’s great to work along with, too.
Gayest Release: Patrick Cowley’s Afternooners
Best Gay Release: Patrick Cowley’s Afternooners
This album featured a bunch of songs Cowley made for gay porn. And? It was maybe his finest, most fun work and was also a reminder to working gay (and queer) artists: have more fun and make music for us.
Best Rap Album: Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory
This was such a smart album and, as I enjoy, had big potential for booty bumping and foot stomping. Staples also had such smart commentary about income inequality (and racial inequality too). He’s also very adorable and his work with Kilo Kish was great.
These Were Good Songs (In No Order)
Maggie Rogers’ “Off + On”
MUNA’s “I Know A Place”
Yaeji’s “Drink I’m Sipping On”
Julie Byrne’s “Natural Blue”
Kelly Lee Owens’ “More Than A Woman”
Jayda G’s “Sestra’s Cry”
Biosphere’s “Black Mesa”
Grey House’s “New Beats The House”
Love Of Life Orchestra’s “Condo”
Emma’s “LA Mermaid”
Young Ejecta’s “Build A Fire”
Denis Sulta’s “Dubelle OH XX JVIP”
Alex Cameron’s “True Lies”
Palmbomen II’s “Ultimate Lovestory Fantasy”
Austra’s “Future Politics”
Charli XCX & Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Backseat”
Charli XCX’s “Out Of My Head”
D. Tiffany’s “How RU Plush”
Björk & Arca’s “Arisen My Senses”
Coucou Chloe’s “Stamina”
SZA’s “Love Galore”
Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow”
These Were Good Mixes (In No Order)
Midland’s Fabriclive 94
Volvox b2b UMFANG at Boiler Room X Dekmantel
Oneohtrix Point Never FACT Mix 627
Matthew Dear’s DJ Kicks
Peggy Gou for Beats In Space
Prequel Tapes for Groove Podcast
Laurel Halo for Discwoman
Isolée’s Boiler Room Live Set
Veronika Vasicak for Mixmag
Palmbomen II for Beats In Space
These Were Good Albums (In No Order)
Ziur’s U Feel Anything?
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN
Galcher Lustwerk’s Dark Bliss
Molly Nilsson’s Imaginations
Claude Speeed’s Infinity Ultra
Paulina Anna Strom’s Trans-Millenia Music
Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory
Lindstrom’s It’s Alright Between Us As It Is
Colleen’s A Flame My Love, A Frequency
Caterina Barbieri’s Patterns Of Consciousness
Nadia Struiwigh’s Lenticular
Alice Coltrane’s The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
Octo Octa’s Where Are We Going?
Alex Cameron’s Forced Witness
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement’s Ambient Black Magic
Best Mix: Robin Ordell for REIBU
This hour or so of low boiling techno was both understated and overstated. It pounded on you but could also sit beside you, chilling. This is what mixes are good for: for getting you dancing or just hanging out. Ordell crafted such a singular world with this mix that it was hard not to enter it and not want to leave. Quite an accomplishment.
Best Song: Molly Nilsson “Let’s Talk About Privileges”
So many songs, so many artists, tried to tackle the idea of inequality and “privilege” in a smart way and the majority of them sounded and looked like asses. Leave it to Molly Nilsson to so eloquently – and sharply – call it all out.
Best Album With Words: Kelela’s Take Me Apart
I didn’t have a “best” album for 2017 for two reasons: it was hard to pick one, particularly one of a specific style. Hence, I’m breaking it down to two. The first was an album with words and is all about the words: Kelela’s Take Me Apart. This album is about desire and want, two things that often overlap with another person – or are completely misinterpreted and confused. That’s what 2017 seemed to be all about and Kelela tapped into that with songs like “Frontline” and “Tear Me Apart” and “Altadena,” songs that had the power to both make you want to jump and groove but also cry. There was something so vulnerable and loving about this album that took it above and beyond anyone else who even tried to put words together in 2017. It was like a warm blanket in a cold club. Isn’t that a great metaphor for life? This debut (“debut”) was well worth the wait.
Best Album Without Words: William Basinski’s A Shadow In Time
Like Kelela, Basinski released an album that was both about the joys and sorrows of life but, for some, words are suffocated out of you. For Basinski, he focused in on the death of David Bowie as inspiration for a two track album that stretched over a wordless forty minutes. With “A Shadow In Time,” he proposed a simultaneous slumber at the bottom of the ocean and on the moon’s surface, suggesting feeling alien in this world despite being fully present. The song pushes and pulls from itself, becoming dense and open depending on the timing. With “For David Robert Jones,” Basinski gets as “upbeat” as he can get, like a praise song at a funeral. It felt like a march with heads hung low into the sun, in ecstatic mourning. Both songs – Well, this entire album. – isn’t about words but about feeling, a feeling of both being lost and found, in and out of life. For 2017 – like Kelela’s Take Me Apart – music was about being seen and taking care of oneself, despite the tragedies that surround us. Basinski’s A Shadow In Time did this in the most moving way possible.