Monday, January 01, 2018

Kat's Korner: 2017 in Music

Kat: Not an impressive year in music.
In fact, it was damn near pathetic. 
A lot of fiery Tweets and a lot of trash talk from various artists following the election and then what?
That was embarrassing.
He talks big at an awards show and then puts out that stale REVIVAL?
Push it away and say, “Pa, I want something fresh, not last year’s left overs.”
If only it was just last year.
2016, where they failed in songwriting, they often succeeded in singing.  This year?
One long yawn.
They punch in practically every note of a ‘vocal’ for Katy Perry (and multi-track and auto tune her voice) and yet WITNESS still didn’t add up to anything. GEMINI seemed to only prove that Ryan Lewis had been doing all the heavy lifting for Macklemore.
Beck underwhelmed with COLORS.
And U2?
Well I’m going to make them number ten for the year.


Forget Bono's "girly" remark, this album contains bits of brilliance, a ton of familiar that rolls along quickly on a tire so bald the band’s praying they don’t hydroplane on a puddle of water.  The best news?  The album’s a mess.  A frantic mess.  Didn’t know they had the life left in them for this.  A mess is always prepared to one  of Bono’s master plans that bleed the life out of everyone.  SONGS OF EXPERIENCE is not another WAR or THE JOSHUA TREE.  But it’s got at least as much life in it as ACHTUNG BABY.  After enduring HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB, NO LINE ON THE HORIZON and SONGS OF INNOCENCE, the fact that U2 seems interested in life and, dare I say it, even fun.  Bono lost me long ago with his hypocrisy but SONGS OF EXPERIENCE reminds the world that U2 is (a) more than just Bono and (b) still able to surprise you.
9) Blondie’s POLLINATOR.  

If you saw them in concert (I did, twice) you know this album had some solid songs.  I wish they’d put out a live album of this tour because I honestly thought some of the songs sounded better live than in the studio.  But this was still a strong album hitting all the classic notes (and, yes, poses) that reminded you why you loved Debbie Harry and the gang in the first place.   And any time they want to lay down a track like “Doom or Destiny,” they’re going to be welcomed with open arms.
8) Bjork’s UTOPIA.  Of all the albums I liked in 2017 but never got around to reviewing, this is the one I wished I could have written about.  Bjork either grabs you or she doesn’t.  She grabbed me here.  And if I was a painter, I’d start with a fluorescent background, maybe some acrylic pink paint and splash some pastel blue on top of it in an attempt to reflect ocean waves.  But to actually verbalize UTOPIA?  It was beyond my abilities.  Let’s just note it was one of 2017’s rare gems.
7) Conor Oberst's SALUTATIONS.


The last of the independents?  The last standing male singer-songwriter?  What is Conor?  

SALUTATIONS says, whatever he is, he's back.  And then some.

For anyone who ever felt Conor was speaking directly to them, prepare to feel that he's been stalking you on social media to get to know you even better.  He's wiser and more tuneful.

6) Taylor Swift's REPUTATION.

taylor swift reputation

With REPUTATION, Taylor's no longer one of the best pop songwriters under 30, she's the best.  And this album's a huge growth spurt for her as an artist.  If "New Year's Day" was the only song on the album, it would still be worth buying.  Fortunately, it's just one of many great songs REPUTATION showcases.

5) Aimee Mann’s MENTAL ILLNESS


More and more, it’s looking like THE FORGOTTEN ARM will be Aimee’s masterpiece.  That’s fine.  BLUE remains Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece but her canon still contains such classics as FOR THE ROSES, COURT & SPARK, THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS, HEJIRA, DOG EAT DOG and LADIES OF THE CANYON.  Saying MENTAL ILLNESS is Aimee’s second best album ever may not seem like praise if you haven’t heard THE FORGOTTEN ARM.  On MENTAL ILLNESS, she serves up the songs in a fresh way and, when she grabs you, she really grabs you.  “You Never Loved Me” remains my favorite song and the one I wish radio had gotten behind.

4) Miguel’s WAR AND LEISURE.

A big surprise for me and, sadly, I didn’t hear the album until December.  You know I’m lazy.  And if I get anything done in December it’s usually buying presents and making fudge for the family (homemade fudge, from scratch, just to note that I’m not always lazy).  I’d heard “Skywalker” already (and Wally does a great job playing that song on guitar).  I’d liked it.  But “Told You So” was the first thing, when listening to the album, that really blew my mind.  Then came “Pineapple Skies.”  This album shimmers.  It’s one that really grabs your ear and I want to complain, again, that December’s not really the month to release a new album.  Especially if the label’s RCA.  December albums either have to have a big media push behind them or they have to be a greatest hits.  (Or a Christmas album.)  Otherwise, they can get lost in the shuffle.  My big hope for early 2018 is that people continue to discover Miguel’s latest because it’s really something.
3) Tyler, The Creator’s FLOWER BOY.  

Where Kendrick lost me (“Humble” is huge with many but I really can’t stand it or the sentiment and I really don’t think Kendrick Lamar would respond so well to someone telling him to be humble), FLOWER BOY hooked me in.  I was new to Tyler, The Creator but didn’t need to catch up on his three previous albums to enjoy FLOWER BOY.  Though I have since snapped up the other three.  You will too if you give FLOWER BOY a listen. 

2) Sam Smith's THE THRILL OF IT ALL.


The most soulful album of the year?  Possibly.  For ten solid tracks, Sam Smith grabs your ears and your heart and makes you wonder why England's produced Sam, Amy Winehouse, George Michael and Adele but, in the US, we keep churning out Disney Snaps who require a lot of studio technology just to appear to carry a five note tune?



Tori returned in 2017 with the best album of the year -- and also one of her own finest -- really saying something when you consider her discography already includes UNDER THE PINK, LITTLE EARTHQUAKES, SCARLET'S WALK and UNREPENTANT GERALDINES.  Argue over whether "Wildwood," "Broken Arrow," "Bang," "Wings" or "Climb" is the best song -- and do so with friends because this is an album that only gets richer with repeated listens and contemplation.  In the end, it's about healing and renewal. 

Click here for my 2004 music piecehere for 20052006 in music2007 in musichere for 2008here  for my 2009 piece, here for my look at the decadehere for my 2010 piecehere for my 2011 piece,  here for my 2012 piece, here for my 2013 piece, here for my 2014 piece, here for my 2015 piece and here for my 2016 piece.