We’re just over a week into 2018, and already it seems like
2018 : 2017 : : 2017 : 2016
Maybe things look more upbeat in the United States, where instead of Weak And Wobbly Theresa, there’s a VERY STABLE GENIUS!!! in charge.
….to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
Back on this side of The Pond, it might make sense to point out – since I only relatively recently found out myself – that 2018 : 2017 : : 2017 : 2016 is how one would express the analogy 2018 is to 2017 as 2017 is to 2016 in a standardised test answer.
Remember when we anthropomorphised 2016 as a stalker-killer of beloved celebrities before shoving it off the Times Square Ball Drop flagpole in the final scene?
And then in 2017, the UK government made a pig’s head (© David Cameron) of triggering Brexit, the UN warned that the world was facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, and well, you get the idea…
What I’m saying is, I don’t see a great deal of hope in thinking that the world at large is going to be more super awesome this coming year. Even if the New York Times has just run an opinion piece on Why 2017 Was The Best Year in Human History.
So let’s return to resolutions and personal improvement. How are your resolutions going? They say that it can help to vocalise them – create an impulse not to let ourselves and others down.
Last year in the Apoplexy Tiny Letter, I expressed a desire to keep up with modern music a bit better, but developments in 2017 didn’t make that any easier. Nevertheless, I’ve expressed and internalised the idea, and the New Year does present a useful tool and staging point for getting on the task. Particularly with so many end-of-year round ups out there.
— All Songs Considered (@allsongs) December 11, 2017
So, with the help of NPR’s All Songs Considered, some other end-of-year round-ups, and my own preferences, here are eight tracks from the almost impossibly contemporary year of 2017 in no particular order, other than a narrative that makes sense to me.
Given the intent of keeping up with current pop music, of course the first choon on the list chronicles not so much the state of the nation as James Murphy’s place in it now; the middle-aged cool guy in a middle-aged cool band.
Well, I’ve just discovered from Ian Wiki that the onset of middle-age has been pushed back to 45. So, I’m a young adult. But thanks anyway, Grandpa.
So let’s dump that melancholy and release, sadness and joy bollocks. All Songs Considered reckons “it was a strong year for guitar rock, the best of it coming from relatively younger bands dominated by women.” So check out the shredding that comes in after 2m 23s of Partner’s Everybody Knows You’re High.
Funny, crunchy. Kinda like Broad City: The College Years.
And then the comedown. You leapt from crumbling bridges watching cityscapes turn to dust/Filming helicopters crashing in the ocean from way above. According to Cigarettes After Sex’s Apocalypse. The end of the world never seemed so pretty.
(OK, apart from Last Night.)
But the femme fatale and noir tropes that dominate the Cigarettes After Sex album don’t fit well with the narrative of female-friendly guitar music made by women. So let’s change genres…
Sure, after the funk/soul/hip-hop/jazz of To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN. seems to cleave more closely to standard hip-hip tropes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not ambitious as hell. As Robin Hilton puts it, HUMBLE. is paradoxical…. He’s taking down all of his rivals in it, and talking about his own greatness, but at the same time he’s demanding humility of himself.
And, DAMN, it’s irresistible. Topping end of the year lists everywhere.
This South London rapper doesn’t go round no paradoxes, but goes straight for the heart. A track called The Isle of Arran? About masculinity and fatherhood? By a young old soul who drinks too much whisky? S-O-L-D.
OK. This one refuses to embed for some reason. But click through. It’s made of funk.
I’ve been keeping one eye on Charlotte Gainsbourg since her awesome The Operation with lyrics by Jarvis Cocker. On her new album, she’s writing her own lyrics for the first time and Sylvia Says nails it. Some reviewers have found this homage to Sylvia Plath’s Mad Girl’s Love Song – with its funky Daft Punk production – a bit perplexing, but in the context of an album about loss, this is the moment when joy must return.
An anthem for delicate boys and striving girls with killer vocals, and strings by the recently-passed Seventies arranger for Elton John and the Stones. Just. Listen.
Maybe Charlotte Gainsbourg’s right. Maybe everything is going to be OK.
Maybe. I dunno. How much can we do as individuals? I dunno, but let’s start by dancing and loving each other, right?