Hey, guys. Happy New Year. And Happy Friday.
For new followers, who may have discovered this blog via Ed Martin’s 31 Days of Dead project, welcome. And for old followers, welcome back. With the festive period past us, we’re back to a more regular schedule. So let’s start 2018 with something about 2017, and an epic Friday playlist.
When I suggested moving the Liner Notes HQ holiday party from Winter Solstice (the traditional date) to New Year’s Eve, OM balked. He wanted our business all done and dusted well before the end of the year. His argument was that most music journo sites/blogs publish their lists in mid-December, and that nobody cares after that. (Something about internet culture, and people on their phones more over the holidays at boring family functions. And blah x3. I tuned out, tbh. He talked for a while.) My argument was that the end of the year is the end of the year and that a 2017 wrap-up has to wait until 2017 wraps up. Right?
Ultimately, I won. In retro, I suspect that O just got sick of me ranting about time (it’s a theme). And he realized that he didn’t have NYE plans.
The party didn’t start well. We were supposed to start with parallel staffers – my side, O’s side – and move to a joint meeting afterwards. Then a lunch thing, then the party. The meetings happened. Ours was fun. Jane the Barber (JTB) wore a t-shirt with a handwritten SZA on the front. Austin the IT Guy wore a Deafheaven t-shirt (not sure that band had an album this year). The writers and interns fluffed whatever. We talked briefly, and voted. Everybody was cool. We adjourned, and waited.
When the O-side meeting finished an hour later, Trevor (TA) had an announcement. What was formerly the outreach team would be now called the outreach-marketing team, or the OM team. The reaction was not positive. Here was the exchange…
TA: Hey, guys. In-house, we’re now known as the OM team.
JTB: Ha. What?
JTB: Really. What?
TA: Whatever. We’re the OM team.
JTB: K-so. We’re the J-Team.
TA: Haha, like the A-Team. That movie sucked.
The exchange got worse after that. O and I calmed the waters, and chased people out of the conference room. We erased the chalkboards and talked about our lists, and the votes from our teams. Then we got to the simpler LN biz, like we used to do way back. This record vs. that record, tired gripes (the National vs. Crash Test Dummies), fresh whinges (Arcade Fire), plenty of eye rolls, even more Don Draper handshakes, etc. After much chalk dust and eraser smear, we made our lists and pulled down the maps, so nobody would spill the results.
The party was ok. Jane and her friends sorta mocked Tre, and Tre sorta hit back (not hard, he’s a nice person). Austin commandeered the speakers to play some Baroness. The new guy (everybody called him BoyToy – not sure why, and I interviewed him) requested something off the back half of Station to Station. Not exactly dance music, but still cool.
A guy named Adam showed up, eventually. He played a short set, partly on the office organ. (That’s him up top.) I left early, and heard stories late. Nothing too interesting. Anyway.
Normally in these year-end posts, I have a point to make. I’ve done “music is the best,” when we were still on Hypervocal. I’ve done “music matters.” I’ve done “musicians matter.” I’ve done “music blogs don’t matter.” And last year, I did a sort of greatest hits of my earlier posts, with a coda of “let’s talk.” We didn’t. Don’t worry, I’ll ask again in a bit. So what else? How about “music got me through.”
2017 was tough for my team and me. I don’t want to detail all the whys, but here’s one. My dad died in May after a week in the hospital and two weeks in hospice. Cat Power’s Moon Pix was my go-to during that time, so it wasn’t a surprise when I saw Chan Marshall in this thing from Spotify.
I’m curious about some of those stats. 8,120 songs seems like a stretch – there must be some repeats included in that number. (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s “French Press” is probably the song that I revisited the most. London Grammar’s “Bones of Ribbon” was a distant second.) And 1,499 different artists? I feel like a slacker that I didn’t hit one more for a solid, round 1,500. And what’s up with genres? Spotify says that I explored 179 of them, but it seemed more like 10.
The big number is important, though. I listened to more than 69,491 minutes or 1,158 hours of music on Spotify last year. And countless more hours of music on the radio (mostly Chicago’s WXRT). Not-so-humble brag, but that’s alot of music. So our tag line – “We write, you listen” – is more like we listen, then we write. And then what?
Do you listen? Not just to what’s here, but to what you’re into? Of course, you do. What is it? Old stuff? New stuff? Do you have a plan? Certain websites or blogs that you visit regularly? Or do you just search for what you want to hear? Do you subscribe to a streaming service? Which one? Why? You can respond below the line, as they say. Or you can email: email@example.com
I’ve come off as a snob sometimes here. That’s not my aim. Last year, I posted mostly Grateful Dead shows and extremely long playlists for my best friend on her workday drives. This year, I’ll post stuff like that, and hopefully more “editorial material.” It won’t be judge-y. If you’re not into it, that’s cool. If you are, check it out. I listen to so much music that I feel like I have a foundation to talk about it. But …
This isn’t a bully pulpit. This isn’t an ego trip. This is just a place. A virtual office with virtual staff, who log ear time to make recommendations and open conversations. Let’s talk.
Here’s my list.
- The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
- Kendrick Lamar – Damn.
- Hundred Waters – Communicating / Currency EP
- SZA – Ctrl
- Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
- Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
- LCD Soundsystem – american dream
- Lorde – Melodrama
- Bing & Ruth – Home of the Mind / Dorsal EP
- Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
- Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
- London Grammar – Truth Is a Beautiful Thing
- Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers
- Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
- Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far from Over
- Fever Ray – Plunge
- Four Tet – New Energy
- Ratboys – GN
- Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
Honorable Mention (alphabetical):
- A. Savage – Thawing Dawn
- Angel Olsen – Phases
- Tony Allen – The Source
- Beach Fossils – Somersault
- Bibio – Phantom Brickworks
- Brightness – Teething
- Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness
- Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex
- Feist – Pleasure
- Carl Craig – Versus
- Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
- Laura Marling – Semper Femina
- Mogwai – Every Country’s Son
- Perfume Genius – No Shape
- St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
- This Is the Kit – Moonshine Freeze
- Max Richter – Three Worlds
- Vagabon – Infinite World
- The xx – I See You
- Zola Jesus – Okovi
And here’s the usual caveat: Another day might yield another list. Any of the records on the Honorable Mention list could have been in the Top Twenty. Ultimately, they may be, if I edit the list. Oh, fwiw: I decided that, great as it is, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s The French Press EP was too short to be eligible.
Bonus, too. There’s an accompanying playlist. It’s long – I was shooting for 100 tracks, but couldn’t get lower than 125. Every one here is great. I only repeated two bands (The War on Drugs and London Grammar). And I tried to sequence them like a normal Friday playlist, grouping certain styles and beginning and ending strong. Enjoy.