I’ve made a tradition of reviewing my take on the new music scene each year since 2012, and the format seems to be working pretty well. I like it because it keeps me honest as a forcing function to remember what I heard over the course of the year and thoughtfully consider what I liked and didn’t like; and it’s useful as a reference for posterity. As usual, I missed some things and am already aware of them now, but I try to stay mostly in the confines of what I discovered during the year 2017 itself even though I’m now so late. So here now is the sixth annual edition of that effort — enjoy!
I haven’t usually gotten these things out before the springtime, and for a number of reasons 2016 is more delayed than ever. But since ‘better late than never’ is usually well-applied — especially when this kind of analysis will serve future me with a (near-)real-time document of the day — and since 2016 was no 2015 but was also no slouch as far as new music goes, here again is my personal take on the best of the best of the last calendar year: general notes, the top ten albums, and a 20-track playlist of highlights. At least I beat the Summer Solstice on this one!
It’s well past time again for me to pick winners among all the fantastic music released in 2015, truly a bumper year in my experience. Now for the fourth time, I’ll review the ten albums I loved the most from last year; discuss many others that were somehow notable; and also serve up a 20-track, 20-artist mix of highlight singles, half of which appeared on those best-loved albums. If you have a pulse, you should dig it!
I recently had a shocking experience at a concert. I’ve been to many, and they vary wildly in quality, but shocking is not a term I use lightly. A great show is a great thing for a reason: there’s a lot of boring and even awful music out there. Every genre is guilty of being terrible for reasons of talentlessness and avarice and cronyism and even sheer accident. I don’t usually mean to single out a particular genre in general, but to explain this shocking show it suffices to compare two critically acclaimed rap albums: October 2014’s Run the Jewels 2 by supergroup Run the Jewels [El-P and Killer Mike] and March 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. This comparison sets up the context for a review of a Kendrick Lamar show.
Gregorian Calendars the world over agree: 2014 has ended. For the third year running, it’s time for me to review the ten best albums I noticed that were released last year; jeer at a few for being remarkably bad; and also serve up a 20-track mix of highlight singles, half taken from the top ten albums list. This year affords a special treat, as you can now stream the playlist in-line!
Even though I’m way late, I wanted to create a top music post for last year just like I did for 2012. As I said then, I don’t pretend to be able to weigh in like the Serious People at AllMusic and Pitchfork and Rolling Stone with shiny, definitive lists about what was really the best. Also I’m pretty sure even at the time of writing that there are specific albums I should have already made the time for, so that could change a lot. But I can’t know everything and I never will, and last year’s list has held up pretty well upon review. I’ll use the same winning format again: top ten albums (ranked and reviewed in detail) plus a few honourable or interesting mentions (unranked but with a few notes) followed with a 20-song, 20-band playlist (ordered for taste).
The year is nearly over and there were some notable record albums released in the music world. I don’t pretend to be able to weigh in like the Serious People at AllMusic and Pitchfork and Rolling Stone with shiny, definitive lists about what was really the best. For one thing, following and reviewing the music world is not my day job, but music discovery is a haphazard and often random process for me; I frequently discover the next year about an album that was out the year before that would have changed everything. But I can’t know everything and I never will, so in a move I’ll probably respect I’ve composed a top ten list I might laugh at upon review in the (not-so) distant future. When that’s done with, I’ll list a few honourable mentions without so much prose and present a 20-song, 20-band playlist for a little more variety.