Light goes out. Of course, it always does. Even the sun will one day stop to shine. There is no light that never goes out, unless it’s love, as Morrissey proclaims.I tend to believe him, both in romantic and societal sense. I also believe Leonard Cohen, whom I quoted last year. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in…
Still, 2017 was hardly a better year than 2016. Maybe it was even worse. Both years also brought things. Prince died in April 2016 and the best music of 2016 was created by artists of African descent. Call it a final liberation of the black artist. Same with 2017. First year in the history of music that male artists were completely overpowered by women. Was about time. Call it the delayed legacy of David Bowie. Shame that some 2017 lists still reserve the top spot for a man (most often Kendrick Lamar). Maybe correct from a musical perspective, but out of touch with the sign of the times.
I don’t pretend to know what was the best music of 2017. I just want to point to some albums that shouldn’t be forgotten. Here goes
5. Big Thief – Capacity (June 2017)
Beautiful, intimate record full of personal trauma. Listen casually and you won’t even notice. The songs are beautifully written, the melodies are gorgeous. Easy to drown in this music. If this is the way to deal with personal trauma and make sense of it, then give it to me every single day. This is an album of stories, not necessarily with a central theme, more with a central feeling. The central feeling being that there is no black and white, just endless shades of grey, and that accusing instead of forgiving is a sign of weakness.
4. Sheer Mag – Need to feel your love (July 2017)
2017 might also have been the year of the revival of the 70’s. Are we now digging into the 70’s instead of the 80’s? TV series like The Deuce and Mindhunter seem to suggest so. Sheer Mag almost ironically takes white, macho 70’s rock and adds thematic content to it that isn’t macho at all. Ever heard of Sophie Scholl? Nazi’s killed the 21-year old resistance fighter back in 1943. Powerful, take-the-power-back music for misfits, outcasts and loners, in a perfect lo-fi recording style.
3. Fever Ray – Plunge (October 2017)
Isn’t she wonderful? I mean, who else can make such manic, obsessed electronic music about sex, empowerment and personal politics. If there is a soundtrack to #MeToo it must be Fever Ray’s Plunge. It is liberated rather than liberating, taking your essence to the stage and show it full-frontal, no excuses, no lowering of ambition. At the risk of being a male chauvinist pig, I would say: Bowie would have been proud. If we march, we should shout: “Every time we fuck we win/This house makes it hard to fuck/This country makes it hard to fuck!” (This Country)
2. Slowdive – Slowdive (May 2017).
When the dust settles in the afternoon of January 1st, and we try to remember what we did last night, someone will put on Slowdive. Its gentle guitar sound will slowly fill the room, warm our bones and prepare us for the rest of winter. We would all feel better. Slowdive existed between 1989 and 1995, then went into hiding, only to majestically reappear 22 years later in 2017. Back in the 90’s their music was already beautiful, but no one prepared us for this. It’s Shoegaze, but of an almost extraterrestrial beauty. Melodies seem to float in and out of the room. I would be a happy man if they disappeared again and repeated this trick in 2039.
1. Priests – Nothing feels natural (February 2017)
Pitchfork compared it to Savages’ debut ‘Silence Yourself’. I’m not that modest. Only time will tell, but I can only compare it to the self-titled debut album of The Clash in 1977. Exactly 40 years stand between those albums. The stakes were just as high in 1977 as they are now. You can feel the urgency in every single note, every single break and every single gasp for air in between verses. Still, this is not a band for easy classification. They will not follow your lead or your action plan. Wait a couple of years until they release their ‘London Calling’. In the meantime, party on the volcano or clench your first and raise it. The choice is yours.