It’s list time, folks. This year’s list is going to look a lot different from lists in years past, so let me know what you think of this year’s format. Unlike years past where I’ve only talked about my favorite music of the year, this year I’ll be covering some of the things I liked and disliked within music and beyond. Since I’ve been very quiet over the past year, I thought it would be good to give a broader overview of my view of the year.
BEST: There was a lot of good music in 2017.
While I may not have been as active on the blog during 2017 (more on that later), there has been a lot of exceptional musical releases this year. The sheer abundance of noteworthy music was half of the reason I decided on this new format, but I’m still going to give a top 5 list for you here:
- #1 – A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie
- This record will crush your soul, but you need to listen to it; it’s important.
- #2 – My Bones Are Singing by Those Lavender Whales
- Joyous, honest, and direct, Aaron Graves’ musical response to his inoperable brain tumor is a triumph of beauty and hope against crisis.
- #3 – Youth Music by Superbody
- Hands down the absolute best pop record of the year. It’s concise, sharp, and witty, delivering banger after banger. Probably my most-played record of 2017.
- #4 – A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
- Listening to this record creates a sense of euphoria because everything about it is just so perfect. The track runtimes may seem intimidating from the surface, but the songs feel so effortless that it’s hardly noticeable.
- #5 – Hang by Foxygen
- Foxygen somehow managed to satirize and pay homage to 70s rock and roll simultaneously in this whirlwind of a record. The production is lavish and flawless, demanding return visits and close attention.
WORST: 2017 wasn’t without musical disappointments.
Unfortunately, 2017 also saw sub-par releases from Beck, The Killers, Gorillaz, The Flaming Lips, John Mark McMillan, and Kings Kaleidoscope — among others — as well as promised but never released records by JGivens and Healthbook. Here’s to hoping that these artists get back on the right track in 2018 and beyond.
BEST: My friends released really good music this year.
One of the most enriching elements of this blog is the opportunity to meet new people and build relationships over music. Some of these folks I consider as close friends, so writing about them officially would be a conflict of interest. However, my biases now established, these folks released some of their best work ever in 2017:
- Josh Jackson: Town Runner EP and Summerooms 2: When the Summer is Over
- Josh rebranded his main musical outlet as “Make Sure,” and his inaugural EP under the new name is fantastic, of course. Also, he surprised me (and everyone else) by releasing a follow-up to his lo-fi side project Summerooms on Christmas Eve. It’s been my favorite gift from this holiday season.
- Leava: The Lovely Grind and True Believers
- Leava’s split single The Lovely Grind is his finest work yet, and I did actually write about it earlier in the year. His new single series, True Believers, saw two entries in 2017 that delve even further into electronics and ambiguity. It’s been a joy to watch Leava evolve as an artist, and I’m excited to hear more in 2018.
- Civilized Creature: Steadfast
- The ever-prolific Ryan Lane somehow found the time and ability to record an album while moving from Portland, OR to Puyallup, then Gig Harbor, WA. While that’s impressive in its own right, what’s even more incredible is that it’s his most unified and interesting record to date — not to mention his debut for Renew the Arts.
- Oliver Elf Army: EP3
- This was technically released on New Year’s Eve/Day, but I first heard it in the final hours of 2017, so I’m including it here. While it’s only three tracks, Mary and Martin Adams sound rawer and more in sync than ever before in their latest, home-recorded release.
WORST: Crystal Desert broke up.
Everett’s iconic gothic punk outfit officially disbanded this year, to nearly everyone’s surprise. Crystal Desert is dead; long live Crystal Desert.
BEST: Former Crystal Desert members have incredible solo projects.
Between the neurotic post-punk of Christian Smith’s Nail Houses, the fiery hard rock of Joshua Ihler’s Deep Negatives, and whatever you call Ryan Alexander’s NODRA, the spirit and legacy of Crystal Desert lives on. In fact, these artists have even transcended the heights of their former group project. With promises of new music from all three alumni in 2018, this year is already shaping up to be an exciting one indeed.
WORST: The Needle Drop’s tour cancellation and the death of thatistheplan.
I’ve started to follow Anthony Fantano (aka, the Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd, the Best Teeth in the Game, Cal Chuchesta, Melon, Mr. List, etc.) on his various outlets. He has been a huge inspiration to me creatively on both his main review channel and his more relaxed commentary channel. Half of the time, he talks about music or styles that I don’t like or care about, and I don’t agree with him much of the time when he does talk about things that I care about. However, his tone, style, and consistency make for highly engaging, informative, and enlightening content. I even developed an appreciation for his comedy channel, thatistheplan. Unfortunately, that channel was demonetized when the YouTube “adpocalypse” went down, and he was forced to abandon the project.
Around the same time of his shutting down the channel, The Fader published a demonstrably false hit-piece that accused Fantano of using his platforms to endorse and indoctrinate toxic political views. This resulted in the cancellation of a nationwide speaking tour, and The Fader is likely immune to a libel lawsuit due to the phrasing of their article. It was an outrageous and unjust set of circumstances that caused a lot of conversation/ranting this year. Here’s to hoping that Anthony Fantano / The Needle Drop will have his best year ever in 2018. He deserves it.
BEST: Monopath Records.
While Monopath Records was technically founded in 2016, according to their website, this year they released three of the best “Christian” records of the year: R. Turner’s self-titled record and two solo albums (here and here) from John Van Deusen (formerly of The Lonely Forest). With the potential of new signees and two more records in Van Deusen’s (I Am) Origami album series set to release in 2018, Monopath is a name to watch over the next year and many to come afterwards. Also worth noting: Turner and Van Deusen play in a non-Monopath punk band called BUFFET, which put out an awesome EP this year as well.
WORST: The final season of Longmire on Netflix.
Netflix’s Longmire has never been prestige television, but it’s been a reliable source of engaging storytelling. It’s final season, however, felt forced and empty. It didn’t take enough risks, it resolved plot threads unnaturally, and it went out with a whimper instead of a bang. It’s very clear that this show didn’t end on its own terms, and it’s very unfortunate for fans.
BEST: The season finale of Stranger Things 2 on Netflix.
Sure, some of the resolutions are a bit predictable, but this isn’t just a “cutesy” ending to a season. It’s deeply affecting because of the profound connections built with the characters throughout the show. They feel like family, in a weird way, so to see their stories come to a happy end brought about a sense of joy that I’ve never experienced through filmmaking before. Well done, Duffer Bros. Well done.
WORST: Episode 7 of Stranger Things 2 on Netflix.
Yeah, this episode sucked. I appreciate the risk taken, and it didn’t ruin the show by any means, but I kinda sorta absolutely hated it. Here’s to hoping that those characters don’t return in Season 3 (unless they all come back to Hawkins; I could maybe dig that).
BEST: David Lowery’s A Ghost Story.
This was one of my favorite films from this year. Embracing a tone and style more poetic than literary, A Ghost Story is a captivating, thought-provoking, and outright beautiful examination of death, time, and the search for closure. The cinematography and performances are gorgeous, intimate, and … well, haunting. While this film certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s sure to create some discussion amidst those who have watched it. Highly recommended.
WORST: All the hate towards The Last Jedi.
I’m currently unfriending and unfollowing everyone I know who dissed this movie because I don’t need that sort of negativity in my life in 2018. This movie was different than any other Star Wars movie; get over it and accept that it’s a great film already. It’s not the best entry in the series, but it certainly doesn’t deserve all the backlash that it’s getting.
BEST: My kitchen has been significantly upgraded.
My family finally convinced my mom to get a toaster oven, we have a new microwave, and we now have seven different coffee brewing apparatus in the house. Sometimes it’s important to stop and appreciate this little things.
WORST: We Are Mirrors was highly inactive in 2017.
Despite taking a gap year from school during the 2016-2017 academic year, this site and other projects went even farther on the back burner this year. Due to physical and mental exhaustion from working long hours, a lack of greater structure or purpose for the year, and, honestly, some degree of laziness, my dreams of a large creative output in 2017 did not come to pass. I’m more tired than ever before — and that’s not because I’ve cut back my caffeine intake. It wasn’t an easy year for me: a young friend was diagnosed with cancer, various family dramas bubbled up, and I was no stranger to existential crises. I’ve been trying to figure out where to go with my life, establish a sense of purpose in mundanity, and create deep connections to the Church and my fellow man. It’s been rough in a lot of ways and rewarding in others, but it hasn’t left a lot of time or energy for recreational creative efforts.
BEST: I’m ready for a great year in 2018.
All of this said, I’m really looking forward to 2018. Last year, I gave the site a makeover with a new logo and layout. I have more plans and ideas for the blog and my creative output that should come to light fairly soon. I’ve finished my first semester back at school, so I feel more comfortable in that routine again — not to mention I’ve been learning a lot of practical skills, some of which are even applicable to maintaining this blog. My gap year allowed me to save enough money so that I won’t go into debt over college. I’ve become a member of a wonderful church that appreciates art and engages with narrative and pop culture in a natural and substantive way. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the direction God has for me, and I’m excited to see how it all plays out over the following year. 2017 felt like a wind-up. Here’s to 2018: the follow-through.