Closing out the 2017 year. I haven’t blogged much, but I’m going to address that in a separate post. For now, let’s review the music that I loved the most in 2017
2017 Album of the Year
Propaganda – Crooked
I’m not sure if there is any album that summed up the year of 2017 better for me. This was a year where a lot of terrible things about my country and my culture were long whispered about and finally uncovered in harsh and unyielding light. There have been some prophets calling out both overt and subtle racism and sexism for a while now and Propaganda stands out among the truth-tellers. One of the things that makes his album this year the strongest is his ability to combine systemic awareness and self awareness. While some of his lyrics read like my Twitter timeline raging against the wrongs in our land, he is also painfully aware that he brings his own problems to the table. He works with Copeland’s Aaron Marsh in “Cynical” which I can identify so much with, sends up some love to his hometown Los Angeles with “Do Know Wrong” and old school hip hop with “Slow Cook” but the song that hits me most is “It’s Not Working (The Truth).” Propaganda lists a litany of wrongs against his color but comes to the stark realization that even if all of these issues were solved it would not free him, it would not satisfy him, it would not redeem him. “Hoping in a broken system to fix what’s broken in us. It’s not working, is it?” That to me, sums up 2017 and gives me something to think about in 2018.
The other albums that were so good in 2017…
Colony House – Only The Lonely
A perfect album for a long drive in the summer. I love how much fun this album is. I love that it reminds me of their father (Stephen Curtis Chapman) but it’s very much not him. It’s a nice connection to the past that’s fresh and new.
Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming
With Chauntelle and Stacy exiting the band, I wasn’t sure how good the band would be with Sherri DuPree-Bemis left as the only DuPree sister in the band, but it turns out that Sherri’s songs have generally been my favorite anyways. “Brightest Fire” and “You Are Mine” are sweet songs tinged with just a little bit of snark about a long term relationship that are my favorites.
Sean Michel – You Don’t Know (What the Lord Has Done For Me)
A joyful exploration of gospel music. Sean Michel rollocks through a set of new songs that sound like old songs. It’s the kind of album that makes you want to stand up and clap your hands and maybe even run up and down the aisles of the church.
Lecrae – All Things Work Together
Lecrae made an album that is both thankful and also calls people to justice which was an interesting mix in a year when people didn’t particularly feel like counting their blessings. He didn’t pull any punches though, when he’s not musing about how far he’s come and how thankful he is, he’s reminding the evangelical culture that’s he’s not their mascot and to keep listening. If I have any complaints about the album, it’s that he doesn’t really cover much new ground on this album musically but it’s otherwise a strong addition to his library of work.
Violents and Monica Martin – Awake and Pretty Much Sober
I was familiar with Jeremy Larson’s work under the name Violents but I had never heard of Monica Martin before. She’s a great addition to the list of great vocalists that have worked with Larson such as the aforementioned Dupree-Bemis and Kye Kye’s Olga Yagolnikov. Her vocals are smooth and Larson provides lush instrumentation over former Mute Math drummer Darren King’s beats.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell Live
If I’m honest, I didn’t particularly love Carrie and Lowell but in a live setting Stevens’ anxiety about his childhood vibrates and is just a little more intense. I didn’t really expect to have much interest in this live recording but I found myself coming back to it time and again.