Normally by this time, I’ve identified two or three albums that really resonate with me. But it’s mid-August and I’m still waiting for a batch of new songs to really grab me. There have been some interesting releases so far this year: I’ve spent most of the summer listening to CHVRCHES’ Love is Dead and Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves. But I’m still waiting for one album to really click with me.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to go back and revisit some of my favorite albums from the past 15 or 20 years. I’ve even made some changes in my “Best Album of the Year” pronouncements.
My revisions are as follows (full list found here):
Last summer, I went back and forth between Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s amazing The Nashville Sound and A Deeper Understanding, the phenomenal album by The War on Drugs. In the end, Isbell’s “country music with a soul” was my favorite music of the year, but in the last 12 months, I’ve played Understanding more than any album. The music simply sounds fresh no matter how many times I listen and I continue to note lyrical and sonic nuance that draws me in even further. I’m still comfortable recognizing The Nashville Sound as the seminal piece of music from 2017, but this is a much tighter race than it was in December when I made my original post. A Deeper Understanding has embedded itself into my consciousness like nothing else in the last year.
Three years ago, I ranked Wilco’s Star Wars as my second favorite album of the year. In all honesty, I probably haven’t listened to a single song from that set since I made that original post. Adele’s 25, on the other hand, continues to achieve that rarest of feats: commercially viable pop that’s actually good. I’ve rearranged my rankings to reflect this.
I had a hard time with this year. I remember loving Mumford’s second album, but upon closer inspection, it’s basically a rinse-and-repeat of their vastly superior 2009 debut. Meanwhile, I still love Jack White’s eclectic Blunderbuss, but it’s not really “important” music, you know? The most emotionally affecting music from that year came from The Walkmen, thus my decision to rearrange my rankings to put Heaven in the year’s top spot.
I struggled for a long time to find a piece of music from this year that I really cared about. (Sounds kind of like 2018, come to think about it.) Last fall, while we were watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix, I was introduced to the music of Explosions in the Sky as much of their instrumental music was featured on the show. In particular, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place is a phenomenal piece of music, one of my go-to playlists for studying and reading.
So, I’ve really been into Radiohead the last few years. I loved 2007’s In Rainbows, didn’t get The King of Limbs, and thought A Moon Shaped Pool was mostly gorgeous. But I spent most of the early summer going back through their back catalog and I’m telling you…the music mostly holds up. Kid A is an amazing piece of music; I probably don’t love it as much as those who hail it as the best album of the 00’s, but it’s still great. But it’s greatness trades on the previous wonder of 1997’s OK Computer, a masterpiece of the 90s-era guitar rock renaissance. I’ve gone back and readjusted, placing both Kid A and OK Computer at the top of my list for their respective years.
And that brings up a good question: what would be the best album of the 00’s? Might be fodder for my next post.