Three Notes on Music in 2017

As is my tradition, as the year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about my 2017 through music. More than anything else, music anchors my memory. This is true, even as my music listening has become less social. In part, it’s age and the busy responsibilities that come with it. And it is also because of the internet in this cursèd age of streaming. We live in the musical shallows now. We ask the algorithm oracle to select the music to fit our mood. It picks one song from here, one from there. We don’t know what it is. We listen, and we like it without paying much attention at all, and then it's gone. I know we must live in the devil’s world; that is inescapable. But I also know we must cultivate counter-habits to keep music as art rather than an accessory, to keep it sacred rather than ordinary.

Here are three moments from my reflections on my 2017 in music.


First up, my annual “best of” list. I posted this over at Shadows & Noise, a music and movie blog my friend Spencer runs. Obviously, I think every album mentioned here is worth your while. But let me stress one more time how devastating Leif Vollebekk’s Twin Solitude is. Get in the car, put it on, and drive out of the city, into the wild, then out of the wild, and through other cities. Let it soak into your bones.


Next up, my thoughts on U2’s recent Songs of Experience, also over at Shadows & Noise. I continue to cultivate an appreciation for “late period” U2. I think that Songs of Experience is their best album in nearly twenty years.


And lastly, as we live in the devil’s world, I find that I’m continually putting together playlists. Some of them ride a particular mood, and others are just a collection of songs that I’m listening to at the moment. The Infinitesimals is my December playlist, and it’s more purposeful mood than random assortment. The title and cover image are taken from Laura Kasischke’s volume of poetry of the same name. I spent 2017 learning some of the terrain of contemporary American poetry. I found quite a few different types of poets that I loved. Kasischke knocked me flat. She makes emotions viscerally present for the reader. I’ll be carrying her work with me deep into 2018 and beyond.

*Blog cover image is the cover to Leif Vollebekk's single "All Night Sedans"