I’ve listened to a hell of a lot of music this year. Spotify thinks I’ve listened to tens of thousands of songs, but it’s probably underestimating, since I’ve listened on other people’s devices at parties, played CDs, and put on music from my Windows Media Player too. From those tens of thousands, I’ve whittled the long-list down to 10 tracks, 10 favourites released in 2017 that accompanied me through the peaks and troughs of the most intense year of my life so far. I hope you find in them some bliss, some reassurance or some sense of empowerment.
Yesterday I went to see Sevdaliza in Heaven, the London LGBT bar. ‘Hubris’ was perhaps my favourite track of the set. Live, I noticed different instruments and melodies to the recorded track, and the heavy trip-hop beat underneath it got into my bones. I danced, the enjoyment going to my hips and my shoulders, occasionally struck through with pleasure so intense that it made me shiver.
King Krule and I grew up on the same tunes, on Jamie T and Alex Turner and a dozen bands endlessly copying Oasis and Blur. King Krule echoes these artists but surpasses them. The production, lyrics and music are better; he blends together more influences, merges moments of jangly guitar with the atmosphere of a Ghostpoet album, and allows himself fewer illusions than any of those indie kids did back then. He’s grown up; he’s killed his idols.
My dad wants to know why new music is always about love or other banalities; why things seem only to have got blander over time. It’s not merely conservatism, preferring his own era’s junk to this era’s junk. Maybe there’s a bit of that, but he’s also got hints of the Theodor Adorno/Terry Eagleton approaches to art and music which see mainstream culture as a morbid expression of ideology, foreshadowing humanity’s eventual doom.
At the moment, I’m obsessively listening to MØ’s song ‘Nights With You’ to court my love for my best friend. It’s an unashamed pop song, pitching at a sound somewhere between Katy Perry or Robyn, and falls within the genre of “songs about female friendship” that have been popular since the Spice Girls. It’s a distinctly unedgy listen, but that’s not what I’m drawn to it for anyway. Instead, it offers accessible melodies and relatable lyrics, celebrating the beauty of nights out with your best friend, and the often semi-romantic love that brings you together.
When you listen to music, you don’t just judge it from afar – you dance and sing along; you embody it. Beyoncé’s songs give you a voice in which to express a superhuman self-confidence without shame or self-chastisement.
I immediately felt at home with Richard Dawson, even though he’s far from easy listening. Where a lyric holds violence, Dawson will wail and scream it, stretching his vocal chords to their limit. “I am nothing – you are nothing – nothing important” he blasts at 4 minutes through ‘Nothing Important’, and then again at 6 minutes, breaking down into a yell I can’t even imagine him replicating live. The same thing that draws me to the chaos of noise rock guitar draws me to his voice, expressing on some level beyond semantics what it means to suffer.
When the chorus of ‘Get It While You Can’ breaks in, it’s triumphant: “Who cares, baby? Cause we may not be here tomorrow!” Janis advocates hedonism of the thought-through variety – not just Rihanna “na na na come on” party spirit (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but hedonism that prizes romance and passion over all material concerns. The song acts like alcohol or a line of coke – “fuck it,” I thought, “I’m gonna get it while I can”.
On ‘Gemini Feed’, Banks’ vocal is followed closely by a deep distorted version of itself; nauseated synths oscillate in and out of the track, underpinning the angsty love lyrics perfectly. And yet there is no sacrifice of danceability or catchiness. It’s beautifully crafted. And so I clicked through to The Altar, on which ‘Gemini Feed’ leads so easily into ‘Fuck With Myself’ – my next instant favourite.