I do this every year. These songs are what I loved this year, or what reminds me of this year, and are arranged in an order that flows well, or at least fine. The playlist used to be designed to fit on an 80-minute CD, but the march of time is relentless and this particular group of songs is about 4 minutes beyond that.
You can download a zipped folder of mp3s here. You can also play a goddamned Spotify playlist here, but the first song isn’t on Spotify because it’s an original mashup masterpiece that I screwed around on for a good hour.
This year’s cover art is “The Smoker”! This cad was painted by Dutchman Frans Hals circa 1623. “The loose brushwork on this octagonal panel—its original shape—captures the bustle of a tavern interior as caught in a corner of the viewer's eye. Although the painting's attribution to Hals has been questioned occasionally, the execution is entirely typical of his less ambitious genre pictures dating from the 1620s,” says the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was very fortunate to visit art museums and also other things in New York, Chicago, Boise, Sacramento (and its more impressive surrounding areas), and Los Angeles this year. Did I see works of art finer than “The Smoker”? You bet I did. Were the subjects of any of those paintings as dope or as chill as Mister Smoker? Hell no.
1. Peter Bjorn and John featuring James Cromwell - Young Folks / Young Pope
(Download this song alone here.) In New York City, I saw “Oh, Hello” on Broadway (I mean, practically on 6th Street) on Saturday, a Comedy Cellar lineup including Aziz Ansari, Todd Barry, Judah Friedlander, and Michelle Wolf on Sunday, and “The Young Pope” advertisements everywhere. Singing “Young Pope” instead of “Young Folks” started as a gag and soon became impossible to get out of our heads. And those first few episodes were pretty good, but I didn’t finish the series. Sorry, Jude! Don’t take it bad!
2. Tom Petty - Walls (Circus)
I would say I “somehow missed this great Tom Petty song”, but I know exactly why I missed it - it wasn’t on the radio and I never watched “She’s The One” or listened to the soundtrack. It was included in Fluxblog’s huge collection of songs that represented the 1990s, so I happened to find it there, right in the wake of Petty’s death.
My biggest memory associated with the Jennifer Aniston vehicle “She’s The One”? I’m glad you asked! Brian and I. High school. Fall 1996. German class. We’re forbidden from speaking English, but my man knows enough Deutsch to inform me that he saw “Sie ist der Ein” over the weekend.
3. Selena Gomez - Bad Liar
As I heard Chuck Klosterman say on a podcast this year, it’s probably a bad sign for Selena Gomez’ career that I like her new song. You know what else is bad for her career? Having lupus! And starring in a Woody Allen movie!
4. Spoon - Can I Sit Next to You
We just got into our hotel in Chicago, and my coworkers say they want to go look for food, and I say, “I’m going to the Art Institute byeeeeeeeeee” and hustle away, knowing I’ve only got a few hours before it closes. I put in earbuds and start listening to the few new Spoon tracks I have on my phone, the ones they gave me in advance to thank me for being the kind of dinosaur that pre-orders albums. Living my suburban life, I rarely do the urban thing of listening to music as you walk past others on busy city sidewalks, pretending you’re John Wick strutting to a soundtrack. But look, I was feeling this song, okay? The beat was hitting all the right spots in my brain, and I was feeling energized, feeling like a badass, maybe like John Wick with fewer personal tragedies, exiting the subway, walking up the steps, which were slightly damp from the mist and fog, and it’s a good thing I was holding on to the rail because I slipped on those steps. I didn’t wipe out completely and tumble down the stairs, but I did dangle from my support arm while I re-established my footing. And I didn’t feel very badass anymore.
5. The Beatles - Hey Bulldog
I listended to the "Screw It, We're Just Going to Talk About the Beatles" podcast this year, and I thought the remastered 50th anniversary edition of "Sgt Peppers" was great -- check out "Getting Better" and enjoy the enhanced drums and bass. "Hey Bulldog" was unknown to me, as I didn't spin the "Yellow Submarine" album all that much or ever and never saw the animated movie. 2017 is likely the last year that I ever discover a less-known Beatles song that I like.
6. Lorde - Green Light
Lorde's "Melodrama" is the best album I heard this year. I started listening to it this summer and haven't stopped, and struggled to pick among "Green Light", "Supercut", and "Perfect Places" for this playlist.
7. The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions
8. Allison Crutchfield - I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California
9. The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon
This is what was played when the lights went down and U2 came onstage for the Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary tour.
10. Lucy Dacus - Direct Address
11. Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort
(concert is a month away)
ME: Are you still going to the Arcade Fire concert? It intrigues me.
TJ: I am going, I bought a GA ticket because apparently that's the business what with 360 stage and all. Anywho, you should come, it's going to be real good.
ME: Wellll let me ask my lovely wife if she can cover the kids. I would bring Paul - he likes listening to the Everything Now title track - but he hates loud places.
TJ: Just put some ear plugs on him. He won't know the difference.
ME: Oh, also, I don't want to pay $100 to bring a 3-year-old to a concert where he'll be trampled
TJ: Get him some stilts. Listen you're posing a lot of easily solved problems here
(concert is 5 days away)
ME: Hey I'm not going to go, but I will be with you in spirit
TJ: I'll throw an extra battery at Win Butler in your honor
(concert is 1 day away)
ME: Well well well looks like the kids are at grandma's tomorrow night. If I get a floor GA ticket
can I sit on your shoulders while I expose my breasts to the band?
(five minutes pass)
ME: Oh yeah I am on call this weekend. Good job, me, you cancelled plans to see this show twice now!
TJ: Come on!
(two hours pass)
ME: No joke, Paul got a fever 10 minutes after I sent those texts. My life is a real mess!
TJ: You are actually cursed to not go to this show
12. Ryan Adams - Outbound Train
Look, I'm as surpised as you that I have a Ryan Adams song on here.
13. Cloud Nothings - Modern Act
This is a good band and this is a good song.
14. The xx - I Dare You
Yeah, another good song right here.
15. Mount Eerie - Soria Moria
Did I say Lorde's album was the best of the year? Mount Eerie's "A Crow Looked At Me" makes Lorde's wonderful album look like a pile of puke. I've written about it before, and I feel the same way about it - it's beautiful and terrifying and it makes me appreciate my life and my family.
If you hear him sing "In the National Gallery in Oslo / There's a painting called Soria Moria" and are curious about the painting referenced in the song, here's the Wikipedia background on "Soria Moria" and here's the artwork:
16. Soundgarden - Rusty Cage
My pal Jeff lost two of his most beloved musicians this year - Petty and Chris Cornell. I cranked "Rusty Cage" several times after Cornell died, and I hope I don't always associate this song with slowly exiting my grocery store parking lot.
17. The Sundays - Here’s Where the Story Ends
18. Bel Biv Devoe - Poison
19. Poe - Trigger Happy Jack20. For Squirrels - Mighty K.C.