A Year in Music

25+ Songs From A Year I Won't Forget
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I have no idea how to start, so I just will. The music I listened to in 2017 was mostly influenced by my Mom’s accident and the half year I spent with her in hospitals and rehab before she died a few months ago.

When she couldn’t talk, she might sing if I played the right song from a Bluetooth speaker I kept bedside. She remembered lyrics on days she couldn’t remember anything else. We’d listen to songs from her youth, songs her parents loved, songs she taught me to love. Hundreds of songs from Dorsey to Sinatra, Mathis to Fleetwood Mac, The Skyliners to Chaka Kahn, Santana to Streisand, Beatles to Radiohead. I could write a book about how Mom’s taste in music influenced my life. I spent decades burning her CDs to return the favor, the last being A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. Thom Yorke’s voice spoke to her. To us. 

I found myself adding those songs and more to a three hour mix I played at her funeral, from that same Bluetooth speaker set behind a meticulously curated photo collage of Mom’s life. The room was so crowded with friends and family that you couldn’t hear a note of it. Somehow I was fine with that. Music was between Mom and I, anyway, and I had my own little moment weeks later when I pressed eject on her car stereo and A Moon Shaped Pool popped out. I imagined Mom driving down Amboy Road to the beauty parlor softly singing “Daydreaming.”

Somehow I still managed to buy about thirty records this year, my hands down favorite being Soft Sounds from Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast. I listened to it every day driving back and forth over the Verrazano Bridge to see Mom. It wasn’t lost on me that their previous record Psychopomp was inspired by the death of Michelle Zauner’s Mom. Soft Sounds from Another Planet is beautiful and smart and vulnerable. I wore that record out. “Driving Woman,” a bit of shoegaze perfection, helped me over the bridge more than once this year.

“When she couldn’t talk, she might sing…”

Women ruled my playlists in 2017. Super talented songwriters like Julien Baker and Melina Duterte (of Jay Som) provided a depth that was totally missing from popular radio. Full disclosure; I dug some of what commercial pop had to offer this year, I can’t front. There’s a reason “Despacito” and “Shape of You” were ubiquitous. But while the rest of the world was feasting on the butt of Cardi B, I was happily listening to Everything Turned to Color and Sunflower Bean.

Sure, I made time for old standbys. Spoon never disappoints, and their record Hot Thoughts is kick-ass front to back. There were also great records from Randy Newman, Roger Waters, Jay-Z, BeckThe Shins, Robyn Hitchcock, Melvins, and others I really got into this year. Reissues from Radiohead, Paul McCartney, and The Beatles were also in heavy rotation, as was the Lin-Manuel Miranda penned track Ben Franklin recorded by The Decemberists. Some key songs from those records and more below. I promise it isn’t all depressing. I need candy, too.


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