I’ve always loved listening to music but was never very good at playing instruments. I tried drums then guitar, but I always struggled with hand-eye coordination. I’d mess up, miss a note, or my timing would be off. It wasn’t until a year or two ago when I started messing around with the GarageBand app on my iPad that everything clicked into place.
I’d tried GarageBand on my laptop years before but never really got into it until I tried the iPad version which allows you to play instruments on the touchscreen. Then you can edit the notes so they have perfect timing and create loops. Whereas before, music seemed so nebulous to me, by creating songs where I played every instrument myself, I finally understood how it all worked. Creating music became much more like writing, which is my forte. I can compose all the notes then have the computer play the song for me in perfect tune. Just as writing my own screenplays gave me a better understanding and therefore appreciation of movies, writing my own songs has given me a better understanding and appreciation of music.
I’m still learning, and they’re not finished products yet, but if you’re interested in listening, I’ll be posting some of the songs I create on Soundcloud.
Now, on to the list of my favorite albums of the year. I may be in a growing minority, but I still prefer to listen to full albums rather mixes of singles.
Top 10 Albums of 2017
1. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
LCD Soundsystem is possibly my second-favorite band (behind Radiohead), and I’m glad they came out of retirement for this album. My favorite track is “Other Voices.”
2. King Krule – The Ooz
Archy Marshall has such a unique voice and style, combining punk rock, jazz, and hip-hop. He is wise beyond his years.
3. Toro Y Moi – Boo Boo
Chaz is one of my favorite musical artists. His music is often characterized as chillwave, which is one of my favorite genres.
4. Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Another chillwave artist. You might recognize his song from the theme to Portlandia.
5. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Arcade Fire is actually tied with LCD as my second-favorite band of all time. This is not their best album (that would be Funeral), but lesser Arcade Fire is better than most other bands’ best.
6. Sneaks – It’s a Myth
Her songs are so simple yet so thoughtful with catchy hooks.
7. Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
An electronic musician from England with a really good voice.
8. Milo – Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!
Philosophical hip-hop? Yes, please.
9. Jonwayne – Rap Album Two
Another smart indie rapper. I’m not sure what’s better: his lyrics or his beats.
10. Real Estate – In Mind
Like Arcade Fire, this is not quite as good as their earlier albums, but I still enjoyed it a lot.
- Mac Demarco – This Old Dog
- Yaeji – Yaeji EP and EP2
- Beach Fossils – Somersault
- The Symposium – The Symposium
- Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
- Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
- Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
- Horsebeach – Beauty & Sadness
- Day Wave – The Days We Had
I almost always listen to music while I write. It blocks out the background noise and helps me focus. But lyrics can be distracting, so I prefer instrumental songs, especially electronic. The amazing thing about instrumental music is its ability to convey specific feelings and emotions without any words. Then, by listening to the song, you can experience the same feelings and emotions as the artist.
Top 10 Instrumental Albums of 2017
1. Bonobo – Migration
Bonobo is the stage name of British musician, producer, and DJ, Simon Green. He’s often classified as electronic, but he uses a lot of live instruments and unique sounds.
2. Blockhead – Funeral Balloons
I originally heard of Blockhead from the songs he produced for Aesop Rock, one of my favorite rappers. Blockhead’s instrumental albums still have a hip-hop flavor even though there’s no actual rapping.
3. Kid Koala – Music To Draw To: Satellite
There’s technically some singing on this album, but it’s still good music to write to—or draw to.
4. Com Truise – Iteration
He has a great 1980s retro-futuristic sound.
5. Alex Silva – Mind Pattern Explorer
Similar to Dan Deacon, another favorite musician of mine.
6. Portico Quartet – Art in the Age of Automation
Modern jazz combined with electronic music.
7. Four Tet – New Energy
8. Clark – Death Peak
9. Nathan Fake – Providence
10. New Jackson – From Night To Night
I’ll group the last four together because they all make somewhat similar electronic music.
- Forest Swords – Compassion
- Hidden Orchestra – Dawn Chorus
- Actress – AZD
- Noveller – A Pink Sunset For No One
- Nosaj Thing – Parallels
There’s probably some great albums that I missed—or there’s definitely is. It’s not like I listened to every music album that came out in 2017. That’s impossible. But I’m always on the lookout for new music. In 2017, I discovered many great 2016 albums for the first time, so I’m sure I’ll do the same with 2017 in 2018.