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Tony Breed writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2017: Tony Breed

CHIRP Radio Best of 2017

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2017. Our next list is from DJ and Board Member Emeritus Tony Breed.

In recent years, my best-of list has skewed toward the music I listen to the most, and the things I expect will get play for years to come. Every year I also pick a song of the year, which typically comes from an album that didn’t make my top ten. This year I almost went with Iverson’s synth-prog masterpiece “Stand Up”, or Fujiya & Miyagi’s dance track about aging, “Extended Dance Mix”, but in the end I picked The XX's perfectly evocative song about loneliness: The XX “Say Something Loving” Now for my top 10:

 

#1   A Crow Looked at Me by Mount Eerie (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Mount Eerie A Crow Looked at MePhil Elverum, aka Mount Eerie, wrote this album about his grieving process after the loss of his wife, Geneviève (who I met once, incidentally). The grief and the feelings are very immediate and real and true. It was all very familiar to me—my own husband died of brain cancer 7 months before Geneviève died of a pancreatic cancer. Listening to this album is, for me, revisiting the mental pathways I spent so much time in, myself. The album is profoundly sad but never made me cry; it’s hard to explain why. It should have wrecked me, but it comforted me, to hear someone else going through the same thing. It was a bit like looking in the mirror, or looking at an old photo of myself. When Elverum sings, of death, “It's dumb / And I don't want to learn anything from this” he echos what I have thought and felt many times.

 

 

#2   Romaplasm by Baths (Anticon)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Baths RomaplasmMy friend Sam described this album as “all about being queer on a space station” and while that’s not 100% accurate, it’s a pretty good description. Will Wiesenfeld has perfected his layered approach with melodies and countermelodies and clicks and whirs. It’s all very atmospheric and I can’t get enough of it.

 

 

#3   American Dream by LCD Soundsystem (DFA)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

LCD Soundsystem American DreamJames Murphy is a scant year older than me and always seems to be writing about exactly what’s on my mind. What does it mean to be middle aged? Is it possible to remain relevant? (It surprises me that people in their 20s are enjoying this music, to be honest.) In “Tonite”, Murphy has a conversation with himself: “And what's it you do again? / Oh I'm a reminder”—the line is funny, but it feels very real. Thanks for getting the band back together, James. Thanks, David Bowie, for convincing James Murphy to get the band back together.

 

 

#4   Mental Illness by Aimee Mann (SuperEgo)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Aimee Mann Mental IllnessI have been peripherally aware of Aimee Mann for decades now, but never really listened to her music. Whatever I heard was good, but I never got an album. That changed for me with Mental Illness and apparently I’ve been missing out—though I’m told Mental Illness is one of her best.

 

 

#5   Uyai by Ibibio Sound Machine (Merge)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Ibibio Sound Machine UyaiMy year end list wouldn’t be complete without one album that’s just pure dance music joy. Ibibio Sound Machine incorporates West African polyrhythms with new wave synths and 2017 sensibilities and the result is, I just can’t stop shaking my butt.

 

 

#6   Fight Fair by Dream Version (self-released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Dream Version Fight FairThis second album by these Chicago favorites got blurbed by Rolling Stone, which maybe means nothing to you, but it’s pretty cool. They are getting recognized for their crisp hooks and smart, thoughtful lyrics, as well as their charm as personality. Check them out, ok? This is good stuff.

 

 

#7   Change by Cindy Wilson (Kill Rock Stars)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Cindy Wilson ChangeCindy Wilson’s career has had an interesting path; she was a founding member of the greatest party band ever, The B-52s, in 1976; in 2004 she began to perform her own material with The Cindy Wilson Band, but they never released an album; finally in 2016 she released her first EP, followed by another in 2017, and finally a full length album on Kill Rock Stars. On this album (as well as the EPs—I’ve never heard her Cindy Wilson Band material so I can’t speak to that) she has taken advantage of the freedom she has as a soloist to change up her style, in particular her singing style. Her vocals are sweet, breathy, and sensual, instead of the usual full-throated gutsy vocals we heard in the B-52s. I love this album, and I loved the EPs, and I look forward to what comes next. (COME TO CHICAGO, CINDY! PLAY A LOCAL SHOW! I’LL BAKE YOU A PIE IF IT HELPS SEAL THE DEAL!)

 

 

#8   Blue by Iverson (self-released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Iverson BlueThis past spring I finally got myself out to CHIRP Night at the Whistler (which I know I should do a whole lot more often), and the second band of the evening was Iverson. Their joyful single “Stand Up” caught my ear in particular. Their synth-prog sound impressed me—it’s reminiscent of so much of 1982, but in a good way, because they do not sound dated.

 

 

#9   In Spades by Afghan Whigs (Sub Pop)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Afghan Whigs In SpadesI missed out on the first part of their career, during the 90s. I dunno, I was just paying attention to other things. I didn’t expect to think much of the new stuff either, but the album caught me by surprise. It rocks, it’s dense, it’s emotional, and I’m sold.

 

 

#10   Rough Weather by Dane Terry (self-released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Dane Terry Rough WeatherDane Terry likes to tell stories and inhabit characters; he’s more a cabaret performer than anything else. It’s music you can get lost in—great for a road trip.

 

Honorable Mentions—7 more truly excellent albums:

Perfume Genius / No Shape
Jens Lekman / Life Will See You Now
Fuyija & Miyagi / Fuyija & Miyagi
Ovef Ow / Working Girl
Mutts / Stick Together
The XX / I See You
Beck / Colors

 

 

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2017

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