Look, 2017 was a garbage year and I think we’d all just rather move on. Nazis roamed the streets, giant hurricanes ravaged densely populated areas, half of California is on fire, all of your favorite people who didn’t die last year got outed as sex offenders, and President Donald Trump managed to gut social programs and mortgage our children’s futures so he could give the 1-percenters a tax cut they absolutely do not need. Worst of all, Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, giving the Minnesota Freakin’ Vikings the opportunity to be the first team to play in a home-field Super Bowl. The silver lining? Well, we’re not in a nuclear war, so that’s good at least. Anyway, I guess some good music was released this year, and as usual my “year-end” list is not so much a list at all as it is a haphazard lumping of various albums that I mostly already wrote about. I do not really have an album of the year, usually when I declare such a thing I wind up wondering what the hell I was thinking a couple weeks later. But there was a lot of good stuff, most of which I haven’t heard, but hey. Only so many hours in the day. So here are my end-of-the-year awards – as usual, links to better, more well-thought out opinions when they exist:
Often you know if a live album’s going to be a banger in the first minute. Presumably you already know all the songs, so all the critical questions get answered right away: Is the band going to stick to the record, or will they mix things up? What’s the sound quality like? How amped is the crowd? What’s the energy level? I’m thinking of Underworld’s Everything, Everything; as soon as that brand-new synth line on “Juanita” kicks in you know you’re in for something great. Or Ween’s Live in Chicago, when the band immediately launches into a double-speed “Take Me Away” which blows the studio version out of the water. “The Man-Machine” on Kraftwerk’s Minimum-Maximum with those deep bass sounds that weren’t possible in ’78. Any King Crimson live album that kicks off with “Larks 2”. And so on.