Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017: Sounds

When it comes to my year in music 2017 was less about discovery than it was about catching up. And I have to wonder if that's not the truth right across the board on pretty much all matters.

But let us begin with the discovery. This year my wife introduced me to Alexa Dirks — a.k.a. Begonia.
I tried to find a short video that encapsulates the full effect of this woman, but haven't yet lucked across one. In performances she can be a barrel of laughs one minute, then burning with pathos the next — Prana with a microphone. To be honest, she's not someone I cue up frequently. But once I start listening to her I can't stop until she's finished singing what needs to be sung. This early performance, with Ariel Posen, of Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On” is one example of what pulls me in. Why the arrangement so similar to Johnny Cash's rendition of “Hurt”? Where are they — where is she — going with this?

Where is she going with this? is the question that grips me every time I do cue her up. At some point I inevitably stop what I'm doing (the dishes, usually) just to follow along. Here's her most recent video:

Catching Up

MetalGojira's Magma got a lot of love last year. I finally picked it up this summer. Choose your favourite Metal descriptors — “brutal,” “punishing,” “relentless” — then throw in “strangely melodic and approachable,” and you've got an album that's better than anything that came out of the same field this year, too. Also, Hibiki Miyazaki deserves a massive shout-out for the outstanding album art.
This was one of those rare years when Devin Townsend did not put out an album (last year he put out four, so we'll let him Mulligan '17). He pitched in on a track with Comeback Kid, though, and “Absolute” got a great deal of play from me this year. Bonus: this guy does a wicked job of playing along (behind every great bedroom guitarist...)

Rammstein: Paris — until they decide to visit Toronto, this concert from five years ago will have to do.

RockClutch, Robot Hive / Exodus. During last year's delight in all things Clutch, I somehow missed their 2005 all-killer-no-filler entry. I'm glad I did, because it gave me more to grok on in '17.
Jazz — this year's runaway catch-up field. It's hardly fair to would-be up-and-comers that gate-keepers continually discover Lost Treasures Of The Giants buried deep in the vault. 2017 saw the release of Bill Evans' Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (the follow-up to last year's sensational Some Other Time). Competing with jazz giant Evans was jazz giant Thelonious Monk, with his restored 1959 soundtrack, Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960.

Then Gary Burton announced his retirement, prompting me to give consideration to The New Gary Burton Quartet — Julian Lage (guitar), Antonio Sánchez (drums), Scott Colley (bass) joining Burton on vibraphone. Listeners who dug what Burton did with the likes of Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny will most certainly clue into what he got up to in Common Ground (2011) and Guided Tour (2013).
If you're looking for new, I'll let you consult PopMatters' yearly list, most of which contains artists who tilt toward the “challenging” end of the spectrum — not my cup of tea, for the most part. Joe Fiedler's Like, Strange is a standout. Loose, punchy fun — the sort of thing you might expect from a Sesame Street musician.

Finally, here are The Top 10 Albums of 2017, according to everyone. I don't own any of them.

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