As we all go through our top tracks of 2017 playlists that Spooooootify so helpfully gives us, the chat seems to be in a more reflective mood about the past year. No exception here, I had the chance to go back through the songs I listened to and relive a bunch of memories for the past few months. As with Proxy, I’m mostly focusing on songs that stand on their own to me, regardless of how well the album worked as a whole. These are also the top songs I loved in 2017, not top 2017 songs I loved. They mostly came out much earlier.

Honorable mentions:

  • Dhafer Youssef — Ascetic Mood
  • Everything Everything — Cough Cough
  • Sufjan Stevens — Djohariah
  • Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra — Saturn Hoola Hoop
  • Melt Yourself Down — Fix My Life
  • Zammuto — It Can Feel So Good
  • Little Tybee — Hearing Blue

5. Claudio Monteverdi — Sestina (Lagrime d’amante Sepolcro dell’Amata): Dunque amante, reliquie (Concerto Italiano, performers)

This year, I wound up going through my choir memories and pulling together some of my favorites. My choir performed Sestina back in university, and I remember this movement in particular. All of Sestina is great, of course. It’s a surprisingly romantic work for the Renaissance era. It’d stand up well against several works from the 1800s, yet was written back in the early 1600s.

This movement in particular stood out for me due to the “dicano i venti ogn’or, dica la terra” line. The words seem fairly inconsequential — “may the earth and all the winds utter forth” — but for me it held power. The whole sestina is about the grief of a lover at his love’s tomb, and I’ve always been a sap for that (see: Makyo’s everlasting love of When David Heard settings).

More than that, though, this signified a liminal stage in my life. It was this piece that I sang as I entered the Colorado State University Chamber Choir and found myself outclassed by the singers around me. Obviously I’d passed the audition, but I was nowhere near their caliber. However, that seems to have been a fantastic period for the choir. The following years proved more difficult, and the group had a harder time gelling. It was almost dreamlike to be in this golden hour of music.

4. Daniel Bjarnsson — Bow to String I: Sorrow Conquers Happiness (Processions)

This is, far and away, the best contemporary music piece I’ve found in a long time. Not that there haven’t been good ones in there, of course! But seriously, the last few that have hit me were Unfurl by Stephen Andrew Taylor back in 2014, and Sparrows by Joseph Schwantner back in 2010 or so, so it was great to get that sort of kick in the face again.

3. Igorrr — Houmous (Savage Sinusoid)

When I heard that Igorrr was coming out with a new album, I was stoked. A lot of SALSA was really excited, and we talked about it, sharing whatever we could find. It even led to a few posts: one by Amdusias, and one by me.

So yeah, I was super excited, and although a few tracks missed their marks for me, the album still stands wonderfully on its own, and I’ve picked up a few favorites. It was tough to pick one, but I think Houmous gets a good mix of all sorts of different instruments and Serre styles, so this was my pick.

2. Hiatus Kaiyote — Mobius Streak (Tawk Tomahawk)

This track showed up on my Discover playlist one day, and I was immediately into it. I’d been sort of on the fence about things like electroswing and various other throwback genres, but none of them really struck me as being worthwhile. Caravan Palace has a song or two I like (Black Betty stands out), ditto Parov Stellar. Otherwise, however, I haven’t really liked any early 20th century throwback bands since Squirrel Nut Zippers.

This got me, though, and the only reason I’d even add it to the list of throwback bands is that the singer’s voice evokes a good jazz-age feel, a bit Ella, a bit Billie. It made me realize that the thing I don’t like about electroswing and similar genres is that they don’t do a good job of evoking anything. They look the part, but they don’t feel it. The entirety of Tawk Tomahawk is fantastic, but the lead track is what does it for me.

1. Little Tybee — Hearing Blue (For Distant Viewing)

2017 was a very emotional year, for me.

It was a year of some awesome highs: I got my GRS scheduled, I grew closer to some really, really awesome people, I wrote a boatload of stuff that I’m reasonably proud of.

But it had some real shitty parts, too. My mental health tanked so bad at one point that I had to step down from a role that I — honestly and truly — loved. It was humiliating and painful.

There were also some really mixed parts in there, too. One of which is that I started getting closer to my dad. We’ve had a super weird relationship forever. Life growing up was stressful for the both of us, and affected all of our relationships, not just our relationship with each other. A lot of who I am is defined by paternal anger and the need to lie to protect myself.

And yet my dad has started to warm up and change. He told me “I was a real asshole for a few years, but I’ve been seeing a therapist, and I’m really trying to do right.” It was a shock. Like, it was really nice, but it shook some of my core tenets and beliefs about him.

Anyway, this song has two verses that are exactly the same except for one word: “Tell me that story / the one we used to know / of the loyal sons who betrayed their fathers” in the opening lines is changed to “Tell me that story / the one we used to know / of the loyal sons who loved their fathers.”

I’m not a loyal son — never really was — but I do love my dad.

The Top 5

The Honorable Mentions