As part of every annual set of year-in-review entries, I remain one of six people nationwide who still prefers compact discs to digital. I don’t splurge too much because it’s increasingly tougher for new music to catch my ear as I grow older and more finicky, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. That usually means missing out on what the majority loves, thus further dragging me down the long plummet into total irrelevance as chronicled on this very website a couple times per week.
It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year as one of eight people nationwide who still prefers physical media to digital. I don’t splurge too much because new music tugs at my ear less and less as I grow older and stodgier, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. Sometimes that means missing out on what the majority loves, even when it’s acts I’ve liked in the past. Exhibits A and B: the latest samples I caught from both Lorde and Taylor Swift left me underwhelmed and got left unsold on the few shelves still carrying CDs on our side of town.
The following list, then, comprises every CD I acquired in 2017 that was also released in 2017. On with the countdown in all its lack of diversity, from the least okay to the mostly splendid:
The following, then, comprises every CD I acquired in 2013 that was also released in 2013. Back-catalog materials are forbidden from inclusion, though allow me to express in this singular clause that I wish I’d gotten Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Live at Hollywood High much, much sooner.
On with the countdown, then — from least best to surprising favorite:
7. Childish Gambino, Because the Internet. The only other rap album I bought in the last five years was Donald Glover’s 2011 pseudonymous debut Camp — a killer mix of scathing satire and autobiography, laced with pop-culture references as cutting descriptors rather than random gags. Harsh language isn’t my thing anymore, but the Community-clever snark and wounded candor rose above. His sophomore effort, on the other hand, is a hodgepodge of half-finished tracks, electronic hooks in search of lyrics to stick to, verses that lead nowhere, Bone Thugs speed-rap for listeners who love rhyming words but hate complete sentences, and a general impenetrability that strings a velvet rope in front of us intruders who don’t Get It.
Sample track: The obligatory NSFW single “3005“, in which he sounds defensive about his insecurities and comforts himself with in-jokes. Or something. But it’s more or less a complete song in music-class terms. Points for English class completeness, I suppose.
A childhood in which I was raised to “find my own path” (read: wander blindly through life’s shadowy forests without a tour guide or even a working flashlight) left me with very few tools for suffering the worst trials and shouldering the heaviest burdens, too many of which I brought on myself. By age thirty a series of improbable coincidences and extensive rethinking sessions had led me at long last to an illuminated trail that’s taken me toward much more reliable means and sources of support and encouragement than I ever had during my extended, two-time college-dropout phase.
Before I walked that way, all I had was music.
Of all the hundreds of songs that have caught my attention throughout my life, five in particular stand out as rare instances in which I was moved by music, moments of lyrical lucidity and emotional truth that resonated deep down in that mushy core whose existence the common guy denies, moments I returned to again and again for comfort, advice, consolation, deep thoughts, and/or a boost of spirit. These were five solid shots struck at the foundation of the oddly designed structure that passes for my life.