Aunt Katie Claus' Christmas List: Best Music!
I'll be honest with you... I listen to the same 10 or so albums over and over. Therefore offering musical suggestions for the discerning palate is not my area of expertise. Enter Father Bryce Sibley with this Friendsday Friday contribution on the Top Ten Albums of 2017. I would only add two albums to the list... Wonderful, Wonderful--The Killers (my favorite album and concert of 2017) and From a Room, Vol. 1 + 2--Chris Stapleton. Both are wonderful, wonderful! I'll also share my thoughts on the theology of Taylor Swift's Reputation album in a future post. I have so many feelings. RIP TSwift.
[Editor's Note: Mobile View may prevent you from seeing the embedded Spotify links for each album. Switch out of mobile view for the full experience. Click on AskAuntKatie.com and view the link from there!]
Aunt Katie asked me to come up with a list of my top favorite albums of 2017 in hopes that it might offer some guidance to those who are Christmas shopping for others with discerning musical tastes. However, this is not 1995 and no one buys or listens to CDs anymore; they just stream whatever they want on Spotify. So, I guess if this list serves any real purpose it’s to help you expand your musical horizons and if you really want to buy a physical album for your friend with discerning musical tastes, you can get them the vinyl LP version. A small caveat however, some of these artists do use intermittent foul language, so please don’t be shocked or scandalized.
(10) Just Give In/Never Going Home - Hazel English. Actually a compilation of EPs and new singles, this is modern indie dream-pop at its finest. I’ve been enjoying her singles on Spotify for over a year now and was delighted to see them released in LP format. Pure pop delight. Favorite Track: “Never Going Home.”
(9) Little Fictions - Elbow. Released in February, Elbow’s newest album beautifully blends rock chords and string arrangements to produce one of the more complex and rewarding rock albums of the year. Lead singer Guy Garvey’s baritone lends a deep layer of melancholy to each song and the lyrics reveal a mature and thoughtful depth of songwriting. Favorite song: “Magnificent (She Says).”
(8) Visions of a Life - Wolf Alice. I hadn’t heard this album until a number of British album of the year lists put it at or near the top. Sort of a post-punk, grunge, 90’s indie-pop mash-up, this album is all over the place. In a good way. Every song falls into a different genre of music and it’s hard to say that one song really flows into the next. But somehow it all works. Favorite Track: “Planet Hunter.”
(7) Turn Out the Lights - Julien Baker. I loved her first album "Sprained Ankle" and this one follows in the same vein. Not exactly the album to listen to on a sunny spring day, but it's easy to find solace in her heart-wrenching song-writing and soul-searching. Favorite Track: "Happy to be Here."
(6) Hot Thoughts - Spoon. Spoon is probably the most consistent American band making music today. Since their debut album in 1996 their really haven’t released a bad album. “Hot Thoughts” is their foray into electronic music and they do it with style and a lot of rhythm. This is a fun and catchy album. Favorite track: “Can I Sit Next to You.”
(5) Sleep Well Beast - The National. I love The National. Their 2007 album “Boxer” is my favorite album of the aughts. I feared that their creative spark had begun to fizzle on 2013’s “Trouble Will Find Me” but “Sleep Well Beast” is fresh and filled with energy. A great return to form while striking out in new directions on several tracks. Favorite Track: “Dark Side of the Gym.”
(4) Stranger in the Alps - Phoebe Bridgers. Another female singer-songwriter with a very unique voice. The lead single “Motion Sickness” is a catchy indie-pop track with great hooks. The rest of the album tends to be pretty melancholic, although not as dreary as the song “Killer” she released in 2015. Favorite song: “Scott Street."
(3) Let it be a Dream - Silver Torches. I have no idea why this band’s most listened to track on Spotify has less than 90,000 plays. A perfect mix of Pneumonia era Whiskeytown, Dawes, and Jason Isbell. First heard the album just a few weeks ago, but have listen to it on repeat (along with their first album Heatherfield) ever since. These guys are going to be big one day. Favorite Track: “Nothing to Show.”
(2) Not Even Happiness - Julie Byrne. I tend to prefer female singer-songwriters to male ones. However recently it seems that most female vocalists sound the same to me. This is not the case with Julie Byrne. The music is ephemeral and her vocals are warm and resonant. A perfect album to enjoy during a walk on the beach at dusk. Favorite track: “The Sea as it Glides.”
(1) A Deeper Understanding - The War on Drugs. Their 2014 album Lost in the Dream is my favorite album of the decade (so far). Although not as perfect as that one, “A Deeper Understanding” is the album I have listened to the most this year. All of the songs sort of flow together in one continuous stream of 80’s American synth pop awesomeness. It just gets better with every listen. Favorite Track of the Year: “In Chains"
Fr. Bryce Sibley, STL is a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette. He received his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the Angelicum and his Licentiate from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, both in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in the year 2000. He is currently serving as pastor and chaplain of Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center on the Campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He enjoys good bourbon, bushbaby videos, and interesting socks. And as he frequently reminds me... he's my boss.