Thursday, April 12, 2018

Smashing Pumpkins ILM Poll

It caught me by surprise, but this ended up being the most exhilarating of the never-ending ILM poll threads.  The discussion caught fire during the balloting/campaigning thread, enthusiasm was rampant and contagious, and I found myself falling down the rabbit hole of lost SP fandom and going on a bender of their music like I hadn't done in years.  It'll take me eons to unpack all the issues raised, especially since I hadn't thought critically about Smashing Pumpkins in forever. 

They had only one perfect, classic album ("Siamese Dream") and a couple of very good ones with wooly mammoth sized flaws ("Adore", "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness") during their mid-90's peak.  They reached their peak when most other grunge originals (although SP were never really a grunge band) had become irrelevant, which undoubtedly increased their profile as the band standing from the scene .  And yet their seeming longevity was an illusion because only seven years passed between the era of curly haired, feathery vocals Billy Corgan and the croaking, controlling, desperately searching for acceptance Billy Corgan.  Of course both sides of Billy were present during the entire run, but the narrative emphasis slowly switched from when they were up and coming superstars in 1993 to near afterthoughts in 2000.  In the Machina years, even their fans (myself included) felt they had nothing left to give to contemporary music, which was confirmed when they broke up soon afterward.  Their many comebacks and incarnations with a revolving door of new and classic lineup members haven't really changed that -- most of what Billy Corgan says in interviews is viewed as a punchline or as the rantings of a washed up star who still takes himself far, far too seriously.

Even though their albums were generally flawed, the good stuff tended to be really good, which leaves them with a rich and varied discography full of treasures.  "Adore"-era Smashing Pumpkins has always fascinated me.  They ditched the machismo of MCIS for a more tender, mystic version of themselves.  Live shows were eccentric spectacles with multiple drummers that energized the more subdued sounds of the album, and the on stage chemistry between the remaining three band members was never better.  However, said album was at least 40% too long, and the concerts dragged under the weight of the "Adore"-heavy sets, punctuated with epic, meandering medleys and twisted interpretations of their past hits. 

Upon relistening, I developed an appreciation for the Machina albums that I'd never really had.  I've never understood who the audience was supposed to me for these albums.  The hype was all about the Pumpkins becoming a proper rock band again after the interlude that was "Adore", but nu-metal was taking over and it was a terrible time to be releasing a Cure-infused rock album.  They were too soft for the then-typical rock fan, and too esoteric for their lapsed casual 90's fans.  In 2018, the Machina concept with its fusion of goth, glam, and classic alternative rock sounds great.  In 2000, even the Cure were at their lowest point commercially -- caught between their generation defining classic albums and the money printing touring juggernaut they're become since.  There's a lot of proggy nonsense but also plenty of goth-pop gems, particularly on Machina II, and "Stand Inside Your Love" still holds up as one of their very best singles. 

The thread dives deep into countless pressing issues (pinpointing the exact moment when Billy's voice changed from breathy to a strangled gurgle, guitar tabs and piano chord sequences, lyrics about Courtney Love) and it was all great and immensely thought provoking stuff, and I still can't figure out how I really feel about the "Pisces Iscariot" stuff ("Siamese Dream:the fan club outtakes" or a great standalone album that acts as the bulwark before the MCIS excesses set in) and so on and so on ...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The DAT/pretape show

A few weeks ago, I saw Ivri Lider in concert at a private party held in a club.  Through admittedly limited exposure to his music, he had never made much of an impression on me.  What's more, he comes off as a stuck-in-the-mud blowhard as a judge on X-Factor, with a Simon Cowell-like limited worldview of what can and will sell in the modern world.  It turns out that private party Ivri Lider is nothing like the introspective singer-songwriter Ivri Lider whose songs I'd been hearing up until now.  He transformed all of his songs (even the sensitive ballads like "Zachiti Leehov") into party-starting rave-ups.  Everything got the pseudo-trance remix treatment with Lider as the vocalist/party host, frequently heading into the audience to dance with fans and happily pose for photos and selfies.  It was something I never thought he could pull off, quite frankly.  Even amongst an audience of people from his age bracket (myself included), this type of show could have flopped miserably -- nothing is less cool than a forty-something artist trying to reinvent themselves for a younger audience.  Obviously this was no experiment on Lider's part, for he's clearly polished and perfected his private concert persona, but I personally needed to see it to believe it.  I also could have never believed I'd have so much fun watching it.

All in all, it was either the best or second best DAT/playback concert I've ever seen.  Oh yes, Lider appeared with a guitarist and a DJ/percussionist, and the entire concert save for Lider's vocals, and possibly some sparse bits of guitar and percussion were pre-taped and mimed.  For me, only Moby's set from the See The Lights tour in 1993 comes close.   I don't have a recording of that gig, but here are snippets from New York and Sydney from the same year.  In the New York show, you can see that most of the audience stands around looking puzzled, treating the entire spectacle as a piece of performance art, while the first few rows lose their minds.  When I saw Moby, I was one of those people losing their minds, possibly oblivious to the apathy taking place behind me.  I recall a wild party atmosphere in the entire club, but I was smashed up against the front of the stage, so who knows what I wasn't able to see? 

Those Moby shows don't hold up at all (there are plenty of alternate clips on youtube).  The vocals are terrible, and rave was already out in a big way by 1993.  Moby had been grandfathered in because he had been so instrumental to the scene, but he was swiftly being ushered out.  The speed of his fall was discussed in detail in his autobiography, "Porcelain".  I think that's the lesson of the DAT shows, and the reason why more people don't do them even today -- they're best enjoyed in the moment, with no apologies, and no aspirations for creating a piece of art that will last beyond the moment that the last person files out of the club.  The only thing that's changed in the past quarter century is that now we have the selfies to prove we were there.   

Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Tragically Hip, "Long Time Running"

At the time, I wrote that the broadcast of the band's final concert was a disappointment, in that it didn't rise to the majesty of the moment.  It looked like just another arena concert recording, and didn't capture the connection between the fans and a legendary band almost certainly playing their last ever show.

Fortunately, "Long Time Running" fills that void and perfectly captures the emotional long goodbye to The Tragically Hip.  There's little in the way of philosophizing about why the band means what it does, and no critics appear to explain the appeal of the Hip.  It's an intensely personal (sometimes uncomfortably so -- details of Downie's treatment and recovery can be difficult to hear) look at the band's final tour from their innermost circle.  Everyone who appears is part of their extended family, from the neurologist who performed Downie's surgery (a longtime fan and friend of the band), to Downie's hatmaker who saw her work as a way to give back to the band for providing decades of memories, to their tour, sound and security staff, most of which have worked with them for over twenty years. 

The filmmakers (Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, two more long time friends of the Hip) were asked to do the project only five days before the start of the tour, and yet with such little preparation, they almost telepathically knew how to wring the best possible footage from the band and their audiences.  They try hard not to turn their film into the Downie Show, but like the tour itself, it couldn't not be.  Frail and shirtless, standing in his underwear before a show, Downie could look any less of a maverick poet rockstar.  Then he begins his pre-show ritual, which includes shining his own shows -- he explains that it's something he's done for his entire career.  Amazingly, Downie brings the same determination and intensity to monotonous shoe shining that he does to his on stage singing.  Then he gets dressed in that night's pair of shiny pants and outrageous hat and suddenly he looks twenty years younger, a gleaming larger than life rock star.  The transformation would have made David Bowie proud.  The confused, emaciated, bearded singer we saw in his first post-chemo rehearsal in Toronto one year before is a distant memory.     

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Vinyl sales in 2017

Yet another weeks late posting ... but one could spend a lot longer than that digging through these amazing statistics.

According to this article in Billboard, vinyl sales have been rising for twelve straight years.   Data from the RIAA's website shows that downloads never gained in sales over twelve straight years.  Since 1973, CDs once had a thirteen year run of rising sales (sixteen straight years in revenue), and cassettes once gained in fifteen straight years (seventeen straight years in revenue).  Vinyl in the peak classic rock era in the 70s never gained for more than six straight years, revenue-wise.  Point being, twelve years of gains is a lot more than a fad. 

But that was only the third most mindblowing stat in the article!  The second most is this: vinyl accounted for 14% of all physical album sales in 2017.  That hasn't happened since 1988.  Since vinyl's early 90's nadir, sales numbers have increased tenfold, but total revenue has increased by a factor of forty!  That points to vinyl being a niche product like never before in its history, with a fiercely loyal minority group of fans willing to spend increasingly more money for a premium format.

The most amazing stat was that top ten sales list.  Where to begin ... The Beatles with the top TWO sellers ... Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape of 60's and 70's rock at #3 (proving that the success of The Beatles "1" at the height of Napster was the rule, not the exception -- people will pay for music if it's packaged and marketed right even if the songs are available in a million other places) ... Ed Sheeran with the only contemporary (i.e. 2017) entry in the top ten ... "Thriller" continues to steadily sell after 35 years ...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Avraham Tal, Petah Tikva Cultural Hall

The closest equivalent to Avraham Tal in American music might be Gwen Stefani.  Both had successful careers as singers in underground rock bands whose style wouldn't necessarily have been earmarked for mainstream success based on the chart standards of the time.  But they did break through in a huge way and could have cruised indefinitely, their reputations secure thanks to two albums worth of megahits.    Before that could happen, their bands broke up and they launched their solo careers, going full-fledged pop. 

Both are charismatic but not in a larger than life way that transcends the many genres they've worked in as solo artists.  Both have even been coaches on their respective countries' versions of "The Voice".  However, Stefani doesn't have "the voice" that Avraham Tal has.  Not even close.   He boasts a high end that would strain the vocal cords of almost any male pop star anywhere in the world.  And as I discovered during his concert, he can sustain that style of singing throughout a ninety minute concert and make it seem effortless. 

Avraham Tal is too talented for his songs, which is a nice problem to have as far as biggest flaws go.  He's not a top tier songwriter but has had a knack for knowing what the public wants and with whom to collaborate at the right times.  During his show I was hoping for more slower songs that allow him to showcase that voice -- the most intimiate portion was his duet with his former "The Voice" protege Nitzan Shayer.  But it's hard to complain about the string of uptempo hits that we actually got.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Bibio, "Phantom Brickworks"

This is my favourite album of 2018 so far ... or rather, the best album of 2017 that I've only just discovered now.  It's more or less a tribute album to classic 90's ambient records, assembled in some mutant chill ambient laboratory of discarded drones and piano loops by Bibio's heroes.  All the best stuff is cannibalized here, most notably Aphex's "Selected Ambient Works II".  William Basinski's fingerprints are all over this album too, with the way that gentle sounds seem to endlessly loop and slowly drift about.  The coldness of SAW II is also balanced by an overwhelming peacefulness that spreads throughout the entire album, reminiscent of Global Communication's "76:14".  And I detect a whiff of Seefeel's queasy near-masterpiece "Succour" too (at least the quieter bits). 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Billy Ocean, "I Sleep Much Better (In Someone Else's Bed)"

Billy Ocean was a huge crossover success story in the 1980's.  Born in Trinidad, raised in Britain, he was a fixture on the American R&B and pop charts in the mid and late 1980's.  His multi-genre and multi-generational appeal led to a string of six top-five pop smashes in five years from 1984-1989, three of which went to number one.  His chart resume in those years can stand up to just about anyone's.

His 1989 "Greatest Hits" collection (which I was listening to this past week) contained a new song that was carefully crafted to modernize his sound and launch his career into the new decade.  Switching from R&B/funk to the then white-hot New Jack Swing sound and featuring a guest rap/monologue by The Fresh Prince, "I Sleep Much Better (In Someone Else's Bed)" had all the makings of a hit.  Except it wasn't a hit.  It didn't even chart on the Hot 100.  In fact, after 1989, Billy Ocean never again placed a song in the Hot 100.

I often think about why so many music stars of the 80's turned quickly into afterthoughts at the start of the 90's.  The neat and tidy explanations (Nirvana happened and killed off hair metal!  Hip-hop took over!) haven't stood up to close scrutiny.  Tastes are constantly changing and no "big event" or revolutionary bands were needed to vanquish the genres that were falling out of favour anyway,  History makes for a cleaner read when it's "Band X took over from Band Y" but any music scene is a complex continuum whose evolution shouldn't be easily summarized by the actions of one or two bands.  Still, a LOT of turnover happened between 1989-1992 -- or it could be my generational bias talking?

But maybe one needn't resort to the sorcery of grand assumptions to figure out what happened to Billy Ocean:

1) Mutt Lange was the wrong producer in the wrong place at the wrong time for this record.  There's something to be said for loyalty and familiarity with a producer, but his attempt at producing New Jack Swing comes off as flimsy and fake compared with other records from the era.

2) NJS stars were trending much younger than the then-40 year old Billy Ocean.  Downtempo R&B, led by the likes of Boyz II Men, would be huge in the 90's and Ocean would have had more success in that scene rather than trying to pass himself off as younger, hipper, and more club-ready.

3) The 90's in general were more about authenticity than presentation.  A singer with a street smart fashion sense seemed real and believable, but a singer in a suit was a poseur in a fancy costume  Groups like Boyz II Men did wear suits, but not exclusively so, and in their presentation they always came off like soulful street crooners, rather than supper club puppets.  In this sense there wasn't anything Ocean could do, since he was typecast into his image.

Reason #3 is the most puzzling one, for in principle there was no reason why Billy Ocean, and many other 80's stars, couldn't reinvent themselves.  Sure, not everybody is David Bowie or Madonna and can credibly pull that off, most stars are who they are and their careers live or die based on that.  But was there a bias (or let's call it bigotry) against black artists in that respect?  Most big late 80's acts lost their way in the early 90's, but some tweaked their image and became even more successful (Depeche Mode, U2, Tom Petty), remained popular as album oriented touring acts (Bon Jovi, Rolling Stones, Def Leppard), or kept themselves relevant and respectable on the charts in part due to soundtrack work (Elton John, Phil Collins).  So were black artists more likely typecast as outdated hasbeens and dismissed?  Even Prince, who could adapt himself to any genre he put his mind to, never truly managed to fit in during the 90's, at least not after 1991.  The industry as a whole was more likely to pigeonhole black artists into a certain mold and not allow them to branch out. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Lady Gaga, "Five Foot Two"

The temptation to make a Madonna comparison usually looms large with many things Gaga.  In "Truth or Dare" there's the famous "neat!" scene where Madonna rips on Kevin Costner once he's left the room.  In "Five Foot Two", Lady Gaga ensures that the circle of celebrity criticism remains unbroken by ripping on Madonna ... because Madonna once ripped on her.  Through the media and not to her face.  Why couldn't she contact me directly, says Gaga (to the cameras filming this documentary, rather than to Madonna's face)?  And so on, forever.

After dressing up under different personas for most of the 1980's, "Truth or Dare" purported to show a more genuine, unfiltered, more human side of Madonna.  It accomplished that goal, but it's "realness" was still a delicately crafted promotional tool.  It helped repackage her as a serious artist and aspiring actress who had moved on from the superficial glamour of the "Material Girl" character.  "Five Foot Two" has the same goal, but I can't help but feel that I'm watching a similarly calculated form of "realness".  After "Evita", Madonna had gotten the acting bug out of her system, and it was time to hit the reset button again with "Ray of Light".  I think Lady Gaga is similarly addicted to reinvention, it's worked too well for her in the past to give up on it so easily.

The most uncomfortable, insincere scene in the film involves Gaga's family.  She plays back a song on her phone that she wrote about her aunt who passed away nearly forty years earlier.  The scene seems engineered to release a flood of emotions from her grandmother, leading to a big cry for the whole family that will look good on camera.  But her grandmother apparently didn't realize that she had to play along.  She says it's a lovely song, but don't worry, her daughter is gone but will never be forgotten.  She's dealt with the grief for decades already, there's nothing a song can do to help her tap into new emotions.

However, there are a number of raw, beautiful scenes in the film.  The friendship and respect between Gaga and Mark Ronson.  Her difficult, but ultimately inspiring battle with chronic pain.  The stunning, piano-led rendition of "Bad Romance" sung at Tony Bennett's 90th birthday party.  But I never got a sense of how she deals with the adversity in her life.  The film informs us that yes, she does have health and relationship struggles like the rest of us, and then cuts to a studio session or photo shoot or meeting with industry bigwigs (unlike the rest of us).  How does she overcome and still maintain her career at such a high level?  We see the good times and the bad, but it's like they're happening to two separate people. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Top 10 Albums of 2017

Honorable mentions

Tape Loop Orchestra, Held Against The Light (Tape Loop Orchestra)

This stunning, long flowing piece is nearly as good as last year's "The Invisibles", which placed at #3 on my list last year.  So why did it barely miss the list this year?  Like Tim Hecker, TLO has hit on a formula that is so magical, it almost can't not be good.  And yet somehow this felt like more of a continuation of "The Invisibles" rather than a new stand-alone album. But of course it is a stand-alone album, and so are the other six or so albums and EP's released by Andrew Hargreaves in 2017.  Basically there are no fixed rules here.  Other artists needed their turn this year.

Godspeed You Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers (Constellation)   

Another long flowing piece, and you almost have to wonder why it took them so long to dedicate an entire album to the concept.  It might be the most grandiose statement they've ever committed to record, especially since the magnificent "Motherfucker=redeemer" seems to be have written out of GYBE history at least as far as live shows go (although it's certainly possible that they don't have the time or patience to play it anymore).  But I couldn't get around the idea of this album as a retread of past glories, of GYBE churning through the hits out of habit, as if they're making music these days born out of some obligation to stay relevant politically, rather than due to inspiration or passion for being in the music business.  I find myself thinking these things while listening to the album, even as I marvel at how outstanding it is.  It doesn't make sense.  Especially since the top ten is full of artists doing other forms of retreads of their past work.  

10.  Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Diaries and Documents 2006-2010 (Adversary Electronics)

Compilations of recordings from a band's early days often turn out to be curiosities for superfans only.  But this one is different.   A sense of calming strangeness seeps through each phase of these minimalist experiments, it's soothing and unnerving in equal parts.

9.  Radio Slave, Feel The Same (REKIDS)

Radio Slave's music is best enjoyed in the 12" single format, where he's been hypnotizing listeners with ten minute techno epics and remixes for well over a decade.  In the album format (Radio Slave's first in nine years) he can branch out a bit and experiment with ambient bits and quirky electronica that's not necessarily material made for the dance floor.  Some listeners may prefer the "classic" sound of "Trans" and "Axis" but I personally enjoyed the odd, exotic feel of "101" and "Gaikokujin" more. 

8.  Conforce, Autonomous (Delsin)

Conforce consistently finds a way to delicately straddle the boundaries of retro and modern sounds, borrowing liberally from early 90's AI-era Warp Records electronica and 21st century watery dub techno.  

7.  New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions (Collected Works)

Has any band ever done so much with so little?  So many great indie pop songs, so little variation?  Adding a dose of Stereolab's motorik swagger is what passes for innovation on this album, but make no mistake, it's classic New Pornographers through and through and there's been nothing wrong with that going on seventeen years.  

6.  Daniel Menche, Sleeper (SIGE)

The title suggests an album of gently pulsating drones for drifting off to sleep.  That description more accurately describes the follow-up (companion?) album "Slumber".  But "Sleeper" is twelve tracks of grinding drones cycling through different degrees of savagery over a mammoth three hour run time.  Although not as caustic as some of Menche's other works, it's an effective medicine for those who insist on total sound immersion for relaxation.

5.  The National, Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

When I was 15, The Rolling Stones and The Who had reunited with a lot of fanfare and hit the road for wildly successful tours.  They're the first bands that come to mind when I think about "old" classic rock bands maintaining their relevance for a new audience from an altogether different generation.  The scary thing is that the members of the National (technically just frontman Matt Berninger but the other members aren't too far behind) are about the same age as the Who and Stones were then.  Doesn't that make you feel damn old?  

But The Who and the Stones never really got old, musically speaking.  Their successes, especially as license-to-print-money touring outfits, was based on the ability to get away with playing the same songs they played when they were younger.  The National are a different sort that I think is more specific to bands grew up in the last century but have remained active throughout the current century.  They're old, and they make it cool to be old.  They're not like the Bob Dylans and Nick Caves who are extraordinary figures turned elder statesmen, who earned their status in their early days and continued to add to their legacy for a long time afterward.   The National are ordinary people who make songs about ordinary things that only fortysomething married people care about.  But they sound cool doing it.  There are plenty of precursors to this -- I compare The National to Tindersticks all the time, and Yo La Tengo circa "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out" is another good example (those bands were much younger than The National are right now, but always sounded much older than they were).  For The National, the more they try to not fit in, the more popular they get.  

4.  Carl Craig, Versus (Infine, Planet E)

No techno + orchestral music hybrid has ever lived up to its billing (with the exception of a track from this EP).  Until now.  Carl Craig spent years meticulously mixing and editing this album, not settling for anything less than a complete reimagination of many of his most famous tracks.  Every earlier effort (even by greats like Jeff Mills) seems like techno with cheap strings patches clumsily laid on top.   

3.  Clark, Death Peak (Warp)

Clark is a Warp act through and through -- there's no better example of an artist who grew up listening to the "Artificial Intelligence" compilations and went on to make his own music inspired by the label.  For me he'll always be "mid-90's Autechre with prettier melodies", which is a formula that slays when it works, and is as hopelessly derivative as it sounds when it doesn't.  If you insist on your favourite music carrying some contemporary significance, this was the only album of 2017 that captured the "chaos and uncertainty of the times" for me.

2.  Slowdive, Slowdive (Dead Oceans)

Slowdive's self-titled effort stands apart as the best the all the comeback albums by first wave shoegaze acts.  Some may vote for 2011's "mbv", and there's a strong point to be made there, but even it's biggest boosters won't claim it as an equal to MBV's best work.  "Slowdive" comes closest to reaching their peak while still sounding modern and somehow not completely ignoring the twenty years of alt-country music they've been making since their original breakup.  One could quibble about details but this is essentially the best case scenario for a Slowdive reunion album.   

1.  The Caretaker, Everywhere at the End of Time - Stage 2 (History Always Favours the Winners)

The Caretaker's terrifying six part journey into the chaotic hell of dementia started fully taking hold on this, the second album in the series.  The third album (also released in 2017) made a brief left turn, cycling through lost memories at double the frequency, alternating between perfect clarity and sluggish confusion.  The second album was even better, with a gloomy outlook throughout and a constant sense of something being terribly wrong and you're never entirely sure what it is.  The memories are all there, but only 80% intact, and they don't always piece themselves together fluidly. It's one of the most challenging albums to I've ever had the pleasure to listen to, the uneasy sonic foretelling of a future too difficult to contemplate.   

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Last List

I love lists.  I've been ranking my favourite music of the year for over a quarter of a century.  I always look forward to reading the flood of year-end lists come December, and using them as a springboard to discovering music I missed out on during the previous twelve months.  I write about "Best of [decade][genre]" lists featured in major publications all the time.  And yet, I'd been feeling a sort of apathy toward these lists recently, which is something I wrote about in last year's Top Ten post.  I still love the idea of lists, but wasn't enjoying compiling them like I once had.  My brain was committed, my heart was not. 

Resident Advisor published an editorial a few weeks ago that had a profound effect on me.  They announced the immediate cancellation of all their year end polls -- readers and staff polls, top DJ's, songs, albums, mixes, everything.  You should read the whole thing, but the essence is that they felt the polls didn't represent what was really going on in the scenes they were covering.  They provide a number of examples (underrepresentation of women and LGBTQ performers, many of the same artists appearing in some of the rankings every year) but it goes deeper than a slight of any particular artist, scene, group, or gender.  The end of year lists weren't providing a true synopsis or additional insight into the year that was.  They weren't effectively communicating what it felt like to live through the highs (and lows) of the year's music.  They reinforced stereotypes in a scene that prides itself on constantly driving creativity forward and not conforming to stereotypes.  The day-to-day reality is one thing, end-of-year lists had become something else entirely.

I have experienced the same thing in my own music fandom.  I listen to music all the time.  I love discovering new music and reconnecting with older music.  I like reading about music and discussing music, contextualizing music.  Like I wrote last year, I love music but I don't like following music, at least not like I used to.  End of year lists are about fighting to stay current, remodeling and adding to the canon one year at a time, connecting with the musical heroes of today and securing their spots on the pedestals next to the heroes of yesterday.  That's all very noble work.  But it doesn't represent how I see myself as a music fan, at least not right now.  And it gets harder to put together a top ten list every year. 

I spend less and less time cumulatively listening to my "top" albums each year.  No single album takes over and dominates my listening and my personality anymore (the last one that did was probably "Bloom", or maybe "Trouble Will Find Me" if I'm feeling generous).  I connect to albums over shorter periods of time.  Over the past week, I connected to Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" (I think I understand this album now, it's the album 21st century FM fans listen to when they think they've gotten bored of "Rumours") and Junkie XL's "Radio JXL: A Broadcast From the Computer Hell Cabin".  Next week I'll cycle through other albums, and maybe I'll come back to those two, or maybe I won't.  And there will be some contemporary albums mixed in the rotation somewhere, but chances are they'll be cycled out at about the same rate as the older ones.

I will post a Top Ten of 2017 list this year ... but it might be my last one.  Chances are it won't be, much like the Last CD probably won't be the last, despite my prognostications.  But it could be.  Both would have been unthinkable not too long ago,