Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best Of 2017 Vol 5 - The Mostly Usual Suspects

Continuing where we left off with Vol 3 - The Usual Suspects, this mix takes a look at those veteran indie acts with an 80's New Wave or electronic angle that returned to deliver the goods once again in 2017, plus a couple of unexpected newcomers.

Including selects from 5 of my personal top 15 albums of 2017 (LCD Soundsystem's American Dream, St. Vincent's Masseduction, Wolf Parade's Cry Cry Cry, The Xx's I See You, and The Horror's V), this is my favorite of the 2017 themed mixes after Vol 2 - Hush.

About the Artists/Songs:

1. tonite - LCD Soundsystem: This year's grammy winner for Best Dance Recording (the first for the band after five nominations) kicks things off for us here as another highlight from LCD's American Dream.

2. Say Something Loving - The Xx: Another prime example of the more yearning romanticism and astounding Jamie Smith production work prevalent on the The Xx's third LP, I See You.

3. You're Dreaming - Wolf Parade: One reason it was so exciting to see Wolf Parade come back so strong in 2017 with Cry Cry Cry is that when he wants to, nobody whips up an awesome Car's knock off better than band co-leader (and also Handsome Furs / Divine Fits member) Dan Boeckner.

4. Los Ageless - St. Vincent: We all know someone, or maybe we were that person ourselves, who reaches a point where their lifelong hometown is no longer working for them and they just have to move. Following the collapse of her relationship with actress/model Cara Delevigne, St. Vincent's Annie Clark found herself in a similar position and left New York for Los Angeles.  While most of Masseduction's songs hint at the New York-based pain and conflicts that fueled her need to leave, this track here cast some doubt upon her choice for relocation, as it skewers LA high society's shallow, plastic surgery-obsessed culture, though not without a trace of empathy.  As St. Vincent puts it in possibly the best catchphrase of 2017 regarding those aging men and women who spent their youth empowered by exceptional beauty, "How can anybody have you.../How can anybody have you and lose you.../How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds, too!"

5. Punk Drunk & Trembling - Wild Beasts: Sadly, this wonderful, sexy British new wave act that was so productive and consistently great from the late Aughts to the middle portion of this decade have called it quits, but not before dropping one last small EP of Boy King outtakes that included this fantastic track here.

6. Impossible Objects Of Desire (Radio Edit) - Fujiya & Miyagi: I mentioned five albums in the intro to this mix that will all make my top 15 for 2017, but nipping right at their heels was the enjoyable eponymous sixth release from these Bristol, England Krautrock vets. Known for their clever, repetitive wordplay and irresistibly funky motorik grooves, we haven't included them in our mix collections since 2007 (a fact the band unintentionally and self-deprecatingly alludes to in another of this record's best tracks, Extended Dance Mix), so it was great to see them step forward in 2017 with such a strong, entertaining return to form.

7. Nemoralia - Ulver: One of the most unexpected album releases of 2017 had to be veteran Norwegian Black Metal outfit Ulver's sudden heartfelt embrace of dark, Depeche Mode-flavored synth pop, The Assassination of Julius Caeser. Nemoralia, the opener we're profiling here, is just one of several excellent tracks on the album.  I also suggest checking out Rolling Stone and Southern Gothic.

8. The Punishment Of Luxury - Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark: Here's the winning title track from the New Wave legends latest.

9. change yr mind - LCD Soundsystem: When LCD Soundsystem decided to reunite, one of the biggest issues they would face would be the negative fallout from those who had attended their heavily promoted, Last Waltz-scaled final performance at Madison Square Garden prior to the initial breakup. Here, James Murphy confronts that backlash from angry fans who had a magic moment in their life diminished by the band's return to the stage, empathizing with them, but in the end reaching the conclusion, that just as with women, it's a band's prerogative to change its mind.

10. R.S.I. - Fujiya & Miyagi: Given their self-knowing sense of humor and commitment to unrelenting, locked-in grooves, it seems in retrospect inevitable that Fijuya & Miyagi would come up with a song dedicated to Repetitive Stress Injuries, and then also thwart that inevitability by promoting the theme around a instrumental bed that becomes, by its end, one of the most musically chaotic, off-the-rails songs of their career.

11. Happy Birthday, Johnny - St. Vincent: Johnny has been a recurring character throughout St. Vincent's albums, a maybe fictional, maybe not charismatic soulmate of daring and dashing character. But in keeping with the emphasis on themes of loss and disappointment that courses throughout the rest of Masseduction, this achingly beautiful ballad finds Johnny fallen upon desperate times, his once appealing reckless, unconventional ways now cement ankle blocks dragging his him straight down to skid row, a development for which the now estranged St. Vincent feels partly responsible.

12. Tinseltown Swimming In Blood - Destroyer: Sadly, though it has its moments, Destroyer's  eleventh release ken was the Dan Bejar-led band's least essential work in a long time, but I loved the classic New Order feel to this bass line of this song here.

13. Shadows - Future Islands: Man, the first time I heard this collaboration with Debbie Harry from The Far Field, Future Island's solid but less spectacular 2017 follow-up to their unstoppable 2014 breakout album Singles, I was thrown.  Harry's voice sounded so aged, so feeble, so nicotine-scarred. But on repeat listens, between the cracks in her voice, a sense of an indomitable survivor's strength began to emerge, and I came to love this song for exactly that reason and the way Harry blends with Samuel T. Herring's explosive croon. 

14. Candy May - Alex Cameron: Alex Cameron is a young, up-and-coming Aussie songwriter (he co-wrote five songs on the Killer's latest Wonderful Wonderful) and electronic musician, usually partnered with saxophonist Roy Molloy, who, like PJ Harvey, Bowie, and others through the years, tends to adopt high concept fictional personas (most commonly a failed lounge singer) that then define the direction of his work. For his second album, 2017's Forced Witness, he shed the personas and went for direct, full-on John Hughes-ish new wave romanticism, as evidenced by Candy May here.

15. Am I An Alien Here - Wolf Parade: Here's another one from Cry Cry Cry. One of my favorite things about the album is all the weird instrumental flourishes the band finds to adorn these songs. On this Spencer Krug song, it's that cool, sheeny rhythm guitar that gets me, especially when it kicks in on the bridge around the 2:05 mark.

16. emotional haircut - LCD Soundsystem: This Movement-styled blazer from American Dream received an assist from two seventies icons The first is obvious, Harry Nilsson, whose Jump Into The Fire (used so prominently in Goodfellas) is openly plagiarized at the song's end. The second assist is less obvious. It came from David Bowie, who recommended the specific guitar model (a Supro Dual Tone) the band uses here to get such a distinct skronky feel.

17. New York - St. Vincent: Another moving ballad from Masseduction, this song finds the usually eccentric artist in a way more direct and sentimental frame of mind as she reflects on New York friends and scenes lost, to soul-stirring effect. 

18. Something To Remember Me By - The Horrors: Had Nancy wrapped up her selects for her 2017 mix (still to come!) before I started posting last month, this track, the best song on The Horrors finest album to date, the simply titled V, would have replaced Valerie June's Got Soul as the closer to my Vol 1 - Best Of The Best instead of landing here.

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