Tag Archives: foals

The Music I Listened To in 2017: (#24-1)

I listened to 544.66 hours of music on Spotify this year – about 13 full-time workweeks – and captured all the data with Last.fm. The ranking is ordered by how many times I listened to a song by the artist, with #1 claiming the most listens.

My top 50-25 artists were published in the last post. So here, without further ado, are the rest of them.

My #24-1 most listened artists of 2017:

24. Anderson .Paak
.Paak may have crept into the top 50% of my artists this year on the strength of his NPR Tiny Desk concert alone. I probably watched it 30 times this year. His record ‘Malibu’ is great too.

23. Jon Hopkins
Surreal soundscapes that thrive on simplicity. Hopkins can have an impact as strong as an artist who goes five times as loud because of the clarity of his compositions.

22. Eric Satie
When I picture the streets of Paris in my mind, a Gymnopedie by Satie plays in the background along with the image. A more formidable critic could even trace a line from Satie across the century to my previous entry, Jon Hopkins.

21. BADBADNOTGOOD
After compulsively listening to their first studio album for months, I got to see BBNG perform live this year. They’re full of young, raw talent and I’ll be waiting to see how they develop.

20. The xx
I haven’t gotten into the newer work by the xx, but their first album stays in my rotation. There’s so much heart in their songs.

19. Oddisee
Homegrown D.C. hip-hop instrumentalist Oddisee has a classic track about biking through the city, and a lot of other chill tunes that sound like home to me.

18. Lapalux
Lapalux’s ‘Lustmore‘ is a couple years old, but it wins the ‘sexiest thing I listened to in 2017’ award. Discovered by way of the tracks featuring Andreya Triana & Szjerdene, known to me from their work with Bonobo.

17. Mac Quayle
I haven’t watched any of the latest season of the TV show Mr. Robot, but I have continued listening to the soundtrack while I’m working to force a quality of suspense to all the hum-drum shit I have to do.

16. Jack Johnson
Jack’s easy, happy songs feel ageless, even 15 years after the first time someone recommended him to me – I remember it clearly as one of the sincerest recommendations I’ve ever been given.

15. Yppah
I don’t really know anything about Yppah – if I had to guess, one day Spotify recommended it based on my listening to Tycho. OK, computer, you have figured me out. I’ve been returning to ‘Eighty-One’ a lot this year.

14. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Nine Inch Nails were hugely popular when I was in high school, but I only came to appreciate them years later. This year I’ve been playing the soundtrack to the film ‘The Social Network’ on repeat, and it makes perfect background music for watching polite society immolate itself on Facebook in 2017.

13. Steve Reich
Learning about and listening to Reich this year was kind of a milestone for me – a lesson I taught myself in what I was capable of enjoying. I guess I’ve always been more of a pop and rock fan, so this kind of neo-minimal-classical is a brave new world to me.

12. Thelonius Monk
At the end of some long workdays, driving home through the city, the only recording I want to hear is ‘Round About Midnight.’ Monk sounds like those minutes after the daily grind is over but life keeps buzzing all around.

11. The Roots
The legendary. I don’t watch the Fallon show, despite their nightly presence as the house band, but I go back to their records over and over. ‘What They Do’ is still as fresh & powerful to me as it was when I first heard it 20 years ago.

10. Odesza
I learned about Odesza by hearing them on the ‘Song Exploder’ podcast, as they explained the genesis of the song ‘Kusanagi.’ The song turns out to be completely unlike the rest of their catalog, but I really enjoyed getting into their music this year. So much happy energy.

9. Nick Drake
There are some nights in the Summer when there’s a full moon and the world is quiet and the only music that should be played at that moment is Nick Drake. There are lots of other moments when it’s OK to listen to Nick Drake, too.

8. Igor Stravinsky
As a contrast to Debussy’s soft piano work, I got into Stravinsky’s challenging violin concertos this year. Thanks to Alex Ross’s tremendous book ‘The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century‘ I learned a lot about Igor, and now understand how I’m hearing echoes of him in jazz and rock.

7. Claude Debussy
Debussy emerged as my favorite composer as I went deeper than usual with my interest in classical music this year. I’m not at the level of discerning which renditions I prefer, or which orchestras I like, or anything like that – but ‘Claire de Lune’ is the most beautiful composition I listened to in 2017, 112 years after it was first published.

6. Wolf Alice
What an amazing discovery Wolf Alice was for me this year. On the strength of their appearance on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack, they slid into my top ten. I just caught their concert last weekend and Ellie Roswell & Co were just as brilliant live as they are on record.

5. Tycho
There are not many artists I’d rather listen to than Tycho when I’m feeling good and optimistic and bright about the future of the world. They sound like a self-help book without any words, in a completely non-corny way, if that makes any sense. The latest record is a year old now, so let’s keep ’em coming guys.

4. Foals
Has it really been two years since ‘What Went Down’ came out? It still feels new every time I spin it – but don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a new record from Foals in 2018. As strong as ‘WWD’ was, I probably listened to ‘Total Life Forever’ even more this year.

3. Little Dragon
I had the pleasure of seeing Little Dragon perform live for the first time this year. I started writing a blog post about it, but really just couldn’t find words. If Super Mario, Janet Jackson, Pink Floyd and Lady Gaga came together to form a super group, they still couldn’t come up with what Little Dragon does.

2. Bonobo
Meeting Simon Green & Co. as they toured the U.S. this Summer was a highlight of my year. Readers of my blog will know how much I appreciate them. I listened to their new Grammy-nominated album exhaustively in 2017 and will continue to do so for years to come.

1. The Beatles
I know, they’ve been around for a few years. I’m a little late to the party. I started going deep on the Beatles last year after watching Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Love’ performance in Las Vegas, which remains one of the most incredible live entertainment experiences I’ve ever had. This year I read Bob Spitz’s tremendous (and enormous) biography, and I had to listen along with every anecdote. Their story and their music goes beyond inspiration and into something else – an earnest belief that all you really need is love.

two Sundays in Sydney

Sunday, Sept. 22

Calexico, the American alt-rock band, performed at the Sydney Opera House. Like most tourists in the city for the first time, I might have been content to watch someone scrub the stage with a mop just to get a glimpse of the inside of one of the world’s most fascinating structures. Thankfully, Calexico, a band I enjoy very much, brought their drums and guitars and saved the janitorial staff from the task of entertaining me.

Last year, I was introduced to Calexico’s funky blend of rock and traditional Mexican folk music by their performance on the Austin City Limits TV series. At the Opera House, they sounded great, and were enhanced by the building’s superior acoustical design. What surprised me, from my seat in the furthest row back from the stage, was how sedated the crowd was. When I’ve seen videos of Calexico performing elsewhere, it’s clear the crowd is enjoying the hell out of themselves with loads of dancing and clapping.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/22lWrq1-XEE]

In the Opera House, I gasped at seeing people actually dozing in their seats, getting up and leaving in the middle of the show, and generally giving a lackluster response to the excellent performance the band was offering. The only logic I can apply to this disappointment is that many in the audience had purchased tickets just because they wanted to be inside the venue, without any knowledge or interest in the band themselves. (I hate to generalize, but some of the snoozers looked as if they came from non-rock-music-listening places. Or perhaps they had all run the marathon that morning – but so did I, and I managed to stay awake.)

As beautiful as the Opera House is, and as precise and lovely as its acoustics are, it might not be the best place for a rock band to set up. The seats are bolted to the floor. No one is dancing. It probably happens to everyone who plays there, and it might be more noticeable in the very back row. But for someone who thinks of concert-going as others might consider church, it was bizarre to witness.

Calexico, Sydney Opera House, 9/22/13

Calexico, Sydney Opera House, 9/22/13

Sunday, Sept. 29

Who knew that the Enmore Theater could ask for twice the gate price that the Sydney Opera House could? I certainly didn’t, but by the end of the night, I had no complaints. The Enmore has the appearance of (and could well be) an old converted movie house, snugly positioned in the hip Newtown suburb of Sydney. If I had to guess, I’d say that this place was showing Chaplin movies to a packed house in the 1920’s.

The opening band, Alpine, natives of Melbourne, were the soundtrack to several of my road trips this summer, so getting the chance to watch them in their native country as they’re just starting out was the icing on the cake for this show.

Rolling Stone and TIME magazine have both called Alpine a ‘Band to Watch’ within the last six months. The group’s airy vocal harmonies come from Phoebe Baker and Lou James, who complement the fuzzy cloud of perfect bass riffs with some mesmerizing dance moves. I was rocking out and had almost forgotten that FOALS was backstage getting ready to perform.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/QRZez3vfgRg]

Several months ago, FOALS gave one of, if not the most, memorable performance I have ever seen in the 15 years I’ve been going to Washington D.C.’s 9:30 (here’s a video clip from the crowd) so I was excited to find out they were playing the Enmore Theater in Sydney while I was visiting.

The FOALS sound ducks in and out of labyrinthine beats and wizardly guitar riffs, and the danceable, screamy rock gets ratcheted up by the lead singer’s affinity for risking dismemberment while leaping from balconies and shoving his way through the audience, guitar strapped all the way.

The set at Enmore was just as intense as what I saw in Washington, with an even larger audience. (Here’s a video clip from the balcony – thanks, Youtube) Again, lead singer Yannis Philippakis abandoned the stage to perform half of the song ‘Two Steps, Twice’ from the crowd, climbing and leaping from the balcony.

Following the show I was lucky enough to find my way to the same bar that FOALS was claiming for the night. After walking into a fake hot dog shop storefront on Wentworth Ave. and passing through a cleverly disguised false door, I made it to the Soda Factory and stayed until the early hours of the morning.

FOALS set list, 9/29/13

FOALS set list, 9/29/13

I had a brief chance to speak to FOALS singer Yannis, and mentioned I had been at the show in D.C.  He was quick to praise 9:30 as one of his favorite clubs and went on to say that the D.C. independent music scene (Fugazi and Dischord Records) had been a big influence on him as a teenager.

It’s hard to emphasize how great it was to be on the other side of the world hearing a guy I just watched jump off a balcony into a throng of screaming fans tell me that he loved the city I came from. Rock on, Yannis.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/59yYHhdygOc]