Thursday 28 December 2017

2017: year in review

"nostalgia is strange. it’s a pleasant ache" - JP brammer, the girl i loved while in the closet

it's amazing how much can happen in a month; since my last post i left my job at gap for a christmas temp position at new look and will be starting an internship at a fashion showroom in january. part of me is still in disbelief after being rejected from so many other jobs and internships, and i was hesitant to even talk about it online for fear of somehow jinxing it, but on the other hand it feels like the triumphant result of months of searching, putting an end to the uncertainty i felt after graduating, at least for the next three months. i've also been horrendously ill, having spent christmas eve in bed with an ear infection that i'm still trying to get rid of. still it could have been worse as i was supposed to work that day; suddenly staying in bed all day didn't sound so bad. 

the last few weeks have been difficult and something about this time of year makes me feel even worse. for me christmas is just another day as we don't see any extended family or do anything out of the ordinary, and working in retail is enough to put a dampener on anyone's festive spirits. still, i have (somewhat) high hopes for the new year and if my visit to the showroom was anything to go by, it should be an exciting time after a depressing few months. i'm also glad to see the back of another year in which men (and some women) have continued to be terrible, but at least conversations about said men are finally being had in the mainstream media.

personally i feel like i've ~realised~ so many things about myself this year and been forced to reassess the way i was living while away at uni, and on the whole i don't miss spending 70% of my time drunk and/or hungover. i'm also trying to live in The Present from now on; when i had my bedroom done up a few weeks ago i banished all my diaries to the loft to avoid re-reading them at 3am and feeling nostalgic for a time that really wasn't as good as my memories would have me believe. 

musically, i've come to accept that nothing will ever make me as happy as pop and have found so many new artists as well as rediscovering some old favourites. there were a couple of disappointments though; having been a long time fan of lana del rey her latest album didn't thrill me, and though halsey came though with strangers, her full length effort fell foul to overproduction. perhaps the most devastating was gone now by bleachers. while don't take the money - a euphoric ode to True Love - was arguably my favourite song of the year, the rest of the album just didn't measure up, and i still can't get into it after repeated listens. 

but enough negativity; in no particular order, these are my favourite releases of the year:

1. the chainsmokers - not open

though i'm now fully open about my love of pop music, i was still mildly ashamed to admit that i loved the debut album from the chainsmokers, but according to spotify they were one of my top played artists this year. part of me struggles to understand how the chainsmokers have amassed such great success this year - they’ve certainly come along way since the release of that god awful selfie song back in 2014 - then i remember that they are two fairly mediocre white boys from new york and it all makes sense. reviews of their debut album were largely negative apart from this piece by noisey and though most tracks are largely forgettable, there’s a few i’ve had on repeat all year as they follow the magic formula for all good pop songs; simultaneously breaking my heart and making me want to dance at the same time. unpacking the reasons why i love said songs isn’t difficult; a combination of uber catchy electronic hooks and lyrics that deal deeply with nostalgia and The Past means the duo have become one of my go to artists when i feel like reminiscing.

if you’re in a similarly reflective mood as the year draws to a close, i highly recommend the one, young, break up every night and my beloved pariswhich i wrote about in more depth herean honourable mention must also go to non-album track something just like thisfeaturing coldplay’s chris martin, which quickly became one of my favourite collaborations this year, though not everyone felt the same.

2. the xx - i see you

i was a Big Fan of jamie xx's album in colour, which was included in my end of year review back in 2015, and the latest release from the xx didn't disappoint either. retaining that dreamy quality jamie xx is known for, this is an album that can be played all the way through, quietly in the background while you do something else, or taking centre stage at full volume. for somewhere deeply uncool, i often heard i dare you (probably my favourite track) and a violent noise being played during my shifts at gap, though sadly it didn't make my time there any more bearable. other highlights include lips, replica and on hold

3. lorde - melodrama 

albums like this don't come around every day, and as soon as i heard green light back in march i knew this would be one of my Forever Albums, i.e. one of those releases that i'll still listen to twenty years from now and feel exactly the same as i did the first time i heard it. i can't explain how accurately the lyrics sum up my feelings towards my university experience, particularly the last few months when it was all coming to an end, though i did my best in this post. it's no match for this review by caitlin white however, which is possibly the best thing i've ever read. if there's anything i've become an expert at this year it's crying in public while listening to this album, a ritual that began when i heard lorde perform liability back in september. perhaps the biggest lesson learned this year is that it's okay to fall apart as long as you pick up the pieces and move on, something i'm trying to do as the new year begins, and i know songs like perfect places, supercut, homemade dynamite, writer in the dark and sober will soundtrack my every move.

4. harry styles - harry styles 

this album was a long time coming; as my favourite member of one direction, harry's album was one i had high hopes for and thank god he didn't disappoint. pressing play on sign of the times cemented its status as another Forever Song reminiscent of life on mars, which is my favourite david bowie song; again i wrote about it in more detail here. seeing harry live in october was an experience like no other. having missed out on seeing one direction perform pre-hiatus, i would imagine it was a similar experience. the devotion of his fans was on full display as everyone was word perfect, and each song was brought to life, filling my heart to the brim with pride and adoration for that curly haired boy who got his start on the x factor seven years ago, and how comfortable he is in his own skin, a sentiment i hope to echo in 2018. 

5. MUNA - about u 

harry's gig also allowed me to discover MUNA, his support act who captivated me with their huge 80s-inspired sound. i didn't know it at the time, but i know a place would go on to be one of my most played songs this year, and i tear up every time i think about its powerful message. this is a band with stories to tell and scores to settle, and their album about u sees them come to terms with their experiences past and present. picking a highlight is hard, and i would honestly recommend listening to it from start to finish, though if i really had to choose, i'd say end of desire, loudspeaker, everything, promise and if u love me now. 

6. steps - tears on the dancefloor

this year steps shocked everyone with their comeback track scared of the dark, which contained an iconic key change and claire being super extra with her vocals as always. the rest of the album however, was just as strong. not a single Sad Piano Ballad could be heard and instead they blessed us with a ton of perfect party ready songs, even if your only plans for the weekend include drinking wine alone and laughing at vine compilations (totally not speaking from experience). picking my favourites is hard but my most played tracks have been you make me whole, neon blue, space between us and i will love again. 

7. rupaul - american 

never did i think an album released by a 57 year old drag queen would be included in my end of year review, but there's no denying rupaul can produce some Serious Bangers. of course we all know sissy that walk and supermodelone of my favourite moments of this year was drunkenly walking back to my best friend's house after a night out in york, staging our own runway with rupaul's tracks blasting from crappy phone speakers - but this year he released american, a pop lover's dream with stupidly catchy hooks and whip smart lyrics to match. i've listened to kitty girl, american, hey doll and charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent more times than i care to admit, but i have no regrets when it makes a dreary walk to work feel like i'm serving a Look on the drag race runway. (side note: i am SO EXCITED for this!!!)

8. charli xcx - number 1 angel/pop 2 

i know i said this was in no particular order - as i do every year - but this has truly been the year of charli xcx. everyone was obsessed with the video she released for boys but for me that song doesn't showcase the best of her musical ability. enter number 1 angel and latest mixtape pop 2, which i haven't stopped listening to the last few days. i wasn't sure how to feel at first as with A.G. cook on production, this was the most experimental charli has ever been. featuring a wide range of collaborators including estonian rapper tommy cash, brooke candy, tove lo and mykki blanco, charli has pushed the boundaries of conventional pop music, refusing  to be confined to a singular album cycle and allowing fans to discover new artists along the way. (however i have to admit that i wasn't thrilled with backseat, which featured the queen of everything carly rae jepsen. with the two purveyors of pop at the helm, i expected a supercharged version of run away with me, complete with SOPHIE's sugary sweet sound, but instead we got a fairly minimal track heavy with autotune and a monotonous refrain masquerading as a chorus. it's not bad... but it's not the greatest thing i've ever heard either.) 

i'm sick of talking about streaming as it's clear how it's changed the way we listen to music, but charli's approach is perhaps the direction pop stars should go in if they desire a greater level of creative freedom. this pitchfork review sums it up more eloquently than i ever could, so i'll just leave you with my recommendations: heartbreaking lucky, with its super distorted vocals, delicious and its chorus that bangs Super Hard, mid tempo bop out of my head with rising star ALMA, and unlock it, a dreamy ode to a new lover with a shimmering synth laden chorus. 

i also have to mention this cover of wolf alice's don't delete the kisses charli did for triple j; it manages to sound like something that would have topped the charts in 2002 while still being completely new. though the comments were awash with people complaining about her use of autotune, this for me is what makes the track unique to her and it wouldn't look out of place on pop 2 (she also added her own lyrics!). one commenter said it "would've sounded better if it was done in a more lush, harmonized, bon-iver-esque style" - totally not charli's sound and hints at a possible double standard; why is autotune only acceptable when used by a male "indie" artist? - and another lamented "autotune? why i thought we were past this" when the irony is she's only just beginning to push the boundaries of what pop music can be. i would say that i hope her next release contains a similar sound, but knowing charli she'll throw something completely new into the mix and i'll be just as obsessed with it. her gig at the jazz cafe was also one of my favourites this year, and hearing no angel live was something i'll never forget, though i really would love a studio version someday.

honourable mentions:

the killers - wonderful wonderful 
findlay - forgotten pleasures 
aly & aj - ten years
wham! - the final 
prides - a mind like the tide (part 1)
jakil (for letting me INTERVIEW THEM for guestlist!!!)

and finally, if you want to see all the songs i've been obsessed with this year, spotify has complied them into one playlist that can be found here

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