Now that the end of the year is approaching, I first thought I'd write a Top of some kind, but I find tops' competitiveness a bit silly, unfair, and ultimately pointless, especially when you're mixing elements that are so scattered; I listen to a lot of music, which comes from a lot of sources, as I really don't care much about technical aspects as long as there's something alive pumping there. So a mixture of that kind is going to be necessarily uneven, apples and oranges, and well, all of the people in this list are "number one" in some aspect, in my view.
Also, considering how much the album launching cycle and the music exploitation systems have changed, I soon thought it made no sense either to limit myself to stuff released in 2017. So these reviews are going to be "my" 2017, the music that "made my year", be it published in 2017, or simply discovered and frequented by me in the latest 12 months. In the spirit of these holidays, I offer this as a table full of delicacies, some of which you may prefer to others; so make your pick freely and please, get loaded :P
Here's my first comment, on Neil Young's "Peace Trail".
Although published in December 2016, for me this album will forever be the soundtrack of my 2017 summer.
I have been Young's fan for a long time. I think the secret to his longevity and actuality is that, unlike many other musicians who at some point start to "pimp their past self", he always dwells in the present, in the "here and now", and this album is not an exception. For example, the title track, a song of a unique, pristine beauty, encapsulates in its lyrics a contemporary feeling that I completely share: "I see the same old signs/But something new is growing". Humanity is at a crossroads right now, in a situation never before experienced. On one hand, we're on the brink of collapse at so many fronts at the same time, that it's amazing that anybody can get out of bed in the morning. On the other hand, things are also incredible on so many fronts so, the learning, the changing of ideas and relationships, everything happens so fast, so many masks are falling...
Another example is the beautiful "Show me", where Neil, with that voice of him that sounds like a hurt child, simply wonders, like many of us do, "when will my species learn to take care of each other? Is it really that much to ask?"
Another favorite of mine is "Indian givers". The song is built upon a very unconventional usage of the boogie-woogie progression, which made me think of "The needle and the damage done", which also takes a guitar motif out of context to do something new. The lyrics are based on a recent situation of human beings standing against injustice (protesting the construction of the Dakota pipeline). And it's impossible not to feel a huge "me too" with lyrics like "bring back the days when good was good / Lose these imposters in our neighborhood".
This concept of "neighborhood" appears in several places in the album; I interpret it as Neil's peaceful conception of what the human community should aspire to be; people helping each other, like neighbors do. Here's a wonderful human being, making his "pledge" to whoever judge is judging: "Now I don't see all the colors/And I might miss some of their beauty/But I do see what I see/And I want to do my duty").
One of the lyrics also mentions amazon.com. I always find hard to add that kind of references in my songs without sounding a bit forced... there's a lot to learn here.
I'm sure that by now Neil will already be familiar with the bittersweet pleasures of home recording, and I hope that he releases a lot of albums like this one or "Le Noise". I think I share with him (and perhaps that's why I follow him so eagerly) being a "jist" kind of guy as a musician: if I can get to the point with simple arrangements, say voice plus guitar as he does in "Le Noise" or "A letter home", I do it and just move on. Once the song exists, others can take it if they please an give it more arrangements, treatments... But I prefer to move on and do the next, fresh one. This album, starting from the simple manuscript cover, fully belongs to that kind of raw, cut-to-the-chase mentality, which is also a sign of sympathy towards punk and its DIY spirit.
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it