Editor’s Pick: Best Album of 2017
Arcade Fire | Everything Now
Montreal’s Arcade Fire has always made music that sounds and feels urgent, almost as if the day they recorded the song was the last day on earth. They took the music world by surprise with their 2004 debut album, Funeral, fusing lyrics dealing with loss and suburban isolation with anthemic guitars, heartfelt vocals, and, yes, even the occasional accordion.
With their 2017 album, Everything Now, the same urgency is present as it is on their other albums, but this time, the band sounds looser. In short, they sound like they’re having fun. St. Francis, one of God’s most joyful messengers, would approve. This album has critics divided, though, with some saying it’s a serious creative misstep and self-indulgently ironic, while others have praised it as nearing perfection. Perhaps the final word should be left to musicians, not the critics. In an interview with NPR, Arcade Fire’s singer-songwriter Win Butler said, “I don’t know that we’ve made a more earnest record.”
In a culture inundated by cynicism, it’s no wonder that the band’s sincere effort might be misinterpreted as mere hipster irony. However, what makes this the best album of 2017 is the deft combination of culture critique with an unabashed catchiness. The approachable—at times, even danceable—sound of Everything Now is due in no small part to it being produced by Thomas Bangalter (half of the French electronic/dance duo Daft Punk).
If you’re looking for an album that will make you think, get up and dance, or, better yet, both, give Everything Now a listen—now!
Aretha Franklin | Lady Soul
Fifty years ago, in January 1968, the world was a very different place. Or was it? There was civil strife, racial tensions ran high, and the possibility of nuclear war was in the headlines. Then, just as now, we needed a voice to hold on to, to heal our souls. Enter Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul. From righteous indignation in “Chain of Fools” to deep-seated faith in God in the Curtis Mayfield-penned “People Get Ready,” Franklin solidified herself as the Queen of Soul with this album—if she hadn’t done so already.
Producer Jerry Wexler, who coined the term rhythm and blues, provided Franklin with some of the best session musicians available, many of whom would go on to form the production powerhouse Muscle Shoals. As an added bonus, listen for Eric Clapton playing guitar on track seven, “Good to Me as I Am to You.” Lady Soul is as relevant and necessary as it was 50 years ago.