Kronski’s Best Albums of 2017

It’s been awhile since I’ve done this, but this year I decided to bring it back. My favorite albums of 2017. It was a rough year, but a stellar one for music.

1.LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

The reunion album to end all reunion albums. James Murphy reconvenes his beloved LCD Soundsystem project and the results are that of a grisled beast, the dark computer chip. Paranoia, intended and deliberate doom that you could still shake your ass too. This is what 2017 sounded like.

2. Big Thief – Capacity

The songwriter of the year for me. When I saw Big Thief live this summer at Pickathon, lead singer songwriter Adrianne Lenker was so inward, it was hard for her to project the usual persona of performance. Her songs come from a dark and personal place, fiction and fact blending and twisting. A more varied outing than their debut, Masterpiece, the songs on Capacity grind their way down into the deep tissue of our muscles.

3.Kendrick Lamar – Damn

The way the album folds on itself, with bits of narrative cut up and split through the 12 tracks on Damn, Kendrick reaches new heights of storytelling and mood that culminates in the masterful track Duckworth.

4.Kevin Morby – City Music

These songs appear lightweight and fun when one first hears this, but with Morby’s deadpan delivery, there’s an unease about this record that really stuck to me. It was hard to not be enthralled by the simple pleasures of Morby’s City Music.

5.Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

Fourth album from Katie Crutchfield broadens her sound a bit, in this unflinchingly defiant record, driving songs about all the things she’s going through. She’s been on a roll lately, with each release showing more of her strengths as a songwriter, this summer I simply couldn’t stop listening.  

6.The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

The arrangements haven’t changed much, but where 2014’s Lost in the Dream was a standard edition car, 2017’s A Deeper Understanding is a luxury model.

7.Alvvays – Antisocialites

The love affair starts the first time you put on ‘In Undertow’, the opening track on their sophomore release, Antisocialites. The kind of song you could hear everyday for the rest of your life, and on this second album, they find the perfect balance between sweet vocals and arrangements that support their ever-expanding vision. It’s a classic sound that relies on the chirp of old country music, the sweet vocal spot of Kirsty Maccoll and Tanya Donnelly. It’s timeless.

8.Bonny Doon – Bonny Doon

Heard about this from a friend who’s a music publicist, and there it so much Bonny Doon draw from on their debut. It’s a lazy summer afternoon of a record, perfect for lying in a hammock by the river. “What time is it in Portland?” became an instant favorite.

9.Samphia – Process

Piano and vocals that sound like cracked open R & B because that’s what it is. It’s highly spiritual stripped down music, as intensely uplifting as it is jaw droppingly gorgeous.

10.Ryan Adams – Prisoner

The guy might get a bit of stick for being more style than substance, but on his upteenth album, Ryan Adams explores the divorce process and offers up 12 more songs that show what a wellspring of inspiration he’s operating with. There’s a yearning to these tracks, they go in deep and describe the way he felt about his recent divorce, and sonically he has never sounded as assured as he does here.

11.Sandy (Alex G.) – Rocket

An album that came straight out of left field, a record to fall in love with, for sure. Folk meets lo fi experimental which could be a mess if it was in less skillful hands, but Sandy (Alex G.) delivers one of the albums of the year, it’s sheer unpredictability will have you reaching for the repeat button.

12.Fleet Foxes – The Crack Up

There’s so much to digest on the Fleet Foxes third album, you’d be forgiven if you gave it an initial pass, but stick around and you’ll be privy to the expansive gorgeous harmonies that haunted their first two albums. LIke before but deeper, longer and stronger.

13.Slowdive – Slowdive

Slowdive pick up not quite where they left off with 1998’s Pygmalion, but instead opt for the sound of the band smack dab between 1991’s Just for a Day and 1993’s Souvlaki, and what’s amazing is how well they pull off the classic sound. Its as if the band went back in time and turned left where before they turned right. It’s sublime.

14.Bjork – Utopia

The Icelandic wonder returns to a more joyous, ebullient sound on a record about dating and falling in love.

15.Elbow – Little Fictions

From start to finish, their best album. Lead singer Guy Garvey’s voice is a joy to behold.

16.Julien Baker – Turn out the Lights

17.The Parson Red Heads – Blurred Harmony

On Blurred Harmony, Portland, OR’s Parson Red Heads try on several styles and manage to add fresh insight into a variety of sounds. One spin and you’ll be convinced.

18.Afghan Whigs – In Spades

It took seeing them play songs of this album live to convince me that this album was one of the best of the year. Even without their recently deceased guitarist David Rossiter, Greg Dulli has once again made some of the best music of his career out of tragic events.

19.The National – Sleep Well Beast

20. Shout out Louds – Ease My Mind

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Songbook Audio: “I Wanna Be Adored”

On April 8th, I hosted Songbook 6, the quarterly reading series I host. On the line up was David Katz, mysefl, Robert Hill, David Ciminello, Sam Rox Chua, Kevin Meyer, and DeAngelo Gillispie.

Kyle Delamarter was on hand to record the audio and I’m including an embed of me reading my piece entitled “I Wanna Be Adored”, based on the Stone Roses song of the same name.

To hear other authors from that night, check out the SoundCloud Page.

New Piece Published: Inner Fire

Back in November, I took a course from Lidia Yuknavitch and the Corporeal Writing family. We focused on exploring metaphor. And I wrote this piece, entitled ‘Inner Fire’ it deals with things I’ve been dealing with personally. How to be truly alive in our adult bodies and just how different that feels back when we were alive in our child bodies.

And back in April it was published by the wonderful Literary Magazine, The Gravity of the Thing. 

Many thanks to Thea Prieto for the editing and patience.

http://thegravityofthething.com/inner-fire-adam-strong/

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I am warrior bunker. I am kind human. I am patient, I am tired.

I will reshape belief and communications. I will push away that which has been forced upon me. Forced because he is not me. He is not America. I did not vote for him. He pushed and he needled and he wagged his tail the way tv liked the way he wagged his tail. The TV, the media, they loved him from the start.

The Republicans, they built their own self destruct kit. They built their own allies with Russia kit. Still America, you loved him, the orange glow, the megastardom. You Had a hard on for him the whole time. Even you, the media, you helped him out.

I mean what kind of nation sides with Syria right now. Russia and us. We are Russia we are fascism. But we are something else.

We are so much better than this. We never voted for him, but we will help his victims anyway. We are the support network. And we are going to love you, whether you love us or not. We will destroy you and we are you, but we are not, nor will we ever be, your America.

Lit Crawl & Corporeal Writing Wrap Up

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Today is election day, and I am oscillating between feelings of absolute dread and the other of hope. That this threat that is looming is so great that the people of this country will respond in unprecedented numbers.

But really, what I signed on for, what I break my silence for is something entirely different. I had simply one of the most soul searching, inspiriting, challenging, healing three days I’ve ever had.

It all started with the Grief Rites LitCrawl reading I had the pleasure of reading at. Along with Daniel Elder, Deangelo Gillespie, Kate Carroll De Gutes, Pauls Toutounghi, and Amber Keyser. I read a piece about the dissolution of my writing group of ten years, and the growth I experienced as a result. It was hard. I was up there, with a little shake in my hands but I read the whole thing. I stood up and did it. And afterwards people I had never met before were telling me how much it meant to them.

They asked me about the line, “I became a writer first and a person second.” Which reflected much of the learning I’d gained from the experience.  After that I ran out to my car and hot footed it over to Kennedy School for the meet and greet portion of Lidia Yuknavitch & Domi Shoemaker’s Corporeal Writing Workshop.

 

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Lidia Yuknavitch

I was an hour late and was knee deep already into people talking about where they were in their writing. When it came to me I said. “I feel like I’m recovering from an accident, with the break up of my writing group.” I spoke about the very thing I had just read about.

During the workshop, we found out that City of Weird, the Forest Avenue Press collection I have a story in was currently a Number One Bestseller at Powells.com. Lidia handed out copies of City of Weird at the workshop.

Two days later I am sitting in the Kennedy School, bearing witness to all the breakthroughs people experienced at the end of the workshop. Me, I learned a lot about me and my writing and how I need to walk the difficult path, on my own, to know that I can do this, I can make something new and something beautiful. I learned knew ways of getting to story and I learned that I can do this. That’s what Lidia taught me, she showed me how to take those first few steps.

Then last night at Melissa Dodson’s Grief Rites November reading at the post.I ran into a fellow Dangerous Writer Shannon Brazil, we talked at length about the challenge of each of us carrying on. To honor the work we did there. How we are all walking around checking in with each other, to make sure we are ok.

And now today, this election. This month has more in store for me, more writings, more readings, and for the first time in my writing life. I see the future as bright as the morning sun that hit me when I pulled into the High School where I teach.

 

City of Weird Publication Party, Powells Books, & Cassidy’s.

I’m at Powells signing copies of the anthology my short story, Always is in. When I sign my first few books,  I only signed my signature. It didn’t get until I was 5-6 signatures in before I thought,why not tie your quote to part of your story.

My story  takes place in a bar.

What I want readers to do is to stop what they are doing and  sink into it.

What I chose was “Have one on me.”

At the after party. Seeing everyone with so much joy about how this wonderful collection, came together like this, not just because of Portland, but because of the stories that  had to be told. It’s how important the written record is to a city full of so many ghosts.

Songbook #3 Wrap Up

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Songbook #3 was a few weeks back and before I start the prep for Songbook #4, I wanted to share a few thoughts. First Michelle Overby wrote a piece about “Oh Darling,” by the Beatles, and it was a reminder of why she loves.

I wrote a piece about Crowded House’s song “In the Lowlands” it had bullies, the Grapes of Wrath and a long car ride through the midwest in 1987.

Kirsten Larson wrote a piece about Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, about a personal hell she went through.

Doug Chase wrote a piece on “Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile,” the last song Warren Zevon ever recorded. He wrote about one summer and how much  he hated the song.

Brian Reid wrote a great piece about the Clash’s “Safe European Homes”, he wrote it with such pent up aggression, when we finally heard the song, you could tell everyone wanted to stand up and just mosh their way through the song.

Janelle Henderson read a few poems inspired by her idol, Bob Dylan and his song, “Tombstone Blues”. When I say idol, I really mean it, because when she read, she breathed life into Dylan’s soul, she propped up the old ’66 Dylan, think Bringing it All Back Home Dylan, think Blonde on Blonde Dylan with the heavy overcoat and the big hair. Janelle resurrected his personality through her own as a poet. It was a real treat.

Brian Tibbets closed out the evening with a piece that crawled up into our collective stomachs, the piece is truly heart wrenching. He wrote about bad decisions, he wrote about a younger version of himself, he wrote about No Means No song, “Victory”.

Join us July 10th for the next Songbook, with Liz Prato, Shannon Brazil, Shawn Levy, RV Branham, Hobie Anthony, Stephen O’Donnell, and Sean Davis at Post 134, Alberta Street.