This Time Capsule Playlist Provides a Musical Reminder of All the Moments that Mattered in 2017

13 Dec

The Lone Bellow at the House of Blues in Boston, November 2017. (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

Every December, critics (both professional and amateur) like to share their lists of the year’s best music. And while that’s important, and much appreciated, it’s near impossible for music fans to agree on what’s “best.” Musical taste is too personal. Case in point: For every Taylor Swift fan out there (and I know there are a lot of them), there’s someone like me who can’t stand her. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for other artists who don’t often show up on top 10 lists of best music and don’t win many awards. John Mayer, for example.

Point is: We all listen to different things and like what we like. And that’s a great thing.

So, when the end of the year comes around, I choose a different angle on the music recap thing, and prefer to compile a sort of “time capsule” playlist that provides a soundtrack of my year.

After all, music is a big part of my life. Lyrics stay with me, and I tend to remember songs or artists if they played in a particular context. So the songs on my 2017 playlist all trigger memories, and are associated with good (or bad) times from the past year.

Gwen Stefani at Workday Rising, October 2017. (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

For example, in 2017, I saw a bunch of concerts — including John Mayer, the Lone Bellow, Tears for Fears, Hall & Oates, Coldplay, and American Idol champ David Cook. Plus, when I attended Workday Rising, Gwen Stefani headlined the customer appreciation party. (And yes, that shit was B-A-N-A-N-A-S!)

The David Cook concert took place on my first night in Nashville, and that trip seems to have influenced a lot of my music choices this year: Country artists like Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, Travis Tritt, Maren Morris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Hunter Hayes are all over this playlist. Actually, it should be noted (no pun intended) that I heard lots of great music when I was in Nashville that isn’t on this playlist. For example, Caroline Keller was a highlight of the show I saw at the famed Bluebird Café — but unfortunately, the songs she performed that night aren’t yet on Spotify. Likewise, I really enjoyed the funk/jazz sound of Jazzmanic during the afternoon I spent at Acme Feed & Seed, but I couldn’t tell you which specific songs of theirs I was listening to (blame the Mule Kicker and two Ass Kickers I drank over the course of those two or three hours). And then there were all the bar bands that were playing up and down Broadway every night and the legit performers I saw at the Grand Ole Opry, where the backstage tour made the experience even more special.

Speaking of Nashville, the TV show Nashville was just one program whose music was memorable this year (RIP Rayna James). Empire and Riverdale also featured some fun tracks I listened to a bit. The soundtrack of Master of None, season two, was notable — though the version of “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” I included here is not the version that was actually on the show. The new season of Twin Peaks included some other great music, including the Chromatics’ “Shadow” and Eddie Vedder’s “Out of Sand,” though that latter track is also, sadly, not on Spotify. Nor is “First World Problems,” the excellent song Chance the Rapper debuted on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in September. (But another song by Chance is on the playlist.)

On the big screen, Baby Driver effectively merged music and visuals like few movies have. I spent the first quarter of the year listening to songs from the La La Land soundtrack, and spent at least some of the fall season looking forward to The Greatest Showman; those two movies feature songs by the same Oscar-winning writers. I was amused by the scene in Ingrid Goes West where the characters sing along to “All My Life,” by K-Ci & JoJo. The Disney Pixar film Coco featured some fantastic visuals, and memorable songs as well (pun sort of intended). The Square was disappointing, but its inclusion of “Genesis” by Justice made one scene in particular stand out. And I really enjoyed May It Last, a documentary about the Avett Brothers, and the Pearl Jam at Wrigley Park concert film Let’s Play Two.

I also saw some musicals this year: Dear Evan Hansen (excellent) and Groundhog Day (not so good) on Broadway, and then, in Chicago, I finally got to be in the room where it happens when I saw Hamilton. I did not get to see (Bruce) Springsteen on Broadway, but oh well. Maybe next year.

Navy band plays in Times Square, May 2017. (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

Then there were other moments and memories, like the Navy band singing Bruno Mars’ “Chunky” in Times Square during Memorial Day Weekend. Or Coldplay’s moving performance of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” at the “One Love” concert in Manchester, England, days after an explosion at an Ariana Grande show. Or the way Lin-Manuel Miranda rallied his fellow Hispanic performers to record a benefit single for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Or just driving around this summer while songs by the Killers, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Lady Antebellum (among others) played at high volume.

And by the way, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” should have been a much bigger hit this year than it was. Like, a “Can’t Stop the Feeling”-level hit. Like, a “Call Me Maybe”-level hit. Really.

Of course, this playlist would not be complete without a track by Tom Petty, who left us in October. Or one by Sharon Jones, whose final album was released in November, a year after her death.

And I haven’t even mentioned the songs by folks like Harry Styles, Portugal. The Man, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band, Eminem, Haim, Glen Hansard, Beck, Anderson East, and others that I really enjoyed and played often. Or the new Christmas song by Sia that I fell in love with the instant I heard it. Or the first #Hamildrop, an incredible collabo between Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Decemberists that reimagines Ben Franklin as a bit of a jerk. But they’re all on the playlist as well.

This all said, if I was pressed to pick one favorite song from the past year, it would probably be a tossup between Little Big Town’s “Happy People,” the Lone Bellow’s “Time’s Always Leaving,” or John Mayer’s “In the Blood.” Many of the lyrics to that latter song really hit home, including the chorus: “I can feel the love I want. I can feel the love I need. But it’s never gonna come the way I am. Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood? Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?”

These tracks on my playlist may not have been the best music to be released this year. (Some of them weren’t even new this year.) But I’m thankful I have this audio reminder of 2017 to fill my head with memories for years to come.

What songs would you add to a time capsule playlist of your year?

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One Response to “This Time Capsule Playlist Provides a Musical Reminder of All the Moments that Mattered in 2017”

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  1. Looking for the Light in a Very Dark Year | Martin's Musings - December 29, 2017

    […] in my apartment with my niece and both my nephews, to finally seeing Hamilton, to good movies and good music, and on, I found something to smile about each and every […]

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