Top 89 Staff Picks: Jim McGuinn, program director


Top 89 of 2017 Staff Picks
Top 89 of 2017 Staff Picks (Luke Mills | MPR graphic)

One of the question asked often of myself and other Current hosts when we meet someone is, "So what are you listening to right now?" And for whatever reason, it's at this point that my mind tends to go completely blank. A few seconds later I stumble into an answer, while trying to remember something that Mark Wheat has spun on the Chart Show for reference, but generally just stammering away. Some music expert, huh? But then on a day like today, spending a few hours digging through the lists of what we've played on The Current, along with a few things that I've been loving that have flown under the radar, I'm thinking -- 2017 was a pretty good year for rock and roll, despite the media narrative that rock is dead, again. So here goes -- my Top 10 Current songs of the year --

Top 10 songs of 2017

Spoon - "Hot Thoughts"
LCD Soundsystem - "Call the Police"
Sylvan Esso - "Die Young"
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - "If We Were Vampires"
Father John Misty - "Total Entertainment Forever"
Queens of the Stone Age - "The Way You Used To Do"
Ron Gallo - "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me"
The New Pornographers - "High Ticket Attractions"
Portugal. The Man - "Feel It Still"
Alex Lahey - "Every Day's the Weekend"

Spoon was the album we seemed to spend the most time with this year -- and with two sold-out shows at the Palace, and a #MicroShow coming up Dec. 11, we just can't get enough of Britt Daniels and the band. Hot Thoughts is my #1. It was a welcome return from LCD Soundsystem that causes the most turn-ups in my Prius, while Sylvan Esso broke my rule against laptop bands with a great show at Eaux Claires Fest this summer, and Jason Isbell has written a song that stops people in their tracks. Father John Misty wins snarkfest of the year, QOTSA rocked us with a groove, Ron Gallo took a familiar formula and drove some urgency into it, New Pornographers gave us an anthemic rocker, Portugal. The Man put a new twist on a Motown melody, and Aussie Alex Lahey gave us an aspirational anthem. That's a solid playlist for a Friday night.

Next 10 songs of 2017

Childish Gambino - "Redbone"
Arcade Fire - "Everything Now"
Low Cut Connie - "Revolution Rock n Roll"
Rag'n'Bone Man - "Human"
The xx - "On Hold"
jeremy messersmith and Friends - "Little Blue World"
JD McPherson - "Lucky Penny"
Hippo Campus - "Way It Goes"
Feist - "Pleasure"
Run the Jewels - "Legend Has It"

My next 10 included rollicking piano boogie from Low Cut Connie, local gems from Hippo Campus and jeremy messersmith, hip-hop from RTJ, a sparse rocker from Feist, amazing vox by Rag'n'Bone Man, and a '70s funk workout by Childish Gambino. Several of these could flip with my top 10 and the party would keep rolling.

Top 10 local songs of 2017

Brian Just - "Staring Into the Sun"
Brother Ali - "Own Light (What Hearts Are For)"
Chastity Brown - "Drive Slow"
Hippo Campus - "Way It Goes"
Dead Man Winter - "Red Wing Blue Wing"
Thomas Abban - "Fear"
The Suburbs - "Hey Muse!"
Nooky Jones - "Hello"
Charlie Parr - "Dog"
jeremy messersmith and Friends - "Little Blue World"

2017 was also a good year for local music in Minnesota. Many times a year I thank Local Show host Andrea Swensson for turning us on to new artists, and Annie Mack has been impressing here the past few months, along with Thomas Abban. My picks to watch for 2018 if you like to rock: The Shackletons and Rad Owl.

Extra local songs

Actual Wolf - "Faded Days"
Annie Mack - "Tell It Like It Is"
The Person & the People - "Aimless"
The Shackletons - "Minnesota Girls"
Rad Owl - "Aladdin's Castle"

Top 10 albums of 2017

Spoon - Hot Thoughts
LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
St. Vincent - Masseduction
Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - So It Is
Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!
Sylvan Esso - What Now
Beck - Colors
Trupa Trupa - Jolly New Songs

Spoon, LCD, St. Vincent -- 2010 is calling and wants its music back! But hard to resist when they delivered great records this year. And even though Josh Tillman's vision grows darker by the album, his Pure Comedy made me laugh and cry about the state of humankind, and seeing him in a #MicroShow and a few times onstage were among the highlights of 2017. Preservation Hall Jazz Band has expanded their love affair with Minnesota, coming all the way up the Mississippi from New Orleans several times over the past few years to share their musical magic. Beck finally put out Colors, Sylvan Esso delivered on the promise of their earlier work, and one album I can't get enough of is Jolly New Songs from Polish rock band Trupa Trupa. This album has been the one discovery I've been telling many people about -- imagine rolling bits of Radiohead, Mogwai, Syd Barrett, and Explosions in the Sky together, and you might get a sense of what's in the water in Gdansk.

Next 10 albums of 2017

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains
Feist - Pleasure
The National - Sleep Well Beast
Hippo Campus - Landmark
The xx - I See You
The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Chastity Brown - Silhouette of Sirens
Thomas Abban - A Sheik's Legacy
Ron Gallo - Heavy Meta
Songhoy Blues - Resistance

Ten more great ones -- with some locals and some you might expect, plus with Songhoy Blues, a contemporary African ensemble that picks up where those fuzzed-out Afro-psych novelties of the '70s left off, charting new directions.

Great music from around the world and our own backyard. Here's to 2017 -- and even more, to what's still to be discovered in 2018 and beyond.

The Current Hosts' and Staffers' Top 89 of 2017

Brett BaldwinBill DeVilleJay GablerJadeCecilia JohnsonLindsay KimballMary LuciaJim McGuinnSean McPhersonShelley MillerMike NovitzkiBrian OakeAnna ReedJill RileyNate RyanDerrick StevensAndrea SwenssonLuke TaylorMark WheatMac WilsonJesse Wiza

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