Top 89 Staff Picks: Mark Wheat, host

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Top 89 of 2017 Staff Picks
Host Mark Wheat shares his top albums and singles of 2017. (Luke Mills | MPR graphic)

Top 10 albums of 2017


In order of merit.

1. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
Surprisingly now I realize that nine of these signal the return of old musical friends; we never thought we'd get another LCD album, the relief about how great it is was unexpected, perhaps explaining its status at #1. MOJO put it there too.

2. St. Vincent - Masseduction
Annie Clark has lived up to her early promise, and is now able to command the stage of The Palace with just her guitar and magnificent visuals.

3. Beck - Colors
Beck has no right to be so damn lively and vibrant after such a long and storied career, a record breaking four singles on our chart!

4. Robert Plant - Carry Fire
Speaking of storied careers...Robert Plant has never sounded so vital and who else of his era is still making such challenging work!?

5. Queens Of The Stone Age - Villains
QOTSA revitalized my belief in the heady power of good ol' rock'n'roll this year, dancing on the edge of pomp and pretension perfectly.

6. The Replacements - For Sale: Live At Maxwell's 1986
And The Mats; Finally a testament to their mighty power, on the right night, in a hallowed venue that I used to live just down the street from.

7. Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley
PSB are the only 'new' artist in my personal experience, saw the name many times and meant to get to them before but just had never done it.

They are also a band that we haven't played on the radio and this album is one that HAS to be listened to in its entirety in one sitting, over and over.

Perhaps the subject matter of the coal miners' plight in Wales in the late '70s is too British to translate to the American audience completely, but I grew up with this stark reality and the band do a wonderful job, interspersing spoken word pieces from interviews and the media between their songs.

They never sound like the same band twice, delving into different genre styles and using different instrumentation as though that was a norm. Brilliant.

8. Chastity Brown - Silhouette of Sirens
Chastity put together the best four-song opening to any of these albums, then surprised and delighted, breaking out of her mold in several ways.

9. Feist - Pleasure
Feist provided one of the best sing along singles of the year with the title track, then delved deep into a moody blues style which felt daring.

10. Kid Koala feat. Emiliana Torrini - Music To Draw To: Satellite
Kid Koala has been a long time fave and just by coincidence worked with one of the delightfully enchanting performers we met in Iceland.

Top 10 singles of 2017


In alphabetical order.

Ásgeir - "Afterglow"
Big Thief - "Mythological Beauty"
Brother Ali - "Own Light (What Hearts Are For)"
Bully - "Feel The Same"
Cornelius - "If You're Here"
Father John Misty - "Ballad Of The Dying Man"
King Krule - "Dum Surfer"
Spoon - "Do I Have To Talk You Into It"
The Breeders - "Wait In The Car"
Wolf Alice - "Don't Delete The Kisses"

Four of these singles come from albums that were vying for my Top Ten; Spoon and FJM made my favorite albums of their careers and
I have liked everything they've ever done!

Bully and Wolf Alice led a steady stream of excellent female-fronted bands this year, who can make Rock'n'Roll without having to deal with all the bad baggage that comes with many male-led projects, who struggle to impress, with QOTSA being the exception. The Breeders, led by Kim Deal, set the template for the first wave of females to step into the lead of indie rock bands The Pixies, her original band had already set the standard, laying down the loud/soft, slow/fast, ying/yang dynamic for all who followed.

Brother Ali will be the first to tell you that he is following in the steps of his teachers, but there are few artists working today who deal with the political and religious turmoil of our fractured nation in such a deft way, and this song in particular carries a strong message, feed your inner fire.

Another old fave who has never disappointed, Cornelius only released his album digitally over here this year, so I couldn't buy it to be considered for my old-school Album of the Year list, but he will be coming over to tour next year and release it 'properly'.

The mythological beauty of Iceland won me over when I first visited in 2011 for a two day stop over. So it was the highlight of my year to return on a mission to help our team cover the Iceland Airwaves Festival in Arkureyri. There we were blessed with a short acoustic session from Ásgeir, one of their most successful artists playing in a tiny pub, before seeing him command the large stage of the HOF concert hall with a very tight band and wonderfully inventive light display. I'm still basking in the afterglow, so he had to be on this list.

Big Thief might have flown under your radar, but this song shouldn't as it's set in MN!

And King Krule nearly flew under mine but this track is a hit with a huge hook from a much-lauded album that disappointed me overall. But I don't want to end on a dum note, because I think this year was the best in music for perhaps a decade, and this is just some of it that I loved.

Magical live moments of 2017


In chronological order.

3-9 Patti Smith at Northrop; a simply gracious and warm host when we got an interview in her hotel room, ahead of the International Women's Day show.
3-10 Atmosphere at The Palace; the first show in the new venue, hanging with a very proud Mayor Coleman in the awesome balcony.
5-10 The Suburbs at Kato Ballroom in Mankato; part of the MPR 50th Anniversary celebrations, in a wonderfully bizarre venue.
7-16 Dessa Down By The Riverside in Rochester; always love hanging with my Rochester posse, especially with a local artist who had such a big year.
7-22 Rock The Garden; Bon Iver, who we've supported since day one, after becoming so successful and then giving back to his community.
8-12 Open Day at The People's House w/ Poliça and Cloud Cult; they let us present these stridently political bands at the re-opening of the State Capitol.
10-15 Preservation Hall Jazz Band Micro Show at The Dakota; living legends loving a local audience that mean as much to them as their home in New Orleans.
10-28 Dead Man Winter, Lydia Liza and Good Night Gold Dust at The Paramount Theatre, Austin MN as part of MMC Caravan Du Nord. A great bill, a packed house in an amazing theatre and lots of good vibes in greater MN!
11-3 The Colorist with Emiliana Torrini at The HOF in Arkureyri Iceland; the great acoustics used to their utmost affect by a splendidly unique group.
11-16 Wilco broadcast at The Palace; another first for our station, audio and visual presentation of a masterful performance from one of our most cherished bands.

Fave in-studio sessions


In no particular order.

Brother Ali ... blessed to be in the presence of a man living his life as a journey of artistic and spiritual discovery in the fullest sense.

Jade Jackson ... seeing a young artist who I knew little about absolutely command the room with her powerful performance and interview nonce.

Nooky Jones at The State Fair ... these guys put on a terrifically spirited and soulful performance out at The State Fair, which is not always easy.

J. Roddy Walston & The Business ... a band who broke through after years of hard work and dedication, seemingly refreshed after their 'factory re-set'.

alt-J ... stripped-down acoustic set where we shared stories of our common alma mater and got to the secret of their vocal sound: Gus' choir background.

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

Vote now: Top 89 of 2017


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