In August 2017, I traveled to South Carolina to observe the total solar eclipse. I brought with me an old Celestron C90 spotting telescope and my camera to see what I could capture. I was very lucky, as we found a secluded lakeside location to view the event and were just able to see totality before clouds descended on us.
The skills that an artist needs to make a great single aren’t always the same as those needed for an album of equal caliber. Ideas which on one song may be endearing can grow grating over the length of an LP, and the rich vocabulary of a track can be become repetitive if used in too many variations. An artist who excels at albums is possessed of boundless creativity and a strong desire not to repeat oneself, while at the same time obsessed by a single idea of sufficient depth to bind such a work together. Their creation is quasi-mystical, and when the creator emerges at last from the desert of their artistic exile bearing in hand such a golden record, they are often just as mystified about whence it came as we are.
It’s time to kick back with the year’s finest remixes, reworks, and bootlegs. Sometimes a great song demands a second opinion, sometimes a producer is just too obsessed with a track to ignore it. These artists proved their capability and went beyond their task as engineers to produce something new and uncover a hidden part of their source material.
Writing a good song is hard work, and recording it harder still. It takes spontanaeity and patience both. Expertise is no guarantee of success, and playing it safe is the surest way to fail. These artists suceeded in their creative and technical efforts by taking risks, disregarding critics, and putting their love of the sound first, last, and in every piece of their art.
The LP is a special format that will long outlast the various media by which it is distributed. It is also a more difficult and lasting achievement than a song on its own. But it often takes a different approach to make a great album than a great song. For many electronic artists, there is little public demand for album-length releases, so their creation must be undertaken entirely of their own volition. For this I salute all those musicians who think beyond the end of the track and congratulate those who have completed such an effort. As usual, you can hear a playlist of these picks at the right or click through for a fuller offering.
The best tunes of the year are seldom predictable — chasing trends will leave you sounding unoriginal and out of your element. These artists followed their own instincts, indulged their most playful fantasies, and labored long nights to produce the year’s most unforgettable sounds. Some are breathless bangers, some are slow and sublime, all are essential listening. Tune in via 8tracks at the right or click through each track to hear a stream.