I was over the Uncut website and I came across John Mulvey’s list of his favourite albums of the first six months of 2017. I like John Mulvey and his writing. This time, though, I was struck by the fact that the list included 60 albums, now increased to 66. With 26 weeks in the first six months of the year or just over 180 days, he has included on average about 2.5 favourite albums per week or one about every three days. Now, let’s assume that he has left the same number of albums off his list. This means he has devoted quality listening time to about five albums a week, or one for every day and a bit. In fact, this figure is a little generous, because there aren’t very many releases in the first couple of weeks of January. Now, John Mulvey is a professional music journalist. He listens to music for a living. It’s his job to spot good music quickly and he’s good at it. All the same, my guess is that he has devoted at most about a day’s listening to the albums he’s calling his favourites of the first half of 2017. That’s not very much.
Here are my top five albums of the year so far. They are all cherished listens. And quite some time has been spent with them. What’s more, last weekend saw the release of three albums – Fleet Foxes, Jason Isbell, and Kevin Morby – that are all candidates for a top five spot. But I’m still getting to know them. So, I’m not going to include them here. Maybe they’ll feature in December’s end-of-year list? In the meantime, here’s my summer solstice favourites.
Conor Oberst – Salutation
Ryan Adams – The Prisoner
Holy Holy – Paint
Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom
Jesu & Sun Kil Moon – 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth
Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom
In 2013 Matthew Milia and Frontier Ruckus released a sprawling, 20-song album called Eternity of Dimming. The road was long, the journey was often hard, and many listeners never made it to the final destination. Four years on and Matthew Milia has a new album out. This time we’re facing not so much a frontier ruckus as a polite suburban melee. Think middle-class bargain hunters at an out-of-town mall at the start of the Labor Day sales. This is an altogether more polite place to grow up in. But its inhabitants still face their own distinctive set of problems. And the scars can be just as deep as those received at any previous wilderness location. On Enter The Kingdom Matthew Milia takes us on a 37-minute tour through modern suburbia. It’s a real pleasure to be in his company even for such a short time. He’s certainly one of the most erudite guides in the neighbourhood. With his talk of glottal stops and gerunds, it’s clear that language is a major preoccupation. In fact, the man is a walking rhyming dictionary. And he sure knows how to make music. Every song on Enter The Kingdom is as catchy as a late-night hickey. Whether it’s the plaintive call for the return of ’27 dollars’, or the comforting waltz of the title track itself, these are melodies that keep on giving. And they’re always played with a full-on verve and sometimes a refreshingly idiosyncratic instrumentation. On ‘If You Can’, it seems like Frontier Ruckus like nothing more than to stay in on a rainy night and play the musical saw. Elsewhere there’s the sound of trumpets, clarinets, melodicas, and more. Yet this is modern suburbia. All is not exactly what it seems. “Your mind’s half hot lava and half Dexedrine”. “Our sacred neighbourhoods now only nominally exist, Your dad’s looking for work on craigslist”. Sounding like songs of innocence, these are more like songs of a certain type of experience. It’s an experience that’s common to many in today’s new suburban frontier. And Matthew Milia and friends are offering to take you on a short trip through it. Buckle up. You won’t be disappointed.