Instrumentals 2017

On the occasions I’ve done RR this year, I’ve produced an instrumental playlist to go alongside the A & B lists.  I’ve been collecting instrumental tracks from this year and thought I’d share it here in the same vein.  There are only a couple that contain some lyrical content – but it’s marginal.  I couldn’t find all the tracks on YouTube (but the full list is intact on Spotify), so I’ve had to skip some or swap them for something else by the same artist.

What else have I missed?

24 thoughts on “Instrumentals 2017

  1. Nova Collective, which I thought would be in the Spill year lists, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band – Travelling Cheeba Man.

  2. You’ll have already heard my top three instrumental picks for 2017 via the Festive Spill, all of which were from largely or purely instrumental albums, add everything off all of the other albums I bought in 2017 with the exception of Brad Mehldau/Chris Thile.. it wasn’t a big year for lyrics in my musical world 😉
    On the Four Tet release I’d have gone for Lush or You are loved, but they were all very good.

  3. By the way, not meant as a criticism but there was a faint hint of “instrumental ghetto” about those parallel A-lists, I’m guessing you share the pretty common view that instrumentals aren’t really suitable material for RR style playlists, or as I think you put it, that you didn’t feel confident in justifying them. That’s certainly a perfectly valid viewpoint, though not one I personally agree with for obvious reasons, given that I listen nearly exclusively to music without lyrics.

    People argue that “songs” must by definition contain words, but if you remove music and rhythm from songs you are left with (generally poor quality) poetry.

    From my point of view, a large number of song lyrics express very little in the way of actual ideas, and sometimes a musical conception can convey far more complex and nuanced ideas than text. Obviously some themes are better suited to instrumentals than others; I’ve certainly made the odd shoehorn nom involving a not-very-credible interpretation of some musical theme. But that’s part of the fun, and others do the same with lyrical content. I think there has certainly been a widening of RR criteria since Dorian started- for him the instrumental was a rare beast, though he did select a few in his time. Ideally, playing this game will widen our horizons in terms of genres and eras; instrumental music is a part of the spectrum.

    • One of the interesting things about Song Bar’s onomatopoeia theme was that Peter defined it as lyrical or musical onomatopoeia. So it included musical impersonations or evocations of sounds from “real life”.
      Made for slightly more difficult shortlisting but, I think (and hope!) a more interesting final list.

      • Certainly, and it was definitely more interesting than a purely lyrical list.

        Though I’m also arguing for the idea that instrumentals can be considered valid for a range of themes beyond the “sounds like something else” kind.

    • “If you remove music and rhythm from songs you are left with (generally poor quality) poetry”

      Or conversely, if you remove the words to a song you are generally left with poor quality music and rhythm.
      This happened a lot when 12” were popular – the instrumental on the back was cack – strangely enough, when the words and music were put together – even if they were poor quality poetry over out of tune musicianship – it transcended the talentless idiots that produced the work and gave the pop format emotional depth – weird I know – but it all comes down to the personality/emotional state of those that are receiving the signals.

      If you are the type of person that enjoys analysing the quality and skill of a musician and/or musician interacting with one another the words might well get in the way; even distract from the end result. If you are someone who enjoys the words to dumb pop songs (hello) … every Miles Davis track ever recorded would be vastly improved with Betty Davis screeching something dumb about sex over the top.

      Maybe the instrumental was/is a rare beast because those that pontificate on their taste in such music do so in such unforgiving terms. If those tracks contain more complex and nuanced ideas – then a once-through listen while rating 400 other tunes is NOT going to do it justice – if I list it and 3 or 4 RR players them start arguing over that instrumentals merit – I’ve lost the fun of curating a list – certain RRers will do this to any track though.
      I can tell you in 30 seconds if a songs feels interesting and connects to me and 30 more seconds to tell if it is nominated well and ‘on theme’ via it’s ‘bloody awful poetry’ but instrumentals need time, sometimes half a lifetime to creep under the skin and become at one with the listener.

      A separate instrumental playlist of nominations (by a cross-section of recommenders) will give time and space to dip into a type of music that demands concentration and effort. That’s not a ghetto – that’s just moving to a different room.
      I detest the term ‘world music’, but it has developed a separate thread of music that I enjoy – without understanding the words – those words just become a sound and rhythm in themselves – I’ve listened to enough to judge their merits quite quickly. I’d be interested in a separate ‘world music’ list, just because it’s a room that I’d like to visit.
      Alternately there are genres – say ’classic rock’ – that mystify me! The nomination would have to be spot on and in-depth for me to judge it’s merits – I’d have to be told of its merits clearly and that is a rare beast indeed.
      You do that well with your instrumental nominations nilpferd – but most people are not that detailed with theirs.
      I’d guess, and it’s only a guess, that that is why instrumentals have a more difficult time in being chosen as a straight up A-lister – it’s just time – time to let it sink in and be understood.

      • All true, and agreed that instrumental music often takes longer to sink in. Even I haven’t listed any more than about three instrumentals per list when I’ve been curating RR because I tried to put as much “new to me” as possible onto the lists and I just need too much time to really get into the tracks. Even some of my all-time favourite tracks sounded like nothing when I first heard them.

        A nicely turned lyrical phrase hits the spot immediately and can also be worked into a write-up far more easily. There is also undeniably a sugar rush of pleasure involved when a good singer/lyricist combines with an innovative sound world, that is more immediately accessible than the often veiled pleasures of an instrumental.

        It’s an interesting point about music sung in languages we don’t speak- as you say it can seem more like instrumental music than lyrical, though I still find there’s a basic speech connection in the rhythms- you can understand the emotions even without knowing what the words mean exactly.

        Essentially I see RR as a more sophisticated version of Spotify- you have all the world’s music at your fingertips, including nearly all of past recorded music, but RR’s strength is that it offers guides into so many back alleys (and down so many main streets) you’d otherwise never encounter.

        Which is why I like the idea of putting the odd instru. or world track onto a playlist, rather than keeping them separate- you never know when someone is going to hear something they’ve never experienced before and it might open up a whole new world for them. The same goes for any genre, of course. (It’s still necessary to keep a “rump” of fairly popular, well-known songs on there as well, I think, otherwise people start moaning about obscurity corner etc.)

        • Sometimes I just don’t have time to justify why the mostly instrumental Italo House track with mostly just ‘Same old Sound’ repeated is a wonderful new update – it connects without being profound and has little ‘intellectual’ musical competence:
          Montego Bay – Same Old Sound (Hustlers Convention Remix)

          And is just a re-working of this old 1975 Philly Soul track.
          M.F.S.B – K-JEE – 1975

          The house sound is often going to be rejected as the first-minute kicks in… the tsh tsh tsh effect giving an allergic reaction to a traditional rock listener, one whom probably dismissed disco at the time, but now accepts that, because it is more traditional than the electronica that followed!
          This is no problem – it’s just a sound that only a few members of the RR community connect with on any level – how do you describe why the sound of rave and house was a fresh new approach that rekindled a love of music and rebellion in the same way as punk did to a previous generation, or rock did to the one before that?

          Well, I probably have just justified it typing out here!

          When you say “I still find there’s a basic speech connection in the rhythms – you can understand the emotions even without knowing what the words mean exactly” about language we do not understand – isn’t that exactly how we are programmed to listen to music too?
          My friend will play her cello and illustrate the sound to the children around by playing it in a simple way and asking what emotion that illustrates – happy, sad, excited, scared etc. all easily read as emotions from the musical playing. An instrumental will manipulate these emotions just as readily as a well-chosen set of words.
          But the joy of good song – be they with words that are understood or more complex music – is the contradictions that the players include – often tripping up listeners – for instance ‘Your Gorgeous’ by babybird being about a photographer taking advantage of a model but played as a first dance at weddings – the quite bouncy dancable music mildly disguising the words meaning.
          Instrumentals can have a melancholy underbelly with a lively top note – creating confusion and making you keep them separate – just in case it is only you who experiences it it that way!

          Anyway – good fun to think about – gotta work.

          • I once read a book on musical repetition by Elisabeth Margulis which was very good on how the brain reacts to music and speech; music and rhythm tend to stimulate the motor cortex, whereas text and lyrics go into our speech processing sectors for analysis (whether we know it or not…). So in very general terms we tend to analyse lyrics, and “feel” music.
            Given that our analysis skills in a general education are mainly built around explaining written concepts, few of us outside of the music world ever develop the language to describe music. It’s a very good thing to get children thinking about how they react to music, and talking about that.
            By the way I think the general abhorrence for tss tss beats and the miniscule fanbase for house music et. al. on RR is a generational thing; those of us who grew up in the eighties- nineties have a far greater love for it, but we are probably a minority on there at the moment. Although Fuel’s recent eighties remix theme got plenty of support.

          • “Same old sound” but a great old sound, excellent. Bit of a K-Klass feel to that. Oh, very nice piano riff from 3:50.

        • Replying late to this, because I’ve been thinking about what you wrote. Now reading back yours and Shane’s exchange makes me realise why I write more about books than music – you have both articulated things I’ve thought about over the last few days but couldn’t find the right words and place them in some sort of coherent order to make any sense.
          You are right, nilpferd, that when I posted my first instrumental playlist to go with the RR topic I was looking after, I mentioned not having the confidence to list any of them – this is pretty much how I feel about music generally. I know what I like, but I often don’t know why I like it and find it hard to articulate what it is I like about it. I’ve never learned to play an instrument past the first grading exams, so I don’t read music and I don’t understand how it is arranged. My memory for tunes is good, but I often can’t remember who the artist is.
          All of these feelings of inadequacy contribute to my lack of confidence in listing an instrumental track that would normally require more justification and reasons for listing it than a track with lyrics and sentiment that match the topic. (I don’t think I’m making any sense btw).
          My clear lack of depth and breadth to my musical knowledge is one of the reasons I come here. You all offer such variety in musical taste there is so much you can help me discover (yours and Abahachi’s jazz suggestions have all found their way onto lists I play regularly, but even now I can’t recall the names of the artists).
          I agree that RR (or other such places where these listing games are played) present a meandering amble of discovery – I liken it to me losing hours in a dusty second-hand bookshop; even when I’m not looking for anything in particular, I often find treasure. But Shane makes a good point about deciding about a track within the first 30 seconds; attention span is everything and the last thing you want to do when compiling an RR list, is to lose your listeners half way through. Instrumentals do require attention and I certainly need to be in the right mood for them. Interestingly though, some of these tracks came from albums that are not wholly instrumental – they provided a break or bridge between other songs containing lyrics.
          Tbh, I started to put it together on a whim. Back in November I started listening back to all the albums I enjoyed in 2017, It amounted to around 48 hours of music. Every time I came across an instrumental track I liked, I popped it into this playlist for later listening, but I’m very glad it’s started this discussion!
          Happy New Year to you lovely folk – thanks for putting up with my musically uneducated nonsense! – at least I know I’m not talking into a void!

          • You should think of it more as a confidence thing than a competence thing, your articles are always very eloquent. Very few of the people on RR are actually musically educated and those that are don’t put anyone else down, in my experience. As I wrote above, music is a very primal experience which plays directly into our core sense of movement and space- we experience music often in spatial terms, as if we were moving within some volume or current, sometimes even as something that can take us over physically. (Compulsion to dance, nod, or tap). That’s why we tolerate repetition in music far more than in literature. Even moderate repetition in literature can rapidly wear, yet we willingly listen to verse/chorus/verse/chorus/break/verse/chorus over and over again. Margulis notes that this is akin to the pleasure in performing a repeated physical task- knitting, tennis, driving a car- or, obviously, sex- and that the same parts of our brain are involved. All of which simply serves to illustrate that there’s no harm in saying what you think.. even if it’s just to say that a particular piece of music gets into your bones.

            My daughter also has an instrumental playlist (in the meantime, a whole folder of playlists) full of older electronica like Wagon Christ, jazz, games soundtracks, and other ephemera, and is always on the lookout for suitable candidates, of this year’s albums she was particularly taken with the Danish String Quartet boys, though more their earlier folk album rather than this year’s one.

          • I also have no musical education and find my confidence lacking in describing why I decide to ‘choose’ something.
            But my confidence in what I like is slightly different – as yet this makes no sense!

            With RR it’s entirely down to how it has been nominated – a person’s words give me a long list… be it a copy and paste song line from the track; an emotional response to the song; or a story told about it.
            I’ve pushed responsibility to the nominator: it’s readers recommend NOT saneshane’s favourites.
            Once that longlist is created – I then narrow down tracks by 1) are they listed already? 2) are they on topic? (IMHO) 3) are they interesting in the type of genre they come from?
            I try my hardest to do this with an open mind – even to people I’d normally switch off instantly.
            But I’m critical – it has to have a unique selling point to work – a little quirk that catches my attention.
            Then, as I’ll still have 40/50 tracks, I become brutal and narrow it down to the A and B list – that get’s juggled often by how I do the write-up and how that flows. If a track from my starting B list tells a better story in the write up by following an A-list song – I will swap it. Because all the tracks by that point will be worthy – all tracks from the initial lists will be worthy too – so really my natural feelings of inadequacy are removed because I’ve only copy and pasted other people’s nominations. Nowt to do with me gov’ner – you people nominated them! That way I don’t feel any weight on my own shoulders.

            In comparison the confidence I have in my own taste is simple – I like it – so what – they are my ears and eyes!
            I do like to try and articulate why I prefer something over another choice, or why pulp music sits perfectly well with high brow – but that articulation is the same language and response I use for art, music, books, design, photography and football. I believe as long as your own personality comes through as genuine, with a clear voice then that is all that matters – not technical knowledge.
            For what it’s worth, I think your writing voice about music comes across in that way – in that way of discovery and enthusiasm for the subject, which is perfect, and why we all try and type our responses to stuff here and on RR in a similar fashion.

  4. More jazzykindathings, Sarah! – Binker & Moses, Blue Note All Stars, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – who released 3 LPs this year, Floating Points, Clutchy Hopkins & Fat Albert Einstein, Bei Bei & Shawn Lee, Hampshire & Foat, Hello Skinny, Hidden Orchestra …

    • Thank you so much! I’m going to have to get back to you on all of these when I get a moment to listen properly – still working my way through Festive Spill 1s!

  5. … house sound is often going to be rejected as the first-minute kicks in… the tsh tsh tsh effect giving an allergic reaction to a traditional rock listener.

    My ears are burning!

    Not sure if you’ve seen it (or if you are already familiar with the album), but I’ve recently discovered a 2017 release that’s REALLY pushing my buttons, and have posted a couple of links to it. If not, here it is again:
    Chuck Johnson – Riga Black
    A name I’d never heard of. Normally – apparently – a finger-picking acoustic guitar player renowned [it says here] for his dedication to American folk/roots music. But on this year’s Balsams LP, he used “pedal-steel and a recording studio as the primary instruments”.

  6. Thanks Sarah, lovely playlist. I really liked the Mogwai, and then discovered during LCD sound system that dancing and doing the ironing are not wholly compatible. Then PSB come on and talk to me about how to iron a white shirt. Spooky!

  7. Looks like a great playlist Sarah, will get to it in the next couple of days – great to see Noveller on there, I didn’t get her latest album, but I’ve got all the others and will get round to it eventually.

    Really enjoyed the Shane/Nilpferd discussion too – I don’t have anything to add, I honestly think that I don’t distinguish at all these days and don’t even notice whether I’m listening to an instrumental track or one with vocals. Looking at my Top 11 list I’ve just realised that 3 of them are pretty much all instrumental and 2 more use indecipherable vocals as a kind of instrument.

  8. Little late to the instrumental soiree and certainly not as erudite or educated as some of the other posters who have so eloquently put forth their view point.

    For fear of repetition I am a musically illiterate tone deaf Guru but when a piece of music or song grabs me I know it; it may be the voice, the opening few seconds, an earworm of a chorus or a change in ‘tempo’! [Get you with the musical terms ;)].

    I’ve often listed instrumentals, in fact most of mine have featured at least one in either the A or B list:

    From my very first (Astor PiazollaWhisky Tango) to my most recent that had two in the A-List (Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Snowflakes and Isao Tomita’s interpretation of Debussy’s Snowflakes are Dancing and a few in the B-list to boot).

    I even squeezed in an instrumental or two into covers by the opposite sex: Miles Davis Time After Time and Jeff Beck’s awesome take on Somewhere Over the Rainbow

    Leavey’s List of Instrumentals

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