Little Fictions by Elbow
Here we are at the #1 album for 2017, Elbow’s absolutely stellar Little Fictions. The Top 31 is my way of trying to capture my year in music — what I was listening to, what I was enjoying. As the soundtrack to my life, the Top 31 is always influenced by the events from the year, but that’s not to say the events we all felt in 2017 are what drove my musical tastes. Ask anyone I consider a friend, they would probably say that 2017 was a shitty year for Americans. Over the year I grew more and more terrified by what is happening in our country, politically. But in my personal life, my year was far from shitty. It was quite glorious, in fact: I moved in with my girlfriend at the beginning of the year, and then we got pregnant shortly thereafter. We followed that by getting married in August and then the birth of our lovely daughter in October (if I had a Top Songs of All Time countdown, “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie would be #1 for 2017). That’s a lot of awesomeness to cram into one year.
Following me along throughout all of those experiences was this fantastic album by Elbow. For those of you that don’t know, Elbow is a band out of a small town outside of Manchester, England called Ramsbottom. While the band has been playing music together since 1990, they didn’t become “Elbow” until 1997 (which was still 21 years ago — and aside from drummer Richard Jupp leaving the band in 2016, replaced by session drummer Alex Reeves, they’ve performed with the same lineup for that entire time). Little Fictions is their seventh album in that span. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every release they’ve put out, and their last two albums were featured prominently on the Top 31s in their respective years (The Take Off and Landing of Everything was #2 in 2014; Build a Rocket Boys! was #5 in 2011).
I can’t talk highly enough about this band. Guy Garvey’s voice is like butter (and to unaccustomed ears, he sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel). The rest of the band (brothers Craig (keyboards) and Mark Potter (guitar), along with Pete Turner (bass)) put together one solid rock n roll hit after another. Often quiet, with key moments of electric bombast, the band manages crescendo like no other. And each album is every bit as good as the last. It’s an amazing feat.
This album — THIS ALBUM — may be the best yet. But that may also be how this album is tied to my experiences over the year. The first song on the album, “Magnificent (She Says),” featured in the video above, is Garvey’s response to how terrible 2016 was. He says in this video regarding the song that he needed a way to process all the shit that had happened. So he chose to look at it from the perspective of a wide-eyed little girl, full of innocence and love.
And there she stands
Throwing both her arms around the world
The world that doesn’t even know
How much it needs this little girl
It’s all gonna be magnificent, she says
It’s all gonna be magnificent
Glorious. Did I mention I now have a daughter, born only in October? And then there’s the second song, “Gentle Storm”:
Counting down, now the clocks reset when I met you
Do we start a new life?
Yours and my spit-shone restless hearts, they were meant to
Beat one time, share one fate
From this day
And fall in love with me
Fall in love with me
Fall in love with me
Gobstopping. Did I mention I got married in August? Be sure to check out the video for that song, which features Benedict Cumberbatch.
From there, the album just continues unabated on its ascendance to greatness. “All Disco” sums up music and life nicely, the title from a quote by Frank Black (“whatever music you love, it’s all disco”). There’s a nice docu-video featuring that song. The last song on the album, “Kindling,” is a slow and quiet outro for the album that primes you for the replay you have inevitably already set up. There’s a great little acoustic alt-version of that song featuring a duet between Garvey and John Grant.
The penultimate song on the album, the title song “Little Fictions,” is an 8+ minute orchestral dream. Put on headphones and play it loud. The song starts with dissonant chords on a piano interplaying with a programmatic drum beat. Enter Garvey, singing about what feels like jabs in a relationship that has passed its due date. The chorus comes in:
We protect our little fictions
Like it’s all we are
Little wilderness mementos
But there’s only you and me here
Waiting for the original miracle
And with that the song keeps building to one hell of a climax, violins and violence raging and building to the lyrical reveal: “Love is the original miracle.” Whether or not the couple in the song reconciles their differences is unclear, but you’ll most certainly feel spent at the end of it.
I can’t get enough of this band and this album. I want everyone to love them as I do. Give it a few listens. Put it on in the background, or play it loud in the fore. It will fill you with warmth and envelope you with joy.
2. Half-Light by Rostam
3. Everything Now by Arcade Fire
4. Sleep Well Beast by The National
5. Soul of a Woman by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
6. Relaxer by Alt-J
7. Hot Thoughts by Spoon
8. Colors by Beck
9. Mental Illness by Aimee Mann
10. The Wild by The Rural Alberta Advantage
11. american dream by LCD Soundsystem
12. Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes
13. Famous Last Words by The True Loves
14. Cry Cry Cry by Wolf Parade
15. Pure Comedy by Father John Misty
16. Shake the Shudder by !!!
17. La La Land (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by La La Land
18. The Underside of Power by Algiers
19. What Now by Sylvan Esso
20. 50 Song Memoir by The Magnetic Fields
21. Plunge by Fever Ray
22. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
23. Capacity by Big Thief
24. The Tourist by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
25. CCFX EP by CCFX
26. Woodstock by Portugal. The Man
27. MASSEDUCTION by St. Vincent
28. On the Spot by Hot 8 Brass Band
29. A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
30. Planetarium by Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, & James McAlister
31. A Moment Apart by Odesza