Self-Portrait: Gord Downie, Magnetic Fields and Oh Susanna Dive Inward

Photo: Gordon Hawkins

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 18, 2017

Write what you know, as the trope dictates, and most artists do to some extent. But this year, a number of high-profile musicians took that advice more literally, drawing on their own lives for inspiration.

Arca (XL)
With Arca, Venezuelan producer Alejandro Ghersi unleashes his most private and intimate thoughts and sings openly in his native tongue. With tremendous elegance, he spins the most visceral of tales, unexpectedly laying himself bare. Such openness is rare in electronic music, which makes Ghersi's autobiographical refrains all the more welcome. Bryon Hayes

Gord Downie
Introduce Yerself (Arts & Crafts)
If you followed Gord Downie's work, odds are good you encountered other people's names. He viewed his high profile and platform as a gift from the strong personalities who surrounded and inspired him. On his final solo album, Introduce Yerself, he starkly, touchingly sings some of his muses an individualized yet relatable personal note. Vish Khanna

The Magnetic Fields
50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch)
On his 50th birthday — and risking comparisons to his band's iconic 69 Love SongsStephin Merritt followed his label president's advice to write an autobiographical album. 50 Song Memoir is as sonically eclectic as it is geographically diverse, touching on memory, family, religion, synthesizers, infatuation, love, AIDS, New York and so much more. Sarah Greene

Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked at Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
Many autobiographical albums touch on breakups, depression or personal failures. On Mount Eerie's painfully personal A Crow Looked at Me, Phil Elverum deals with a subject that left him utterly helpless: the death of his wife, leaving the listener with an album deprived of solutions or answers. Daniel Sylvester

Oh Susanna
A Girl In Teen City (Stella)
Suzie Ungerleider takes us on a compelling journey back in time to her days as a young Vancouver punk rock fan. The songs on A Girl in Teen City are deeply rooted in her experiences, and this masterful musical memoir is by turns witty and moving, evoking a period of intense emotions to which all of us can relate. Kerry Doole

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