|2017 Half-time with Daddy|
It's been a year full of fairly good albums with very few stellar ones, but here's hoping the second half of the year picks up the slack with new albums coming from The National, Hammock, War on Drugs and Coroner if their new album actually comes out this year as planned. Anyway, here's the 50 albums I've enjoyed most this year, hope you find something groovy you missed or w/e, descriptions on the top 20 and wherever else I felt like it, recs are encouraged and appreciated
Carrie and Lowell Live
I’ve tried to cut live albums / re-releases etc from the list, however there are 2 obvious pieces that should be mentioned. Sufjan’s latest live album is an absolutely essential accompaniment to the original C&L. The altered track order changing the flow, as well as completely overhauling some of the tracks leads to a very different album. Of particular note is my personal SOTY, the revamped ‘All of Me Wants All of You’, which features a catchy electronic backdrop and gorgeous post-rock peaks and troughs that build towards a beautiful gang vocal crescendo and then an absolutely ridiculous psychedelic synthesizer solo that renders the track unrecognizable from the viewpoint of the original. While the closing 15min let the album down a bit as a whole, this is one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard.
The second obvious addition being the bonus tracks and b-side compilation here. As someone who never really dove into all the bonus tracks, this is essentially a full new disc of excellent Radiohead tracks. While I certainly don’t rate it as highly as Sput generally seems to, some of the tracks (and music videos) are killer and essential to any Radiohead fan.
|46||Mors Principium Est|
Embers of a Dying World
You Only Live 2wice
Shame the album wasn't as good as the gorgeous album art. Still solid though
|39||Falls of Rauros|
While I’m glad they tried something a bit new, I still feel it’s a step down from their past few albums.
The backlash on this album came so hard and fast, I don't know what happened. It's solid guys come on
Emperor of Sand
On the other hand, I’m not really seeing how people say this is a big jump in quality over their recent works. It’s just more decent mid-tempo proggy Mastodon, though that's not a bad thing.
|35||Full of Hell|
Through The Mirror
Noisy as hell Bannon-produced insanity.
Reflections of a Floating World
|32||Stevens / Dessner / Muhly / McAlister|
This is still going to take a long while to properly digest, no clue where it'll end up by the year's close.
I can see why people adore it but I'm just so rarely in the mood for this approach to dm, hasn't had much of a chance to grow on me
Kelle Surut Soi
Grew right off me over time, but still plenty of high points. Curious to see where he’ll go from here.
Godless Prophets and The Migrant Flora
|22||The Smith Street Band|
More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
These guys are heroes everywhere you go in AUS. It’s a shame it’s already been so overplayed and has started growing off me
Two Parts Viper
This album may be moved up in the very near future, as they’re coming to town in a couple of weeks and from all accounts they are absolutely unreal live. However, on the merits of the record alone, it scrapes into the top 20. Scogin’s mastered this slower, more dynamic style of writing that he started pursuing on ‘68s last album, and while it stumbles occasionally, the tracks where everything clicks (No Apologies, or the phenomenal closer) are some of the best pieces of music Scogin has penned.
Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works
The Blue Notebooks is one of my favourite classical albums, and here Richter finally moves back to that minimal approach. If Mount Eerie didn’t choose 2017 to release one of the most soul-crushing albums I’ve heard, the reading of Woolfe’s suicide note to the backdrop of crashing waves and mournful strings would be the most affecting musical moment of the year.
|18||Pain of Salvation|
In the Passing Light of Day
Another excellent comeback from what most expected to be a career-ending illness. I hadn’t thought I’d see another PoS album, and the fact that we got a killer just makes it that bit sweeter. I don’t think I’ll ever get the cheesy chorus to ‘Meaningless’ out of my head.
One of those albums I grabbed on a whim after seeing the vibrant album art pop up in my YouTube feed. Upbeat, smooth jazz that never fails to put a smile on my face.
Trance of Death
Just another very solid, dissonant black/death monster of a record. This style is a bit saturated at this stage, but Venenum are one of the bands that do it very well.
S/O to the dub boys for hitting me with this, definitely one of the better new shoegaze bands on the block.
Now this is the kind of dm I'm often in the mood for, predictably solid dm from the masters. Glad they bounced back with this kind of ferocity after Kingdom.
An incredibly compelling, almost tribal electronic record that I’m convinced is the best album of the year while I’m listening to it. However, the one issue is that the haunting and deliberately indistinct atmosphere means I forget what the album even sounds like an hour after I’ve spun it. However, putting that aside, it has one of the richest varieties of sounds you’ll hear on an electronic record, moving through a whole tapestry of styles and emotions throughout the album with admirable finesse. Very likely to move up the list with time.
|12||Do Make Say Think|
Stubborn Persistent Illusions
This was a band I never actually got around to listening to until this came out, so not only did I get this phenomenal album, but I got a bunch of them. So given that none of their albums really had a chance to grow on me and I experienced them all at more or less the same time, I can definitely say that this one has had the most immediate impact.
‘Aathma’ isn’t necessarily a step forward for the band, however it is a refinement. They’ve taken all of the mistakes that held the last 2 albums back in a minor capacity, cleaned them up and honed their songwriting to focus on the bands best traits. While it’s not as diverse and consistently engaging as their masterpiece ‘Core’, it extends one of the most consistent discographies in metal and cements their place as Andorra’s premiere musical act (not that they have much competition there…)
After the Party
Continues in the vein of ‘Rented World’, with just a few more catchy sing-alongs and more light in the dark to give it a more immediate impact. Probably my most-listened to album of the year. They’ve struck the perfect mixture of fun and serious that makes it really feel more like a soundtrack to your life, with all the ups and downs.
The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Every time I start thinking Ulver has covered as much ground as they could have, they master another genre like it’s what they’ve played for years. I loved ‘Messe’ and was admittedly worried at the Depeche Mode-esque pre-release track, but they absolutely nailed it yet again. I don’t even know what to say each time they release a new album anymore.
This album didn’t sit very well with me on initial listens. After spinning Third of May countless times before the album’s release, the rest seemed lacklustre and homogenous. However, after catching the majority of the album live and seeing the intricacies in the pieces up close, and then returning to the album with an ear for this, I completely flipped my opinion on it. For all those that gave it a couple of cursory listens and scratched it off as a stumble, I implore you to return to it and give it time. Similar to my ‘Goths’, it continues to grow on me with every listen, and I could easily seeing it making top 5 by the end of the year.
|7||The Ruins Of Beverast|
Dark, ritualistic atmospheric black metal from the master. Most of us were a bit worried after ‘Takitum Tootem!’, Meilenwald’s first real stumble, but thankfully those worries were unfounded, as he then dropped his best album since 2006. The overbearing tribal tones in the aforementioned EP are toned back and integrated seamlessly into RoB’s signature black metal aesthetic from a decade ago. Mix this in with arguably the best production in his discography makes for one of the strongest one-man black metal albums in recent memory.
Eschewing the trend of comeback albums following the same formula as the classics but failing to hold up next to them, ‘Slowdive’ cleverly takes a different approach. While they’ve toyed with extended pieces before, ‘Pygmalion’s longer tracks were often barren and empty, relatively directionless in the more ambient moments. Here, the longer bookends avoid stalling their motion, with Slomo moving every which way in its twinkly progression and Falling Ashes constantly moving in a defined direction throughout its build. While it doesn’t have the highs of Souvlaki, it’s a very consistent and impressive comeback album that can hold its own against a brilliant catalogue of work.
|5||The Mountain Goats|
A brilliant return to form for one of indie’s premiere storytellers. One of the strongest facets of The Mountain Goats music has been their narrative depth, where every time you return there is something new to learn about the characters, or a lyrical gem that you missed last time. And while ‘Beat the Champ’ failed to hold up over time, Goths hasn’t come close to wearing off after countless listens.
|4||The Great Old Ones|
EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy
EOD took everything from their previous album and just kicked it up another notch. The atmosphere is thicker, more apocalyptic, and the batshit insane moments really feel like you’re trapped in the madness of this Lovecraftian narrative. If you’re a fan of similarly madness-inducing sludgy atmospheres in black metal and you haven’t listened to this yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Never would I have expected an album like this to top metal for the year, and while it’s a tad premature, it’ll be tough for anything to topple it. In a genre notorious for its lack of variety, these guys blindside you at every turn. Throwing noir-ish ambient jazz segments, stereotypical post-black tremz and blasts, melodic passages and even some oddly fitting break beats into a melting pot with sloppy transitions shouldn’t work, but god damn is it refreshing to hear. The moments where all these different sounds come together with saxophones riding the cacophony and giving direction to the black metal assault are some of the most satisfying moments of 2017.
Exactly the sort of mellow jazz I love. There isn’t a whole lot to talk about here, except that it ticks all of my boxes for this style. Interesting and varied enough to engage you yet silky and relaxed enough to make the perfect background vibes (which is ideal for my work/study situation). I doubt anything will best Keep On as the smoothest track of the year.
A Crow Looked At Me
I understand when people don’t enjoy this as much from a musical perspective, but for these types of albums I’ve always felt it’s more about the capacity of the album to affect you emotionally. Other similar albums hinging on a particular event in the artists life will use blanket, universal statements to enable the listener to identify a bit more with the grief from their own personal experiences. ‘A Crow Looked At Me’ is refreshingly different in how uncomfortably personal it is. He’s not talking about death in a broad sense here, he’s talking about Genevieve’s death. Relatable or not, some of the horrible grief-stricken one liners that drop throughout this album will stay with me far longer than anything else from this year, and that in itself warrants a place near the top of 2017.