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A Blazin' Birthday Special Part 1

Today is my 18th birthday and I wanted to celebrate by catching up on procrastinated sputlists that I needed to share with you guys Part 2 will either come out today or tomorrow and that will be the Best Songs and Albums of September 2017 so just keep on the lookout for that.
30Lil Peep
Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 1

29Der Weg Einer Freiheit

10. “Ein Letzler Tanz”: Here's a really tasty atmospheric black metal song that is a wonderful continuation of the opener “Aufbrach” (which we will most definitely discuss later). The production on this track is excellent; the main example would be how the cymbal playing is at a bit of a raised volume, but not in a way that drowns the rest the music, but it makes a “slice” sound in the blast beats and crash rhythms. It's a really cool mixture to accompany the coarse vocals. The guitar playing is pretty kickass, too, as it's very good at speaking particular tones when needed. Although I wouldn't even say this is the best song, I do think almost every second of this track is Finisterre at its best.

9. “Preserved in Ash”: Yet another stellar black metal song I also wouldn't consider the best on its respective album, this track's unique direction of atmosphere has almost not been done in any black metal project this year. There's a satisfying power-metal-spiced riff that speaks for the first few minutes of the song, and the overall notation is somewhat cheery. After those few minutes, the guitar riffs get heavier, more dense, and slower; the drums are getting slammed harder; the bass is taking a more prominent presence; and the vocals are more intimidating and gross (as a compliment). After another three and a half minutes, the song goes into a drone, with two haunting, slow chords. This eventually turns into a grueling breakdown in which the vocalist melds himself with the drone. Like “Ein Letzler Tanz”, I also appreciate the production on here a lot, particularly with the guitars.

They're in a black metal “fuzz” sound for the several minutes, but as the guitars turn more atmospheric instead of riff centric, the fuzz gradually goes away. Also, this track is officially the start of a streak of great openers over the past couple of months.
26Steven Wilson
To the Bone

8. “Detonation”: I always rather enjoyed Steven Wilson's lengthier, complex ventures as opposed to the shorter, one-note ideas that were all over this album. That's why my favorite work by my favorite artist here has been “The Sky Moves Sideways (Both Phases)”, “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here”, “The Raven That Refused to Sing”, etc. That, in no way, means I don't love some of his simpler tracks (“Heartattack in a Layby”), or don't wince at some of his failed pretentious callbacks (Much of The Raven That Refused to Sing), but Steven was always at his most colorful in that department, and “Detonation” on To the Bone is absolutely no exception. While the first half has a pretty sweet riff that draws resemblance to the wonderful Insurgentes track “Harmony Korine” and a neat song structure, the second half is where all the eye candy's at. I'm not too sure how many reviewers noticed, but Steven made a sound callback not just to artists like Phil Collins and other 80's pop prog,
25Steven Wilson
To the Bone

but to his own 90's work with Up the Downstair and The Sky Moves Sideways in these parts. As a large fan of both of those records, it was amazing hearing the majorly improved production and touch on the instruments, and the guitar solo doesn't feel at all out of place on a record like The Sky Moves Sideways. This sound could even work in some of his easier-to-digest work (e.g. “Stars Die”, “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder”), but the album surrounding this song only makes it more of a reminder of missed potential. However, I still like to see this track as evidence that Steven Wilson still has a very coherent, creative mindset.
24Inanimate Existence
Underneath A Melting Sky

7. “Underneath a Melting Sky” [Title Track]: Yeah, yeah, more metal territory, but this is seriously a fire track. Everything is intense as hell, especially the absolutely wild guitars coming in at the start and end of the track. While The keyboards can be quite cheesy, it's matching with the guitar is excellent here. Also, that little bass groove in the middle of the song is so br00tal that it brings an odd, but effective motivator for whatever possible.

6. “Migration”: I'm usually not a huge fan of these conceptual “one track” megapices, but I'll make an exception here for sure. Cormorant explore many different areas of prog rock and black metal within an albeit large runtime, but that fact gets negated for how many ideas the band sifts through, all while keeping its own compositional story. The consistent tempo change throughout is quite impressive, too, from a slow post metal formula to a classic rock feel to a more hard rock crunch and back down again. The second half is almost like an entirely different song, building up from a guitar line and a drum beat all the way up to a climax that's familiar (albeit more intense) to the epic rock moments near the beginning of the track. It's a spectacular note to end on Diaspora, and I can't wait to see more songs from these guys.
22Brand New
Science Fiction

5. “137”: In a clever fashion, this midpiece begins with songwriting that resembles most of the album's opener “Lit Me Up” with the “incomplete” drum beat and the murky guitar tone. However, the atmosphere shifts about a minute into the track towards something a bit more expectant of a climatic pay off. That doesn't necessarily mean every song has to go large scale, hell, just look at “Lit Me Up”, but it really does improve it and the album's consistency for mixing the somber tone of the bookends and the heavier sound of “Same Logic/Teeth” and “Out of Mana”. Not only does the climax work extremely well in the song's favor, but that pay off itself is fantastic. After some prepatory sci-fi (terrible pun intended) effects comes a “Yes! A Brand New guitar solo!” that is probably a little overbearing, but that's exactly what this track needed.
21Grizzly Bear
Painted Ruins

4. “Sky Took Hold”: I admired Grizzly Bear's plentiful synthy outtakes on Painted Ruins, but the closer easily takes the beauty pageant cake. The production and mixing are spectacular, taking that guitar effect into full force without being a blister on the ears. The vocals do their calming with success, and the keyboards don't try to force their way into the lead guitars, instead becoming a necessary layer of beauty to add. This track also contains one of the best outros I've heard in the past few months. The keyboards start take reign as the song dies out and a hint of violin can be heard within. That meager bit of violin alone makes that outro worthwhile, and is a very smart feature. All this isn't even to disregard the great melodies created by each band members. This is an outstanding alternative rock track that I'll surely remember all year.
20Der Weg Einer Freiheit

3. “Aufbrach”: Just like Cormorant's “Preserved in Ash” this track flawlessly sets its album up as a opener, and completely fulfills that task with no trouble at all. Most of the compliments I can give for this song have already been said for the second track on this album, but there are a handful of major altercations that just make this song better. First, the drumming is highlighted here as it goes through different fills, blast beats, and double bass rhythms that all fit their parts smoothly. Second, the guitars are a little better equipped for the atmosphere here as well, and there's a clean backup vocalist that impresses on the back half of the track. What sells the song to me the most, however, is the thoroughly silky transitions of atmosphere building and the amount of detail put into them. It's all kept very consistent, yet the composition changes are dramatic enough to surely make the listener notice, but it flows so well that it's hard to not get sucked into its flow.
19Der Weg Einer Freiheit

This is what intriguing black metal does, and I've heard it all August.
18Brand New
Science Fiction

2. “Batter Up”: While the next song on the list questions purpose and discovery thereof, this song has already made that discovery. Brand New is pretty much done with their journey, so it's time to pass their torch that's been handed down by the generations of emo and alternative rock. It's time for the next influence on deck to batter up. This song is deeply emotional, sometimes for no reason other than its composition, but the great thing about Jesse Lacey's message is that there is no grief to be held. All instruments are reserved to respect the resignation of the band's long standing position, but their defining presence is also there to pay that same respect. I couldn't imagine a more fitting closer, honestly. It checks all the desired marks in overall tone from the album, and we know that this is goodbye, and they just so happened to wish us farewell first.
17Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

1. “The Deepest Sighs/The Frankest Shadows”: Modern Springsteen, yes? The recent hype around this song is not overstating matters whatsoever. This is arguably the greatest song of August 2017 and one of the most superior rock tracks of the year. If you have seen the music video of this song, that's where you can see yourself when listening: just running out in the open, metaphorical or not. Every effort to bring a uplifting pulse pays off in its full potential between the vocalist's energized delivery, the high-tuned bass, the fast hi-hat riddled drums, and the triumphant and bone-chilling trumpets. What has been underrated from this track, as far as I know, are the lyrics and songwriting. This song exists because of a moment where the singer started to think existentially to himself after gathering a self-hate for having a horrible case of writer's block. The universal message goes “life means nothing until we mean something”, and that's what this song is all about.
16Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

This subject has surely been done before, but it's the songwriter's obvious proof of experience and effort of optimism that make this song as grand as it is.
15Lil Uzi Vert
Luv Is Rage 2

14Inanimate Existence
Underneath A Melting Sky

10. 7/10 It ain't transformative of the genre of death metal or anything, but it's hella fun. The vocalist on this entire album is just cruel and he doesn't stop the growling assault either. The heavy sections were always bursting with color and they had a lot to offer, and I wasn't a huge fan of the slower and more experimental sections on here, but they did occasionally work. The most notable moment on a particular track was the guitar riff on the opener “Forever to Burn” is burned in my mind and endlessly catchy, but there was a couple tracks at the end in “The Unseen Self” and “Formula of Spores” that really showed how impressive Inanimate Existence can be when they're performing as their signature sound.
13Grizzly Bear
Painted Ruins

9. 7/10 I've been pretty critical of big alternative rock outlets this year (there are a handful of exceptions, and there's a pink elephant ahead) and I guess one could say that this isn't excused from that fact, but I do find plenty of ways for Grizzly Bear's new record to be enjoyable. That criticism is mostly targeted toward bands that get a budget and fame high enough to think they can be a gimmick and run with the praise over repetitive ideas. There's some evidence of that to be found in Ruins, but I think Grizzly Bear shifts up the gimmick enough in a similar method to Broken Social Scene last month. There's a few neat varieties in the instruments department, and genuinely successful attempts to set up an atmosphere do exist here, particularly on the last two tracks “Systole” and “Sky Took Hold”. This album in particular has an issue with unnecessarily slow pacing,
12Grizzly Bear
Painted Ruins

but there are several tracks like “Three Rings” that help speed up and intensify the effects Grizzly Bear are known for.
Saturation 2

8. 7/10 Brockhampton has more than enough members employed in their squad to get a group mentality of quick and witty songwriting along with a bit of punchy beats to get their bars over, but it's only been two damn months and Brockhampton already has fans squabbling about which Saturation makes them more wet. And I'm going to stay neutral. They are really similar albums, but not in a way to where one could easily see a repetition situation. The creative changes in formula Brockhampton can pull off in such a rapid time span is quite admirable. Many of the flaws here resemble the first Saturation like awkward vocal performances, oddly paced beats, and unfitting instrumentation, but they are, yet again, far and few between. If anything has improved since then, it's the instrumental consistency. Tracks flow into each other a bit easier and are much easier to stomach, but the setback asks where those high bars are. Where are the stellar tracks like “BANK.” and “MILK.”?
Saturation 2

Basically, I don't want just decent tracks, I want stellar.
9Der Weg Einer Freiheit

7. 7/10 This mouthful of a band name was, sure enough, going to make the album's list after their appearances on the prior list. Their approach to atmospheric black metal made for a unique and mind-blowing listen, mainly on the two opening tracks I discussed before. The major issue this album had going against it was that that silky tonal shift and fierceness is a one trick pony, and any other main ideas that the band tries to commit to, particularly on the last track, just don't hold up well at all. I still really enjoy what Finisterre showcased, and “Aufbrach” is still one of the better songs of the year.

6. 7.5/10 Soaringly melodic prog rock is mostly not my cup of tea because all the focus on composition and Pathos takes all the fun away from prog rock, and, thankfully, Leprous doesn't completely fall into this trap. They know how to rock in their own, signature ways, with my favorite example being “The Weight of Disaster”. “Bonneville” is another strong opener to pay attention to. That song utilized trumpets, which actually fits quite well with Malina's overall atmosphere (and of which I hoped to hear more often than I did). I thought the large gamble for the ending track paid off much better than it looked on paper, and it turns out to be a nice piece on its own accord. Leprous tried to make a few tracks with more enforced hooks and I wasn't a huge fan of those, but they knew how to experiment their sound's barrier. Oh yeah, and Baard Kolstad on “Coma”. Just listen to that performance.
7The Districts
Popular Manipulations

5. 7.5/10 This is generic indie rock that's as good as it'll get. Well, it can't really be dismissed as generic since there is a shining shoegaze influence, but the band's song structures do (rightfully) lean it in a familiar indie rock direction. No worries; this is worth it. What impresses me the most about Popular Manipulations out of everything is their ability to make the same levels of cheery and heavy at around the same quality. Compare the more upbeat track “Capable” with a rather serious track “Airplane” to see the range of moods the band can cover within this album. Mood shifting isn't the only thing The Districts are good at, though. I just simply like a lot of the tracks, and as an album, their sequential flow didn't need to be extremely precise, so the band could focus on the quality of them.
6Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

4. 7.5/10 Alright, Gang of Youths, listen up. I know you made an incredible masterpiece in “The Deepest Sighs/The Frankest Shadows”, and that the majority of your album's tracks are really solid, with even more solid concepts, but just learn one thing from me: cut the damn runtime on some of these, like, Jesus. There were far too many songs on here that dragged, and it ruined a potentially consistent pace, but this record is all the way up at number 4 on this list, so that's easily not the album's main identity. Gang of Youths makes punk fun and adventuring, especially with the few openers and closers (and how different each of those halves sound). In individuality, “Fear and Trembling” is a killer track, and “Our Time is Short” is a massively underrated ballad that gets it's praise overshadowed too often by other songs on the same album. Gang of Youths is a huge meat of an album to indulge yourself in,
5Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

but the vision you see of the band's vast outside perspective on rock is really intriguing to hear.
Renaissance in Extremis

3. 8/10 With some of the most skillful and jaw-dropping guitar playing of the year, Akercocke have really mastered themselves as technical musicians. The majority of guitar solos are greatly mixed and produced to really raise the power of the guitar's fast-paced notes, and that's not to say it can't construct the song's mood every once in a while. The drums are also a pleasure to listen to with several ludicrous moments. Now I wouldn't call the vocalist technical by almost any means, but he's quite interesting both beneficially and malignantly. His cleans sound really amateur for the production being as polished as it is, but the varying clean styles are worthwhile. His growls are also amateur but in a way that mostly sounds dumb, but the vocalist keeps himself reserved on this end so the main quality of the tracks aren't hurt by them.

2. 8.5/10 I definitely don't think I've seen a more well done mix of progressive rock and black metal this year than Cormorant's Diaspora. The numerous subtle concepts of the album like “Preserved in Ash” with its slow descent into madness and the smooth tempo alterations of “Migration” are already intriguing enough, but what makes me come back to this album for repeated listens is the content. The older-quality production just fits so well with the theme and the riffs that not many other black metal bands can touch that level of sonic world building with just one decision like that. That does make Diaspora a bit more old-schooled, but I think great black metal usually has that resemblance in the production of the instruments.
2Brand New
Science Fiction

1. 9/10 Science Fiction's ranking for this month was bound to be predictable, but before it was released, any spot (or absence) was a wild card. Brand New did indeed wait eight years for this LP which had two mediocre single within the span, so any range of quality was to be expected. Almost everyone has heard it now, and most held it in very high regard, but why? Is it because of its relations and influences to past albums by the band or because it is Brand New being themselves? I think the album is just that fantastic. I've already raved about two of the tracks and their contributions to Science Fiction, but there's plenty of unsaid praise I can give. “Can't Get it Out” and “Waste” are (technically were) prime candidates for the album's singles as they juxtapose in tension. “Same Logic/Teeth” has lyrics that are quite ridiculous, (In all seriousness, the lyrics on this whole record are somewhat questionable, which does force a feeling of growing off every so often.)
1Brand New
Science Fiction

but the production here (and on much of the album) is totally superb. This success is essential of the intensity of tracks like “Same Logic/Teeth” and “Out of Mana”. I wasn't as much of a fan on the more experimental second half of the record as others, but “Desert” is a highly underrated track that fits a bit of Western with Science Fiction's dark overtone in a complete 50/50 mix, even down to the lyrics. I sincerely thank Brand New for making one of the best albums of the entire decade, and one that gains so much success among their fans.
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