|Favourite albums of 2017|
Here are my favourite albums from another great year for music. This was written in a cold week mid-December, I fully expect my opinions to change as they constantly do, and of course I hope I continue find great records I may have missed in this year but I hope this proves to be a solid snapshot of what music I dug in 2017.
Deserve To Die
Woolworm is my favourite band on Mint records right now, and their new album “Deserve to die” furthers my own opinion that they are one the better bands to come out of Vancouver in a while. When I first heard this record I just couldn't get the songs out of my head or even resist humming them when I wasn't plugged in. Despite aggressive instrumentation and darker lyrical themes this album still feels catchy and very enjoyable from start to finish. I hope their next release lives up to this one because I really need more restless, and raw albums like this in my life these days.
From the opposite coast of Canada, and released on Dan Mangan’s Madic Records is the full-length debut of Halifax band Walrus. This album showcases both great performance and stellar production for a smaller band. I’m a huge fan of the bass and drum performances on this album, specifically the sharp rhythms on the track “Regular Face”. The psychedelic guitar work is a really nice touch too that doesn’t ever drift into overly hazy territory that helps this album keep at a good pace. I hope this band gets the attention they deserve on their later albums assuming they deliver material just as good this.
Lomelda is a project lead by Texas singer-songwriter Hannah Read, and her second album “Thx” could be one of the loneliest-sounding albums of the year. I really enjoy how expressive this album is, and just the overall clarity and cohesiveness of it, you can really hear every stroke and pluck quite well. Within the albums sphere of clarity songs like “Bam Sha Klam” and “Only Word” reach such great intensity with some very thick and warm guitar strums. Distance is an important theme in this album but it feels very honest and genuine at the risk of being unromantic, I know I’ll be listening to this one for a long time.
Sophie Allison has released some sad, but often really lovely lo-fi bedroom pop online since 2015 under the moniker “Soccer Mommy”. I was really pleased to see her signed to Fat Possum Records for this album “Collection” that features many of her previously released tracks recorded in a studio setting with more varied instrumentation. Songs like “Try” and “Death by Chocolate” are total ear-candy to me, and I loved hearing them in a more professional manner for this album. Definitely short and sweet with only 8 tunes on the track listing, but I look forward to seeing what she does next.
“Jumping the Shark” was one of my top albums of last year, so I was definitely anticipating Australian musician Alex Cameron’s sophomore release. I liked the sleazy character he portrayed in the last album, it sort of reminded me of Gregg Turkington’s dark, and bleak portrayal of Neil Hamburg in Rick Alverson's 2015 film “Entertainment”. This time ‘round Al' Cameron takes a slightly different form, but plays the part and executes it just as well as he had before. As listener I don’t think I take this album quite as seriously as he may himself but I still enjoy this album all the same however sleazy and seedy it may be it's just an insanely catchy album. Some moments on this album touched me most apart from some great hooks, and addictive cheesy production are a duet on “Stranger’s Kiss” with Angel Olsen, and some great saxophone work from Roy Molloy as well.
Oh Sees (Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, Thee Ohsees, OCS, etc…) is a very daunting project to not only dive right into but even keep up with the rapid spread of releases but that said, some of my favourite work to come from John Dwyer and Castle Face Records has come from the recent run of Oh Sees records over the past couple years, and “Orc” really cements that for me. I love how jam-y this record is especially with utilizing the two drummers is and how it has a really gory, medieval, and fantasy-like air to it, that makes me feels like the bands current lineup has truly hit their stride. This record has an extremely strong first half that I thought would be hard to succeed but I really enjoyed the ending drum solo on "Raw Optics".
|11||Open Mike Eagle|
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Quirky as hell, but certainly not quite as playful as some of his previous work Los Angeles rapper Open Mike Eagle has hit such a solid run of releases with the “Special Episode EP” in 2015, his collaboration with Paul White “Hella Personal Film Festival” from last year, and now adding this new album to the streak. Lots of this album revolves around reminiscence, and displacement. I think Open Mike Eagle did a brilliant job this year making a more personal, and endearing album while still retaining his thoughtful wit, and general weirdness continuing to make some of the best art rap to date however mellow this project may be.
A friend turned me onto this album right when it was released, and it’s easily one of the best debuts to come out this year. It’s dynamic despite an eased pace and the lyrics and instruments feel tender in the highs and lows throughout every song. While there aren’t any songs that I dislike on this record there are definitely some tracks that stand out more than others. On Spotify the single “Problem” was most streamed song of the year, I think that alone justifies its position on this list enough. I should also add that in a video for their new single “Petal” that had Hannah from Lomelda on bass too! I would love to see some of her influence on this band in future releases.
Nine albums deep and I'm glad to say there still isn't a Spoon record that I can’t enjoy from front to back, that’s probably why there are one of my favourite bands ever. They returned to Matador records for this new album “Hot Thoughts” for the first time since their 1996 debut "Telephono". Some highlights on this album for me are the intro and transition on “WhisperI’llistentohearit” that shift into a wicked bass lick pulling in the rest of the song then the aggressive, punchy drum grooves on “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”, and the swiftest song of them all “Shotgun” towards the end of the track listing. I really like the switch to the telecaster guitar sound, and the emphasis or keyboards and synthesizers on the past two records that Spoon has made. The closer on this album “Us” is an intense stretch from the rest of the tracks that provides a great exit. I can’t wait to see what this band does next.
Toronto-based dream/jangle pop band Alvvays put out such a nice sounding album this year with “Antisocialites” as a follow-up to their 2014 self-titled debut. This record has some of my favourite vocal performances of the year feeling significantly less raw and human than their first album but I think it really worked in their favour. I love some of the guitar work on this album like the backgrounds on the track “Hey” that sound like Flock of Seagulls and how well a lot of it plays with the synthesizer parts on songs like "Saved by a Waif". I can definitely see this band making a pop album in the future and straying away even further from using guitars and live drums but regardless of which direction this band takes I’ll be looking out for what they put out next.
Also hailing Toronto, Leslie Feist has been in the music business for well over twenty-five years now. Despite those extensive years of experience she has only put out 4 albums prior to this one, with her last one “Metals” coming out in 2011, and almost landing ten years after her breakthrough album "The Reminder". That said, she releases some undoubtedly powerful music when she does create albums. “Pleasure” feels very moody and raw at first, and the whole album feels very confidently unhinged but in some very exciting and dramatic ways. I think this is one of the most dynamic and in moments natural sounding albums of the year.
Relatives In Descent
While it took me a few listens to truly appreciate each album I really enjoyed Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr's first couple records but this time now I was definitely ready for it, and I was sure glad I could enjoy this album right off the bat. I came to really appreciate singer Joe Casey’s unaffected deadpan vocals that contrast so well with the band’s explosive playing. The record commences with the powerful single "Private Understanding" and the pace doesn't really stop at any point in the album. One of this albums greatest moments is at the end of the albums finale “Half Sister” that returns to the phrase “She’s only trying to reach you”. This band clearly knows that what to do works, and the do damn fine job sticking to it.
I was such a big fan of the first two Fleet Foxes albums when they first came out, but I really didn't know what to expect from this one with the extensive hiatus, and then the move from comfortable Seattle label Sub Pop to Nonesuch Records. So upon the release I was really pleased to find this record definitely holds up, and compliments their older material so nicely. I absolutely love the atmosphere on this album, and the transition between the second and third song is a great break between two of the albums most beautiful songs. The climax of this album is reached at the later half of the song “On Another Ocean” from the gradual build of the first half of the song then the album closes so nicely with “I Should See Memphis” and the title track “Crack Up”, this album as a whole is truly a stunner.
|4||The War on Drugs|
A Deeper Understanding
I didn't exactly have the highest expectations for this album, to be completely honest the only reason I listened to was because of some exceptional feedback, and a really cool vinyl pressing that wouldn't leave my Instagram feed. My expectations were completely knocked out of the park by this albums huge, powerful sound that shines in all it's glory after the first minute of the opening track. All the instruments on this album sound so good and every song is crafted so well, and the album closes just as well as it opens with songs like "In Chains" and "You Don't Have To Go". Recorded at Rare Book Room studios in Brooklyn. On Spotify “Up All Night” was my second most-streamed song of the entire year and the album was only released towards the end of summer. This album has been favourite on my turntable since I first picked it up.
|3||Sun Kil Moon|
Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
It’s hard to keep up with Mark Kozelek's extensive discography from his work with Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, his many collaborations and all the music he puts out under his own name. A stand-out album to me among the Kozelek collection is 2014’s “Benji” and I think this is his best album since. The one stand-out song of this album to me is in the middle of the tracklisting on “Stranger Than Paradise” with it’s really deep prolonged rhythm, and dense stream of consciousness. This album is really difficult to explain with so little room for words, there are a total of sixteen songs with the shortest being just over five minutes long. It’s a complicated album that takes a long time to digest because Kozelek's tackles so many personal topics that neither the listener or artist is expected to understand.
Music For People In Trouble
Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfor crafted one the most unique, and diverse listens of the year. Introduced in a simply beautiful manner “Mantra” draws a mood both minimal and rather bare that consists with the second song, and is joined by additional instrumentation in “Good Luck Bad Luck”. The album proceeds to change dramatically on “The Sound of War” and the shadow that moods casts over the latter half of the records with the more folk-like instrumental seemly weaved into. Every time I come back to album I hear something new and exciting in good company with everything else I already enjoy about it, this album is absolutely epic.
|1||The Mountain Goats|
I’m a real sucker for any good story, and some of the finest musical storytelling I’ve heard is on The Mountain Goats sixteenth album “Goths” yes, an album about goths. What I enjoy most about these songs and these stories is the familiarity in the characters like Andrew Eldridge, Siouxsie Sioux, and the brothers from Gene Loves Jezebel. I've dusted off my mom's CD collection enough times to be modestly familiar with the characters and their music. This is not a goth album, it still registers as a Mountain Goats album, and I love that. Some of the many highlights on this album are the Steely Dan-sounding chords and harmonies on the track “Wear Black”, and the song “Shelved” that gets taken out like a New Order song. The instrumentation on this album is fantastic with lots of variety without the use of any guitars, the band seriously achieved such a good blend of dense yet cohesive instrumentation and lyrical performance on this album, did I mention there are no guitars on this album?