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12.18.18 Pistol's 2018 12.22.17 Pistol's 2017
10.26.17 Post-Metal Starter Pack12.22.16 Pistol's 2016
01.13.16 Pistol's 201502.19.15 Pistol's 2014
01.05.14 Pistol's 2013 09.01.13 You Da Best Sputnik
06.29.13 Top Moments (Vol II) 02.24.13 Chevelle Bonus Songs Ranked
02.09.13 Top Moments (Vol I)

Pistol's 2017

Somehow I still manage to find time each year to write this massive annual list. 2017 I was really on the ball though, proactively writing this out well in advance to avoid having to do it all at once late in the year. The year in general for me was rocky as hell. I almost completely ruined a trip to Nicaragua in March with friends due to an incredibly out-of-left-field break-up with my girlfriend who was supposed to come. The trip plans were still salvaged though and it will go down as a great time regardless as it really is a beautiful country. Then, in May, another punch to the gut. All of my networking and effort to try and get out of my boring and thankless current job and back to headquarters in Calgary were completely shattered as my old supervisor moved onto something else and fizzled any progress I'd made thus far. I was essentially told to sit tight for another year. I guess I should be thankful I still have a decent job, but I really am a typical Millennial deep down. When it doesn't feel as though I'm adding value or using my brain anymore in life...I descend into depression very fast. And so it's lingered up until now, with the latter half of the year being a slog that really tested my patience and ability to stay focused. Luckily, 2017 was packed with excellent music releases to keep my attention at least somewhat peaked. I'm hoping 2018 brings something fresh and exciting though to make me feel like I'm developing myself again. Glad to get some rest these holidays, hope you are too! List is ranked. 43-41 are my Top 3 EPs, 40-1 are LPs.
Process EP

A small little-known band from the east end of Toronto (Scarborough). They play insanely groovy and punishing sludge metal and hardcore fusion and really kill it live. Highlight: Silent Scream
Pyrrhic Victory

Boys from Zao are on a roll, I loved “The Well-Intentioned Virus” last year. This is a continuation of that sound and 20 quick minutes of crushing hardcore. Highlight: Clawing Clawing Never Cutting Through
41Our Last Night
Selective Hearing

[EP OF THE YEAR] The strongest music they’ve written in ages. I really think they should continue the route of smaller “EP” releases, it suits them and keeps the quality control in check. These 7 songs are all solid and pass by in no time with slick guitar work and sticky hooks everywhere. I’m so glad I didn’t write this off when it first came out, as much as I may have wanted to. Highlights: Broken Lives, Common Ground
40Foo Fighters
Concrete and Gold

I found at least a bit to love here, despite the negative feedback the site gave it. It’s fairly top-heavy but the good songs are really good and at least this time the filler near the end doesn’t seem quite as “filler-ish” when you realize how well Dave Grohl is channeling the obvious rock influences he’s incorporating here. [Hard Rock] Highlights: Make It Right, The Sky Is a Neighbourhood
Post Self

Surprisingly fresh and exciting music from genre pioneers who’ve been in the scene for decades now. It flows like a playlist a bit, very little variation from song to song but enough that it maintains a solid groove the entire way through with little weak spots. [Industrial, Sludge Metal] Highlights: Post Self, In Your Shadow

Slowly but surely, my interest in these guys is fading. With each album they move farther away from the zany, no-holds barred roller coaster of prog metal they mastered on “Bilateral”. But what is emerging in its place is still strong and interesting enough that I can still manage to find genuine love for it. It’s just when you’re competing with perfection, it’s always going to be an uphill battle. [Prog rock/metal] Highlights: Illuminate, Mirage
37Big K.R.I.T.
4eva Is a Mighty Long Time

Just very well-produced southern rap in the vein of Outkast. I like the double album idea splitting out the bangers and bass-heavy stuff in the first disc. But it’s the second disc where he gets more personal with jazzier/funkier elements that he really hits the mark and makes this album stick with you. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: Mixed Messages, Keep the Devil Off, Confetti
Mass VI

These guys are kind of like Fall of Efrafa to me. Both bands are so talented and the music they create is very powerful, but I find I’m rarely in the mood for such bleak, depressing, and generally grey music. I mean, I’m a huge post-metal fan so it should come with the territory, but these guys just sink it into that extra deeper layer of despair and hopelessness that I can’t vibe with all the time. However, I found a lot to like here and while it doesn’t measure up to Mass V for me, it has some of their best work yet. [Post-Metal] Highlight: A Solitary Reign

Supremely talented group that I had not tried out until this year and am kicking myself because of that. The vocals are so versatile and the musicianship is tight as hell. There are a couple points where the experimentation dishes out some questionable moments…like “Living Waves”, bleh. But what works is done very well. [Prog/Melodic Death Metal] Highlights: Prison Skin, Stillness is Timeless
3410 Years
(How to Live) As Ghosts

Probably their best album in ages. Very short and to-the-point, strong song-writing and plays to their strengths. It doesn’t really push the band anywhere new and intriguing but it’s great nonetheless. [Hard Rock] Highlights: The Messenger, Novacaine, Blood Red Sky
33Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Luciferian Towers

The tightest album they’ve released yet. While it lacks the monumental scope and weight of their earliest albums, it makes up for it by getting straight to the point and not messing around with bullshit ambient filler like their past two releases. It flows beautifully from start to finish with hardly a weak moment. [Post-rock, Drone] Highlights: Bosses Hang Pt. II, Anthem for No State Pt. III
32The Great Old Ones
EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy

Deliciously well-done and evil-sounding post/black-metal that is based around a horror novel by H.P. Lovecraft. The music itself can actually be quite terrifying and intense at certain points and the harsh blackened screams and howls are spine-tingling. I had the pleasure of experiencing this album on a long drive this summer to see a friend with a grey, ominous-looking thunderstorm looming all around me as I drove. I’d imagine that’s probably the best way to listen to this album. [Black metal, Post metal] Highlights: The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Ritual
31Freddie Gibbs
You Only Live 2wice

This short little album is pretty much the farthest thing from what I would’ve expected from someone who’d just got out of jail. Instead of anger, the album has this almost sorrowful and regretful vibe to it. Freddie seems like that time spent there really did a number on him and forced him to think about things, perhaps in ways he hadn’t before. It’s surprisingly solid and a welcome change of pace in a year filled with far too many bloated and overlong rap albums. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: Alexys, Crushed Glass
Emperor of Sand

Noticeably catchier and stronger than their last album, song-writing is tight. Despite not reaching the heights of “The Hunter” or “Leviathan” for me, it’s well-produced and not bloated, making for a smooth and straight-to-the-point listen. [Prog Metal] Highlights: Show Yourself, Roots Remain
29Death From Above
Outrage! Is Now

Been a few years since we’d heard from them, and I was interested to see what these dudes from my hometown would give us this time. It’s much more electronic/poppy than before but about equally as strong as their past efforts in my opinion. There are definitely a few standouts as well that will endure past this release I’m sure. [Noise Rock, Post Punk] Highlights: Moonlight (absolutely ferocious track), Outrage! Is Now, NVR 4EVR
28Fleet Foxes

I was a very different person the last time these guys came out with album. I was a lot less sure of myself, a lot more short-tempered, and generally fearful of life beyond university. Their last album Helplessness Blues (the title track specifically) I resonated greatly with because it conveys that same feeling I had at that age. Six years later, these guys and I may have travelled vastly different paths, but the love I have for their music is still there, albeit slightly fainter than before. The songwriting is still very strong here and the use of harmonies still gets my spine tingling. Simply put, it’s very exciting to hear them playing music again. [Folk] Highlights: Third of May, If You Need To Keep Time On Me
27St. Vincent

I liked what she was trying for here and happen to think it’s her most consistent album yet, something I didn’t think of her past albums (maybe the previous one and that’s it). While they may have had better highlights, this one has probably the least “skippable” tracks for me. Very wacky, very fun. [Indie Pop] Highlights: Los Ageless, Savior, Slow Disco

A wildly mixed bag for sure, with some of Gorillaz catchiest music to date paired with some of their most awkward. But at the end of the day, I don’t have to press skip as much as I thought as the general level of quality is above-average. It’s like Pitchfork said in their review, the album really is like a big party with different styles coming in to join the fun. People expecting to like everything are ignoring the fact that Gorillaz has always been about exploration and pushing their boundaries (especially back on “Plastic Beach”). Not sure what’s left for this band but I’d welcome one more album after this. [Trip hop/Electronic] Highlights: Saturn Barz, Submission, She’s My Collar

I jumped on the Lorde bandwagon this year. I did go back and listen to “Pure Heroine” and really I can’t decide between that and this. She has this raw, unfiltered way of writing her music that just feels genuine. I can’t say that for many pop artists. [Indie Pop, Dream Pop] Highlights: Liability, Writer in the Dark
24Cairo Knife Fight

Hadn’t heard of this band till this year. Was very into what I heard though. These guys sound like a happy marriage of Queens of the Stone Age and Filter (both longtime favourite bands of mine). The album could’ve used more songs and less interludes, and it also could’ve done with more interesting song titles. But the music itself is strong, gritty rock that’s very punchy and catchy. [Alt Rock, Industrial] Highlights: A-Two, A-Seven

This is the kind of music I’m not proud of liking, but find that I need to hear every so often in order to feel complete (kind of like old school nu-metal). If you don’t like over-produced, movie soundtrack, string-driven alt rock then you steer VERY clear of this. However, for what it is, it’s done quite well. [Electronic, Alt-rock] Highlights: Satellite, Frequency, Starlight
More Life

Oh man, every album from this guy I look at the tracklist now and roll my eyes before I even hear a single song. And every single time, I come away shaking my head once again in awe at how he still manages to hold my attention. His 2015 mixtape will still stand as his strongest effort, but this album is indeed quite a bold step for a guy who’s been a household name now pretty much since the start of the new decade. The implementation of grime and trap here, paired with his weird accent/delivery and an even further step into pop will undoubtedly frustrate some. And while the ‘skip’ button surely will get some use going through this album, he leaves us for now on a strong note that gives some promise towards his future work. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: Passionfruit, Blem, Gyalchester
21Tyler, the Creator
Flower Boy

Oh Tyler, you finally grew up a bit. I wasn’t even sure I’d like this given how different for you it was. Can anybody actually confirm that he officially came out though? Seems like we’re all just inferring it from his lyrics. For a guy who’s used the ‘other f-word’ probably more times than any rapper, it is quite surprising to hear he’s actually gay. But if it is indeed true, it must be so liberating to finally publicly admit, and for that you have to give him credit for how scary it probably was. It’s such a stark contrast from the kind of facade he seemed bent on conveying before. The music itself feels fresh and liberating too, a great summer soundtrack and hopefully the start of a whole new chapter for this cheeky and entertaining little brat. [Hip-hop/Rap]: See You Again, Garden Shed, 911
20Queens of the Stone Age

The hate this album received initially…wow. This band spaces out its releases so long now that to expect another “Songs for the Deaf” or “…Like Clockwork” is unfair. I liked this punchier, groovier sound a lot and there’s more than enough impressive guitar-work here to satisfy old fans too if they look hard enough. [Alternative Rock] Highlights: The Way You Used To, Fortress, The Evil Has Landed
Chill, Dummy

I wrote up the sole review for this album on the site so most of my thoughts have been spilled out there. Really, it’s nice to hear him make music again, plain and simple. The album is a strong return to his older material and fans and newcomers alike could find something to love here. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: Faded, Pieces/Ruins, Thieves/Kings
18Pain of Salvation
In the Passing Light of Day

Having not heard anything from this band before, I was allowed to approach this album with little to no bias, which is good since it’s apparently vastly different than anything they’ve done in the past. I found it very emotionally satisfying and quite intense, especially in the lyrics. The language used is very uncomfortable and powerful (eg. Tongue of God), while the music has a nice variety of softer ballads and blisteringly heavy punches in the gut. The finishing tracks are a tad weak but the overall experience is great. [Prog Metal, Prog Rock] Highlights: On a Tuesday, Silent Gold, Reasons
Dark Towers, Bright Lights

Extremely punishing and groovy sludge metal that echoes back to the early days of the genre (think Cult of Luna’s or Isis’ early stuff). It’s powerful and dare I say even infectious, with very satisfying walls of sound that would stand up to even an album like “Precambrian” by The Ocean. No particular song stands out from the rest, but as a whole the album is air tight. [Sludge Metal] Highlights: Towers (maybe the one song that really rises above the others? All are great)
16The Afghan Whigs
In Spades

Very well done alt-rock from a long-running band from back in the grunge era. This isn’t really grunge though, it’s more catered to alt-rock fans. The band tackle several styles here, incorporating a wide array of tools like brass instruments and the piano (variety I very much welcome and find rare in most bands today). The vocals can be a bit wacky but most songs have enormous payoff and the conciseness of the track list keeps things from getting overdone and exhausting. [Alt Rock] Highlights: Birdland, Oriole, Copernicus

*Encompasses Saturation I, II, and III* I found the entire Saturation suite surprisingly fresh and well-done for what it was. Because of the size of the group, there are many different ideas at work here and with each person focusing on their own style, the group very successfully juggles multiple personas (cocky, sensitive, angry, sad, etc.). Hopefully they can bring something new to the table though since three albums of the same stuff will likely grow tiresome eventually. [Hip-hop/Rap]: HEAT, FACE, SWAMP, BOOGIE
The Dusk in Us

One of my favourite all-time bands follows up my 2012 aoty with yet another satisfying album. But expectations are a bitch. What I liked most about their last two albums was the playability all the way through. Those albums were consistent and each song contributed to the overall experience. Here, I felt the back half suffered only slightly and the pacing of the album was weird. It’s still excellent music though from a band that doesn’t really disappoint and I have played this loads of times since its release and enjoy it immensely. [Metalcore/Hardcore] Highlights: Under Duress, Arkhipov Calm, The Dusk In Us

Pretty much up until late July I had been waving my hands in the air asking where the fuck all the post-metal was this year. My favourite genre had been grossly underrepresented all year thus far. Then by August the dam was opened and out flooded more post-metal than I knew what to do with. This particular album was a grower and far from immediate but is the strongest album they’ve made since perhaps even as far back as “Wake/Lift”. It’s the best demonstration yet of the new incorporation of cleans in their sound and the climaxes on the album feel very earned and powerful. It’s still on the softer side instrumentally (and I liked them heavier), but feels fully realized even in that respect too. Strong post-metal and certainly worth a look if you’ve been a fan. [Post-Metal, Progressive Metal] Highlights: Intrapartum, Detente

I spent some time late this year listening to this as well as their previous album “Sorni Nai”. This album I found a lot more approachable (the lack of harsh vocals definitely helps there). But beyond that, the music really felt like it transcended itself and became more than just songs. They caused me to reflect on past memories, dwell on life in general, and really get me to feel things. I appreciate albums that can do that and it doesn’t have to be in English for me to click with it. I also think “Lahja” off this is by far the best track I heard all year, a true post-rock gem that celebrates everything I love about the genre. Really powerful stuff here and worth all the praise it got. [Post-rock] Highlights: Lahja, Nainen
11Circa Survive
The Amulet

Ever since this sunk in, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out exactly what it was that Circa Survive is doing different here that would make The Amulet the only record by them I can say I’ve enjoyed thoroughly all the way through. I totally understand that longtime fans of them will disagree with my statement, but to me every album of theirs has been spotty, some real solid tracks and some sleepers. So why this album? My guess is it’s the combination of beefed-up atmosphere and slightly less focus on Anthony Green’s vocals, which I find polarizing. Great work in any case…finally! [Alt-rock] Highlights: Premonition of the Hex, Rites of Investiture, The Hex
10Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 3

Shoutout to an album from 2016. Due to how late it arrived, I never really got to say what I wanted about it so I will make an exception for the first time. RTJ2 was my favorite album of 2014, so the hype for this was excruciating to me. When it finally dropped, my first couple listens went so-so. I felt it lacked the immediacy of RTJ2. But like a lot of music, time changes your perception and this album grew on me a lot. I still find the first two songs a tad underwhelming, but the middle section and end is easily on par with the quality I’d expected in the first place. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: Legend Has It, Hey Kids (Bumaye), Stay Gold, Panther Like a Panther
9Lana Del Rey
Lust For Life

I’m going to credit Sowing with getting me to try this. After despising her last album “Honeymoon”, to see I was going to have to sit through another 1+ hour album felt like a chore. But lo and behold, Sowing liked it, so I gave it a try. The difference here (and maybe it’s because of her recent team-ups with The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky) is that she structures this one like how a “playlist” is supposed to be structured. It’s smooth and flows nicely, with a few standouts that aren’t necessarily the best of her career but maintain a solid amount of consistency throughout. Yes, even by Track 12, I shrugged and could conclude I had not yet heard a song I absolutely detested. There’s also a very strong hip-hop vibe buried in the layers of her sound here (supported by two features from A$AP Rocky). It’s a welcome transition from her more guitar-driven work on “Ultraviolence”. And so she is on my radar once more. [Indie Pop] Highlights: 13 Beaches, In My Feelings, God Bless America
8With Our Arms to the Sun

I checked this album out due to my frustration earlier in the year of the lack of post-metal releases and I’m extremely happy I did. This has a bit of that genre in its sound but it also veers more toward the post-rock/prog metal side of things equally as much if not more (with some Tool/Mastodon-sounding sections as well). I love the pacing of the songs here and the vocals strike a perfect balance of soft/gruff that very few bands achieve. It grows more and more with each passing listen and just generally feels huge in sound and scope. Very talented band and this is their best release yet IMO. [Post-Rock, Post-Metal] Highlights: Macrocosm (Prometheus), Apex (100 Year Dream)
7Arcane Roots
Melancholia Hymns

This band continues to impress even after all the style changes they’ve made in their sound over the past few years. I wrote the review for this one and said all I needed to there. Go read! [Post-hardcore/Alt Rock] Highlights: Indigo, Off the Floor, Solemn, Everything (All at Once)
6When Icarus Falls

Wrote a review for this album. Very strong post-metal/post-rock Swiss band that achieves the rare balance in post-metal of vocals and instrumentation. [Post-metal, Post-Rock] Highlights: One Last Stand, Resilience
5Brand New
Science Fiction

As far as final sendoff albums go, I’d say most of the big bands of my late teenage years have tended to let me down. In 2014, it was Anberlin with their good, but tamed album “Lowborn”. Last year, Dillinger Escape Plan ended their career with an unavoidably uninspired album that neither tarnished their reputation nor ended with a bang (say what you will, I was disappointed though). So approaching Brand New’s final album, I couldn’t help but feel skeptical. What greeted me though was this unexpected feeling of nostalgia throughout. “Science Fiction” is essentially a celebration of all their albums, and really anyone who’s tagged along for the ride would find something to love here. Like their past two releases, it’s a raw and unflinching rock album, the kind of album where every note and breath feels essential. It’s so much to ask, but Brand New somehow achieve success here with some their best work to date, a true final sendoff. [Alt Rock] Highlights: Waste, 137, 451
4Kendrick Lamar

I was definitely among the folks who initially thought this album was kind of underwhelming. Even though it was the direction I wanted him to go in (not more jazz, that’s for sure), it didn’t feel right on the first couple listens. I realized it’s because while “DAMN.” does see Kendrick implementing some of his friendliest instrumentation to date, he still is employing his weird, genre-bending styles of rapping over the sound. So anyone expecting to like it just because it’s Kendrick’s most mainstream/poppiest album yet would be in for kind of a shock simply because Kendrick is still as wacky and unpredictable a rapper as he always was. I wasn’t surprised I was still picking out things I’d missed even on the sixth listen. It’s Kendrick once again proving how dynamic and gripping a storyteller he is. It’s no surprise he’s considered one of today’s most important rap artists, whether you like it or not. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: DNA, ELEMENT, LOVE
3Nothing But Thieves
Broken Machine

What a curveball to have thrown at me. It seems like time has healed all preconceptions I had about Nothing But Thieves. For a guy who used to scoff at a song like “Trip Switch” and call them radio indie rock trash, I certainly did not foresee my immense love for their newest album. It started the way I’d expect, not being wowed by much on first listen except maybe “Sorry”, a rock-ballad-of-the-year candidate. Then, one by one, they all hit me like a ton of bricks until there really wasn’t a single track I wasn’t singing along to by the end. Even the bonus tracks are prime, a rare feat for any band. Alternative rock fans need to get on this ASAP if they haven’t as it’s one of the tightest alt rock releases in recent memory with vocals that really walk the talk. [Indie/Alt Rock] Highlights: Sorry, Live Like Animals, Get Better
Darker Lakes

Also wrote the review for this album. What can I say, I rep post-metal VERY hard now. These guys are from my neck of the woods in the Greater Toronto Area. They get a bad rap for being a bit too similar in sound to ISIS. But I’d be such a flip-flopper if I criticized them for it because that’s exactly what got me to lend them an ear in the first place. In fact, this new album is the least similar-sounding album yet if you want to compare it to their previous records. The crushing walls of sound and fierce growls and electronics really feel distinctive and I could not be happier with them. It’s quite an achievement, considering how much I liked their last album “Burial Dream”. Can’t wait to see what else they have up their sleeve. If you’re a fan of post-metal at all, this is an album you HAVE to try before the year is out. No questions. [Post-Metal, Sludge Metal] Highlights: Amber Guide, Embers Circling Downward, Bloom
1Vince Staples
Big Fish Theory

You know that feeling you get when you first listen to an album, and it just works? It works so well, you start getting giddy and maybe even a little cautious, trying to not get too ahead of yourself. This is how I felt listening to “Big Fish Theory”. And even after a few weeks, when I thought I’d grow tired of it, the album still seeped through my conscious…begging me to play it…growing on me even more. Vince Staples has really outdone himself here. It’s the ultimate realization of everything he’d been trying to do with his sound since he first took off a few years ago. It’s fun, the beats are infectious, and it’s catchy as hell. Hip-hop album of the year. Overall album of the year. Boi yeah right yeah right yeah right. [Hip-hop/Rap] Highlights: Big Fish, 745, Homage
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