2017 Albums of the Year; 30–21.

30. Couch Slut — Contempt
[More Than Just] Grindcore

I really liked this band when a track of theirs came to me via Spotify’s [completely unreliable] Discover Weekly playlist one week, but upon looking at the band’s name, I was kind of put off. Not so much because it was offensive, but because it sounds like it was a band name that is chosen BECAUSE it is offensive. I saw that this record came out in 2017 so I added it to the evergrowing list of albums I had to check out this year. Surprisingly, more than just a track or two jumped out at me. They were putting together some great ideas that began at what, at its core, sounded like some dudes ripping grindcore and noise metal concepts together but stretched them out and put some quality stuff in to fill the cracks. There’s some gnarly riffs in there, some real solid rock things happening that remind you that these guys aren’t just trying to make a lot of noise and scream about the obtuse at you. There’s a lot of mind in the mix as well, despite the turgid mess. The record ends with 3 lengthy opuses that blend slop and atmosphere in perfect measure. From where I began with these guys to where I ended is quite the journey and I’m happy I stuck with it.

Check Out: Won’t Come

29. Converge — The Dusk In Us
Godfathers of Grindcore

Whenever I’ve talked about this record, it’s been introduced with the same message: “I’ve never really been able to get into these guys, but…”. To hear it echoed several times has been really interesting. And I wonder what it signals for the band. Is it that this album is just their purest and finest point of their work so that now it is finally digestible for a more widespread audience? OR is it moreso that their blade has dulled and their level of extreme artistry no longer has the bite required for a more fine tuned listener? Regardless, these are razor sharp tracks that rip my guts up into a fine mist. It’s always pushing forward, moving walls, destroying barriers and lighting the fields afire. While a lot of it doesn’t seem ‘heavy’ as we’ve come to know what production can bring to the weight of songs, it’s still so punishingly aggressive. It’s the eyes of a man you’d never want to meet. And the pain being expressed is acidic, absolutely unavoidable and panic-inducing. Love that this sounds like a record that was a bitch to record, one that was a problem from the start, but was shoved into a box and revealed to the world in an explosion of frenzy. Even when this record gets slower and darker, it just feels like the beast is metamorphosing into something more deadly. I love getting to points in this record and hearing their venom and only being able to say, “Fuck.”

Check Out: Broken By Light

28. Pretend — Circular Ræsoning
Mathy Emo

This record is three tracks spread out over 36 minutes. Where it seems there may be dead-air or vacant headspace, there lies emotional pause. The guitar jangle and articulate in somewhat random intervals and angles somewhat like windchimes. This is some deeply introspective music, something that for me seems like the first time on this list that an album has to be looked at almost as a piece of art as opposed to human beings creating music for consumption. It floats in the sky for bearing witness, something that appears to be always changing and morphing but always with the same voice. The way that most of this seems like recorded performance art, I can’t imagine what seeing these songs performed live must be like. There has to be silence, there has to be a singular thought and purpose behind the audience. This is fully immersive music, songs and sounds for concentration. The sadness and solitude found here are brilliantly captured like few other artists or albums are capable.

Check Out: Some How

27. P.O.S. — Chill, dummy
Hip Hop

This guy came initially from a very different beginning, performing in hardcore bands. So there’s a unique type of path paved for this guy from blank to microphone. A lot of his rhymes feel set apart from other guys trying to come up in the hip hop game, and the production on the records feel more put together like full fledged songs as opposed to beats that are prepared for him to spit over. You can get lost in a lot of the ways that these songs come together, and even without the rhymes over them, this can sit definitively as an electronic album with some killer tracks. How this guy isn’t spoken of more regularly blows my mind. Get through a song or two and let them cook down to their final pieces and you’ll find righteous clarity.

Check Out: sleepdrone/superposition

26. Color Film — Living Arrangements
Neo Retro Mod Pop Arrangements

Daryl Palumbo wears the leisure suit well on this album which sounds like it was brought in a slim briefcase from the past. It’s bright and spherical like so many modern pop art pieces from the 1980s with big hooks and infectious gleaming bass lines cascading across strange CGI landscapes. It resides on the verge of becoming too weird or stylized for its own good, but settles nicely into the place where the Talking Heads and Devo made their entire careers. The songs stretch a bit outside of where pop songs would end, but their reprisals feel like they’ve got the deft sonic craftwork to make them interesting enough to continue listening.

Check Out: Bass in 7

25. Ether — There Is Nothing Left For Me Here
Sludgecore

I was a huge fan of Remembering Never, and this is yet another project for (at least?) the lead vocalist from that band. It’s instantly recognizable as his voice from the guttural screams to the ugly but earnest singing parts. This project takes the direct and brutal 3 minute beatdowns and peppers them in with a longer, more heavy weed-infused haze fests rife with contemplation. While listening, we enter and exit long white hallways parenthesized by the punishing hardcore roots. This is an easy album to get lost in, with the heft of a sinking ship pulling us into its undertow only to mangle us in its maw and then letting us up for air. The songs are lengthy and stretch for minutes, sometimes feeling like they’ve been frankensteined together with ugly wire.

Check Out: For Every Nail, A Noose

24. Hand Habits — Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)
Minimal Pretty Songs

This record sounds like it’s by a nameless artist that would have played at The Roadhouse at the end of one of the newer episodes of Twin Peaks. It isn’t weird or with a ton of pedals or strobes, but instead has that dreary and small town feeling of an empty stage playing to a fairly empty small town bar whose floor is covered in sawdust. There’s a stripped down humility here, a shut up and listen kind of approach to the songwriting. If you’re not listening, this one will float right by you. And similar to that concept, it feels like these sentiments and observations are transitory ruminations, capturing regrets and misfires in little beautiful snowglobes meant to be destroyed or buried after we’ve burned the bridge.

Check Out: Book On How to Change

23. Tennis — Yours Conditionally
Retro Sailing Rock

The first time I heard this album, I instantly wanted to pick it up on vinyl. Its sound was so familiar to me yet it had just released that day. It had the dreaminess of a Fleetwood Mac album that you’d heard a hundred times, put on in the background just because it was a perfect record for everyone in the house to hear, nothing offensive and something overwhelmingly warm about it, something that gave the sensation of sitting on a warm deck with a cold drink and a cool breeze. This was a record I wanted to have played on vinyl on weekends when light was coming in through the windows at an easy pace, when I was carelessly laying on the carpet staring at the ceiling. There isn’t that same sense of enormous hook and conquering the pop universe, but there is the same confidence and sense of mastery over easy listening and timeless music that HAIM had in their debut LP. Everything feels good on this record, and it feels amazing to share.

Check Out: Baby Don’t Believe

22. Dot Hacker — N°3
Alternative Rock

To be extremely clear, THERE IS NO OTHER RADIOHEAD. Nor any other band for that fact. But sometimes in order to really pass the word from one description to the next, I have to set one up in the proper tent of explanation, the proper mindset. And that’s where I’m going with this band. They have that same Interdimensional Beings approach towards their songs, somehow taking songs that would sound like a standard rock song from any other group, and granting it a new sixth and seventh sense that brings it an entirely different angle. There’s a little modern Strokes here, a little Silversun Pickups dashed there. Such a cool record from a band I hadn’t heard from before this year, it’s made up of dudes from Gnarls Barkley and the new Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist. I’m sure this is more of a ‘record it when the time is right’ piece instead of a main project for these guys, so I will savor this record while I can.

Check Out: Apt Mess

21. Spotlights — Seismic
Heavy Post-Rock

Upon first listening to this record, I heard the openings of the first track and was sort of hovering over a positive feeling of how it sounded. “Yes. This is a thing that I like.” I wasn’t until the vocals started to come in with a higher octave, a more subdued background feel that it added the nuance to start to put it over the top. This went from being a band that I thought might think that Russian Circles was pretty cool to a band that was really going after a deep and textured Hum/Isis/Pelican kind of vibe. The songs aren’t long but they feel like they traverse a great deal of space within a compressed period of time, creating varying scales of universe to create, explore and destroy. They are going for a gigantic sound here, letting the heavy guitars dwarf their minimal humanity.

Check Out: Under the Earth

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