2017 Albums of the Year; 40–31.
40. Pvris — All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell
This band is all Lyndsey Gunnulfsen. Her voice is gigantic and the force she puts behind her words is enormous. I fell in love with their last album and was really excited for this, their next step. The songs take on a bit of a larger scope, more immediately gripping an arena-ready sound. The production on this record doesn’t hurt in any way either, building the size of the room to brilliant proportions. Every song has parts that are born for singing along to and, almost similar to how U2 crafts their work, the drums lay a basic bed and the guitars play reverberating sparkles that act as a simple dressing to the voice that is prepared to do its heavenly work. While this record does, in a way, reflect a little bit of a loss of distinction, I think it’s going to act as a great plant of feet for the band to catapult themselves into the spotlight in the future. They’ve shown that they are capable of huge things, both by playing by their own rules as well as those that are set in order to become The Next Big Thing.
Check Out: What’s Wrong
39. Circa Survive — The Amulet
I hadn’t found any love for any of the Circa albums after On Letting Go. They just never sunk deeply into me the way that the first two did. There was something that altered me internally when listening to those first two, an alchemy that shifted my perceptions. Lustration, the first track off of this record, brings that same feeling back. It turns each word and each way that Anthony Green holds out the note into some kind of raw nerve reaction, something primal. The track feels like the kineticism from those older records are encapsulated and slowed down into a more floating and ethereal space. I think just based on growing up and away from that phase of life, I won’t find timelessness throughout this entire record. I don’t think I’ll be able to treat it like an ancient tome just discovered. But this band’s style is one that I always have compared others to. Something stylistically unique about the way they’ve balanced their pedals, the way they stretch reverbs out into a distant space and Green’s higher vocals weave around them is brilliant.
Check Out: Lustration
38. Chinese Football — Chinese Football
I was absolutely in love with this record when I first heard it. It was mellow and beautiful and technical in ways that modern twinkly emo employs to slowly chip away at my sensitive, sentimental heart. I revisited this record a few times throughout the year and while it didn’t maintain the strong hold it had on me at its outset, it started to remind me very much of another album that affected me in a similar way. The smooth, clean vocals along with the bright and positive music remind me of Mae’s ‘Destination Beautiful’, a record that still holds a strong place in my mind for a different place and a different time when things held less of a stressful and strenuous grip and all things seemed possible. This record from Chinese Football now gives me a lot of the same feelings.
Check Out: 400 Metres
37. Neaux — Chain Up the Sun
Aggressive Pedal Wave
This is such a cool record. The chunkiness of the guitars is just enough, right to the threshold where it doesn’t breech the genre out of somewhere within the dreamwave. Musically, they call up newer Title Fight, clearly inspired by both VFW roots along with older shoegaze stuff, merging them into a fantastic and aggressive swoon. There are times in this album where it seems like they’re taking every ounce of themselves not to break open into a huge and heavy break. The fact that they rein it in is what adds the charm to it. Slow and grungy but smoothed out and anodized makes the grotesque take on a very pretty form. Definitely takes a lot of nods from Chino Moreno’s Palms in places, but broken up into more digestible bites.
Check Out: Ugly Angel
36. LCD Soundsystem — American Dream
Back when I had a subscription to SPIN magazine, LCD Soundsystem released a self-titled album that, in my perception at the time, felt like they were welcoming an all loving, all knowledgeable alien being into our culture, one who finally had all of the answers we had been seeking for decades. I picked up the album the week it released. It was alright. And I think looking back at it now, end of the day, most of their stuff feels ‘alright’ overall. I don’t think I’ve felt that it doesn’t belong in the ears of many, though, especially when the effort that goes into these records is considered. There’s something a bit timeless about these records, never relying on big hooks or sounds-of-the-time. The sounds are large, founded in dance rhythms and beats, founded on rock anthem largess but marrying to find some hybrid of them both.
Check Out: other voices
35. Counterparts — You’re Not You Anymore
They don’t make bands like this anymore. I relate to this sound, even in my ‘old age’. Dudes that sound like they are perpetually in the back of vans, going town to town in their shitty chucks and brushing their teeth with bottled water in parking lots, waking up to eat Taco Bell and then go to the venue and play breakdowns to kids they’ve never met. This sounds exactly like it should, with riffs that are chunky and heavy throughout most of the track, shifting into a two-step part, and then having some finger dancing on the higher neck of the guitar through the bridge and middle parts. Somewhere within there’s a breakdown that is infinitely satisfying as you can picture dudes piling on each other to scream the lyrics along with the band. It’s a tried and true formula, one that is tired and spent if done without a sense of genuine passion, but in this case, it’s outstanding. Play these breakdowns forever in the shitty speakers of your first car and reminisce about the days of Indianola records and studded belts.
Check Out: Rope
34. Chon — Homey
The moment I heard “Sleepy Tea”, I was pumped. One of those “Yoooo, what is this” instances where something magic had just taken hold. These guys have a whip and flourish with their guitars that brings such a groove. It’s constant head nodding, free flowing through fractals. The drums are lightning quick when they need to be, but have a good notion of when to dip back and let the rhythm exist as its own jam. Some of the minimalism that sits beside the frenzy can become the highlight of this record. Peaks and valleys rise and dip out of nowhere. Weird influences make their presence known without warning (or panning out all that much), like the blast beats and breakdown-esque china cymbal action in the song “No Signal”. I can’t believe what these guys are able to play sometimes. It’s not crazy fast [all the time], it’s not crazy technical [all the time], it’s just got just a smooth roll to all of it. A beautiful album that does nothing short of impress. Even if there is a pretty wack rap track on it. I found myself listening to this record in scenes, almost the way you’d take in a jazz record (the best song I can think of to illustrate it would be “Continue?”).
Check Out: Berry Streets
33. People Like You — Verse
I don’t know how I found these guys in my lap, but the lack of a backstory sort of lends itself to a bigger version of a vaguer story. I had a song from them on my “Saved” list and it came on during a shuffle and I was really jamming to them, not realizing that I had no idea who they were. I looked into the song, didn’t recognize it. Then realized I didn’t recognize the artist OR the album it was from. Finding out that it was from 2017 was a real treat as well, knowing that there was another addition to this expanding list. A trumpet rides smoothly throughout these tracks, with all of the quickly pattering percussions and twinkly guitar raining down, making for some cool throwback emo sound, combined with a lot of what those bands inspired in modern times. The melancholy atmosphere is still dense with longing. There are long stretches of sparse sounds that build up into emotional peaks. In what these songs provide in terms of high and low points, there’s still a unified core that you travel through while listening.
Check Out: Sleeptalk
32. Forest Swords — Compassion
I favored this DJ for a while because of his weird and dark atmospheres that he was building. In the songs I found from him, I was hearing some feudal Japanese influences, some really cool ghost army marches and general zen moments existing within a darkening shadow. With this record, it seems that he strips away any and all turbulence, instead bringing to the forefront calming moments that retain the same ancient energies. There is a calmness found within these tracks, the long humming and ringing managing to vibrate the inner peace gland within me to get me centered but also enough percussion and drum beats to keep the river’s flow moving forward. I can see astral projection through this record’s tracks, but also singular and solitary moments that take you nowhere. Crystalline tech disintegrations rumble in the backgrounds here as well.
Check Out: Panic
31. A7PHA — A7PHA
There’s something white hot about these tracks, something synthetic and chemical that actually looks catalyzed to the boiling point. This is rap at its core, but produced like an electronic album, slow and warm and analog. The instrumentals for these rhymes would play like something that don’t belong anywhere near the same conversation as where the end product is. The ability for the two MCs to take these tracks where they go just goes to show their skill and more importantly their vision. It’s an incredibly innovative work, one that travels a lot of wavelengths and takes you a lot of places, all of them post-apocalyptic. There’s wreckage and ruin here. Where most hip-hop celebrates splendor and hedonistic excess, this seems to appreciate and writhe in its simple survival. There’s no fear to be shown and no humility to be sure, but there is without a doubt a sense of focusing on utility over luxury.
Check Out: 99 Point Static