2017 Albums of the Year; 70–61.

70. Prawn — Run
Modern Emo

I feel like there weren’t enough of this type of music his year, yet any of the records that had this kind of vibe never quite felt enough. It’s got a lot of the wiggling guitars, it’s got the sad and sour singing boy… the unpolished away message lyrics. But I think as a whole, this record lacks a momentum and a direct inertia that carries the record forward as a cohesive whole. Definitely a nice sound for the background and a great spring record for the back porch.

Check Out: Rooftops

69. Rainer Maria — S/T
Alternative Rock

I think I missed the boat on this band when I was coming up, knowing that they were a fixture and an inspiration in the music scene that I was around. But by the time I checked them out, I think ‘Long Knives Drawn’ was their recent release, and some of the steam had come out of their progress. This is something that may or may not influence my listen to their record from this year, though I really enjoyed what I heard. There was nothing terribly gripping or memorable about it as a whole, but I got a lot of super cool low end and rumbling bass out of their jams and it gave me a little bit of a more focused, less weird Blonde Redhead/Glos vibe which is far from a bad thing.

Check Out: Ornaments of Empty

68. Harriet Brown — Contact
Synth Funk

Just a cool collection of keyboard funk hits, similar to how Prince sounds if you try to explain it to friends who hadn’t been familiar. There’s such a clear inspiration from a different time, similar to how last year’s The 1975 record. It doesn’t feel like it was set in motion by anything of this time period, but it’s still a style that we need, a style that needs to be unforgotten as we move forward into a whole new generation of production. The sound gets a little same-y over the stretch of it, but for something to be coming out with such a strong grasp on a different time period, I’m completely impressed.

Check Out: Obsession

67. (Sandy) Alex G — Rocket
Alternative Rock

I feel like where Car Seat Headrest left off is where Alex G picked up. Songs written almost on a whim in a bedroom somewhere with a microphone clicked on and slowly built on after a listen shows an absence of a “doo da doo” or a piano line. The songs are nice and mellow for the most part, sitting on the air like light coming in through the blinds in a familiar room. There is some experimentation found sprinkled throughout the record, some of which doesn’t click properly. Its distinction becomes the skill to be able to wield the alien genres without sounding completely walking with a limp. There’s an understanding about how music works and how to navigate songwriting even outside of the comfort zone.

Check Out: County

66. Oxbow — Thin Black Duke
Strange Rock

Until I looked more deeply into this band, I thought this was just a strange collection of songs by dudes who were trying to electrify the theatrical scene. I know now that Oxbow is a quintessential noise/heavy rock band, and this is one of their more controlled and low-rolling experiments. That being said, I like the weird that goes on here, almost like a stage play constructed of angry and seething men , unable to scream so they temper the heat into smartly orchestrated crescendos. There’s ‘Weird’ to be found here, a boiling darkness that always seems to be ready to crash over into frenzy but never quite releases. Imagine if Cursive and Leonard Cohen made a concept album and the only artwork that would make sense is tangible red velvet.

Check Out: Ecce Homo

65. Violents and Monica Martin — Awake and Pretty Much Sober

A good little ride and some well written hooks. This is sort of on the verge of modern R&B, but never releases anything with a massive soul. There’s some restraint here which allows the synths, samples and music to do a lot of the heavy lifting. It’s a simple thing, a strong release which finds two artists collaborating outside of their normal means that comes out sounding great on the other end. It’s a slow creeper, one that I had to hear a few times before I found the nugget within it.

Check Out: How It Left

64. Loss — Horizonless
Art Doom

There’s no casual nature in listening to this record. This is a long trudge, heavy like swamp mud. It calls to mind long expanses of dead earth, blasted with the freeze of a long gone apocalypse. There’s a beauty to it, almost akin to watching molten lava flow down a rock side. The growls are evil, but more than evil, they are mournful and pained, like a gigantic beast dealing with a slow death by bleeding. What I regularly hear from metal bands is a type of threatening aggression, a sign and show of strength, ferocity. This record reeks of sorrow.

Check Out: The Joy of All Who Sorrow

63. Real Estate — In Mind
Alternative Rock

This is simply a really nice record to listen to. I first listened to it while getting the fiance a coffee from Starbucks while down in Florida on vacation. It was a perfect record to listen to when free from stress, free from any and all responsibility in the middle of a perpetual summer. The guitars and light vocals lend themselves perfectly to dreaminess. Some of it can feel a bit samey and nondescript, but when plugged in during the right mood or the right setting, its singular sound is absolutely perfect.

Check Out: Stained Glass

62. Sylvan Esso — What Now
Alternative Production Genius

This would (and still probably still could) be considered pop, or at the very least alternative pop, if it weren’t so ‘out there’. Not to say it’s that weird, ugly and intolerable music that generally springs to mind when it comes to ‘out there’ music. But they are doing what Ren and Stimpy were doing for cartoons when kids were still expecting Doug. It’s strange music, blips and bleeps, rewired and reworked guitar strums, it’s nonlinear beats. But the hooks are still choice, still shiny enough to be worked into radio (like on singles such as…”Radio” … for example). It’s such a pleasure to listen to this record just to hear broad ideas at work, many of it sounding like on-the-fly accidents were just kept and ran with. There’s a work ethic here that shines through on each track. Beautiful FAT SYNTHS and drum loops on “Just Dancing” are a great example of Sylvan Esso ‘cooling out’ just a bit. Their arsenal is so diverse. With a majority of this album feeling like a fluid brainstorm, some of it does come across as a little strange with a few loose strings like the final two tracks. Not bad, per say, but definitely frayed ideas.

Check Out: The Glow

61. Mastodon — Emperor of Sand

I’ve never been into these guys. Not a single time in the past. Something about this record pulls it all together for me, though. I think this one flows so much better than many of their other albums in the past have tried to. It could just be a mental block for me, honestly. The songs here seem to have a constant trajectory without feeling like you are getting too much spotlight on any particular guitar solo or arrangement at any one given time. There’s a heaviness when it belongs, but it’s not forced upon you. These guys have been the standard bearers for metal for a long period of time and I’m surprised that this one got me the way it did, as it seems the least embedded in its genre, but perhaps that’s exactly what won me over. I love the way the drums are produced on this as well.

Check Out: Steambreather