2017 Albums of the Year; 80–71.
80. Gorillaz — Humanz
There was something missing from this album for me, something that tied everything all together into a complete thought. And while it is super cool that Damon Albarn wrote and compiled all of this stuff, it feels more like a playlist that some third party compiled of tracks he worked on as opposed to a singular album by a unified act. Gorillaz feels absent here, possibly spinning silently at the core of a collective of artists inspired by their work. There are a lot of great tracks on here, lots of cool moments. But I don’t think there is a chain here, nothing that makes it an album.
Check Out: Saturnz Barz
79. Liam Gallagher — As You Were
I expected way less out of this record, something that would come across like acoustic B Sides that never fit an Oasis album, songs that felt like a contractually obligated release that served no one but the rolling tide of the music industry. Instead, here’s a collection of strongly produced rock songs that bite harder than most of the stuff that I know Oasis for, songs that hold out for more than I anticipated. This record feels ‘nice’, nothing that blows it out of the water and nothing that really cries for the attention that a name like ‘Liam Gallagher From Oasis’ could demand, but it’s a strong release, even if I think I might just be into it because it sounds like a little bit of John Lennon coming back.
Check Out: Wall of Glass
78. AceMo — Black Populace
I need to do some more studying up on what genres exist within electronic music. Because for me, some of this can feel as if you’re in some kind of strobe light induced, truth serum trance. But is it, in fact, trance? I don’t think so. Some of it can feel like it’s building into a real dance track, something played loud in clubs and meant for elation. But is it house? I don’t think so. A lot of this feels like it’s from a different time, from a bygone period of drum machines and synths as opposed to a laptop with programs that simulate and enhance older tools and instruments. There’s a constant drive to this record which I love, one without novelty or excessive focus on ‘moments’ or builds.
Check Out: Acid Pact
77. Wild Pink — Wild Pink
There’s a slow motion drift to this record’s songs. A dusky haze painted across an empty room, very relaxed and expectant even in the bigger builds and firmer expressions. There’s a very fine line between the songs being bare and then having no identity, and these all promote the former. It’s produced with a deft hand, crash cymbals splashing loudly but subdued on the outskirts, vocals laid deliberately and gingerly over the sparkly strumming of guitars. The steady demeanor and subdued form commanded my attention, somehow never allowed me to turn away.
Check Out: Albert Ross
76. Del Paxton — All Day, Every Day, All Night
Not a ton to say about these guys other than they have a fun sound and I can’t wait for another dozen songs from them in a year or two. There’s nothing definitive or timeless about it, but this is a tried and true sound and they’ve yet to find their complete identity. The chops are there, the heaviness in the guitar tone are just right. With more touring under their belt and a year of support under this record, these guys are a band to keep an eye out for.
Check Out: Loose Leaf
75. The War On Drugs — A Deeper Understanding
It’s difficult for me to write about the grandeur on this record in a way that does it justice. The exhaustive process of its engineering and production, it’s perfectionist comb that was run over it several times (I’m sure a grand understatement) allowed this record to sound like a sprawling dream world, each vision and each tone aching with clarity. Bells ring their full mortality. The bass guitar tucks in nicely and roams the backwoods of the songs, so eager to be tracked. And oh boy, the fuzz. The guitars have an analog glow to them that reflect a sunburst off of all winding landscape. It can be a bit of a long winded record, one that needs the right setting and the right timing to sit with. But it can be a masterpiece if the alchemy is right.
Check Out: Knocked Down
74. Bonobo — Migration
Mellow Electronic Journeys
These songs all have a strange power to them, an energy like spinning a prayer wheel or a glowing amber orb that sits in your chest radiating positive energy. Some of it can sound a little too much like a series of tracks you’d hear at a chic hookah lounge, but that shouldn’t erode away its bamboo tinted beauty. There’s a powerful nature to the simplicity here, a force that seems tapped from the soil of the earth itself. What it initially lacks it eventually makes up for in humanity by gradually adding words and vocals, some of which seem like lyrics, some chants, some just remixed heard sounds. Sinking deep enough into this album grants a spirituality, if only temporarily, based almost entirely on the trance like quality it has. This is the opposite of droning on, like suddenly tapping into a whole deliberate rhythm of all the clocks of the universe.
Check Out: Grains
73. Benjamin Booker — Witness
I’ve spent a good amount of times going down to old man bars and listening to the old dudes play the blues around their peers and friends and wives and for what it’s worth, it granted me an ear for the shaved down, earnest styles played there. Booker’s basic and raspy vibes rotate directly towards that center of gravity, right down to the repetitive verses that end up paving a path to a clearing where he’ll let his guitars do the weeping. The classic styles here don’t create ripples or waves, they don’t make new and innovative sounds that need time to digest. But there’s beauty and honesty to this sound. It’s a great listen on analog vinyl, something to sit with to fill the room or the house while reading, writing, cleaning or daydreaming. I can see it falling into a bit of a generic column. I think this one happened to find me at the right time.
Check Out: The Truth Is Heavy
72. Wild Ones — Mirror Touch
Sort of an on-a-whim listen, this one sunk in deeper than I expected. It’s a little bit like Chvrches with the sound turned down. They don’t come across as handicapped or trying too hard to be something they’re not, but I could see them being placed in the same conversation. The songs create an ethereal pink wisp that taunt you almost as if beneath a thin layer of ice that covers a lake. It doesn’t impose or stretch towards you but coaxes your gaze and touch closer. It’s a brief sweet experience to listen to this short album from front to back. In a way, I feel like these guys don’t really know who they are yet and could use a few more hooks throughout to really catch you in, but they’re not far off from making their mark.
Check Out: Night Shift
71. Above, Below — The Sowers of Discord
Got into this one a bit later than the rest of the albums on this list. It’s nothing genre defining, but it does what releases within this style should. It hits heavily and aggressively. In the newer style of this music, post production plays a big role in what structures this band’s sound. While there is a lot more screaming/singing dynamic than what I usually prefer, it never comes across as pandering or as a way to fit one genre into another. It plays to its strengths, it stays firmly in its lane and wears many of its inspirations directly on its sleeve. A nice handful of WOOO!! moments as well.
Check Out: Inferno