Okay 2017, let’s cut to the chase. I don’t like you and you don’t like me. Maybe we can find common ground here. Do you like music? You don’t? Well shit. Anyways here are ten albums I liked, five more I liked almost as much and all the memories made along the way.
Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
Four Tet – New Energy
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
Ryuichi Sakamoto – async
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
10. Oh Sees – Orc
I don’t blame myself for being late to the party on Oh Sees, formerly Thee Oh Sees, formerly The Oh Sees, formerly The Ohsees, etc. I was at a record shop last week and thought about looking for more of their stuff and had no idea where to go. That aside, holy shit, does this band rock. Want to know how much they rock? They are a four piece with two drummers. That’s a balls-to-the-wall decision. John Dwyer’s energy and eccentricities as a singer/guitarist give the band an oddball appeal on top of gritty garage rock. I can only imagine how good this album would be if you were trippin’ balls. “Nite Expo” would be my choice trippin’ balls track BTW.
9. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
The universal favorite among almost every publication, DAMN is damn good. It’s a shame it had to follow To Pimp a Butterfly, one of the greatest albums of the decade. Au revoir to the extravagant instrumental backing and weight of To Pimp a Butterfly. DAMN is a lean mean humble machine. The collaborations have been cut back to two tracks—unless you count Don Cheadle in the “DNA” video (which I do)—resulting in pure unadulterated Kendrick Lamar. 2017 was all about being pissed off. This is the pissed off album we needed.
8. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
Right off the bat, I would like to make it clear I do not approve of kicking photographers in the head. Josh Homme has since apologized but I don’t know, that guy’s on something. Villains is familiar territory for QOTSA. Its an album of sludgy rockers with heavy riffs and nightmarish imagery. As a horror movie fan, I found myself eating up tracks like “Head Like a Haunted House” and “Un-Reborn Again”. Needless to say, it was my go-to album for Halloween. The band isn’t going to win any new fans with this album but it does more than enough to please the initiated.
7. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released four albums this year (so far). God damn. Like them or hate them that’s impressive. What’s more impressive is they were all good. I love that this psychedelic Aussie collective explores a new concept on every album. In this case, it’s exploring microtonal music. As far as I understand, microtones are like the notes in-between notes. This results in a lot of weird dissonant progressions built off a seemingly never-ending groove. Definitely stiff competition for Orc as my ball trippingest album of the year.
6. Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift
Is it cheating to put a mixtape on your top ten? This does have two versions of “Drawn to the Blood”, each one more ethereal than the last. I’m going to say it’s okay. After seeing Sufjan take Carrie & Lowell on tour in 2015 this release makes a lot of sense. I say that because during that tour Sufjan played most (if not all) of the album’s tracks with different arrangements. For example, the live version of “Should Have Known Better” had beeps and boops and percussion. Going to that show was like hearing a new album. Which is what The Greatest Gift feels like. We also get five new tracks. Cuts like “Wallowa Lake Monster” and “The Hidden River of My Life” are instant Sufjan classics. Give me a pillow to cry in and I’m set.
5. Deerhoof – Mountain Moves
Sometimes I swear I blink and I miss out on twenty years of good music. Deerhoof has been crafting top-notch indie pop in the bay area since the mid-90s and I’m just now hearing about them. Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals are a treasure. Her innocent disposition set against squealing guitars is an inspired sound. Welcomed collaborations with artists like Awkwafina, Juana Molina, Jenn Wasner, and more result in a great deal of variety and musical exploration. There’s a lot to appreciate and discover on this album. I’ve heard it many times and still feel like I have yet to reach the top of the mountain.
P.S. “I Will Spite Survive” is my favorite song of the year.
4. Sheer Mag – Need To Feel Your Love
‘70s rock with a screaming punk chick on top of it? Sign me up. It took me awhile to get past Tina Halladay’s guttural delivery but now I can’t imagine the band without it. Colin and I saw Sheer Mag live a few months ago and I would agree they are even better in person, performing with a triple guitar threat, but I still find this release to be a solid recording. There’s a vintage sound here that’s perfect for blasting out of a trans am van speeding across the heartland of America.
3. Lorde – Melodrama
There are only so many artists in a generation with the coveted ability to the ride the line between commercial and critical darling. Lorde is one of those artists. Her voice and words can reach almost anybody and that’s quite an accomplishment. Melodrama is less minimalist than Pure Heroine but still stark and emotional. I would rank “Green Light” among the best singles of the year.
2. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
There was a lot of anticipation for this record yet when it came out I was disappointed. Almost like it sounded too much like the old LCD Soundsystem. There was no sense of evolution. Then I heard the song “Oh Baby” again in a cafe a month ago and I realized I loved this album. Even if it is familiar there’s a reason I first fell for James Murphy and Co’s slacker anthems and rock/rave dance songs. This is the working man’s indie rock. It’s so unpretentious and honest. It’s a good time. Which I’m realizing I need more and more these days.
1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
2017 sucked. 2016 sucked. 2018 will suck. Pure Comedy has helped me understand why. Not because of the mistakes America has made in the past year, but the whole world and throughout all of our history. Though Pure Comedy shines a light on the error of man it also gives me the feeling there is a hope. There’s a lot of feelings on Pure Comedy. There’s a lot of music on Pure Comedy. It’s an album that covers everything from the apocalypse to VR to Father John Misty’s origin. It’s funny and sad and folky and poetic. I’ve listened to this album more than any other this year and still am not 100% sure what it all means. But that’s life, man. What’s it mean? Maybe it’s nothing. Just random matter suspended in the dark.