Nick Cvijovic slings guitar in Chicago punk band, Butchered.
I always love the end of the year because every media publication puts out their top-whatevers for songs, albums, movies, etc. The problem I face every year is that I get super attached to albums that came out the year prior and then tend not listen to anything new throughout the year until the next best-of lists come out. It’s a ridiculous cycle that I am glad to have broken this year. While most of my top listens were all 2016 albums, I did make time for stuff that came out this year.
Just a short disclaimer: it is unanimously decided that Damn. by Kendrick Lamar was the best record of 2017.
I believe it is and everyone should believe it to be as well. It was an incredible work of art both in order and in reverse; however, my list does not contain it. My list represents the albums that meant the most to me throughout 2017 and albums that I will consider classics until the end of music. I played these albums endless amounts of times over the past year so I know what I like, I think. I whittled this list down from 35 different albums that I deemed my favorite and I still think ten albums is far too little to rank after this year’s offering of music. Whatever, here I go anyway…
10. Pulled Apart By Horses- The Haze // Mobina Galore- Feeling Disconnected
(Alright, I already have a tie, big deal.) Pulled Apart by Horses is a heavy garage-y band that brings so much more than your standard Ty Segall or whatever the flavor-of-the-week garage bands are in nowadays. The Haze is a perfect bar brawl soundtrack that reminds me of those early revival bands like The Libertines and the Fratellis, albeit with more fuzz. That’s what makes this record so good; there are tons of catchy melodies, great musicianship, and a liberal use of fuzzy guitar. It’s a simple formula that makes this album so much fun.
[Recommended track: “Hotel Motivation”]
Also tied with this record is Winnipeg’s Mobina Galore, who put out Feeling Disconnected, the duo’s debut album. I couldn’t believe these girls were a two-piece when I first listened. The songwriting is incredible and is perfect fare for any punk, but also has a hardcore vibe. These girls blew up too after this album, and deservedly so; touring with the likes of Against Me! and Propaghandi- both bands that are clear influences on Mobina Galore.
[Recommended track: “Vancouver”]
9. Zeal & Ardor- Devil is Fine
I’m going to quickly preface this by saying that I could have sworn this album came out in 2016 but Spotify says 2017 so screw it. Anyway, this album is the only good thing to ever come out of 4chan. Manuel Gagneux is a Swiss-American musician who came to New York after fleeing his Swiss Army duties and decided to ask the cesspool of 4chan what kind of album to make. They responded to his request by saying black metal and the blues, although not in those words because it’s 4chan. Gagneux’s debut as Zeal & Ardor takes black metal’s typically buzz saw guitar and pairs it with his own rendition of Satan-worshipping delta blues chants. It’s seriously the most original metal offering that I can think of, becoming almost hypnotic during the call and response verses channeling old slave songs of the mid 1800s and then ripping your stupid head clean off when the screaming and instrumentation kick in, and then become almost danceable when the two are blended. I don’t know, I get too excited talking about this record, and there’s so much to dissect within it. While sticking to blues-inflected black metal, there is also lounge and EDM styled songs which break up the record wonderfully. It’s all so cool, dudes.
[Recommended track: “Come On Down” ]
8. The Dopamines- Tales of Interest
I am a sucker for self-deprecating punk rock and Cincinnati’s The Dopamines have always done it the best since their debut in 2008. Nine years later they are still screaming about their jobs and being broke; typical punk rock themes. But they have great harmony and melody within every seemingly-three-chord song that really separates them from every other band within their genre. Tales of Interest is full of songs that are believable; what I mean is that there is so much feeling in every note, chord, and lyric that it never ever gets whiny. Couple that with the Dopamines ability to have awesome songwriting that can rip on one chord over and over without ever getting tiresome and you have a perfect Midwest punk record. The dudes also incorporate some super heavy metal riffing on a few of the tracks which makes this album the best for getting too drunk and yelling at the top of your lungs until your neighbors call the cops. Stupid neighbors, they’ll never understand. [Recommended tracks: “Ire” and “Kaltes Ende”] https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/track/ire-2
7. Woe- Hope Attrition
I had the hardest time trying to decide to put Power Trip’s incredible Nightmare Logic or Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper in this spot because both of those albums were very important this year, not just in metal, but in the mainstream as well. Hell, Pitchfork loved both. Well, the mainstream’s opinions are crap and Woe had the best metal record, and nobody was really talking about it. Hope Attrition came to my attention only a few weeks ago but I think I have listened to it once or twice a day since then. Black metal seems to be pretty repetitive stylistically recently (shoooooeeeeegggaaazzzeeee), but Woe brings an album that is equal parts epic and brutal. Sure, there are blast beats and guttural vocals, but Hope Attrition also throws in some high pitched screams, clean vocals, and interesting song structure. The guitars fucking wail too, and feature some of the coolest sounding solos I have heard in a long time. This album differs from a lot of black metal lyrically too, singing about real life evils of white supremacy and our nation’s ineptitude. It’s refreshing (for me at least) to have metal be topical, and to lean more leftist. None of it matters anyway because you think Mirror Reaper should have been on here. Shove it. [Recommended track: “No Blood Has Honor”]
6. Rozwell Kid- Precious Art
One of the lines that begins this album states, “I’m down to my underwear because I through it all away in a Wendy’s trash can” and if you don’t think that is the best damn line ever than you are a moron. Rozwell Kid continues in the tradition of making guitar rock awesome again, essentially making a record that Weezer should be doing, but would get shit on for because it’d still be too weird for them. Precious Art’s themes are personal, but filtered through wit and loud dueling guitars. Songs thematically range from losing it, to romantic hangs watching UHF, to a song about wanting to be something else- specifically a dog. Everything Rozwell Kid does is a lot nerdy, a lot sarcastic, or a lot goofy, to veil deeply emotional writing but they never fail to keep the guitars loud as hell.
[Recommended track: “Wendy’s Trash Can”]
5. The Eradicator- The Eradicator
The first time I ever saw the Eradicator live was when he opened for Direct Hit! at the Double Door for the Wasted Mind release show. I had seen the sketch before (the Kids in the Hall sketch) and was incredibly excited to hear how one guy was going to base an entire set of songs off of one or two 5 minute sketches from an old TV show. The sketch is about a masked squash player trying to work up the ranks of his local D-squash league. He eats, breathes, and sleeps Squash, and the Eradicator embodies everything that this character was. I found out soon that not only are the songs hilarious, but they also shred. The Eradicator can get everyone in the crowd, even if it’s their first time hearing him, to sing along to songs about his quest to climb the D-squash ladder. The songwriting features a mix of straight forward punk rock to hardcore bashing but always stay to true to reminding the listener that football sucks, tennis sucks, baseball’s cool, curling rules, but they’re not the sports for him.
[Recommended track: “I’m a Squash Man”]
4. Metz- Strange Peace
What would any list of best albums be if it didn’t include Canada’s finest? A list not worth publishing that’s for sure. I was so worried that Metz would fall into a hole of making a softer sounding indie rock album, similar to Cloud Nothings new record, but am I glad that I was wrong. Also, of course they wouldn’t do that; they’re one of the loudest and most raucous bands around. Strange Peace is filled with wall to wall bangers, some coming in under a minute and some almost pushing the six minute mark. This record is sort of similar to their other albums, and that is what makes it great. Metz doesn’t need to change up their sound too much to keep any listener happy; they stick with the incredible drumming, thundering bass, noisy guitar work, and catchy yet screaming vocals.
[Recommended track: “Mr. Plague”]
3. IDLES- Brutalism
I got turned on to IDLES from one of my students, actually. Upon first listen, I was like, “what is this?” It was so out there from my normal tastes that I couldn’t stop listening. IDLES fills this album with simplistic musicality, akin to Plague Vendor or Protomartyr, but it’s in the vocals and song writing that really caught me. The songs on Brutalism are a collection of working class angst and sarcastic commentary on pop culture all almost spoken, rather than sung. That does not take away from the catchiness of it, though. All the songs clearly come from the heart and are brutally honest, anthems for those who are dissatisfied and bored as hell. I’d pair this record with whiskey and percosets at 8am after being laid off from your shitty job.
[Recommended track: “Mother”]
2. Japandroids- Near To The Wild Heart of Life
Japandroids has been one my favorite bands for a long time. I absolutely love how incredibly huge their sound is for being a two-piece, although with a butt load of amps. Japandroids had been relatively silent since their last album, Celebration Rock, which came out in 2012 to great reception. Everyone was fairly skeptical if they could repeat the anthems and sing-alongs that that album brought, but they totally blew everyone out of the water. This album may seem just like a regular rock album to some, but the songs are just so perfect to blast whether you’re having a bad day, a great day, alone, with friends, drinking, hungover, whatever. I can’t help but get chills when this album comes on; the dynamics are amazing and make you feel alive. If there was any single record that 2017 needed to feel better about itself, it’s Near To The Wild Heart of Life.
[Recommended track: “In a Body Like a Grave”]
1. ’68- Two Parts Viper
Josh Scogin is the best vocalist in hardcore; hands down. When his last band, hardcore heroes The Chariot, broke up, I was so disappointed that we wouldn’t have any new music from him in the future. Then ’68 dropped two tracks in 2014, followed by one of the most awesome albums ever, In Humor and Sadness. ’68 keeps with their untouchable blend of hardcore and rock and roll on Two Parts Viper, a sort of combination of The Chariots spastic riffs and songwriting, and White Stripes-styled two-piece heavy blues. Scogin’s lyrics really shine through on this album as well, coming off as spoken word at parts before the crushing guitar and drums bash in. Where there’s feedback on this album, there is Scogin’s poetry; where there is screaming, there is singing. This is one of the most dynamic records to come out in a long time, going back and forth from heavy rock-oriented riffs and grooves to chanting and Josh’s inimitable screaming, even throwing in the oddball sample in the middle of a song. There is nothing that comes close to ’68 in terms of style and I don’t think there ever will be. 10 out 10 snakes.
[Recommended track: “Whether Terrified or Unafraid”]