2017 – A year in music

After spending 12 hours in the car yesterday driving back from Sydney (where I spent Christmas, my Birthday, New Year’s and my 10th anniversary), I’ve had a bit of time to think about this post.  And in the end, I decided that there will be a few different parts to this post: I’m going to go through my Top 10 albums released in 2017, and I’ll give you a link to what Spotify says is my Top Songs of the year.

So, to start, my Top 10 Albums of 2017.

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10. Hiss Spun – Chelsea Wolfe (Sargent House)

I’ve been a fan of Chelsea Wolfe since we featured her in No Heroes a number of years ago. I’ve enjoyed her move towards a more polished and slightly more industrial sound. This album really drew me in because of the way it moves between all the different ways that Chelsea can sound. On ‘Spun’ it’s a sexier side of her that we haven’t seen before, which on ‘The Culling’ things go a bit heavier and a bit weirder, and then ‘Particle Flux’ goes quite electronic. Not to mention Troy Van Leeuwen was involved in quite a bit of the guitar work, which gave some tracks an almost California desert vibe.

9. Unholy Rush – Mindsnare (Resist Records)

Guys, Mindsnare pulled one over on us this year. This seminal Melbourne band started off the year by announcing that they were releasing a couple of 7-inch records, which I ordered given that Coop and myself are both huge bans. So the records arrive in a much bigger package than expected because THEY RELEASED AN ALBUM AND IF YOU ORDERED THE 7-INCHES YOU GOT THE ALBUM FOR FREE! It was great. It was everything I expect from Mindsnare – fast, heavy and very amenable for headbangs.

8. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar (Top Dawg Entertainment)

It was always going to be difficult for Kendrick to back up the incredible To Pimp A Butterfly, but I think he did a pretty good job on DAMN. It’s got a different vibe to TPAB but what he did was continue to cement his position as one of the most clever and important wordsmiths of this generation. To top it off, ‘DNA.’ is an absolute banger with a killer video!

7. Process – Sampha (Young Turks Recordings)

I have been following Sampha since he first started appearing on SBTRKT tracks (like this gorgeous song). It was only a matter of time before he released his own album, and this debut is a masterpiece. It is haunting, emotional, soulful, and is a pure demonstration of a songwriter – both music and lyrics – that is coming into his own. ‘Blood On Me’ is my favourite track on the album, but ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’ brings me to tears nearly every time I listen to it, especially when you start reading into why it took so long for this young British guy to release his own music. Incidentally, this was one of the few concerts I went to last year and to see him execute these tracks live was something special.

6. META – Ylva

OK, full disclosure is needed here: one of my good friends is in this band. That said, if I don’t like your music I will tell you (just ask my brother), so you can take this album’s inclusion on this list as it’s intended – this is not only one of the best albums of the year, but is one of the best albums I’ve heard from a local metal band in quite a while. It is everything I love about this genre of metal (I guess it’s post-metal): crushingly heavy, best listened to loudly, sprawling, with moments of melody that take your breath away (I’m thinking particularly of the track ‘Widowed’). This album was a fair time coming, and it definitely validated it’s place on the list within a very short time.

5. Thousand Mile Stare – Incendiary (Closed Casket Activities)

I mentioned in a previous post that I got pegged as the hardcore punk writer when I was writing about music, but I haven’t really been interested in hardcore for quite a few years. Then this album dropped and it reminded me what this genre can be and what it can do and how it can make you feel. I particularly enjoy the vocals which at moments remind me of Zack de la Rocha early in the days of Rage Against The Machine. It’s passionate, it’s angry and is very much a rallying call against apathy.

4. Heartless – Pallbearer (Nuclear Blast)

Another post-metal album made it onto the list, but one I listened to consistently from the moment it was released and I can see it being something I come back to for the rest of my life (that list is pretty short as I have a tendency to be obsessed with things for a period and then forget they exist). It’s just perfect! Heavy, sludgy and with moments of real beauty. Just do yourself the favour and go and listen to it. Right. Now.

3. Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels (Run The Jewels, Inc.)

Can Killer Mike and El-P do anything wrong? No, probably not. The production on this album is flawless. The tracks are the best kind of earworms you can have. The lyrics are punchy and angrier. And ‘Legend Has It’ is one of the best videos I’ve seen in years. I will still jump on YouTube just to watch it. Other stand ours include ‘Hey Kids’ and ‘Panther Like A Panther’.

But just watch the video for ‘Legend Has It’ right now…

2. The Underside Of Power – Algiers (Matador)

This album is quite different to their debut, but they retain their place as one of the most important bands I’ve listened to in the last five years. Not only are they totally undefinable in terms of the genre they fall in – there’s elements of punk, electronic, indie rock, hip hop, gospel, soul running through their work – but they are also completely unapologetic and open in their politics. You just have to listen to their lyrics or follow their social media accounts to see this. It’s this kind of surprising music that I find myself most drawn to right now. Anyway, check out the song below. If it piques your interest then definitely check out the album …. And the self-titled debut as well.

1. The Dusk In Us – Converge (Epitaph)

Look, this was inevitable, but the best album released in 2017 (in my humble and totally biased opinion) was Converge’s new one. I waited FIVE YEARS for it to drop and it gave me everything. Complex rhythms – check. Sheer, face-shredding brutality – check. Rise and fall between the fast and the slow, the melodic and the discordant – check. This is Converge doing what they do best and taking it to the next step, as they have done on every release since Jane Doe. I listened to the title track on repeat driving home from work about seven days in a row, just singing along at the top of my lungs. I became horrified by the discordance of ‘Murk & Marrow’ while listening in the dark through headphones. There’s a reason these guys are my favourite band, and this album proved why.

If you want to see a list of the songs I listened to the most in 2017, you can check out this playlist:

November Monthly Playlist

There are two very important passions in my life. You’ve already been introduced to one – food. But the second, which is just as important, is music.

I’ve worked as a music journalist. I ran my own magazine for a while – it was called No Heroes and a group of us worked on it for a solid 20 issues, which you can check out at the link.

It’s interesting to me, and possibly as a result of this magazine, that I became pinned as a person people could come to if they wanted someone to write about heavy music (punk, metal, hardcore, all that kind of thing). But there is so much more to me, to my tastes and to my likes and dislikes. I don’t think there is a genre of music I don’t enjoy. If I think of my favourite artists they run from Radiohead to Converge to David Bowie to Kendrick Lamar to Vivaldi.

To show this, I got inspired by some of my friends and started a little project on my Spotify account (which you can find and follow just by searching my name). From January this year I started creating monthly playlists to show what I had been listening to that month. The entire broad, weird scope of it.

So here is November…

This isn’t a very accurate representation of what I was listening to in November as I was pretty much listening to new album’s from Converge (probably my all-time favourite band) and YLVA (a new band from Melbourne who, in the purposes of full disclosure, feature one of my good friends) on repeat.