Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cool Matty C’s 7 Coolest Albums of 2017

Cool Matty C

There's Something About 2017

By Matt Chrystal

Ah, it seems not all that long ago we were all wishing for the demise of 2016, as it came to be universally recognized as the year that killed off so many of our beloved celebrities.

Boy, how time flies, ammirite?

Now here we are, or most of us are, hoping to push the fast forward button on 2017 (and perhaps the next three years while we are at it). It's unfortunate that celebrities seem to die each year; but, in 2017, we are also are witnessing what seems to be the demise of civil liberties, truths we held to be self-evident, and certain inalienable rights.

But, hey, it wasn't all bad, was it? I mean, we did get some cool new music! See, there is a silver lining in that cloud of orange dust that was twenty-seventeen.

So, anyways, here are my top seven coolest albums of the year. Why seven you ask? Lucky number?
Hey, maybe… I'm sure we could all benefit from ending the year with a little extra luck.

Or maybe it's seven because a wise man once said…

"Seven is the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that's the number.
7 little chipmunks twirling on a branch, eating lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreaming about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby."

Anyways, step into my office for my top seven albums of the year,

Drum roll please…

No Mightier Creatures, No Mightier Creatures

Peruvian space rocker and poet, Renato Gomez, relocated to Barcelona, Spain and put out an album of stripped-down tunes that rail against consumerism, materialism, and oppression. Gomez, known primarily for fuzzed-out jams as part of the psychedelic South American rock unit, Serpentina Satelite, has kicked aside his wah-wah pedal on this new project and, instead, focused on creating concise tracks, filled with bluesy riffs, punk rock edginess, and biting social commentary.

No Mightier Creatures often finds Gomez reflecting back on time he spent living in the United States as he attempts to shine a light on the hypocrisy hidden away in both the suburbs and in big city living through scathing tracks like "Springfield," "No Light," and "Corporate Dream." This album could be the spark that that ignites a rebellion across the galaxy.

Ryan Adams, Prisoner

Can anyone put me in contact with Mandy Moore? I want to inform her that the things she has said and done have consequences… Ya know, consequences such as destroying Ryan Adams. I want to know if she has listened to Prisoner and if she was able to make it all the way through.

Or maybe I should I call her current beau, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, to warn him.

Or maybe not, after that last album Dawes put out, he might need a little Moore to ignite his creative fires.

Or maybe, I can skip all that and just give Ryan Adams a hug.

Ok, I digress. Back to Prisoner… Adams is no stranger to wearing his feelings on his sleeve. After all, this is the guy who put out albums entitled Heartbreaker and Love is Hell. But, on Prisoner, each song is an open wound; the pain is fresh; and each line cuts deep. The album as a whole is as moving as it is devastating.

Consider for a moment these lines from the track "Shiver & Shake:"

"I close my eyes, I see you with some guy, laughing like you never even knew I was alive…
I've been waiting here like a dog at the door, you used to throw me scraps, you don't do it anymore.
I miss your loving touch, I miss your embrace But if I wait here any longer I'm gonna fade away."

Ouch! And that's nothing compared to the following track, "To Be Without You."

Adams who once sang, "to be young is to be sad, is to be high," is now older, sadder, and sober on Prisoner and emoting, "I feel empty, I feel tired, I feel worn, Nothing really matters anymore."

Damn, I am here for you with that hug whenever you need it, Ryan.

Neil Young, Hitchhiker

Hitchhiker just may be a perfect album. Originally scheduled for release in 1976, it was shelved for forty years because the all-knowing record execs at the time considered it "just a collection of demos." Most of the songs that make up Hitchhiker have been released in some form over the years, and unofficial copies of the album have circulated amongst bootleggers since it was canned. But its official release finally came in September of this year… and it is glorious, especially when experienced on vinyl.

This is Neil Young at his apex, his vivid storytelling laid out in one piece during a single night's recording session, with only his guitar and a few pauses for "weed, beer, or coke."

The fact that material this amazing can be shelved for forty years and come out sounding fresh and fitting for today's world is a testament to Young's songwriting ability and speaks to the timelessness of the music and of Neil Young himself. Long may he run!

Go drop the needle down and listen to the opening double-punch masterpiece of "Pocahontas" and "Powderfinger." Go! Right now!

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Sidelong

Ok, so yeah. This album is also technically a reissue as Shook self-released Sidelong in 2015. But, thankfully, Bloodshot Records rereleased the record for the masses in early 2017. Sidelong is actually that good of an album where it could, and probably should, top "Best Of" lists every year.

I gushed about this album enough in my review earlier this year with my accompanying interview with Sarah Shook, so I'll just reiterate my point that Sidelong has all the components of a classic. It's solid from beginning to end. Each track can stand on its own; yet, once you hit play or drop the needle, you are not going to want to stop it or take the album out of rotation. There's a familiar feel to the songs as if you have known them all along, yet there's a breath of fresh air as Shook's authentic sound blends her confident voice with thoughtful storytelling and a plethora of biting one-liners.
Every track on Sidelong makes for a perfect selection for a jukebox anthem at your local watering hole or to put on during the (sober) drive there and back.

The Yawpers, Boy in a Well

Boy in a Well is a rock n roll opera / post-punk opus which follows the story of a boy left at birth by his mother, coincidentally enough, in a well in France during the era of WWI.

Nate Cook of the Yawpers channeled the raw emotions stemming from his recent divorce and coupled them with his love of history. He put them in a blender with a large dose of mid-morning hangovers and fever dreams and out came the perfect cocktail of mankind's primordial urges and fears.

I was able to experience this album in three distinct waves: I listened to the record with no information going into it and drew my own interpretations. I listened to the record while digesting the accompanying comic book, and then I saw The Yawpers run through the album live. Each time I was impacted hard with an array of emotions ranging from empathy, to sympathy, to shock and discomfort, to just full-on having fun for the sake of rock n fucking roll.

The Yawpers possess a raw energy that comes across on the album just like it always has at their break-neck, big noise, warts-and-all, live shows.

On Boy in a Well, the band offer up a compelling, full speed ahead soundtrack that seamlessly shifts from heartfelt to heartbroken and from soothing to screaming, sometimes all in the course of just one verse.

Ron Gallo, Heavy Meta

Humorous, satirical, and chock full of tongue-in-cheek witticisms, Heavy Meta plays out like Gallo making art by scrolling through his social media feed, passing by collections of people at Walmart ("Why Do You Have Kids?") ex-girlfriends he has yet to be deleted by ("Can’t Stand You"), exes that he has yet to delete ("Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me"), and scencesters who drew his ire ("All of the Punks are Domesticated"). I’m pretty sure there's a hidden jab at Kurt Vile tucked away in there too.

"All of the Punks are Domesticated" is the coda of the album and could perhaps be the perfect coda for the year 2017 itself.

"Now every room is sterilized, all risk is paralyzed
Meanwhile, the pop tarts climb the pop charts
The blood clots block your heart parts
And no one really has anything to say"

Well, thankfully, Gallo had a lot to say on Heavy Meta because I certainly enjoyed listening to it on repeat for many a car ride this year.

And if his big mark is just "an impressive collection of digital remarks" then thanks for that too, Mr. Gallo.

Deer Tick, Volume 1 &2

The Rhode Island rockers had a dual release date in 2017 for the acoustic Volume 1 and the electric Volume 2. Yes, they are supposedly two separate, stand-alone albums; but funk that. I listen to them consecutively constantly and consistently; so, for me, it's all just one big thrill ride.

The albums had a ketchup and mustard theme going on; and, for that alone, I would have been forced to include them among my top albums. But, thankfully, there was a bit more flavor to feast on.

As anyone who knows me is already well aware, I'm a huge DT mark; but, even for me, these two albums just seemed a lot to digest upon first listen. My initial thoughts were that they just should've taken choice cuts from both records and made one solid kickass album. But then, upon repeated listens, each song not only grew on me but seemed to speak to me and say, "Hit the repeat button again. You know you like this, motherfucker!"

I was also won over by the amusement I found in that my four-year-old daughter has taken to singing "Look How Clean I Am" during her bath-time since the track is a jab at celebs showing off their new found sobriety.

Volume 1 & 2 both have some songs that are introspective, some that are just fun lil ditties, some that are kinda self-indulgent, some that are kinda nonsense, and some that just flat out rock.

And hey man, ain’t that rock n roll? It is to me.

Honorable Mention:

Nicole Atkins, Goodnight Rhonda Lee

Nicole Atkins's voice is beautiful and soulful. There's a heaviness all through this album, but there are themes of empowerment and liberation that also permeate. The music has an enduring feel to it. It is simply a great album. And it's also cool to hear my four-year-old daughter sing the chorus of "A Little Crazy" as she runs around the house in a frenzy.

Happy New Year, folks. Here's to lookin' forward to some more cool shite in 2018!

1 comment :