Friday, December 22, 2017

My Favorite Albums of 2017 -- Part I

Charly Bliss

Unranked, Of Course

There were a few things that knocked me off of my game here at CoolDadMusic in 2017. Thanks to all of you for sticking with me throughout our fifth anniversary year. I'm pretty sure I wrote fewer long-form album reviews than I have in past years; but, in preparing for this piece, I realized that I still listened to a whole lot of new music. More than any other year, I think, I felt the healing power that comes from the shared human experience that is music; and I do honestly believe that music rescued me from some deep deep darkness.

As usual, this is just a list of the things I listened to most this year. It's not a "best of" or anything like that. By virtue of the fact that I'm just one, single human, this list just reflects my own personal, and admittedly pretty narrow, tastes. My suggestion would be to look at this as a potential source of ideas for things to check out that you may have missed, especially if your tastes are different from mine.

This is the first of two parts, and it's in no particular order. As I do every year, though, I'll start with one of my big favorites from the year.

Charly Bliss, Guppy

Guppy is a perfect combination of 90s nostalgia and sweet pop. Beneath all the hooks and wild abandon, Charly Bliss address issues like mental health, terrible relationships, and peeing on trampolines. This could be my album of the year.

Favorite Tracks: "Glitter," "Percolator"

Daddy Issues, Deep Dream

Jake Orall (JEFF The Brotherhood) produced the debut from this Nashville trio, and Deep Dream  definitely gives off an Infinity Cat Recordings vibe. Underneath all the fuzz, though, is some raw and honest songwriting.

Favorite Tracks: "High St.," "I'm Not"

Alvvays, Antisocialites

Alvvays's self-titled debut is one of my favorite albums from the last several years. I was ready to be underwhelmed by its follow-up. I mean, what else could happen? Instead, Alvvays gave us Antisocialites. I've come around to the idea that it's even better than their first effort. It combines twee pop and shoegaze in a way that must have been lab-tested to please me.

Favorite Tracks: "In Undertow," "Lollipop (Ode to Jim)"

The Brixton Riot, Close Counts

The guys in The Brixton Riot worked with J. Robbins to give us an album of cathartic, Bob Mouldian power pop. Close Counts deals in both loss and hope, all with the help of extremely loud guitars.

Favorite Tracks: "Can't Stop Now," "Move On"

The Courtneys, The Courtneys II

This Vancouver trio brings together psych, fuzz, and bubble gum pop on a record that focuses on forward momentum and constant motion. There's also some stuff about a vampire, teenage boyfriend. The first North American band to be signed by the venerable New Zealand label, Flying Nun, The Courtneys fit right in.

Favorite Tracks: "Tour," "Lost Boys"

Kissing Is A Crime, Kissing Is A Crime

Matthew Molnar and Beatrice Rothbaum blew me away with these 11 tracks of post-punk bliss. "Basically, I was trying to do this band during every band that I've been in. This is the band I've been trying to do for a long time," says hardcore punk veteran Molnar. The effort paid off as this one is probably my favorite discovery of 2017.

Favorite Tracks: "You Make Me Shatter," "Kids"

YJY, The Enduring YJY

YJY we hardly knew you. The band leave us with their debut / final LP, and they go out at the top of their game. There is a big jump in songwriting and production from YJY's earlier EPs, but the band retain their facility with the infectious pop song.

Favorite Tracks: "Best Coast Weather," "Loathe"

Overlake, Fall

Epic and cinematic, Fall creates images through shoegaze soundscapes. But we're not talking about instrumental post-rock here. There are plenty of things for a listener to grab onto here like the opening guitar on "Winter Is Why" or the drums and backing vocals on "Gardener's Bell."

Favorite Tracks: "Winter Is Why," "Gardener's Bell"

Baked, Farnham

Shoegaze. Country. Straight-up rock. Baked bring it all together on Farnham. I hear influences ranging from Wilco to Lemonheads to Dinosaur Jr. to mbv, and it all works beautifully.

Favorite Tracks: "Stay," "Midnight Junkie"

Seaside Caves, Hope

This may have been the first album I reviewed in 2017. Seaside Caves keep it low-key and fly almost under the radar. All the while, they produce beautifully brooding, darkwave pop. Hope is the band's best work yet and still touches me after a year's worth of other releases.

Favorite Tracks: "Summer," "Hearts"

Looms, How It Has to Be

Full of small and impressive details, How It Has to Be defies classification into a single genre. Instead, Looms draw on a vast musical knowledge to assemble influences into whatever feels appropriate for the moment.

Favorite Tracks: "Cages," "New York"

Bully, Losing

This one is unapologetic Pixies / grunge nostalgia. Alicia Bognanno and the rest of Bully are so good at it, though. Bognanno's frantic rasp highlights these loud pop songs. "You don't like it when I'm angry. / Tough shit. Learn to deal." No, I like it. It's cool.

Favorite Tracks: "Running," "Focused"

Lyons, Lyons

On their self-titled, debut EP, Lyons weave among dream pop, gothy post-punk, and even surf sounds. The chiming lead guitar of Sharon McDonaugh gets me right here, you know? And Amy Malkoff's vocals soar into the stratosphere.

Favorite Tracks: "Midnight Drive," "Walking the Line"

where is my spaceship, DIEFAILING

Josh Evensen worked with producer Kevin McMahon on this collection that deals with the fears of entering adulthood underemployed and buried under a mountain of debt. McMahon has worked with several CoolDad Music favorites, most notably Titus Andronicus; and his touch seems perfect for the drama and desperation that Evensen is going for.

Favorite Tracks: "nothing / no one / no distinction," "i wanna be tim tebow"

Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm

This is Katie Crutchfield's rock album, and it is a wild success. Crutchfield and the band go full speed ahead into break-ups, kiss-offs, and declarations of independence. Throughout, the unique songwriting voice that Crutchfield has shown since American Weekend remains.

Favorite Tracks: "Silver," "No Question"

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