Sunday, December 24, 2017

My Favorite Albums of 2017 -- Part II

A Giant Dog

The Rest

So I'm a day late with Part II. Hopefully, it was worth the wait.

Broken record time: This is not a "best of." These are my favorites. Lots of friends, lots of locals, lots of albums that were special to me for different reasons. There were plenty of objectively great albums this year that are not on this list. You can check out Pitchfork or Stereogum or some other big music site to see those. But, again, maybe you'll find something here you hadn't thought of before and you'll check it out and like it.

If you haven't already, feel free to check out Part I.

Also, it's Christmas Eve. From the CoolFamily to your family, here's wishing you joy, happiness, and -- above all -- peace for the holiday and for next year. Thanks for spending time with me.

Let's start off with one of the albums and one of the bands that meant the most to me in 2017.

A Giant Dog, Toy

I teared up twice at A Giant Dog shows in 2017. The sheer force of rock brought forth by Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, and the rest of the band can do that to me. Toy is probably the album I listened to most in 2017, and its primal, sexual energy is the year's best example of our human vulnerability.

Favorite Tracks: "Photograph," "Roller Coaster"

Fruit & Flowers, Drug Tax

Fruit & Flowers play tons of live shows, and I'd heard just about every song on Drug Tax live countless times before the band released their debut EP. That didn't make the dark, surfy vibes and haunting vocal harmonies any less satisfying for me.

Favorite Tracks: "Out of Touch," "Drug Tax"

Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds from Another Planet

Soft Sounds from Another Planet sounds like, well, just that. On her second album as Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner adds spacey, ambient interludes and synth pop to her unique approach to shoegaze. Zauner deals with earthbound issues like grief while traveling through the solar system on our giant, spherical spaceship.

Favorite Tracks: "Machinist," "The Body Is a Blade"

The Vansaders, No Matter What

Big, romantic New Jersey punk that draws as much influence from whiskey-soaked country songs as it does from the Boss. Doug Zambon and The Vansaders are so good at this stuff, and they've found the perfect producer in The Bouncing Souls' Pete Steinkopf.

Favorite Tracks: "Sunrise," "Hurtlin'"

dollys, tense

One of the sad things to come out of 2017 was the demise of dollys. With tense, though, they leave us with a collection of their most intricately beautiful pop. Some of the lyrics here seem to foreshadow the band's end, making this an emotional listen.

Favorite Tracks: "collapse," "girl"

Allison Crutchfield, Tourist in This Town

Another early 2017 release that should not be forgotten. Crutchfield's songwriting and voice, combined with producer, Jeff Zeigler's, expertise with analog synths make Tourist in This Town an almost retro-sounding collection that deals with change, travel, and personal growth.

Favorite Tracks: "Dean's Room," "Expatriate"

Sharkmuffin, Tsuki

Grandma Sharkmuffin opens this one by telling us to forget all the bullshit and just have a fun time. In a year full of bullshit for lots of us, that can sometimes be more easily said than done. Sharkmuffin, in a major sonic step forward as a band, manage to provide a wild, noisy fun time that you can take with you anywhere.

Favorite Tracks: "Space Glow," "Puppy Love"

Julien Baker, Turn Out the Lights

Julien Baker lets us in on her personal journey of self-acceptance on Turn Out the Lights. Amazingly, it feels like a conversation between just you and her. It's even more amazing, to me anyway, that someone as young as Baker could have the wisdom to produce something so wrenching.

Favorite Tracks: "Appointments," "Turn Out the Lights"

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Youth Detention

This is another band that always puts a lump in my throat. On Youth Detention, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires turn the sounds of southern hard rock towards blowing up the entrenched power structures that keep marginalized people down and towards celebrating the people who fight the good fight against those structures every day.

Favorite Tracks: "Underneath the Sheets of White Noise," "Crooked Letters"

White Reaper, The World's Best American Band

Yeah, it's not the most original stuff in the world. It's wild, stadium-ready, guitar-based rock. But with the album's title and the sounds of cheering throngs in the title song, White Reaper display enough self-awareness to make this one just pure, rock and roll fun.

Favorite Tracks: "The World's Best American Band," "Judy French"

Aye Nako, Silver Haze

Aye Nako describe their music as "sad punk songs about being queer, trans and black." Songwriters Mars Dixon and Jade Payne claim the sounds of 90s indie rock as their own and use them to give voice to experiences too often ignored by the genre. And Silver Haze rocks.

Favorite Tracks: "Particle Mace," "Nightcrawler"

Michael VM, the happiest man on earth

Michael VM trades the beer-fueled chaos of The Everymen for deeply personal, southern-inflected Americana. Songs about the loss of his mother, his move to North Carolina, and his Jersey roots are delivered in a raspy drawl with the backing of an expert band and some beautiful arrangements.

Favorite Tracks: "Oh Susie," "Before the Moon"

Spowder, Health Palm

Based on Health Palm, Spowder's self-described SWAMP ROCK would appear to encompass punk, garage rock, even weird spaciness. Whatever it is, it's one of the most energetic and interesting things to come out of the New Jersey basements in a long time.

Favorite Tracks: "Miracle Grow," "The Man with Two Mouths"

Yawn Mower, What's All This New Piss?

Yawn Mower manage to make their doomy, heavy fuzz sound fun. They also manage to make songs about parched, post-apocalyptic landscapes, social anxiety, and old sheds sound fun, too. How do they do it?

Favorite Tracks: "Here We Go Again," "Shed Is Old"

Little Silver, Somewhere You Found My Name

With hints of country, Americana, indie, and power pop, Little Silver create a sound on their debut LP that envelops you and pulls you in. The intertwining vocals of Erika Simonian and Steve Curtis are beautiful, and the guitar sounds are some of my favorites on any record this year.

Favorite Tracks: "One Stepper," "Anytown"

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