Best Albums of 2017

In the 70s music critics had an edge on the fans – if Richard Meltzer is to be believed, they got free records, invites to parties studded with stars, drugs and other party favours. In 2017 it is becoming increasingly common to not get sent the biggest new releases at all, never mind before they come out. (I note the dry irony in Taylor Swift’s album cover art appropriating newspaper logo fonts – several critics I know still haven’t received the promo.) In the mid 2000s I used to keep stacks of CDs in my desk, ordered by release date. When you opened the drawer, they stared back at you – imploringly, for less known artists, and reproachfully for the big names. Now digital promos from the majorspo arrive in dribs and drabs, sometimes expiring before you have a chance to hit ‘Play’ on track one. You can hear practically everything on demand via streaming, which is not new, but for me the landscape has finally flattened into a featureless horizon – your access is limited only by your time management. Everything is available, and everything is passing you by.

The effect on my listening is two-fold: I focus on genres I know I like, because there’s no force pushing me to engage with pop – it isn’t playing in the bars I go to, it doesn’t cross my twitter feed, I never hear commercial radio. (Pour one out for the major label marketers.) But I also feel perpetually behind, listening to records only once or twice because there’s an endless supply of new records being pushed by my genre outlets of choice (media content farms and ever-scrolling social feeds) and the FOMO is real, y’all.

So aside from the emergence of two new sounds, ‘weightless’ beat-deprived grime and dusty electro-ish drum machine industrial funk I’m dubbing CabVoltCore – neither of which I’ve seen trend pieces about so I’ve just guessed they exist – my listening this year roamed in a vast but fenced-in auditory landscape. And really, aside from the FOMO, it’s all good. I don’t miss what I don’t know exists (or don’t put at the top of a playlist). For what I didn’t miss, read on.

1. Jlin - Black Origami (Planet Mu)

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I really liked Jlin's debut, but I was a little suspicious of it being named The Wire's disc of the year - arriving amid the explosion of footwork at the time it seemed more like they wanted to celebrate the idea of experimenting with its rhythms than the actual result. Now I think they were just more perceptive than me - Black Origami is not conceptually that different from 2015's Dark Energy but it hit me like a bolt of lightning, maybe not coincidentally because the micro-bubble in radically strange footwork albums seems to have burst. With the field now largely to herself, Jlin's vision comes across as truly her own - a haunted landscape of reptilian hihats and shakers snapping menacingly over sand-blasted vocal snippets. If David Lynch remade Dune this would be the perfect soundtrack, all alien tones and martial snares conjuring a frightening yet fascinatingly unique planet ruled by huge worms. I don't know what worms sound like but they're in here somewhere, I'm sure of it.

 

The List

*Canadian
*** Not on Spotify

1. Jlin – Black Origami (Planet Mu)
2. Kendrick Lamar – Damn. (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)
3. *Sinjin Hawke – First Opus (Fractal Fantasy)
4. Floating Points – Reflections – Mojave Desert (Luaka Bop)
5. Richard H Kirk – Dasein (Intone)
6. Eric Copeland – Goofballs (DFA)
7. Peverelist – Tessellations (Livity Sound)
8. Gnod – Just Say No To The Psycho Right Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (Rocket)
9. Fjaak – Fjaak (Monkeytown)
10. Errorsmith – Superlative Fatigue (Pan)

11. Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now (Sub Pop)
12. Ekoplekz – Bioprodukt (Planet Mu)
13. Blondes – Warmth (R&S)
14. Wolf Eyes – Strange Days II (Lower Floor)
15. Kingdom – Tears In The Club (Fade To Mind)
16. Claude Speeed – Infinity Ultra (Planet Mu)
17. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory (Artium/Blacksmith/Def Jam)
18. Sampha – Process (Young Turks/XL)
19. Delia Gonzalez – Horse Follows Darkness (DFA)
20. Bjorn Torske and Prins Thomas – Square One (Smalltown Supersound)

21. Yo Gotti and Mike Will Made It – Gotti Made-It (Gotti Made-It/EMPIRE)
22. Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains (Matador)
23. Mura Masa – Mura Masa (Polydor/Interscope/Downtown/Anchor Point)
24. *Drake – More Life (OVO Sound/Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money/Republic)
25. The Mole – De La Planet (Maybe Tomorrow)
26. Future – HNDRXX (Epic/A1 Recordings/Freebandz Entertainment)
27. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream (DFA/Columbia)
28. ***Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – Kulthan (Latency)
29. Farbror Resande Mac – Farbror Resande Mac (Horisontal Mambo)
30. Kelela – Take Me Apart (Warp)

31. Sherwood and Pinch – Man Vs. Sofa (On-U Sound)
32. Dizzee Rascal – Raskit (Dirtee Stank/Island)
33. Joakim – Samurai (Tigersushi/Because)
34. Gas – Narkopop (Kompakt)
35. Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies (Black Acre)
36. *Egyptrixx – Pure, Beyond Reproach (Halocine Trance)
37. *Daphni – FabricLive 93 (Fabric)
38. Sote – Sacred Horror In Design (Opal Tapes)
39. Tyler The Creator – Flower Boy (Columbia)
40. *Jacques Greene – Feel Infinite (Arts & Crafts)

41. Special Request – FabricLive 91 (Fabric)
42. *Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers (Constellation)
43. ***Craig Taborn and Ikue Mori – Highsmith (Tzadik)
44. Circle – Terminal (Southern Lord)
45. Oneohtrix Point Never – Good Time sndtrk (Warp)
46. Ikonika – Distractions (Hyperdub)
47. ***Weightless Vol 1 (Different Circles)
48. ***Weightless Vol 2 (Different Circles)
49. The Horrors – V (Wolf Tone)
50. ***Jay-Z – 4:44 (Roc Nation)

Under Construction: Best-Of List

The posts here have been thin lately because I’m trying to clear my gargantuan backlog of albums I put off listening to but should probably check out before the end of the year. However, now that I’ve been checking them out, I’ve discovered that most of them are fucking godawful.

So, when the music biz gives you lemons, you whine and complain about what the fuck are you going to do with these goddamn lemons. (And if that’s not your bag, go listen to my latest mixes you bunch of ingrates.) To wit: my take on albums that didn’t make the cut…

Britney Spears
Britney Jean

Is it weird that most of these songs sound like they could be about Jesus? The winner in that category has to be “Now That I Found You,” otherwise known as Brit Brit’s answer to “Cotton Eyed Joe” (“I can live my life / I believe in faith / I have found myself / I have lost the hate”). I wish I were kidding.

Neko Case
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

This is not a bad album, and this is not a worst-of list. Even if it’s not fully my thing, I can admit that there’s plenty to like here, from the way the music often pushes what you expect from the country/folk production into a wholly different emotional place. “Man” is brilliantly pointed, “I’m From Nowhere” meanders in an endearing way, etc. But there’s just nothing that can make up for something as melodramatic as “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” at least in my books. It was based on a true story. Oh, well alright then.

Eminem
The Marshall Mathers LP2

Eminem can still technically rap. That doesn’t mean he can drop even one half-decent single anymore. Stop doing everything in a minor key! Stop trying to do concept songs! Stop ruining classic rock songs like Time of the Season! Stop making nu-metal songs like Survival Of The Fittest! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP

Goodie Mob
Age Against The Machine

You are probably a bad person if you don’t think “Nexperience” is a song that Cee-Lo should have the opportunity to sing on the season finale of next year’s The Voice so that all of America has to pay attention (“I broke the rules with a pair of dancing shoes, committed blasphemy, even let you laugh at me… After all I’ve done, I’m still a niggerrrrrrrrrrr!!”). On the other hand, Cee-Lo’s deadly-sincere bubblegum ode to “my very first white girl” is the kind of awfulness I had previously only assumed could come from will.i.am.

Recondite
Hinterland

Who says minimal techno is boring? Certainly not the producer behind Ghostly’s latest full-length. Repetitive? Sure. Dry? Assuredly. Somnolent? Why if the rest of the tracks are like the first one, I think I could listen to this sort of thing for hours upon hou-ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Miley Cyrus
Bangerz

I was ready to give this a legit shot after “We Can’t Stop” started growing on me. Then I hit “4×4,” Miley’s stab at making a Florida Georgia Line “Cruise”-style country-rap hit, complete with Nelly cameo. “Drivin so fast, bout to piss on myself.” Screw the VMAs, this is precisely where Miley went off the rails. Honorable mention goes to the line: “I ain’t popped no molly, but you still got me sweatin’.” And incidentally, I’m glad that America’s youth are so comfortable with racial issues that an ex-child TV star slipping in and out of appallingly-unconvincing ebonics ranks some eight bazillion slots lower on the offensiveness-ranking-ladder than acting like a slut on television. U.S.A.!

Shooting Guns
The Brotherhood of the Ram

Who says stoner rock is boring? Certainly no-ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ