STAFF LISTS: Sean’s 30 Most Meaningful Releases of 2017
Posted: by The Editor
Alright, look. I get it. These are supposed to showcase the amount of incredible depth of someone’s favorite ear hole. Me? I wanted 2017 to be without critics and rating systems. Thus, for my 2017 I want to present my most treasured releases, still giving them a place on the list in ranking purely because there will be albums I listened to more than others. This past year was full of personal growth and what not so these albums helped me try to be the very best I could be. I love music, I love what I do for a living and these albums were my most favored. Enjoy… (plus I made that sick picture above, isn’t that cool?)
Honorable Mentions: Full of Hell, Granddad, Phoenix, Oso Oso, Mount Eerie, Icarus The Owl, Del Paxton, Bully
30. Mutoid Man – War Moans
Look, this album is one of finest AND most fun pure metal records out there. There’s a vibe given off from the band that boasts their ability to craft songs that rip enthusiastic dimensions from the jollification centers of different planets.
29. Looming – Seed
Endless in love with the ripe emotional complexities of Looming’s music, Seed is a more gritty and raw observation of the struggles of a gifted mind. Between the troubles of anxiety, love and the constant worry of fearing something worse, Seed sprouts more dynamic and larger sounds than Looming’s debut. The end of “Queen” is one of my favorite moments of this year.
28. Wear Your Wounds – Wear Your Wounds
There’s very few artists around that make me feel lost in their work. From the paintings, the book and the record of Wear Your Wounds, there’s an emotional center to this project that sounds more like a proper soundtrack to coping with grief and understanding that natural occurrences happen because they happen, and you have to be ready to face that every single day.
27. Code Orange – Forever
One of the first records I remember hearing of the new year, Code Orange’s third full length continues the band’s sonic explosive powers with continued raw energy. Between movements that crush eardrums with thick, sludgy beatdowns and the eerie, doom flavored atmosphere, this record shines the light on how to approach being a grueling sonic presence and keep the music accessible at the same time.
26. Hodera – First Things First
As someone who has spent more hours and days with Hodera, First Things First is an incredibly special record. For the hours and years of work put into it, the band crafted a release that powers through the horrors of life and finds a way to settle down with them; moving forward with a weight and a grace of finally founding a place in lie.
25. Lorde – Melodrama
This album feels like a hiccup in pop culture, but in a way that brings surprise and wonder as to where and what it really is. Lorde’s continuing appeal to self-aware maturity beyond being wise is penned beautifully and makes for a rather jarring record. Melodrama bends Lorde’s creative intellect to a snapping point, full of vivacious choruses and haunting lyrics, it’s a beautiful time for pop music. Not so fun fact: Both of my Lorde albums were stolen out of my car this summer. I am happy to have a friend who made sure they returned to my collection.
24. A Will Away – Here Again
A Will Away’s debut record Here Again is the epitome of that perfect summer day you had in the part and laughing with your best friends. Or that’s what I think of. The time that this album spent playing in my ears involved plenty of walks in parks with my dog, and I think the memories associated with this hook heavy record (and powerfully delivered in terms of vocals) will continue to keep it playing for years on end.
23. Picturesque – Back To Beautiful
In an effort to really fall in love with hook heavy music in 2017, Picturesque is the living entity of a chorus that breaks the sound barrier. Back To Beautiful is full of moments that leave me scratching my head at just how incredibly gifted the vocals are delivered. Not shorting the instrumental prowess of the music, this is a record that surprises me upon every listen.
22. Vasudeva – No Clearance
An album that speaks lyrics with delicate instruments, No Clearance was an album I could never stop playing when it came out. Between long drives or cooking (for real this was my go to album when I was cooking a rather large meal), there’s something about the feelings portrayed in this record that are more enigmatic by nature, simply because these parts and progressions are woven together and it’s for the listener to figure out what they create.
21. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
I mean, what else is there to say? Another gifted record from someone challenging the genre, the surrounding culture and wrapping ideas together that prove the best depth is placed into the story of Kendrick Lamar, and these are his chapters.
20. Half Waif – form/a
form/a is a beautiful reversion from the distracting elements of livelihood. Written in isolation away from the modern trials of city life, Half Waif excelled at creating a record that digs deep into the layers of one’s identity, utilizing waves of synthesizers and a chorus of hypnotic vocals. There’s a mature layer found within “Frost Burn” that reveals the process of growing up, sounding like a heart thick with emotion, searching for a way to find that spark of youth. The answer birthed an incredible release.
19. Sinai Vessel – Brokenlegged
One of the first records I heard in 2017 that challenged my creativity and inspiration, I immediately fell in love with the biting lyrics and driving rhythm sections of Brokenlegged. While not every song resonates with the illustrious livelihood of metaphysical awareness, I appreciate the crumbling foundation of myself that immediately tried to find multiple ways to overcome whatever ailed me thanks to “Down With The Hull” and the opening title-track.
18. Hundredth – RARE
A former hardcore band decided to listen to their soul rather than continue to beat out breakdowns and pit calls. Having the background that Hundredth does in my opinion helped their new shoegaze sound maintain a quality of heaviness and find mental states to embellish and wrap into relatable experiences. Upon immediately hearing the first notes of this record I realized how tension driven the drums are, and I think it’s a record that really drives itself, showing Hundredth’s new presence as an innate call than a business model.
17. Glassjaw – Material Control
An album that I have been looking forward to for over half a decade, I appreciated the artistry that went into compiling Glassjaw’s newest release. Having parts and call backs to the previous EP’s helped solidify that Daryl Palumbo and Justin Beck have assembled a melodious sound that still wreaks havoc rhythmically. Maintaining the heavy, sometimes frantic musicals and the always enjoyable vocal deliveries, Material Control is a return to form. The recipe has always been there, and right now it’s finer than most of my family’s holiday meals… well except the zucchini casserole.
16. Sufferer – Sufferer
An album riddled in the hyperventilating atmosphere of panic attacks, anxiety and depression, Sufferer sounds like a distraught mind on edge. This record takes a snapshot of the struggles of mental health going from waking up until the day’s (and mind’s) end. It’s a wonderfully written record, with plenty of harsh noise and frantic collapses of rhythm’s to keep the consistency of never knowing when one will break down and just wish for the day to end.
15. Adult Mom – Soft Spots
There’s an intimacy and delicateness on Soft Spots that I had not physically felt in ages. Opener “Ephermeralness” immediately latches onto the listener, possibly aching from a recent and more than devastating position. The reminder of being something rather than nothing latched onto an emotionally heavy guitar line is a fantastic way to grip the hearts of listeners, and my heart never let go. After a heavy night in San Francisco night I paced the streets playing this album over and over, making sure to smile at the details embedded in the lyrics, watching the world pass and feeling okay with being distracted by trees.
14. END – From the Unforgiving Arms of God
It took exactly one renowned producer of heavy music and a bunch of different members from bands across hardcore/metalcore to create one of the heaviest releases of 2017. From the Unforgiving Arms of God packs more brutal, ear throbbing breakdowns that satisfy my inner need to mosh in my room than almost the rest of 2017’s catalogue. It’s 5 song limit (so yea it’s an EP) helps in giving quick bursts of cathartic energy right when I need it, and that is pretty damn often.
13. Petal – Comfort EP
Next time on ‘Sean cries again’ will be me walking around the various airports going nowhere and trying to control overwhelming sadness. There is a cohort found on this EP and that is due to I watched this set with one of my closest friends and when “Silver Springs” began playing we both looked at each other and wished for our mother’s to be seeing it. I even texted my mom after telling her to listen to it. There’s a sentimental and beautiful dance to be had and that is with one you love and to this short but sweet EP.
12. The National – Sleep Well Beast
Recommended to me from a friend because it left them emotionally devastated, I gave Sleep Well Beast a listen and wanted to collapse on the floor. The album’s dealing with mortality is like the epitaph of your closest friend and you weren’t there. The dynamics of the music contradict the mood of the lyrics often, leaving this record to feel like bliss but hurt like death.
11. Sharptooth – Clever Girl
This record screams plenty of somethings everywhere, and the words just happen to be emotionally laced and forward in starting the steps to creating a more friendly environment for everyone in the scene. Discussed here also are the trials of being a female in day to day life, wanting to be left the fuck alone and speaking out against Trump, abusers and people that belittle the LGBTQI scene. There’s plenty of aggression and cathartic releases across Clever Girl. It spits in the face of the people trying to formulate a box for us to live. Thank you Sharptooth.
10. ’68 – Two Parts Viper
Many a great minds have come together to create music that is free to express and not bound by anything. Few have done it over and over in their career as effortlessly (it seems) as Josh Scogin. Two Parts Viper is another chapter in the renaissance of Scogin’s career, rallied behind the lyric “I could have been anyone from anywhere, but I chose to be me from right here.” That steadfast longevity and testament to always finding a way to create is inspiring as all can be. Driven by who knows what, ’68’s spiraling riffs and chaos bred rock-core (is that a thing?) music is full of soul, spirit and the entirety of the project. It just is, and that’s why it is.
9. Paramore – After Laughter
As I am writing this I remember hearing “Hard Times” in the bar last night and feeling uplifted. This record is almost a meta experience of trying to come to terms that it is actually hard to be happy. The songs here speak to this entire generation in a more touching way than most, riddled with explosive pop melodies that are sure to find a way to make living through hell a memorable tango.
8. Tigers Jaw – spin
Trying to place what I love about spin is pretty difficult considering I personally did not think I listened to it that much this year. Once Spotify told me what my 2017 year was like I realized that songs off this phenomenally pop-centric and mind bleeding lyrically written record were parts of my soundtrack for the majority of the year. With “Favorite” probably being the song that retold my story of not being able to let go of someone, I found doses of imagery that pertained to my life all across the record. The vocal melodies could be a little more pronounced and forward, but I still know the words to about every song, it follows me wherever I go.
7. Smidley – Smidley
The exact moment I knew this album was going to be in heavy repeat was upon the first listen and “Milkshake” began. There Conor is, describing how he really feels about his life. The luxurious being everywhere and nowhere at once, trying to settle with mental health issues and trying to showcase love for friends. But what “Milkshake” offers is an incredibly look at being isolated, coming to terms with ‘I love every moment that I’m fucked up.’ It’s a personally heart wrenching moment that wraps the entirety of the record together. Besides that, the record is pure bliss and dynamically interesting. “Hell” and “Fuck This” and “No One Likes You” are the definition of joy being personified, at least in their sonic dances. I fucking love Smidley.
6. PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell
Maybe, just MAYBE I have come to terms with how much I love pop sensibility in music. While a very produced and detailed sound, PVRIS seem to pack an emotional stab wound to the gut with Lynn Gunn’s fantastic voice. I’ve been a fan of this band for a solid three years and even though AWKOHAWNOH (the album title) ventured way into the electronic side of music, Gunn’s voice is passionate and inspired. There seems to be a bit of her soul in every song, especially as her harsh vocals and downright beautifully infectious melodies. About every chorus or vocal ‘ooh’ or ‘ahh’ is done with incredible care and sure to never leave your head. Examples: “Half” and “No Mercy.”
5. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface
I have said it multiple times to many people, but Manchester Orchestra is the best rock band of this generation. Andy Hull is a mastermind of all things musical, including writing and scoring an entire film while being on point with five incredible albums under the name Manchester Orchestra and having hands in other projects. A Black Mile To The Surface finds Manchester Orchestra a bit softer than Cope, more personable than Simple Math and arguably more dynamic than Mean Everything To Nothing. From the wit driven lyrics of the opener to the profound prowess of Andy Hull’s voice on “The Gold,” the musical orchestration of this album never ceases to amaze.
4. Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming
Call me a romantic, but I absolutely adore this record. Released early on in February, this album continued to find places for me to project my voice and fantasies of love unto. Sherri Dupree is detailing the entirety of being in a relationship on this record, and it’s such a welcoming and honest insecurity. The opening three tracks find Dupree reeling in doubt, transversing across the record but settling into places of warmth just as easily. There are vocal cadences on this record ever memorable, with the music keeping a simplistic nature that is wrapped with such an incredible atmosphere. There’s no place I would rather be than on my couch and jamming this record. p.s. not so un fact #2: this album also happened to be stolen out of my car and thanks to the help of one amazing (former) publicist and Equal Vision Records I was sent another one and I have not even opened it or let it leave the drawer of my desk. Thank you <3
3. Converge – The Dusk In Us
The first time I heard “Eve” from the Ep released this summer, I knew Converge were going to push themselves in new boundaries on their full length. Was I surprised that a new found favorite of theirs wasn’t on The Dusk In Us? Absolutely. Does that take away from the fact that from beginning to finish this record rips through mature concepts and un-fucking-believable progressions? Not on bit. Form the drum save and tearjerking melodies of “A Single Tear” to the animalistic unknown of “Wildlife” and “Arkhipov Calm,” this new Converge record finds new holes to climb out of, whether personally or emotionally. The bass and drum syncopation on this record might be one of my favorites ever, really coming together for songs like “Trigger” and “Under Duress.” Then there is the brutality of lyrics on “I Can Tell You About Pain” and the title track. The Dusk In Us resolves with four impeccable artists writing another downright perfect record.
2. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
The first time I heard this album was on a 45 minute light rail (think public train) home. Throughout the listen I felt like Julien Baker was on the train, much alone like I was and shedding the dark thoughts out of the ever destructive mind. Turn Out The Lights is an intimate experience, and one that can be (should be?) carried everywhere. The record touches on the intricacies of wanting to be launched out of a car window but still reeling responsible for the self-love and hatred of not being able to cope with the end result. To be honest, there’s no real way to describe how someone else’s mind will take these songs, but there’s a familiarity and hopelessness that resonates in the core of the earth, the core of life and the core of music. “Hurt Less” brings to surface my own frustrations with life and it breaks me down in the best way possible.
1. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun
The brooding and darkness of Hiss Spun is familiar to Chelsea Wolfe’s music, but this record cracks Wolfe’s identity a bit more. Focused on the self-destruction of being addicted to habitual harm, Hiss Spun dives into the very identity of the singer, unearthing whatever humanity is there. The ominous and slow pulse of “Spun” is constantly being hummed by me in stressful situations. It’s interesting how the doom of this record seems to help me breathe. Chelsea Wolfe also delivered the best vocal performance of her career, really taking off to chop through the heavy walls of distorted rhythmic throbbing with an unearthly power. “16 Psyche” forgoes any inhibitions and soars with melodies, bringing to life a withering flower back into bloom, surging with life and soft coo of “hide” at the end of the first chorus and the ear piercing “love” at the end of the second. “Twin Fawn” shatters the plates of the earth with its ravenous burst of bombastic energy, somehow swooning with a haunting melody from both the guitar and Wolfe. Hiss Spun is infectious in all the right ways, both in personal suffering and in the hope to find an escape from it.
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