Friday, January 19, 2018

Year End 2017: Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year

Here I am to finish up my year end lists with my favorite albums of 2017. This is my list, so obviously it will be different from your list, but feel free to share yours as well. This year was pretty metal heavy for me, and not a whole lot of hip-hop really stuck out to me (besides the ones on the list, and maybe Cyhi's debut full length). Anyway, let's get into it.

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10. Mount Eerie- A Crow Looked at Me
This album has enough emotional weight to break even the most hardened people. Phil Elverum's reflections on his wife's passing are emotionally raw and plainspoken, and that's what gives it a lot of its power. It will truly resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one, and though not one I return to a lot, the experience is definitely a powerful one.

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9. Dizzee Rascal- Raskit
2017 was a big year for the grime scene. I heard a lot of hype for Skepta, Wiley, and Stormzy, however not that much for one of the scene's most important artists, Dizzee Rascal. He followed up The Fifth with a collection that really goes back to that Boy in Da Corner sound, and I feel like this really got overlooked this year by grime listeners. If you're one of them, you should make an effort to change that.

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8. Code Orange- Forever
This album satisfied my Nails itch, but also gave me so much more. Code Orange's new record blends breakdown heavy, punishing metal-core with some truly intriguing sonic detours that even play with some tonal areas. It's definitely still infused with all the rage and bile that a metal-core listener could ask for, yet has enough variation to keep it from being a standard cut and paste affair, with a lot more complex song structures than your typical chug to a breakdown metal-core.

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7. Integrity- Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume
Integrity kills it on their new record, making metal-core magic that mixes punk, Slayer and even some black metal riffage in a way only they can. Every time I listen to it, I pick something new out of the claustrophobic and chaotic mix. This is the sound of absolute insanity, and I love every second of the madness.

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6. Open Mike Eagle- Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
One of the few hip-hop albums that grabbed my attention in 2017, and probably Open Mike Eagle's most serious work to date. The humor is still there, but not to the extent of Dark Comedy, and here he is documenting his time in the Chicago projects. The building in which he lived as a kid was demolished shortly before recording, and this record is kind of showing how the people that come out of these living situations are shaped by the experience, and how this environment can negatively affect a community and its families. Unfortunately, still an all too relevant subject in America, but a great album.

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5. Prurient- Rainbow Mirror
Dominick Fernow, main brain of Prurient, changed up his sonic palette for the follow up to 2015's Frozen Niagara Falls. While some of the noise elements are present, the new 3 1/2 hour monster favors more subtle soundscapes, albeit those of a still rough and unsettling nature. I get a lot of Aphex Twin's Ambient 2 and Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV if a little more spacey and run through a fuzz pedal. Equally satisfying as background ambient music and music to critically listen to.

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4. Converge- The Dusk in Us
Converge has returned with its first full length in 5 years with just as much ferocity. All you have come to know and love with the band is on full display: the razor sharp guitar, dizzying drums, chaotic breakneck pace, all wrapped up in complexly structured yet equally moshable songs. Many years into their career, Jacob Bannon, Kurt Ballou and company prove that as some of the forefathers of metal-core, it's better to leave it to them.

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3. Sun Kil Moon- Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
Mark Kozelek had a very busy 2017, with his numerous collaborations (notably his second with Jesu) and his proper follow up to 2015's Universal Themes. Kozelek's meandering story telling felt even more expansive and impenetrable than on that record, but here the stories seem to share more thematic purpose. At a behemoth 130 minutes, this album definitely takes some patience, but at its peaks, it rivals Benji for some of Kozelek's most captivating yarns.

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2. Fleet Foxes- Crack-Up
Robin Pecknold and company have followed up one of the best albums of 2011 with another superb effort. At first, I was hesitant about being too excited about a new album; records after this long sometimes suffer from the hype that has been thrown on them. This record definitely delivers. Crack-Up manages to be even more progressive than Helplessness Blues, yet still stay true to the Fleet Foxes identity, creating an excellent album for a world that has left indie folk behind. Fleet Foxes has arguably outlived the scene they helped create in the late 2000s, and can hopefully take less time to follow this one up.

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1. Xiu Xiu- Forget
Jamie Stewart and his rotating band of weirdos have created another portrait of a diseased world. This record is probably Xiu Xiu's most straightforward effort, but direct for Xiu Xiu is still everyone else's far left. Though catchy to the ear of Xiu Xiu fans, Jamie Stewart's paranoid and freakish falsetto will still be enough to make you uncomfortable, and the song topics are as dark and twisted as ever. I have to give additional praise to the spoken word piece at the end of the record, recited by Black Fag vocalist, Vaginal Davis. Truly powerful stuff, and this record will have you confused at whether to dance or be thoroughly disturbed.

So, that's my list. Hope to be posting a bit more regularly than last year, but we'll see how it goes. Happy New Year.

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