Sunday, December 17, 2017

My Top 20 Albums Of 2017

I'm changing the style of my usual best albums of the year-list but I'm not expanding it as I did my recent top tracks of the year-list; The current number of 20 selections seem generous enough.

No, the change this year is to somewhat sort these. Rather than just list them in order of release in 2017, I'm prioritizing them. The reason for this change is that selections 1 and 2 very nearly could be labelled my Record of the Year for 2017 as each was a record that I played A WHOLE LOT during the last 12 months.

Full details on the albums and associated labels is included in the my original reviews, linked in each selection. And so, with that, let's dive in.

Kenixfan's Top 20 Albums Of 2017

1. Universal High by Childhood

Universal High saw Childhood transcend their proto-shoegaze beginnings in spectacular fashion. By embracing Philly soul and Seventies Gold, Ben Romans-Hopcraft and his crew re-invigorated the very notion of current British indie and delivered one of the most listenable records I've heard in ages. Every cut here sounds like a single, from slight sing-a-longs like "Don't Have Me Back", to moody musings like "Melody Says", and on to the rather beautiful title cut. A masterpiece as far as I'm concerned, Universal High gave me the most listening pleasure in 2017, and re-affirmed my love of this band. My original review is here.

2. Nothing Feels Natural by Priests

Staggeringly with it, D.C.'s own Priests channeled a whole lot of things here in the service of some of the most incendiary post-punk this city has produced in a few decades. Nothing Feels Natural was a hand grenade tossed into a moribund American indie scene and the most invigorating thing many of us had heard in years. My original review is here.

3. Suspended Second by The Granite Shore

A record that aims to be something more than simple pop, The Granite Shore's Suspended Second remained pop of the very best sort. Nick Halliwell here pursued a kind of purity of vision that was remarkably rare to encounter in 2017. Part chamber pop and part British indie, Suspended Second arrived with a seriousness of purpose and a sense of gravitas that placed this record in a class of its own. My original review is here.

4. Emotional Freedom Technique by Dave Depper

What a surprise this one was! Dave Depper of Death Cab for Cutie dug up a few hooks from the glory days of electro-pop to produce a record that was as warm as anything released this year. Introspective and boldly future-looking, Emotional Freedom Technique was shockingly good and remarkably easy to embrace. My original review is here.

5. I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone by Chastity Belt

Chastity Belt ditched a lot of the humor that one found on earlier records to make something that was a bit dour but ultimately hopeful. I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone was full of songs about personal struggles and (presumably) bouts of doubt and depression, but it remained a bright and easy-to-enjoy record. My original review is here.

6. Cage Tropical by Frankie Rose

Frankie Rose looked to the Eighties for inspiration for 2017's Cage Tropical and the pay-off was glorious. Sleek New Wave-y numbers here bounced along with O.M.D.-recalling catchy choruses as Frankie delivered one of her most consistent records ever. My original review is here.

7. I Love You Like A Brother by Alex Lahey

Australia's Alex Lahey offered up one of 2017's sharpest records with I Love You Like A Brother. The release was, much like her earlier EP, a sign that this singer-songwriter was capable of producing supremely bright indie-pop that remained catchy and nearly-joyous in spots, even with the flashes of acerbic wit Lahey laced throughout the material. My original review is here.

8. Des Demonas by Des Demonas

Des Demonas have been playing around D.C. for a few years so a few of us already know about the fiery Fall-meets-The Standells-mix of their material. Still, the release of the group's debut, Des Demonas, confirmed beyond a doubt that this is one of the best bands in America today, with the tracks here positively bursting with fiery promise. Equal parts Sixties throwndown and post-punk near-riot, this one is one of 2017's most consistently incendiary records. My original review is here.

9. Eyes To The Light by The Effects

The Effects, like Des Demonas, are a band that have been burning up this city for a few years. And while D.C. folks know what Devin Ocampo is capable of delivering, the release of Eyes to the Light, the band's full-length debut, only confirmed our hopes. Blistering post-punk and near-math rock rhythms churning in the service of some of Devin's most accessible material. My original review is here.

10. How Do You Spell Heaven by Guided By Voices

Guided by Voices, in a fit of typical prolific energy, dropped 2 records in 2017. And while August by Cake was a fine release, it was the punchy power-pop of How Do You Spell Heaven that thoroughly charmed, the Beatles-nicks and Who-isms of Pollard's imagination given fine form throughout. My original review is here.

11. Adult Desire by Craig Wedren

Craig Wedren is known for his soundtracks and his past work with D.C.'s own Shudder to Think but 2017's Adult Desire was a nice reminder of the sort of pristine indie-pop he's also capable of delivering. Subtle and precise, this record offered up some of his best solo work. My original review is here.

12. At The End Of The World by The Jet Age

The Jet Age rocketed out of the D.C. suburbs in 2017 with a release that saw front-man Eric Tischler grappling with life in a world being battered everyday by the horrors of having a president named Trump. That the record was subtly political and thoroughly invigorating is a mark of praise for a band who certainly deserve more attention both in this city, and elsewhere. My original review is here.

13. In Spades by The Afghan Whigs

That I'm not a huge Afghan Whigs fan and yet I loved In Spades might be seen as a sideways bit of praise. Regardless of what that indicates, the brooding soul and corrosive post-punk of In Spades was infectious and compelling for long-time fans of these legends, and new converts to their power. My original review is here.

14. Somersault by Beach Fossils

Sounding like a smart updating of the template first established by The Left Banke, or The Clientele, the music of Beach Fossils on 2017's Somersault was beautiful and immediately affecting. And the result was probably their best, most consistent, record to date. My original review is here.

15. Music For The Age Of Miracles by The Clientele

Music For The Age of Mircales confirmed the importance of The Clientele, one of indie-pop's most widely-loved and perpetually-underrated bands. The glistening chamber pop here was, at times, captivating and near-brilliant in its execution. My original review is here.

16. As You Were by Liam Gallagher

The solo debut from the ex-Oasis and Beady Eye singer was never going to live up to the heights of those earlier bands. Still, As You Were had its moments, usually on the impeccably-produced arena rock numbers that allowed Liam to rasp or roar in his usual fashion, or show a brief flash of Lennon-like vocal vulnerability. My original review is here.

17. Introduction To Escape-ism by Escape-ism

It was hard narrowing down which Ian Svenonius-associated release from 2017 to put on this list. So while the fiery minimal rock of the 2 studio albums and 1 live album from Chain and the Gang this year rocked my world, it was the unsettling stuff on Introduction to Escape-ism that really surprised and enlightened me. My original review is here.

18. Good by The Stevens

The power-pop and indie-rock of Australia's The Stevens was somewhat ramshackle but it had a whole lot of charm, with their full-length release in 2017, Good, being one of the year's most listenable records. My original review is here.

19. Slowdive by Slowdive

Even in the heights of my shoegaze phase, I was never a huge fan of Slowdive. Which is significant when relaying how much I loved Slowdive, the band's direct and lovely 2017 offering. Consistently accessible, it was the real comeback record of the year, despite what you may have heard about that Ride album. My original review is here.

20. Rhys A Meinir by Cian Ciaran

The Super Furry Animals keyboard wiz turned his talents towards Welsh folklore in 2017, with the delivery of the score of his Rhys A Meinir finally happening. The classical work was lush, lyrical, and worlds away from the Furries' usual brand of Britpop, but it was also an accessible and lovely record of sweeping power. My original review is here.