Albums of 2017

The year 2017 will go on record as the first year I bought more downloads of albums than CD’s. I guess I’ve finally succumbed to the idea that a digital download is just as good as the compact disc. All things being equal, I prefer a complimentary copy of the vinyl with my purchase of the download. So, without any further digressions, here are my top 40 albums of 2017 with streaming links if I could find one.

rvg
1. RVG – A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend)
This Australian band’s debut album grew slowly on me. It’s initial pressing sold out before anyone outside their circle even heard about them. Rooted in some of the best Australian bands like the Triffids and the Go-Betweens. Soaring guitars and lyrics filled with the bleakness of real life fueled songs that got better and better with each listen.

fazerdaze
2. Fazerdaze – Morningside (Flying Nun)
I was surprised not to see this album on more year end lists. Blissed out bedroom pop that is in the same realm as the better-known Jay Som. For my money though, Fazerdaze has a better hit ratio.

bedouine
3. Bedouine – S/T (Spacebomb)
This record came out of nowhere and sounded like nothing else this year. Part Carpenters, Jim Sullivan and Leonard Cohen. Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian who goes by Bedouine posses a smooth and soothing voice and made the comfort record of the year.

cableties
4. Cable Ties – S/T (Poison City)
The debut LP from this Australian trio was full of piss and vinegar. The songs were based on great grooves the reminded me of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the angst-ridden vocals of Jenny McKechnie flashed with hints of Sleater Kinney. A band to be reckoned with!

melenas
5. Malenas – S/T (El Nébula)
Melenas from Pamplona, Spain take their Flying Nun records and translate them into toe tapping Spanish jangle. Who new that Jangle pop was a lingua franca? If world peace ever happens, expect Melenas to be featured on the soundtrack.

baxter-dury
6. Baxter Dury – Prince of Tears (Heavenly)
On his fourth album, Ian Dury’s kid delivers a brilliant set of songs. From the sleaze of the opener Miami to the filth laden vocals of guest Rose Elinor Dougall to the surprisingly clean cameo of Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson this record keeps you on your toes.

UVTV
7. UV-TV – Glass (Deranged)
The debut record from this Florida trio had the sugar-coated blitzkrieg pop reminiscent of the Primitives combined with Spacemen 3 druggy drone. The louder you turned it up the better it gets on this brilliant record.

girlray
8. Girl Ray – Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)
This trio of teens from Wales deliver bouncy, breathless pop that sounds like part bucolic beauty and part wild overgrown garden. Elements of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Kevin Ayres lend excitement to Earl Grey and make them a band I’m excited to see what comes next for them.

lars
9. Lars Finberg – Moonlight Over Bakersfield (In the Red)
Striking out on his own, or retreating back to his hometown of Bakersfield, California? A little bit of both as the Intelligence front man and founder teams up with Ty Segall to make a solo record that sounds like an Intelligence record. I love the circuitousness of it all and truth be told, Lars could make a record of him blowing into beer bottles and I’d probably love it.

zebra
10. Zebra Hunt – In Phrases (Tenorio Cotobade)
I chose not to make a separate list of Seattle albums this year due to the issue of the seemingly disappearing Seattle scene. Thankfully the city still has these fellows who make Feelies-Flying Nun styled jangly pop that is second to none. Album number two from Zebra Hunt sees the band maintaining the insanely high level of quality of their debut.

groupd
11. Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)
This seemed to be an odd team-up, but it worked. The two bands, one from the Sahara, the other from France met in the desert to meld their styles and come up with avant desert grooves that shake rattle and roll like rock and roll is supposed to do.

feature
12. Feature – Banishing Ritual (Upset! the Rhythm
Make a record. Break up. Release the record. This trio of women seemed to have it somewhat backwards, but their Wire inspired pop that scratches, rubs and soothes sometimes all at once makes for a winning record.

star
13. Star Tropics – Lost World (Shelflife)
Chicago’s Star Tropics blend of indiepop jangle, Sarah records, For Against and New Order won’t win them any awards for originality, but the quality of their songs and the atmosphere they create is no rip-off either.

owens
14. Kelly Lee Owens – S/T (Smalltown Supersound)
For fans of Kate Bush, Bjork and the Cocteau Twins Kelly Lee Owens is a godsend. You hear elements of all the aforementioned, but nothing obvious due to Owens skipping off down her own path of ethereal pop bliss.

blacksprings
15. Black Springs – When We Were Great (Oven Material)
Instead of calling this an album, Black Springs chose to call When We Were Great a compilation of songs from their past giving you the idea that the band are no longer together. Mystery aside, this record has elements of dreampop, shoegaze and jangle and a confidence that has me pulling for them to make another record.

alvvays
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
I nearly wrote this Canadian band’s sophomore effort off, until Lollipop came up on shuffle one day. That song reminded me how effortlessly easy this band makes great pop songs. After Lollipop, Plimsoull Punks hit me, and after that Not My Baby and I was a believer again.

destroyer
17. Destroyer – Ken (Merge)
With Ken, Dan Bejar has fully stepped into the Scottish rain soaked landscapes of the Blue Nile. The sound is majestic and the outlook is dreary and sad, but with Bejar you get laughs with your tears. It was unfortunate that he decided to forgo appearing on the latest New Pornographers LP this year, but that means this album is all top shelf stuff.

bboys
18. B Boys – Dada (Captured Tracks)
I loved how Dada seemed to be both punk and post-punk at once. Or maybe it was the goth sound made me think of Christian Death and the Chameleons. Who knows, but it was loud and fun. I also loved how there ain’t a clunker in the bunch.

clap
19. Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies (Black Acre)
After teaming up with Paul Simon last year, Cristiano Crisci returns with album number two of dark world inspired rhythms. A Thousand Skies is cut from the same cloth of tribal rhythms and slithering melodies that veer towards drum and bass, but he adds some guest vocalists this time around.

Priests
20. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Sister Polygon)
Washington, DC’s Priests ably carry on the politically informed pop/punk that was championed by a litany of bands from the nation’s capital. Nothing Feels Natural Feels urgent and agitated and under attack. Priests kick back and write songs worth rallying around, which is much needed in this day and age of moral drift.


21. Flat Worms – S/T (Castle Face)
Flat Worms which features former members of Dream Boys, Sic Alps and Thee Oh Sees hit the ground running on this pummelingly great record. Lead off song Motorbike sets the scene of this menacing record. They’re sound like a biker gang that digs Suicide, but thinks synths are for poseurs. Big and bad!

shabazz2
shabazz1
22. Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star &
Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines(Sub Pop)

I guess the two Shabazz Palaces LP’s from this year are considered a rap album, but it’s so out there in terms of mainstream rap that I don’t consider it as such. This is sci-fi fantasy that transcends musical boundaries. You like the Peter Thomas Orchestra? How about Can? That Clap! Clap! record? And a thousand other things. You can probably come at these two records from a hundred different directions and still dig them both.

motroper
23. Mo Troper – Exposure & Response (Good Cheer)
Mo Troper’s second album may not change the world, but it’s pristine orchestral pop will restore your faith in it. This is wide-eyed, wide-screen beautiful stuff likely influenced by albums by Jellyfish, Jeremy Egnik and Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground.

holiday
24. Holiday Ghosts – S/T (PNKSLM)
Manchester’s Holiday Ghosts self-titled debut is a bouillabaisse of low-key, unpolished pop. The group have a lot in common with bands like the Pastels, Comet Gain and the Envelopes. The vocals are shared between band members giving the album the feel of a vaudeville variety, but they keep the plot tight and the songs sweet.

sleaford
25. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas (Rough Trade)
You would think that after high rate of release this duo keeps up that they’d run out of ideas, but English Tapas sees no let up and in fact may their best one since Austerity Dogs. Mop Top even sees them introduce a melody and chorus, and gasp, no swearing. Are they aiming for the charts?

world
26. The World – First World Record (Upset! The Rhythm)
Take a tiny bit of Banarama, and add in some Specials and Selector and you get a sort of idea of what the Bay Area’s the World are going after. Steeped in 80’s punk and ska and sporting pop an astute pop sensibility First World Record is a sax laden tour de fun.

novella
27. Novella – Change of State (Sinderlyn)
Change of State sees Novella continuing on the same trajectory of their debut from 2015. Motorik beats, icy, layered vocals and clean sounding guitar riffs. This batch of songs is stronger and they approach the same quality that Broadcast reached on Tender Buttons.

proto
28. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (Domino)
Protomartyr’s fourth album is a towering achievement. It simultaneously comments on the sorry state of society, shares its rage and does so with songs that make you want to raise your fist and shout the chorus. Up the Tower, Don’t Go To Anacita and Male Plague are among the band’s best. My only complaint about this album is that the best stuff is hidden on side two, but that is minor.

slowdive
29. Slowdive – S/T (Dead Oceans)
It’s weird to think that Slowdive were scoffed at by the British press during their first incarnation in the 1990’s. That press is long gone, out of business. Slowdive are still with us and making brilliant music. Their self-titled comeback is packed full of dreampop featuring both Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocals. Slowdive can still conjure it.

business
30. Business of Dreams – S/T (Kocliko Records)
Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts strikes out on his own into the world of 80’s inspired synth-pop. Inspired by the death of his father, Cunningham made a record that is personal in nature but its pop hooks combination of synthesizers and guitar riffs make it more than palatable to general populous.

spinning
31. Spinning Coin – Permo (Domino)
After a handful of singles, Glasgow’s Spinning Coin finally deliver the goods in their debut long player. As you might expect it’s a combination of ramshackle Pastels like pop and good natured Teenage Fanclub guitar pop.
https://spinningcoin.bandcamp.com/

jana
32. Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs)
Juana Molina has been making records for a while now. Halo is her seventh album. Her formula hasn’t changed too much over the years, creating loops and building them up into a bricolage. In the past it could get busy, but Halo sees her cleaning things up a bit and delivering more straightforward earworms.


33. Oh Sees – Orc (Castle Face)
At this point, a jaded listener might think Oh Sees records are delivered off a conveyor belt, one that changes its name after each new model. Dropping the Thee, John Dwyer’s group sees no creative letdown despite fewer letters. In fact, Orc delivers classic sounding rippers interspersed with Eno style ambience.

stevens
34. The Stevens – Good (Chapter Music)
Album number two from the center of the Melbourne indie scene, didn’t seem to get the attention of their debut. Too bad, because this batch of songs is high quality. At 18 tracks, Good has that uncanny quality that Guided by Voices had in that run in the Bee Thousand to Under the Bushes era.

last
35. Last Leaves – Other Towns Than Ours (Lost & Lonesome/Matinee)
Marty Donald, who was the chief songwriter in the Lucksmiths took a long break after that band called it quits. It’s great to hear him again, this time doing the singing as well as playing guitar. He’s got most of his former band along with him as well. Last Leaves of course will remind you of the Lucksmiths, but this band is something different in that they look more to classic rock than indiepop or at least infuse their pop with some sharper edges and more serious topics. They call it older and wiser.

faith
36. Faith Healer – Try ;-) (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert was a member of the Edmonton punks Tee-Tahs .That is in the past and this is her second album as Faith Healer. Try ;-) lives on the same planet of the Brewis brother’s Field Music. Combine Jallbert’s croon and her ability to write a good pop hook you have something special.


37. Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura (Castle Face)
Kelley Stoltz may have peaked commercially on his Sub Pop debut Below the Branches when his song Birdies Singing was being used in commercials. I haven’t heard him in any commercials since, but honestly the guy keeps releasing great albums. Solid through and through and Que Aura is no different from the previous four in that regard.

corridor
38. Corridor – Supermercado (Requiem Pour Un Twister)
Supermercado is Spanish for grocery store. Corridor is French for angular pop. Supermercado is the second album from Montreal’s Corridor and it is a brilliant melange of pop and sharp jabs and lots of hooks.

rays
39. Rays – S/T (Trouble In Mind)
Rays do great Modern Lovers style rock. The songs feel like they could fall apart at any moment, but they end up making it through each one without the doors flying off the speeding dilapidated vehicle.

trementina
40. Trementina – 810 (Burger)
On their second album, Chile’s Trementina forego the obvious shoegaze effects and travel down a far more interesting path of warped dream pop that only the Swirlies have dared to go before.

It’s February Already, What Happened?

I must admit, I’ve been distracted of late. I’m sure you all have been as well to some extent. Sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to write about this great new song you’ve heard, because you realize how unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things. That doesn’t mean I don’t save them up, and it doesn’t mean that I have stopped listening to music. If anything I’ve listened to more music lately. It’s a distraction and provides escape, hope and pleasure. So here are a couple handfuls of records that have gotten me through the first month of 2017.

In the it came out in December, who releases a record in December category.

Uranium Club

Minneapolis smart ass punks released album number two at the end of 2016. Minutemen/Firehose genius combined with Devo hyperactive geekiness. Too weird to be cool for some but right up my alley.

In the I totally missed it category

Quantic & Flowering Inferno ft Hollie Cook

Hollie Cook has album number three on the docket for this year, but at the tail end of last year the brogues hipped me to this little number she did with Quantic & Flowering Inferno. So good!

Gurr

The album In My Head by this Berlin duo was on a few best of lists and for good reason. Great indie pop that reminds me a little of the Blake Babies and the Breeders.

In the 7-inch single is not dead and they even sell out category
Field Route

We are only one month in and Field Route have already released one of the best 7″ singles. Bring it on!

Creation Factory

Another classic sounding 7″. Yeah I know the 45 is on its deathbed, but quality over quantity is the rule of the day. I think both of these records are sold out, but each can be purchased as a download.

In the who releases a record this good in January category

Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular

Former Pipette took six years to follow up her solo debut, but it is worth the wait.  It’s swirling blend of the Horrors, Goldfrapp and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Rose doesn’t look very goth, but she certainly leans in that direction ever so slightly.

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

This record has two personas. The A-side is funk-punk that is a cross of Pylon and the Big Boys, the B-side is the post punk cool down that gets moody and melodic. Thankfully the band put an Interlude to divide things up for those of us who can’t always be in front of our turntables.

Proper Ornaments – Foxhole

Album number two from this trippy Velvet/Chills loving band. Not sure they’ve ever surpassed that first EP, but I love to hear them keep trying.

In the genre bending category

Group Doeh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session
French punk weirdos Cheveu team up with Western Sahara guitarslingers Group Doueh in an unlikely match. It’s crazy and out there and one of the best records I’ve heard this year.

In the buried treasure gets reissued category

workshy

Animals that Swim

Back in the day when you had to read about records and decode whether or not it was something you might want to spend money, I read a review of Animals That Swim debut album and decided to take a leap. I instantly fell in love with their quirky little songs that painted imaculate pictures in my head about the downtrodden, mundane and odd things in life. Pink Carnations, Madam Yvonde, How to Make a Chandalier are all essential. With this reissue you get the original album as well as genius b-sides and unreleased tracks to boot.

I think they might have finally broken the US as you can buy a copy of this reissue from Target, though I’m not sure I’d recommend it.

In the Middle of It – Part II

Welcome to day two of the second annual Finest Kiss midyear record round up. You are nearly in the middle of the middle of it. It’s like the eye of the storm, isn’t it? Records in a vortex flying around you as you try to reach and grab a few. It should be easier from here on out, because here are ten more excellent records to put your paws on.
sleaford

Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)

Last year this Nottingham duo released the jaw dropping Austerity Dogs album. It was jaw dropping, combining bleakness, humor, profanity and beats to create a rampaging, take no prisoners record. Part John Cooper Clark, Dr. Ocatagon and the Fall the latest Sleaford Mods keeps the boot to the throat with Divide and Exit. Half the time I have no idea what Jason Williamson is going off about, but inevitably he leaves enough bread crumbs on the trail for me to get it, and then it hits like a ton of bricks.

stream: Sleaford Mods – Under the Plastic and N.C.T.

lunchbox
Lunchbox – Lunchbox Loves You (Jigsaw)

Oakland, California’s Lunchbox fluctuate between calling themselves Birds of California and Lunchbox. Who cares what they call themselves when they make records this good. Lunchbox Loves You is full of sugary pop that is guaranteed to put a skip in your step. They hit a number of classic 90’s indiepop reference points including Stereolab, Apples in Stereo, Rocketship and Sprites while sounding still sounding fresh and new.

stream: Lunchbox – Die Trying

coldbeat
Cold Beat – Over Me (Crime On the Moon)

With Grass Widow on ice, bassist Hanna Lew started Cold Beat and since Lew sings and plays bass in both bands Cold Beat has similarities to Grass Widow. But where Grass Widow had a folksier sound, Cold Beat look to the more austere sounds of punk and post punk luminaries like Wire, Tubeway Army and Devo for inspiration.

stream: Cold Beat – Mirror

CHEVEU
Cheveu – Bum (Born Bad)

There’s no getting around the fact that this is a weird album. So if you don’t like weird keep scrolling. If you do appreciate the absurd and catchy then these French tricksters may be right up your ruelle. Burn is full of prog-y art school rock that is hard to ignore.

stream: Cheveu – Slap and Shot

slushy
Slushy – Pastime Gardens (Grabbing Clouds)

Chicago duo Slushy make fuzzy lighthearted pop in the vein of the Bay City Rollers and early Pooh Sticks and Pop Will Eat Itself. Pastime Gardens is packed full of two minute pop songs that are full unbridled enthusiasm and are certified to provide a good time in any situation.

stream: Slushy – Good Luck Charm

soundcarriers
The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia (Ghost Box)

The Soundcarriers mine similar earth as Broadcast and Stereolab. Entropicalia, their second album, is full of space age grooves and psychedelic meanderings. Part spy movie soundtrack, part Free Design tribute and part deep space exploration. All good.

stream: Soundcarries – Low Light

verticalscratchers
Vertical Scratchers – Daughter of Everything (Merge)

Although this album came out major indie Merge, I feel like it flew under the radar of almost everyone. Vertical Scratchers is the brainchild of John Schmersal  who was in Brainac and Enon. The album is chalk full of fractured pop that is part Elephant 6 Collective, Cheap Trick and the Kinks. Killer stuff that deserves more attention.

stream: Vertical Scratchers – Pretend U Are Free

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Klaus Johann Grobe – Im Sinne der Zeit (Trouble In Mind)

This Swiss duo combine disco, kraut and prog to come with a ton of fun. This is viscous stuff that sticks in your brain even if you don’t understand the lyrics. The lucid spacey production sounds like they’ve been listening to Peter Thomas and Bertrand Burgalat records.

stream: Klaus Johann Grobe – Between the Buttons

nun
Nun – Nun (Aarght!/Avant!)

Total Control seems to get all the attention for being the Australian punks gone coldwave, but Melbourne’s Nun do piercing, dark and synthy just as well and maybe better. Their debut album sounds so authentic that you will be check to see if it’s a reissue of some lost first generation coldwave band.

stream: Nun – Suppress Electricity

parquetcourts
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animals (What’s Your Rupture?)

I was prepared not to like this album after last year’s pretty average stopgap EP Tally All the Things That You Broke but they won me over by not repeating themselves. Sunbathing Animal pulls back a little bit and lets some space in to positive effect. Everyone compares them to Television and Pavement, but on this album I hear Spoon in their use of space and percussion and that makes this second Parquet Courts just as good but slightly different from their first one.

stream: Parquet Courts – Always Back In Town

To Thine Own Self Be Weird

cheveu

I like weird and I like good and Cheveu fits that description. The French band has just released it’s fourth album titled Bum and it just might be their best and weirdest record yet. How could they surpass their cover of Vanilla Ice‘s Ice Ice Baby in terms or strangeness you ask? Ok, maybe Bum isn’t their overtly strangest album. Actually they dial down one kind of weird and dial up another kind. Before they came off as arty punks willing to graffiti over anything, on Bum they are more into a prog rock otherworldly weirdness. They take elements from bands like Hawkwind, Wall of Voodoo, the Intelligence, Brainiac and Devo and come up with something all their own.

You can stream/buy/download the record from Born Bad Records’ bandcamp page.
stream: Cheveu – Juan In a Million