“That’s the way the guillotine claps.”
2017 was a turnip of a year. Leaves sprouting in dirt. Absurdity and tragedy at every corner. Like every year for the past, say, seven mainstream pop has gorged itself on lazy EDM song structure while the other genres continue to entangle with one another. Kendrick Lamar dominated again, remaining the only universal figure in music to keep his thumb on America’s beat-skipping pulse. Father John Misty shot for the moon and slipped on a banana peel. Arcade Fire took another massive dump. Taylor Swift stop trying altogether. Bjork, Spoon, St. Vincent, Drake, Fleet Foxes, Ryan Adams, Grizzly Bear, Thurston Moore and Neil Young all added fabulous albums to their growing discographies. LCD Soundsystem, Glassjaw, Gorillaz, At the Drive-In and Beck returned to the scrum with comeback albums. Eminem skewered Donald Trump, Kid Rock made us believe he planned to run for the Senate and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by the Dead Kennedys found relevance. Here’s a look back the music of a very stupid year, starting with the year’s best.
in-ter a-li-a by At the Drive-In
At the Drive-In made a true return to form with the release of their third album, and first since 2000’s Relationship of Command. Packed with all the urgency of their early recordings, in-ter a-li-a is the perfect sonic equivalent to this year and this moment in history. It’s kneed-in-the-gut punk. A bottle smashed over your head. Singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala spits out lyrics dense with hidden meanings and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López adds to it with ICBMs of distorted malcontent.
Pleasure by Feist
Pure beauty in song structure on Feist’s fifth album. Perfectly orchestrated to fill your lungs with emotion. Feist’s other band, Broken Social Scene, also released Hug of Thunder this year, but it’s Pleasure where she gets out what’s really on her mind. With a little help from Colin Stetson, Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzalez Feist put out the year’s most well-crafted album about searching for meaning in the fog of loneliness.
Material Control by Glassjaw
15 years is a long time to gnaw on the bone. In 2002, Glassjaw released their second album, Worship And Tribute, toured, and then went into an exile that grew like a midday shadow. Founding members, singer Daryl Palumbo and guitarist Justin Beck, continue their discography without a glance at the time passed. Dillinger Escape Plan’s drummer Billy Rymer tracked most of the drums adding the barreling brute force of a wrestler hopped up on steroids and asteroid dust. “New White Extremity” gut punches the opening seconds–a fuse sparkling toward a little black bomb. Palumbo multiplies and comes in hot from all angles. After 15 years, what a payoff.
Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples
Big Fish Theory is the perfect party soundtrack for the obliterated worldview of 2017. The album you want on full blast as you try to drown out the sounds of falling debris and unknown engines with an eye on the locked front door and a loaded bong in your clenched fist. Vince Staples uses his words with a purpose only few rappers today can claim, balancing the struggles of the world with a desire to enjoy it. It’s brief, so you’ll want it on repeat. Plus, there’s a bonus Kendrick Lamar verse.
Ideas of Beginning by Mark McGuire
The only time I could escape the goings on of the world was when listening to this one. Mark McGuire, out of Ohio, released his sixth album, an all-instrumental, mostly acoustic dream. It feels like sitting in a field during springtime and slowly pushes time over the edge. Sounds of sun and insects fill into the background as McGuire’s careful strumming becomes the perfect numbing agent.
Most Overrated: Pure Comedy by Father John Misty
Most Underrated: Revival by Eminem
Saddest: A Crow Looked at Me by Mount Eerie
Greatest Title: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music by 2 Chainz
Ugliest Cover: reputation by Taylor Swift
Coolest Cover: In Spades by Afghan Whigs