Posts Tagged ‘Best Albums Of 2017’

The Shins (2)

The Shins put out Heartworms, their first new album in five years, earlier this year and a video for “Half A Million” has been released.

Filmed on a white backdrop, edited, then printed out. “Half A Million” was created with 5,566 stickers, hand cut from the 4,868 frames and animated by sticking them down on top of each other at each of the 40+ locations.

The Worms Heart is a complete re-work of The Shins critically acclaimed March, 2017 album ‘Heartworms’. The album offers new reworked versions of the ‘Heartworms’ album original tracks, and the sequence is flipped as well. The album is available digitally, on all formats.

When James Mercer wrote, produced, and recorded the Heartworms album, he had this desire for an alternate version, an opposite version. The album’s slow songs would be flipped and re-recorded as fast songs, and vice versa. The reasoning was to showcase the versatility and strength of his songwriting, and the result is The Worm’s Heart. This ‘flipped’ collection is produced by Yuuki Matthews, Jon Sortland, & James Mercer; and is a must for any fan of The Shins

Image result for big thief capacity images

It’s heartening that a new voice can still come along that requires you to stop everything, take notice and listen. The owner of these beautiful vocals is Adrianne Lenker, singer and guitarist with Big Thief, a four-piece from New York, who have more than delivered on their early potential.

As the front cover may allude to (it features vocalist Adrianne Lenker being held by her young Uncle), Big Thief’s sophomore album delves deep in to family history. There are stark accounts of death, domestic abuse as well as guttural romances themes littered throughout the LP. Though the true theme lie in the duality of life and the continued fight between the two. It’s a piece of work that sees Lenker and Co. at the height of their powers.
Intense yet generous, Capacity makes you wonder what the big deal is with second albums. That just 14 months separated the release of Masterpiece and Capacity ensured the band wouldn’t overthink their next move, but there’s more to it than prolificness. Adrianne Lenker’s lyrics and the music they inhabit rarely subvert each other via the more familiar way of placing words and melody at opposite emotional poles. Equally fluent in metaphor and memoir, Lenker blurs the two in a way that resists strict autobiography, while still inviting you into her worlds.

Only formed in 2015, the band are already onto their second album – Capacity is the follow-up to last year’s well-received debut Masterpiece – and the band have long been championed by BBC 6 Music.

The album’s cover – Adrianne Lenker’s uncle cradling her when she was a baby – gives a clue to the themes of family explored on the record. Standout track Mythological Beauty, recalls a childhood accident that almost killed Adrianne, considering the impact it had on her mother. In an interview reflecting on the familial story-telling, she reveals “I’m not quite sure if I’m writing the songs from myself to my future child, or to my inner child, or from my mother to me.”

Expect to hear more from this group as 2017 continues to unfold. They’ll be visiting the UK for gigs .

All Together Now: An Interview with Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning

There are seventeen people in Broken Social Scene. Each contributed to the band’s fifth and most recent album, Hug of Thunder, and each was on “relatively equal footing” during the album’s writing, recording, and mixing, according to co-founding member Brendan Canning. (He and Kevin Drew started the band in 1999.)

I cannot imagine how this works. I cannot imagine how seventeen people can approach anything that resembles a consensus on a single decision, let alone the staggering number necessary to whittle hours of writing, recording, and mixing into twelve songs.

Canning, it seems, isn’t quite sure either. what must be the messy, contentious, somewhat free-form process that begins with an exchange of musical ideas and ends, miraculously, with a finished album.

“It’s a band that has never-ending debates,” he said , “whether it’s songs, or whether it’s, ‘Where are you going to go for lunch?’ Whatever the thing that is to be decided that day, it’s an unwieldy beast at times because you have these hard opinions. Maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree on this or that; at the end of the day, we all kind of want the same thing. And the roadmaps are just a little bit different, so you’ve got to just do your best and let things evolve the way they’re going to evolve…It’s tough navigating sometimes with this band, just because there’s a lot of people that like to sit in the captain’s chair.”

Even if there is no single method for maintaining order, the end result makes an intuitive sense. Since the band’s second album, 2002’s You Forgot It in People, each album has featured over ten contributors. Music history is littered with great bands who suffered sudden and acrimonious breakups while dealing with fewer than half the personalities that make up Broken Social Scene at any given time. And yet, the band has avoided the public drama that would seem to be the inevitable result of such an arrangement, which involves solo and side projects that have found varying degrees of success (Feist and Metric being the two most prominent), and the perceived hierarchies that follow. There must be something that keeps small frustrations from building into resentment.

That thing, according to Canning, is friendship. This sounds like a cliché, but the reason Canning and his bandmates have not split is because for them, it’s not. Being in a band is hard. It is a series of compromises, frustrations, and the repeated toil that comes with any creative endeavour. Add the fast pace, endless travel, and forced intimacy that comes with touring, and the potential for explosive tension looms. The work of friendship–empathy, communication, loyalty, sacrifice–is what keeps a band together.

“We’re not faking our way through these relationships,” Canning said. “We actually have friendships, and we’re not just toeing some party line and making people believe, ‘Yeah, it’s all about the friendships!’ Because the friendships were already well in place before this band became a band.”

That foundation is what allows everyone to remain grounded through what Canning refers to as “the whole picture of a band,” which involves every step of the creative and promotional process: writing, recording, touring, merchandise, interviews, eating, sleeping. “It’s so many different pieces,” he said. “And is everyone emotionally ready for all of it? You’ve got to hope so because you’ve all got to spend a whole bunch of time together. This band is just a real good lesson in mental and emotional awareness.”

The solo projects help. Between albums, each member works on various projects that function as outlets to exert a greater degree of creative control and lessen the stakes when the band reunites. For his part, Canning has played DJ sets, released solo albums, written film scores, and recorded with other bands since Broken Social Scene took off. The personal and creative space allowed by these projects is invaluable.

“Sometimes you’re just not meant to be living on a tour bus with one another for months on end,” he said. “A lot of the time you just want to escape your role, because you’re tired of playing that role. You just get frustrated. It’s easy to get frustrated and it’s easy to start saying, ‘Well, if we hadn’t done it this way or this way, we’d probably be a lot further ahead!’ And all these stupid things you conjure up in your brain because you wanted your way here or you wanted your way there and you didn’t get it. Or no one’s happy because you’re fighting over stupid shit. Or you’re not coming together as a unit. And that’s really what you have to do as a band. You have to come together as a unit, and if you’re not doing that, you’re going to be in trouble.”

The time apart means the band reunites with intention. This time, it was the shooting at a 2015 Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris that led to a series of phone conversations which, ultimately, created momentum for a new album.

There was also a producer, Joe Chiccarelli (previous credits include The Shins, The Strokes, My Morning Jacket, and Morrissey), who urged them forward. “[He] kept checking in on us,” Canning said. “Every few months he’d be in Toronto and want to sit down for coffee…Just sort of saying, ‘Okay, so where are we at? Did you work on any of those demos?’ And you have to give him the bad news, ‘Well Joe, we’ve had some good conversations, but we haven’t actually got into the rehearsal space yet, but we’re really working towards it and let’s talk again,’ and the same thing a few months later.”

Eventually, the band began recording in earnest. Some members brought in new ideas, others returned to old ones. As always, it was something of a mess to make sure everyone’s contributions were heard.

“If a part’s going down on this record, hopefully, it’s going to be a part that’s going to get heard,” Canning said. “You don’t want to go over someone’s part. You’ve got to be mindful of all those things. “But it’s a double-edged sword, because you’ve got to serve the song to its best purpose and…maybe one person is going to want to hear something a little bit louder, but at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to write songs that are going stick or be in people’s lives for hopefully a long time.”

Canning found himself both advocating for and questioning songs that would make the final cut. ‘Stay Happy’ was among those Canning fought hardest for. Though the song was popular among the band, Canning saw potential that led him to push for revisions.

“I sort of joke with [guitarist Andrew Whiteman], it’s a nice pat on the back for me when I hear someone compliment that song for a couple of certain things I fought for that maybe not even the whole band knows about…Everyone loved that song, but I, for one, wanted to see that song reach how far I felt it could reach. just take your small little victories. And the things that aren’t quote-unquote ‘victories,’ you just have to ride it out. You’re never going to get everything you want, because what would that even feel like? Maybe it would not be the right thing.”

Though the album is a product of hard-fought consensus, the chaos that shaped its production shows in the final product. During an interview with SiriusXMU recorded in March, Drew claimed, “We don’t really write songs. We write feelings, and then we turn them into songs.” The Broken Social Scene aesthetic reflects the ambiguities, micro-tones, and contradictions which define the human emotional experience. On Hug of Thunder, I hear an anxiety in the diffuse arrangements, impressionistic textures, and obscured melodic lines. Canning is surprised by my interpretation but does not dismiss it. “If that’s what you hear, then that’s what you hear,” he replies before mentioning a writer who heard a more celebratory tone.

This exchange is telling, and speaks to how the band, in its process and product, corresponds with the most fundamental human tensions: a simultaneous impulse toward intimacy and extraversion, clarity and obscurity, celebration and reflection. The album can be something of a Rorschach blot, open to a range of interpretations based on the listener’s perspective.

Canning is less interested in offering specific readings than in hoping the music makes you feel something. “Whatever you’re experiencing, I’d say, it’s right,” he said. “If it makes you feel a certain way, then you’re right because it’s your ears.”

Broken Social Scene’s fifth album, Hug of Thunder, is out now.

Flyte are Will Taylor (vocals, lead guitar), Nick Hill (bass, vocals), Sam Berridge (keyboards, guitars, vocals) and Jon Supran (drums, vocals).
The band spent the first months of 2017 in Australia putting the finishing touches to their debut album with ‘Courtney Barnett’ producer Burke Reid, a collaboration that delves deep into new sonic territory to create a modernist but timeless sound that revels in coming-of-age nostalgia, cinematic synth melodies and prolific storytelling themes of life, love and death.
One of the great treasures of 2017 came in the form of British act Flyte’s debut album The Loved Ones and I don’t know that anyone else seemed to notice. It’s a god damn shame, as it’s a wonderful album that is stripped down to just the core elements of pure songwriting bliss that it’s almost way too good for present-day consumption. I’ve been following the band throughout the years releasing singles, seeing them evolve from releasing 80’s sounding slices of Brit-pop to this more refined 60s sound that feels timeless and essential. The band went into the recording of the album not set on making a big single or moment, but rather making an album that flowed seamlessly with each track as important as the last. It’s fitting on this list that they end the album in old-school fashion, with a cover of Alvvays’ “Archie, Marry Me.”
Last year, vocalist Will Taylor and keys player Sam Berridge got drunk and uploaded a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ to their Facebook page. The slap-dash DIY charm and heart-wrenching voices started a Flyte-movement. Racking up over 1M streams, fans wanted more sessions, and Flyte began carefully curating covers in London landmarks with towering acoustics, earning a reputation for their trademark four-part harmonies, as well as their live sound. Pulling on all their resources, the band also started a successful sell-out club night Chasing Heaven, where friends were invited to play at intimate London venues.


Accomplished songwriters Will, Sam, Nick, and Jon have released a flurry of alternative-indie anthems including ‘We Are The Rain’, ‘Closer Together,’ and ‘Light Me Up’ over the past few years and have amassed over 1.5M Spotify streams. Evolving together as a band and great friends.

When Katie Crutchfield released her last record as Waxahatchee, 2015’s Ivy Tripp, she called the album a gas and her release before that, 2013’s Cerulean Salt, a solid. But her fourth full-length, Out in the Storm, may not symbolize a physical state of matter, but it reveals Crutchfield as a scientific element in her own right—explosive, volatile and uncontrollable. At moments where Crutchfield used to put herself down, like on Ivy Tripp’s “Less Than,” she now talks back, standing up for herself, even to herself. She allows herself to get angry or frustrated, such as on “Never Wrong,” the record’s purely rock ‘n’ roll opening track. And she indignantly removes herself from a noxious relationship and asserts her independence on tracks like “8 Ball” and “Brass Beam,” but later portrays the vulnerability and weakness that unavoidably merge with that withdrawal

After the release of 2015’s excellent Ivy Tripp, Katie Crutchfield, a.k.a. Waxahatchee, suggested her next album would revisit the quiet minimalism of her debut, American Weekend. What she produced instead was her loudest, angriest, and—most importantly—best album to date. Out In The Storm is a scathingly candid post-mortem of a bad relationship that isn’t the slog such a description might suggest. The album opens with the catchy, Superchunk-esque guitar rocker “Never Been Wrong” and keeps its hooks in for the nine following tracks. (Credit producer John Agnello for some of that, as his discography goes deep with some of the best guitar-rock bands of the past two decades.) This being Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm still offers plenty of quieter moments, like the slow burn of “Recite Remorse,” the acoustic “A Little More,” and somber album closer “Fade.” The album marks a high point for Crutchfield, who turned a soul-destroying time of her life into one of 2017’s best releases.

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. One of the best albums of the year. Raging but with style, panache and tunes. This debut album of LA post-punk band featuring Will Ivy (Dream Boys, Wet Illustrated, Bridez), Justin Sullivan (Kevin Morby, The Babies) and Tim Hellman (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Sic Alps). Flat Worms belt-sanded everyone with their 7-inch on Volar, and Castle Face is proud as new papas to present their debut album. The band continues their ride on a buzz-saw wave of feedback-tipped riffs into the middle distance, the smog-choked sunset receding in the rearview, with a thousand-yard dead pan stare surgically pinned to a high octane set of boredom-energized punk pistons.


This is an ear-ringing missive from the end of the cul-de-sac, a mirage wavering above a mid-sized American suburb at dusk, with the constellations bleached black by the sprawl. A little Wipers, a little Wire, and a lot of late-capitalist era anxious energy—Flat Worms scratch the itch quite nicely. Fans of classic SST / Homestead /Touch And Go Records will find much to love here.

Sam Beam’s return to veteran indie label Sub Pop after five years with major label Nonesuch seems significant. When Beam introduced himself as Iron & Wine on the lo-fi-recorded folk pluck-alongs of 2002’s The Creek Drank The Cradle, he proved that all you need to make a great song is a few good chords and a warmly melodic voice. Yet with albums like 2013’s Ghost On Ghost, Beam strayed far from that stripped-down approach by adding strings, ’70s soft-rock production and a lushness that sounded dramatically different, even if the songs at their core were just as warm and nourishing.

Beast Epic, Beam’s fourth for Sub Pop and sixth overall, is a happy midpoint between his starkest, simplest recordings and his more indulgent ones. Beam keeps to simpler arrangements on Beast Epic. The days of him simply finger-picking an acoustic guitar alone are well behind him, but a track like “Thomas County Law” only features slightly more instrumentation: light taps of percussion, a sparse bassline and gentle piano accompaniment. It’s the most intimate he’s sounded in years.

The album’s relative spaciousness is neither shocking nor unexpected. Beam wears this comfortable, lived-in approach well, delivering songs that maintain the prettiness and emotional impact of past records while offering the illusion of sitting in on a loose session between veteran session players. “Call It Dreaming” is just such an example, a big-hearted hymn about making the most of our short-term flesh-and-bone rentals. There’s a knowing sense of hurt, yet he delivers it with a smile.

Everything about Beast Epic feels true to Iron & Wine. Beam neither abandons his greater ambitions nor overindulges. He’s making a return trip to his roots, offering a gentle reminder of his early records’ simple beauty while allowing himself the freedom to build.

London-based Ulrika Spacek released their new record on June 2nd via the good people of Tough Love Records.  Ulrika Spacek’s sound is dominated by their three guitarists. On a song like the slowly chugging “Dead Museum,” the densely enmeshed riffs and drones of this Reading five piece recall the kind of blissful noise summoned up by The Band of Susans or mid period Sonic Youth.  But there’s also something of Deerhunter about the band’s gauzy but winsome vocal melodies.  The album’s highlight is probably “Victorian Acid,” with its tense central melody drowning in waves of overdriven distortion. The hilariously titled “Protestant Work Slump” closes the album in a brighter mood, with a distinct gleam of Big Star.


Much like their debut LP The Album Paranoia released in early 2016, the band chose to record, produce and mix the entirety of the record of Modern English Decoration in their shared house – a former art gallery called ‘KEN’. Modern English Decoration is, in part, a self-effacing play on an interior design cliché that references the meticulous creative processes the band adheres to: “Doing everything ourselves is not just necessary: it’s important to us, as it allows us to truly create our own world,” they said.

I found this incredible songwriter only about a month ago when at a gig a friend told me how I would love this album because of our love for Springsteen Tom Joad era, but I was too entrenched in the volume of albums for the end of the year to give it a fair listen. When I was compiling my favorite albums for the year, I gave it another listen and immediately made a spot for it. It brought me back to the mission of this blog, to support new artists with incredible talent.


His gravel tested voice plays well with his honest and beautiful songwriting. Tracks like “Billy Burroughs” showcase his tremendous narration while “Time Away” is a straightforward and masterful ballad. There is not a dud on this album and we would be hard-pressed to find a better set of songs within this or any genre. Jeffrey Martin is the real deal and should be on any and every device you play music.  I don’t know but in this life I believe we only get one go ’round- get ready to place this in the top 5 of 2017

How to follow a debut album about cancer, which established your band as one of Australia’s most important? By crafting a near-80 minute opus split into three parts, each separated by grand orchestral interludes that take their titles from the psychoanalytic concepts of French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, that’s how. Frontman and songwriter David Le’aupepe has never been one to shy away from the grandiose, and so it is that Gangs’ second album wears its heart well and truly on its sleeve, moving from the widescreen Springsteen-esque storytelling of opener “Fear and Trembling” to the dense, string-laden ruminations of “Achilles Come Down” and the heartbreaking “Persevere”. It’s the ARIA Album of the Year for a reason.

Go Farther In Lightness deserves to be ranked with the very finest rock albums of 2017, no matter the country. Released in August — in the midst of ho-hum duds by North American arena-rock acts such as Arcade Fire and Foo Fighters  Go Farther In Lightness stands as one of the year’s most exhilarating “big” guitar-rock albums, delivering anthem after heart-busting anthem with a potent combination of instrumental muscle, lyrical insight, and Le’aupepe’s impassioned vocals.

Go Farther In Lightness extends beyond just the expansive tracklist, which clocks in at nearly 80 minutes over 16 songs. It is also baked directly into Gang Of Youth’s aesthetic, which balances furiously uplifting basement-show ragers like “What Can I Do If A Fire Goes Out?,” one of the year’s best and most immediate rock singles, with orchestral flourishes like “Achilles Comes Down,” a stunning “Eleanor Rigby”-style ballad scored for a string quartet by Le’aupepe himself.

The grand music suits Le’aupepe’s sweeping lyrics, which weigh heavy philosophical questions about the meaning of life, death, and conservative icon Ayn Rand, whom he despises, among other topics. When asked about the influences on Go Farther In Lightness in a recent interview, Le’aupepe listed a virtual syllabus: Martin Heidegger’s Being And Time, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by Milan Kundera, lots of Nietzsche.

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