This Pine Box: The Way Out (Fall Swirl Vinyl | 100 Copies)


Soul Step Records has announced that their next release is from Springboro OH’s This Pine Box. This band has been maturing and making local waves since 2016. You may remember we featured them in our Bandcamp discover series and their big break was being named WNKU’s “Artist of The Month.” They also were featured at last year’s SXSW festival in Austin, TX and recently played the stage at Bellweather Fest after The Flaming Lips.


In typical Soul Step Records fashion they are providing a fantastic looking Fall Swirl vinyl edition that is limited to 100 copies. There is also the more special Wax Mage Insanity variant that is limited to 20 copies. Subscribers can pick this up tomorrow January 5th and general public on January 7th. You can find more info on ordering This Way Out plus spin a couple tracks HERE.

How Do You Spell GBV: Guided By Voices Tribute Record (Free Download)


The Self-Inflicted Aural Nostalgia: Guided By Voices podcast was a highlight of 2018. The podcast took an in-depth look at every GBV studio record plus featured discussions with the band’s current engineer, a director of their videos, the author of the new Robert Pollard biography Matthew Cutter and two guys who signed the band in the nineties.

As a giant bonus the podcast is now offering a free Guided By Voices tribute record called How Do You Spell GBV. Except instead of getting bands to just cover GBV’s songs, twenty-seven bands from around the world wrote ORIGINAL songs about the band, Robert Pollard and Dayton, Ohio. Most groups have their own local following but several have been featured by The Fire Note in the past such as Graham Repulski, Smug Brothers, The Kyle Sowashes and No Museums.

The podcasts are fascinating listens and this 27-track comp contains plenty of gems. You can find the album to download HERE and the podcasts at the Every GBV LP website HERE.

Sloan: 12 (Translucent Purple Vinyl – Limited)


Sloan’s twelfth album (conveniently titled 12) is available to pre-order now! On 12, each of the four principals contribute three stellar songs that play to their core strengths: Patrick Pentland with the soaring rock anthems, Chris Murphy with the playful, participatory sing-alongs, Jay Ferguson with the jaunty prog-pop gems, and Andrew Scott with the whimsical innerspace explorations.

The LP pre-order features limited edition translucent purple vinyl HERE and you can get a bundle that also includes: a dayglow 12” poster plus a Sloan watch HERE!

Cash Rivers: Blue Balls Lincoln (Blue Balls Blue Vinyl 500 Copies)


Now is your chance to snag a record people will be talking about for years. Cash Rivers is a Robert Pollard moniker and he delivers a full batch of songs that for sure will be considered country classics years from now.

The Blue Balls Lincoln LP follows the successful sold out She Laughed I Left 7″ which featured tracks like “Cocaine On My Way Home From Church” and “Diapers To Panties.” The full-length from Cash Rivers is limited to 500 copies worldwide and is for sale as mail order only from Rockathon Records. Of course it is only fitting that it will be pressed on blue balls blue vinyl.

The 7″ sold out rather quickly, so if you want this instant classic I would recommend ordering up a copy now right HERE.

The Blazing Top 50 Albums of 2017

blazing top 50

#50

Old 97’s
Graveyard Whistling
ATO Records [2017]

Drinkin’, whiskey, cars, trouble, women, God and Texas – Dallas, Texas that is. That has been the story of the Old 97’s since their first record, Hitchhike To Rome which was released back in 1994. This veteran group returned this year with an album that embraced the alt-country world they helped build. Graveyard Whistling delightfully is the groups best record since 2008’s Blame It On Gravity and is easily in their top 5. Overall, there was nothing to dislike on Graveyard Whistling if you are a fan as the Old 97’s sound as young as ever.

Old 97’s: Graveyard Whistling [Fire Note Review 2/28/17]

#49

Big Thief
Capacity
Saddle Creek Records [2017]

After the clamor and scrawl of Big Thief’s debut album, Masterpiece, it might be a surprise to some to find the quiet moments on Capacity. There’s an intimacy here, between songwriter and listener, and even in its quieter moments, it still remained as intense as the band’s roaring rockers. You can see the life lived on these songs from Big Thief, in the images they conjure as it tested our limits, to fill ourselves both positively and negatively with the things that make the world spin.

Big Thief: Capacity [Fire Note Review 6/19/17]

#48

Once & Future Band
Once & Future Band
Castle Face Records [2017]

What was an unabashedly progressive rock band doing on John Dwyer’s Castle Face imprint? t seems an odd marriage at first. But then again, the line between Psych and Prog has always been a little blurry to say the least and even more modernized with Once & Future Band. Once & Future band are not clones. What they’re doing is updating an entire genre by putting a very unique spin on it. Once & Future Band created a very solid batch of songs that all sound like they belong together and flow well throughout. If Prog was going to move into the indie world Once & Future Band will be on the front line as they courageously defy current trends.

Once & Future Band: Once & Future Band [Fire Note Review 3/24/17]

#47

A. Savage
Thawing Dawn
Dull Tools [2017]

A. Savage is best known as one of the frontman for Parquet Courts. Thawing Dawn is his first solo record, that was recorded between December 2016 and June 2017 by a group of Savage’s friends that included members of Woods, Ultimate Painting, PC Worship, EZTV, Sunwatchers, and Psychic TV. A. Savage brought his crooner skills and kept it fairly simple here as it has many different flavors from spaghetti western strumming to rocking out to a great indie rock church performance. He is a true talent.

A. Savage: Thawing Dawn [Fire Note Review 10/18/17]

#46

Mac DeMarco
This Old Dog
Captured Tracks [2017]

Maturity is a weird thing because not only does it seem to happen overnight but you can typically identify the very “moment” it takes place. You can recognize it in your friends, in your own kids, your favorite athlete, actor and author and usually in your favorite artist. For the lighthearted and laid-back indie nice guy, Mac DeMarco, his third full length record, This Old Dog, is his “moment.” This record never broke out and showcased a very relaxed DeMarco. You bundle the heartfelt subject matter with his wavy crooning vocals, comfortable approach and truly mature songwriting, This Old Dog resulted in another fantastic edition to his catalog.

Mac DeMarco: This Old Dog [Fire Note Review 5/3/17]

#45

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile
Lotta Sea Lice
Matador Records [2017]

In today’s indie music scene, I couldn’t think of a current pairing that have an equal rising momentum like Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett. Lotta Sea Lice found them teaming up and essentially hanging out for this nine-song record. What makes Lotta Sea Lice successful is that it is a real collaboration and neither artist takes over the record. The songwriting is strong and the arrangements are memorable. It is an album that you can put on and play and its timeless vibe will keep you coming back. Lotta Sea Lice is an interesting conversation at the coffee house that comes complete with guitars and everyone is invited.

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice [Fire Note Review 10/12/17]

#44

Tobin Sprout
The Universe And Me
Burger Records [2017]

Tobin Sprout’s first album in seven years is wistful, poignant and brings the rock. This album kicked off 2017 right as The Universe and Me ran the gamut of what you would want in a Tobin Sprout record. There are the crunchy power pop tracks, the bright, nostalgic Guided By Voices trips and the poignant heavy hitters that can wring a tear from your eyes and put a lump in your throat. The Universe And Me is a showcase of some exceptional songwriting and excellent production.

Tobin Sprout: The Universe And Me [Fire Note Review 1/23/17]

#43

ORB
Naturality
Castle Face/Flightless Records [2017]

ORB hail from Australia and run around with label mates King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard which are both on Flightless and Castle Face Records. Naturality is their sophomore record. Naturality continues some of their known sludge rock but now this muscle finds the group working a psych pop angle with more vocals and shorter compositions. Naturality show that ORB have more personality, creativeness and energy while still giving fans the power thumping tracks. The record is fierce, bombastic and has swagger right down to the end as ORB is another solid Australian act that are coming into their own with this entertaining album.

ORB: Naturality [Fire Note Review 10/5/17]

#42

BIRDS
Everything All At Once
Greenway Records [2017]

Brooklyn band BIRDS offer a very organic free flowing fuzzed-out mix of psychedelic rock that sways around some in the Elephant 6 Collective style like an Apples In Stereo and The Minders. BIRDS do not stay in that mode though as they also have a Kurt Vile meets Swervedriver energy throughout the album. This mix of shoegaze is where Everything All At Once finds its uniqueness because the band can smolder songs with big waves of reverb while still offering plenty of upbeat indie rock that comes with a youthful vigor. A very promising debut as we look forward to what the BIRDS release next.

BIRDS: Everything All At Once [Fire Note Review 8/16/17]

#41

Flotation Toy Warning
The Machine That Made Us
Talitres [2017]

Flotation Toy Warning returned after a 13-year hiatus and delivered an excellent record. The Machine That Made Us clocks in at just over an hour-long running time and encompasses 10 carefully crafted and beautifully layered songs. Each track is a journey, a chapter in a deliberately paced adventure novel. The music and lyrics fill your head with such strange and vivid visions that you cannot wait to get to the next chapter. You will need to spend some time with this album to appreciate it fully. If you have been looking for a reason to buy some high-quality headphones, this album is it.

Flotation Toy Warning: The Machine That Made Us [Fire Note Review 7/5/17]

#40

Iron & Wine
Beast Epic
Sub Pop Records [2017]

From one perspective, Beast Epic is a “safe” record, from Iron & Wine that is a culmination of Sam Beam’s earlier experiments; instead of adding new pieces to the puzzle, Beam is starting to put it together. It may not be as surprising as previous releases have been, but there’s something oddly compelling about an Iron & Wine album emphasizing craft over novelty. If this is the sound of Sam Beam settling into a groove, then it’s about time because not only does Beast Epic fit like a good old pair of sneakers – it is an excellent highlight on Iron & Wine’s talents.

Iron & Wine: Beast Epic [Fire Note Review 10/23/17]

#39

St. Vincent
Masseduction
Loma Vista Recordings [2017]

St. Vincent’s eponymously titled 4th solo album, released in 2014, was easily her most accessible album, while also delivering some pretty amazing songs packaged with electro-pop polish, and marked by her unique guitar playing. She returned with Masseduction, that can be warm and close, or cold and hard, but it’s impossible to ignore. Once again, St. Vincent was able to offer something fresh that included funk hooks, darker techno vibes, and industrial tones that all were driven with her stand out vocals. While her songs are melodically evocative, St. Vincent was thinking big picture here and created an artistic statement about the current shape of the world, or at least her experience of it. The end result made Masseducation evocative as it is engaging, and as challenging as it is entertaining.

St. Vincent: Masseduction [Fire Note Review 11/30/17]

#38

Ryan Adams
Prisoner
PAX AM/Blue Note Records [2017]

Adam’s 2014 self-titled album dealt with the beginning of a pulling away from an unspoken someone, so this time around Adams reached into rock history to see how they dealt with horrible breakups. And where some would reach for Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Adams reaches into Springsteen’s own 1987 document of the dissolution of his marriage, Tunnel of Love. Adams doesn’t hold anything back here as the songs display his pain as the album’s trajectory has as an arc, so as the songs click by, so does the weight of his loss. In the end, Prisoner was another top record in this career artists catalog.

Ryan Adams: Prisoner [Fire Note Review 2/16/17]

#37

Spoon
Hot Thoughts
Matador Records [2017]

In a world that is constantly changing, and as likely to disappoint as often as it pleases, we’ll always be able to count on Spoon, the Austin indie rock band that continues to give up the goods on their 9th studio album Hot Thoughts. There’s a recognizable shift in sound away from guitars and toward a bolder keyboard presence, but that Spoon swagger was left intact. Like an old friend with a reputation for consistency, Spoon is a band that will always find a warm welcome. Hot Thoughts unique take on keyboard pop and disco from their unique place in the alternative rock universe, is a solid addition to the Spoon catalog.

Spoon: Hot Thoughts [Fire Note Review 3/20/17]

#36

Sorority Noise
You’re Not As_____As You Think
Triple Crown Records [2017]

Ever-evolving emo rockers Sorority Noise fully come into their own on their third full length, deftly blending anguish, wisdom and their trademark massive guitars to produce a mature, extremely well-balanced record. You’re Not As______As You Think is Sorority Noise at their absolute best and most mature record to date. With the band’s tension and contradictions proudly on full display, and enough reflective content to connect with thousands of new fans, this record raises the exact questions Sorority Noise ought to be raising at this point in their career. Is it possible to have this much fun while feeling this sad? Is it possible to feel this alive while so consumed with death? On You’re Not As ______ As You Think, the only answer is “Of course.”

Sorority Noise: You’re Not As_____As You Think [Fire Note Review 5/4/17]

#35

R. Ring
Ignite The Rest
SofaBurn Records [2017]

Kelley Deal (Breeders) and Mike Montgomery (Ampline) joined forces as R. Ring and finally released their debut LP. Ignite the Rest is a stunning debut that helped people stop whining about wanting another Breeders record as R. Ring delivered 12 tracks with great cohesion. The band clearly has their own voice but Deal’s vocals give it an indie edge that had us wanting more. Her singing just draws you into each song and keeps you hanging on each lyric. Hopefully, after the Breeders storm the scene in 2018 we will hear more R. Ring soon!

R. Ring: Ignite The Rest [Fire Note Review 6/15/17]

#34

Fascinating
Picture This
Quality Time/Jurassic Pop Records [2017]

Fascinating is one of our favorite Ohio “slop-pop” groups that is fronted by Quality Time Records main man Ricky Hamilton. They play a delightfully fuzzed up lo-fi post-punk that is gritty, determined and quick.
Picture This followed last year’s solid Dice Game structure but tightens the pop madness bolts and rolls out an even more grooving distorted ride. Simple and to the point but right on key are why Fascinating stay in your head. If you are looking for a buzz band that will fill your speakers with a sing-along wall of distortion then Picture This is a release you need to hear and Fascinating is a band you should know.

Fascinating: Picture This [Fire Note Review 6/8/17]

#33

Alvvays
Antisocialites
Polyvinyl Records [2017]

Alvvays’s sophomore album Antisocialites is an indie pop delight. The Toronto band made a splash three years ago with their self-titled debut and their jangle pop is still both interesting and fun. Listening to Antisocialites, it sounds like Camera Obscura and Best Coast have passed on the torch of cheery-but-not-really jangle pop to Alvvays. This band continues to evolve and now that they have avoided a sophomore slump they will for sure be a bright spot with each new release. TFN is excited to see them grow.

Alvvays: Antisocialites [Fire Note Review 10/17/17]

#32

Father John Misty
Pure Comedy
Sub Pop Records [2017]

Pure Comedy will no doubt provoke numerous think pieces, and it’s difficult to resist the urge to join the fray. However, Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) has already done all the work; you just have to listen. His lyrics have always been the reason to listen to Father John Misty and on this album, he is proclaiming himself to be a secular prophet, warning us about the traps and failings of modern life. With soft moments, lots of piano, acoustic guitar, and orchestral accompaniments, Pure Comedy takes you on a sonic adventure. The album is painfully confessional and extremely compelling. Take an hour to think and reflect about what Father John Misty has to say and you’ll walk away understanding him and his way of thinking much better. You also will probably hum along!

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy [Fire Note Review 4/6/17]

#31

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
The Nashville Sound
Southeastern Records [2017]

Jason Isbell first gained national attention as a member of Drive-By Truckers, where he played with them from 2001 to ’07. In 2015, Isbell’s fifth solo album, Something More Than Free, was his biggest commercial success and he picked up Grammy awards that year for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song. His newest album with his band The 400 Unit, is a classic in its own right, rooted in phenomenal songwriting and spirited performances. On the whole, when Isbell lets The 400 Unit loose they rock hard and well, more intense than most everything on Something More Than Free, living up to their name. With his wife Amanda Shires on fiddle, Drivin’ N Cryin’ guitarist Sadler Vaden, and Derry DeBorja (formerly of Son Volt) on keyboards, it’s worth mentioning that they offer elegant and satisfying contributions to even on the quieter material, playing with artful restraint and melodic clarity. We have gladly watched Jason Isbell receive the exposure his work deserves and The Nashville Sound shows no signs of him slowing down.

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound [Fire Note Review 7/7/17]

#30

LCD Soundsystem
American Dream
DFA/Columbia Records [2017]

It would be easy to write off LCD Soundsystem, even convenient when you consider that on the surface some of their electronic dance tracks can feel repetitive and often run well past five minutes. There’s a dark, often ironic yet literate narrative, at work in James Murphy’s flowing lyrical storytelling, which can feel poignant and prescient even as it chronicles what could very well be a personal, inner dialogue. And it works without dragging one down, because the music is energetic and effervescent. LCD Soundsystem’s take on the American Dream is far more realistic and delivers on its promises.

LCD Soundsytem: American Dream [Fire Note Review 10/11/17]

#29

Curtis Harding
Face Your Fear
ANTI- [2017]

With the recent passing of the “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” Charles Bradley, Sonny Knight in June and Sharon Jones last year, the retro soul movement has taken a serious blow. Their talents are irreplaceable but with Curtis Harding’s new record, Face Your Fear, you will hear that the genre still thrives. Face Your Fear shows that Harding can hold a groove with the best, and this record was produced with his friends Sam Cohen and Danger Mouse, so you know all the ends were polished to perfection. Face Your Fear is a career defining type of album that should pave the future for Curtis Harding. Maybe not right away or today but definitely for the future because Harding’s pure talent will continue to grow and we will eagerly await his next step.

Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear [Fire Note Review 11/2/17]

#28

The National
Sleep Well Beast
4AD Records [2017]

Sleep Well Beast is one of the most expansive sounding albums The National has released. It is their seventh studio album in four years and right out of the gate, you knew it was another solid crafted record. Probably the biggest surprise on Sleep Well Beast was The National’s use of electronics. The electronic beat backdrops expanded the band’s depth and gave the record a far reaching and boundary crossing electricity. Sleep Well Beast once again, offered something different from The National while sounding so familiar. This release surpasses Trouble Will Find Me and comes close to High Violet if I were to place them in order. The National show that the time away and involvement in multiple other projects has only made them more interesting, complete and complex because Sleep Well Beast is a solid ride.

The National: Sleep Well Beast [Fire Note Review 9/17/17]

#27

Broken Social Scene
Hug Of Thunder
Arts & Crafts [2017]

For a band with as many members as Broken Social Scene (15 to be exact), an album can go one of two ways. It could be a messy cacophony that never manages to have a unified sound or vibe. Or it could take the assets of each member and bring them together to exceed the sum of its parts. The former option is more likely while the latter is really difficult to pull off. And Broken Social Scene pulled it off here because for those of you who like depth to your music, you’ll revel in Hug of Thunder.

Broken Social Scene: Hug Of Thunder [Fire Note Review 8/24/17]

#26

CFM
Dichotomy Desaturated
In The Red Records [2017]

Dichotomy Desaturated is a bit of a departure from Charles Moothart’s past work with Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin and Fuzz. The album was just loaded with psychedelic rock magic similar to contemporaries Meatbodies and Wand but also shares some loose, lo-fi jangle rock vibes that remind TFN of Sebadoh III. Each track on Dichotomy Desaturated is a twisted, ever-shifting tale. Moothart is not afraid to test the bounds of musical structure and ends up creating a very pleasing album via a less than conventional approach to how to rock your socks off.

CFM: Dichotomy Desaturated [Fire Note Review 6/5/17]

#25

Feral Ohms
Feral Ohms
Silver Current Records [2017]

Feral Ohms hail from Oakland, California and released their much-anticipated self-titled studio debut this year. There is no other way to describe it but as a full-on rock assault. Feral Ohms leans more towards the Comets venom and combines elements of old school punk like The Stooges, Black Flag and MC5 but also contains this super power hard rock of an early Soundgarden to their overall delivery that increases the speaker shaking qualities. High octane flows continuously from song to song and makes this 26 minutes from Feral Ohms very hard to forget. Feral Ohms is a true new face on the rock scene and their self-titled debut should not be dismissed – it should be turned up to the max!

Feral Ohms: Feral Ohms [Fire Note Review 3/21/17]

#24

The Rubs
Impossible Dream
HoZac Records [2017]

Impossible Dream is a solid power pop album from Chicago’s The Rubs that has classic recording vibes that will remind you of Big Star while singer Joey Rubbish floats out some Elvis Costello type chops. The modern roll of this group has both the gritty rock of The Strokes and the lo-fi jam of Connections. Impossible Dream was full of raw emotion and where it lacks in perfect studio sonics, the album makes up for it with its imperfect harmonies. This is a record that just gets more infectious with every spin and makes The Rubs new release one of the best surprises of 2017.

The Rubs: Impossible Dream [Fire Note Review 6/14/17]

#23

Protomartyr
Relatives In Descent
Domino Records [2017]

If Nick Cave fronted a modern era post punk band with a refined edge and a spoken word style that is like The Hold Steady you would find yourself with Protomartyr. The underlining intensity of Protomartyr’s fourth long player, Relatives In Descent, is where the band captures your ear and you follow every line singer Joe Casey delivers. This is a record that sits with the world’s current skepticism and how finding the bright spots have become harder and harder. Relatives In Descent is one of the better thought provoking slow burner rock albums you will hear this year. Its grind is its triumph, its peaking explosive moments are its strength and Casey’s leadership style will have you following anywhere.

Protomartyr: Relatives In Descent [Fire Note Review 11/15/17]

#22

Washer
All Aboard
Exploding in Sound Records [2017]

All Aboard builds off Washer’s solid debut and ended up being one of the best post-grunge albums of 2017. Washer’s sound fits in comfortably on Exploding in Sound’s current roster of incredible bands. It can be twisting and bending, it can be cataclysmic and edgy angst but most of all Washer brings the 90’s-era grunge/punk in their sound. It makes All Aboard a wonderfully catchy rocker that should not be ignored.

Washer: All Aboard [Fire Note Review 10/2/17]

#21

Japanese Breakfast
Soft Sounds From Another Planet
Dead Oceans [2017]

Soft Sounds From Another Planet comforts and caresses like a nice warm blanket. This sophomore album contains smooth crescendos of beautiful choruses and a weightless music that’s light effort with maximum impact. Japanese Breakfast’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet is a beautiful and tight introspective on how vocalist and creator Michelle Zauner views life, love, and the strange. It’s an album that grows on you with every listen and you always hear something new with every spin. Japanese Breakfast will be an artist to consistently watch from here on out.

Japanese Breakfast: Soft Sounds From Another Planet [Fire Note Review 11/20/17]

#20

Rick Rude
Make Mine Tuesday
TinyRadars/Sophomore Lounge Records [2017]

New Hampshire’s Rick Rude make a lasting impression with Make Mine Tuesday and represent the type of band TFN loves to introduce to our readers. Make Mine Tuesday was released back in January of this year, so it was easy to miss but if you want to hear a LP that keeps you on your toes and is not afraid to drift between Built to Spill and Heartless Bastards indie rock guitar moments but also hit you with some power-pop riffs right out of a Weezer or Pixies playbook, give Rick Rude a chance.

Rick Rude: Make Mine Tuesday [Fire Note Review 11/30/17]

#19

Jay Som
Everybody Works
Polyvinyl Records [2017]

Jay Som was doing her own DIY thing posting music online when Polyvinyl officially released her first batch of songs last year with the excellent introduction album Turn Into. The fresh spirited Bay Area-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte (aka Jay Som) then released her proper debut, Everybody Works, which completely held up to expectations. Jay Som is the modern Liz Phair which fits neatly into today’s instant now attitude and other recent similar stand outs like Vagabon and Frankie Cosmos. Everybody Works is a freewheeling indie affair that hopefully sets a path of success for Jay Som as it definitely sounds like the beginning to something great still to come!

Jay Some: Everybody Works [Fire Note Review 3/10/17]

#18

Oh Sees
Orc
Castle Face Records [2017]

For John Dwyer, it doesn’t seem to matter much as his OCS/The Oh Sees/Thee Oh Sees/Oh Sees project continues to morph its 20-year psychedelic garage rock arc and it just keeps getting more interesting. Orc is Oh Sees 19th record and feels as fresh and new as anything the band has released to date. Orc sounded like a natural progression for the band that can shred off your speaker covers with its intense and fringe metal moments but also can give off a classic meets post-punk rock vibe. Orc holds no limits and sounded as free as anything the Oh Sees have put out. Its magic comes from the focal direction of the tracks – it never feels like it is going completely off the rails but as a listener you never know where you are going and have the sense that it could. That type of built-in anticipation is TFN kind of record!

Oh Sees: Orc [Fire Note Review 8/25/17]

#17

Richard Edwards
Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset
Joyful Noise Recordings [2017]

Margot and the Nuclear So and So‘s Richard Edwards debut solo album probably had to be the surprise release of the year. It still remains under the radar in many circles but its autobiographical nature makes Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset feel like more than an assemblage of songs. The vulnerabilities expressed are gripping and catchy, hateful yet beautiful, and it has endings and beginnings. Edwards is now unhindered, out in the open and it shows. This rawness and honesty drives Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset and made it one of the most gorgeous sounding albums of the year.

Richard Edwards: Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset [Fire Note Review 3/30/17]

#16

Pile
A Hairshirt Of Purpose
Exploding In Sound Records [2017]

Boston-based Pile pulled off another stunning effort with A Hairshirt Of Purpose as it is an album that takes more time to reveal its charm. With time you grasp the entire narrative of A Hairshirt of Purpose and enjoy it as body of music, as an album, and not just as a set of singles with some filler material. These 13 tracks have a purpose as Pile’s loud-quiet-loud approach takes a much more of a mellow approach to get its point across. It feels more melancholic and lonely, but the songs are just so memorable. Each note has become iconic as Pile have made an indie record to cherish.

Pile: A Hairshirt Of Purpose [Fire Note Review 5/22/17]

#15

Guided By Voices
August By Cake
GBV, Inc. [2017]

“Ladies and gentleman – I present to you – August By Cake.” That is the introduction Robert Pollard gives on his 100th album which had it all. It was a double album, it featured a hungry and raucous band that contributed their songwriting and vocal talents, and there was a sense of effortless joy at play throughout its 32 tracks. A sense that maybe, just maybe, the restless muse of Pollard found his perfect expression. With August By Cake we have all been given a reminder that guitar rock is not dead. Thank you, Robert Pollard and company, we are all better because of your efforts!

Guided By Voices: August By Cake [Fire Note Review 4/4/17]

#14

Ty Segall
Ty Segall
Drag City Records [2017]

Opening with the thunderous guitar riff of “Break a Guitar” it was immediately obvious that Ty Segall’s latest was going to be a pretty special album. Ty changed some things this record and assembled his band along with Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly, and headed to the studio to record as a band (with Steve Albini engineering), and not just by himself which has been his normal modus operandi. The results of this collaboration on Ty Segall were flat out staggering. Ty Segall is an adventurous album; it’s not a full-blown garage psych freak-out like Slaughterhouse was, though it certainly has moments that could be characterized as such. Ty Segall is another in a long line of truly remarkable albums from Ty, just when you think the guy might be slowing down he hits another one out of the park.

Ty Segall: Ty Segall [Fire Note Review 6/2/17]

#13

Kevin Morby
City Music
Dead Oceans [2017]

Kevin Morby broke out last year with his fantastic third LP, Singing Saw. City Music, builds on that confidence and now becomes his biggest musical outing to date. Singing Saw was all about the solitude of Morby’s quiet recording area so with that concept in mind, City Music is a much busier record that contains all the hustle and bustle you can imagine when the city never sleeps. City Music is an album that, just like the city, has plenty going on. From a Germs cover to the memorable and moving songs that you instantly remember Kevin Morby accomplishes taking his career to a new level. Where Dylan has been a good comparison for his earlier work, City Music finds his inner Lou Reed. It is this singer/songwriter swagger of confidence that sets Kevin Morby apart as he has a bright future – and that is truly exciting where he goes next!

Kevin Morby: City Music [Fire Note Review 6/16/17]

#12

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Four Albums
Flightless/ATO Records [2017]

I think everyone chuckled a bit when they heard that Australian upstarts, King Gizzard were going to release five albums this year. Well, the year is not over and they officially have released four LPs. Each had a different flavor while still maintaining the King Gizzard core which included psychedelia, a chaptered concept album, a jazzy collaboration and one they just gave away for anyone to download and release. Lumping these together is sort of a cop-out but all four records were strong and close in competition for being the best. For the record, TFN rank order is 1) Murder Of The Universe, 2) Polygondwanaland, 3) Sketches Of Brunswick East and 4) Flying Microtonal Banana if you wanted to know. We can’t wait for number 5 and 2018 as King Gizzard continues to be one of the best new artists releasing music today.

King Gizzard: Flying Microtonal Banana [Fire Note Review 2/23/17]
King Gizzard: Murder Of The Universe [Fire Note Review 6/22/17]
King Gizzard: Sketches Of Brunswick East [Fire Note Review 8/22/17]
King Gizzard: Polygondwanaland [Fire Note Review 12/6/17]

#11

Waxahatchee
Out In The Storm
Merge Records [2017]

If you don’t know the names Waxahatchee or Katie Crutchfield now is the time as her third album,
Out In The Storm, is a fantastic introduction. Her songs are full of the imagery of millennial youth: loss and hope, desperation and exhilaration. Unlike many of her contemporaries though, Crutchfield doesn’t let you all the way in. Her words are not torn from the pages of a diary and in that she may be a template for the millions of kids out there sharing every part of their lives (and bodies) on Snapchat. And although her shy nature colors most of her work, this time there’s a bit of swagger. Perhaps a little more confident in herself and her musical worth Out In The Storm represents a resounding bounce back after her dreamy and uneven sophomore effort Ivy Tripp. Katie Crutchfield continues to impress TFN with this tight and inspired set which was hard to put down.

Waxahatchee: Out In The Storm [Fire Note Review 7/26/17]

#10

Fleet Foxes
Crack-Up
Nonesuch Records [2017]

Although it’s been 6 years since the last record by Fleet Foxes, in some ways Robin Pecknold & Co. were able to come back to the place where the band left off. There was still a significant change of focus musically on Crack-Up as Fleet Foxes stretched out beyond any chance of predictable patterns and formulas of previous outings. Crack-Up was a record that took all year to absorb and with each successive listen it moved up our list. There are so many little moments on Crack-Up that just emphasize what a fantastic band Fleet Foxes represent. Let’s hope they don’t stay away so long before their next LP.

Fleet Foxes: Crack-Up [Fire Note Review 6/20/17]

#9

Shagg
Shagg
Quality Time/Greenway Records [2017]

Right now, you are scratching your head because you have not heard or seen anything on Shagg unless of course you read TFN. This Cleveland band should be on your radar because they will rock the crap out of you for this entire just over 14-minute record. Their arrangements are chaotic, the music is messy and they can blow your speakers out with just Nat Cherry’s scorching vocals. Shagg give you an in your face hi speed rock that is energizing and unrelenting, while their cover of the Wipers “Return Of The Rat” is spot on.

Shagg: Shagg [Fire Note Review 10/4/17]

#8

King Krule
The OOZ
True Panther/XL Recordings [2017]

We really didn’t expect this record to be this good and it took TFN by surprise. King Krule has a unique sound that blends multiple styles of jazz, garage, psychedelic, blues, trippy beats and indie rock that is guided by London’s Archy Marshall’s veteran Paul Weller, Nick Cave and Tom Waits type voice with a Mac DeMarco, Ariel Pink and Girls style. There are so many styles going on here The OOZ should be a mess but instead it offered something new for you every time you played it. That is the fantastic part about this record because it is fresh, timeless and entertaining.

King Krule: The OOZ [Fire Note Review 10/27/17]

#7

The War On Drugs
A Deeper Understanding
Atlantic Records [2017]

A Deeper Understanding is the War On Drugs fourth full-length album, and it is also one of their most accessible. There are a lot of influences on this album and it’s not news to compare The War on Drugs to Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young but Adam Granduciel nails that classic vibe while being his own artist. With only a few radio-ready songs but with no compromises is where A Deeper Understanding wins. There are ten tracks that clock in at over an hour so War On Drugs asks you to be patient with it as it builds. If you stay, A Deeper Understanding rewards you every single time.

War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding [Fire Note Review 10/27/17]

#6

Vagabon
Infinite Worlds
Father/Daughter Records [2017]

Rarely anymore does a debut album get TFN revved up but that is exactly what happened the first time we heard the songs of Cameroon-born artist Laetitia Tamko, aka Vagabond. Infinite Worlds is an album of finding herself with no musical boundaries and that is the beauty here. At times, Infinite Worlds oozes confidence while around other corners it offers that uneasy feeling you get when you don’t know what is on the other side of the door but you need to walk through anyway. Vagabon offers different moods and styles with each track and the record flexes its muscles and crashes into you like a wave over and over. Her shaky confidence that is guarded but forward shines and it is ultimately why Vagabon has released the strongest debut of 2017.

Vagabon: Infinite Worlds [Fire Note Review 2/22/17]

#5

Julien Baker
Turn Out The Lights
6131/Matador Records [2017]

When we first heard Julien Baker on her 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle, you had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last from the young Memphis artist. Her delicate recording showed a raw vulnerability and a mature composure that well exceeded her then age of 19. Fast forward to her sophomore outing, Turn Out The Lights, and you will hear the phenomenal talent of the now 21-year-old Baker bursting out of every song on this record. Turn Out The Lights is the perfect balance of a stylish DIY and the backing of a major indie like Matador. Julien Baker tells her stories, composes heartfelt track after heartfelt track and not only do you instantly want to hear Turn Out The Lights again – you pull for Baker to get through to the other side every step of the way! This is truly one of the better records of 2017.

Julien Baker: Turn Out The Lights [Fire Note Review 10/30/17]

#4

The Afghan Whigs
In Spades
Sub Pop Records [2017]

Thank goodness, we have the return of The Afghan Whigs to help rock still have a voice in today’s scene. The Afghan Whigs’ returned with a more compositionally rich and textured musical approach that echoed classical musical themes which run in tension with the demanding drums, guitars and Greg Dulli’s compelling vocal howl. The end result gives an energized, and compelling mix of sounds to match the equally dark and emotionally dense images in Dulli’s lyrics, which continue to suggest the brutal, often painful realities of existence. There are too many pop bands, commercial rock and country artists who are succumbing to lowest common denominators as it’s both exciting and encouraging to have an artful rocker of Dulli’s and The Afghan Whigs pedigree continue to stretch musical boundaries with their singular artistic vision. More of this, please!

The Afghan Whigs: In Spades [Fire Note Review 5/5/17]

#3

Slowdive
Slowdive
Dead Oceans [2017]

22 years is a crazy long time to be away and for Slowdive it feels even longer. Today Slowdive fall into the dream pop genre with the likes of Beach House and Low but they are better known for their shoegazing 90’s and will be brought up along with classic acts such as Ride and/or My Bloody Valentine. Slowdive’s return is an appropriately aged record that sounds complete from a veteran group as its warmth hits you with such a delicate wave that you forget to hold onto something and get washed away. Their instrumentation is perfectly balanced from Neil Halstead’s smooth vocals to the backdrop riff and backing voices that ripple just below the surface. The 2017 version of Slowdive not only is a confident display of their past but truly relevant for today’s sometimes brutal and depthless indie scene. It is a comeback album for Slowdive that not only secures their place in music history but has now started a spectacular new chapter!

Slowdive: Slowdive [Fire Note Review 5/11/17]

#2

(Sandy) Alex G
Rocket
Domino Records [2017]

The bedroom pop of Alexander Giannascoli aka (Sandy) Alex G has grown substantially since we first stumbled upon his 2014 record DSU on DIY label Orchid Tapes. Rocket is the example of why you don’t give up or like many people today using Spotify – simply forget about an artist, because (Sandy) Alex G hits a home run here. Rocket embraces new angles with his bedroom pop wrapped in a dusty folk but he also includes his weirder side with an Auto-Tune number or noise filled songs that reminded us of some earlier Beck tracks. All the songs here from (Sandy) Alex G are different but not out of place. That is the gorgeous cohesion of Rocket and why it landed at #2.

(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket [Fire Note Review 11/29/17]

#1

Guided By Voices
How Do You Spell Heaven
GBV, Inc. [2017]

You can be forgiven for missing some of Robert Pollard’s output – the discography is indeed deep and daunting. With that said, there are no excuses for skipping How Do You Spell Heaven. With one of the most solid lineups GBV has seen that includes Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr on guitars, Mark Shue on bass and Kevin March behind the kit, Guided By Voices delivered one of the most straight-forward GbV records to date. From the four-minute instrumental T-Rex kind of jam in “Pearly Gates Smoke Machine” to the classic rock and jangly power pop of other tracks GBV was able to boil down everything that made the double record, August By Cake such a thrill ride into a single, easily digestible LP. There is never a bad time to get onboard with Guided By Voices but you couldn’t pick a better time than now as How Do You Spell Heaven is our pick for the best album of 2017!

Guided By Voices: How Do You Spell Heaven [Fire Note Review 8/9/17]

The Fire Note Top Albums of 2017: Writer Edition

The Fire Note wouldn’t be possible without the talented writers that share their educated thoughts and true enjoyment of music with our readers. The time and commitment that goes into writing consistently is appreciated by TFN and taken for granted by everyone else!

Our official year end Top 50 is coming soon but clearly everyone has different tastes and ideas when naming the best album released in 2017. Thanks again to all our contributors!

If you want to be on this list next year send us an email. We are always up for some new voices if you think you have what it takes!

Brian Q. Newcomb

Okay, starting at the bottom, my list for the best albums of 2017, here goes:

25. Roger Waters, Is This The Life We Really Want? (Columbia)
Elections have consequences… that’s a phrase I hear almost daily. And one of the unexpected outcomes of the election of President Trump is he return of Roger Waters, the chief composer and voice in some of Pink Floyd’s most compelling works, in his first solo album in 25 years, and one of the biggest stadium tours of the summer of 2017, “Us + Them” with Waters aiming the venom of his new and older material at the current administration. We had a lot of musical activism throughout the year, from Prophets of Rage, Todd Rundgren, and most of our late-night comedians roused to new heights by Trump’s leadership priorities and style fodder for each new broadcast, but Waters’ musical reproach was unrelenting, yet artful and poignant. Without voices of sanity, this would have been a much harder year than it turned out to be.

24. Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm (Merge)
2017 was a great year for women in music… St. Vincent, Lydia Loveless, Kesha, Mavis, Sharon Jones, This Is Kit, Feist, Aimee Mann, Rhiannon Giddens all had solid, if not great releases. Katie Crutchfield’s band Waxahatchee (named for a Creek in Alabama) was this year’s strong revelation, carrying echoes of Julie Hatfield and Liz Phair. Bold guitars and a strong voice together with compelling pop/rock songs… it’s keeper.

23. Ty Segall, Ty Segall (Drag City)
In a year where keyboards, synths, loops and studio acumen seemed to dominate music across genres, be they pop, rock and indie efforts, I have more often than not clamored for loud, artfully played electric guitar. I will not go quietly into that good night. So, aside from listening to all my old favorites – from Clapton and Allman Bros. to Wilco and 77’s – I have found great solace in this new album guitarist Ty Segall, which was artfully produced by Steve Albini, best remembered for his work with Nirvana. Segall follows all the obvious guitar hero rock star heroes, contributes his own unique take, and the songs are solid enough in the classic rock vein to carry the weight of his more edgy soloing. It’s a treat for these guitar hungry ears.

22. Portugal. The Man, Woodstock (Atlantic)
This album from Portland modern rock borrows its name from the original rock festival, and includes a bit of Ritchie Haven’s ad libbed chant, “Freedom” in the opening track. Of course, the band’s ever-present single, “Feel It Still,” has been omnipresent throughout the year, but as ear-worms go, I’m not complaining. The album reveals this 5-piece band’s innovative approach throughout, mixing traditional instrumentation with all the studio tricks of the trade to produce a compelling blend of unique sounds, with a very accessible pop feel.

21. Spoon, Hot Thoughts (Matador)
I think it might have been about the 999th time that I heard “Hot Thoughts,” okay maybe it was the second time, it occurred to me that Austin band Spoon were modern rock’s answer to Steely Dan. Admittedly, they’re missing the jazz-influenced lead guitar solos, but that comparison works in lots of other ways, and at least to me it’s a compliment. Of course, in the current sexual harassment crisis titles like “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” “First Caress” and “Can I Sit Next to You,” sound a little racier and daring than they did when the disc first surfaced back in the Spring. There’s a lot more keyboards here than on the last one, which I admit missing a bit, but this album has been a reliably enjoyable treat throughout much of the year.

20. Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins (RCA)
Grizzly Bear first crossed my musical radar when they were reported as opening for a Radiohead tour in 2008, and then released their third album, Veckatimest, to critical acclaim. Chances are if they’d been quicker in following up their 2012 album, Shields, we’d no longer be referring to them as “indie rock.” But here, they returned after a five-year absence, with another compelling collection of experimental rock that mixes styles and influences in a way that feels completely unique to their combined efforts, from their strong vocal harmonies, to the band’s robust compositional interests. “Mourning Sound” earned the band immediate attention on alternative satellite radio, and the album more than lives up to one’s highest expectations.

19. The National, Sleep Well Beast (4AD)
There’s an austere, even stark, literate yet distant quality to Cincinnati band The National’s music that doesn’t make it immediately accessible, but there are satisfying pay offs like the amazing hook in “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” that gives these thoroughly modern compositions an emotional connection. Other songs, especially “Day I Die” and “Walk It Back,” feel more immediate, but the punchier rhythm on the former hides the more challenging lyrics of loss and anticipation, while the heaviness in the second holds a mirror up to political and social life in our country. This is art rock for the coming new age, a compelling piece of music to say the least.

18. Todd Rundgren, White Night (Cleopatra)
Now I’ve been a card-carrying member of the “In Todd We Trust” club since I came across Something/Anything in 1972 when I was 15 years old, so it’s no surprise to find Rundgren on my best of the year list just about any time he gets around to make a full-length album. I would argue, though, that White Knight is a superior effort from an artist and producer that has made some of the best, and most popular (although definitely not the same thing) albums in rock history. Of course, “Tin Foil Hat,” a duet with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, got most of the attention, since it’s a no holds barred take down of President Trump’s love of conspiracy theories. But Rundgren collaborates not only with some classic rock friends like Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall, and Joe Satriani, but also with Trent Reznor, Euro-soul artist Robyn, and includes rap with KK Watson and Dam-Funk, and Moe Berg. While I miss his guitar playing, on this keyboard, synth and loop dominated record, the songwriting and sounds are first class, yet again.

17. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice (Matador)
The coming together of Australian singer songwriter Courtney Barnett, who made a pretty impressive splash with her 2015 debut (Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit), and singer songwriter Kurt Vile, formerly guitar player for The War On Drugs, feels so natural, comfortable and unassuming, that you might suspect it was effortless. Their similar styles of speak/singing their lyrics in almost too relaxed a way, might tempt you to overlook the smart use of language in their songs, and the great guitar songs that show up in track after track. While all the songs feature the duo singing in duet, they write separately, and also cover one of the album’s strongest songs, “Fear Is Like a Forest,” written by Barnett’s romantic partner Jen Cloher, and a fun song by Belly’s Tanya Donnelly, “Untogether.” A lovely project that leaves me hoping they continue to work together.

16. Kesha, Rainbow (Kemosabe/RCA)
As the title suggests, Kesha’s return is a resurrection story, complete with a heroine narrative where she overcomes a wicked Svengali, only to win on her own terms. While she’s played down her hip-hop party anthems, in favor of pop songs, she’s still delivering plenty of attitude (and explicit language) even on songs that celebrate her spiritual side. This is solid songwriting, and her voice rings true, carrying the rich emotions with musical power, and importantly authenticity. Add in two songs with the Eagles of Death Metal, an appearance of the Dap-King Horns, and a country weeper duet with Dolly Parton, and you’re on to something special. But what lifts Rainbow above the rest of the pop pack is Kesha’ self-deprecating sense of humor at times, while still affirming her own brand of kick-ass feminism and self-reliance. Pity to kid whose parents bought a “safe” version with the stronger language censored, it wouldn’t make any sense at all.

15. Cheap Trick, We’re All Right (Big Machine)
I have given up entirely on chasing the Next Big Thing. Everybody’s got one good idea, it takes talent, will and effort to shape that idea into something people can appreciate and care about. Everybody thinks they can write music reviews, and I’m sure anyone willing to make the effort can write a solid, smart and attentive review with cute phrases and creative word choices. But show me a writer who can still capture my imagination without succumbing to lowest common denominator clichés after writing 1000 reviews, and I’ll know you’re on to something. There’s something to be said for longevity, for staying with your original vision, and the drive to keep doing what you love doing long after that early gloss of interest has faded. You could make the argument that Cheap Trick could have stopped recording after Cheap Trick at Budokan, and could still be traveling the retro circuit replaying “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender” until the cows come home. Obviously, guitarist Rick Nielson and singer Robin Zander, both in their 60s, are not ready to call it quits, and We’re All Right is a great rock album with solid vocal hooks and great guitar playing from start to finish. They rock here as hard as they ever did, they haven’t mellowed a lick. Respect.

14. Steve Earle & The Dukes, So You Wannabe An Outlaw (Warner Bros.)
I had to overcome a country music blind-spot over the years, like back when Uncle Tupelo started covering traditional artists and not just The Stooges. And then of course, Emmylou Harris, I mean, what kind of fool do you have to be to not love Emmylou Harris? The first time I saw Steve Earle he was opening for Los Lobos, and his country roots were buried deep in his band’s rock & roll attitude and serious musical chops. As I kept listening, and followed this great songwriter back to his early roots, and mentor Townes Van Zandt, another Uncle Tupelo connection, I dropped the pretense and started listening to the good country music, which you can spot wherever you see the names Earle, Harris, Cash, Nelson, Jennings, Haggard, Clark, Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, and more. This one is another fine album chock full of great songs, embracing his outlaw country bona fides with aplomb. It’s a winner.

13. The Mountain Goats, Goths (Merge)
Singer-songwriter John Darnielle is the kind of quirky that makes my appreciation of his writing a complete no brainer. His writing is literate, clever and funny in a sad way, or is that sad in a funny way. In the past he’s written entire albums of songs based on some of the most obscure, awkward, and even strange verses of scripture in the Bible (The Life of the World to Come), the band’s last album, Beat the Champ) celebrates the world of pro wrestling, and here his vivid imagination is brought into focus by the music of 80’s bands like Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, and of course The Smiths, and the people like him who loved them. The music is accessible folk rock, with solid melodies that can carry the weight of Darnielle’s lovely lyrics. You just gotta love an artist with high “Unicorn Tolerance,” it’s the right thing to do.

12. Filthy Friends, Invitation (Kill Rock Stars)
When Corin Tucker sings “holding on to the past won’t make it repeat/time to get up, I think you’re in my seat,” in the opening track of the Filthy Friends debut, she and her veteran rocker band-mates – Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin who toured with R.E.M. – have every reason to leave the past behind them. Besides their own past work, you can hear echoes or tributes to bands like Television, The Pixies, Pretenders, and others. Welcome to the new golden age of alternative rock & roll.

11. Lo Tom, Lo Tom (Barsuk)
The coming together of David Bazan and Tim Walsh of Pedro the Lion and Jason Martin and Trey Many of Starflyer 59, on the 8 songs of this debut, feels so natural and organic, so simple and obvious, that you have to wonder why they haven’t been making this music for a long time, and why they haven’t made more of it. Solid, unpretentious, straight-forward, melodic guitar rock this good is becoming an endangered species, so let’s work to save them from extinction.

10. Robert Plant, Carry Fire, (Nonesuch)
There’s something courageous and charming about the fact that Robert Plant has refused (so far) to cash in on a Led Zeppelin tour and hit the road making Rolling Stones and U2 money. Now, if he breaks down and does that tour, I’ll be looking at the second mortgage option to purchase good seats just like every other classic rocker in my age group, but I love that Plant’s more interested in making new music and reinventing his Zep rockers in a more organic, acoustic formation with his band the Sensational Shape Shifters, with whom he creates rootsy, Americana folk, country, rock & gospel, with a subtle jam band vibe. And his voice is still a thing of wonder at 69 years of age.

9. Bruce Cockburn, Bone on Bone (True North)
It’s been 6 years since we’ve heard new music from the Canadian (currently living in San Francisco) folk/rock/world music singer-songwriter guitarist, so it is pleasure to hear this artful poet/musician return with such an energetic and fun album. His singing voice, at 72, feels bold if ragged, and his creativity and sense of humor remain evident in “Stab at Matter” and “Al Purdy’s.” His world class acoustic finger-picking can be heard on the instrumental title track, and his renewed comfort with the spiritual finds its way into “40 Years in the Wilderness,” “Jesus Train” and “12 Gates to the City.”

8. U2, Songs of Experience (Interscope)
The whole first week this album was available, people all over the internet were having lengthy discussions of the Irish rockers’ artistic viability, and the status of this latest project in their lengthy career, and more often than not I find myself defending the band’s continued evolution, and not just because they’ve been a favorite of mine since the early 80’s when I first heard “I Will Follow.” So, since I’m long past the idea of appearing cool, I’ll just admit that the more I hear that corny pop rock single “You’re the Best Thing About Me,” from the opening crunchy guitar chords, to Bono’s admission that “shooting off my mouth/that’s another great thing about me,” the more I’m enjoying it. And it’s far from the best thing on this album. To be honest, I wanted more Achtung noise of the band this time around, so I’m drawn to both “The Blackout” and “Red Flag Day,” but “Summer of Love” and “The Little Things That Give You Away” maybe two of their best songs in quite a while… but hey, I liked Songs of Innocence a lot too.

7. The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions (Concord)
Each album from the Vancouver artist’s collective that is The New Pornographers, which brings together Carl Newman, Neko Case, and a bunch of other players with their own projects and side-bands, is a power-pop delight, and Whiteout Conditions, with its high energy embrace of fun Euro-beat techno-pop.

6. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)
Surely the title of Isbell’s sixth studio album is intended to be ironic, given the state of modern commercial country music, of which I’m no fan. But Isbell is all about the songwriting, and again and again here he rises far above expectations with creative imagery, honest-to-life story-telling, and a poignant point of view that we need more of in the current culture wars and political divisions. “Molotov” and “If We Were Vampires” are two of the most creative takes on a love song concept that you’ll hear in any year. And, “White Man’s World” takes a “woke” look at privilege, while “Hope the High Road” and “Something to Love” close out the album with hopeful anthems in a world that could use a few of those. Oh, and musically the band rocks when they want to, and they can play it sweet, sad, and lonesome when that’s what the lyrics require.

5. Manchester Orchestra, A Black Mile to the Surface (Loma Vista)
With this fifth studio album, the Atlanta-based, Manchester Orchestra has continued to mature, creating lush cinematic musical settings for Andy Hull’s character studies that seem to center around the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment that is located a mile deep under the town of Lead, South Dakota. This is artful, alternative rock, and one of the strongest albums of the year.

4. The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)
While the lush musical landscapes and soaring guitar melodies of Adam Granduciel and friends seem to recall an earlier time, the 80’s perhaps. Often striking an ethereal, even transcendent vibe, TWoD’s combined musicianship made this one of the most beautiful, and satisfying listens of the year.

3. Afghan Whigs, In Spades (Sub Pop)
I admit I’ve always been a sucker for Greg Dulli; three of my favorite albums in the 90’s were Gentlemen, Black Love, and 1965 by the Afghan Whigs. His mix of hard rock textures, post-punk attitude, and a deep appreciation of R&B creates compelling, often emotionally rich music, and In Spades is no exception. While guitars can dominate the sound, the occasional violin, cello and piano bring unexpected textures to the fore in a most pleasing way.

2. Queens of the Stone Age, Villains (Matador)
With all the “rock is dead” chatter, and the resurgence of synths/keyboards in pop music, I find myself craving guitar rock all the more for its cultural decline, and no CD rock me as intensely or a consistently this year than this one. The rhythms are more upbeat, and the attitude more aggressive than on the previous outing, …Like Clockwork. Josh Hommes & Co. feel more lose, and playful, even on scary, dark rockers like “Head Like a Haunted House” and “The Evil Has Landed,” and on the disc’s big single “The Way You Used to Do,” they hit an irresistible groove that I wanted to keep returning to.

And, my No. 1 album of 2017:

St. Vincent, Masseduction (Loma Vista)
in 2017, there wasn’t a more artistically interesting and musically satisfying work than Masseduction by St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark. There’s a strong performance artist quality to her work which takes the critical pulse of modern culture in a way reminiscent of Laurie Anderson, but with uncanny pop sensibilities that shine through songs like “Los Ageless, “Sugarboy” and the title track. But it’s her artful musicality and capacity to bring diverse approaches to her craft, noteworthy here on “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” “New York,” and the album’s haunted closing suite, “Slow Disco / Smoking Section,” that put her in the league alongside David Byrne, David Bowie and Beck.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Daniel Taylor

1. The Machine That Made Us Flotation by Toy Warning: 13 years between their debut and sophomore releases was an excessively long wait, but damn, it was worth it. It is a strange, wondrous and a beautifully compelling album. Joyous and heartbreaking all at once. LIYL: Grandaddy, Sparklehorse, Neutral Milk Hotel.

2. A Hairshirt of Purpose by Pile: Most bands would have peaked after releasing a record like Dripping, but Pile just keeps churning out some of the best rock music of this decade. If this album is not in your top five albums of 2017, you should probably reevaluate your taste in music. LIYL: Pixies, Jesus Lizard, Pavement

3. All Aboard by Washer: One of the best post-grunge albums of 2017. Brooklyn duo, Kieran McShane and Mike Quigley, expand and improve their sound with this excellent sophomore effort. Massive hooks and endlessly catchy. LIYL: Grass is Green, Big Ups, Pile, Bad History Month.
4. Farnham by Baked: An absolute delight from beginning to end. It is equal parts heavy, fuzzy, striped-down, emotional, desolate, warm and ceaselessly charming. LIYL: Silver Jews, Swirlies, 90’s era Sub Pop bands.

5. Uncontrollable Salvation by Pardoner: A fantastic blend of fuzzy power noise slathered with skewed guitars, impeccable pop moments and an abundance of shoegaze noise. LIYL: Swirlies, Polvo, Sonic Youth.

6. Make Mine Tuesday by Rick Rude: Make Mine Tuesday is a stunning debut album that is sure to make people who love Built to Spill swoon. LIYL: Built to Spill, Heartless Bastards, The Pauses.

7. The Universe and Me by Tobin Sprout: Tobin Sprout’s return with his first solo record since 2010 is a real treasure and was well worth the wait. LIYL: Guided By Voices, Eyesinweasel, The Beatles

8. August by Cake by Guided by Voices: Uncle Bob and company take the Cake with this release. The contributions from the other band members helped make this album diverse and even more memorable. LIYL: The Replacements, Cheap Trick, The Who

9. One by Dove Lady: One is a wildly unpredictable debut album. This DC duo will assail your senses with some caustic bursts of noise rock infused with moments of post-hardcore, experimental jazz and even some R&B. LIYL: Slint, Fugazi, Chavez, Pixies.

10. Clean Feeling by PLAX: This Austin-based quasi-punk band may have released the best indie-punk/hardcore album of 2017. Twitchy and heavy in perfect doses. LIYL: Spray Paint, OBN IIIs, Skeleton and Sweet Talk.

11. Ignite the Rest by R. Ring: Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery join forces for their debut LP. It is so good that I have quit whining about wanting another Breeders LP…almost. LIYL: Breeders, The Amps.

12. Pleasure Suck by The Spirit of the Beehive: This album emits a warm druggy vibe that is part slacker rock, lo-fi DIY and psychedelic sensation all rolled into one. LIYL: Midlake, Enon, Pavement

13. Dichotomy Desaturated by CFM: Charles Francis Moothart continues to branch out on his second solo LP. Dichotomy Desaturated is all about mind-expanding riffs and creating an exhilarating blend of garage/stoner/punk rock. LIYL: Meatbodies, Ty Segall, Fuzz.

14. Slap Bass Hunks by Christian Fitness: Slap Bass Hunks is another slice of edgy, post-hardcore heaven. Gritty production weaved in with Falkous’ biting and wry wit. LIYL: Future of the Left, Mclusky

15. Brutalism by Idles: More angry post-hardcore music from the UK. This band really rips into the state of things. LIYL: Sleaford Mods, Christian Fitness, Future of the Left.

16. Alice by Meatbodies: Chad Ubovich (Fuzz, Mikal Cronin) Kevin Boog and Patrick Nolan have created a thoroughly entertaining, fuzzed out album that blends bits of 70’s era Pink Floyd with heavy garage rock. LIYL: Ty Segall, Wand, Fuzz Mikal Cronin.

17. Occult Architecture, Vol. 1 by Moon Duo: Moon Duo have a heavy psychedelic krautrock sound that is layered with clever flourishes of synth and rhythmic drumming. LIYL: Wooden Shjips

18. Last Place by Grandaddy: Jason Lytle and the gang return and feel like they never left. A warm and charming LP. Grandaddy is just good for your soul. LIYL: Jason Lytle, Sparklehorse

19. Twitching in Time by Elf Power: One of the more resilient acts from the fabled Elephant Six Collective, Elf Power is still making incredible music. Their blend of psychedelic power pop remains timeless and always welcome. LIYL: The Elephant 6 Collective.

20. Thawing Dawn by A. Savage: Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts released a fine solo album this year. A nice slice of crooning, Americana rock. LIYL: Parquet Courts, Teenage Cool Kids

21. How Do You Spell Heaven Guided By Voices: The second release for GBV in 2017. Uncle Bob still has plenty of hits left in the tank. Looking forward to more in 2018! LIYL: Robert Pollard

22. Shame Spiral USA Nails: Heavy noise rock from the UK. Relentless music for people who do not mind some bracing music. LIYL: Future of the Left, Running, Christian Fitness

23. Last Laugh by Circus Devils: If this is the last Circus Devils LP we ever get, Pollard and Tobias ended things on a high note. Do the Nixon is a new American classic. LIYL: Pollard, GBV.

24. I’m Even Younger Now Graham Repulski: Lo-fi auteur Graham Repulski follows up 2016’s triple album release with a concise slab of psychedelic noise rock. The results are as jarring as they are accessible. LIYL: GBV, Robert Pollard

25. Self-Checkout by Telepathic: Some catchy and wonderful psychedelic punk from Philadelphia. LIYL: Superchunk

Honorable Mentions/Odds and Ends: Contributors Contributors; Mythical Motors Running the Shine; Smug Brothers Disco Maroon; King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Flying Microtonal Banana; Big Heet On A Wire; Rectangle Creep Is Taking Drugs; Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts Milano; Pissed Jeans Why Love Now ; Ty Segall Self-Titled; Spare Snare Unicorn; Bad History Month Dead and Loving It; Birds of Avalon Operator’s Midnight; Dove Lady E (EP); SLEEPiES Melt To You (EP); Exploding In Sound Records Live at Shea Stadium (Live Comp); Grandaddy Under the Western Freeway (Reissue); Future of the Left Live at the Garage (Live) and Graham Repulski The Photographer is Upset (EP) and a slew of Honey Radar singles.
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Dylan Gallimore

1. Craig Finn, We All Want The Same Things: Craig Finn’s colorful third solo record is as much as a sonic evolution as it is a perfect annunciation of the messages and themes Finn has spent two decades working to articulate. Released at the peak of our cultural outrage and societal dysfunction, it’s an anachronistically human record that unfolds in stark, plain-spoken beauty, cutting though the frustrations of modern American living and making our collective desperation seem warm, familiar and temporary — or at least survivable. Hell, with songs like these, anything’s survivable.

2. The Menzingers, After The Party: After The Party is a career achievement that blends Sprinsteenian storytelling, AC/DC guitars and genuine lyrical reflection on aging, identity and the loneliness of the punk lifestyle. Songs like “Charlie’s Army,” “Lookers” and “Thick as Thieves” invite memories of joyous, glorious old school rock and roll, effortlessly weaving together instantly-memorable guitar licks, poppy choruses and compelling stories. The record is filled with with an infectious sense of fun rarely found on punk releases today.

3. Sorority Noise, You’re Not As______As You Think: With the band’s tension and contradictions proudly on full display, and with enough reflective content to connect with thousands of new fans, You’re Not As______As You Think raises the exact questions Sorority Noise ought to be raising at this point in their career: Is it possible to have this much fun while feeling this sad? Is it possible to feel this alive while so consumed with death? On You’re Not As ______ As You Think, the only answer is “Of course.”

4. The National, Sleep Well Beast: For the persnickety few those who’ve been willing to nitpick the Brooklyn indie rockers’ sterling discography, “doesn’t use enough electronic elements” hasn’t been among the usual criticisms. But nonetheless, and to a surprisingly successful effect, Matt Berninger and co. sprinkle bleeps and bloops all over their solitudinous seventh record to deliver a listening experience as cold, quiet and lonesome as the cabin that dominates its cover art.

5. Richard Edwards, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset: On his first solo record, Richard Edwards proves himself a quiet master of the songwriting craft, penning wistful, longing melody after melody. Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset is an independent, singular work of anguish and vulnerability; Richard Edwards has been to hell and back, this accomplished release chronicles his torment in painstaking, lilting detail.

6. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice: One of the most genuinely pleasant surprises of the year, Lotta Sea Lice is an indie rock dream, loaded with jangly guitars and warm, friendly harmonies. The sweet adorability to Barnett and Vile’s lazy, giggly chemistry makes Lotta Sea Lice utterly irresistible.

7. Lorde, Melodrama: Lorde’s sophomore act is exquisite and original; a moody, groovy New Wave dance record that explores youth and young womanhood with fearless vulnerability.

8. Brand New, Science Fiction: Science Fiction is haunting and solemn; rather than menace listeners with blistering yelps and screaming guitars, Lacey and company opt to spread out their message across lush, polished soundscapes and let them soak in over the course of the record. It’s both a fitting return and a near-perfect ending.

9. Sean Rowe, New Lore: If not for Sean Rowe’s voice, the most effective, emotionally-loaded moments of New Lore would the record’s well-placed moments of silence. Composed mostly with quiet guitars, delicate pianos and minimal percussion, the songs of New Lore breathe in these instances, inviting moments of melancholy, contemplation and somber reflection. Sean Rowe makes a strong, dramatic and innovative entry into the alt-folk genre and continues to solidify his position as one of its most talented songwriters.

10. Queen Moo, Mean Well: Clocking in at just under thirty minutes, Mean Well, the second full-length release from Connecticut band Queen Moo, reinvents rock ‘n’ roll in ways you didn’t know you needed. The four piece accomplishes the admirable–and previously unfathomable–feat of balancing no-holds-barred rock with obscure jazz and big band influences without breaking a sweat or cracking under their own artistic heft.
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Thomas Wilde

1. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent
2. Slowdive – Slowdive
3. King Krule – The OOZ
4. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
5. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
6. Guided By Voices – August By Cake
7. Pile – A Hair Shirt Of Purpose
8. Ty Segall – Ty Segall
9. The National – Sleep Well Beast
10. Jay Som – Everybody Works
11. Needles//Pins – Good Night, Tomorrow
12. Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura
13. OMNI – Multi-task
14. METZ – Strange Peace
15. Lost Balloons – Hey Summer
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Christopher Tahy

20. Six Organs of Admittance – Burning The Threshold
19. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
18. Feral Ohms – Feral Ohms
17. Pile – A Hair Shirt of Purpose
16. Zola Jesus – Okovi
15. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
14. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland
13. The Black Angels – Death Songs
12. Ty Segall – Ty Segall
11. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
10. Once And Future Band – Once And Future Band
9. Pallbearer-Heartless
8. Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now
7. Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
6. CFM – Dichotomy Desaturated
5. The National – Sleep Well Beast
4. ORB – Naturality
3. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet
2. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
1. Richard Edwards – Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset
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Kevin Poindexter

1. Guided By Voices-How Do You Spell Heaven, August By Cake
2. The Afghan Whigs-In Spades
3. Ron Gallo-Heavy Meta
4. The Stevens-Good
5. Elder-Reflections of a Floating World
6. Grandaddy-Last Place
7. Spinning Coin-Permo
8. Lost Balloons-Hey Summer
9. The Bats-The Deep Set
10. Deep State-Thought Garden
11. LCD Soundsystem-American Dream
12. Cende-#1 Hit Single
13. The Dream Syndicate-How Did I find Myself Here?
14. Ty Segall- Ty Segall
15. Cairo Gang-Untouchable
16. Meatbodies-Alice
17. Bash & Pop-Anything Could Happen
18. Old 97’s-Graveyard Whistling
19. Pallbearer-Heartless
20. Tobin Sprout-The Universe and Me
21. Slowdive-Slowdive
22. The Rubs-Impossible Dream
23. Rips-Rips
24. Rick Rude-Make Mine Tuesday
25. Washer-All Aboard
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Scot Lade

1) Guided By Voices “How Do You Spell Heaven”
2) Broken Social Scene “Hug Of Thunder”
3) Deerhoof “Mountain Moves”
4) Grizzly Bear “Painted Ruins”
5) Liars “TFCF”
6) The National “Sleep Well Beast”
7) King Gizzrd & The Lizard Wizard “Murder Of The Universe”
8) Flotation Toy Warning “The Machine That Made Us”
9) The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die “Always Foreign”
10) Godspeed You! Black Emperor “Luciferian Towers”
11) The Mountain Goats “Goths”
12) Waxahatchee “Out In The Storm”
13) Wolf Parade “Cry Cry Cry”
14) Do Make Say Think “Stubborn Persistent Illusions”
15) St. Vincent “Masseducation”
16) Stars “These Is No Love In Flourescent Light”
17) Guided By Voices “August By Cake”
18) Temples “Volcano”
19) Fleet Foxes “Crack-Up”
20) Sparks “Hippopotamus”
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Simon Workman

Top 15 “New Music” Releases

1. Guided by Voices – August By Cake
2. Tobin Sprout – The Universe And Me
3. Lo Tom – S/T
4. Iron & Wine – Beast Epic
5. Guided by Voices – How Do You Spell Heaven
6. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers
8. V/A – Soul Slabs vol. 1
9. Circus Devils – Laughs Last
10. St. Vincent – Masseduction
11. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
12. Robert Plant – Carry Fire
13. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, & James McAlister – Planetarium
14. R. Ring – Ignite The Rest
15. Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want?

Honorable Mentions: Brian Eno – Reflection, Bob Dylan – Triplicate, The National – Sleep Well Beast, Father John Misty – Pure Comedy, Ride – Weather Diaries, Chomper – Medicine Mountain, Ty Segall – S/T, Once & Future Band – S/T

Top 10 Archival & Reissue Releases:

1. Bob Dylan – Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series vol. 13 (box set)
2. King Crimson – Sailors’ Tales (box set)
3. Grateful Dead – May 1977: Get Shown The Light (box set)
4. V/A – Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip & The Fifth Trip
5. The Beach Boys – 1967: Sunshine Tomorrow
6. V/A – Transparent Days: West Coast Nuggets
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Lovely Creatures (box set)
8. Chris Bell – The Complete Chris Bell (box set)
9. V/A – Wayfaring Strangers: Acid Nightmares
10. Can – The Singles

Honorable Mentions: The Creation – Action Painting, V/A – Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present: English Weather, Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks vol. 21, Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks vol. 23, V/A – Seafaring Strangers: Private Yacht
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Adam Strong

LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
The reunion album to end all reunion albums. James Murphy reconvenes his beloved LCD Soundsystem project and the results are that of a grisled beast, the dark computer chip. Paranoia, intended and deliberate doom that you could still shake your ass too. This is what 2017 sounded like.

Big Thief – Capacity
The songwriter of the year for me. When I saw Big Thief live this summer at Pickathon, lead singer songwriter Adrianne Lenker was so inward, it was hard for her to project the usual persona of performance. Her songs come from a dark and personal place, fiction and fact blending and twisting. A more varied outing than their debut, Masterpiece, the songs on Capacity grind their way down into the deep tissue of our muscles.

Kendrick Lamar – Damn
The way the album folds on itself, with bits of narrative cut up and split through the 12 tracks on Damn, Kendrick reaches new heights of storytelling and mood that culminates in the masterful track Duckworth.

Kevin Morby – City Music
These songs appear lightweight and fun when one first hears this, but with Morby’s deadpan delivery, there’s an unease about this record that really stuck to me. It was hard to not be enthralled by the simple pleasures of Morby’s City Music.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
Fourth album from Katie Crutchfield broadens her sound a bit, in this unflinchingly defiant record, driving songs about all the things she’s going through. She’s been on a roll lately, with each release showing more of her strengths as a songwriter, this summer I simply couldn’t stop listening.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
The arrangements haven’t changed much, but where 2014’s Lost in the Dream was a standard edition car, 2017’s A Deeper Understanding is a luxury model.

Alvvays – Antisocialites
The love affair starts the first time you put on ‘In Undertow’, the opening track on their sophomore release, Antisocialites. The kind of song you could hear everyday for the rest of your life, and on this second album, they find the perfect balance between sweet vocals and arrangements that support their ever-expanding vision. It’s a classic sound that relies on the chirp of old country music, the sweet vocal spot of Kirsty Maccoll and Tanya Donnelly. It’s timeless.

Bonny Doon – Bonny Doon
Heard about this from a friend who’s a music publicist, and there it so much Bonny Doon draw from on their debut. It’s a lazy summer afternoon of a record, perfect for lying in a hammock by the river. “What time is it in Portland?” became an instant favorite.

Samphia – Process
Piano and vocals that sound like cracked open R & B because that’s what it is. It’s highly spiritual stripped down music, as intensely uplifting as it is jaw droppingly gorgeous.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner
The guy might get a bit of stick for being more style than substance, but on his upteenth album, Ryan Adams explores the divorce process and offers up 12 more songs that show what a wellspring of inspiration he’s operating with. There’s a yearning to these tracks, they go in deep and describe the way he felt about his recent divorce, and sonically he has never sounded as assured as he does here.

Sandy (Alex G.) – Rocket
An album that came straight out of left field, a record to fall in love with, for sure. Folk meets lo fi experimental which could be a mess if it was in less skillful hands, but Sandy (Alex G.) delivers one of the albums of the year, it’s sheer unpredictability will have you reaching for the repeat button.

Fleet Foxes – The Crack Up
There’s so much to digest on the Fleet Foxes third album, you’d be forgiven if you gave it an initial pass, but stick around and you’ll be privy to the expansive gorgeous harmonies that haunted their first two albums. LIke before but deeper, longer and stronger.

Slowdive – Slowdive
Slowdive pick up not quite where they left off with 1998’s Pygmalion, but instead opt for the sound of the band smack dab between 1991’s Just for a Day and 1993’s Souvlaki, and what’s amazing is how well they pull off the classic sound. Its as if the band went back in time and turned left where before they turned right. It’s sublime.

Bjork – Utopia
The Icelandic wonder returns to a more joyous, ebullient sound on a record about dating and falling in love.

Elbow – Little Fictions
From start to finish, their best album. Lead singer Guy Garvey’s voice is a joy to behold.

Julien Baker – Turn out the Lights

The Parson Red Heads – Blurred Harmony
On Blurred Harmony, Portland, OR’s Parson Red Heads try on several styles and manage to add fresh insight into a variety of sounds. One spin and you’ll be convinced.

The Afghan Whigs – In Spades
It took seeing them play songs of this album live to convince me that this album was one of the best of the year. Even without their recently deceased guitarist David Rossiter, Greg Dulli has once again made some of the best music of his career out of tragic events.

The National – Sleep Well Beast

Shout Out Louds – Ease My Mind
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Matt Heiner

1) The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
2) Perfume Genius – No Shape
3) Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
4) Thundercat – Drunk
5) Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
6) The xx – I See You
7) Girlpool – Powerplant
8) The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
9) Laura Marling – Semper Femina
10) Spoon – Hot Thoughts
11) Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
12) Cage the Elephant – Unpeeled

These albums would have probably made the list but I didn’t spend more time with them:
The National
Priests
Sylvan Esso
Big Thief
Hurray for the Riff Raff

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – ATO “Polygondwanaland” Vinyl Editions


ATO has finally launched two special variants for King Gizzard’s Polygondwanaland release.

The first is the Hand-Stamped ‘Reclaimed’ Vinyl release which will could be on your turntable before xmas! Here are the details: Hand-stamped white jacket. Stamp design by Joel Melrose, “Reclaimed” vinyl made from excess “trim” @ IRP reground into new pellets, making each vinyl a unique color combination, Limited to 1,000 copies, Individually hand-numbered 1-1,000, Shipping in time for the holidays! You can order HERE.

The second release is a more traditional release that is Segmented Tri-Color vinyl – Blue/Red/Yellow/Red, Exclusive back cover design by We Buy Yours Kids, Exclusive fold-out poster photographed by Jamie Wdziekonski, Includes lossless digital download of King Gizzard live @ Webster Hall, NYC 3.31.17. Mixed by Stu Mackenzie, English lyrics insert. Expected ship date on this one is February 16th. You can order HERE.

DIY Vinyl for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Newest Album


Well, here is a fun treat for the kids. The continuing journey of the Australian upstarts King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard keeps getting more exciting as the band gets closer to their goal of releasing 5 albums in 2017.

On Wednesday, the band announced their fourth long player POLYGONDWANALAND would be available for free this Friday (11/17/17). Recently, that type of announcement from the band has been met with a flurry of excitement over the physical launch as their home country label, Flightless, and here in the US, ATO Records, typically have some nice limited edition offerings.


Not only did King Gizzard say that the new record was going to be free to anyone that wanted to download it but that it would be available to anyone that wanted to press it on vinyl. They would supply all the files and pretty much if you can press a record – you could release the new King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

The thought of this is really crazy and genius in the same sentence. The band is giving support to every label out there that is a fan, fans will get some nice and limited pressings, and your music and this novel idea create an ever bigger, already growing, fan base. This process has real potential to be a cluster but so far not so bad and fun to watch.

Instantly after the announcement, a community Facebook page was created and fans were brainstorming on steroids. This page is currently still producing ideas and sharing pressings. Blood Music out of Porvoo, Finland was one of the first labels to put out some samples and launched 5 variants of vinyl for pre-order. Stolen Body Records out of the UK was quick to follow and had 4 variants totaling around a 1000 copies which have now all sold out.


Turns out the demand is there and more labels have stepped up to offer their version of POLYGONDWANALAND. My two favorites so far have been from one of our favorite labels, Greenway Records out of New York has a nice looking splatter combo limited to the number of orders this week plus a Test Pressing cover that will be hand printed by Gizz poster legend Dan Curran and hand numbered, limited to the exact amount sold there which I believe may be around 12 copies?. We can’t wait to see these as his hand screened art is always fantastic.

Also there is LA’s Nomad Eel Records (Glow In The Dark vinyl w/red, yellows, and blue splatter ltd 100 copies) which is collaborating with Detroit’s Jett Plastic Recordings (Gold Vinyl w/ Teal Splatter ltd 100 copies). These should be great quality as Wax Mage is pressing the copies.


PIAPTK is doing a really cool 7″ experiment with the album called Thirty Six Seconds From Polygondwanaland That Go On Forever. These will be made one at a time out of 100 different samples from the LP. Each locked groove will be one of a kind and unpredictable. Each disc will be totally singular and unlike the rest. Only 100 copies are being made. They come in a heavy duty Picture disc sleeve with transparency insert and should ship in a week or so! Totally different and PIAPTK always has nice quality.

Here are several other variants of the record (with more to come I am sure):
Fuzz Club (3 variants that total 500 copies)
Needle Juice Records (2 variants that total 1000 copies)
Kickstarter (Deluxe Charity Vinyl – several options)
Oracle Records (150 Copies: Translucent Blue)
Gruesome Twosome & The Same Ghost Collective (250 Copies: Jacket printed on reverse board – ultra matte; Clear vinyl with pink blob, and orange/black splatter; hand-numbered; sticker and other goods).

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