Best of 2017 Pick 8

Prepared: Trust Me (BART Records, 2017)

22 minutes of heartfelt, emo punk with great energy.  The guitar player is surprisingly engaging as you don’t usually get super interesting guitar playing on straight punk records.

The strength of this record lies in its ability to express/release a lot of negative emotions (frustration, desperation, sadness, anger, etc) with somewhat simple musical elements and allow listeners to have a similar release.  And it accomplishes this with a nakedness and/or lack of pretension — it just goes right to it and lets it out.  This to me is the essence of great punk rock.

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2017 Honorable Mention Pick 7

Dead Ranch: Brumation (No List Records, 2017)

Regular readers know of my inner toil regarding heavy metal singers.  I don’t like the cavemen, nor do I like the epic and operatic high range classic metal singers.  I like this singer a bunch, he works for me.  He’s a little punk, a little post-rock, and a little metal in places.  There are places where he has a little Kurt Cobain working.

The guitar player is similar in his styles — he’s got some punk, some post-rock, some classic hard rock, and some metal in his playing.

That’s the formula, blending these various sub genres but at the end of the day are tunes good and is the music fresh?  Yes is my answer.  While I often bemoan shiny music custom aimed at the heart of alienated suburban youth, this is high quality shit for the fringey upset folks in Westchester county, Chicago suburbs etc.

Nice sounds and tones, really energetic playing and a really good singer.

2017 Honorable Mention Pick 5

Reverend Peyton: Front Porch Sessions (Family Owned Records, 2017)

I really loved Reverend Peyton’s last record, the rocking So Delicious but this almost solo record is growing on me.

I spend a lot of time saying this singer is not working for me, I don’t like their vibe, the delivery, etc but Reverend Peyton has a strange, somewhat nerdy voice but I dig it. I can see how it might annoy others but I dig its uniqueness, it’s not rational.

It’s just Peyton and his guitar on this set. He has multitracked the guitars so it’s not one guitar accompanying his voice. His guitar playing is not super flashy but he’s got skills — he can outduel Taylor Swift on the guitar.

If you dig the blues and you dig his voice then I’ve hooked you up, but if you don’t feel his tone and delivery well…this might not be for you.

Best of 2017 Pick 6

Drone: Reversing Into the Future (Pomperipossa, 2017)

This ambient record that has been on my listening list for a little over the year gets called up to the ‘best of’ list.  It is just right for me in terms of what I want from an ambient record.

It has a tasteful amount of long tones/ideas coming across the stereo field and they rotate at a speed where I’m engaged, enjoying what I’m listening to and eager to hear what’s next.  There are no cheesy sounds here, big fat cotton candy cloud synths but it’s not too annoyingly industrial and dark.  It has a pleasant combination of sounds — some nice long high energy particulate matter, some metallic grinding, some motor like noises and some, of course, drones.

There six tracks on the record and they’re all titled This Strange Life 1, This Strange Life 2, etc.  Some of my favorite passages are on track four (clipped below for your listening convenience).  It all goes down like one giant cinematic piece with variations.

Check it out, it’s high quality ambient for ya earholes!

2017 Honorable Mention Pick 3

Aethenor: Hazel (VHF Records, 2017)

I had to do some searching around to get a handle on the folks that made this record.  It was made by musicians of varying backgrounds and that makes sense as it is a mash of jazz, ambient electronics, and a wee bit of jam rock.

The drummer is a jazz drummer that has played with Peter Brotzmann and he’s pretty much the star of the show.  He’s a very engaging drummer, switching up on a regular basis but all within the context of what’s going on around him.

It’s hard to describe the music these guys crank out.  It has elements of Sigur Ros but not as dreamlike and noisier.  Check it out.

2017 Honorable Mention Pick 2

Fofoulah: Bene Bon EP (Loop Records, 2013)

This 29 minute 6 song EP by a band out of London combines hand drumming with elements of Afrobeat and Senegalese singing.  The drumming is really great, the guitar player sounds like he’s listened to a lot of the Edge from U2, but Edge’s long lost black brother from Africa.  The singer is very good but doesn’t stand out as much as the drumming.  The spirit of the music is neither Afrobeat or Afropop.

The second song (the title track) is my favorite, my least favorite is the fourth song but these guys definitely bring a different recipe to their African music.

A free jazz shout out!

Dave Arner Trio: A Take On It All (N/A, 2015)

I put this record on my to listen to list years ago — so long ago in fact that it has either disappeared from the streaming services or is on Spotify and not on the Apple Music (and its ancestors).

Availability aside, this is some stylish free jazz trio playing with piano, bass, and drums.  I refuse to bloviate about jazz because it puts folks off and I’m an anti-bloviator, but these guys are really listening and playing with each other and I find this to be very fresh and spontaneous and satisfying listening.

I’m giving myself a gold star because this is some ultra-obscure music but that has very little (or anything) to do with quality.