Friday, December 15, 2017

the Top 10 Progressive Rock / Metal Albums of 2017

 If you are looking for a bunch of noodling prog then you are reading the wrong blog. But noodling is not progressive because that along doesn't bring progress to your sound. Bands that stick to the same formula and just shred...also not progressing. So these bands all made albums that thought out of the box and took their sound some where else. They to have some very precise playing and some guitar solos too, but I need dynamics and songs that make me want to return to them. This list is by and large ranked according to what LastFM said I listened to the most , but might have the most deviance from this all of the lists I have done so far. I also added why the band beat out the band below them in case you were wondering, just like you are wondering why I have images of hot girls over these lists, it's just images that this music makes me think of of represent the feeling of the music. Prog is normally the lest sexual of all genres, but oh well it's my fucking blog.

10-The faceless - "In Becoming a Ghost"

 Representing the modern metal core side of progressive heavy music. These guys have found a decent balance of showing off and writing something for the vocals to make sense of over. So this album is a hug improvement over the last one.

9- Elder -"Reflections of a Floating World"

 The guitar heroics really take the spot light three and half minutes in. The layered production is very lush and it's clear these guys are not far removed from progressive rock.< Six minutes in and you are getting more surreal passages no quite Pink Floyd like in their trippy endeavors , but a slight hint they are wanting to steer the ship in that direction. They punch back in strong and you can already tell this album is going to be filled with interesting guitar tones. Why they beat out the Faceless, well it just flows better, the whole scene the Faceless comes from makes it feel a little stiff, this feels more natural.

8-Shores of Null- "Black Drapes of Tomorrow"

This Italian metal behind often finds themselves falling close to black metal if we are still referring to new Enslaved as black metal. This is the band's second album and it  is very cleanly recorded. The mix is impeccable. The vocals are the first thing that is very different. The are a tightly harmonized baritone that I can understand why someone might compare it to Alice In Chains. They do drop into a lower goth like tone.The gruff vocals that eventually come are not as interesting as the sung vocals. One of the more unique metal albums I have heard this year which is why it trumps Elder

7- Apocalypse Orchestra- "the End is Nigh"

Folk metal can too happy and basically just drinking songs or they try to over do it and it turns into nu-metal with folk instrumentation. This band from Sweden, seems to have all of that balanced out pretty well. This is progressive in the sense it steps beyond the normal boundaries of folk metal or doom metal and takes you on more of a journey. It trumps Shores of Null, because I think the vision of this album is more focused.

6-Solstafir - "Berdreyminn"

I am a sucker for band's taking bizarre artistic turns like Disco era Kiss and New Wave era Alice Cooper. I like even the glam rock days of Celtic Frost. So this a weird shift for the Icelandic band to sound like the Cure and Neurosis colliding, is fine by me. So what you have is a very wide range of melodic dynamics and here is where the progress is made. It beats out Apocalypse Orchestra because the songs are more concise and draw you in.

5-Junius- "Rituals For Accretion of Light"

 There are large doses post-rock flirting with the more rock side of metal in it's drive. They are generally very emotionally charged with a darker undercurrent. In the few places where they return to their Deftones fixation it is balanced out by synths or wandering out of the normal song structure. They beat Solstafir because they are darker and better song writers.

4- Mastodon - " A Cold Dark Place"

Taking another step away from being a metal band, this e.p is comprised for tracks left over from sessions from their past two albums, though according to Hinds the songs were written when he was going through a difficult break up which might explain the undercurrent linking them. I was more impressed by this than "Emperor of Sand" and think it goes more places emotionally and is more progressive.All reasons this also beats out Junius.

3-Pain of Salvation-" In the Passing Light of Day"

Prog rock in it's most conventional form is no longer my bread and butter like it used to be, I think because their idea of heavy and mine never align and the cheese filled wanking seem to be the mission of the day. That is not really the case with these guys, and while a ten minute song opening the album feels over indulgent to me the song is not half bad despite the heavy drama on the spoken word section. This is not their best album, but it is better than what most of the so called prog rock bands are putting out these days. Beat out Mastodon because it cover s wider scope.

2- Leprous- "Malina"

Not sure why I didn't cover this album, I guess I thought main stream metal culture would be covering this enough.It is however a solid album like Muse but from the perspective of Scandinavian metal. More compact and marginally less pretense than Pain of Salvation is what puts them here.

1 Igorrr- Savage Sinusoid

This project from France is collective that would like be beyond categorization, and while they can be broken down to the death metal sum of their parts they progress beyond metal and throw a collage of electronics and operatic vocals at you. I just trusting Last Fm on this as the top three albums are pretty neck and neck.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

the Top 10 Rock Albums of 2017

Rock is anything that is rooted in the blues origins, here there are many different brands of rock some harder than others. It's less heavy than metal, with typically more attitude than any genre except may be punk. Some of these bands are hard rock, but not heavy enough to make even the main stream metal list I am going to be working on. This year on all the lists I am including a reason why it beat out the album under it, to provide some clarity. Rather than obsess over what belongs where I defaulted to what Last Fm said I listened to more. In some cases the answer is a little more complicated that. I have included in most cases links to the reviews so you can get a bigger picture. So I'll let you read this list for yourself and stop with the commentary.

10- Atomic Bitchwax- "Force Field" 

10- Atomic Bitchwax- "Force Field"

This album is a lot of fun, they are typically thought of as stoner rock, but the bpms are dialed way up on this album. Maybe it's the cocaine, which is all the more reason this one is just partying rock n roll. Sure they race off in a cloud of bong smoke when the album gets going , but it's in your face attitude gives you the middle finger in the most upbeat manner possible.

9-Crystal Fairy-s/t

The singer from Bosnian Rainbows fronts this super that combines  Buzz Osborne  with the dudes . While she steals the show they churn out some rock that is both burly and angular , almost slightly Zeppelin but through a filter of sludged rock n roll. More dynamics than Atomic Bitchwax.

8-The Black Angels- "Death Song"

 The opening track off their new album "Death Song" holds all the qualities that originally attracted me to their sound. It's dark and sonic with a exotic pulse. Though the bulk of the album finds them drifting out into a more Stone Roses like psychedelia. More depth in the song writing than Crystal Fairy.

7-Ryan Adams- "Prisoner" 

 This album is pretty introspective but still manage to rock as it is balanced out  with  punches and melody in a manner not unlike some of Tom Petty's more rockin moments from the late 70's -early 80's. Classic rock styled guitar solos are sprinkled in the album though less frequent than say War on Drugs.  Adams vocals still carry the twang I associate with his work . More depth of feeling to the vocals on this one than the Black Angels.

 6- Quicksand-"Interiors"

This band is under rated, I think they are more like a post-hardcore version of Tool, as they almost could hang with Maynard and the boys until after "Undertow" then the drugs kicked in and Tool got the unfair advantage. Well if you think Tool takes a long time to make an album this once took 22 years. The opening song is strong , it sounds like these guys are back in true form even if the guitarist got kicked off the tour for trying to steal from a drug store, every body has their shit.  The syncopation is there and the guitar sound is dialed in. More groove than Ryan Adams.

5- Mastodon-" Emperor of Sand"

 Overall this might be the band's best album since "Crack the Skye" so it will be making the much envied trip over to my iPod and then I will see how it stands the test of time. For now I'll round it up to a 9.5 as some of the songs that didn't hook me in as strongly as the groovier poppier numbers still have room to grow on me. Better vocal hooks than Quicksand.

4-Royal Thunder- 'Wick" 

 A more organic feel to this one. While it's a step in more of a hippie rock direction away from "Crooked Doors" they have grown as musicians and this became a album I never go tired of. It had more emotion to it than Mastodon so that why it is here at number four.

3- Chelsea Wolfe- "Hiss/ Spun"

This is the first album that is not a hard left turn in another direction and works off a similar formula to it's predecessor. The heavier dynamics are much more metallic and even has guests coming in to donate harsher vocals. So perhaps she is reconciling her self to her metal fan that selling out ? If it is then it's on her own terms. The albums more powerful moments put it where it is. Even in my mild disappointment that she was not striking out on new ground again, it still drew me in an earned the listens to be here in fact perhaps more than the top two albums, but I feel the top two bands went out on a limb and stepped forward into more new ground which is why they beat her out, though it's a more powerful album than Royal Thunder.

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My thoughts on the whole Jesse Lacey are here...

I really only care about the music, in fact what kind of music that is worth two shits don't have a member who is a train wreck, it's only rock n roll. On further listens this album grew on me and looks at some of his mental health issues. They took more risks and struck new ground in a more rock direction while Chelsea Wolfe heated up the leftovers from her previous album.
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1- Queens of the Stoneage- "Villians"

. I needed them to quit playing around and rock out. While they did not return to the kind of aggression that kicks you face, they do rock out in more of a coked out 70s manner. In interviews Homme has called what they do a rock version of electronic music and I can hear that in some of the grooves n this album. It's clear years in the vocal booth have improved Homme's singing . He has always had a pleasant voice, but showcases his croon to a fuller extent on this one. The album grew on me to earn it's place here. Brand New could have been in this place to, I defaulting to Last Fm on this one to break the tie.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Top 10 Punk & Hardcore Albums of 2017

When Donald Trump the consolation that rained over social media feeds was "At least this will bring a flood of good punk" I am not sure that happened. It was not a flood. In fact most of this trickled over from the metal scene or at least in the murky waste land created by bands like Nails where it is hard to tell where metal is ending and hard core is beginning. I am not saying there are not some really underground 7"s that might not be killer, but what this list is ranking is the top punk and hard-core album's in accordance to what I actually listened to. I figured this out by just referring to my LastFm page rather than scouring for hours to see what I scored albums when I reviewed them and how I feel about them now. To help you understand this I am including a reason why one album might have beat another out to claim their position.

10-Low Estate- "Covert Cult of Death"

 I originally checked these guys out because the drummer from Sannhet is in this band, but they do have a powerfully heavy sound. The fact they deliver this pounding with more smarts than the average hard-core or metal band. While death metal is at times one of the main ingredients in certain sections, There is too much noise rock and post-hardcore influence in this simply try to write this off as a death metal band.

9-Warbrides- "Regrets"

 My first impression hearing these guys from Chicago was "This sounds like the Rollins Bands spazzing out". I do like the angular nature to what they do and the punk thing staying in the forefront from them just trying to be another Amp Rep rip off.A solid album, I think the reason they beat out Low Estate is because this album came out in May, though Low Estate is closer to metal where these guys are more like post-hardcore from the 90s.

8-Puritan - "Autonomy"

 This punkish indie rock band is moody enough to fall into post-punk on their new album.The vocals are introspective, but too detached to be "goth", though there is a gray sheen over their music that would appeal to fans of Joy Division or the Cure. The vocals take on a throaty aggression midway into the first song. "Nausea" finds the bass line picking the darker elements in play. They are in the same corner of the darkside as bands like Iceage or Lower. The songs are very well written, though lean more toward the punk side of post-punk.Beat out Warbrides by being darker and more tense.

8-Anti-Sect- "the Rising of the Lights"

 This band has been around since 1983. Over the years they have matured into a very Motorhead like punk with the emphasis on rock. They have a killer bass tone. The vocals are very gruff, thus the Motorhead comparison. They are all over the place and even thrown in some metallic half time breakdowns . They have big rock chords going into the chorus and a more upbeat ascending chord pattern for the refrain so they guys know how to write a fucking song. This beat out Puritan, as they are more experienced and have a more powerfully dialed in sound.

7-No Omega- "Culture"

 This hard-core band is no stranger to this blog as we love them here because just like any other form of music I want my hard core dark and tortured. This is the Swedish band's third full length and even in the opener they drop down into the shadows to let things breathe with some atmosphere as the chords rings out midway into things. There is also a more metallic power, that is sonically similar to black metal in some ways. Despite some of the more heady guitar tones "Phobia" embraces the more punk tendencies.Pretty much too close to call between this and Anti-sect, so I am just trusting Last Fm's word on this one.

5-Code Orange- "Forever"

Welcome to 2017's equivalent of "You Will Never Be one of Us". Tough and tight, the guitar on this album is mean as fuck, but has an incredible tone.There is a machine like precision to the execution and the syncopation is ridiculous more often than not. After the opener you are ready for the heft that the second songs has but never comes across as jarring. The songs all clock in close to the three minute mark and very well written.  While No Omega was heavy these guys are just crushing.

4-Grave Pleasures-"Motherblood"

hat once was Beastmilk carries on as Grave Pleasures , this is their sophomore album under this banner. It is more aggressive the sense of melody held in the first returns for "Doomsday Rainbows". Though it still holds onto a tense core. The first song throws it self at you with a much more reckless abandon, so we are hearing more sides from this band. Another one I am just trusting Last Fm on, as it was too close to call between this and Code Orange.

3-Hexis-"Tando Ashanti"

 If asked who is the heaviest band out today I might point you in the direction of this band from Denmark. Heavy is more than low tuning, thick gain and how fast you strike the strings. It' is about the sonic tensity stirred and the feelings driving how you attack your instrument. Once again genres collides. Hard-core pounding is smashed against blackened death metal. With raw curdled vocals that are more grind-core. It slows into more of a sludge like dirge, showing these guys can pretty effectively handle both ends of the heavy spectrum. Production the album doesn't sound as dense as the one before it. There is more of  experimental wildness to what they do on this one. Meaner than Grave Pleasures for sure.

2- GBH- "Momentum"

 What's impressive is aside from drummer Scott Preece this is the same line-up from 1978.  The album opens in similar vein of metal as Motorhead. Too aggressive to just be rock n roll, but closer to metal than punk despite the gang vocals that chime in. It does sound good. The production is more organic and rock in roll. Punk used to be rock n roll so they are coming full circle. More fun than Hexis.

1- Converge- "The Dusk In Us"

 20 years ago I got into this band called Converge. Someone told me they were like Sunny Day Real estate if they were a hard core band. In the 20 years that passed they haven't let me down, though things have changed. Guitarist Kurt Ballou is now an experienced producer. With the guitarist behind the mixing board , the guitars are warm and organic sitting in the mix with every thing else. The band's punk side is more invigorated here, yet this album does have a great deal of experimentation and sonic diversity.  No band came close to touching them.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Top 10 Indie Rock Albums of 2017

So Indie rock is a category I am throwing anything too aloof to be rock and not loud enough to be punk. So this is where some of the post-punk that is not exceptionally dark is going, along with shoe-gaze. Music is going in a weird place and circling the 90s without admitting their is a 90 retro thing going on cus they want to be too cool for Gen X. It was a weird year for indie rock, and one key thing to note is there had to be band to rock it, many blogs like Noisy threw all kinds of other things into their indie rock lists, like hip hop or electronica. I say fuck that there has to be some sort of band dynamic going on. Like many of these lists I am finding that the veterans are beating out their younger competition. To help ease the debate, despite the fact you can't argue about what I listened to the most since I have the numbers on it, I also added why each album beat the one ranked lower than it.

10- Cloakroom- Time

 Well Even with the burly guitar tone there is no denying that the opener of  Cloakroom's new album is shoe-gaze. The drumming is very tasteful and the guitar tone shifts with fluid grace. I guess it could be grunge tinged at times if we are calling early Smashing Pumpkins grunge. The vocals sound like they are very depressed stoned and falling asleep. But that works for the mood they have created.

9-Hundredth- "Rare"

  While I like these guys, I think before you are quick to throw the post-punk label on them and start comparing them to The Smiths or Joy Division, know that they have much more in common with Silversun Pickups. The cooed androgynous yawn of the vocals begin to start sounding the same come the second song. This also reminds me of many of the post Pumpkins bands that came out of Britain in the late 90s - early 00s. They some times pack a little more of a metallic punch. Word on the street is these guys used to be a hard core band. They stay in the middle of the road shoe-gaze inspired flavor of alternative rock .

 Why they beat out Cloakroom ? ...more interesting and infectious guitar work.

8-Cherry Glazerr- "Apocalypstick" 

Here is a wacky indie rock band that works best off best clever, though they can build into a more punk infused punch on the opener "Told You I'd Be With the Guys".Overall this album is sonic and compelling indie rock that's familiar in some ways , but they are very much their own person. Why they beat out Hundredth ? There was a wide margin between 8 and 9, truth be told "Told You I'd Be With the Guys" could have beat out Hundredth's entire album by itself.

7- Bully- "Losing"

 Found the first song off this album during my research for the top 50 songs of the year list Treblezine was doing. The second song is noisy and not as hooky as the first song, but over all they cruise along the kind of detached indie rock that bands like Sebadoh made popular in the 90s. More organic and less focused on the atmosphere created by bands like Sonic Youth. The guitar parts are more interesting and melodic than punk.

6- Torres - "3 Futures"

Mackenzie Scott's third album finds her going in a more experimental direction. Not in terms of arrangements in song structure or instrumentation used , but how she forms her melodies against the web of electronics woven beneath her voice. It takes a minute for song to click with me. There is an angular and almost atonal aspect that keeps you on guard. The further you get into the song it becomes apparent this album is going to be much more layered and nuance than her last, "Skim" even rattles my ear bud. It bumps in a more restrained manner than say a new Taylor Swift song. Guitar is used in a manner that has more common with St. Vincent.

 Why it beat out Bully? ...a more unique sound and marginally darker.

5- Gold -"Optimist" 

 This Dutch band is back, this time with more introspection to their gloom.They kick the shadow fest off with "You Too Must Die" which carries more of a Chelsea Wolfe flavored drone than what I remember these guys having.The emphasis is more on rock than indie as it has balls and is not just space jangle.

 Why it beat out Torres- see above "more balls less space jangle"

4- Morrissey - "Low In High school" 

 I am sure it's surprising that Moz did not rank higher. This album has grown on me. He doesn't give a shit and makes the music he feels like now. Sometimes this free reign allows him to take too many chances and experiment to the point of certain things being weird for him. But this is Morrissey and he still has his song writing chops even if his voice is not in it's prime. 

 Why he beat out Gold...this is Morrissey we are talking about.


3- Nadine Shah- "Holiday Destination" 

 Well it's clear writing for a few different blogs makes me not always remember who I reviewed for what as it was not until right now that I realized I had not covered this one for Abysmal Hymns ( in case you forgot what site you are on as well). This album is not as dark as the previous , but finds her covering a wider range of sound. This is perhaps a little more of a rock album as the guitar goes more places. Why she beat out Morrissey...This album came out before "Low In High School" which factored into why I listened to it more, but it is also the case of two artists at different places in their career and Nadine has a clearer vision of what she set out to do here.

2 -Minus the Bear- "Voids" 

 Glad to have these guys back in fine form as I felt with "Planet of Ice" that the song writing was not as focused as the first album. Things have changed and there is a better balance. The opening song sets the tone for the rest of the albums with one of the albums most lyrically powerfully songs while retaining their normal cool, calm and collected detachment. It's a apathetic take on a break up song and most of the other songs fall in line as being hard looks at the human condition with a upbeat and sometimes electronically tinged backdrop.

 Why it beat out Nadine Shah? More upbeat and catchy while giving me lyrics that smoothed over the sting of 2017.

1- Ride- "Weather Diaries "

 Robert Smith once refused to play a festival unless this band was added to the bill, so that has to factor into why they took the number one spot. I mean lets face it they are one of the forefathers of shoe gaze, they proved to be more versatile than other bands in the genre.The guitar tones on this album are incredible. The breathy vocals you are used to hearing on shoe gaze albums, come in but stronger than some of the breathy moans as they are able to harmonize and ride the groove with confidence. While it might seem patronizing for them to take the number one spot, they did earn more repeat listens to they put themselves here and why they beat out everyone else.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

the Top 10 Pop /Electronic Albums of 2017

And so it begins the roll out of the end of the year lists. Here is the first of many. This year I defaulted to ranking by them in according to how much I actually listened to them as the scores in reviews are my initial impressions and as I often write in the reviews I have to see how they grow on me. So I used my Lastfm page to look at the actual numbers...Yes, I synched it with my iPod every morning to gather the data through out the year. There were a few occasions with rankings on this list when I am making an executive decision to let one album trump another , but typically speaking I am letting LastFm make these decisions for me to spare me the obsessive head aches. If these are albums I reviewed the click on the review link in order to check out the actual music.

10- Gucci Mane -"Mr. Davis

Yes, I did not review this album. But it's more mature than most of his previous releases and feels like he has perfected his songwriting process. Take that and combine it with the fact this might be the best produced hip-hop album of the year and it deserves it place here.

9- Tricky : "Ununiform"

 Despite the fact that Jay-Z helped produce this album taking away the dark edge, it still managed to grow on me. This is more radio friendly , but the songs are pretty strong. The last song embraces his classic sound perhaps the most as it features Martina Topley-Bird, but when you put it on shuffle mode the songs stand on their own perhaps better than they did upon my initial listen.

 Why it beat out Gucci...more dynamic range, fits a broader scope of emotions outside of ego stroking.

8- Nine Inch Nails - "Add Violence"

This album is not on the goth/ industrial list because even though Reznor has more of an edge here, it's more atmospheric than it is dark or aggressive. It might not be "Broken" but it is solid and I am glad he has gotten his edge back . It will sit nicely against the rest of their catalog and is better than everything since "the Fragile" . So if you are a long time fan , you should be pleased that you are getting what we have wanted.

 Why it beat out Tricky? ... is this even a fair fight? more sonic depth is the short answer.

7-Fever Ray- "Plunge"

 Things got weird for this Swedish singer. I was not wowed by the first single from this album and though it was going to become another case of her riding a wave of hype from her previous work. This album took some warming up to, but after repeat listens I can hear how all the elements that worked before are in play just coming from a different angle.

 Why did it beat out Nine Inch Nails? On paper N.i.N was better this album was not as dense and just made for easier listening. 


6-Zola Jesus- "Okovi"

 After her last album I really needed her to get back to darker places. That is what happens after a weird atmospheric introduction. She combines sweeping strings with tracks that sound like they came from one of Bjork's is a welcome addition to her legacy and finds her voice continuing to live up to it's potential. I think it's a good compromise in terms of darker electronic music and pop. I don't see this propelling her into Katy Perry or even Sia status in terms of radio play, but that is not what she is going for or she would be there. Why it beat out Fever Ray? ...Darker and more powerful, yet still catchy enough to demand repeat listens. 

5-Lydia Ainsworth- "Darling of the Afterglow"

 This came out of nowhere and it was the leather dress in one of her promo pictures that made me more curious.  The vocals are beautifully layered against slick piano driven pop beat that focuses on being steamier than it does trying to make you dance along. This Toronto native's back is  classical music and film scoring. I can hear the cinematic quality, but it's not rigid like classical music can be. Her harmonies are pretty amazing.This earned heavy rotation through out the year. 

 Why ist beat out Zola Jesus?... Better vocal production and the vocals took me more places.


4-the Haxans- "Party Time" 

 Ash Costello from New Years Day is embracing her inner Mortica Addams . I fully support this is a good look for her, but as a sound it has interesting results that works in varying degrees. This album is fun in many of the same ways the more disco moments or My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult can be. It gets stuck in your head and thus this heavy rotation is what put it in the top 5.

 Why it beat out Lydia Ainsworth? ... More fun, after all it is party time


3-Taylor Swift- Reputation-

What I wanted Taylor to do was give me something bigger and better than "1989", instead she went into a more streamlined version of pop. I have grown to accept this. This album has grown on me in fact according to Last Fm I listened to it more than Halsey, but I feel Halsey's album is better. Now I would round this up to a 9ish.

 Why did it trump the Haxans? Better songwriting when Taylor is on point with songs like "Are You Ready For It?"

2- Halsey-Hopeless Fountain Kingdom

Another album like Gucci that I did not review for the blog, but got a ton of play on the ole iPod. I did write up something for it on Treblezine, in their top 50 songs of the year  for the song "Eyes Closed" and I did reference the fact when I reviewed Taylor Swift. So that answers why this out ranked Taylor Swift, it has more going on and Taylor went to minimal. I think the grooves on this album are more on point and she has some interesting perspectives lyrically.

1- Young Thug - Beautiful Thugger Girls

I never actually reviewed this album for this blog. It's not only a lot of fun with great declarations like how he is Bill Gates step-son or that he is the black Christian Gray and has 50 shades of Bae, but it is musical. There is real guitar on this. Does he mumble? yes. He also sings.Not the greatest voice ever and it's aided by auto tune, but he makes an effort to write songs that stand out from his peers. He made fools of Future, Gucci and 2Chainz who re-heated the same old same old.

Why did it beat out Halsey? The songs were catchier. Isn't that the point of pop?