Features Music Year End 2017 Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2017)

Year End 2017

Music: Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2017)

It's been a strange year. Global turmoil, political unrest, uncertainty and populism dogging every decision and public event. Who knows what 2018 will bring?

But political scientists we ain't: what we do know is music. Here's our annual list of the best music to come out of the past twelve months. Peruse at your leisure our selection of the 30 best records of 2017, and let us know what your nominations are and the albums we've missed. Roll on 2018, right?!

Overall list

1

AFI

AFI (The Blood Album)

Concord Music Group

Album number ten for the ever-evolving Californian four piece, whose shift in sound from skate punk to hardcore to "goth punk" to pop-influenced radio rock to... whatever 2009's Crash Love was... is well documented. The Blood Album tries to take the high points of those two records to create an album that reflects a band that has been together for over two decades - the big singalong moments and the shadowy elements combine here to signal the band moving on and realising that actually, they should be making the kind of music they want to, and not what their rabid (and vocal) fanbase would like to hear. The Blood Album may not be perfect but it's a record that continues AFI's transformation from old school punk to gothic tragedy to electronica to dark, flamboyant rock and encapsulates a maturing band who love to make music together. It's also a worthy milestone: a tenth album from a band whose refusal to plough the same, safe furrow and shy away from the mainstream has seen them find that rare thing: critical and commercial success. Maybe it's in their blood. (Cheryl & Matt)

2

Bell Witch

Mirror Reaper

Profound Lore

Mirror Reaper is not a record that will be for everyone; but for those it speaks to it will be everything. It’s vast and uncompromising and the artistic choice to run this through as one entire song is one that, for me, works wonderfully. It’s paced beautifully and the tortured soul of the record is powerful in its all-encompassing gaze. Bell Witch have here a composition that is borne from misery and given life through their ability to speak to the deepest recesses of your psyche. Most of us fear death, losing someone, losing everyone and in Mirror Reaper we are allowed to stare back at that fear and have it embrace us. Oblivion will come for us all and recognising that is exquisitely cathartic. (Cheryl)

3

Converge

The Dusk In Us

Epitaph Records

Converge are masters of the post-hardcore/metalcore sound and despite being a band for longer than most of their fans have been alive, Jacob Bannon and his crew still create interesting, dark and furious music. The Dusk In Us is a more mature take on their classic sound but Converge still bring all their fire to the proverbial table.  (Cheryl)

4

Sampha

Process

Young Turks

Sampha's debut has been a long time coming but the London vocalist hasn't been resting on his laurels. Having been found contributing to SBTRKT's work in the past, Sampha has finally taken flight with a mature and assured record that does his star justice. Process was well worth the wait with "Blood On Me" being a particular highlight.  (Cheryl)

5

At the Drive-In

In•ter a•li•a

Rise Records

In•ter a•li•a is the first album of new material for At the Drive-In since 2000’s Relationship of Command and the band, still fronted by human dynamo Cedric Bixler-Zavala haven’t lost a single joule of energy. Tearing through tunes like "Governed by Contagions" and "Incurably Innocent", the band has clearly gained enough momentum and goodwill through their absence that one can only hope and pray that AtDI is back for good. (Kevin)

6

Priests

Nothing Feels Natural

Sister Polygon

The 1980s being in vogue? Cool. Listening to a minimalistic punk group with a female vocalist try to recapture the sound of NYC no wave music? Priceless. (Andy)

7

Ulver

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

House of Mythology

If you'd said twenty five years ago that Ulver would evolve from a black metal band into a synth-pop act then you'd have gotten some very funny looks indeed. However, that evolution has been so natural than it's barely addressed anymore and the Norwegian band have created an album so smooth and gorgeous that it's hard to believe that were ever anything else. (Cheryl)

8

Grave Pleasures

Motherblood

Century Media

The fact that this is one of the catchiest records you will hear this year, as well one of the darkest when it comes to the concepts it explores is quite a contradiction and it speaks to the extent that Grave Pleasures approach these subjects. As McNerney sings in “Doomsday Rainbows,” we are all “laughing our ways to the gallows,” choosing to surf through an apocalypse to reach an ugly end. At an era where threats that appeared material only for Hollywood blockbusters are coming closer and closer to becoming reality, records such as Motherblood are essential for embracing one's nihilism. And it is fucking catchy as hell. (Spyros)

9

Zola Jesus

Okovi

Sacred Bones

Okovi is a statement from Zola Jesus. Having gone through a fair amount of hardship between Taiga and her new album, she aims to address her experiences through this record. The word Okovi is of Slavic origin and means shackles. The artist believes that we are all trapped in a variety of different shackles, regarding our perception, surroundings, relationships and origins. Through Okovi Hummel attempts to break free of her chains, resulting in a cathartic effort, a painful process of purification. Luckily for us that experience has resulting in a record that mirrors the majesty of completing such a task. (Spyros)

10

The xx

I See You

The Young Turks

The xx have long been darlings of the indie pop scene yet their music is so much more than that. Melding electronic pulses into ethereal vocals, the trio from London have worked their way towards an album that's significantly more open than previous works. Allowing life experience to filter through their sound, The xx have created a somewhat happier record this time around yet it's still full of their signature beats and angelic choruses.  (Cheryl)

11

The National

Sleep Well Beast

4AD

The American band's Grammy-nominated seventh album shows patches of rock vigour ("The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness") alongside the arresting and emotive melodrama ("Guilty Party") that they are best known for. This album flirts with a heavier sound that has been missing from their more recent albums; it carries the same rage and complexities of 2007's "Boxer" but with smoother production values and a meticulously layered sound. (Aideen)

12

Esmerine

Mechanics of Dominion

Constellation

Apparently, Godspeed You! Black Emperor makes music these days. Which is fine. But why not just cut to the chase and deliver a record of modern classical that hits just the right emotional chord? Oh, yeah. That happened. (Andy)

13

London Grammar

Truth Is a Beautiful Thing

Ministry of Sound

English indie-pop trio London Grammar released their long-awaited sophomore album after the band took an extended break from touring and press in 2014 while frontwoman Hannah Reid dealt with stage fright issues. Then, after 18 months spent writing and recording, the cinematic Truth Is a Beautiful Thing came to fruition. The lushly arranged album is a tour de force in chronicling heartbreak, with the cutting "Big Picture" ("Don't say you ever loved me/Don't say you ever cared") and the ethereal "Bones of Ribbon" serving as glittering high points on an album packed with swirling electronic soundscapes. (Aideen)

14

Foo Fighters

Concrete and Gold

RCA

There's no telling what direction Foo Fighters will take next, and to their credit they could have very easily played it safe with Concrete and Gold - delivering more of that dude-rock that folks have come to know and love and heaven knows you can't fault a band for not wanting to alienate their listeners. But there's something to be said for a band that, even if the listener can't connect to the music as easily, isn't afraid to challenge them every once in a while either. (Kevin)

15

Pharmakon

Contact

Sacred Bones

The human mind is clogged by information, always operating, never stopping, neurons firing at every direction, a fact that makes this “busy” state finding its perfect depiction within the power electronics setting. Take a track like “Transmission” and its continuous beating of synths and looped grinding noise, moving in circles constantly around you. In the process Pharmakon display the possibility of forcing changes in one's thought, the manifestation of confusion and extravagant thinking in tracks like the dystopian “Sleepwalking Form,” the swinging pendulums of “Somatic” or the bombastic energy of “No Natural Order.” All these are deep states of trance, and Chardiet produces a navigational interpretation of these diverse notions and concepts, constructing a map of a transcendental practice with Contact. (Spyros)

16

Haram

When You Have Won, You Have Lost

La Vida

Birthed from the "ground zero hardcore" scene in NYC, Haram, which translates to "forbidden", features an Lebanese-American Muslim singing in Arabic against a wall of rhythmic, filthy creeper punk. (Nathan)

17

Pallbearer

Heartless

Profound Lore Records/Nuclear Blast Records

Heartless is surely the record that truly makes Pallbearer a great band and one that can make that leap over into the consciousness of the more mainstream side of rock music. With songwriting that breaks hearts and an attention to detail that is almost faultless, this record will surely be seen in years to come as a classic. Pallbearer are absolutely worthy of that and of the accolades that will be bestowed upon them for an album that elicits an enormous emotional response and transcends boundaries. (Cheryl)

18

Marilyn Manson

Heaven Upside Down

Loma Vista Recordings

Marilyn Manson never does things the easy way as Heaven Upside Down was being touted months ago under a very different name. Manson teased a return to a sound not heard since the seminal Antichrist Superstar and while this record doesn't hit the dizzy heights of that release, it still hits hard and packs way more of a punch than more recent work. (Cheryl)

19

Queens of the Stone Age

Villains

Matador

The one mission statement that Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age has long established was to never make the same album twice. Four years after their strongest effort yet, Queens have taken another left turn at Albuquerque and continued this tradition with Villains - a wholly unexpected yet warmly familiar album produced by pop-maestro Mark Ronson. Autumn is almost here, but before the weather starts to cool and the long sleeves come out, Queens of the Stone Age are here to make sure Villains sets the pace for a gloriously hot Indian summer. (Kevin)

20

White Suns

Psychic Drift

Flenser

White Suns have dropped down into a further compositional level. By stripping away their rock influences and diving head first into the deconstructed remains, they transform into an elemental force. That is what Psychic Drift becomes, a primal representation of musical nature at its most basic level. Harsh, dangerous, unpredictable, dark and volatile. (Spyros)

21

The Necks

Unfold

Ideologic Organ

When it comes to expectations, The Necks have definitely come through. This band is special, and the fact that they had to move a bit further out their comfort zone, producing four tracks instead of their usual single piece, and still be experimental, continuing to push their sound, surpassing boundaries, might appear breathtaking. But in retrospect it should have simply been expected. (Spyros)

22

Kendrick Lamar

Damn

Interscope/Top Dawg Entertainment

Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar isn't as overtly political on Damn as he was on his 2015 album, the seminal To Pimp a Butterfly, but this album melds both the personal and political in a nuanced way. Acting as both a snapshot of the current state of American society, and a window into Kendrick's anxieties and fears, this multi-layered and engrossing album is perhaps more accessible than the rapper's previous albums, but still retains Kendrick's caustic rhymes mixed with occasionally uplifting moments. (Aideen)

23

Worriers

Survival Pop

Side One Dummy

It seems like Worriers nailed down their sound on day one, when they rose from the ashes of The Measure S.A. Worriers keeps growing, solidifying their sound, and getting better. Survival Pop is a call to action, a personal statement, and an artful arrangement of melodies all in one. The band has been racking up more critical praise with each release, and it’s well deserved. (Loren)

24

Mount Eerie

A Crow Looked At Me

P.W. Elverum & Sun

There's a part of me that wonders if Phil Elverum exists in this world just so everything goes bad for him, then he makes magnificent, extremely moving music about it for the betterment of humanity. Perhaps that's destiny. As someone who lost someone very dear to me this year, I can say that this album speaks truths.  (Andy)

25

Mastodon

Emperor of Sand

Warner Bros.

There's a symbiosis between these guys that is truly, truly remarkable. A precision and capability that is becoming rare in this fix-it-in-post world that well enough in. Not one of them expendable and each giving every ounce of their talents to serve the songs and not themselves. On this first day of spring, Emperor of Sand is already the clear front runner for album of the year and this throne isn't bound to be usurped any time in the coming months. (Kevin)

26

Oxbow

Thin Black Duke

Hydra Head

This is a record thoroughly produced but without losing its power and purpose on the process. Oxbow are being diligent without overthinking. This has led into acquiring the most important element of all: being cool. Not “cool” in the sense of producing a good album, but producing music with certainty and flair. Be it through '70s riffs, classical crescendos, jazz-punk mayhem, the keyboard in “Ecce Homo” or the fucking whistling that kicks off “Cold & Well-Lit Place,” Oxbow have created a fucking cool record. (Spyros)

27

Hard Girls

Floating Now

Asian Man Records / Specialist Subject Records

Hard Girls are a complex band – or maybe they’re not. They sing about hard life choices, serious moments, and buying candy and cigarettes. A post-punk influence and precise arrangement style seamlessly blend into a more traditional pop structure. Hard Girls deliver pleasing post-punk on first listen, but it keeps growing on each listen, as more phrases jump out and more tonal shifts subtly change the meaning each time it plays through. (Loren)

28

Slowdive

Slowdive

Dead Oceans

Slowdive indicates that this group found something new to say giving us all a record that is an absolute pleasure to listen to in virtually every possible way, and I do not think I can say enough that Slowdive delivers what I feel will prove to be another timeless album that people will probably be discovering twenty years from now; do not make the mistake of skipping this record as it really shows that not all reunions are a senseless cash grab and some bands still have some wonderful music to give us. (Bob)

29

Limp Wrist

Facades

La Vida

Don't be surprised if every punk band next year sounds like side B of this record. (Nathan)

30

Stormzy

Gang Signs & Prayer

#Merky

Proving that UK grime's resurgence is still a force to be reckoned with, and challenging the conventions of the genre, Stormzy's alternately thrilling/poignant debut full-length spans almost an hour and covers hip-hop, gospel, R&B and classic grime. His voice is urgent, beats are unique and he's only going to get bigger. (Matt)

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Words by the SPB team on Dec. 31, 2017, 2:36 a.m.

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Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2017)

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Series: Year End 2017

Our annual round-up of the best music of the year 2017.

 

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