Shawn’s Favorite Albums of 2017

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 5.46.43 PM2017 – not a bad year when compared to the virtual pop Armageddon of 2016. Still, as with any year, 2017 had a lot of ups and downs, most of which can be traced to the further deterioration of the civil fabric of our society, which in turn is largely due to A) the continued proliferation of narcissism and the selfishness it breeds and B) wacko celebrities in charge of big, important idea masses, like say entire countries. So while I’ve taken the irresponsible course of ignoring world events as much as possible, my inner space thrived in 2017. I’ll be publishing some stuff next year, and I had the long-awaited return of my most beloved of stories. And it did not disappoint. Accordingly, the list of my ten favorite albums of 2017 represents the albums that shaped me while writing, while watching and while working.

As with last year, I’m not numbering these in order of importance, however the final one on the list is definitely my favorite album of the year, my vote as the best album of the year and what’s more, as with the same band’s debut two years ago, I knew it would be my favorite within about the first two minutes of my first listen to the first song. It’s that good.

Drab Majesty The DemonstrationDrab Majesty – The Demonstration

Ever since first hearing Drab Majesty in 2016 I’ve been smitten, and when the follow-up was announced in early 2017 I pre-ordered it straight away. The Demonstration is not quite as solid in as2015’s  Careless, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a fantastic piece of Goth deliciousness that effortlessly masquerades as Pop. Deb Demure has called his music “Tragic Wave” and although there is absolutely no ‘ring’ to that moniker, it fits. Demure’s music is as catchy and mood-altering as old Cure was back in the day, a perfect example of how someone can take old tropes and breath new life – a lot of new life – into them.

Zeal and ArdorZeal and Ardor – Devil is Fine

If The Demonstration was the first new album I heard in 2017, Zeal and Ardor’s Devil is Fine was the second, and it has stuck with me ever since. There are so many great things about what Manuel Gagneux has done by re-imaging slave spirituals as a Black Metal hybrid that I don’t even know where to begin. Is it the raw juxtaposition that helps highlight the fact that anti-Christian sentiments have existed since before the current ‘vogue’ that has haunted Metal, especially Black Metal, since the 80s? Is it the historical significance of calling into the light the difference between two separate, opposing cultures’ gods, or what the political significance of either culture and, subsequently, those gods says about the very foundation of this country? Or is just because the outcome of Gagneux’s labors is so goddamn awesome? You be the judge.

Bell Witch Mirror ReaperBell Witch – Mirror Reaper

You know, I really love the band Windhand. I love a lot of other bands that get attached to the “Doom Metal” tag these days, but most of them are not what I consider Doom. Windhand is what we used to call Stoner Rock, through and through. What’s Doom? Bell Witch my friends, Bell Witch is Doom, and it’s big, and dark, and scary and really, really fucking sad. Because, you know, Doom is the end, the end of something, or the end of everything. And Mirror Reaper is the end of Bell Witch as they were and the beginning of them as they are. The band’s former member Adrian Guerra passed away in 2015 and Mirror Reaper is largely the band’s sorrow-brewed chrysalis in the advent of that loss. And it shows. Basically one ginormous song, Mirror Reaper is the vision in the smoke exhaled by the mystic, it is the image in the mirror as the hashish kicks in; it is that thing you see out of the corner of your eye at night that scares you to the core. And then its none of those things, just a beautifully sad opus of life and loss.

Godflesh Post SelfGodflesh – Post Self

A World Lit Only By Fire, 2014’s long-awaited and largely unexpected return album from Godflesh, was awesome. And it wasn’t just awesome because, you know, it’d been close to twenty years since Justin K. Broadrick did the Godflesh thing, but because it delivered the soundtrack to exactly what its title predicted – a world lit only by fire. And coincidentally or not, more and more I feel that is exactly the world we live in. So there’s been a verdant, ongoing bond I’ve developed with the album as our world sinks deeper and deeper into the smelting pool of corporate Armageddon. And now this year we received another unexpected album from the re-formed ‘Flesh, and Post Self has helped begin their journey all over again. There are no places Godflesh will not go sonically except those that already exist, and in that vein Post Self has delivered a further expansion on Godflesh’s sound, and it’s stark and terrifying and immediate. Post Self is a tainted reflection of what’s inside all of us in the age of Narcissistic entitlement; it’s a reflection in a truthful mirror, and it’s also a fist driven into the heart of that mirror. You know, like only JKB can do.

QOTSA_VILLAINSQOTSA – Villains

Not nearly as deep and emotionally significant as 2014’s …Like Clockwork, QOTSA’s Villains is Josh Homme and company hiring Producer extraordinaire Mark Ronson to work his magic on them without the expectation of commercial success. Polish for the sake of polish, not for dividend returns. And you know what? Not my favorite Queens album by three or four entries on the scale, but their best sounding one?

Maybe.

twin-peaks-limited-event-series-original-soundtrack-785x785 twin-peaks-soundtrack-roadhouse-785x785Twin Peaks – Music from the limited Series Event/Twin Peaks OST

Yeah, I’m that big of a fan that I’m going to fit both of these on here as one. So sue me. There’s nothing about either of these that I do not LOVE, except maybe the Shawn Colvin version of Viva Las Vegas. I’m still undecided on that. Otherwise, taken as two sides of the same whole, this is the perfect sonic representation of the return of Twin Peaks, which defined more than half of my 2017.

windsweptJohnny Jewel – Windswept

I might as well lump this one in here as well, as all three of these entries are thematically intertwined. I would have forgot about Windswept if not for Tommy’s awesome year end list; before I actually bought Johnny Jewel’s collection of atmospheric score work to Twin Peaks I had hunted down many of the songs and created my own playlist from them (along with a fan-made, slowed down version of the Muddy Magnolia’s American Woman song that I actually like better than the official version on the score listed above). So by the time I learned of Windswept, I had although I bought it immediately, it took me a while to warm to it, as I’d already grown to associate the songs in the order I had set them down in. After some weeks of steady aural imbibing of this moody masterpiece, I grew to love it, and although I closed a hard door on Peaks once it ended – not because I didn’t love it but because my life and sanity demanded it – scrambling to get those Evolution of the Arm vlog episodes up in a timely fashion each of the 15 or so weeks during the series run nearly did me in – it’s begun to come back around again with the release of the Blu Ray and these year-end reflections, and thanks to Tommy’s gentle nudge Windswept has once again begun to score my moody nights.

Chelsea Wolfe Hiss SpunChelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

When I saw Hiss Spun had released I had no idea it was going to be as unbelievably heavy as it is. I mean, I didn’t think Chelsea Wolfe could get any cooler and then, well, then this. From the cover – which might be my favorite cover of the year just for its simple yet nightmarish image – to the stark, sludgy assault that haunts nearly every track, Chelsea Wolfe’s dark stories have grown from stick-figured desert textures to full-out forested nightmares, and I for one love every single minute of it.

Converge The Dusk in UsConverge – The Dusk in Us

Converge is very new to me, and despite having heard of them for years I’d never actually heard them. Then Apple Music happened to me in late October and my life changed irreparably for the better. You know all those bands you’ve been meaning to check out but never get around to? I no longer have any excuse – nor any obstacle – in checking all of those bands out. And I’ve spent the last three months doing just that. Some of the stuff I’ve found is good, some not so good, some great. Converge is phenomenal. A violent, dissonant battery of songwriting, this is some of the most interesting, original heavy music I’ve ever heard, probably right up there behind the now late Dillinger Escape Plan.

Awaken,_My_Love!Childish Gambino – Awaken My Love

I saw Get Out but apparently totally missed this song’s inclusion in its soundtrack. Still, Redbone was definitely the first song I heard from this record. I didn’t know much about Donnie Glover, other than I’d seen him perform standup at a Variety Magazine-sponsored cancer benefit back in, maybe 2009, and I liked him. But when I dove deeper into Awaken My Love and found what is basically a love letter to old school Funkadelic, well, I was floored. Being that this is an “influences on the sleeve” endeavor, I went through a range of emotions with it: First I loved it, then I was suspicious of it (Have Some Love sounds an awful lot like Can You Get to That from Maggot Brain… just saying). In the end however, the multitude of talent and charm in Awaken My Love was not to be denied, and the record wound up very near the top of my still unnumbered list. I’d also like to note that going back and digging into CG’s previous record, because the internet I’ve come to realize it is probably my favorite hip hop record in twenty years.

Algiers Underside of PowerAlgiers – The Underside of Power

Exactly as Algiers’ eponymous debut struck me in 2014, literally the moment I put on The Underside of Power on the first time I knew it would be the best album I heard all year. And it was, and is, and continues to pay-off dividends of power and morality. Having adopted Bloc Party’s former drummer Matt Tong has heightened the frenetic funk the band exhibits on an escalating basis, and yet done nothing to lessen the strange, drone and no-wave influences, nor the often confounding, industrial aesthetic Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan and Lee Tesche apply when crafting their modern gospel hymns. I can’t wait for album three.

That’s all folks. Have a happy new year and see you on the other side!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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