Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Picks for the Top Twenty Albums of 2017.

I'm not putting Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. on here because its praises have been sung far and wide, and I honestly didn't listen to it enough in 2017 to add anything interesting to the mix. It's a terrific rap record: There you go. Also: shout out to Royce Da 5'9"'s The Bar Exam 4, which houses some serious lyrical flexing. Not really an "album," though. Shady Records signee Conway's Reject on Steroids and More Steroids were also solid mixtapes. Eminem's cronies are looking good! Can't say the same for him after listening to Revival. The new Vince Staples record was of course also dope, but he didn't put it out on vinyl so I didn't buy it and didn't end up listening to it that much.

Here's what I did listen to this year, ranked.

20. Raekwon - The Wild

I caught up with this album late in the year and was surprised I hadn't heard a little more about it - this is a worthy addition to the Chef's catalog. As usual I could do without things like "(feat. G-Eazy)" and minute-long "skits," but I understand the realities of the music industry in 2017 and Rae is apparently never gonna stop padding out his tracklists with innocuous segues. Regardless, the full-on tracks here hit hard, particularly this one:

"This Is What It Comes Too"

19. Everlast - War Porn

Or maybe it's called The Warporn Industries Mixtape? I dunno. But it's Everlast, Divine Styler, and Sick Jakken, and while it's ostensibly House of Pain for the 2010's, it's much meaner than that. Didn't think Everlast would come back hard? Dude's grey and old and still getting it done. Wild stuff.

"World's End"

18. Kool G Rap - Return of the Don

G Rap is the only dude who could call his album Return of the Don and have it mean something. The fur coat on the cover is perfect, and though there are more features on this album than you might expect, they're aware of who they're repping here and they step it up. Kool G Rap still has it, and though he's not breaking any new ground here, these 11 tracks are gold to an old-guy rap-fan like me.

"Wise Guys (feat. Lil Fame and Freeway)"

17. Prince Paul - The Redux

Leave it to Prince Paul to go back and "fix" one of his records. Personally, I never felt Politics of the Business was an inherently flawed record - maybe not one of Paul's best. but whatever. However, when you hear the new version, you can see what he was talking about. I still don't think this replaces Politics, but it sure is a crazy, standalone supplement to it. You can download this album here for free.

"People and Places"/"No I Didn't (feat. Chubb Rock, Wordsworth, and MF Doom)"

16. Beck - Colors

Straight up: This is Beck's worst record, but of course it's not without its merits. I've never minded Beck going pop, but this one took it too far, burying itself in thick globs of sugar on duds like "Seventh Heaven" and "Up All Night." Meanwhile, "Dear Life" finds him channeling Elliott Smith and coming up with one of his best songs ever. You can see why I had a hard time with this one.

"Wow"

15. The Upper Crust - Delusions of Grandeur

Pinkies up! I had no idea 2017 would bring a new Upper Crust full-length album, but the lords hath not disappointed. They busted out a live split with The Grannies last year and followed it up in 2017 with 12 new songs and a re-do of a previous number ("I Stand Corrected (Corrected Version"). They even came to Portland for the first time in about 20 years. Long live The Crust!

"Little Castrato"

14. The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

The most reliable band in rock does it again, cranking out 11 tracks that all deserve to be here. I got the white vinyl version of this one and spun the shit out of it on the weekends. Adult rock? Sure! But A.C. and Neko and the gang still don't sound soft. Lots of crunch and angles throughout this one.

"High Ticket Attractions"

13. Jason Loewenstein - Spooky Action

Sebadoh's Loewenstein released his solo debut At Sixes and Sevens in 2002. "Casserole" remains a criminally undiscovered song. Anyway, this is the follow-up. Can't wait for 2032's release! Thankfully this batch of self-produced-and-recorded gems will tide me over. Tight indie rock that sounds like the dankest, smoke-stained basement.

"Machinery"

12. Dead Cross - Dead Cross

Didn't see this one coming, but when it showed up? Blammo. Mike Patton doing hardcore is something that makes total sense but seemed past its prime time. Challenge accepted! This album is blistering, with double-bass-drum Dave Lombardo just pummeling the shit out of his kit while Patton distends his vocals cords until he's fit to explode. It's great stuff.

"Church of the Motherfuckers"

11. Grandaddy - Last Place

Feels like slipping right back into that ultra-comfortable shirt you used to wear all the time but lost, and that's what I was hoping for with this LP. Just a solid Grandaddy record without any need for new-fangled trickery. Lytle and Co. delivered. This is such a great song:

"Way We Won't"

10. Big Boi - Boomiverse

Daddy Fat Sax is still out here making great music, and this time around he ditched the alt-pop crossover goofiness (ignore that Adam Levine feature) in favor of more straight-up rapping, and I think it worked. Killer Mike showing up and rapping his ass off on three tracks doesn't hurt a bit.

"Kill Jill (feat. Killer Mike and Jeezy)"

09. Royal Trux - Platinum Tips + Ice Cream

A live recording capturing their 2016 mini-reunion, this record is as raw as you'd expect but maybe even a little nicer than you might think, too. Sounding crisper (relatively) and less heroin-y, these songs span their career, giving a little bit of something to the noise and melody-heads alike. Accessible? Of course not. Great recording? Not especially. But man: this one is crazy for existing.

"Sometimes"

08. Dope KNife - NineteenEightyFour

Don't even remember how I came up on the KNife, but I bought this CD and it stayed in my car stereo for weeks at a time earlier this year. Love this dude's voice and he's got gritty beats and guest spots that don't muddy up his vision. Been trying to see him live for a while and I think he might be coming out here in early 2018. I'm keeping my eyes open. He's ready to go nuts.

"Inner Party"

07. Action Bronson - Blue Chips 7000

I was a little worried when I realized that - besides the fact that Bronson seems to be a part-time rapper at this point - Party Supplies wasn't going to be at the helm of this thing. But my fears were assuaged when I listened to it a few times through. Another great addition to the Blue Chips lineup, with Bronson still brimming over with lyrics about food, boats, and other luxurious shit.

"Bonzai"

06. Stallion - From the Dead

This is about the only current power metal I listen to, so, you know, I'm not lending my expert opinion here, but I've latched onto this band and have yet to be disappointed. These dudes are straight outta Germany, hate fascism, and they're ready to rock. For a second I thought they were parodying glam-metal, but it's clear the love is real. This will knock your dick in the dirt.

"Hold the Line"

05. Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

The most divisive QOTSA album? I guess, but that ain't saying much. Rock dorks turned their noses up at the first mention of Mark Ronson, and then when the guitar tone on "The Way You Used to Do" didn't sound right to them, they checked out. Fuck 'em: this record is thick as a brick and contains songs as good as any they've put out in the last decade. Let Josh Homme do what he wants. We need him happy. This is the best song on the record and one of their best songs ever:

"Fortress"

04. Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett - Lotta Sea Lice

Sometimes I just wanna have a mad jangly Sunday morning, and this has been my go-to soundtrack for days like that this year. I'd never purchased a Courtney Barnett record before, but I may be picking some up in the future. This one won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for my money there weren't many songs I heard this year better than "Over Everything" and this one:

"Let it Go"

03. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 3

This thing came out a year ago and its momentum may have slowed, but not by much even 12 months later. At this point it's looking like these dudes are incapable of putting out a shitty record. As someone who's been down since Day One I feel lucky I got to see Mike and El in smaller venues while I had the chance. Now the shit's gone major. But RTJ deserves the shit out of it.

"Call Ticketron"

02. Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

An ode to a housing project long torn down, this record is Mike's most personal, most complex, and most impressive. The guest spots work, the narrative never loses track, and his mini-melodies carry the whole thing throughout. It's a bit difficult to fully explain this album, and I think that's part of its charm. You have to front-to-back it to truly take it all in. You should. Plus, Mike's a wrestling fan. So you know I'm down.

"No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don't Hurt)"

01. Alex Cameron - Forced Witness

In 2017, no other record spent more time on my turntable or in my car stereo than this one. I was looking forward to this release but had no idea it would take me over. Those are the good ones. From the best lyric of the year ("Our love was like a fire/Yeah I pissed on it so I could sleep") to the best song of the year ("Runnin' Out of Luck"), this one has it all. Jerks won't grasp the irony and sense of humor here, and they can hit the bricks. I'm going to see Alex Cameron in two months and can't wait. If you haven't heard this one, I can't recommend it enough.

"Candy May"

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