All posts by darkwatersound

2017: Top Releases

2017 top releases

 


 

Big Thief_1

 

Capacity – Big Thief: A starkly somber and humanizing reminder of the feckless struggle between yin and yang, man and woman, child and adult, and body and society. And without the slightest sense of regret in self loathing or pity, Big Thief’s Adrianne… Read more.

 

 

Elbow Little Fictions
Little Fictions – Elbow: As the release that separates itself from the pack of brewing angst and lost loves, Elbow’s release in Little Fictions makes ground on the integrity it’s predecessors sought. A concoction of intertwining rhythms, melodies, and moving instrumentals, Little Fictions displays… Read more.

 

 

Woodstock

 

Woodstock – Portugal. The Man: Carved out with years of dedication and keen-eyed teamwork (and a hell of production lineup to boot), Portugal. The Man’s 2017 release, Woodstock is one to be reckoned with as a powerhouse release and catalog standout. With flavors spanning from hip-hop and pop to wheelhouse PTM, it certainly kicks it up… Read more.

 

Black Angels_9

 

Death Song – The Black Angels: For a group of demonic missionaries (after all, their name is the The Black Angels), they sure know how to conjure the inner-psychedelic savage out of every listener. Eerie and haunting while shaking the bad juju off from a… Read more.

 

 

lcd_s

 

American Dream – LCD Soundsystem: The release that brought the band back. There’s something so tantalizingly romantic about the narrative that enshrouds the rise and fall and rise again of LCD Soundsystem. In limelight, there’s something about solely the rise and fall that debilitates the psyche into a weird Shakespearian-like… Read more.

 

RTJ_#

 

Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels: The baddest duo in hip-hop know a thing or two about the inner workings of the world, both artistically and socially. They don’t mess with things that don’t need to be messed with, they don’t speak when things don’t need to be spoken, and they only shine a light when a light needs… Read more.

 

King G

 

Flying Microtonal Banana & others – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: To say the least, 2017 was a big year for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, if not the year. Yes, it’s an understated question: how did they do it? Take the sheer nature of the band as the indicator. Imagine a seven-headed psychedelic Australian devil borne out of Jim Morrison’s peyote desert trip… Read more.

 

Elwan

 

Elwan – Tinariwen: Home is truly in the heart of Tinariwen. Even after exile, through struggle and strife, and after a few close brushes with tragedy, Tinariwen continuously defies their shortcomings through community in music. They walk the walk, chant the chants, and create some of the deepest and most dynamic sounds originating from the sand dunes… Read more.

 

Laura-Marling-Semper-Femina

 

Semper Femina – Laura Marling: As one of the great contemporary acoustic artists to come out of the United Kingdom, Laura Marling’s release in Semper Femina focuses her efforts of a career dedicated to the genre of worldly folk. In theory, it seems difficult to refine a craft release after release, but Laura Marling’s effortless ability to stay true… Read more.

 

Feist

 

Pleasure – Feist: Leslie Feist doesn’t owe the world a thing. Starting out as the female vocalist in the Canadian troupe, Broken Social Scene, launching a solo career captivated by the album The Reminder and pairing singles, “1234” and “I Feel It All”, and then morphing into something else entirely, it’s fair to say she’s paid some dues and been around the block once… Read more.

 

Kevin Morby

 

City Music – Kevin Morby: With a hint of bottle-up punk-like angst, folk-esque acoustics, and hand-clapping soul, Kevin Morby’s 2017 release City Music is as classic indie rock as classic indie rock can get. Soaking up the experiences of past ventures from the NYC psychedelic-folk outfit Woods and more indie-centric efforts… Read more.

 

St. Vincent

 

Masseduction – St. Vincent: An orchestra of electro-pop synths and hip hop beats, guitar slaying, domination, and sentiment. If Annie Clark didn’t before, she definitely owns you now. Economically, emotionally, socially, sexually, and even a tad bit affectionately, Annie Clark is just on a different wave length… Read more.

 

Damn_1

 

DAMN – Kendrick Lamar: After 2015’s release of To Pimp a Butterfly, you may have asked yourself ‘Why would Kendrick Lamar need to release anything ever again?’, ‘Can anything be this good?’ or ‘Why even try?’ And the resounding answer is ‘Yes, here’s Damn.’ It goes without saying that Kendrick Lamar didn’t owe… Read more.

 

Beck-Colors

 

Colors – Beck: Creating a masterpiece doesn’t happen overnight, over the course of a few months or weeks, or even through years of trial and toil. A full-fledged masterpiece, tried and true and withstanding the test of time is a feat that most artists dream of, but bouncing from masterpiece to masterpiece is… Read more.

 

 

Wolf Alice_1

 

Visions of a Life – Wolf Alice: Dark and demonic, spacey and airy, and poppy and carefree, Wolf Alice’s follow up to 2015’s My Love Is Cool tests the boundaries that were considered anything and everything under the sun. The only difference is on 2017’s Visions of a Life, the band includes just about everything under the sun a traditional indie alternative rock can throw a… Read more.

 

Alt-J_1

 

Relaxer – alt-J: Isn’t it tragically mundane to approach art with the same emotions and outlook time and time again? This piece fits here, put that there, and screw the lid on tight as if art is an assembly line pumping out nostalgic, bite-size… Read more.

 

 

grizzly-bear-painted-ruins_1

 

Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear: Time changes, nifty chord progressions, and key changes are all fancy bells and whistles that play nicely in theory, but seamlessly putting them onto an album is the not-so-easy part. What Grizzly Bear achieves on their… Read more.

 

 

Everything now

 

Everything Now – Arcade Fire: Oh the peculiarity in stature, aura, and idiosyncrasy. Is it a paradox? Or is it the tantalizing mystique that sets it aside from the majority of releases to hit the streets in 2017? Why would one of the greatest indie acts of the past decade release such an enigmatic record… Read more.

 

 

Liam G

 

As You Were – Liam Gallagher: Brotherly love comes in all different shapes and sizes, colors and shades, and fluid moods and attitudes. Some flourish through decades of art making and collaboration and others flutter at the slightest glimmer of bond. Where tension meets animosity for reasons both ill and valid, creativity… Read more.

 

Robert Plant

 

Carry Fire – Robert Plant: At 69, most music legends are either rousing around the house, perusing through the remnants of fame since past, hitting repeat on stage like a broken nostalgic record, or languishing from a worse fate than the preceding. And yet at 69, some relish in the instinct of looking forward rather… Read more.

 

a-deeper-understanding

 

A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs: As their fourth full-length release and follow up to 2014’s monumental Lost in the Dream, the Philadelphia outfit takes another step further along the path that is characteristically “The War On Drugs” with A Deeper Understanding. Meticulously crafted with a magnifying glass… Read more.

 

Sleep Well Beast

 

Sleep Well Beast – The National: One of the more subtle and obscure aspects of really good acts is sustain in longevity. Some acts can tour for decades on end, some can pump out hits like an assembly line, and others can ride the wave of past successes with brief hints of quality and resonance. But the brotherly… Read more.

 

qotsa

 

Villains – Queens of the Stone Age: Back in the saddle again after their monumental and roaring comeback release …Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age return with a through and through well-done and meticulously crafted release in Villains. As their third release in ten years, Villains stands to attest… Read more.

 

Rostam

 

Half-Light – Rostam: Generally speaking, genre lines are hints and nodes of flavors that mix well with some and not so much with others. Transcending the lines history defines as dogmatic is certainly ambitious, but Rostam’s release in Half-Light surpasses ambition for a natural medium of instinct… Read more.

 

 

Lotta Sea Lice

 

Lotta Sea Lice – Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Courtney Barnett brings the melodramatic kink and nonchalant quirk, Kurt Vile lays the twirling twang and wispy guitar, and together combines the trans-continental power-duo you always wanted, but never thought possible. Almost as if they were meant to be siblings glued… Read more.

 

Harmony of Difference

 

Harmony of Difference – Kamasi Washington: If you’re not a jazz fan, are under the impression that you flat-out don’t like jazz, or have never listened to jazz out of sheer association, consider Kamasi Washington square one. With an insiders perspective looking out, Kamasi knows a thing or two at a ripe young age, and his most… Read more.

 


 

Honest Life – Courtney Marie Andrews

Crack-Up – Fleet Foxes

Salutations – Connor Oberst

All American Made – Margo Price

Aromanticism – Moses Sumney

Soul of a Woman – Sharon Jones

Face Your Fear – Curtis Harding

ken – Destroyer

Losing – Bully

The OOZ – King Krule

If All I Was Was Black – Mavis Staples

Communicating – Hundred Waters

Deer Tick Vol. 1 &2 – Deer Tick

Bedouine – Bedouine

A Moment Apart – ODESZA

The Navigator – Hurray for the Riff Raff

No Shape – Perfume Genius

Flower Boy – Tyler the Creator

Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

I See You – The xx

New Energy – Four Tet

How Did We Get So Dark – Royal Blood

Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples

Melodrama – Lorde

Hot Thoughts – Spoon

Drunk – Thundercat

This Old Dog – Mac Demarco

Prisoner – Ryan Adams

Lust for Life – Lana Del Rey

Humanz – Gorillaz

The Far Field – Future Islands

MILANO – Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts

Tribute To & Tribute to 2 – Jim James

This Is the Kit – Moonshine Freeze

Migration – Bonobo

In Mind – Real Estate

Love Is Love – Woods

Orc – Oh Sees

Volcano – Temples

The Witch – Pumarosa

Slowdive – Slowdive

Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

B-Sides and Rarities – Beach House

The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Hang – Foxygen

Nothing Feels Natural – Priests

Process – Sampha

Turn Out the Lights – Julien Baker

4:44 – Jay-Z

Okovi – Zola Jesus

Hug of Thunder – Broken Social Scene

Culture – Migos

Rest – Charlotte Gainsbourg

Take Me Apart – Kelela

Plunge – Fever Ray

Targ – Bargou 08

Flat Worms – Flat Worms

The Order of Time – Valerie June

What Now – Sylvan Esso

Famous Last Words – The True Loves

Waiting on a Song – Dan Auerbach

Black Origami – Jlin

Stranger in the Alps – Phoebe Bridgers

Ctrl – Sza

Out in the Storm – Waxahatchee

V – The Horrors

Antisocialites – Alvvays

Caldera – Polyrhythmics

Fake Sugar – Beth Ditto

Life & Livin’ It – Sinkane

UNDIVIDED HEART & SOUL – JD McPherson

Last Place – Grandaddy

Mister Mellow – Washed Out

Infinite Worlds – Vagabon

 

 

 

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Lotta Sea Lice – Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

Courtney Barnett brings the melodramatic kink and nonchalant quirk, Kurt Vile lays the twirling twang and wispy guitar, and together combines the trans-continental power-duo you always wanted, but never thought possible. Almost as if they were meant to be siblings glued together through music, odds couldn’t have driven a bigger wedge between them than a continents-worth of land and unspeakably large body of water. But who’s one to back down from odds when the music sways in your favor? And there’s no doubt about it on Lotta Sea Lice: the music glue was working overtime.

From teeth-gritting, low-key blues-rock numbers like “Fear Is Like a Forest” to rambling acoustic plucking on “Continental Breakfast” and “Blue Cheese”, the bag of tricks was wide open for both parties. And encapsulated in a daze of unadulterated indie-rock, “Over Everything” sits like the table centerpiece for seasoned veterans of wily guitar-work and sarcasm. As the convergence between country drawl and lackadaisical indifference, it’s no secret why “Over Everything” is an original standout and a more-than-great starting point for an even better album. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, they trade takes on leading the others song—Vile sings majority of Barnett’s 2014 song “Out of the Woodwork” and Barnett sings all of Vile’s 2011 number “Peeping Tomboy”—before tuning down a notch for the finale with “Untogether”.

Gut instinct says this duo isn’t done, because Lotta Sea Lice is sheer magic. We may have to wait a while, so best hunker down for the long-haul. Something’s saying it will be well worth the wait. Well worth it.

City Music – Kevin Morby

With a hint of bottle-up punk-like angst, folk-esque acoustics, and hand-clapping soul, Kevin Morby’s 2017 release City Music is as classic indie rock as classic indie rock can get. Soaking up the experiences of past ventures from the NYC psychedelic-folk outfit Woods and more indie-centric efforts with The Babies and solo releases, City Music rounds off the edges and narrows his aim for a guitar-heavy powerhouse. And rather than opting for the long-haired three-piece indie jam guise, Morby focuses on including all shades of composition and structure rather than heads bobbing to the drone of reverb-laden guitar over a backbeat (although, there’s plenty of quality bobbing and reverb to be heard on City Music). There’s “Crybaby” and “1234” for the punk lovers, and just damn good indie rock with a hint of harmonic soul on “Aboard My Train”, and the indie folk from Woods on “Tin Can” and “Night Time”. But nothing hits the nail on the head better than the grandiose title track, “City Music”. Speed up and slow down, harmonizing guitar, handclaps and tambourine, “City Music” is the marquee track on a catalog standout.

Harmony of Difference – Kamasi Washington

If you’re not a jazz fan, are under the impression that you flat-out don’t like jazz, or have never listened to jazz out of sheer association, consider Kamasi Washington square one. With an insiders perspective looking out, Kamasi knows a thing or two at a ripe young age, and his most recent release, Harmony of Difference is a brief intro to the world of jazz. In fact, it’s such a perfect intro that he should’ve considered naming it “Jazz 101: A Brief Introduction” (there’s a high likelihood this crossed his mind once or twice). It’s got all the fancy bells and whistles of classical jazz standards while staying strictly contemporary.
Luckily for all newcomers to Jazz 101, this time around you don’t have to listen to 3+ hours of purified jazz glory to wrap your mind around the absurd and eccentric world of jazz like you did with Washington’s 2015 release, The Epic (full disclosure: if you haven’t heard The Epic or suddenly realize jazz isn’t just for elevators or your grandparents’ enjoyment, The Epic is rightfully dubbed, to say the least). On this go around with Harmony of Difference, you get a bite-sized morsel that spans from the islands of the Caribbean with “Integrity” to the dark, smoke-filled jazz clubs with “Knowledge”. “Desire” kicks off the album with a mellowness that blurs the dividing lines between jazz and funk, while “Humility” sits as the swing and big band raucous reminder that this music still exists in a modern suit and tie. Putting smooth, hip-shaking jazz and soprano saxes back on the market, “Perspective” reinvents societies fading infatuation with a sub-genre all but lost. And as if he didn’t already rewrite the definition of epic before, “Truth” brings a whole new meaning to a word and genre that he had already conquered, putting the cherry on top of a 30-minute jazz microcosm.

Pleasure – Feist

Leslie Feist doesn’t owe the world a thing. Starting out as the female vocalist in the Canadian troupe, Broken Social Scene, launching a solo career captivated by the album The Reminder and pairing singles, “1234” and “I Feel It All”, and then morphing into something else entirely, it’s fair to say she’s paid some dues and been around the block once or twice. But the Feist we have today is not the Feist from The Reminder. The artistic transformation that ensued shed light on a seemingly internalized creative output seen on 2011’s Metals that turned some heads, if not entirely doing away with the iconic indie-pop image she created for herself. Like the pearl within the oyster, Pleasure brings a deeply personal and avant-garde approach to art as the follow up to Metals, resembling another drop in the river that flows further away from her former self. With songs like “Century” and “Pleasure” that drive with a gamut of percussion and distorted guitars, the catchy hooks and bouncy, cheerful lyrics of the past gave way to an elevated and exposed inspiration. Or even more so in opting for a bluesy-guitar or soulful and jazzy organ on numbers like “I’m Not Running Away” and “Young Up” does Feist truly come into her own form. And yet in a classic ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from tree’-like fashion, Feist and the acoustic guitar just can’t seem to parse with soft and soothing tracks like “Baby Be Simple”, “Any Party”, and “A Man Is Not His Song” that dive into the melodically flowing vocals and pairing acoustic guitar.

Woodstock – Portugal. The Man

Carved out with years of dedication and keen-eyed teamwork (and a hell of production lineup to boot), Portugal. The Man’s 2017 release, Woodstock is one to be reckoned with as a powerhouse release and catalog standout. With flavors spanning from hip-hop and pop to wheelhouse PTM, it certainly kicks it up a notch for a progressive endeavor while never turning face from the carefree, joyous sound that got them here. No bones about it, Woodstock is the most pop-rock-focussed effort by the Pacific Northwest outfit-“Live In The Moment” certainly attests to that, but songs like “Rich Friends” and “Easy Tiger” are as classic PTM as 2011’s In the Mountain in the Cloud (just with a contemporary twist). The hit single “Feel It Still” really bolsters mainstream appeal (let alone, it’s a tidbit out of left field) and falls right in line of a more radio-friendly effort with a heavy dosage of dance. With bouncy horns, catchy hooks, and an Austin Powers-like quirk, “Feel It Still” goes miles for shaking hips and bobbing heads beyond preceding highlights like 2013’s “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and 2009’s “People Say”. And in true PTM form, the band swaps in their traditional instruments for the good ol’ beat machine to kick off the record with the Danger Mouse-produced “Number One”, which features samples from Richie Havens’ “Freedom” (counter culture anyone?). Winding down the second half of the record, the group morphs into a full-fledged hip-hop group with tracks like the slow-grooving “So Young”, the beat-centric “Tidal Wave” and “Mr. Lonely” (featuring The Pharcyde’s Fat Lip), and the resistance anthem in “Noise Pollution” (produced by The Beastie Boys’ Mike D).

The verdict?

For PTM fans both new and old, Woodstock contains all the good ingredients of the past while mixing in dashes of newer, poppier nuances. It’s a different band that put out 2008’s Censored Colors, and with that some find nostalgia (note: they have a truly astonishing catalog). Woodstock is a fresh reminder that music can be contemporary without abandoning the past.

A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs

As their fourth full-length release and follow up to 2014’s monumental Lost in the Dream, the Philadelphia outfit takes another step further along the path that is characteristically “The War On Drugs” with A Deeper Understanding. Meticulously crafted with a magnifying glass over 80’s and late 70’s-esque synth orchestral, Adam Granduciel and team willfully pinpoint ambience over the manifest of sounds that got them here. From the long stretching ballads like “Strangest Thing” and head-bobbing drives with “Holding On”, A Deeper Understanding contains all the cast of characters you adored about the group from their previous releases, but look no further that the kickoff song, “Up All Night” for the primary differentiator. Substituting trashcan snares over a piano bedrock, it certainly seems to come off as contrary to their rooted manuscript, but the song hits home as it carries on (in layman’s terms, it’s fair to say the band won’t be going full-electronic any time soon…). And with their knee-jerk tendencies of throwing in a ripping, reverb-laden guitar solo over the melodic drone of acoustic guitar on “Pain”, or anthem-like luscious synth-layering on “Strangest Thing”, A Deeper Understanding couldn’t be more of a classic The War On Drugs release. Slight and menial differences aside, prop this release next to Lost in the Dream on the record shelf, because albums like this don’t come around very often (in fact, The War On Drugs albums don’t come very often), and it’s a fantastic starting point if you are unfamiliar with the group.

Masseduction – St. Vincent

An orchestra of electro-pop synths and hip hop beats, guitar slaying, domination, and sentiment. If Annie Clark didn’t before, she definitely owns you now. Economically, emotionally, socially, sexually, and even a tad bit affectionately, Annie Clark is just on a different wave length than most folks. Except this time, John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, Angel Olsen) is partnered with the pop-wonderboy, Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Taylor Swift) behind the production board. And with a long list of collaborators (Jenny Lewis, Pino Palladino, Kamasi Washington) adding their two cents beside the powerhouse producing duo, St. Vincent’s latest release with Masseduction is undeniably the shredding glam-rock and fuzz-synth pop gem we’ve waited for. As if she didn’t prove it enough on 2014’s self-titled release, St. Vincent’s knack for morphing from a piano hall balladeer to a dominatrix-esque guitar virtuoso is like nothing seen before, and Masseduction plunges deep into both oddly disparate caricatures. Numbers like “Pills”, “Hang On Me” and “Los Ageless” explore a jungle of drum machines, breakdowns, and twisting guitar solos with the inner Prince and Bowie as the guiding light. But nothing tips the scale quite like the title track, “Masseduction”—a pumping backbeat, twisting and ripping guitar work, and even lyrics about manipulation like manhandling weapons. Seducing lyrics, destructive soundscapes, and domination—so about that part where Annie Clark owns you? After all, she does sing ‘I can’t turn off what turns me on’…

The verdict?

It’s all there. Guitar-laden melodies, driving backbeats, piano ballads, and an orator-esque style of lyrics and vocals, it’s all there.

Capacity – Big Thief

A starkly somber and humanizing reminder of the feckless struggle between yin and yang, man and woman, child and adult, and body and society. And without the slightest sense of regret in self loathing or pity, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and co. recount anecdotal lyrics to the hum of a band ever-so present in the backdrop of the grand scheme. Frail and soft vocals up front, folk and lo-fi pop behind, and cast in an ethereal demeanor, Capacity is the glowing light that spans from melodramatic realism to avant-garde acoustic folk. With 2016’s Masterpiece in the backseat (and rightfully dubbed a masterpiece), songs like “Watering” and “Great White Shark” display perfect dynamics between melodic vocals, driving instrumentals and ambience. And as if seasoned musicianship wasn’t on display before, “Shark Smile” casts a light in case there were any doubts.

DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

After 2015’s release of To Pimp a Butterfly, you may have asked yourself ‘Why would Kendrick Lamar need to release anything ever again?’, ‘Can anything be this good?’ or ‘Why even try?’ And the resounding answer is ‘Yes, here’s Damn.’ It goes without saying that Kendrick Lamar didn’t owe the universe anything in 2017—actually, Kendrick may not anything to the universe ever again, but he defied logic once again, and Damn is a one amongst a cast of classics and monumental releases. And in classic Kendrick form (as if he didn’t do this already), Damn contains his most expansive and ranging works to-date while maintaining the classic Kendrick and hip-hop sound all together. With gracing touches from producers Dr. Dre, Greg Kurstin, BadBadNotGood, and The Alchemist accompanied by samples ranging from Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z to Rick James and James Brown, Damn is neither shy on the cast of characters nor leaves a stone unturned (did someone say featuring U2?). Quick suggestion: don’t start to ask yourself if he will be able to match or beat Damn, because there’s a very high likelihood that will happen. In fact, chances are he’s already well on his way on that road. All we can do is sit and wait. And enjoy Damn, because it was masterfully dubbed. Damn.