Just what you never asked for, another unnecessary “best of” list. I hate those “Best Of” lists, because it implies everything outside of 10 or 50 or 100 select records wasn’t any good, which is a bullshit subjective stance. We’re not going to give you the best records of the year. Instead, we’re going to give you each of our 10 favorite records from 2017(in no particular order, because ranking them is just stupid). These are records that really stuck with us for whatever reason and helped us to get through the year. There is no way in hell we only enjoyed 10 records, and we probably left your favorite off these lists (sorry not sorry), so we also compiled a list of other records that we really, really enjoyed this year. We’ll probably keep that bottom list updated into 2018 as we rediscover them or find records we never even heard this year. Every year is a great year for music if you know where to look and we think looking here is a great way to start.
LAST NITE IN PARADISE – AQUARIAN BLOOD (USA)
Band relationships are always a dicey proposition, but the husband-and-wife duo of Laurel Ferdon (Nots) and JB Horrell (Ex-Cult) seems to be making it work – or maybe they’ve found a way to work their issues out on stage? Either way, this adventurous project builds on the garage punk framework of the aforementioned groups with elements of post-punk, psych folk and even the chirpy chiptune thrash of Best Fwends. The whole thing feels ramshackle and dangerous, as though the project could fly off the rails at any time and leave us all standing around in bewilderment.
III – BRAT FARRAR (AUSTRALIA)
I’ve always thought people worried a little too much about whether an artist was “maturing” with each release, especially when it comes to our neck of the rock ‘n roll woods. But even I have to admit that III, the latest untitled release from Brat Farrar (aka Melbourne’s Sam Agostino), shows some worthwhile signs of growth. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the snotty minimalist punk aesthetic of the first two BP LPs. As the record description promises, though, “[songs] are at the fore on this one.” The album swings from the grandiosity of the early Smashing Pumpkins to the fuzzy shoegaze of MBV while spinning stories of late-night romance and lost loves.
SODIUM – DASHER (USA)
You don’t have to know the band’s background to enjoy Dasher’s long-awaited debut album, but it helps to make the pummeling ferocity that much more immediate. Lead singer Kylee Kimbrough had to rebuild the band from scratch after the dissolution of the group’s previous incarnation and a major move while also reckoning with a late diagnosis of ADS. Kimbrough says the knowledge brought new meaning to songs she’d been working on for years: “I was just venting frustrations over stuff I had no name for at the time.” This combination of chaos and clarity and informs the band’s heavy blend of noise-punk and scuzzy proto-garage, making for one of the most liberating records of the year.
NIGHT PARADE OF 100 DEMONS – EEL (USA)
The intricate album art by legendary Japanese hardcore artist Kazuhiro Imai lets you know what to expect on the latest release by these Pittsburgh cult heroes (featuring members of Drug Lust, Rat Face, Free Clinic and more). Remember the scene in Raiders where the guy’s face drips off like candlewax and then explodes? That’s what’s waiting for you on the other end of these 19 minutes of revved-up hardcore that takes its influence from Japanese greats like The Stalin and GISM. Lead screamer and guitarist Jimmy Rose shrieks his way through a haze of disortion and speedfreak riffs, showing that it’s still possible to make classic hardcore that feels fresh in 2017.
DISCIPLES OF BLOOD – GOLDEN PELICANS (USA)
There’s a track on this new LP called “It Ain’t Psychedelic (Till You Kill Someone),” and if that doesn’t sum up the Golden Pelicans’ mission in a nutshell, I’m not sure what will. Sonically the group occupies territory similar to that of North Carolina stalwarts Valient Thorr, melding swaggering hard rock with a punk edge. But the Pelicans (hailing from Orlando, FL) rip through these 9 killer tracks with such unique ferocity that most other comparisons fall short. The lyrics are packed with mythological references and odes to hedonistic excess, which seems just about perfect to me. At 22 minutes long, the album doesn’t give you much time to think, but pay attention and you’ll find some awe-inspiring technicality underneath the din.
(ENDLESS PUSSYFOOTING) – ISS (USA)
Rich Ivey has carved out a niche for himself as one of the most interesting figures in the NC music scene, transforming Whatever Brains from a “typical” noise-punk outfit into a breeding ground for electronic experimentation and opaque lyricism. Since the demise of that outfit, Rich has been splitting his time between industrial/EBM project Bodykit and this, a collaboration with Eddie Schneider of Brain F≠. The pair mine their extensive collection of classic hardcore records to create sample-punk nirvana. There are times when it wouldn’t take much to push the project into parody, like when the pair are rattling off Crass song titles on “penISS Envy” or taking down punk poseurs on “PART TIME ALL THE TIME,” but somehow the duo manage to channel their biting sarcasm into trenchant insights while still penning killer tracks.
S/T – THE MONOLITHS (DENMARK)
This Copenhagen trio goes hard on their debut LP, a grinding noise-punk masterpiece that recalls the early Amphetamine Reptile roster and Philly cult heroes Watery Love. What takes the album a step above, though, is the blunt but emotional lyricism that comes out in almost every track. “None of our songs can make your life complete,” the vocalist barks on “National Anthem,” while the melodic “Song for Your Daughter” is a plaintive, longing epic. But these guys can also turn up the heat when they want to on killer tracks like “Hypno Black Eye” and “No Energy.”
“DANCING TO THIS BEAT…” – PROM NITE (CANADA)
Maybe it’s the name, but PROM NITE remind me of the kind of band that would be playing during the titular night in a Troma film – or maybe if Suzi Quattro and the Pleasure Seekers had moved from Detroit to Olympia in the 1960s and started the riot grrrl movement a few decades early. Either way, this new Ontario outfit make some of the best trashy bubblegum garage punk I’ve stumbled across. “No Motivation” and “Living for the Weekend” are (perhaps ironic) millennial rallying cries, while tracks like “Eternity of Man” reveal a wisdom beyond the group’s years.
DARK REACTION – THE SMOGGERS (SPAIN)
Based in Seville, Spain, the Smoggers could easily be pegged as a retro group if they weren’t so damn good. As the album title suggests, there’s a moody undercurrent to this set of ’80s-inspired garage punk, thanks in no small spart to the often-sinister organ lines that weave their way through each track. The A-side features all Spanish lyrics while the B-side is sung in English, but both are guaranteed to get your body moving. Highlights include opener “Eres Asi” (based on the Miracle Workers’ “Waiting”) and the new garage anthem “Fuzz Me In The Cave.”
WHAT KIND OF DYSTOPIAN HELLHOLE IS THIS? – THE UNDERGROUND YOUTH (GERMANY)
As you can tell from the title, this Berlin group isn’t afraid to say what’s on everyone’s mind this year. But the group also has some biting insights into how we got to where we are today, which it spins out over gorgeous strains of woozy post-punk and psychedelia. “If this is all plagiarized/well, so is your protest,” the singer accuses on “You Made It Baby.” “Amerika” works well as an outsider’s perspective on the US political climate as well as a sobering reminder of how fascism and xenophobia can gain strength when no one’s watching: “Feed me lies and medicine/I want to forget everything/Feed me lies and medicine/I want to forget all my sins.”
One of the most-energetic records I listened to all year, Résistance took Desert Blues to a new level. With dashes of funk, soul, punk, and hip-hop are scattered throughout the record, the sound is both urgent and timeless. But don’t be fooled into thinking this record is “world music”. It’s not. It’s fucking rock & roll. Ansar Dine, an armed Islamic group, took control of Northern Mali, banning cigarettes, booze, and playing music. This forced guitarist Garba Touré to move south to Bamako. In an effort to fight the low morale that comes with displacement and being surrounded by violence, Garba and several friends started a band, connecting them, and their audiences, with sounds of home. To title their second album, Résistance, rings true as it cuts the darkness with pure joy.
Speaking of pure joy (hey, that segue though right?!), Try Not To Freak Out has not failed to put a smile on my face as I sing along without a care in the world. Their debut record, after four EPs, is one of the catchiest I listened to all year, but it’s not all fluff. Coated in the sheer pop-punk bliss of their sound, Try Not To Freak Out is the feminist-forward soundtrack to life as a Millennial, capturing the fight against outdated norms and social pressures while trying to figure out how day-to-day life works in an unsettled world. Of all the records I listened to this year, I can’t get this one out of my head because of how catchy the songs are and how this record is a perfect mirror to our generation.
Another record that made 2017 more palatable is Brutalism, the cathartic debut from Bristol-based IDLES. The frustrating weight of class-ism and general political turmoil in a post-Brexit, Trump-laced world weighs less when the power, anger, and urgency from the band punches up with a refreshing directness counter to the daily gas-lighting we get from those in power. Listening to Brutalism is like going into your garage and smashing all of the things that resemble misogyny & upper-class snobbery. Amidst that shattering, laced throughout the record, you’ll find mantras reminding us of the relenting fist that holds us down, be it political institutions or our own apathy, numbed by drugs and religion. Living up to it’s name, Brutalism is brutal, blunt, and everything I needed to get through 2017. Every time, defying all reason, something wonderful is taken away from us like our national narks, or, you know… basic human rights, I might look calm & cool on the surface, but IDLES lead singer Joe Talbot is running around in my head and smashing shit.
Bully is one of the greatest things to happen to rock & roll. Direct but open to interpretation, Losing feels almost like a coloring book, with each song conveying the intimacy of a specific story but leaving enough room for the listener to color in their own experiences. The record contains a sense of urgency and anxiety that can be applied to a breakup or the political & social climate we’re currently in. Crisply produced, while incredibly raw at the same time, this sophomore record builds on the sound the band established with Feels Like while, at the same time, exerts a tone of maturity making it sound as if it were their 12th or 22nd record. The songs are anthemic, catchy, and direct, pushing us to reflect, have some hard conversations, and scream until we lose our voice (or until it’s taken from us, whichever comes first). In a sense, what I love from Loosing is a combination of what also calls to me in the previously mentioned Sløtface & IDLES records. It’s no question in my mind that Losing is another album 2017 truly needed.
If the Songhoy Blues, Sløtface, IDLES, and Bully records helped me to deal with reality in 2017, Lewis & The Strange Magics’s sophomore record was my gateway to complete escapism this year. Evade Your Soul, somehow, sounds like something that came before yet unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Evade transcends mere heavy psych, dancing around prog rock, funk, soul, metal, and jazz evoking Michael Jackson, Black Sabbath, Bowie, and Frank Zappa at the same time. It’s fuzzy as hell, but the production is so crisp and clear with bass lines that make me want to get up and dance. The record plays well in the car, making road trips seem shorter, and it plays well in headphones, transporting me into another dimension. At one moment, this records makes me feel as if I’m driving in a ’68 Mustang down the California coast mid-sunset and then the next, fighting some Tolkienesque creature with a magic sword. Every time I listen, I lose myself for 43 minutes straight.
Faith Healer’s Try 😉 spits out sweet, slacker psych-pop that feels like a warm April morning. “Light of Loving” might be one of my favorite songs of the year, with a throbbing beat that builds up into one of the coolest guitar solos I’ve heard all year. While the record is rooted in pop-psych laced with some burning guitar licks, it shouldn’t be pigeonholed as there are tracks that shatter that mold such as “Sterling Silver”, a beautifully numbing synth-pop number that sounds perfect in place. There’s something incredibly refreshing about this record that I just can’t put my finger on, but I keep coming back for more and each time I do, I pick up on something new.
Heavy psych meets Afrobeat in this hypnotic debut features Antibalas guitarist Marcos Garcia at the helm. It’s heavy, it’s funky, and it’s absolutely entrancing. This self-titled debut was another that helped to provide me with some escapism this year. Though unlike how the L&TSM record transports me to another dimension, HLM just gets me lost in my own head. The consistent beat, the wild synth, and the fuzzed out guitar, and the distorted vocals come together to form something my ears find absolutely delicious. I can’t really think of anything else to say here. It’s just a damn good listen.
Another record from 2017 that never fails to put me in some sort of meditative state is Our Mother Is A Plant, the sophomore record from JuJu (the brainchild of Gioele Valenti, a multi-instrumentalist from Sicily), released on Fuzz Club Records. I listened to some really awesome psych rock this year but, of those records, this one was the most unique in the depth of its sound. Valenti is a shaman for the ears, utilizing repetitive and, at times, dancey beats layered with a broad palate of instrumentation to hold listeners in a state of transcendental bliss.
Speaking of psych rock, Japan has some of the best as best represented this year by Sundays and Cyble’s Chaos & Systems. It might sound weird, but this record first grabbed me when I was walking my dog on a beautiful, warmish/coolish day. Something about the blue sky and the cool, fresh air from winter’s goodbye really enhanced my senses and really filled me up. The brain-melting shredding present on all nine minutes of “Butterfly’s Dream” is untouched by anything else I listened to this year. It’s a constant flow of energy that swirls and evolves from start to finish. “Brujo” contains one of the most fun and bounciest bass lines I’ve heard all year, flowing into the 13-minute spaced out track “Paradise Come”. It’s a damn good psych record that is so much more than just a damn good psych record.
In April of this year, when I exited the Born Bad record store in Paris with a pile of LPs, I was more concerned with how I was going to get them home safely than with what they actually sounded like. I trusted the guy at the counter and, damn, did he deliver. I brought back some great records from my trip to France, but nothing compares to Hamburger Saignant, Pt. 2, a perfect summation of the garage punk/garage psych scene in Belgium and France. This compilation blew me away so much I reached out to Frantic City (the label that put it together and released it), which gave birth to our French & Belgian-specific episode which was curated by the label. You can tell the bands had a lot of fun putting these tracks together and the sound of the record is cohesive, but not repetitive. Each band offers a unique sound to the record that stretches from psyched-out garage to punk and even a tinge of Krautrock. HS2 alone is a solid record, but it is something more to me. It represents something inside of me that is now resolved to travel more and build connections with people in music scenes around the world. In a way, it also marks somewhat of a turning point in how I source music for the show as I try to dive deeper into specific scenes from around the world. In other words, HS2 really helped me put the Global into Global Garage.
More Global Garage 2017 Favorites
- I LOVE YOU LIKE A BROTHER – ALEX LEHEY (AUSTRALIA)
- THE UNDERSIDE OF POWER – ALGIERS (USA)
- WHERE THE GODS ARE AT PEACE – ANTIBALAS (USA)
- LAISSE ÇA ÊTRE – AQUASERGE (FRANCE)
- SILVER HAZE – AYE NAKO (USA)
- MORE NOTHING – BABY IN VAIN (DENMARK)
- SONIC B0OMERANG – BEE BEE SEA (ITALY)
- FENCES – BOMBADIL (USA)
- NO MERCY FOR LOVE – CANNIBALE (FRANCE)
- TOTAL RIFT – CATHEDERAL (FRANCE)
- VIBRACIONES DORADOS – CAUSA SUI (DENMARK)
- NEW KIND OF NORMAL – CAYETANA (USA)
- GUPPY – CHARLY BLISS (USA)
- HISS SPUN – CHELSEA WOLFE (USA)
- APOCALIPSTICK – CHERRY GLAZERR (USA)
- TERMINAL – CIRCLE (FINLAND)
- CONTEMPT – COUCH SLUT (USA)
- NEGATIVE BOOGIE – DAVID NANCE (USA)
- SWEAR I’M GOOD AT THIS – DIET CIG (USA)
- AUBIN’S LAMENT – DIVIDERS (FRANCE)
- CAUGHT IN A PHASE – DOLLIE BARNES (USA)
- COST OF LIVING – DOWNTOWN BOYS (USA)
- SINCERELY – DUDE YORK (USA)
- S/T – DUMB DOCTORS (USA)
- CHEAP ENTERTAINMENT – DUSTY MUSH (FRANCE)
- VIBE KILLER – ENDLESS BOOGIE (USA)
- BLACK SOMNIA – EYE OF NIX (USA)
- FROM THE CENTRE OF A PARALLEL UNIVERSE – FROZEN PLANET… 1969 (AUSTRALIA)
- S/T – FUJIYA & MIYAGI (UK)
- ROUNDED DOWN EP – GAY KISS (USA)
- DAKHLA SAHARA SESSION – GROUP DOUEH & CHEVEAU (FRANCE/WEST SAHARA)
- 12″ – GSP (USA)
- DESERT CENTER – GUANTANAMO BAYWATCH (USA)
- بس ربحت, خسرت “WHEN YOU HAVE WON, YOU HAVE LOST – HARAM (USA)
- HALLELUJAH ANYHOW – HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER (USA)
- THE FIRST STIRRINGS OF HIDEOUS INSECT LIFE – IGUANA DEATH CULT (THE NETHERLANDS)
- CELLAR DWELLER – IMPALERS (USA)
- WHAT IN THE NATURAL WORLD – JAKE XERXES FUSSELL (USA)
- INVOCATION AND RITUAL DANCE OF MY DEMON TWIN – JULIE’S HAIRCUT (USA)
- OUH LÀ LÀ – JUNIORE (FRANCE)
- CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF SUFFERING – KING WOMAN (USA)
- WAVES OF THE NEW – LAS ROBERTAS (COSTA RICA)
- TFCF – LIARS (AUSTRALIA/USA)
- LET THE EVIL OF HIS OWN LIPS COVER HIM – LINGUA IGNOTA (USA)
- ALL AMERICAN MADE – MARGO PRICE (USA)
- TOO SORRY FOR ANY SORROW – MOUNTAIN BIKE (BELGIUM)
- LAND BETWEEN RIVERS – MYTHIC SUNSHIP (DENMARK)
- YEAR OF THE CHUMP – NAKED NAPS (USA)
- S/T – NATURAL CAUSES (USA)
- DON’T BE A STRANGER – NERVOUS DATER (USA)
- DEVOTION – PALE HONEY (SWEDEN)
- OPPOSITES – PARLOR WALLS (USA)
- FORMATIVE YEARS – PIE FACED GIRLS (USA)
- AGGRESSIVE ADVERTISING – PILL (USA)
- DON’T LET IT BE – PLAYBOY MANBABY (USA)
- CHURCH IS POIZON – POIZON (USA)
- NOTHING FEELS NATURAL – PRIESTS
- RELATIVES IN DESCENT – PROTOMARTYR (USA)
- PLAY “THE SONGS YOU LIKE” – RADIATOR HOSPITAL (USA)
- OÍDO ABSOLUTO – RATA NEGRA (SPAIN)
- BAD GIRL – REESE MCHENRY & SPIDER BAGS (USA)
- SAICOBAB (JAPAN) – SAB SE PURANI BAB
- DOOR GIRL – SHILPA RAY (USA)
- S/T – SKEPTICS (FRANCE)
- INTERLUDES OF INSANITY – SNAKEHOLE (USA)
- TO THE BONE – STEVEN WILSON (UK)
- S/T – STRAYTONES (UKRAINE)
- CHAOS & SYSTEMS – SUNDAYS & CYBELE (JAPAN)
- S/T – SUNSHINE REVERBERATION (NORWAY)
- ST. MOJO – SWEET SPIRIT (USA)
- VEBLEN DEATH MASK – TAIWAN HOUSING PROJECT (USA)
- WOKE – THE BEAST (USA)
- ASCENDING A MOUNTAIN OF HEAVY LIGHT – THE BODY & FULL OF HELL (USA)
- II – THE COURTNEYS (CANADA)
- 3RD LP – THE COWBOYS (USA)
- WATER YOUR WAITING FOR – THE MIAMI DOLPHINS (USA)
- FEEL YOUR FEELINGS FOOL – THE REGRETTES (USA)
- IN THIS PERFECT HELL – THE ROUTES (JAPAN)
- CANNON – THE TILLS (USA)
- DRUNK – THUNDERCAT (USA)
- DUMB DAYS – TIRED LION (AUSTRALIA)
- BOO BOO – TORO Y MOI (USA)
- U-MEN – U-MEN (USA)
- NIGHT BULLY EP – UROCHROMES (USA)
- INFINITE WORLDS – VAGABON (USA)
- BURGER RECORDS LATAM, VOL. 1 – VARIOUS ARTISTS (LATIN AMERICA)
- GRAVITY WORKS – VINNUM SABBATHI (MEXICO)
- IIIIIIII / IIIIIIIII – VLIMMER (GERMANY)
- EYEBALL UNDER – WEEPING ICON (USA)
- BLEEDING EYES – WHITE MANNA (USA)