Another year has come and gone, and the world hasn’t come to an end…yet. We had the absolute pleasure of hearing a butt ton of new music, and seeing a bunch of acts over the year. I just want to point out that by no means is this a “Best Of” list because I don’t claim to be a professional. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one…and most of them stink. So without further ado…here’s mine!
After years of legal battles and strife, Kesha is back on the scene with a powerhouse of an album. This anthem-laced, sing-along-driven, dance floor-cutting, tear-jerking motherfucker of an album has been in my steady rotation since it dropped. With a slow acoustic start with the chorus we all need to hear sometimes “Don’t let the bastards get ya down/Don’t let the assholes wear you out” on Bastards, followed up by the indie-rock gem “Let ‘Em Talk”, with some help from Eagles of Death Metal, things just shift into higher and higher gear. “Woman” is a song that every female or female-identifying person should listen to at some point in their life. It’s empowering and lets the world know that they’re a strong independent woman who don’t need no man. A personal favourite on the album is the country song “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You).” As I listened to it I thought, goddam, this is the perfect country song. The slow beat, the beautiful subtle guitars, and Kesha’s hymnal voice cascading over a story of lost love. Then the second verse kicks in with none other than DOLLY FUCKING PARTON. It takes the perfect country song from 2017 and makes it somehow more perfect. Like if you took ice cream cake but made it single serving, so you could have it for lunch every day…how do I make a trademark symbol?
Cape Breton doesn’t skimp on the wealth of talent it has. A lot of great songwriters have graced our presence, from Jimmy Rankin to MacLean and MacLean. I would be willing to put Jordan’s songwriting up against any of them. He has a way with words that can put you in whatever time and place he was in while scribbling away. His Neil Young-esque voice forces a feeling of new love gained, memories past, or missing your mother-in-law’s cooking. His ballad to his friends in the music business should be recognized as one of the songs of the year. “Beautiful” harkens the trials and tribulations of being a road warrior trying to make a buck in the business. “Back In The Maritimes” is a lovely tribute to those who have to work away, but want nothing more than to be home with family and friends. All in all, this is a magnificent Canadiana album that should be spun on repeat until the power goes out.
From the opening lines, I was hooked. Sung nearly acapella, with only hints of slightly distorted guitar, singer Alex Luciano delicately reminisces, “When I was sixteen/I dated a boy with my own name/It was weird/in the back of his truck/moaning my own name/while trying to fuck”. This two -piece pop-punk band based out of New York weave stories and have you hook line and sinker. Most stories they tell, you can find yourself relating to someone in them. Parties when you were a teen, finding love, heartbreak, loneliness. A whole range of emotions over light distortion and pounding drums. It really hits home to hear the lines “I just want to have ice cream on my birthday/blow the candles out and wish all of my pain away”.
Catchy, quirky, talented, endlessly fun are just some of the words you can use to describe The Brood’s debut album. They manage to capture the essence of the early ’80s new wave/punk scene without sounding like they’re trying to rip it off. Their lyrics go from somewhat silly and fun, to heartfelt and sincere. Their musicianship however can’t be seen as anything but mind blowing. Seamus on guitar effortlessly glides over every fret, Siobhan has her keys mastered in every distorted way she can find, Billy never ceases to amaze with bass licks that are beyond human, and Matt couldn’t be tighter with every off beat fill he sneaks in. “Munchies”, a song about celebrity chefs, has one of my favourite jammed- out breakdowns in the middle, letting everyone take a little solo. The only song that might outdo it as my favourite would be “Sapphire Blue”, another jam that, once the breakdown hits, could be two entirely different songs smashed into one.
“And we’re never gonna stop/Shitting out solid gold.” They said it best in their single “Solid Gold.” The Darkness are back and as good as they’ve ever been. Falsetto vocals over shredding guitars, and rock and fucking roll drums and bass. This is the essential callback to days gone by in the golden age of Rock. Hints of Queen, Iron Maiden, Bowie, and any other legends you want to toss into the mix can be found throughout the album. The first 3 tracks, back to back to back, might be my favourite string of songs in 2017. Their first single “All The Pretty Girls”, followed by the voracious “Buccaneers of Hispaniola”, to the headbanging “Solid Gold.” It’s like a Barney Stinson mixtape, turn it up to 11 and keep it there the whole time. “We’re gonna blow people’s fucking heads off/People gonna shit themselves”. So true guys, so true.
If you haven’t seen or heard of this magnificent trio in the last year, that’s actually kind of impressive. Breagh McKinnon, Carleton Stone, and Dylan Guthro have been absolutely everywhere. From shows all over Nova Scotia, a jaunt overseas, on the road with David Myles, and down to Boston to light the tree, I think you would have to actively avoid them to not hear the name Port Cities. This year came the release of a long-awaited debut album that can only be summed up as perfectly pop. Their melodies are insatiable, and songwriting is second to none. The lead single “Back to the Bottom” made it to #1 on the CBC countdown, and songs like “Nights You Stay Home” and “Where Have You Been” could be heard once and not leave your head for days, or weeks. With massive amounts of talent behind the lyrics and musicianship, and the likeability of everyone in the band that could equate to a basket of kittens, it’s impossible to not find something on this album for everyone out there.
Quirk-pop should be its own genre, and Mo would be queen of it. On her most personal album to date, Kenney takes on very dark subjects and puts her own “Mo-ness” to them to make sure you don’t feel bad too. She packs her album with little ditties that play as segues from one song to the next to ensure the narrative is driven forward. Depression, anxiety, alcoholism are all taken on throughout the songs, but crunchy guitars and pop-punk-laced melodies keep the mood up. “If You’re Not Dead” and “On the Roof” are personal favourites of mine; however, this is such a great full listen that no tracks need be skipped.
Though this was actually two releases, and not a double album, I’m treating it as one entry because there was too much good music in 2017 to take up an extra space. Deer Tick are back with their signature sweet but salty gruff and growl. Their songs range from heartfelt odes to friends and foes, to party anthems to dig at Shitty Music Festivals. One album consists of mostly ballad-esque acoustic numbers (see Card House, Cocktail, Me and My Man) while the second album will rock your socks off (Look How Clean I Am, S.M.F, Wants/Needs). No matter the time or place, Deer Tick has the sounds to put you in whatever mood you need to be in.
Jessie Brown is a goddam powerhouse. Her voice is the most alluring sound I’ve heard in years. The dark sounds that create this album are complimentary to the voice behind them, however there are certain melodic qualities that make it seem like it shouldn’t work as well as it does. With a keyboard, bass guitar (somehow manipulated into completely different sounds), and the kind of drumming that would make your heart pound out of your chest, Jessie’s insatiable voice is the 4th instrument to grace the album. With “DEBT (We Ain’t Got No Money)”, she sings about what she (and most other 20-30 something-year-olds) know all too much about. Darkness continues throughout the album with songs like “Voyeur” and “Stepped Out”, but never will it feel depressing or sad. This album comes across as an experience, and a dark and stormy one at that.
It’s been 4 years since …Like Clockwork, and these desert-dwelling Californians haven’t lost a step along the way. Villains has a catchy, upbeat feeling over the gloomy sounds that you would expect from QOTSA. Some of their lyrics have the same tongue-in-cheek charm that is reminiscent of past albums, as well as the sounds of screeching guitars and heavy-ass drum licks. Their feel-good hit of the summer (see what I did there), “The Way We Used To Do”, has you torn between toe-tapping your way to the dance floor, or climbing to the rafters for a trust fall of a stage dive. Hints of Josh Homme’s side project “Eagles of Death Metal” can be found throughout the album, with a huge glimpse into it on “Head Like a Haunted House.” All in all, this is the exact album you’d expect from QOTSA. It’s got an AC/DC-like sound that hasn’t changed at all over the last number of albums, but although their sound has evolved, it’s still distinctly Queens of the Stone Age.