My Top 15 Albums of 2017


Hi! Still existing and loving my family, hope the same goes for all of you. I may be retired from all else in the music world, but the year end list is eternal.

Sample size: I have 83 albums released in 2017 at the time of writing this. Can’t promise I actually listened to all of them.

Surgeon General’s Warning: Ranking music is silly and I generally discourage it.  (But I do it once a year anyway…….)

15. Chinese Man – Shikantaza

trip hop/hip hop

Sample track: Liar

fun French hip hop/trip hop album that seems to have gotten overlooked a lot. I listened to it a ton earlier this year. It’s not something I’ll remember years down the road, but it certainly earned a spot for as much as I played it.


14. Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

stoner prog

Sample track: Sanctuary

For me personally, this is probably the most unorthodox pick on my list, because it is heavily rock-centric in all the ways that typically turn me off. God but something about rock and roll has always felt absolutely soulless to me in a way that few genres can match at their worst. But Elder just do what they do so damn well that it’s impossible to hate this opus. An endless onslaught of prog ingenuity with a nice stoner rock crunch that keeps it driving from start to finish. It’s 64 straight minutes of ear candy without a dull note in the mix, and I have a world of respect for how flawlessly these guys accomplished what they set out to do.


13. Krallice – Go Be Forgotten

post-black metal

Sample track: This Forest For Which We Have Killed

Krallice are responsible for a lot of the best music to come out this decade, and in 2017 they pumped out two new ones (both painfully late into the year for a band that requires a lot of repetition to fully appreciate). While I haven’t actually read anything about either of these yet, the distinctly different styles between them have me pretty convinced that Mick Barr wrote the bulk of this one and Colin Marston took charge on the other. Go Be Forgotten gets off to a glorious start with its opening track, but the remainder has so far failed to really captivate me to the extent that most of their previous works did. It doesn’t raise the bar (or if it does, it hasn’t sunk in yet), but it’s still a fascinating exploration of highly complex soundscapes that few other artists have the technical precision to delve. And god that opening riff is sick. Krallice will be a perpetual year end contender as long they keep doing what they do.


12. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

folk rock

Sample track: When The God Of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay

I have mixed feelings about this album, and my inclination is to point out the negative; suffice to say, it’s not lacking in universal praise. It wouldn’t be on my list if I didn’t love it. The reason it’s not higher is that, as I see it, Tillman too often defaults to rather throw-away lines. That’s not inherently problematic (see: my #1 pick), but I think it clashes with the more refined, theatrical vibe of the sound around them. Simple case in point: Total Entertainment Forever kicks off with an absolutely delicious line–Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift–and follows it up with something so generic that I feel it only exists to achieve a rhyme–after mister and the missus finish dinner and the dishes. Sometimes gentle flaws make a work all the more endearing, but Pure Comedy goes too big and refined to get away with it for me. I feel like he aimed extraordinarily high and almost got there.


11. Tchornobog – Tchornobog

blackened death metal

Sample track: II: Hallucinatory Black Breath Of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)

A landscape album as only blackened death metal can paint one. Tchornobog takes you on a 64 minute journey across an entirely unpleasant and stomach-turning waste of all purpose ugliness that really reflected how I’ve felt about the world this year any time I let my attention range beyond my immediate household. We’re talking death metal aesthetics here so yes, that can be a compliment. And while the visions are certainly exotic, there’s not much surrealism of the lofty, artistic sort you find on say, a Blut Aus Nord album. It’s just leaves you feeling kind of dirty. It hit a note I could appreciate while maintaining enough melody and progression to avoid succumbing to redundancy.


10. Hell – Hell

doom sludge

Sample track: Machitikos

Ridiculously heavy slow-rolled sludge that shouldn’t require any genre appreciation to crush your skull. At its peek on “Machitikos”, the quality of this album is unreal. Unfortunately I was pretty late to the ballgame, and their more ambient moments are going to take more than a sporadic month to leave a lasting impression or definitively fail to. Nowhere to move but further up the charts for this one.


9. Nokturnal Mortum – Істина

pagan metal

Sample track: Дика Вира

We’ve certainly come a long way from Knjaz Varggoth screaming hateful nonsense to crackling cassette recordings of Dollar General synth, and as endearing as Nokturnal Mortum’s early works may be, you can’t deny that he has matured (both musically and intellectually) substantially over the years. This album thoroughly lacks the trademark Eastern European folk metal execution that Knjaz inspired more than perhaps anyone else: brutally hammered folk jingles lashing out violently from beneath a wall of modern noise. Істина is a lot more even keel, to such an extent that its metal elements almost feel unnecessary at times. It fully embraces the more cerebral, orchestral sound we began to hear on Weltanschauung and leaves most else behind, achieving a new height in terms of orchestration. I do miss Knjaz’s more passionate explosions, but I don’t consider that a flaw. The real down side to the album for me stems from the studio. For all of its grand instrumental diversity, the complete package is a bit washed out. Everything feels like it’s playing in the background as a supporting element to a non-existent centerpiece. It’s something I’m certainly used to–Nokturnal Mortum have always struggled a bit on the finer finishing touches of sound production–but it’s still a fault that’s hard to ignore. An incredibly solid album that could have been even better.


8. Riivaus – Lyoden Taudein Ja Kirouksin

black metal

Sample track: Vihan Temppeli

This is probably the most unknown album on my list. It’s just straight-up black metal. No frills. No novelties. Really it’s the sort of thing I rarely listen to these days, because most great bm artists have moved on to more experimental fronts. But this is tight as fuck. The riffs are great and it’s got a nice punchy pace and a crisp tone that suits the mood perfectly. Outstanding debut from an unheard of artist. Hoping he sticks around for many years to come.


7. Thundercat – Drunk

funk/jazz

Sample track: Bus in These Streets

A tongue-in-cheek dreamfunk fantasy. Artists who can let a cheesy sound be cheesy often accidentally stumble into brilliance. This guy makes some of the goofiest sounds that funk and jazz have ever imagined somehow feel endearing. I’m also pretty impressed by how distinct his sound is. I mean, considering how radically uninformed on this sort of style I am, it kind of blew my mind that I could instantly go “this guy must have wrote the bass lines to Wesley’s Theory“. I think Drunk is an incredibly well-craft work masked behind a delicious veil of comedy. And it’s given us such eloquent 21st century mottos as “thank god for technology, because where would we be if we couldn’t tweet our thoughts?”


6. Krallice – Loüm

post-black metal

Sample track: Etemenanki

If Go Be Forgotten offered Krallice’s most deranged opening melody to date, Loüm might take the prize for their heaviest boot in the ass. Etemenanki hammers down all the brutality of a headbanger’s wet dream from the first note without budging an inch on Krallice’s classic eclectic tremolo noodling. I don’t think I’ve wanted to just open my mouth and shout “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” to a Krallice song this bad since Inhume. As with Go Be Forgotten, there’s a serious question of whether the album as a whole is really that great or if the opening song just carries it, and that’s not to knock the rest so much as to say that by Krallice’s ridiculously high standards I think it might have some mediocrity. You can never really tell with most Krallice songs until you’ve heard them four dozen times. It’s complicated, intricate shit that your brain doesn’t instinctively unravel. My gut tells me that Loüm will keep on growing on me in a way that Go Be Forgotten may struggle to, and I was right about that with Prelapsarian’s incredibly late release last year. (Yes, it is amazing.) The only lasting down point about Loüm for me is, surprisingly, the addition of Dave Edwardson (Neurosis, Tribes of Neurot) on vocals. He does a killer job, but I am shamelessly in love with Nick McMaster’s vox and can’t help but miss them.


5. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me

folk

Sample track: Crow

Phil Elverum’s wife died last year, and he wrote this album. It’s artistically significant for reasons that are pointless to explain, because I think you will either already get it or it will fundamentally conflict with whatever life coping mechanism you personally subscribe to, and both are fine. It matters to me more than other albums about death because we appear to share roughly the same world view. It isn’t my favorite album of the year because it can’t be.


4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

post-rock

Sample track: Bosses Hang

I somehow managed to ignore the rebirth of GY!BE in spite of being entirely aware of it, and this is the first album I’ve listened to by them since Yanqui U.X.O. fifteen years ago. In the meantime, I’ve become an avid consumer of Silver Mt Zion, and after that long of a break it’s easy to forget just how different the two projects were. I’m at a loss for words to properly describe how I feel about Luciferian Towers because I have nothing remotely current and similar to compare it to. “Bosses Hang” and “Anthem For No State” are both absolutely mind blowing, and I usually skip the first and third tracks and don’t even care. This is the greatest band in post-rock being exactly that.


3. Kendrick Lamar – Damn

hip hop

Sample track: DNA

Every time I saw this album top another year-end list, I wanted to move it further down mine. It doesn’t move me on an emotional level like To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s not Kendrick’s greatest work. Can it really be the best of 2017? But every time I revised my year-end list, it just kept moving up instead. Everything he touches has a subtle finesse to it. I love the sound of his voice. I love the way he weaves it into the instrumentation flawlessly. I love how every aspect of each song seems painstakingly tailored to suit the intended vibe. I can just really get into this from start to finish time after time with zero effort. It was my 2017 fallback the grand bulk of the times I wasn’t in the mood for something dark or heavy. This album makes me feel empowered every time I put it on with no cheap sense of escapism attached, and god did I need something like that.


2. Boris – Dear

drone/doom/psych/post-rock

Sample track: Dystopia (Vanishing Point)

Wow. This is 16th year that I’ve compiled a year-end list. For the grand majority of that time, I would have named Boris in my top 5 favorite bands if you asked me. During that time, they’ve put out 53 releases just that I have managed to acquire. And not one has earned my #1 slot. Smile came so close. So close. And now I’m saying it again. I almost feel guilty leaving Dear at #2. It was never dropping any lower. But if you’re at all familiar with it, this might sound generous. Dear is nowhere near their most well-received album. It is absolutely nowhere near their most accessible. Doom and drone at its core, it’s a slow drip grind that will leave all but the most steadfast fans bored out of their minds on first encounter. Yet I somehow managed to listen to it close to 50 freaking times. It wasn’t that I liked it at first. I kind of didn’t. But the mood was right. It hit that sweet spot between ambience and melody that made it never quite dull enough to bore inherently but never quite memorable enough to bore through familiarity. It was dark but it wasn’t morbid. It was just the right sort of fuzz to make me feel more alert without distracting me. And it was through that extremely passive but relentless pattern of listening that its finest moments slowly revealed themselves to me, raising the bar higher and higher, until now it blows my mind that a track like Dystopia (Vanishing Point) could have failed to sweep me off my feet on first encounter. It certainly manages to every time now, on take number one hundred and god knows what. This isn’t my favorite Boris album, but I suspect it’s much higher up there for me than for most fans, and after a very great deal of consideration it only failed to take the title by a fraction of a hair. Oh, I also got to watch them play it live in its entirety. 😀


1. Sun Kil Moon – Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood

Americana

Sample track: Lone Star

The grand prize goes to Sun Kil Moon. I think this might be for me what Pure Comedy has been for a lot of other people this year. It just speaks to so much I’ve been feeling in 2017 in a way I can completely relate to. Mark Kozelek takes half of the stuff I’ve been making enemies spouting all year and sets it to solid American folk music. He has a blue collar political perspective that offers no compromise for our “total fucking asshole” President but takes far more cutting hits at liberal America’s zero-attention-span reaction-click-and-move-on culture for allowing the country to fall into this state. The album is a two hours and ten minutes meandering disjointed travel through personal stories and monologues that reach all over the place, but underneath it all is a consistent love and appreciation for the bonds we share in our meager little lives, and an intense compassion for those who have permanently lost them. If he comes across as cranky, he’s just pissed at how many Americans have lost sight of this.

Previous years on Shattered Lens:

2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016

Song of the Day: That’s the Way Love Goes (by Janet Jackson)


janet_jackson_-_janet_(1993)-front

A late Happy Valentine’s for those who celebrate it and for those who do not, well the day is almost over.

What better way to close out another Valentine’s than to go back many years to one of the classic ballads to come out of the early 90’s. This one comes courtesy of one Ms. Janet Jackson. It was the lead single in her 5th full-length album and became a signature song for her.

Whenever people my age say that they don’t make music like they used to back in our days then I can honestly say that this song, “That’s the Way Love Goes”, is a prime example of a song done right back in my days.

That’s the Way Love Goes

Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire
My love is blind
Can’t you see my desire?
That’s the way love goes
Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire
My love is blind
Can’t you see my desire?

Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire
My love is blind
Can’t you see my desire
That’s the way love goes
Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire
That’s the way love goes
My love is blind
Can’t you see my desire?

Come with me
Don’t you worry
I’m gonna make you crazy
I’ll give you the time of your life

I’m gonna take you places
You’ve never been before and
You’ll be so happy that you came

Oooooh, I’m gonna take you there
Oo-ooh hoo-ooh oo-ooh
That’s the way love goes
Hoo
That’s the way love goes
That’s the way love goes
That’s the way love goes

Don’t mind if I light candles
I like to watch us play and
Baby, I’ve got on what you like

Come closer
Baby closer
Reach out and feel my body
I’m gonna give you all my love
Ooh sugar don’t you hurry
You’ve got me here all night
Just close your eyes and hold on tight

Ooh baby
Don’t stop, don’t stop
Go deeper
Baby deeper
You feel so good I’m gonna cry

Oooooh I’m gonna take you there
Oo-ooh hoo-ooh oo-ooh
That’s the way love goes
Hoo
That’s the way love goes
That’s the way love goes it goes it goes
Oooh that’s the way love goes
Reach out and feel my body
That’s the way love goes
Dontcha know
That’s the way
Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire
My love is blind
Can’t you see my desire
Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire My love is blind
Can’t you see my desire?
That’s the way love goes

 

27 Days of Old School: #2 “Word Up!” (by Cameo)


cameo_word_up

“OW!”

Anyone who grew up during the 80’s knows this song. The moment they first heard the song it burrowed it’s way deep inside. Then the music video arrived and we saw the awesomeness of Cameo’s Larry Blackmon. His unique vocal stylings matched only by his personal look. The over-the-top hi-top fade hairstyle right up to the bright red codpiece became as much a part of the group’s identity as their funkadelic sound.

1986’s “Word Up!” became the group’s biggest hit and whether one was a fan of R&B and funk didn’t matter. This was a cool jam for all listeners and some heavy rotation of the video on MTV (yes, Virginia, MTV actually showed music videos back in the day) made sure everyone knew what’s the word.

Cameo definitely helped define what was good about the 80’s.

27 Days of Old School: #1 “Billie Jean” (by Michael Jackson)


michael-jackson-billie-jean

Lisa Marie has been doing such a great job with her featured theme sets that I think it’s time I tried my hand in doing one.

I’ve been doing themed features but never one that would go day-to-day towards a set goal. I think the easiest one for me to start on would be 27 Days of Old School. When I say “old school” I mean as in jams. These were songs from my youth right up to the mid-90’s. Most on this list tend to be from the 80’s with a few bleeding into the 90’s, but in the end they were songs I grew up listening to. Some will range from straight up R&B to pop to dance and right up to heavy metal.

To start things off what better way to begin and have the number 1 label than what I consider Michael Jackson’s greatest song (and my favorite of his many tracks): 1982’s “Billie Jean” from his second solo album Thriller.

“Billie Jean” is such a great song. Even if one didn’t understand what he was singing about there’s no denying the fact that this song had one of the greatest bass lines running from start to finish. David Williams’ bass line that’s became recognizable to fans of this song both new and old. Whether one was a fan of Michael Jackson or not they know this bass line.

Song of the Day: Come And Get Your Love (by Redbone)


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My review of one of my favorite films of 2014 has been late in arriving, but it shall arrive soon. Soon, I says!

Until then here’s one of Lisa’s favorite songs from Guardians of the Galaxy. It plays pretty much early on in the film and, according to her, was the moment she fell in love with the film.

Alien lizard mic!

Come And Get Your Love

Hey (hey) What’s the matter with your head? yeah…
Hey (hey) What’s the matter with your mind and your sign?
And-a ooh-ohh
Hey (hey) Nothin’s a matter with your head, baby, find it
Come on and find it
Hell, with it, baby, ’cause you’re fine and you’re mine
And you look so divine

Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love

Hey (hey) What’s the matter with your feel right?
Don’t you feel right, baby?
Hey, oh, yeah, get it from the main line, alright
I said-a find it, find it, darling, love it
If you like it, yeah-eh
Hey (hey) It’s your business if you want some
Take some, get it together, baby

Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love

Come and get your love, come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love, come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love, come and get your love
Come and get your love, now
Come and get your love, come and get your love
Come and get your love, now

Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love
Come and get your love

Hey (hey) What’s the matter with your feel right?
Don’t you feel right, baby?
Hey, oh, yeah, get it from the main vine, alright

La,la,la,la,la,la, (come and get your love)
La,la,la,la,la,la, (come and get your love)
La,la,la,la,la,la, (come and get your love)
La,la,la,la,la,la, (come and get your love)
La,la.la,la,la,la,la,la,la (come and get your love)
La,la.la,la,la,la,la,la,la (come and get your love)
La,la.la,la,la,la, (come and get

Song of the Day: I Want You Back (by The Jackson 5)


TheJackson5

One of the great classic R&B songs also happens to be today’s late “Song of the Day.”

The song “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 is not just a great song but also reminds us that, through all the scandal and absurdity which that became Michael Jackson’s adulthood, he was a great singer and performer and none more so than when he was fronting his band of brothers.

I also picked this song for another reason that seems so out of left field (which it is), but also fit in so perfectly to end two hours of an enjoyable time at the cinemas. James Gunn had personally picked the classic 70’s songs that would be part of mixtape for Guardians of the Galaxy. One such song is The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and it’s use and timely appearance in the film also marks one of it’s most adoring sequences.

I know for a fact that site co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman will love not just this song but the scene it gets attached too.

I Want You Back

Let me tell you now

When I had you to myself
I didn’t want you around
Those pretty faces always made you
Stand out in a crowd

But someone picked you from the bunch
One glance was all it took
Now it’s much too late for me
To take a second look

Oh baby, give me one more chance
(To show you that I love you)
Won’t you please let me
Back in your heart

Oh darling, I was blind to let you go
(Let you go, baby)
But now since I see you in his arms
(I want you back)

Yes I do now (I want you back)
Ooh, ooh baby (I want you back)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (I want you back)
Na na na na

Trying to live without your love
Is one long sleepless night
Let me show you, girl
That I know wrong from right

Every street you walk on
I leave tear stains on the ground
Following the girl
I didn’t even want around
Let me tell you now

Oh baby, all I need is one more chance
(To show you that I love you)
Won’t you please let me
Back in your heart

Oh darlin’, I was blind to let you go
(Let you go baby)
But now since I see you in his arms, uh huh

A buh buh buh buh
A buh buh buh buh
All I want
A buh buh buh buh
All I need
A buh buh buh buh
All I want
A buh buh buh buh
All I need

Oh, just one more chance
To show you that I love you
Baby (baby), baby (baby), baby (baby)

(I want you back)
Forget what happened then
And let me live again

Oh baby, I was blind to let you go
But now since I see you in his arms
(I want you back)
Spare me of this cause
Gimme back what I lost

Oh baby, I need one more chance, ha
I tell ya that I love you
Baby, ow, baby, baby
I want you back
I want you back

Song of the Day: Trouble Man (by Marvin Gaye)


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I just got back from watching an early screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Now, what does this have to do with the latest “Song of the Day” featuring musical legend Marvin Gaye. Well, I’m glad you asked. The song gets mentioned by a major character in the film and gets some airplay towards the end. The lyrics of the song itself could almost be synonymous with the storyline for this follow-up to Captain America: The First Avenger.

The song is also the theme song to the 1972 Soul Cinema Classic film production Trouble Man.

While the song remains a classic R&B song that does consistent radioplay I’m sure it won;’t hurt for new listeners coming to listen to it even more after experiencing it for the very first time watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Trouble Man

I come up hard, baby, and that ain’t cool!
I didn’t make it sugah, playin’ by the rules!
I come up hard, babe, but now I’m fine.
I’m shakin’ trouble sugah, & movin’ down the line.
I come up hard, but that’s OK.
‘Cause

Trouble Man don’t get in my way!!

I come up hard, baby!

I mean fo’ real, baby, cuz I’m a Troubled Man!
Gonna keep movin’, gonna go to town.
I come up hard, and now I’m gettin’ down!
There’s only 3 things that’s fa sho*:
Taxes, death and trouble

This I know, baby. this I know.
Yeah, you never let it sweat you baby,

Whooooo

Got me singin’, yeah, yeah, hooo

I come up hard, baby, I had to fight!
To keep my dignity with all my might!
I come up hard, I had to win!
Then start all over. And WIN AGAIN!!
I come up hard, but that’s OK!
‘Cause Trouble Man don’t get in my way

Hey,Hey!

Now I been some places and I seen some faces
I got my connections they take my directions
Don’t care what they say. that’s OK, they don’t bother me
I’m ready to make it, don’t care ’bout the weather
Don’t care ’bout no trouble, got myself together
No laughin’, no cryin’, my protection’s all around me

I come up hard, baby
I mean for real, baby
With the Trouble Man
Movin’, goin’ tight
I come up hard, come on, get down
There’s only 3 things for sure:
Taxes, death and trouble

This I know, baby, baby
This I know, baby, baby
Hey now, let it sweat, baby

I’ve come up hard, but now I’m cool
I didn’t make it, baby, playin’ by the rules
I’ve come up hard, baby, but now I’m fine
I’m shakin’ trouble, sure movin’ down the line