Favorite Releases of 2017 (Sam’s List)

Better late than never – my auditory loves of 2017, in rough order…

Thundercat Drunk (Brainfeeder)
Intoxicating, weird, vulnerable, and soooooo damn funky. My Album of the Year if I had to pick one.

Slowdive Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
The comeback album of our collective dreams.

Trementina 810 (Burger)
If this hadn’t been The Year of Slowdive’s Triumphant Return, I’d like to think this gorgeous offering of dreamy shoegaze from Chile’s Trementina would’ve been the talk of the town.

The xx I See You (Young Turks)
Now that producer Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx, is getting his due as the driving force behind The xx juggernaut, I might be able to stop raving about him. But why stop now?

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings Soul of a Woman (Daptone)
What a force. What a voice. What a loss.

Big Thief Capacity (Saddle Creek)
This album has quietly slipped on to a bunch of Best of 2017 lists because it is just that: a quiet album of incredible strength.

Grandaddy Last Place (30th Century Records)
“Even still the rockers are…”

Mountain Goats Goths (Merge)
A wonderfully engaging concept/tribute album – whether you are, were, or have ever loved a goth.

Boris Dear (Sargent House)
Rumored to be a farewell letter to their fans, it’s a welcome return to the nuanced take on sludge/drone/doom metal that first lured me in almost 20 years ago.

Fazerdaze Morningside (Flying Nun)
Nearly perfect bedroom pop.

Moses Sumney Aromanticism (Jagjaguwar)
All the feels.

Molly Burch Please Be Mine (Captured Tracks)
A sparse, timeless album that allows nothing to interfere with the purity of Molly’s hypnotic voice.

Doug Tuttle Peace Potato (Trouble in Mind)
Hypnotic psych pop with enough ragged edges to keep you awake.

Homeboy Sandman Veins (Stones Throw)
Based on record sales in the “>3hive Co-op Shop, not everyone agrees – but I think he’s one of the best, most versatile MCs around.

Waxahatchee Out in the Storm (Merge)
Katie Crutchfield finds her sound and voice amidst the rubble of a failed relationship.

Honorable mentions: Iron & Wine Beast Epic [buy vinyl], Protomartyr Relatives in Descent, LCD Soundsystem american dream [buy vinyl], Destroyer ken [buy vinyl], Open Mike Eagle Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, The Courtneys II [buy vinyl], King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Murder of the Universe [buy vinyl], Jonwayne Rap Album Two, Priests Nothing Feels Natural, Robyn Hitchcock Robyn Hitchcock [buy vinyl]

Fazerdaze

Fazerdaze | Morningside | 3hive.com

Fazerdaze | Morningside | 3hive.com
24-year-old New Zealander Amelia Murray writes, produces, and sings as Fazerdaze. Her debut full-length Morningside is an impressive collection of spunky, sun-drenched jams and soaring dream pop. Her songs are tight and her vocals outta sight, with lyrics that get right at it (“I’m trying not to try so hard for you”). Soak it in and make your summer more summer-y.

[Morningside is available on beefy vinyl via the legendary Flying Nun Records. Buy your copy in the 3hive Co-op Shop while supplies last.]



The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats | Goths | 3hive.com

The Mountain Goats | Goths | 3hive.com
I wasn’t a fully committed goth in high school but I listened to my fair share of goth music, and sometimes dabbled awkwardly in goth fashion. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle – nowadays known for his storytelling skills, as a lo-fi turned hi-fi musician and awarded novelist – spent his teen years as a “goth kid”, though I reckon we shared a similar awkwardness. So when Darnielle directs an entire album’s worth of songwriting to the genre/culture, it’s because he has enough material to work with.

Whether the Sisters of Mercy-esque strains of “Rain in Soho” or their tribute to the SoM frontman himself, “Andrew Elritch Is Moving Back to Leeds”, Darnielle and company deliver each track with a clear knowledge of and empathy for its subject matter. On “Stench of the Unburied” Darnielle sings, as someone who suffered his way through SoCal summers in all black: “Outside it’s 92 degrees/And KROQ plays Siouxsie and the Banshees”. In typical Mountain Goats fashion, it’s followed by a narrator’s wink and nod: “Ice chest full of Corona and Pineapple Crush/It’ll take 20 years for the toxins to flush.” It’s this tension that makes Darnielle’s songwriting so authentic, endearing, and surprising.

Goths avoids the trappings of a concept album. Musically it wanders, however coherently, from ominous minor key anthems to loungey new wave to flute-driven baroque pop to an entire bonus record of ambient mixes “for the all-night goths who need to reply to the dawn with total darkness.” The thread remains, but Darnielle trusts his listener to figure it out in their own way.

To me, Goths is about the sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous struggle of adolescent identity (which continues to plague some adults). The search for identity often chased by self-doubt and self-consciousness gets summed up in the album’s best line, the chorus to “The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement”: “I’m pretty hardcore, but I’m not that hardcore.”

Even without explanation, Goths is a great album. “We Do It Different on the West Coast” – while relevant here – would fit on any Mountain Goats record, with it’s perfectly Californian brand of self-deprecating coastal pride. It’s followed by “Unicorn Tolerance” which is just plain adorable. Do yourself a favor and listen to Goths, regardless of how much black eyeliner, white foundation, red lipstick, and hair spray you have on your person.

[Buy the deluxe edition of Goths on “vampire red” vinyl with the aforementioned bonus LP of ambient mixes in the 3hive Co-op Shop, while supplies last.]

Homeboy Sandman

Homeboy Sandman | Veins | 3hive.com

Homeboy Sandman | Veins | 3hive.com
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Everything you need to know about the latest Homeboy Sandman album is right there: the stark black & white cover photo of our hero throwing a long shadow and – on the flip – the conspicuous absence of guest artists next to the song titles. This time around Boy Sand clears away any distractions and focuses on his fierce – and fiercely personal – flow. It pays off in spades. On Veins, you’re witnessing one of the best contemporary MCs at the top of this game. If you’re new to Homeboy Sandman, start here.

[Buy Veins on shiny black vinyl in the 3hive Co-op Shop – while supplies last. Or better yet, buy the bundle!]


Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock | 3hive.com

Robyn Hitchcock | 3hive.com

I first fell for Robyn Hitchcock in the summer of 1985 when a WNUR deejay played an hour of his songs. I couldn’t put my finger on it – he was trippier than the Beatles, catchier than Syd Barrett, more poetic than Nick Lowe. All I knew is that even after an hour I wanted to hear more.

Fast forward to 2017… Hitchcock has moved native England to Nashville, but he packed his usual bag of tricks – the wry wit, familiar sneer, and psychedelic charm – all of which meld very well with partner Emma Swift’s backing vocals, the touches of pedal steel, and moments of nostalgia. It’s a fantastic album and exactly how I hoped this chapter of Hitchcock’s wandering career would begin.

[Buy Robyn Hitchcock’s self-titled album in the 3hive Co-op Shop while supplies last.]

Monster Treasure

Monster Treasure | Monster Treasure | 3hive.com

Monster Treasure | Monster Treasure | 3hive.com
According to Spotify, Monster Treasure has only 44 monthly listeners. That’s gotta be a typo, or glitch, or data breach, or whatever the right modern term is… All I can say is I’m happy to be #45. This Stockton, California, trio has been on repeat since I found out about their 2016 self-titled album (somewhat circuitously) by way of the UK label Leisure + District. It’s a potent sonic cocktail of punk, garage, pop, and shoegaze that manages to bounce between giddy and melancholy, rambunctious and introspective, without missing a beat. Have a listen and see if you don’t become the next monthly listener. Or better yet, plunk down a few bucks for the long-player in the Co-op Shop. You won’t regret it.

Jakuzi

Jakuzi | Fantezi Müzik | 3hive.com

Jakuzi | Fantezi Müzik | 3hive.com

With cover art like this*, who cares what Jakuzi sounds like? But I’ll give it shot anyway… Imagine Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch singing Bryan Ferry covers in Turkish, with Future Islands as the backing band. Or Ian Curtis doing drunk karaoke. Or “The Love Boat” captained by Tim & Eric. Or maybe I should just let their ridiculous(ly awesome) music videos do the talking…


* If you want to see the sexy luchador in 12-inch glory, buy Fantezi Müzik on vinyl at the 3hive Co-op Shop.

Hiccup

Hiccup | Imaginary Enemies | 3hive.com

Hiccup | Imaginary Enemies | 3hive.comHere’s some straight-up power pop to help us wish summer into existence: Imaginary Enemies, the debut LP from NYC’s Hiccup.

Hallie Bulleit and Alex Clute, who met as members of The Chris Gethard Show house band (Hallie is married to Mr. Gethard, FYI), take turns at lead vocals while the other provides harmonies – and plenty of “whoa-oh-oh”s – over a steady flow of catchy riffs reminiscent of Velocity Girl, Smoking Popes, and other ’90s wonderbands.

This album would sound particularly great in the tapedeck of your hatchback, though we prefer you buy it on “piss yellow” vinyl first – in the 3hive Co-op Shop, of course – for the full effect.


Xinobi

Xinobi | On the Quiet | 3hive.com

Xinobi | On the Quiet | 3hive.com

One of my biggest bummers about not going to SXSW this year was missing the Discotexas showcase featuring Moullinex, Bufi, Da Chick and my favorite artist on the Portuguese label, Xinobi.

Xinobi is nom de plume of Bruno Cardoso, who co-founded Discotexas and puts out genre-omnivorous dance music such as you’ll find on his latest, On the Quiet. One moment you’ll hear Ian MacKaye extolling the virtues of skateboarding over delicate synths and a shuffling beat, the very next you’ll hear a club friendly slice of emo house.

As eclectic as it is, On the Quiet is a digestible delight to the ears, a funhouse labyrinth of minimalist beats, warm synths, and organic samples with an array of human voices to guide you through. And, if you opt for the physical format, you’ll be treated to ‘zine-style liner notes. So why not indulge?

[Buy On the Quiet as it was meant to be heard – on luxurious, imported vinyl – in the 3hive Co-op Shop, while supplies last.]

Trementina

Trementina | 810 | 3hive.com

Trementina | 810 | 3hive.com
Trementina describe their latest album as “music for lucid dreaming”. Not a bad “file under” for a band intent on evolving beyond the My Bloody Valentine tributes that drew listeners to 2014’s solid shoegazer effort Almost Reach the Sun.

New influences and elements mark each track, from the lilting Beach House sound of “Please, Let’s Go Away” to the cavernous dub of “A Place Up in the Sky”. The modulated wall of guitar and rumbling drums get traded for otherworldly atmospherics with a backbone of machine beats, clearing a bigger space for singer Vanessa Cea to fill with her angelic vocals. Given Cea’s presence it’s tempting to compare her to a coherent Robin Guthrie or playful Siouxsie Sioux but, taking the album in as a whole, her range is too wide to peg.

Compared to earlier recordings, the album feels more connected to its origins: the band’s home studio in the remote town of Valdivia, Chile (its title, 810, refers to the distance in kilometers from the capitol city of Santiago). While I’ve never been, these songs seem to evoke the moods and mindset of a place only the band knows well enough to communicate.

810 is escapist and intimate at the same time, and one of my favorites of 2017 so far.

[Buy Trementina’s 810 on shiny new vinyl in the 3hive Co-op Shop, while supplies last.]