By GMN Staff
2017 was a lot of things—good and bad. Fortunately, from both good and bad things, beauty manages to still grow. Here are the best albums of 2017 according to Garage Music News.
Richard Dawson – Peasant
In his seventh album, English singer-songwriter Richard Dawson enters the world of sixth-century England for an engrossing collection of story-songs. Listener beware–this isn’t the world of knights and chivalry that King Arthur made Medieval times out to be. This is a grotesque, unforgiving hellscape of violence, disease, and corruption, where “a child can be bought for a year’s worth of grain.” The instrumentation is as volatile as the subject matter, filled with dissonance and unpredictable melodic development. My favorite track is “Masseuse,” the tale of a man who runs into a malevolent monk on his quest for the Pin of Quib.
Lorde – Melodrama
This is my third time writing about my favorite album of the year for GMN. In my previous years, it’s been a little bit of a chore deciding which album I loved the most, but this time there’s not a single doubt in my mind. In June, dark indie-pop godsend Lorde released her sophomore album, Melodrama, and with no exaggeration my year would not have been the same if I didn’t have this album to accompany me through it.
In multiple interviews following its release, Lorde said that this album, which she co-produced with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, differed from her first one because she allowed herself to drop the carefree, cool-kid persona of her debut, Pure Heroine, and tap into the more raw emotions that accompany the first few strides of young adulthood. I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am that she did this, because she created a masterpiece full of heartbreak, freedom, and independence, somehow compiling all of the messiest emotions I’ve ever felt into a beautiful, coherent, dreamlike soundtrack.
After listening to Melodrama when it first came out, I made a post about it on my instagram with the following caption: “. . .No album has ever hit me this hard on the first listen. Every song has felt like it’s pulling on something inside my soul and it hurts and feels like freedom all at once. . .” 6 months later I can’t really sum it up better than that. The lyrics are all poetic and grandiose, but raw and intimate all at the same time; the contrast of simple piano chords, drums, and electronics/synth uniquely shape it into something that subscribes to the over-the-top, somewhat repetitive nature of modern pop music and transcends it all at once.
In some ways I feel like I wrote my own narrative to each of these songs this year. A short-lived but rose-colored, obsession-driven summer fling (“The Louvre”); the messy, complicated cycle between hurt and determined optimism following the loss of a first love (“Hard Feelings/Loveless”); the constant feeling of being too much for everyone and better off alone (“Liability”); loving someone too much but finding comfort and a sense of sanity in turning that person and those feelings into words on paper (“Writer in the Dark”).
The album closes with “Perfect Places” which paints a picture captured best in the lyric, “I’m 19 and I’m on fire, but when we’re dancing I’m alright.” The world is a mess, and I am in the first, bittersweet stage of adulthood, but even when things feel like they’re worse than they’ve ever been, the music is what makes it okay.
Sleeping Jesus – House Plants
Sleeping Jesus, an up and coming band that made their debut this past year, has made itself a permanent spot not only on my playlist, but in my heart too. Sleeping Jesus has a prominent light, airy, and relaxing mixture that creates endless replays of their timeless music. Their lyrics create a sense of nostalgia, throwing me back in time to similar situations while slowly immersing myself in a sometimes forgotten, blurry chain of life’s events . Their beautiful lyrics, “you keep my mind off the cigarette skies,” tug at my heart as I listen carefully; flashes of vivid memories fly into my wandering mind and fill the void of empty thoughts. It’s there I sit, truly appreciating the music and the maker that have aided me in reflecting on my life with beautiful music. Sleeping Jesus, to me, has produced the best album of the year, Houseplants with its whimsical vibes and clever aura. Along with its original sound and heart tugging lyrics, it can make me and anyone else just kick back and relax or get up and dance to the wonderful music that is Sleeping Jesus.
Perfume Genius – No Shape
Sarah Bel Kloetzke
Perfume Genius’ No Shape starts with “Otherside” greeting you, taking hold of your hand and leading you into the album with gentle piano triplet sets. Maybe you’re walking through the hazy painted woods from the album cover. Maybe you’re walking through your own soft place you’ve made in your head. Mike Hadreas’ gentle, ever-vulnerable vocals lull you and have you feeling safe. “Rocking you to sleep…” he offers, “…from the otherside.” Everything opens up then—you’re now in a pool of sound—a waterfall of raw emotion and you don’t have a raft, or a hope. Welcome to No Shape, “Otherside” says. You’ve been waiting for this.
On the 5th of May, Perfume Genius, or Mike Hadreas, released his fourth studio album No Shape: a whimsical, romantic masterpiece—a cologne-sprayed love letter to the beauty of same-sex love—a threat to anyone who dare question the power of two soulmates. No Shape is a banquet of gifts and everything you may have needed to arm yourself with through the second half of 2017, which was, undoubtedly, a doozy. “Just like Love” offers the advice They’ll talk, give them every reason / For child, you walk just like love […] They’re rough, smother them in velvet / For child, you walk just like love / When it happens again, baby hold on and stare them down / Just like love. The next track, “Go Ahead” offers a similar sentiment: What you think? I don’t remember asking. What you mean? Baby, take a seat / Now watch me, watch me walk on by / Honestly, next one won’t be free […] If you need to take a moment, take a moment / If you need, you can even say a little prayer for me / Baby I’m already walking in the light” So, essentially, Mike Hadreas insists you’re too good for the world. Or, something about fighting fire with fireworks? Either way I love it, and those lyrics are 90% of the reason I now own an oxblood velvet jumpsuit.
For your happier 2017 moods, or when you just reached that point of nihilistic bliss, “Slip Away” and “Wreath” celebrate with you. For your despair or unignorable love (what’s the difference?) “Die 4 You” (Oh, love, I’m there in spirit) and “Alan” (Did you notice, babe? Everything’s alright / You need me / Rest easy / I’m here—how weird.” (I’m writing this as I’m with my girlfriend who lives 5,000 miles away so, uh, big mood.) For your same love-struck feelings but in a Prince edition, I recommend “Sides.” For just plain despair, “Every Night” and “Choir” will do perfectly.
I could go on and on about No Shape or Perfume Genius as an artist or even just the Perfume Genius Twitter account, but I won’t. Just, please—listen to No Shape if you want to start next year off right.
Remo Drive – Greatest Hits
When thinking of the best album that was released this year, my mind sort of goes blank. I spent a lot of this year ignoring new music from non-local bands I’ve been listening to for years and instead focused on bands that I see play in basements every week. I’ve carved myself a cave in the D.I.Y. scene and I haven’t come out much. So really this is all leading up to me saying that the best album this year is Greatest Hits by Remo Drive, a local band. It’s probably the only new album that I’ve listened to front to back over and over because it’s just so dang good. And with a title like that, how could it not make your AOTY list? This was an album that I knew was coming, anticipated, and went on to freak out about its release. Heck, it was my pinned tweet for months. Anyways, this album is jam-packed with bangers—some that will make you wanna dance and some that will make you wanna cry. When “Summertime” comes on I always clutch my chest and mumble “How long WILL it last??” This album has created so many amazing memories for me, from the release show where every band playing was a band I love, to driving miles to see them open in Chicago for Sorority Noise.
Neck Deep – The Peace and The Panic
Ahh 2017…what a year. A year full of disaster and confusion…A year that could not be ending any slower…A year that absolutely sucked, but some really good music stuff happened! I mean, Ed Sheeran came out of hiatus—what more could you have wanted from the music scene this year? The album that really stuck out to me this year, though, was Neck Deep’s The Peace and the Panic. Neck Deep is a pop punk band from the U.K. that usually releases pretty jumpy angst-y music. In other words, they genuinely have that basic pop-punk sound and vibe. You know, “this town sucks” or “I have bony knees” and excessive drumming. The band is usually one that people tend to love or hate because of their sound. Neck Deep genuinely is one of my favorite bands despite their sometimes basic stereotypical lyrics. They have released some awesome music over the years since becoming a band in 2012, but this album, The Peace and the Panic, released this year on August 18th, made me fall even deeper in love with this band. There is no better album to reflect on my year than this one.
The Peace and the Panic is literally the soundtrack of 2017. It includes songs like “Happy Judgement Day” that has lyrics like, “Building walls, dropping bombs, stop the world I’m getting off. Oh, we almost had it, never thought I’d see the day, when the world went up in flames.” These lyrics completely draw the picture of the political aspect of 2017, making you feel how screwed up the year was in just three minutes. Another song on this album that I felt was so goddamn important was “Don’t Wait” featuring Sam Carter from Architects. This song featured some screaming vocals—testing some different waters for Neck Deep—but I feel the message of this particular song needs that. The lyrics include, “Are you paying close attention? If you blink then you might miss / Their tricks and their deception / Destruct and disobey their lies, they say, ‘cause all the world’s a stage / And if you choose to read the news, then you must question everything, and they’ve got you on your knees / They’ve got your milk and honey.” So…I can’t think of a better song to explain the struggles of our society this year. To branch away from the political side of this album, it also included some serious tear-jerkers such as “In Bloom,| “Parachute,” or “Wish You Were Here.” These songs had me sobbing at first listen, they did such a brilliant job with the lyrics. I also think that some of these tracks will be absolute BANGERS live, such as “Motion Sickness” and “19 Seventy Sumthin”—my personal favorite. Along with the bangers, there will also be some serious sing-a-longs like “Where Do We Go When We Go.” Every song yanks emotion and feeling out of me, and not many albums or bands can do that.
The Peace and the Panic was my favorite record of 2017. I asked myself the question: “What album fits the theme of the entirety of 2017 AND makes me want to headbang until I break my neck and sing along until my voice is gone?” Neck Deep is a genius band who came out with a perfect album. I thoroughly enjoyed every track on this record and I continue to fall more in love with them with every listen. If you haven’t heard The Peace and the Panic yet, you’re doing it wrong.