The 10 Best Records & Wrok’s Best of 2017 Side B

Side-B

When I joked (badly) in January that this Chinese year of the Rooster is really just the Year of The Cock, I had no idea. There were so many great songs for the last part of the year, and not even from all the big bands or artists that you’d expect. In-between all the political, economic and climatic mayhem there was some sensible music being made.

Trends for the year include hearing amazing female vocals everywhere I listened and a return to “solos” in pop songs (guitar solos for sure, but other instruments too). Trumpety-trump proved to be a strong influence, adding a whole new chapter to the history protest songs. Everyone from Arcade Fire & Mavis Staples to Billy Bragg took a stab from across the pond, not to mention all the angry music (see Best Of Albums list). On the Side B playlist, the orange man gets a cameo on “House Cat,” and is summarily dismissed by a nonchalant Mark Kozelek (as a cat). But that’s just one of the 2.5 hours of my favourite tracks from July-December 2017. Let’s all hit shuffle and go on holiday.

national

1. The National – Sleep Well Beast

The National really are at the top of their game, and this album seems so effortless and smooth, I’d like to inhale it. They struggle though, and the intensity with which they wrestle their creative beasts are so pleasing and intoxicating. There’s absolute harmony and discordancy at work here, as well as really intimate lyrics. The record features the band’s first real guitar solos (there are two and they’re glorious).

LCD_Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

The most brilliant record released this year to be met with equal and opposite amounts of scepticism. It’s one of their best to date and is overshadowed by their previous work. I only discovered LCD Soundsystem late anyway, but to me, this record sounds like prime LCD Soundsystem: the same themes but darker and the same sharp wit but with more bite. I don’t know why everyone calls it a comeback album when it’s clear that James Murphy never left the room.

Courtney_Barnett_Kurt_Vile

3. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

This record is my go-to album for 2017. It always matches the mood. With lots of happy, sad, rocking and laid back bits of quirky wisdom it makes sense that an honest, down to earth record would be the outcome from these slacker-rock indie darlings.

war on drugs

4. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

This album builds on the high standards set by Lost In A Dream, with the same wash of sound that transports you somewhere else. The mood is higher and the sound bolder, as if to resolve the two records in a celebration of victorious, dirty guitars.

Richard Dawson

5. Richard Dawson – Peasant

An exciting and strange British freak-folk album from this dude who came out of nowhere. Dawson shows incredible bravery on this medieval Celtic off-key album. It’s dirty with beautiful melodies scattered haphazardly, and the record sticks and stays with you. The weirdest and most groundbreaking album that has chosen me for a while.

weather station

6. The Weather Station – The Weather Station

Oh, my kingdom for beautiful Canadian singer-songwriters! This record is classic Folk Gold in the vein of Joni Mitchell, but at the same time is Tamara Lindeman’s confident own voice. With mint production, engaging lyrics and a rolling musical urgency, this is definitely both a vinyl/headphone and crowd-pleaser record.

protomartyr

7. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Finally, a band has risen to take the flame from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Protomartyr are pissed-off and mysterious like a good Goth-inspired Post-Punk band should be. They have great rhythm and pace, with a surprising lulling quality for minor chords and dramatic badassery. Definitely music to watch Trump speeches or have existential crises to.

GSYBE

8. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

A very simplified GY!BE record that hits home and feels very true to now. The album fits in well with their body of work, although it’s by no means an extensive movement of beautiful music. Rather it presents a well-organized progression of rage as grandiose tracks bombard your ears for just under an hour. A cathartic listen.

rostam

9. Rostam – Half-Light

An eclectic debut from one half of vampire weekend. The album turns pop song structure around while echoing traditional pop melodies. An inspiring sweet, detailed album from Batmanglij that doesn’t really go anywhere, but that’s entirely ok.

 

bongeziwe mabandla

10. Bongeziwe Mabandla – Mangaliso

A record that masterfully balances the traditional and new. South African Xhosa music has never sounded this modern or hypnotic, and this album turns sweet world music turned on its head.

That’s it. Special mentions to Bjork, Sza, Josh Ritter and Sylvan Esso. As Vicky would say, “soz lol.”

Best Records of 2016 and a Rad Playlist

Whew, 2016. This year of musical loss has been a one where complex records have connected most with me. On the theme of death, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker and Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree were the most prophetic. Sometimes they were a little too sad for me, so I return to them in small doses.

At the top of the year I loved Gallant’s great debut, and the rest of it continued with interesting alternative R&B/Pop releases from Rihanna to Frank Ocean. The production on records from Beyoncé, Radiohead, and Bon Iver fascinated me. It seemed perfect for Radiohead to bring out the sonically mature album that A Moon Shaped Pool is, and I reconnected with my once favourite band again on it. My record of the year is Bon Iver’s 22, A Million with its’ intimate tone and constant unraveling. It has a puzzling sense of timing and I kept returning to it, the one album that always had me putting the volume up, no matter how loud it was (I actually just want to inhale this record).

The genre-bending D.D Dumbo doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. It’s organic, wise beyond it’s years and Australian. Pop music is again moving towards a more alternative space where it challenges the boundaries of genre… Except for the good Rock, which went back to basics this year with flame-bearers Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus and Margaret Glaspy. I was fortunate to see Lucy Dacus live and her debut No Burden is a calculated statement of captivating stories, live and on the record. Shrug Rock is now definitely a movement and dammit, it sounds great! Car Seat Headrest’s Teens Of Denial is one of the most badass statement-making Rock ‘n Rolling albums of the decade. Angel Olsen made a deft move from a shy singer-songwriter to time-traveling rocker and LVL UP made the most infectiously noisy lo-fi Indie Rock record. Beyonce, the titan of Pop that she is, used all the genres in her album and got away with it because LEMONADE is a masterpiece.

At the most difficult times I returned to simpler, singer-songwriter records. Chris Staples put out the most reassuring lyrical album with gentle storytelling and humour. whilst Pinegrove’s confessional debut Cardinal is a sing-along record that is as relevant playing in the background when entertaining as it is if you’re crying into your whiskey. Don’t judge me.

There are releases that just didn’t make the top spots or that I need more time with: Mitski, Kyle Craft,Michael Kiwanuka, Wilco, A Tribe Called Quest, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Frank Ocean, Big Theif and Solange.

1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial

car-seat-headrest-teens-of-denial

3. D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated

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4. Lucy Dacus – No Burden

lucy-dacus

5. Pinegrove – Cardinal

pinegrove-cardinal

6. Beyoncé – LEMONADE

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7. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

radiohead

8. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

angel-olsen

9. Chris Staples – Golden Age

chris-staples

10. LVL UP – Return to Love

lvl-up

I also made two playlists this year of Best Of tracks, or the best of what I’m listening to. You can listen to the first playlist in the previous blog post. The latest playlist is the 2016 Best Songs of the Second Half-Year, which is below. It’s 30 tracks/2 hours of the best songs I’ve found from June/July till now, available on Tidal, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play and Spotify; and as a best effort (not all tracks) on YouTube, Deezer and Soundcloud.

Looking on the bright side of 2017, I’m thinking of how much great new protest music there will be coming out of the States…

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2016 Best Songs Of The Half-Year

This year is halfway done and already it’s been a great one for music. So with that I give you my first half-year list. Let’s see how it goes. NPR’s Robin Hilton has identified the trend of ‘Shrug Rock’ and I hear a lot of it around (it’s great)! There’s so much diversity on on this list though, I’d like to guarantee that you’ll find something you like… but you’ll have to listen for yourself. There is everything from trippy millennial-speak pop anthems (Beck’s “Wow”) to Paul Simon-esque honey warm melodies and African guitar riff appropriation (River Whiles “All Day All Night”) to alternative R&B beat-heavy hooks with falsetto (Gallant “Weight In Gold”) and a beautiful epic post-rock (Explosions In The Sky “Logic Of A Dream”). Also one band sounding a little like Animal Collective, and another R&B star sounding like she was a heavily influenced by the last Tame Impala record… As always, I do sequence the tracks but feel free to hit shuffle if that’s how you roll.

Just a note on availability, it’s a sign of the times that not all tracks are available across all services.

Listen here for YouTube (30/30), Spotify (28/30), Deezer (25/30) and Soundcloud (16/30) playlists:

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Listen here on Apple Music (29/20):

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And here for Tidal (30/30):

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Best Music Of 2014 (a little more, a little less)

There are so many firsts for this year. This is the first year that I’ve felt really overwhelmed with the amount of albums I didn’t get a chance to listen to. This is the first year with a with a toddler in the house. This is the first year I’m posting a Best Songs playlist (see the end of the post), and in some respects I feel like I had more time for songs than for albums.

So with that introduction, the 2014 albums that went from a blossoming romance to lifelong partners are:

1. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

war-on-drugs

2. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

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3. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

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These albums got under my skin. Ryan Adams was
the incredible soundtrack to my first trip to the US (where I also saw him live). Angel Olsen’s beautiful voice held my hand while I made some difficult decisions this year. The War On Drugs was my constant companion through my most challenging professional, and most rewarding personal year. I bought all these albums on vinyl.

All the runner-up lovers, in no particular order

  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Hozier – Hozier
  • Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
  • Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything
  • Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
  • Weezer – Everything Will Be All Right in the End
  • Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

The nice albums that just didn’t stick

  • Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
  • First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  • Rosanne Cash – River & the Thread
  • Jack White – Lazaretto
  • Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

Albums that went over my head

  • St. Vincent – St. Vincent
  • FKA Twigs – LP1
  • Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
  • Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
  • The Black Keys – Turn Blue

Albums I still need to listen to. Some of these may have made THE list, but…toddler

  • Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
  • Swans – To Be Kind
  • Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  • Luluc – Passerby
  • Rodrigo Amarante – Cavalo
  • The Antlers – Familiars
  • Tweedy – Sukierae
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
  • Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
  • Alvvays – Alvvays
  • Thurston Moore – The Best Day
  • Ty Segall – Manipulator
  • Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
  • Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  • Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes
  • Mogwai – Rave Tapes
  • Eagulls – Eagulls
  • Robert Plant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar
  • The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
  • Damien Jurado – Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son
  • Foxygen – …And Star Power
  • The Flaming Lips – With A Little Help From My Fwends

For the rest, here’s my Best Songs of 2014 playlist

I leave you with a 2 hour playlist of my Top 30 Tracks. Technically a Top 29, because GRMLN’s “Of Nothing” isn’t available on YouTube (yes, this is still happening). You can however listen to it on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/carparkrecords/07-of-nothing

A last final note…

The Decemberists snuck in two tracks this year from their forthcoming album (January 2015). I thought it was a little unfair to include it into the top tracks because they’ve just come along, but yeah, this is my new crush…

Late Again: The Best Albums of 2013

I’ll never live it down if I don’t document the best albums of the year that my son was born in, so here goes…

1. David Bowie – The Next Day

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2. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

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3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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4. Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Queens_of_the_Stone_Age_-_…Like_Clockwork

Low – The Invisible Way

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6. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

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7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

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9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Neko Case

10. Dawes – Stories Don’t End

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Special mention to Haim and 65daysofstatic for great albums that just didn’t make the top 10.Haim+65

Better Late Than Never: Best Albums of 2012

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend 

1. Godspeed

2. Shearwater – Animal Life

2. Shearwater

3. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

3. Fiona Apple

4. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

4. Leonard Cohen

5. Tame Impala – Lonerism

5. Tame Impala

6. Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

6. Richard Hawley

7. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

7. Animal Collective

8. Dry The River – Shallow Bed

8. Dry The River

9. The Lumineers – The Lumineers

9. Lumineers

10. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

10. Alabama Shakes

Special mentions go to Japandroids and Alt-J for almost making the list.

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