2017 Best Albums of the Year (So Far)
June 30, 2017 | by NO RECESS! Staff
One of the nice things about good art is it’s an inexhaustible resource, in part because we can never run out of things to say about a world that’s always changing, or ways to emotionally react to it, whether it’s through a labyrinthine Kendrick Lamar verse or a dirt-thick Pissed Jeans riff. So when we started NO RECESS! there wasn’t any hesitation that good, thoughtful music would be coming down the pipe to write about every week; it already was. With each passing year, that’s more true than ever, and you never know where it’s going to come from: a #1 Hot 100 hit for Migos, an influential mixtape trio whose last album tanked, a follow-up to a breakneck At the Drive-In classic from 17 years ago, or the tragedy of Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum losing his beloved wife and immortalizing her in plainspoken song.
With the increasingly harrowing political landscape, firebrands like Priests won’t run out of material anytime soon; ditto the state of health care for Aimee Mann. Our half-year favorites are in no way definitive; we only hope to serve as a guide. If you came here for the unpredictable Young Thug, we hope you leave with the indescribable Zeal and Ardor. If you seek the rage-rap bluster of Run the Jewels, maybe you’ll discover the big-voiced Americana of Becky Warren. And on with it. Happy July 4th. — DAN WEISS
At the Drive-In, In•Ter A•Li•A (Rise)
Right, they’re not as surprising or powerful as they were 17 years ago, when they last released an album, and the excesses of the Mars Volta have tampered down Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s roar into something that occasionally whines. But it’s remarkable how strong the long-awaited follow-up to Relationship of Command is anyway, how surprising those seasick guitars can still be when they smack you across the face, and even those stray darts of magnetic poetry that are Bixler-Zavala’s guilty pleasure still stick in the craw.
Best Moment: The only reason the endlessly exploding “Pendulum in a Peasant Dress” never quite goes off the rails is because it never quite adheres to them in the first place. — DAN WEISS
Bash and Pop, Anything Could Happen (Fat Possum)
There’s an irascible rock ‘n’ roll brat inside of Tommy Stinson that will never die. The youngest Replacement turned 50 this year, but Anything Could Happen is as ageless as anything he’s ever produced, standing toe-to-toe with the rambunctious swagger of Bash and Pop’s 24-year old predecessor, Friday Night Is Killing Me.
Best Moment: What’s better than a former ‘Mat using booze as a pitch-perfect life metaphor? “Comes as no shock / We take our love on the rocks,” Stinson sings on the heartbroken barroom rocker called (what else?) “On the Rocks.” — RYAN BRAY
Chuck Berry, Chuck (Decca)
Chuck hardly moves an inch from the classic, all-American rock ‘n’ roll Berry helped birth some 60 years ago, and therein lies its greatest strength. The singer’s first album in 39 years ultimately proved to be his last, but he undeniably went out on top. Released just months after his passing, Chuck left us with concrete proof of how indelible his rock bona fides are.
Best Moment: There’s no more moving moment on Chuck than when Berry takes stock of his life on the bluesy, introspective swan song “Darlin’.” — RYAN BRAY
Body Count, Bloodlust (Century Media)
Ice-T, Ernie C, Ill Will, and the others bring the gravity on this ferocious and prescient hunk of street metal. It’s one of the strongest Body Count releases ever, even with a guest appearance by the present-day Dave Mustaine and a break in the middle of the action so Ice-T can explain (in an unexpectedly genial way) the brief history of this, his absolutely livid rock band.
Best Moment: That Slayer medley, what a hoot. — JAMES GREENE JR.
Charly Bliss, Guppy (Barsuk)
Tuneful and lyrically idiosyncratic, the debut full-length from this Brooklyn four-piece is the hyper-melodic candy-punk that angsty poptimist dreams are made of. Taking cues from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack and Paramore in equal measure, Guppy is a feat of both sweet and sour.
Best Moment: From “Scare U,” the coziest of lyrical oddities: “Forced fun, ill at ease / All I eat is bread and cheese / Pink elf, bleed the sheets / I wanna talk about it, but I don’t know what I mean.” — CHRISTINA ZAMMARELLI
Cherry Glazerr, Apocalipstick (Secretly Canadian)
While I won’t stand here and vouch for the band’s live performance (if this year’s twitchy visit to KEXP was any indication, they aren’t too concerned about turning in a “solid” performance). Taken for what Apocalipstick is, as a recorded, produced, and obviously polished effort to pull the real power from Clementine Creevy’s voice, Cherry Glazerr do get credit for creating the catchiest, most consistent noise-pop album of the year (so far). — JOCELYN HOPPA
Best Moment: Right out of the gate with “Told You I’d Be With the Guys,” Cherry Glazerr ain’t the band you knew from a few years ago (the one whose members weren’t even out of high school yet).
Cloud Nothings, Life Without Sound (Carpark)
Dylan Baldi’s newest holler into the void continues to mine the heavy, melodic indie-rock Cloud Nothings really began to beef up with their last two albums. The band is playing better and tighter than ever, implicitly presenting a powerful argument against evolving in any way. (But it would still be exciting if they do.)
Best Moment: The quicksilver melody change as Baldi switches from “I want a life / That’s all I need lately” to “I am alive but all alone” in the whipping refrain of “Modern Act.” — CONOR MALCOLM CROCKFORD
Do Make Say Think, Stubborn Persistent Illusions (Constellation)
Another long-missed indie band emerges from the dark forest of the music industry. But holy shit, post-rocker instrumentalists Do Make Say Think resurfaced (it’s been eight years) with material that’s fantastical (yet restrained) by the standard of the band’s well-known and well-loved earnest soundscapes. The music on Stubborn Persistent Illusions may feel stubborn and persistent, leaving a listener wanting it to grow, change and be more. But when they do finally execute a dynamic shift, you understand why you waited.
Best Moment: “Horripilation” is one of those wait-for-it tracks, but do yourself a favor and wait for it. — JOCELYN HOPPA