Hey, hope everyone had a happy new year! In case you missed it, BV published lists of our 50 favorite albums and our 20 favorite new artists of 2017, as well as a list of 32 albums we're looking forward to in 2018. Musically speaking, this year got off to a great start, with a few worthy albums released on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and some good stuff out today too. As usual, I picked five that I think you should hear.
Stay warm and check out my five picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Though he's been making music for about two decades (with Bomb the Music Industry, Arrogant Sons of Bitches, and other projects), Jeff Rosenstock is arguably writing the best music of his career right now as a solo artist. He turned his full attention to his solo work with 2015's great We Cool?, followed it with the even better and super ambitious WORRY., and now he's back again with POST-, his first album for Polyvinyl. (The previous two were on SideOneDummy.) I've only had this thing since it was surprise-released on New Year's Day so I don't wanna jump the gun, but this might be my favorite album of Jeff's yet. In Jeff's own unique and personal way, WORRY. was something of a political album that continued to resonate in the Trump era that followed its release, and POST- is even more intentionally so (it was released with a note that it was "written in the days after the 2017 Presidential inauguration"). It's not preachy or overly political, but it's full of the kind of frustration that a lot of us were feeling in 2017, and listening to it all week in early 2018, it's resonating really strongly.
It's also some of the catchiest and best-sounding music of Jeff's solo career. He and his band recorded it live to tape and brought in some talented friends (like Chris Farren, Laura Stevenson, and PUP) to add stuff later, and maybe that's part of why it sounds so huge. WORRY. is ambitious but it sounds like it's meant to be a niche record. POST- sounds ready to take over the world. There's big gang vocals, beefy guitars that find the middle ground between Weezer's Blue Album and shoegaze, songs that flow right into the next like they often do at Jeff's fast-paced shows, and the feeling that all possible fat was trimmed. WORRY. benefited from some fat -- it had a Smile-style song cycle and a White Album-style approach to genre experimentation -- but Jeff's music is just as or more effective when he presents it the way he does on POST-, with one punchy indie-punk rager after the next. (He doesn’t totally abandon his his more experimental side, as songs like “TV Stars” and the ambient ending of “Let Them Win” prove.) It only has nine proper songs (compared to WORRY.'s 17), and each one earns its place on the album. If you thought Jeff's decision to surprise-release this on a day when most of the music industry was taking the day off meant it was some kind of stop-gap throwaway release, click play on POST- and think again.
With 2013's The Wild Hunt, Watain added more polish and hard rock accessibility to their black metal roots than ever, all revolving around the album's big clean-sung ballad "They Rode On." Though it bothered some purists, it also proved to be pretty influential -- it's hard to imagine that recent "arena black metal" albums like Tribulation's Children of the Night and Cloak's To Venomous Depths weren't at all inspired by The Wild Hunt. So, no disrespect to Watain's lofty ambitions, but if you were hoping they'd return to a harsher sound, you're in luck. The Wild Hunt's followup, Trident Wolf Eclipse, has them back in a more traditional black metal territory, and it proves they can still rip when they're doing this kind of thing. They'll probably never write an album as raw as their debut again, but if you like mid-period Watain, Trident Wolf Eclipse is cut from that same cloth. I imagine it's gonna be pretty satisfying for The Wild Hunt haters, and if you're coming to this as someone who liked the direction of The Wild Hunt, it shouldn't be super alienating or anything to you either. It's not that different from the more aggressive songs on its predecessor -- it's still got sharp, clear production, memorable riffs, soaring solos, and a tremendous vocal delivery (no clean-sung ballad but it does have a lengthy, slow-paced closer with spoken word vocals in the background). It's the kind of album any Watain fan could like. And if you're new to Watain, this is a fine place to jump in. The transition between turning this off and putting on the classic Casus Luciferi is seamless.
Within certain indie-rap circles, Rory Ferreira released one of 2017's most beloved albums with Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!, which came out in August under his Milo moniker. Just a few months later (New Year's Day, to be exact), Rory released Sovereign Nose of (Y)our Arrogant Face, the second installment in a trilogy he's been making under the name Scallops Hotel. Rory says that the difference between Milo and Scallops Hotel albums is that Scallops Hotel is more DIY and Milo is the project for "when the process has to be bigger than [himself]" (i.e., he works with a studio engineer, vinyl manufacturer, etc). (DIY in this case is very literal -- Rory made the album almost entirely by himself and released it on the Ruby Yacht label that he runs.) That lowers the stakes a little for Scallops Hotel, but when it comes to the sound (and I mean this as a compliment), the two projects really aren’t that different. Between both of them, he’s highly prolific, consistently good, and basically everything he releases is worth hearing. Sovereign Nose of (Y)our Arrogant Face sorta has one foot in Shabazz Palaces-style psych-rap and another in the temperate, verbose underground rap that tends to appear on Mello Music Group (like Rory's pal Open Mike Eagle). Rory produced all but one song himself, and he has just as much a knack for forward-thinking beatmaking as he does for clever rhymes. And with only one guest verse, basically everything you're hearing is from his mind and that's part of why it's such a focused project.
Australia's King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard recently joined Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall as one of the most popular modern garage rock bands around, and, at least in 2017, they were even more prolific than those bands (no small feat). They promised five albums for 2017, and they made good on their promise, dropping their fifth, Gumboot Soup, on New Year's Eve. Gumboot Soup takes on all kinds of late '60s and early '70s psych, from Nuggets-y garage rock, to doomy proto-metal, to Syd Barrett whimsy, to falsetto-laden sunshine pop, to a bit of jazz-rock on album closer "The Wheel." It sounds like listening to a compilation of all the various sounds of the Summer of Love, and if you're into that kind of thing, you'll probably find that King Gizzard do it pretty well. (They also get just a little modern-sounding with the vocoder-driven "Superposition.") Gumboot Soup doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it did make for a nicely trippy New Year's Eve gift.
Boston's Sidney Gish released her debut album Ed Buys Houses on December 29, 2016, and she followed it almost exactly a year later with No Dogs Allowed -- released on New Year's Eve -- which has been picking up a little buzz since its release. As a profile in The Boston Globe points out, Sidney is currently studying music theory at Northeastern, and you can instantly hear her talents as a guitarist on No Dogs Allowed. Her singing and her lyrics are rooted in the kind of stripped-down, conversational, and sometimes silly style of anti-folk acts like The Moldy Peaches, but her guitar playing is often channelling real-deal jazz and should impress any fans and students of the form. Where Sidney Gish excels most, though, is in her ability to move between styles effortlessly. My favorite song on No Dogs Allowed is one that's atypical of the album: "Persephone," a dose of bedroom pop with a vocal delivery that's a little more traditional and melodic than the earlier songs on the album. There's also the whimsical "I'm Filled With Steak, and Cannot Dance" (which has a video), the Americana-leaning "Where The Sidewalk Ends," and other styles explored throughout the album's 13 tracks. She's got the ambition and she's got the chops -- if she finds a way to blend all of her sounds into one, she could come out with something truly unique.
Update: A previous version of this review incorrectly stated that Sidney studies jazz guitar.