Here's what did it for me in 2017:
Favorite records, in no particular order, except for #1
10.) QUICKSAND, “Interiors”
Lots of hot takes on this one from frumpy old hardcore dudes. Let’s just take a few universal laws into account though: Walter is one of the greatest songwriters in American music, Alan Cage is an incredible drummer, Sergio Vega has an amazing bass tone and sense of rhythm, and all these factors put together create the unique chemistry that is Quicksand. It’s what 22 years of living after your last record results in when you’ve grown as human beings. It’s not “Slip” because that’s my favorite record ever and I’m not 16 anymore. It’s “Interiors” and it’s a highly enjoyable record for a fan who is now 40.
9.) UNSANE, “Sterilize”
Old reliable. They never made a bad record. Consistent to a fault. You know exactly what you’re getting and it’s ALWAYS sonic devastation crafted well, made by guys living rough lives and somehow still alive to tell you about it in the loudest way possible.
8.) METZ, “Strange Peace”
Their weird, jittery, and erratic punk pushes the boundaries of what one can do with two notes in the space of a song on their third album. The Canadian riff dojo where Nirvana, The Wipers, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, and the Ramones all meet.
7.) CLOAKROOM, “Time Well”
It’s a bit of a grower. But then, if you played your riffs this slow you would probably need some time to digest it all as well. Taking some chances here with trying some psychedelic passages to go with their mountainous riff avalanche Cloakroom succeeds with a recording that is not only more pleasing to the ears in terms of production, but a nice step forward in their self-described ‘slow-core’ sound that is parts stoner rock, shoegaze, and enormous distortion.
6.) OPEN CITY, s/t
Philly punks keep it low key with adult lives, small and sporadic shows, and downplay the ‘supergroup’ tag as much as they can. But the sum of their parts create radical, uplifting songs in the tradition of the bands they each were culled from (Lifetime, Paint It Black, Bridge and Tunnel, etc). Short, sweet, to the point rockers with an incredible message
5.) OUT OF BODY, “Voiceless”
It’s like the feel-good post-hardcore record of the year, ya know? Cobble together all that Failure, Quicksand, Shift, and Hum love and toss out a record’s worth of bouncy, melodic, and big-sounding rock jams. There’s no re-invention of the wheel here, nothing ground-breaking, but it’s a certain style of hardcore done right. It’s an easy, fun, and engaging listen.
4.) PISSED JEANS, “Why Love Now?”
I was ready to call it a day with these noise rock titans after the last LP was a bit lackluster. But they spring back to form with some interesting choices for production and guests, and unleash another great record full of sloppy, pulverizing riffs, feedback, guttural shouting, snarky humor, and one of the wildest tracks of the year- “I’m a Man”. Oh, and how awesome is the mid-life-crisis drudgery of “Waiting On My Horrible Warning”?
3.) BUMMER/ PINKO split 12”
Two very promising newer bands team up under a ‘noise rock’ umbrella to each give their take on it and I like where it’s heading. Bummer relies on quick and burly headbanging riffs with plenty of feedback, and it’s real catchy. Pinko smash their Refused riffs with spazzy, frenetic hardcore (I suppose people would term it ‘skramz’… fuck, I hate even typing that), deft attention to intricate changes, and vocals that sound like Guy Piccioto (Fugazi) at his most frantic.
2.) TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Ted Leo album. The man has been through a lot. It shows on this record. It’s a wealth of emotions spread across his patented mod punk/power pop landscape with all the brilliant lyrics, heartwrenching subject matter, and ‘fuck yeah’ sing-a-longs you would expect. Well, there’s also a good dose of saxophone and piano on here too. Don’t be afraid, it’s an incredible record.
1.) PILE, “Hairshirt Of Purpose”
I didn’t think I’d like this very much. It’s slower, more reserved than previous material, and more contemplative. But after awhile the songs wormed their way into my skull and haven’t left all year. Rick McGuire is one of the most creative songwriters I’ve come across in a long time and with the weird chemistry that the rest of Pile add to these brilliant songs it makes for one hell of an amazing listen. It’s two of the most attention-demanding slow songs- “Leaning On a Wheel” and “Dogs”- that come off as the best ones on the record. Five albums in and they’re dropping their best record yet.
BEAUTY PILL w/ ARTO LINDSAY, NYC Bell House, 4.28.17
I’ve been waiting to see a band Chad Clark fronts for at least 15 years, if not longer. Beauty Pill are an astounding, very unique band in a category all their own. However, having zero familiarity with headliner Arto Lindsay I guess I see where Beauty Pill got some of their inspiration. As a surprise, the guy had fuckin’ Melvin Gibbs (ex- Rollins Band) in his group!
CHERUBS @ St Vitus, NYC 4.29.17
Who would have thought this obscure, long-dormant Texas noise rock trio would ever record again, let alone play shows? I wouldn’t have expected it. But fuck it, they invaded NYC and played a sold out show that was super fun, incredibly loud, and a near-perfect execution of their swirling, massive sound.
PILE w/ GNARWHAL @ Bug Jar, Rochester 5.15.17 (?)
I spent Mothers Day chilling with my mom. I spent the night in Rochester witnessing Pile play most of the stuff from their incredible new LP and tearing the place down. Gnarwhal opened, another band I had wanted to see for some time, do their thing, completely shredding bizarre tuneage and impossible fretboard gymnastics.
TED LEO @ Crocodile, Seattle 11.7.17
The man killed it onstage for two hours, nary a week after I landed in my new place in the Pacific Northwest. The range of emotions that night went from sheer joy dancing wildly to “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” and “Run To the City”, to contemplative attention during “Nazarene”, to actually crying a little when he played “Let’s Stay On the Moon”, and back to transcendent joy shouting along to every word in “Biomusicology”. The world needs Ted Leo.
BAD COPS, GRIZZLOR, DIALYSIS, DIFFICULT @WCC, Syracuse 8.17.17
A bittersweet show for me, as it was essentially the last show I booked in my hometown before moving. Thankfully it was with long time friends, some of which hadn’t played together in many years. I was really happy to play a raging set with my own band, and close a door on a 20 year long chapter of my life.
QUICKSAND @ Warsaw, NYC 10.1.17
I was a bit skeptical of my favorite band ever playing with only ¾ of their lineup, but they proved to pull it off with aplomb and double the energy. It definitely helped with it being a hometown show for them, and being surrounded by a bunch of dear friends to sing a long to the songs with. Nothing will quite compare to seeing Quicksand play a tiny after-show in a 150-cap room a couple years back, but this was pretty damn good too.