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The Best Albums of 2017

Posted by Amoebite, December 26, 2017 05:51pm | Post a Comment

The Best Albums of 2017

As 2017 winds down, we've taken stock of our favorite albums this year and gathered them here to share with you. Staff members from each of our stores have narrowed down their Best of 2017 picks and detailed what makes them the best. Join us as we take a stroll through the fantastic music of this past year! And here's to the exciting new releases that the New Year will bring!

Read all of our Best of 2017 lists.

Best of 2017 Hip Hop

Black Moon - Enta da Stage

Black Moon - Enta da Stage: The Remixes

Dropping several weeks after Fat Beats reissued Black Moon’s 1993 hip-hop classic Enta Da Stage on vinyl (also as a 2LP set), was the Enta Da Stage: The Remixes LP set by the influential Brooklyn crew. Both vinyl releases are essential for any hip-hop library. The Remixes LP features remixes and alternate versions previously released in non-album format (incl. M.W. Smooth's mix of "Who Got Da Props?" and DJ Evil Dee's remix of "How Many MC's") as well as previously unheard material such as Buckshot's new vocal version of "Shit Iz Real.” - Billyjam, Hollywood 

Blu & Exile - In The Beginning, Before The Heavens

Blu & Exile - In The Beginning: Before The Heavens

Released a decade after the retro-fueled hip-hop SoCal duo’s landmark underground 2007 debut Below The Heavens, Blu & Exile’s In The Beginning: Before The Heavens is a sequel that's technically a prequel. In The Beginning: Before The Heavens is recorded material from 2007, some previously heard but lots of previously unreleased material from the Below The Heavens recording sessions. Like their critically acclaimed debut, this bonus release similarly showcases Blu's clever, thought-provoking and uplifting conscious rhymes, backed by Exile's hypnotically crunchy soul-drenched beats that combined perfectly to conjure that early '90s hip-hop vibe. - Billyjam, Hollywood

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

No other artist, hip-hop or otherwise, is so deftly able to meld pure charisma, insightful and witty lyricism, and brilliant production into songs that are also just straight-up BANGERS. Couple that with both work ethic and quality control that puts every other rapper to shame, and you got the premier MC of his generation, without question. Kendrick says it best, “This what god feel like.” Amen. - Alex, Hollywood

When this came out in April, it was like, how is anything else going to top this in 2017? Nothing did. From the syncopated, rapid-fire delivery of "DNA." to the swaying, surreal "PRIDE.," it's a nonstop tour de force. - Billy, Hollywood

L'Orange - The Ordinary Man

L'Orange - The Ordinary Man

Whether creating his own solo instrumental productions or working with emcees, producer L’Orange somehow always manages to craft his own unique, distinctive dreamy jazzy sound. That trademark L’Orange sound is one crafted into vivid cinematic soundscapes that are built upon textured layers of chopped beats and old world samples. Even on The Ordinary Man’s select guest emcee tracks (Blu, elZhi, Del, Odissee, Chuuwee), L’Orange succeeds in effortlessly making their voices a complimentary component of his overall sound. - Billyjam, Hollywood 

Sean Price - Imperius Rex

Sean Price - Imperius Rex

Imperius Rex (also a 2LP set) was the anticipated posthumous album from the late, beloved Brooklyn hip-hop artist Sean Price, who died two years ago at age 43. In addition to a slew of cameos on other artists’ tracks released over the past year, Sean Price (aka Ruck), who came to fame via Boot Camp Clik and Heltah Skeltah, also left us with his fourth (and best) solo studio album in 2017. With various producers, including The Alchemist and Harry Fraud, Imperius Rex also featured an impressive list of mic collaborators such as MF DOOM, Styles P, Method Man, Raekwon and Prodigy (RIP) of Mobb Deep, who tragically died two months before this album’s release. - Billyjam, Hollywood 

Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy

Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy

The consensus among most listeners, including myself, is that this is Tyler's best album. Each album he releases brings more maturity, more raw talent and more creativity. The album features Jaden Smith, Estelle, Kali Uchis, A$AP Rocky, Frank Ocean, and others that take you on a trip through various styles of music from smooth soul to boom bap. Standout tracks are "I Ain't Got Time," "Who Dat Boy," and "See You Again." - Monalisa, Hollywood

 

Young Thug Young Thug - Beautiful Thugger Girls

Thugger is out here spreading his genius around, and we’re still concerned about his album covers. Why is he holding that guitar upside down? Who cares, dude is pushing hip-hop into brand new territory. There’s T-pain in the trap as imagined by “She Wanna Party.” Or what about the Bright Eyes-lifting narcotic balladry of “Me Or Us?" We ain’t ready. - Alex, Hollywood

Your Old Droog - Packs

Your Old Droog - Packs

In 2017, Your Old Droog first released the killer underground collaborative project EP What Happened To Fire? with fellow NYC emcee talent Wiki. Then the Nas-inflected rapper followed up that EP release with his own five-star solo album Packs (also on LP) that featured such well chosen guests as Wiki, Edan (on mic as well as one of the album’s many producers) and Heems of Das Racist fame, who perfectly compliments Your Old Droog on the track “Bangladesh.” - Billyjam, Hollywood 


Best of 2017 Electronic


Call Super

Call Super - Arpo

On his second full-length album, Call Super smooths some of the rough edges off of his sound. The palette here is more digital than analog, with lots of attention to percussive details and tiny splashes of reverb. The energy levels don’t peak too high overall, and in more subdued moments some beautiful woodwinds appear! Fans of vintage Four Tet will find plenty to love on this disc. - Jordan Heyser, Hollywood

Patrick Cowley Afternooners

Patrick Cowley - Afternooners

An archival release of Patrick Cowley featuring tracks originally recorded for Afternooners, a '70s gay porn film. Features previously unheard works rediscovered from the Fox Studio archives. Essential collection from Dark Entries! - Oliver, Hollywood


Forest Swords - Compassion
Forest Swords - Compassion

One of the best world/electronica releases since Byrne/Eno My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. - Mark B, Hollywood


Jun Fukamachi - Nicole
Jun Fukamachi - Nicole

Dug deep from the dark cavernous world of obsessive record collectors comes this thirty-one year old promo album getting its first proper release. Though Jun Fukamachi treads similar territories as the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, his funkier, smoother audio landscapes are far less avant-garde and sound more like the soundtrack to a long-forgotten Windows 95 screensaver. - Mark A, Hollywood


Juju and Jordash
Juju & Jordash - Sis Boom Bah!

Juju & Jordash, longtime live jam favorites and hardware devotees, are back with Sis-Boom, a double l.p. that finds their sound looser and more limber than ever. This translates into an early procession of nearly uncharacteristic optimism - possibly in tandem with their label turning into a world-dominating party festival, and possibly from spending so much time with Move D. Possibly neither. This sound slides into more classic J&J styles as on the brooding "Deadman" and then the gorgeous, liquid dub techno of "L-Motion." Excellent. - Oliver, Hollywood


Porter Ricks - Anguilla Electrica
Porter Ricks - Anguilla Electrica

As if we weren't excited enough by another new Shinichi Atobe l.p., his legendary Chain Reaction labelmates Porter Ricks are also back with new material! Anguilla Electrica is the full-length follow-up to last year's comeback e.p. Shadow Boat, their first release since the late 90s. In spite of such a long absence, the duo haven't lost any of their incredible signature sound, which noted critic Philip Sherburne ably describes as "light shining through deep water". It's otherworldly techno for navigating the oceans on one of Saturn's moons or something. Amorphous, alien sound. Huge recommendation! - Oliver, Hollywood


Ramzi Peze-Piton

Ramzi - Peze-Piton

The Glasgow-based 12th Isle imprint has become one of the few 'buy on site' labels over the past year or so. You could call the records they've been releasing 'dance' music in an abstract sense, but the sounds speak beyond that categorization.

Coming off of some sought after releases on labels like Total Stasis and Mood Hut, Ramzi's debut LP for 12th isle is arguably her most potent offering yet. Touching on a kind of twisted cross of tribal, dubbed out house and fourth world ambience, it's the type of record that sounds just as at home on a club system as it does on headphones.

The sound palette she uses throughout the record is almost identical from track to track, which, in this instance, is what makes the record so alluring. In a way, each song sounds like a re-imagined arrangement of the other, all of which help to act as a guide to the strange and absorbing world of Ramzi. - Jesse, Hollywood

Sampha - Process

Sampha - Process

The haunting voice of SBTRKT. Deep, soulful and human while pushing the electronic envelope. - Mark B, Hollywood

Sampha’s debut is a triple threat: a powerhouse in R&B vocal technique, left-field pop production, and lyrical unpacking of grief. This is what James Blake might sound like if he really swung for the fences, instead of relying on a misplaced sense of restraint. - Taylor, San Francisco


Thundercat Drunk

Thundercat - Drunk

The Los Angeles-based producer and singer brought some top-notch talent to his latest jazz/soul/funk fusion masterpiece; with friends like Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Wiz Khalifa, and Pharrell in the credits, you know you’re in for a treat. (There’s also the slightly weird addition of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins to lead single “Show You the Way”…which believe it or not, totally works, in the best possible way.) Congrats to Thundercat on another sumptuous, richly textured record that is definitely one of the year's best.

Vermont - II

Vermont - II

German duo hands us a polite batch of simply complex Kraut-ish electronics that grow and grow and deepen and deepen. Way underrated. - Mark B, Hollywood

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Music for Nine Postcards

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Music for Nine Postcards

The peacefulness, fragility and sparseness of this album makes Brian Eno's Thursday Afternoon sound like club music. "Minimalist" is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, but with synths resonating quiet sine waves along to the single clinks of a Fender Rhodes, this album is a testament of how much you can accomplish with the bare minimum. - Mark A, Hollywood

Best of 2017 soul

Funkadelic - Reworked By Detroiters

Funkadelic - Reworked By Detroiters

This is what happens when someone takes music you've loved all your life and breathes new life into it. A couple of years ago, Detroit legend Moodymann dropped a rework of "Cosmic Slop" that was highly sought after, and now with the addition of well-known remixers like Recloose, Marcellus Pittman, Andrés, Alton Miller, Gay Marvine and Amp Fiddler, there's 16 more Funkadelic reworks to take you back in to time yet move you through the future at the same time. Some reworks are twice as funky and some get a little bit of the techno touch, but it's all delightful to the ears. - Monalisa, Hollywood


Kelela Take Me Apart

Kelela - Take Me Apart

While R&B and soul underwent a renaissance came in 2017, the Queen of Underground R&B remembered to include bangers in addition to introspection on her long-awaited debut LP. You can take apart these beats for hours, made by some of the most creative up-and-coming producers alive, just as easily as you can hang on to Kelela's every breathy utterance. - Billy, Hollywood

I went through most of the '90s and '00s being really into R&B music. I loved my SWV and TLC. I loved my Aaliyah and Missy Elliott. But I just don't find much I love these days in the genre, so I get very excited when I find an album like this. This album is super sexy and has a futuristic feel to it. - Brad, Hollywood

Miguel - War & Leisure

Miguel - War & Leisure

Miguel's albums always give you a satisfying range of vibes - happy, funky, sexy and cool. The first single "Sky Walker" featuring Travis Scott was an early indicator that this album would stand right up with the others. The tracks are sequenced perfectly to take you on a journey and leave you satisfied at the end, ready to take the joyride again. Other standout songs include "Caramelo Duro," a song featuring Kali Uchis with a fun latin flavor, "Pineapple Skies," and "Banana Clip." - Monalisa, Hollywood

Nai Palm - Needle Paw

Nai Palm - Needle Paw

If you're familiar with Hiatus Kaiyote, you already know the amazing musical talent of Nai Palm from their two albums, Tawk Tomahawk and Choose Your Weapon. (If you're not familiar, please stop reading this and go listen to them NOW!) Her solo album Needle Paw is acoustic, giving you clear and potent doses of her beautiful voice accompanied only by guitar. She pays tribute to David Bowie, Radiohead, and Tamia, and also does stripped versions of a couple of Hiatus Kaiyote favorites. - Monalisa, Hollywood

Syd - Fin

Syd - Fin

You know Syd's voice from The Internet's albums Purple Naked Ladies, Feel Good and Ego Death. Here she shines alone on her solo debut, released only on mp3 and vinyl, which is great on the vinyl end because you get to feel the warmth of her voice in the best way. With each Internet album, her vocals got stronger and more confident, which made this the perfect time for her to stretch out on her own solo effort. There are several standout tracks on this album, including "All About Me,” "Got Her Own" and "Body," but she saved the best for last with "Insecurities." - Monalisa, Hollywood

SZA - Ctrl

SZA - Ctrl

The extremely long-awaited debut release from SZA was well worth the wait and did not disappoint. She explores the subjects of love, sex, heartbreak and insecurity, all with infectious beats underneath. Stand out songs include "Love Galore" featuring Travis Scott, "Doves In The Wind" featuring Kendrick Lamar, "Drew Barrymore," and "The Weekend." - Monalisa, Hollywood


Best of 2017 Rock


Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Ryan Adams delivers his strongest album in over a decade. One suspects that in covering Taylor Swift’s 1989 in its entirety a few years back, he learned a thing or two about refining his craft; the lyrics cut deep, the hooks flow effortlessly, and Don Was’s production makes everything sparkle with dreamy, resonant glossiness. - Taylor, Berkeley


Ariel Pink Dedicated to Boby Jameson
Ariel Pink - Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

Pink, whose early tape warped, primitive pop weirdness in the 2000s helped pave the way for ascendant vogue of chillwave / vaporwave / hypnogatic pop, et al., is sometimes known more for the outlandish, trollish statements he makes more than his music. That’s a shame. At nearly 40 years old, the quality of his songwriting hasn’t missed a step. Dedicated is his 10th solo album overall (not counting multiple collaborations, EPs, and one-offs) and sonically functions as a callback to his pre-2010 breakout era. Ariel hops from sound to sound with less abandon than usual, and the production does not lend itself to the “VHS in HD” quality of his 4AD releases, but instead finds comfort in the fuzzier realms of fidelity. Yet, unlike his noise-addled homemade releases of a decade ago, these endless hooks shine through unabated. Album of the year for introverts. - Alex, Hollywood

While Dedicated to Bobby Jameson initially felt scaled back from Ariel Pink's last album, pom pom, his latest proved to house some of his most addictive music yet. The cloud-kissed "Feels Like Heaven" lives up to every inch of its name. "Acting" brings in Dam-Funk for a flute-laden easy-funk jam. And tracks like "Santa's in the Closet" and "Dreamdate Narcissist" funnel non-sequitur storytelling into bizzaro pop tunes that charted high in the Upside Down. - Billy, Hollywood


Lotta Sea Lice

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile - Lotta Sea Lice

Mellow shimmery guitar goodness with awesome vocals. Perfect lazy summer jams. - Sean Murphy, San Francisco


Phoebe Bridgers Stranger in the Alps

Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In the Alps

I am a sucker for sad songs. I can never get enough Red House Painters or Cat Power. Phoebe sits somewhere in between and creates some beautiful, sad love songs. She's got a sort of country feel but in a good way. This is the kind of album I need at least one of in my life every year. And it is a beautiful thing when I find it. - Brad, Hollywood

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

The very picture of the modern folksinger, starting with the cover, then the gorgeous, boozy and bluesy voice, terrific guitar chops, then the fascinating melodic and literary lyrical journeys that are you and me and all of us. Can’t say enough; again, a CD I played over and over and over, then I stopped so I wouldn’t tire of it. Magical. - Rick, Hollywood

 


Cigarettes After Sex

Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

I really tried to not fall in love with this album. But I couldn't resist it. I think Cigarettes After Sex sort of forced itself into my #1 spot this year. I keep going back to it and keep falling in love. The singer's voice just gets me every time. They sort of sound like one of those dark and dreamy late '90s Twin Peaks-ish sort of bands. Like Tindersticks or Spain. A beautiful voice and a beautiful album for you to fall in love with. - Brad, Hollywood


Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

This Old Dog’s as comfortable to curl up with as ever. A patched up inner tube on a sparkling lake of melancholy. - Duncan, San Francisco


Froth Outside Briefly

Froth - Outside (Briefly)

This album is for fans of the recent shoegaze revival of Captured Tracks bands like Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing. The album also reminds me of Imperial Teen. Catchy and jangly and dreamy. - Brad, Hollywood


John Frusciante Niandra LaDes
John Frusciante - Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt

First ever vinyl issue of this lo-fi masterpiece from the former Chili Peppers guitarist. One of my all-time faves. - Sean Murphy, San Francisco


Grace Sings Sludge

Grace Sings Sludge - Life With Dick

Back again with another batch of demented home recordings from her very own twilight zone, former Sandwitches siren Grace Cooper, alias Grace Sings Sludge, continues to bleed out her uniquely brooding, trauma-folk weirdo singer/songwriter stylings via this new confessional record. Evocative of intimate interiors and a labor for love, or "the weariness of a woman giving in to a love requited" as Empty Cellar so perfectly puts it, the self-produced sound of Life With Dick is neither crunchy nor polished, but seems to teeter on the edge of a reality that alternates between ominous assertion and a sultriness so creepy it'll make you check your six if you dare listen to it alone in the dark (recommended!). - Kelly Sweeney Osato, Blogger at Large

Lilly Hiatt - Trinity Lane

Lilly Hiatt - Trinity Lane

Singer/songwriter Lilly Hiatt's music falls somewhere in between Americana and '90s-influenced rock, with a touch of twangy folk here and there. The daughter of John Hiatt, her voice is a distinctive blend of sweetness and hard-living, and her lyrics are razor sharp. The songs on Trinity Lane focus on moving past a painful break-up and staying sober, and they alternate between joyful and heartbreaking without ever losing their energy or wit. - Simone, Hollywood

Nabihah Iqbal - Weighing of The Heart

Nabihah Iqbal - Weighing of The Heart

On great year-ending record that blends Slowdive-style shoegaze and New Order-esque melancholy dance-pop, London producer Iqbal aka Throwing Shade fuzzes up the holidays with gorgeous, emotional tunes. - Daniel, Hollywood

Try to imagine a slowed down blissful version of Ladytron. This album is like a more experimental new wave album. A great late night album. - Brad, Hollywood

John Maus - Screen Memories

John Maus - Screen Memories

John Maus is the dark lord of synth pop, emerging out from a pile of Roland Jupiter-8’s every few years to release an album of goth-hued glory. Screen Memories is no different, featuring plenty of baroque synth lines over mechanical drum machine grooves, adorned by faint, ominous lyrics that come off like interfering radio waves. This is the best-selling album in the 8th dimension right now. - Alex, Hollywood

I love this dude. His albums are a little bit spooky and a little bit weird. His albums to me are always these great little time capsules to disappear into. He transports me to a sort of imagined synthy cinematic world. - Brad, Hollywood 

Allan Holdsworth - The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever

Allan Holdsworth - The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!

A 12-CD box set of all of Allan’s original domestic releases in mini-LP style covers and exclusive 40-page booklet in the box! The most beautiful, terrifying and harmonically fascinating electric guitar and guitar synthesizer playing you will ever hear, with sensitive and sensational accompaniment. Allan passed away 2 weeks after this release, and I know he loved that it came out and was available. - Rick, Hollywood


Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

One of the most beautifully wrenching albums I’ve ever heard. Not for the faint-hearted, Elverum delivers a masterful poem to the many facets of Grief. - Mark B, Hollywood


Mutoid Man

Mutoid Man - War Moans

Be sure to see a doctor about your melted face after this one. Fast, heavy, and sick AF. - Sean Murphy, San Francisco

Omni - Multi-Task

Omni - Multi-Task

Behold the 4 P’s of Omni’s winning formula: Post Punk Power Pop. Anxious, spidery guitar lines over a punchy rhythm section imagines The Nerves if they overdosed on Ritalin and paranoia. Or, for a more modern comparison, if late 2000s cult heroes Women held a jam session with Sheer Mag. The no-frills, tape-hiss heavy production helps the instant classic feel of this brilliant sophomore release. - Alex, Hollywood

 

Once and Future Band

Once & Future Band - Once & Future Band

This molten monolith of masterful musicianship dropped back in January and, dammit, it is without a doubt the best record of 2017. Sounding a little bit like a bygone vision of future sounds, I like to think of this album as the melodic equivalent of going 30 years into the future and replacing the plutonium fission reactor on your homemade time machine with Mr. Fusion before returning to 1985. You could wear yourself out trying to dial-in the potential influences that inform the shifting paradigm of sonic cues, fluid syncopation, confessional journal excerpts, et cetera at work here, or you could just let go and let this progressive psychedelic jazz-rock splitter take the wheel. Either way, you'll be totally taken in by this beast. It rules! - Kelly Sweeney Osato, Blogger at Large


Gold and Green

OOIOO - Gold & Green

This has been one of my “desert island” records since the very first time I heard it nearly seventeen years ago. It still sounds fresher than fresh today, in a delightfully almost alien way, as if it were the kind of music weather would make if it could stop shifting Earth’s elements long enough to galvanize an improv rock band for an interstellar open mic gig. From the opening clarion call of “Moss Trumpeter” to the moment “I’m A Song” bursts wide open into concentric reverberations, Green & Gold plays as much like a visionary “headphone album” as it feels like a guided navigation of pulsating terrestrial rhythms, atmospheric melody rivers, and electric celestial sorcery. Thankfully available for the first time as a proper and complete vinyl release (the very limited 2001 edition was available only in Japan and didn’t include the full album or its extensive artwork), this is probably the pinnacle of OOIOO’s output to date, and a great place to start for anyone curious about Japanese underground rock and the wonderful women who continue to lend their experimental musicianship to the genre. - Kelly Sweeney Osato, Blogger at Large


Pink Floyd The Early Years 1970

Pink Floyd - The Early Years 1970 Devi/ation

If you're a Pink Floyd fan these Early Years releases are the sonic equivalent of discovering King Tut's tomb. In fact, some of the very best music Pink Floyd ever made is in these releases. They were culled from a $600 box set that only rich uber fans could afford. Thankfully, for the rest of us mere mortals, Pink Floyd broke the set up into these far more affordable installments, which run roughly 45 to 55 bucks each. Each set has two CDs of unreleased rarities from both the studio and live shows, and DVDs and Blu-rays filled with both audio and live video. The Blu-ray on this set is a spectacular treasure trove of live footage. The film of the band performing in the KQED studios is almost worth the price of the box set just on its own. Pink Floyd plays a whole show up close and personal with perfect sound. The songs include classics such as “Careful With That Axe Eugene” and “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun,” and the band really takes the tunes for a ride. It’s just one of a number of live shows on the disc. The full range of Floyd's improvisational ability is on incredible display in the live tracks that fill the Blu-ray. The musical interplay between Rick Wright and David Gilmour is especially breathtaking. But the Blu-Ray is just part of the greatness of this collection. The CDs are equally amazing. I especially like CD number two, which is composed of 16 previously unreleased tracks from their "Zabriskie Point" recording sessions. This was Pink Floyd at the height of their powers and this collection contains some of their most lyrical and timeless music. - Jon Longhi, San Francisco

Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

This album crept up on me. The standout singles are immediate highlights, yet dig deeper and the nuances of this record reveal themselves more and more: the hyperliterate lyrics of Joe Casey, the clever songwriting/sequencing, and the muscular, aggressive musicianship of the band themselves. A modern punk album that truly feels like more than the sum of its parts, and those parts happen to be pretty darn good on their own. - Alex, Hollywood

Solid punch from Detroit punk literates. - Mark B, Hollywood

Sean Nicholas Savage - Yummycoma

Sean Nicholas Savage - Yummycoma

This Canadian indie balladeer disappears farther into Enya-land every day, layering his voice over itself a seemingly infinite amount of times over minimal synth-pop slow jams that sport maximum heartbreak. This is one of those artists they’ll be talking about years from now, cursing themselves for not discovering him sooner. Don’t make that same mistake. - Alex, Hollywood


Seafaring Strangers Private Yacht

Seafaring Strangers: Private Yacht - Various Artists

Is popular music pounding a hole into your soul? Are you tired of your local "light rock, less talk" radio station slicing out the same old top 40 farts? If you're looking for deeper-than-deep Soft Rock cuts, other songs titled "Sailing," and generally more "yacht" less Lil Yachty in your life, then come on aboard this seaworthy compilation of gently-rolled poolside pinot grigio-soaked joints of lost AM GOLD nuggets exhumed via "wreck-diving the private American AOR ship graveyard," a twenty-track bounty of smooth solutions guaranteed to soothe anyone in need of a latitude adjustment. My current favorite stowed in the hold is the Beach Music-adjacent jam "One More Time" by Salty Miller (a.k.a. Nelson Miller of The Monzas). - Kelly Sweeney Osato, Blogger at Large


Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag - Compilation

Sheer Mag released their excellent debut album, Need to Feel Your Love, in 2017, a balls-out collection of shredded AC/DC-meets-Thin Lizzy style rockers. Their rough-and-tumble EPs, though, collected and re-released at the very end of 2016, often surpass the debut. All anthems, all fist pumpingly great, all sung with maximum intensity and heart by lead firebrand Tina Halladay. - Billy, Hollywood


Slowdive

Slowdive - Slowdive

Having Slowdive back is one of the coolest things that has ever happened. I was beyond obsessed with their first three albums but never got to see them live in the '90s. Not only did I get to seem them live this year, but they gave us a new album. And it is great. Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead and the entire band are like my long lost best friends that are now back in my life. - Brad, Hollywood


Moses Sumnew

Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

He could have called his debut "Mo' Sumptuous," because that is what this album is — a rich mixture that includes modern, sometimes blurry production of mostly acoustic instruments; engaging, sexually ambivalent subject matter; and Sumney's soulful falsetto throughout. A surprise beauty! - David James, San Francisco


Tokyo Flashback - Various Artists

Tokyo Flashback - Various Artists

As psychedelic has become synonymous with jingly, jangly bands jamming out, P.S.F. Records captures what a bad trip is with psychedelic tunes that are as far away as you can get from any good vibes. This perfect live performance from various bands and artists on their label is absolutely not for civilians as each artist seems to not understand the word "quiet." This album doesn't give you a second to take a breath. - Mark A, Hollywood


War on Drugs

The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

A Deeper Understanding marks the band’s jump to a major label and, boy, does it sound the part. While previous albums have had a sort of stripped down production awash with reverb, Deeper does the band’s influences justice with a sound that is punchy and immediate, filling all corners of your speakers.


Chelsea Wolfe Hiss Spun

Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

I always enjoy listening to a new album by Chelsea. Deep and dark and brooding. Ethereal goth music. Sort of sounds like what Siouxsie Sioux would sound like if she was in a current band on a metal label. - Brad, Hollywood


The xx I See You

the xx - I See You

Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft’s vocals, weaving in and out of each other as beautifully as ever, are pushed to the foreground this time; the instrumentation meanwhile, leans more toward producer jamie xx’s trademark blue-eyed synthy funk than the guitar-driven dream pop the group is commonly known for. - Anna, Hollywood

This is the third album by the xx. I was a seriously huge fan of their first album. Probably loved it too much. So that second album was bound to let me down. But I really do love them again. I saw this album performed live and got to really appreciate it even more. Nobody combines dance music and dream pop as good as the xx. - Brad, Hollywood


Neil Young - Hitchhiker

Neil Young - Hitchhiker

Neil Young has been promising to deliver his unreleased albums for more than a decade now. But when he finally did, he released an album that instantly matched the peak of his 70s stuff like After the Gold Rush or Rust Never Sleeps. Recorded in a typically Neil Young fashion with as little studio trickery as possible by his longtime producer David Briggs: just a man, his guitar and some of the best songs of his career. Worth it just for "Campaigner." - Mark A, Hollywood

 

The Best Metal Albums of 2017

Bell Witch

Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

With Mirror Reaper, Seattle Funeral Doom Duo Bell Witch have really reached something next level, to the point of making fans of a few employees that aren't into metal in the slightest. One song, 83 minutes (broken up over either 2 CDs or 2 LPs) that doesn't default into heavy riffing, and instead stays atmospheric, mellow and somber for a good part of the duration. Bell Witch's progression over three albums has been pretty fascinating, and they just keep getting better. - Scott, Hollywood

This album will take you on a very long, doomy journey. The whole album is only one long track. I have listened to this album many times all the way through. I can never stop it once I start it. The album is really worth the time you need to spend with it. Dark and droney and sometimes exactly what I need to get through the day. - Brad, Hollywood

Necrot Blood Offerings

Necrot - Blood Offerings

High quality, no-nonsense Death Metal from the Bay Area. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, or get lost in virtuosity, Necrot is concerned only with making top-notch, quality music, and they've succeeded once again. - Scott, Hollywood

Undergang Undergang - Misantropologi

Holy moly. This album from Danish Death Metal band Undergang is almost ridiculously heavy. The vocals have to be heard to be believed. Creating an oppressive atmosphere is something that Misantropologi does flawlessly. - Scott, Hollywood

Terrorizer World Downfall

Terrorizer - World Downfall

In a year that saw much-needed vinyl reissues from Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Entombed and countless other releases, World Downfall was the one to beat. Originally released in 1989, it's an absolutely flawless, stellar, flawless classic that straddles the line between Grind and Death, and is an essential part of any metalhead's collection. - Scott, Hollywood

Spectral Voice

Spectral Voice - Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

This album was toward the top of many year-end lists, and for good reason. Colorado's Spectral Voice has created a compelling album that is at times eerie, out-there, grim, or crushing. Eroded Corridors is absolutely top notch Death/Death Doom. - Scott, Hollywood

The Best of 2017 World Music

Letters from Iraq Rahim Alhaj - Letters From Iraq: Oud and String Quartet

Letters from Iraq is a release both beautiful and devastating. Conceptual transcriptions of letters mailed from war-torn Iraq are what make up the core of this release. The emotion and complexity is at the forefront at all times, and the execution of the concept is very well done. - Scott, Hollywood


Mulatu of Ehtiopia

Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu of Ethiopia

The man who single-handedly put Ethiopian music on the map in the western world, thanks to his cool fusion of jazz and instrumental Ethiopian sounds. If one wants to buy just one release of his many - that go in and out of print rather regularly - this would be a perfect choice. But then again, you would want to own all of them in the end. - Viola, Hollywood


Chicano Batman - Freedom Is Free

Chicano Batman - Freedom Is Free

This great East L.A. tropicalia-soul band really hit their stride on a compelling set of tunes that combine inspiring message and indomitable groove. Like Curtis Mayfield or War, they show that gentle, creative soul can pack a powerful punch. Music for our time and place. - Daniel, Hollywood


Gal Costa India
Gal Costa - Índia

In 1973, with Índia, Brazilian singer Gal Costa released what was likely the best of her career, and this classic has mercifully been re-released by Mr. Bongo. Though Tropicalia is a big element of the album's sound, its funky, fun, but also restrained at times, and a great listen from beginning to end. If the track "Relance" doesn't get you to at least nod your head on beat, there's something wrong with you. - Scott, Hollywood


Even a Tree Can Shed Tears
Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 - Various Artists

This comp features many obscure artists that all conjure up a feeling of peace and serenity throughout. To be fair, some '70s schmaltz pops up intermittently, but those moments are fleeting. Beginning to end, this is just a nice, fun listen. - Scott, Hollywood


Charlotte Gainsbourg Rest

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest

Half Nico-style, French-sung grief-stricken dirges, half divine disco jammers that call to mind Grace Jones at her most ethereal, Charlotte Gainsbourg truly came into her own as an artist on the gripping Rest. - Billy, Hollywood


Mon laferte

Mon Laferte - La Trenza

Mon Laferte, an actress and singer songwriter from Chile, and now based in Mexico City, is already huge south of the border. Her videos are amazing and she is finally becoming a star on this side of the border since she performed in LA recently. Her style is a mix, ranging from rock to cumbia to rock, retro bolero, and more. - Viola, Hollywood

Juana Molina Halo

Juana Molina - Halo

On Halo, Juana Molina continues her endless experimentation and dismantling of pop structures. As always, an otherworldly and hypnotic feeling is conjured throughout. There's simply no one else like Juana Molina, and she reminds us of that with each new release. - Scott, Hollywood

Fabiano Do Nascimento Fabiano do Nascimento - Tempo dos Mestres

Nylon string guitar, soprano sax, light percussion, and vocals here and there are the sum total of what makes up Tempo dos Mestres, and what was made from those elements is beautiful and enjoyable, harkening back to the classic '60s-'70s era of Brazilian music. I can't stop listening to this. - Scott, Hollywood


Original Sound of Mali

The Original Sound of Mali - Various Artists

The Buena Vista Social Club compilation of Mali features tracks from the golden age of Malian music in the 1970s and 1980s, chosen by connoisseurs. Maybe the best collection on the market right now, featuring stars of the scene: Zani Diabate, Super Djata Band, Sory Bamba, Idris Soumaoro, The Rail Band...Cover photo by famous Malian photographer, Malick Sidibe. Contains "Mandjou," Salif Keita's best song ever, about the history of the Sundiata empire. - Viola, Hollywood

The Photographs of Charles Duvelle The Photographs of Charles Duvelle: Discques Ocora and Collection Prophet - Various Artists

This 2 CD + book set is a massively ambitious release, put out by a label that is no stranger to ambition. On display is Charles Duvelle's exhaustive work documenting cultures throughout the world, via both music and photography. This release is a crucial crash course in the essential work Duvelle did to help preserve cultural knowledge and documentation. - Scott, Hollywood

The Best of 2017 Jazz

Bill Evans Another Time Bill Evans - Another Time: The Hilversun Concert

This recording is from a live date, and one of the very few released with the lineup of Evans on piano, longtime collaborator Eddie Gomez on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. To sum it up: If it's got Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez on it, you need it in your life. - Scott, Hollywood

Oliver Lake Right Up On Oliver Lake feat. the Flux Quartet - Right Up On

Right Up On features legendary saxophonist Oliver Lake performing seven original compositions (with a fair amount of improvisation), with a string quartet, and the results are quite fascinating. The interplay between the strings and Lake's sax makes for a very unique listening experience that should intrigue adventurous listeners. - Scott, Hollywood

John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension - Live at Ronnie Scott's

John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension - Live at Ronnie Scott's

An emotive driller going straight to the heart, dancing all the way. John says it's too hard to tour the US, and his arthritis is quite painful now, so these are the kind of scorchers he’ll be releasing now from the other side of the world. His playing is a fascinating blend of 50 years of mind-blowing axe wielding, with a little ballad work and lots of ripping going on here, and some quite stunning percussion work by Ranjit Borot and the great Gary Husband (sometimes together). I heard Gary last week on the keys with this band and I can proudly say that he is one of our most formidable keys men with utter command of fast, slow, sideways ballads, auto racing-inspired soloing - the entire gamut. What a career he has up ahead, and of course he’s clearly been inspiring John for ages, and showing no sign of letting the arthritis take control of him. Seriously, he has matured into one of the greats on piano(s) without loosing a bit of his drum chops. - Rick, Hollywood
Lisa Mezzacappa

Lisa Mezzacappa - Glorious Ravage

Holy smokes!! The live performances of this large-scale work, inspired by (and setting music to) words written by female explorers from the turn of the last century, were EPIC! These are songs (and the amazing Fay Victor sings and otherwise vocalizes marvelously), but they are also great settings for individual and collective improvisations. The writing is, by turns, funny, bracing, spiky, and beautiful. With brass, woodwinds, strings (two double basses!) percussion, electronics, this is your New Big Band! - David James, San Francisco

Dominic Miller - Silent Light

Dominic Miller - Silent Light

Heck, I love guitar music and this is as good as (finger-picked nylon string with an occasional capo) gets. Mr. Miller has been spending most of his public career playing on other people’s records, but I really hope those days are over with this, his 6th to 7th album of his own. Incredible feel and chops, wonderful songs written mostly by Mr. Miller, and gorgeous ECM sound make this one of my favorite guitar albums ever! When I first got it, I played it over and over and over and over and…you get it. Now go get it!! - Rick, Hollywood 

Nicole Mitchell Nicole MitchellMandalora Awakening II: Emerging Worlds

Mandalora Awakening II is simply astonishing. Former AACM President and creative force of nature Nicole Mitchell features elements of Afrofuturism (heavily influenced by Octavia Butler), spirituality, race and gender, and the high concept nature of the album pays off in a big way. The sound is rather indescribable- it needs to be heard, not talked about. - Scott, Hollywood

William Parker Quartet William Parker Quartet - Meditation / Resurrection

To be frank, William Parker can do no wrong, either as a performer or as a composer. Meditation / Resurrection is a two disc set, with a slightly different lineup for each disc (though both feature frequent collaborator Hamid Drake). Parker's music is an endless well of creativity, and he can effortlessly create either beauty or chaos, and sometimes both at the same time. - Scott, Hollywood

Thelonious Monk - Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 Thelonious Monk - Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

Beautifully recorded, sublimely performed. - Mark B, Hollywood

Tyshawn Sorey Tyshawn Sorey - Versimilitude

The fact that composer/bandleader/multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey is taking over the teaching duties of the retiring Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University should speak volumes. Once again, Sorey straddles the line between composed and improvised music, drawing from modern composition, jazz, and the avant garde to stellar effect. - Scott, Hollywood


Best of 2017 Experimental

Keiji Haino

Keiji HainoWatashi Dake?

To say that Haino is a force of nature would be a massive understatement. Through his solo releases, endless collaborations, and long term band Fushitsusha, he has shown himself to be a wellspring of creativity, and he long ago cemented himself as one of the key artists of experimental/improvised music, and his music is impossible to classify, label or sum up. Watashi Dake is, to put it mildly, a harrowing listen, and is an essential part of Haino's output. God bless Black Editions for their commitment to the release of obscure, challenging Japanese music. - Scott, Hollywood


Best of 2017 Country


Margo Price All American Made

Margo Price - All American Made

One of my favorite new artists, and the best female country singer I have heard in YEARS. This sophomore release proves her debut was no fluke. This woman has the goods. - Sean Murphy, San Francisco


Chris Stapleton From a Room Vol 2

Chris Stapleton - From a Room: Volume 2

A songwriter in the outlaw country tradition, Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 2 serves up rootsy, atmospheric Americana that stands in stark contrast to the over-polished country pop dominating the airwaves. This smart, authentic, and evocative album is one of the year’s best.


Best of 2017 Soundtracks

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me Soundtrack Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

This year there were not one, but two reissues of this devastatingly essential, standalone masterpiece of a motion picture soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalamenti (with David Lynch), and this "Black Lodge" styled edition is the one to get if you've already splashed out on the "White Lodge" companion package Death Waltz created for their reissue of the original Twin Peaks soundtrack last year. Having been haunted by the mysteries of the music created for Fire Walk With Me since my best friend gave me this soundtrack on cassette as a Christmas gift in 1992, I'm almost at a loss for adequate words to describe how these songs have impacted and inspired me over the years. Simply put, it is a beloved piece of work that continues to move me deeply (with real indications spurring longing urges for long ago nighttime drives). High art. - Kelly Sweeney Osato, Blogger at Large

Pascal Gaigne - Handia

Pascal Gaigne - Handia [Import]

Another gorgeous soundtrack by Mr. Gaigne, with tiny melodies connecting the larger ones. Lots of gut-wrenching emotion and dramatic melodics on this one, just what I was hoping for. Full orchestra recorded beautifully. - Rick, Hollywood 

Nico Muhly - Howards End

Nico Muhly - Howards End [Import]

Mr. Muhly is another terrific young classical composer who can take a movie or series this way and that with his music but it’s where and when he chooses to do these things that make the film what it may become in the end. This is good stuff, maybe not so secreted away by the time you read this. It’s a lot of emotional, beautiful music, a mix of keyboards and lovely strings. I’ve been playing this day in and day out for a while now. - Rick, Hollywood

Oneohtrix Point Never - Good Time

Oneohtrix Point Never - Good Time

Although Oneohtrix Point Never's more noodly, vintage synth tracks are often compared to the work of Tangerine Dream as they're resplendent with sounds of ancient oscillators, wonked-out guitars and Yamaha DX100s wailing all over, his soundtrack for the Safdie Brothers' Good Time recalls the melty FM synthesis sound of dusty Sega Genesis games. You'd almost be convinced this soundtrack came out of an 80s Hong Kong action film. - Mark A, Hollywood


Best of 2017 movies

Blade Runner 2049 Blade Runner 2049 - Denis Villeneuve

Absolutely gorgeous. Fantastic sci-fi. One of the best sequels ever. Well done. - Cruz Control, San Francisco


Blow-Up

Blow-Up - Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni’s existentialist murder mystery has lost none of its edge since 1966. This beautifully shot film looks simply gorgeous on this year’s Criterion Collection release. A disaffected fashion photographer leads a surreal and chaotic existence in swinging London. The only structure in his life seems to be his endless search for the perfect photograph and one day he thinks he captures it when he sees a couple quarreling in a park. But did he actually photograph a murder? As he obsessively blows up the photos to find clues the images in them and even his own sense of reality become increasingly blurred. This is an utterly unique film filled with some of the greatest set pieces in western cinema. Watching it makes you question not just the nature of the film but the nature of reality itself. - Jon Longhi, San Francisco

The Florida Project

The Florida Project - Sean Baker

This film made me think about difficult times in my childhood and the act of dealing with those struggles. The film feels real and at the same time magical. By the end of the film I felt free. - Cruz Control, San Francisco


Get Out

Get Out - Jordan Peele

You will feel amazing after watching this movie. Looking forward to seeing future films from Jordan Peele. - Cruz Control, San Francisco

Green Slime The Green Slime - Kinji Fukasaku

This is a totally fun piece of Saturday afternoon matinee cheese that looks jaw-droppingly fantastic in Blu-ray hi-def. The Warner Archive is finally putting out their hidden gems on Blu-ray and this was a recent pleasant surprise. From the pounding acid rock song behind the credits to the goofy men in rubber suit monsters, this movie is both a great time capsule of sixties sci-fi and an admitted favorite childhood confection. An asteroid is on a collision course with earth, so the heroes of this film fly out to it in a spaceship to blow it up. They are successful but during their landing on the asteroid a strange gelatinous life form sneaks aboard their ship. On the way back to earth the green jelly grows into an army of tentacled humanoid Cyclopses and the fun begins! It’s basically the plot for Alien with much goofier monsters and about as much lowbrow entertainment as one can have in two hours. - Jon Longhi, San Francisco

Lady Bird

Lady Bird - Greta Gerwig

Lovely. Touching. You will think about high school, growing up, California, and your parent(s)/guardian(s). - Cruz Control, San Francisco

Mother!

Mother! - Darren Aronofsky

The beauty of this film is that it will cause confusion and various interpretations among viewers. This is not your typical movie experience. I cannot picture most mothers liking this movie. - Cruz Control, San Francisco

Phenomena

Phenomena - Dario Argento

Dario Argento was one of the greatest horror directors of the eighties and this is one of his top three films. This was one of his biggest hits in the US market, where it went by the name of Creepers. Jennifer Connelly stars as a young girl shipped off to a boarding school in Europe. She has the psychic ability to control insects and there is a serial killer on the loose in the area. Argento orchestrates these basic elements into one of the most delirious final half hours in all of horror cinema history. You will literally be staring at your set in drop jawed disbelief. I once saw this movie on a late-night creature feature and after it was over the host said, "On future episodes, we should stop playing different horror movies and just keep playing the last half hour of this over and over from now on." This Blu-ray release really pulls out all the stops and you get three, count them, three versions of the film. There's the original cut, the American "Creepers" cut, and then a brand-new version that combines all the outtakes into the longest and most complete cut of the film. I highly recommend the new final version. The outtakes really add to the terror and tension, and you wonder why they ever ended up on the cutting room floor in the first place. - Jon Longhi, San Francisco

Three Billboards poster

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri - Martin McDonagh

One of the funniest movies about a VERY dark subject I have ever seen. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give outstanding performances. - Sean Murphy, San Francisco


Valley of Gwangi
The Valley of Gwangi - James O'Connolly

Ray Harryhausen was born to animate dinosaurs. In this movie, they look like actual living creatures with their own distinct personalities. Harryhausen said in interviews that he took great pains to make his creations actually act and Gwangi is one of his greatest roles. Back in the day when I bought my first VCR, this was one of the first two video tapes I bought. Thanks to the Warner Archive, I was able to upgrade this movie to hi-def Blu-ray this year. It’s a cowboys versus dinosaurs story with one of the best wild west soundtracks in all of cinema. The picture and sound are flawless and it’s been one of my greatest pleasures of the past year to watch this old favorite look so good. - Jon Longhi, San Francisco

 

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