10. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun
Another year gone by, another year without a release from crushing husband-and-wife metal titans Jucifer. And yet we have still been heard, and Chelsea Wolfe arises from the blackened depths to pummel our minds into a fine mist. Hiss Spun is simultaneously lovely and punishing, feminine and bestial, sensuous and jagged. Its more rhythmic than you expect, with Ms Wolfe able to accomplish the vocal gymnastics you expect out of someone like Jarboe, going from sweet to terrifying all in the course of a single song. 2017 is a year that inspired a lot of anger, and artists like Chelsea Wolfe harness that rage to stunning effect.
9. Oddisee - The Iceberg
One of the most positive developments in music in the past five or so years is a closer marrying of hip hop and jazz. Albums like Flying Lotus' You're Dead! and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly become musical kaleidoscopes with Bitches Brew era fusion, while Brooklyn MC and producer Oddisee mines from earlier Miles to give his raps depth and nostalgia. Like Lamar's record, Oddisee's music is explicitly political; it's hard not to be these days, and The Iceberg tackles the crises facing young black America with a tragedy and poignancy. If you're interested in what a complex production, married with complex lyrics, can do to make hip hop accessible and urgent, The Iceberg is a perfect experience.
8. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
Half-Pakistani Brit Nadine Shah knows a thing or two about stigma, a topic revisited countless times on Holiday Destination. Shah and producer Ben Hillier give the record over to the beat, and throughout its course the rhythm is addictive. All the while, Shah sings of the trials faced throughout our time in these bodies, but it's a joyous record, a celebration of life rather than a condemnation of close-mindedness. Holiday Destination is erudite while also being monstrously catchy at the same time; this is an easy record to dance to. Politically necessary while simultaneously sexy and swingin', Holiday Destination is an easy record to like, and an important record to listen to.
7. Re-TROS - Before the Applause
No album came completely out of nowhere for me like the sophomore album by Beijing post-punk trio Re-TROS, which apparently stands for 'Rebuilding the Rights of Statues'. I had never heard of the group before reading a positive review, and decided to give them a try; about 2 minutes in to the astonishing 'HAILING DRUMS' and I was hooked. It's post-punk, it's krautrock/kosmiche, it has a healthy dose of four-on-the-floor techno, and it shows me that I've been totally missing what sounds like am incredibly fertile music scene out of China. I've never heard Re-TROS' first album, but Before the Applause is fully-formed, totally unique, not at all derivative even with its myriad influences. If you're ready for a style of music at once comfortingly familiar and radically new, Re-TROS are far more than the sum of their wonderful parts.
6. Ty Segall - Ty Segall
Musical omnivore Ty Segall has dialed back his releases to a mere one a year these days, down from two or three a year in the past. In 2017 he's given us a second self-titled album, which both treads familiar ground and shoots off into the stratosphere.Ty's usual fuzzed-out guitar explosions are well-represented and still manage to sound fresh after nearly 10 years of amplifier worship, and his acoustic numbers like the arresting 'Orange Color Queen' have a Beatlesesque majesty to them that just show how effortlessly he's mastered the song form. The big surprise, though, is the suite of 'Freedom' and 'Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)' in which a punchy punk rock song mutates into a jazz-fusion behemoth, like nothing Ty's ever done before. Does this represent a new direction, crowned by this starting over with a self-titled album? Only Ty knows for sure, but Ty Segall shows that no matter which way he jumps next, it's going to be fantastic.
5. The Granite Shore - Suspended Second
Unlike many of the schizophrenic genre-hoppers I have represented on this list, The Granite Shore are of singular purpose: working in the '70s British mold of John Cale, Brian Eno, and Kevin Ayers, Mr. Nick Halliwell and his brothers-in-arms give us nine slices of beautiful, sad, stiff pop music. The production is deep and inviting, like a bar band at the end of time, the lyrics are tragic hymns to growling old and bitter. The perfect album for feeling sorry for yourself on a rainy day, Suspended Second revels in its intelligence.
4. Gnod - Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
No joke, Gnod may be my favorite band. Every album they release is so different, and so, so good, the next generation's Nurse With Wound in more ways than one. Last Year's The Mirror was a Swans/PiL influenced slice of ugliness, a rage and reaction at the Brexit and the continuing British descent into fascism, and since 2016 things have only gotten worse, for Britain, America, and just about everywhere else in the world. So this year, Gnod ups the ante and manages to press pure righteous fury to record like nobody has ever managed before; Just Say No is a beautiful, pop-art monster, motorik punk rock as a whirlwind of anger. From the absolutely stunning 'Bodies for Money' which blows your hair back and never lets up, to the dubby rage of 'Stick in the Wheel', Just Say No is violent and necessary.
3. Nadah El Shazly - Ahwar
Like Re-TROS, Nadah El Shazly seems to come from nowhere in a musical scene I wasn't even really aware of, in this case Cairo, Egypt. And like Before the Applause, El Shazly's Ahwar sounds like absolutely nothing I've ever heard before, while still being made of recognizable parts. El Shazly's voice is gorgeous; dark, rich, viscous honey sliding over the haunting, psychedelic landscapes of her music. Some songs are mind-bendingly strange ('Afqid Al-Dhakira') while others are sublimely beautiful (Ana' Ishiqt') but it all feels as a piece with the album, everything is sequenced perfectly and is so arrestingly new that it all makes perfect sense.
2. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
Jane Weaver and her army of synths collide in the masterpiece that is Modern Kosmology, a fantastically-produced motorik odyssey that you can get lost in. The album sounds so thick you could drown in it, reverb washing over you all while the insistent rhythms keep the beat of your heart. This is an album to get lost in, with the beat and Weaver's beautiful vocals the only thing keeping it anchored in this reality. Modern Kosmology is your window into another world, and is an excellent escape perhaps rivaled only by Coil's Time Machines when the world has beaten you down enough; let it cocoon you and enjoy your time away for as long as you can.
1. The Moonlandingz - Interplanetary Class Classics
(Sadly, The Moonlandingz don't seem to be on Bandcamp. So, enjoy this wonderful video and then go get it on iTunes!)
And here we are, at number one. And really, for this listener at least, there's no choice for album of the year but The Moonlandingz and their astonishing debut Interplanetary Class Classics. Produced by Sean Lennon, of all people, The Moonlandingz are Saul and Lias from the always-wonderful Fat White Family and Adrian and Dean from the Eccentronic Research Council, making the dirtiest, sleaziest, most wonderful glam rock you've ever heard. It's Bowie and Bryan Ferry and Sparks at their absolute, uncomfortable nastiest, a trait Fat White Family are of course intimately accustomed to. And it's good. Oh, how it's good. From beginning to end, Interplanetary Class Classics staples a smile on your face with its scuzzy irreverence, all sacred cows rapidly turned into hamburger for the teeming millions. There's not a wasted second on the album, everything is immediate and wonderful, and Lennon is a surprisingly steady hand on the till, giving the record just enough of a '70s sheen while letting its members be as unpleasant as possible. Interplanetary Class Classics is pure rock'n'roll, the type I didn't think they made anymore and with good reason; when you see the gross, misogynist scandals guys like Gene Simmons keep getting into, you think that kind of group is dead and buried. But The Moonlandingz know what they're doing, hell, The Fat Whites have been doing it for years now and now they're finally getting the recognition they deserve. In dark times, we need albums like Interplanetary Class Classics, and there's no question that it's the best album of the year.