Now I know what you’re thinking: “Petey? I remember that name! It’s been ages! Didn’t your name used to have two ‘e’s?” And it has (also, yes, it did!)!
2017 has been a busy year to say the least. And not just for me, but for music in general. New breakout bands, band break-ups, stellar reunions, and so on. As we begin to wrap up the year and look towards what 2018 will bring on (Stopover is just around the corner, y’all), I thought I’d drop a few lines on some albums from the year that really knocked it out of the park for me. So, in no particular order, here we go:
Charly Bliss – Guppy
This album is definitely a bitter-sweet one for me. Don’t get me wrong, Charly Bliss is the perfect combo of saccharine vocals over jangly yet infectious, 90’s tinged guitar riffs. No, the reason that they evoke a bit of sadness from me is that last year they joined the ever growing list of “Bands that played Savannah Stopover that I missed because I was too hungover”. Here’s hoping they come back soon so I can correct that mistake. In the mean time, I’ll pull myself out of the dumps by listening to this little gem of 2017.
Cayetana – New Kind Of Normal
If you’re in your 20’s and can listen to a full Cayetana album without having at least 3 songs hit you at your core that you’ve got to take a minute and collect yourself, well, I suppose congratulations are in order. If you can accomplish that, you’ve managed to skip that aimless and rudderless phase that so many 20-something year holds know all too well. For the rest of us, Cayetana’s 2017 release, New Kind of Normal, can offer a bit of solace in knowing that we aren’t necessarily alone in feeling like life has become akin to trying to keep a grip on handful of sand. Boasting a more polished and slightly more mellow tone than their debut album, New Kind of Normal, is a slightly unexpected, yet welcome evolution from Cayetana and has me hungry for more.
Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here
Iron Chic will always be my blue collar band. Their newest release is tinged with the full spectrum of emotions: fear, despair, anxiety, hope, perseverance, and, most importantly, the recognition that “this too shall pass”. Gruff vocals and catchy, pop-punk-esque guitar riffs ebb and flow through the album but the singalong aspect of every track is the shining star. The best comparison I can think of would be that feeling of standing around with a bunch of friends, aimlessly drinking and hoping that better things are on the horizon for tomorrow.
Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
Katie Crutchfield’s “solo” project, Waxahatchee, certainly has a way of keeping fans on their feet. What began as a low-fi, acoustic outlet for the artist’s writings has slowly but surely morphed into a full fledged indie rock powerhouse featuring a full band, soaring vocal harmonies, and heartfelt lyrics that somehow become more gut-wrenching and meaningful with every release. If you’re looking for a showcase of word-crafting and lyricism, look no further than Out in the Storm.
Worriers – Survival Pop
When you break down the lyrics in each track on Survival Pop, it’s easy to see why the album earned such a title from vocalist Lauren Denitzio. As I sit and listen to the album, Denitzio manages to take personal experiences and not only make them identifiable, but they more so put you smack dab in the middle of their emotions, totally immersing you in what they’re feeling. Worrier’s melodic take on punk rock along with Denitzio’s passion filled words make for an incredible effect that grips the listener from the first track to the last.
Bully – Losing
Bully’s 2015 release, Feels Like, was easily one of the best rock albums to come out of Nashville in years. In a scene where the competition is as tough as it gets, Bully managed to cement their status as one of the best modern alt-rock groups around by combining slightly scuzzy, garage rock inspired guitar riffs with the tender yet raspy vocals of Bognanno. Their latest release, Losing, my not be much of an diversion from the sound of their debut album, but when you’re good and things are going well, why rock the boat too much? “Rock” the boat pun totally unintended.
Hiccup – Imaginary Enemies
While Imaginary Enemies might be Hiccup’s first release as a band, it’s far from their first venture playing together. The power pop trio is the result of members of the pop punk house band for the Chris Gethard Show (named The LLC which you should totally check out as well) coming together to write songs a bit more substantial than the 30 second segue-ways used between breaks on the Chris Gethard Show. The pop punk sensibilities shine through but definitely do not overpower the heavy pop-based influences at all.
Paramore – After Laughter
I dare say I don’t think any other band on this list has made as much of a “sonic 180” as Paramore did with After Laughter. Gone is the once iconic punk tinged, pop tunes like Misery Business from the past and in their place are a much more traditionally pop based sound featuring effects laden guitar and synths. But that’s certainly not the only change that’s occurred. Williams lyrics, once bordering on expected punk rock wails are now much more mellow an melodic. Don’t expect there to be a lack of bite when it comes to song content though. After Laughter may be a more traditional pop album, but you can expect the lyrical content to hit like a brick.
Lemuria – Recreational Hate
Oh boy, where do I start with this album. The first release on the bands own label, Turbo Worldwide, Recreational Hate was an unexpected sleeper hit for me really late in the year. What was kept as a heavily guarded secret until it’s surprise release, Recreational Hate shows the most evolution of any of the bands releases to date. While relying heavily on their indie rock/pop foundation, Lemuria also managed to craft a polished sound that shifted the focus from the expected guitar, bass, drums combo to a sound that implemented a much richer complexity via the use of instruments like acoustic guitar and an organ. You won’t find this one in stores just yet but definitely give it a stream online if you haven’t.
Rozwell Kid – Precious Art
If there’s one album on this list that screams “Petey would definitely like this band”, Rozwell Kid’s Precious Art is probably it. Think Weezer (early Weezer that is) meets modern, hooky heavy, punk rock. Tongue and cheek lyrics combined with dual guitar leads and fantastic singalong sections. Precious Art manages to straddle this very odd line of fun yet slightly perpetually anxious at the same time. It’s like standing around in a corner at a killer party; you’re having a great time but at the same time, there’s a little something that’s wrong and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Jeff Rosenstock – Worry
“Ignorance is bliss until the day the things you ignored all come into focus.” I don’t think I’ve ever actually quoted a track in a review, but Rosenstock’s third solo LP, Worry, deserves it. Rosenstock is a bit of a legend among the modern punk scene, his DIY ethos has been a staple ever since the beginning of his career and he’s worked with a slew of my person favorite artists including Laura Stevenson and Chris Farren. With Worry, Rosenstock’s years of experience all come to a head in his best work yet. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s not every day you hear a kazoo in pop punk, but here it is I suppose.
Welp, there we go. 2017 wasn’t the best year, but at least the soundtrack is pretty rad. Here’s hoping I see all of you in this upcoming year at a few shows! Support your scene, support local artists, and, most importantly, support each other!