Top 30 albums of 2017: #’s 5 – 1

Happy New Year!  What were the best albums of last year?  Well, these topped the list for me.

#5 – Blanck Mass – World Eater

The somewhat startling cover is a warning for a powerful, teeth-baring electro record that somehow catches all the chaos this year displayed.  There was a lot of early buzz about this record upon its release, and for good reason.  It’s a stunning piece of synthwave, dark wave, and psychedelic fever dreams.

#4 – All Them Witches – Sleeping Through the War

This psychedelic blues-rock was pretty much a lock for my favorite rock record of the year as soon as I heard it.  ATW brew up haunting tracks that range in subjects from being stuck in purgatory to internet addiction (which are pretty much the same thing).

#3 – LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

Their reunion was possibly the most anticipated of the year, and they proved they hadn’t lost a thing on this great record.  Front man James Murphy‘s lyrics are as searing as ever as he confronts aging, love, social media, partying, and Millennials.  One of the singles, “Tonite” (one of my favorites of the year) is a great example.  It’s a song about songs, but it’s also about the fears and joys of aging.

#2 – WALL – Untitled

This is a bittersweet choice because one of the best post-punk records, and best records in any genre, of the year is by a band who broke up before it was released or even named.  WALL‘s only full-length record is shrouded in mysterious lyrics about the current political landscape and the band itself.  It’s also full of sharp guitar hooks and sass that is sorely missed.  Consider yourself blessed if you caught one of their too few live shows.

#1 – Kelly Lee Owens – self-titled

I read a review of this album that described it as “a breath of fresh air.”  I’m not sure I can beat that description because this stunning debut is the most beautiful record I heard all year.  Ms. Owens’ synth soundscapes immediately seem to lighten gravity around you.  It’s a tonic for the toxic atmosphere we’re living in right now (both in the real world and in the one that blitzes us from cyberspace every day).  If 2017 got you down, listen to this album today and you will have a much better outlook on the year to come.

Keep your mind open.

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Blanck Mass – World Eater

The name of the new Blanck Mass (Benjamin John Power) album, World Eater, could refer to several things: the Fenris Wolf from Norse mythology that eats the sun at the end of the world (the cover art – a photograph of a snarling dog’s teeth – certainly suggests this), the rising population numbers of the human race and the effects of that on the planet, the Internet, Galactus from Marvel Comics, cancer, world politics, religion, or a hundred other things. World Eater attempts to unveil this looming threat (whatever it is) to us, and he does so with fury.

Take, for instance, World Eater’s opener, “John Doe’s Carnival of Error.” It’s a little over two minutes of what sounds like an antique music box in need of repair. This belongs in a horror film score, if it’s not already in one. It’s not a carnival of terror, however. It’s a carnival of error. Our errors, both in real life and especially online, often define us. No one is given the benefit of the doubt anymore, and plenty of us like to sit back and watch the circus as celebrities are taken down, politicians stumble, and even “normal people” suffer pratfalls both physical and emotional.

“Rhesus Negative” brings in frenetic electric beats, fuzzed bass, and short, choppy samples perfect for the short, choppy way we’ve come to want our entertainment, news, and human interactions. “Please” could be Blanck Mass’ asking us to pay attention to our world be swallowed up by seemingly everything. It’s one of the brightest tracks on the record, so I can’t help but figure he thinks we can heal the world and ourselves if we have some compassion for it and each other.

“The Rat” is probably an allusion to scavengers plaguing the world with feeding off of / exploiting the poor. The beat and sound of the track, one of the best, is like something out of a future post-apocalyptic movie (but one with an uplifting ending). I wouldn’t be surprised if “Silent Treatment” refers to the way human beings tend to interact with each other nowadays. We’d rather stare at little screens and type silent words than actually look at each other and tell stories. The song is anything but quiet as it mixes in trance touches with rainfall-like synths.

I have no idea how to explain the title of “Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked,” but maybe that’s the point. It’s chaotic and seems to come at you from several directions, and I definitely think that’s part of the message. The things that tend to gobble us up in this world come at us all the time from every direction imaginable. Perhaps Blanck Mass wants us to be naked of such distractions, and this song is a reflection of those distractions. I’m going with that.

World Eater ends with the song “Hive Mind.” We’re all nearly there, aren’t we? Everyone wants to be famous, liked, upvoted, tagged, retweeted, and shared. As a friend of mine once put it, “They all want to be individuals like everyone else.” We want to belong, but we don’t want to put in the effort of belonging to something. The song’s slick beats and popping synths keep you nodding and awake. It keeps you from falling into the hive mind.

Blanck Mass wants us to wake up and readjust. He wants us to remember that nature is truly highest on the food chain, but he also wants us to remember that we can avoid being consumed by the beasts we’ve created. This record is a warning, an alarm, and a solid piece of work – one of the best I’ve heard all year, in fact.

Keep your mind open.