Happy summer, music lovers! I hope you’ve been enjoying the Weekly RecommNeds picks so far this year, there’s been some great new music out there and I’ve got a queue loaded up with plenty more recs. But as we’re just past the halfway point of 2017, it’s about time for me to give you my annual “in case you missed it” list. These are 10 of my favorite albums of 2017 so far that you may or may not have missed. Half of them were already featured in a RecommNeds column – of course, I think you should check out all the picks for the year, but if you missed any of these the first time around, well, here’s a second nudge. The other half is made up of albums that hopefully you’re already on top of, but just in case …
Before I get to the list, a reminder that all of this year’s RecommNeds picks can be found in this Spotify playlist, which is updated every week. While I’m at it, I also maintain a “Neddy’s Favorite Albums Of 2017 So Far” playlist, which has some overlap with the other one, but other good releases as well – that one is updated monthly. Finally, if you dig on all this, a little plug for my newsletter which includes music recs, my weekly mix, live show reviews, listings and some random ramblings. Check it out.
Without further ado, the annual mid-year #ICYMI list (in alphabetical order), truly something for everyone, enjoy!
Sam Amidon: The Following Mountain
Through his passion for jazz and his natural talents playing Appalachian folk, Sam Amidon has stumbled upon a unique and incredibly moving sound of his own. With each new release, this sound seems to find new musical space to work in and his latest, The Following Mountain, feels like a sort of culmination, the thing it has all been building to. Here, for the first time, Amidon has an album filled entirely of original songs. The achievement feels remarkable, the folk and jazz organically playing off of each other in total freedom.
Aquaserge: laisse çaêtre
I throw a lot of new and occasionally random music out there and sometimes you never know what’s gonna stick. So, it’s always nice to hear from someone that discovered their new favorite thing. This album from Aquaserge elicited an enthusiastic “where did you find these guys?” email from a good friend with discerning tastes, and rightly so. The French band’s laisse çaêtre is a delight of new-prog, psych, jazz and rock. Highly recommended.
Avec le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche: Pas pire pop, I Love You So Much
As the fate of the alphabet would have it, this one was featured in the same Eurojams RecommNeds column as Aquaserge, even though these guys are French Canadian. The band’s name is, impossibly, Avec le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche (which I believe means “with the sun out of his mouth,” equally poetic in translation). Believe it or not, I got an equally enthusiastic note from a completely different friend about this one, basically “this is my new favorite band.” Which is sort of the way I feel about them, my favorite discovery of 2017 so far. As I wrote in the original column “This album feels like a full on suite built on a couple riffs from the Talking Heads’ ‘Born Under Punches,’ and I mean that in the best way possible. Triumphant, funky, math-y, and just addictive as hell, this is one heckuva record.”
Causa Sui: Live in Copenhagen
We can’t go a year over here at the Weekly RecommNed without an album from our favorite Danish jam band. Thankfully, Causa Sui continues to put out body-and-brain-melting album year after year. The latest is a double live album, two separate shows recorded in Copenhagen, both concerts celebrating the release of their last two studio records. The band clearly thrives in the live setting, and the shows, while each capturing a different moment in the band’s development, are both hair-raising affairs. If you’ve never heard Causa Sui before, this is a great place to start, and if you have (and, oh, I hope you have!), I’m sure you haven’t taken this one out of rotation yet. And, gentlemen, if you’re reading this, please come play some of this shit in the U.S.! #caUSAsui
Chicano Batman: Freedom Is Free
Sometimes you’re a little late to a band and you kick yourself for it. That’s how I feel with Chicano Batman, so I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake. With their third album, Freedom Is Free, the Los Angeles band seems to have found its sweet spot. The record is an ecstatic joy of rock ‘n’ roll, tinged with psych, soul and exotica, with tightly constructed songs that still leave lots of slack for free-roaming. Each track here feels like a timeless classic, there is nothing to skip over, nothing that doesn’t add to the whole. Freedom Is Free is absolutely one of my favorite albums of the year.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Flying Microtonal Banana + Murder Of the Universe
You’re lucky if your favorite band comes out with an album every couple of years. Well, if your favorite band is King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (and you could do a lot worse, believe me), that’s the least of your problems. Already in the first half of 2017, the Lizard Wizard has come out with two soul-churning records, both worthy of this list, and reports of multiple more on the way. Quantity is one thing, but both Flying Microtonal Banana and Murder Of The Universe are high, high, high in quality. KGLW has proven to be total masters of the modern day psych rock, sounding less like a throwback to the ’60s and ’70s and more like music delivered from the future. Their albums are complete packages and also chapters in some longer King Gizzard saga. Somehow they keep getting better and more interesting, who knows what’s next.
Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge: Mount Royal
Anyone regular RecommNeds reader knows that I am an absolute sucker for beautiful guitar music. Well, there’s beautiful guitar music and there’s music like what you find on Mount Royal from Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge. This is guitar duo music of superlative quality, two acoustic guitars in complete and utter, chills-inducing resonance. Lage is on a short personal list of can-do-no-wrong guitarists, who seems at his best in these duo situations. Eldridge (of the Punch Brothers) is a perfect match, finding a gorgeous common ground of bluegrass and jazz. Don’t skip this one.
Landlady: The World Is A Loud Place
The first RecommNeds column of 2017 featured the new record from Landlady, The World Is A Loud Place. I am happy to report that the album still features prominently on my favorites list, it’s that good. As with everything from frontman Adam Schatz, it feels almost as much as an art project as an album, online versions have a trippy animated gif of the cover art work, which is probably trippy enough on its own. Regardless, the album works mostly because the music on it is addictively awesome. As I wrote back in January: it’s got “catchy hooks, impulsive rhythms and surreal-poetry lyrics. Each song seems to sit on a precarious, uber-creative border of brainy art rock, boogie jazz and goofy indie rock.” This is music for people who love good music, so go get it.
The Necks: Unfold
Operating somewhere in the nether regions between piano-trio jazz and washed-out ambient is The Necks. The Australian trio released Unfold earlier this year and it is a masterpiece of musical meditation. It moves slow and requires patience, but the rewards are giddy and hallucinatory. Staring into the abyss and finding it’s a thing of exquisite beauty, there’s simply nothing else like this. This is a record to be savored.
Ty Richards: Zillion
My listening habits often find me deep in a shuffling playlist of new music, my attention occasionally drawn in to a track enough to look up and find out who it is, and when, over and over, I find the same artist and album staring back at me, I know I’ve found something worthwhile. That’s how Ty Richards’ debut album, Zillion, came to me, track after track of “who is this?! This is awesome.” And it is awesome. As I wrote in my recs column, it’s a “classic rock foundation draped in a modern-day dance-ready groove with a psychedelic frontispiece.” Richards wrote, recorded, produced and played every note of music on the album and it’s all the better for it. I hope you enjoy this one and all of ‘em. Back with more new ones next week.