A Year in My Ears
The year started off on a high note with a release from my all-time favourite band. While at first suffering from the usual anxiety that they wouldn’t live up to their legacy, it wasn’t long lasting. I should know by now that this band doesn’t write songs that are immediately catchy, but ultimately forgettable. Those who were fans of their earlier punk years will be happy to hear some of their former angst returning, in addition to their signature layered sound.
It’s natural to be a little weirded out by the idea of an AFI-No Doubt mash up, after all—what is that supposed to sound like? As it turns out; a dark and flamboyant 80s dance pop album with high caliber of composition and production. Largely comprised of the flagrance Davey Havok has been trying to suppress for the last 12 years, it showcases his ever-expanding vocal range, and is bound to win over the purest of AFI fans.
3. Whitney Rose – Rule 62 & South Texas Suite
If you told me that I’d end up falling in love this year, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Especially if the object of my affection were to be a female country singer, but here we have it. After stealing my heart at the Horseshoe in February, I was prompted to seek out her entire discography. Oddly enough, 2017 brought about her LP South Texas Suite, as well as the EP Rule 62 – both of which have been on heavy rotation, along with her previous release Heartbreaker of the Year. A little bit Nancy Sinatra, a little bit motown, and a whole lot of vintage country, she’s a master storyteller without relying too heavily on dead dogs, cheatin’ hearts, and trucks. But don’t mistake her for just a sweet-voiced angel either, she’s known to blow the roof off with her timely cover of You Don’t Own Me.
One thing you really need to know about me is that I love girl punk bands. Particularly ones that have multiple singers and vocal styles. This Winnipeg two-piece caught my ear long ago, but it wasn’t until I came across their sticker on a hand dryer in a decrepit venue washroom early this year that I looked them up in earnest. A perfect combination of call-and-answer screaming and singing, they evoke visions of a young Brody Dalle, and angsty late 90s punk. In fact, they cram so much awesomeness into each track, it’s hard to believe that they’re just a guitar/drum duo.
This album came out in October, and I think I may have had it in my ears 75% of my waking life since then. While Matt has been releasing albums for well over a decade, it’s been his last couple of efforts that have really tickled my fancy. Relying heavily on a sense of romance and nostalgia, the passion he pours into each and every track is palpable. Put this one on, go for a long road trip and think about all the ones that got away.
Oh hey, it’s another chick punk album! This one is literally an 11th hour—err—12th month addition to the list, thanks to a friend’s apt recommendation, and a perfectly timed tour with my friends Dearly Beloved. Boasting three female vocalists (one being the drummer, goddamn), this album is the musical version of a Sweet & Salty bar. With an unrelenting pedal-to-the-metal pace from start to finish, you might say they are…like a motorcycle. (Sorry).
You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of supporting small, Canadian bands. Luckily for me, I’m exposed to loads of them every year through my work with every music festival ever. My top discovery this year at CMW was this Quebecois two-piece. Mixing desert rock, 50s pop, and rockabilly, they have that spacious lo-fi sound particular to early-days White Stripes.
Foos may have released Concrete and Gold in September (which is good, and takes the band in an interesting new direction), but I spent the greater part of the year getting to know Sonic Highways a little better. Once deemed as just a generic radio rock band, I’ve been really feeling the extra flare they’ve put into their productions since 2011’s Wasting Light. Someone must have told Dave Grohl that I’m a fan of the heartstring-plucking guitar lines, and piles of vocal harmonies, because this album is full of them.
John Carpenter may be the father of horror, but the casual fan may not know that he is also one of the best soundtrack composers out there. Off the heels of his original albums, Lost Themes I and II from 2015-2016, he’s now released an anthology of his most notable movie hits. Not to mention, getting to see him performing these pieces live to film clips, with his cool-Dad stage persona only made this album more special.
Every year, I seem to file one band under “oh, they’re responsible for all those songs” category. In 2017, Tears for Fears was it. A soundtrack to my childhood, their signature melancholy pop sound perfectly encompasses the feeling of the 80s. Give this album a listen, you’ll know way more tracks than you thought you would.