Best of 2017: Garage Rock and R&B/Hip Hop

I keep trying to figure out how to do my year-end lists. How and why does one finish a project without a deadline or pragmatic function? Especially when that project could, and probably should (for best results), go on indefinitely and with as much patience as possible. 

There’s an aspect of “truth” that I’m personally pursuing with each of these lists that I’m chasing for my own sake, but I’m really just chasing it. I’m also trying to define my music universe for the next year so that I can essentially not miss anything that’s worth listening to in my recently perceived purview. 

There’s also something very wrong with my music listening habit. It’s the only compulsive thing I do that adds value to my life, but it could add a lot more value if I were willing to classify it less. I only write about something that I’ve listened to more than a handful of times, almost always 9+ spins though. That means that just the music on these lists (and say, runners up), is 35-40 days (as in, 900 hours) of listening, which actually might only be 15% of my waking hours. I’m not sure how much time I waste listening to things I’ll only listen to one or a few times, but it’s probably less than that, total. Let’s assume it’s another 5% of my waking hours. But then again, I rated 534 releases this year, so the abandoned 400+ albums probably make up a fairly sizable chunk. I should have more numbers on this, but hasn’t been working that well. They say I’ve listened to 30000 tracks, which is conservatively 2,000 hours. So that’s more like a third of my waking hours, which honestly sounds pretty accurate.

Anyways, I’m closer to getting it right, and since I, like many other music listeners, believe that I’m actually right, I should try to get it right, right? 

I’ve only finished my thoughts on two fairly obvious categories so far: Garage Rock and R&B/Hip-Hop. They’re the lowest stakes of my categories, since they’re so well defined and everything fits in place and makes it easy to get my thoughts in line. I’m also not listening to any new releases in either category and I’ve been in the mood to listen to them.

Top 5 Hip-Hop/R&B

I was originally going to do the top 10 and include pop albums as well as Hip Hop albums I thought I should write about, but then I realized that was feeling too obligatory so I scaled back. These are albums I collected slowly throughout the year, and with the exception of sleeping on DAMN for a long time, I enjoyed all year long.

5. Brockhampton - Saturation II/III - I haven’t really gotten into III enough to say anything interesting about it, but there might not be anything strictly “interesting” about it. This is all music for fun and profit, and it’s good enough to be both. These are both consistently fun and occasionally brilliant pop albums from an inspiring group of crazy people.

4. Gabriel Garzón-Montano - Jardin - This is the kind of old school neo-soul that I didn’t know I was missing. This is in a D’Angelo/Badu lineage in a way that few others are able to be and get away with. 

3. Run The Jewels - RTJ3 - This got no love in anyone’s 2016 or 2017 year-ends because it came out 12/24/2016. It’s another canonical album in the RTJ legacy, which I’m pretty sure is enough to say.

2. Kelela - Take Me Apart - This is still just an amazing Alternative R&Bass album with the same guest vocalist on every track and Kelela’s always been amazing on other people’s tracks. Kelela’s also a great vocalist with amazing taste in everything, besides possibly relationships, but I might be reading in too much

1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN - I got on the Kendrick train a little late for a music nerd (like, months ago), but at least I’m on now. It’s not too late for you to listen to DAMN, because there’s never a bad time to listen to DAMN for anyone.


Top 10 Garage Rock

This is one of the nerdiest lists I do and is full of esoteric stuff. It could be worse, though: I could fetishize esoteric rock music even more than I do.

10. Tall Juan - Golden Oldies - Tall Juan is a star in his own mind. And the minds of anyone who has the pleasure of seeing him bounce around like the love child of Joey Ramone and Jonathan Richman.

9. Ty Segall - Ty Segall - Ty does a good job reigning it in a bit on this record while still getting pretty freaky, especially with the addition of full-time keys/synth. It might not be in his top 5, but it also might be.

8. OCS - OCS - It’s nice to hear Brigid Dawson sing again and it’s even nicer to hear John write OCS style songs again. A little hit or miss, but more hit than miss.

    7. Celluloid - Death Rides West - A truly esoteric pick from a band that has since broken up. This country garage punk may have blazed too brightly for this world. 

    6. LA Witch - LA Witch - Sleazy LA psych with deep grooves and lots of Cramps-style sexiness and swagger. Lots of fun to drive to with the windows down.

    5. Feral Ohms - Feral Ohms - Nearly constant shredding. Of guitar strings, of vocal chords, of my eardrums, of general decency. I’ll reach for this a lot in the future because it's really satisfying in a particular mood.

    4. Flat Worms - Flat Worms - More Castle Face love from me to these garage punkers. It’s sort of the most traditional record they’ve ever put out, almost like a classic In The Red record, which I would confuse this for if I didn’t know better.

    3. Teenanger - Teenanger - These underrated Canadians are now serving up some of the best garage glam in the world. There are lots of good ideas on this record and they’re implemented with the precision of professional garage lifers. 

    2. Damaged Bug - Bunker Funk - Only a true fanboy puts Oh Sees’s John Dwyer’s side project just below his main project on a year end list. For the first time, though, I’m enjoying this record in the same way that I like Oh Sees records, so it feels so right.

    1. Oh Sees - Orc - The best garage comes from the best garage rock group, in this case, for many years running. It sounds essential, and maybe the most essential since Floating Coffin in 2013.