This year’s chart is dominated by rock and post-rock, in particular the Constellation roster, represented by an amazing four out of ten releases. No wonder it was our Label of the Year. But there’s plenty more to be found here, from old favorites to new surprises. Perhaps the most surprising is that one band subdued its sound to produce the album of its career, while another found new inspiration in the shoegaze moment of the 80s.
While there seem to be fewer post-rock albums around these days – Rate Your Music lists 211 to date for 2017, as opposed to 293 a decade ago – the genre is far from dead. In fact, one might say that it’s finding new life by taking risks: adding instruments, working with artists from other countries, addressing global concerns. We love this year’s crop, and hope that you do too!
And now, in alphabetical order, A Closer Listen presents the Top Ten Rock and Post Rock Albums of 2017!
Cam Butler ~ Find Your Love (Self-Released)
Cowboys, heroes and explorers get their due in this heroic album, saddle bags laden with references to mountains and Morricone. This is the old Outback, where the lines between good and evil are often blurred; but Butler and his orchestra make sure that the good guys win in the end. In the midst of all the drama, this composer finds his love, and invites us to celebrate with six-guns and sarsaparilla. (Richard Allen)
Do Make Say Think ~ Stubborn Persistent Illusions (Constellation)
After eight long years, DMST has returned with an album that, like many of those of their second-gen post-rock peers, still points forward into uncharted territory. There’s still a sense of classic DMST – make no mistake – insofar as the tracks eschew the genre’s more dramatic leanings in favor of grounded mood-building. It was easy to daydream to the band’s music, but, like Other Truths, Stubborn Persistent Illusions immediately parts from a sense of direction, from a much more concise compositional development. It is bolder and more adventurous when it comes to interrupting those expansive moments of mood, demanding not to sit back and lose yourself but to drive your attention forward. Keep at the edge of your seat, lest you fall behind into old, stubborn listening habits. (David Murrieta)
Esmerine ~ Mechanics of Dominion (Constellation)
Esmerine continue to shine among the brightest of the many Constellation stars. Lacking the raw energy of its predecessor, Mechanics of Dominion observes and reflects on the world’s troubles rather than shouts at them – and is all the stronger for this. It is a truly global set, the band’s Middle Eastern proclivities mingling with rhythms and voices that caress Latin America, all enveloped in an increasingly experimental chamber post-rock sound. Some pieces are fragmentary, as if losing heart or distracted by another disaster, the latest scandal – but then it reverts to the band’s seductive roots of rhythm and repetition, and we find ourselves ensnared by some of 2017’s finest sounds. (Chris Redfearn-Murray)
Gabriel Saloman ~ Movement Building Vol. 3 (Shelter Press)
The last album in the Movement Building trilogy is perhaps the most striking, the most confrontational of the three. Light drones give way to noise, meditative electronic sounds are juxtaposed with aggressive percussions, all that is wrong with the world jumbled and pressed along all that is right, trailing in different forms of belonging. All the external forces that push and pull each one of us rise and collapse in the violence of community-making, an enforcement spreading from within, from the heart and breath that express “I am”. To exclude is to contain, and to belong is to be willing to draw and enforce limits. (David Murrieta)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor ~ “Luciferian Towers” (Constellation)
Never has GY!BE sounded so powerfully angry, so in tune with a reality that has pushed all those stubborn tiny lights to shine their brightest yet in a very, very long time. “Bosses Hang” is paradigmatic not only because of the violence of the title but also because the music is just some of the prettiest and most rock-like stuff the band has made in years, which is saying something for musicians who have eschewed the conventional since the very beginning. It is the relentless march of a history of hope, the sweeping articulation of a mythical victory, a passionate and joyful strike of uncompromising egalitarianism. After decades of darkness, perhaps there’s a new light for us all, and we just have to seize it. (David Murrieta)
Jessica Moss ~ Pools of Light (Constellation)
Although Jessica Moss is the go-to violinist for any number of other artists, her second album is a truly solo affair, comprising of two side-long suites. Building from an Arabic-sounding theme, the movements of “Entire Populations” are compelling, ranging from the passionate choral second part to the mournful conclusion. “Glaciers” is fittingly slow-moving, the layered voices of the first part sounding like the monolith from 2001, the initial full-on effect gradually receding into subtler textures and themes. Pools Of Light is a powerful, intense and passionately direct work that needs to be experienced. (Jeremy Bye)
Mogwai ~ Every Country’s Sun (Rock Action/Temporary Residence)
Recommended to people who like New Order. Yes, Mogwai loves their 80s music, and by making clear reference to shoegaze and alternative synth bands, they have rejuvenated their sound. Every Country’s Sun is above all a fun album, in some senses a throwback but in others a step forward. And don’t miss that bonus track, it’s something special ~ as special as finding a limited edition 45 in the back of a used record shoppe. (Richard Allen)
Noon ~ Disquiet (Trestle Records)
Disquiet is best swallowed whole—jaw unhinged—before pushed through for processing. Folding field recordings into live recording sessions, peristalsis is Noon’s ruling rhythm: waves of contractions driving blistering rock riffs further, further, further yet. Both grippingly incidental and intimately conversational, who knew that one of the year’s most exciting rock albums would be dappled with murky answering machine babble. Confronting a country led by trigger-happy Twitter feeds, Noon bristles with righteous energy, knowing full well what the likes of “Pocahontas” and “Rocket Man” have in common: OMG + WMD = BYOB. (Todd B. Gruel)
WhyOceans ~ Inmost Dens of Emilie (White Noise Records)
WhyOceans is one of our finds of the year, a previously unheralded post-rock quintet from Macao. Adding violin, cello and flute to their repertoire, the band fleshes out an already full sound. With six tracks in just under an hour, they allow their compositions room to breathe and build. A die-cut cover is the icing on the cake. This is a band that deserves following, as they are making some of the most powerful post-rock around. (Richard Allen)
Zu ~ Jhator (House of Mythology)
Jhator makes a fine companion to Khandroma, which you can find in our Top Ten Field Recording & Soundscape feature. Each piece of vinyl is dedicated to Tibetan practices, in this case sky burial; and each evokes its location through creative soundscapes. For Zu this is new territory, as Jhator sounds nothing like Zu albums of yore. This experimental risk has resulted in the band’s best album to date. (Richard Allen)