Mojo’s Favorite Albums of 2017

Vinyl RecordsThe best albums of 2017? Please. What does that even mean? Instead, here are the albums that basically lived in my CD player or in my earbuds since I first heard them.

Last year  I split my list into indie and major labels. This year was another great year for music but I brought it back to one list. If it’s a little indie heavy, that’s because I found myself listening to a lot (a LOT) of great unsung heroes of modern heavy rock, often courtesy of the consistently amazing Ripple Music.

Without further ado, these are the albums I just couldn’t stop listening to this year. Some you may know, some you are about to discover!


Fire Down Below – Viper Vixen Goddess Saint

I swear I only just found out these guys were from Belgium when I went to write this. Now I’m even more blown away. Every song on this masterful debut album is excellent, each leading into the other like a tapestry of heavy psych rock with nods to Pink Floyd and classic 70s rock and roll. How can you not love a lyric like “why did you just have to smoke me like I was your last cigarette” (“Roadburner”)? I’m not sure how else do describe them so let me put it this way – they’re not a direct relative, but they wouldn’t be out of place at a Kyuss family reunion. This is hands down my favorite album of the year.

The Flying Eyes – Burning of the Season

The swan song of Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes sees them going out at the top of their game. Burning of the Season is a tour de force of psych-infused fuzz rock that comes off as a late 60s/early 70s rock band on steroids. The deceptively laid back vocal delivery just helps to weave a subtle spell and draw you in deeper to the magic they weave.

Gary Numan – Savage

Yes that Gary Numan. Three decades after Cars was a big hit on radio and MTV, we may have his masterpiece: Savage: Tales from a Broken World, which plays like a soundtrack of a post-apocalyptic movie that I would absolutely go see right now if I could. Lush with synths and programmed drums that sound as organic and fluid as a cyborg orchestra, the songs on Savage are alternately dreamy and intense, but always haunting. Middle eastern wails and scales add extra spice to the lush soundscapes as the album progresses.

Living Colour – Shade

Um, DAMN. Living Colour is BACK. Same fire, same incredible musicianship you know and love, but with a new depth and maturity that you only get with age, like a cask strength Scotch. It’s like they didn’t miss a step, but I’m not kidding, hearing Corey Glover in my ears again brought a tear to my eye right out of the gate, it was like reuniting with a long lost friend I didn’t know I missed so much. No one bends and blends genres like these guys. Metal, rock, funk, blues and then some, Shade is a delicious and wonderful stew that you must have in your collection, and naturally their message is timely as fuck.

The Necromancers – Servants of the Salem Girl

This debut from France’s The Necromancers boasts fuzzy, heavy blues with vocals as frequently fuzzy as the guitars. It took me a few listens to realize it actually was devil-themed, but only because I was enjoying the music so much. (Yes, I know, the title, band name and cover should have tipped me off!) Servants of the Salem Girl is an album of light and shade, smooth and rough; at turns hesitant, gallopy, and sludgy, but never boring. Take it with you and crank it loud on your next muscle car trip down a dusty highway!

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark

I’m not going to lie, I was hugely disappointed after waiting two years for the followup to Royal Blood’s amazing full length self-titled debut. How Did We Get So Dark sounds like a major label got hold of a great band and said ‘you have to make this more appealing to the general public’. And so it goes. BUT. But. The more I listened, the more it grew on me, and now I have to admit it is a great album in its own right. Yes, highly polished and lacking much of the grit, fire, and clever phrasing I loved on Royal Blood but yeah, it makes my list on its own merits. Full of bangers, this one.

Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

Hardcore QUOTSA fans may not dig it as much as previous records, but this Mark Ronson-produced album grabbed me and got me grinning from go. Yeah we know, Josh Homme is a diva. But you know what, there are so few bona fide rock stars any more that who gives a fuck, let him continue to fully embrace his ego and take it into the back seat of a pimped-out 57 Chevy and have his way with it, if it keeps sounding like this much fun.

Year of the Cobra – Burn Your Dead

With their third release, Seattle doom duo Year of the Cobra really seem to hit their stride, finally nailing what is close to their live sound. Amy’s soft, feminine vocals over the low growl of her Rickenbacker bass is a unique and haunting combination. Add Johanes’ beastmode drums and you have a fuzz classic on your hands. If you have a chance to see them live, do it! He may be the first drummer I’ve seen break a snare head during a show. Beast. Mode. Get it.

Huckleberry Quick – The Huckleberry Jams EP

Late addition to the list, I don’t even know how I randomly stumbled on this one, but this EP of “honkyfunk” jams from Nashville based indie Huckleberry Quick is just too groovy, too fun, to ignore. This should be on the radio instead of most of what’s there now.


Honorable Mentions

So much good music this year, these are great albums that deserve a listen or several, just wanted to throw them out there:

MothershipHigh Strangeness
Gorilla PulpHeavy Lips
Royal ThunderWick
SasquatchManeuvers
Samsara Blues ExperimentOne With the Universe
OctopussyDwarfs & Giants

Really, I listened to so much music I lost track. Just check my YouTube history, you’ll find some good stuff! What were your favorites? Comment below or let me know!

Sharing is caring!
Share

Mojo’s Pick of the Week – TDR Nova Dynamic EQ

It’s one of those things that I knew was over my head when I first downloaded it, and now that I know a little bit more about what the hell I’m doing, I happily remembered that I already had this tool in my arsenal to fix some tricky mastering EQ problems.

What Nova basically is, is a multiband parallel dynamic EQ with optional high pass filter and low pass filter. So instead of picking an EQ band that is problematic and adjusting it once for the whole track, you can quickly and intuitively dial in dynamically responsive EQ taming or boosting.

TDR Nova

What a bonus for, say, mastering, where you don’t want to affect the whole song, just the spots that need some EQ adjustment as they arise. It’s extremely easy to use, very responsive, and extremely transparent sounding. It does way more than that, including acting as separate EQ and compressor, but that’s the basic use case.

The original Nova plugin was called Nova 76 and was written by the amazing Vladislav Goncharov of Molot and Limiter No 6 fame… for a CONTEST. So he released it free, with a very basic UI Even as I downloaded it years ago I knew that even the concept was over my head at the time, but I trusted it would come in handy someday.

Vladislav’s partnership with Tokyo Dawn Labs has resulted in a new, slick, and very intuitive update to Nova called TDR Nova, sporting much the same look as Slick EQ and the Kotelnikov compressor (also both free, and both great).

Features:

4 band parallel equalizer with auto-gain.
Optional high-pass and low-pass filters.
Full-band frequency dependent and/or split-band compression.
External side-chain support.
64-bit internal processing.

And, did I mention that the basic version is free? I highly recommend all of Vladislav’s plugins and all of Tokyo Dawn Labs plugins as well. Glad to have this one in my bag of tricks.

Tokyo Dawn Labs
Vladislav Goncharov / Vladg

Sharing is caring!
Share

The Rush of the New

Revelations, this one.

GearsLike some of you, I bounce from task to task and project to project, in love with beginnings, not endings. Some part of my brain knows it’s important to finish strong. Or frankly, to finish at all. My heart and the rest of my brain loves the beginnings. The new. The learning. The rush.

This weekend it hit me. I’m addicted to the rush of the new. And it occurred to me that it’s the same for a new project, or class, as it is for a new love or relationship. It’s that “all synapses firing” feeling of everything being exciting and new, that RUSH. It’s the same creating music as it is falling in love. It’s the same starting any new project or class, or new book, or movie, or picking up a new piece of gear. It’s that focused feeling of a brain on fire, and it’s fantastic.

But what happens if you have a project that goes past its sell-by date? The bloom has worn off, the rush has faded, there are a hundred new things to take its place and there it sits, half done and unable to inspire the energy to finish it. This is where the struggle begins. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it — that ‘get an impossible amount of creative work done in a short time and then nothing done in a long time’ situation.

This is when it’s time to settle in and do the work for work’s sake. No project finishes itself, no relationship sails smoothly indefinitely. There will always be the need for conscious, deliberate, targeted work to be done. Do the work. Finish the task. Repair the relationship. If needed, go back to the beginning and remind yourself how it felt at the start, recover some of that energy. Then, grind it out.

Knowing this is extremely helpful. Going forward, I will look to finish projects while still in the heat of the rush. They will be imperfect, but they will be finished, and full of passion and life. As for the rest, well, that’s where maturity matters. It’s about the long game. Start strong, finish strong. What happens in between is not as important as long as you persevere, and stop letting yourself get distracted by the rush. Keep grinding.

Sharing is caring!
Share