Mid-Year Verdicts: TOP TEN ROCK ALBUMS IN 2017

This is the third half-of-the-year list published in the blog after those about Electronic music and Jazz. The Top Ten chart features quite a wide family of sub-genres spanning from indie rock to post-punk, passing through alternative rock and celtic punk. The top positions of the list are almost stationary since a few months, while there are a few interesting movements in the lower positions. Enjoy!

 

#1) Modern Ruin by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Readers of this blog have seen myself explaining many times about how good is the last album by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Modern Ruin. This is the second LP produced by the British band and it arrived on the shelves a year and a half after the sensational debut album, Blossom. Frank Carter, the leader of the band, became however famous first as the frontman of the English hardcore punk outfit Gallows, then as the leader of the American-British rock band Pure.

Compared to Carter’s previous works, Modern Ruin may seem more inclined to melody and somehow less visceral, but this didn’t affect the overall energy of the pieces. An instant classic, a must have album for 2017 and beyond.

 

#2) Near to the Wild Heart of Life by Japandroids

Near to the Wild Heart of Life is the long awaited third studio album by the Canadian rock duo Japandroids consisting of Brian King (guitar, vocals) and David Prowse (drums). The album fills a gap of five years since their previous beautiful Celebration Rock, the album which gained a widespread acclaim from both critics and fans, and it also interrupts a long time span in which the band has been also totally silent.

Musically speaking the album is still characterized by the raw and garage-style rock sound that has marked all their previous works. The band, however, has somehow eased the most aggressive tones maintaining in any case a good emotional tension in all the tracks of the LP. A very nice characteristic of their music is given by the perfect way in which the different sounds and instruments fit one on the other, adding incremental layers as the song develops. A confirmation from a great indie rock band.

 

#3) Life Without Sound by Cloud Nothings

Life Without Sound, the fourth studio album by the American indie rockers Cloud Nothings, finally shows the most serene and enjoyable face of this fantastic band. Although always influenced by the dirty and scratchy guitar of Dylan Baldi, the ecletic singer, musicians and lead songwriter of the band, the songs of the album seem to manifest a happy point of arrival in the articulated musical path the band went through in their 8-years career.

This album is also relevant since it features the official new entry of a second guitarist in the band, which has now become a quartet. Chris Brown, who had joined the band earlier in the year only as a touring member, is now a full-time element of the indie rock group together with Baldi, drummer Jayson Gerycz, and bassist TJ Duke.

After a few moments of frequent listens, I can say that a very positive element of this work is the longevity of the songs. The positive opinion Ihad initially of the album has been not only consolidated but further improved with time, and some of the songs which didn’t capture my attention at first are now among the songs I appreciate the most. Solid modern rock, definitely recommended.

 

#4) Laune der Natur by Die Toten Hosen

I was honestly surprised when I first heard Laune der Nature (Freak of Nature), the new album from German punk rock veterans Die Toten Hosen, which is the seventeenth studio album from the band. I was fascinated by the freshness and immediacy of the songs, and it’s clear that the guys from Dusseldorf still have a lot to say after so many years of playing together.

The band became famous for their heavy political approach to punk. Their last album, however, seems less involved with politics and more focused on the music itself. Maybe this won’t be remembered as the best release of their long discography, but it remains a very good and refreshing album and it’s a recommended listen in particular for those that are not familiar with these German punkers. Combat rock from Germany, sehr gut!

 

#5) 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory by Dropkick Murphys

Hardcore Celtic-Punkers Dropkick Murphys shoudn’t require too much introduction since these guys from Massachussets have been rocking the scene for over twenty years and their last album, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, is the ninth of their long career. Musically speaking, this work presents their signature irish-inspired rock sound, without to much innovation or diversion from the successful recipe that they have been perfectioning through time. Catchy anthems, celtic rocking melodies, fast and fun energetic song.

Beyond the purely musical aspect, most of the songs are inspired from the work that the band did in support of the “The Claddagh Fund”, a charity organization which the band established since 2009 for actively helping the drug recovery community and other children’s and veteran’s organizations. As a result, most of the tracks are permeated with a sense of positive energy, a sort of encouragement to go beyond the little or big failures that we may encounter in our lives. This is not going to be the best album ever released by the band, anyway it’s a solid and valuable work which contains quite a good number of very high quality songs. If you want blood…. we’ll give you some!!

 

#6) Damage and Joy by The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Reid brothers are back. After about twenty years of silence (their previous LP dates back to 1998) the two belligerents Scottish rockers have put aside differences and incompatibilities and eventually found the inspiration and motivation to get back into the studio and produce a new album. Damage and Joy is the seventh album in the career of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and it is almost unbelievable to recognize how this record seems in every respect the natural evolution of their earlier works, despite all the time that has passed in the meantime.

The album collects together a few tracks written by the band during the last ten years, basically since they started again to play music together, and some newer songs composed specifically for this record. Their music is always very interesting to listen: they have a special gift in balancing immediacy with inspiration and, as a matter of fact, their melodies never transcend into banality or the pure replica of an established pattern. The songs of Damage and Joy are less energetic and raw with respect to their previous works and the songwriting has evidently matured towards a more calm and introspective approach.

 

#7) Night People by You Me At Six

Night People is the new album from the English alternative rockers You Me At Six and it arrives three years after the previous succesful album Cavaler Youth, which topped the UK chart on the same week of its release. The reception from critics and fans for Night People, however, hasn’t been the same as the previous LP, and many reviews pointed oud that the new album is less coherent and homogeneous than the previous works, and that aside a few songs of clear value there are a number of tracks of much lower level.

If I can agree that not all the songs of the album have the same enjoyability I typically like to focus on the best tracks of each LP and Night People, despite the highs and lows, contains a good number of pretty damn catchy rock songs. Certainly their sound has taken a more commercial and “pop” direction, but the final result is definitely not to be overlooked.

 

#8) American Beauty by CJ Ramone

CJ Ramone was the “young guy” within the Ramones – and the last one to join the band – when the punk rock masters were playing their punk songs in the last ten years of their influential career. After the American punkers retired, CJ kept on playing and singing in a Ramones’ cover band and he eventually started a solo career which has already generated a few albums. American Beauty is the last release of CJ Ramone’s solo production and the third album of his studio discography.

As you might expect, CJ has kept the Ramones in his heart and the music he plays is basically what his fans want to hear: simple and straight punk rock. It would be really a complete madness to compare CJ’s songs to those of Ramones: there is honestly an abyss that he couldn’t fill even by calling the support from a few punk veterans as his backings. Anyway, it’s not crazy to say that American Beauty, judged as a stand-alone product, doesn’t look bad when compared to today’s rock scene, where it rather brings a breath of freshness and immediacy.

 

#9) For Crying Out Loud by Kasabian

Fun and easy. This has always been the motto for the four rockers from Leicester. And in an era where too often we’re provided with over-conceptual albums, such a relaxed approach to music sometimes is just what we need. For Crying Out Loud is the the fifth album from Kasabian, and it topped the UK music chart in the same week of its release. The album contains 12 new tracks and the deluxe version contains a second disc with a live performance recorded last year at the King Power Stadium.

The musical formula of the album remains essentially the same of Kasabian’s last works, the disc is packed with easy to listen rock grooves and melodic anthems. These are songs which don’t pretend to bring any particular message or to represent any form of innovation but which manage to stay away from trivial mechanism for the mere research of the commercial success. To some extent we see here that the process of simplification has reached a further level and this is combined also with a sense of urgency that emerges from many of the tracks of the album. As a matter of fact, all the songs have been  recorded in only a few weeks and this further contributed to preserve the spirit of immediacy of the entire album.

 

#10) Mosaic by 311

Long time alternative rockers three-eleven came back after three years since their last LP with another excellent release. Their last album, named Mosaic, is the twelfth studio album of their long career and in the few weeks that have now passed from the date of release, it has already received very good reviews from both music critics and fans.

The band has achieved a very good recognition in the alternative rock scene for their smooth but energetic rock anthems, most often featuring very nice and enjoyable influences from reggae and ska. And their last production definitely confirms their unique skill in mastering so many different genres into a captivating and coherent package of songs. Possibly one of the most complete rock albums of the last few months, Mosaic keeps the band’s unique rap/rock/reggae mix alive and at same time introduces a few additional elements in their palette of sounds which make the album somehow new and refreshing.

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