Alternative Rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. In this instance, the word “alternative” refers to the genre’s distinction from mainstream rock music. (cit. Wikipedia).
2017 has been really a good year for rock music with quite a good number of excellent releases from both mainstream bands and relatively less famous lineups. In comparison, I believe that the overall quality of rock music this year exceeded that of other genres such as metal and electronic. With this post we’re looking to the specific sub-genre of Alternative Rock and I’m presenting the top albums that have been released since the beginning of 2017.
#1) Wolves by Rise Against
One of the best surprise in Rock Music this year came from from Rise Against, the American alternative and hardcore band which published on last June their eighteth studio album, named Wolves.
The record is full to the brink of the band’s signature and explosive formula where aggressive punk and hardcore sounds are combined with fiery vocals and furious choruses typical of alternative rock. With the exception of a couple of catchy songs, however, the album needs some repeated listening to be appreciated in its entirety. Or at least this was my personal experience…. I had to go through the album a few times before getting involved at the right level by the record’s eleven tracks. Steadily and incessantly, the album climbed on the top of my preferences in rock and today it’s also one of the most appreciated companions for my running workouts.
Besides the absolute beauty of its best tracks – the album in its entirety is characterized by a very high quality of music and lyrics. Rise Against play a very effective and strong rock and the value of their production goes well beyond the politic message they convey with their songs.
The band maintains their core sound without being stagnant and incorporate ample diversity. Wolves is an appealing combination of catchy songs and thoughtful, passionate lyrics. (Loudwire)
This is a record that is simply about making a stand (as the band’s name suggests) against injustice and tyranny, the ‘for’ can come later. At times ‘Wolves” polished, pop-tinged punk sounds more like a proffered Pepsi can than a clenched Molotov cocktail, but it is still punk to its bones in a time when the label tends to be skin-deep. (Clash)
#2) Modern Ruin by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Readers of the blog have seen that since the beginning of the year this album appeared in many different charts – and always at the higest positions. Besides the fact that Modern Ruin is a great LP, the particularity of the album is that it features a perfect blend of many different genres such as punk, alternative rock and some hints of hardcore. At this point in time, however, I had to take a decision and from now on the album will be joining the Alternative Rock chart only.
Curiosly, at the same time I took the above decision I realized that today the new album by Rise Against, despite missing the impact of the best singles of Modern Ruin, is an LP that results more coherent, homogeneous and with an higher average quality of the songs than many other records in its category. As a result, for Modern Ruins the definitive allocation into the Alternative Rock chart signs also the loss of the title of the best album. Anyway, in particular because of its poliedricity, this still remains one of the best LPs across al genres.
Modern Ruin is the second album released by the relatively new English rock band capitanated by former Gallows frontman Frank Carter, here supported by Dean Richardson, Thomas Mitchener and Gareth Grover (The Rattlesnakes).
Released on January 2017, Modern Ruin immediately topped all the music charts of this blog. It’s an incredible compilation of energetic and catchy songs supported by an incredible sound which magnifies the fantastic voice of the band leader. And despite the ups and downs in the chart, this is a release that can’t really miss in your collection of the best music of the year.
It’s hard to summarise an album like Modern Ruin. While not as explosive as Blossom, it’s a record that burns bright with anger, frustration and self-loathing. It’s darker and more dynamic than its predecessor, yet also has some of the best hooks and rock’n’roll melodies the band has ever written. Carter’s voice has improved by leaps and bounds, showing no sign of wear and tear, while the performances from his brothers in The Rattlesnakes are top notch, providing the perfect vehicle for Carter’s charisma and earnest lyricism. (Punknews)
Don’t come to ‘Modern Ruin’ looking to be cheered up then, but if it’s catharsis you’re after, there’s nothing more fitting. (NME)
#3) Navier Gene (S/T)
Navier Gene is the one-man-project ideated by Eddi Pickard, a name that probably does not say anything significant to the majority of people since – so far – he only distinguished himself as a valid guitar player within small and medium-sized metal bands such as Black Tounge and Infant Annihilator. Listening his recent slef-titled LP, however, we immediately realize that Eddi is actually graced by a creativity and songwriting skills that go much more beyond the simple boundaries of death metal. As a matter of fact, at his first try as a soloist, he dropped one of the best rock albums of the year. Chapeau!
What’s really impressive in this work is the ability of the artist to reach out and take the influence from many different rock genres (from the stoner of the first song to alternative rock and grunge), but always maintaining a personal and recognizable sound and approach, absorbing thus the inspirations from the various styles he addresses but without becoming succube to them.
This was for me the masterpiece which came out from nowhere. An happy surprise which immediately became one of the top rock albums of the year.
#4) Mosaic by 311
Three years after their last LP, veteran alternative rockers 311 (three-eleven) came back with another excellent release. Their last work, named Mosaic, is the twelfth studio album of their long career and it required only a few days after its release before it 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.
At a hefty 17 songs, Mosaic seems like it might overstay its welcome. However, with the amount of variety on display — a “mosaic” of sounds, if you will — the LP serves as an energetic soundtrack with thrilling peaks and blissed-out valleys, making it yet another gift to their dedicated fan base and another possible entry point for casual listeners who haven’t checked out the Omaha quintet since “Down” or “Love Song.” (AllMusic)
#5) Night People by You Me At Six
One of the first albums that was reviewed this year on the blog, Night People by English rock band You Me at Six still confirms after many months the good impressions that I had at the time of its release. This work, which is the fifth album in the band’s discography, is particularly relevant because it signs a clear shift in the musical direction of the group with the incorporation of heavier and darker sounds. This change, to be frank, generated mixed reactions from the fans and and the overall reaction from the critics hasn’t been always positive.
To be considered presumably as a transition album, the album contains however a few songs that enter without any doubts among the best compositions ever composed by the band, and also the best alternative rock tracks of the year – as witnessed by the fact that these songs have been included into many of the rock playlist that were released this year in this blog. In this sense, the process of evolution which the band embarked from the pop-rock of their first albums into the current style of alternative rock appears to me as a genuine and natural transformation of their musical approach, maybe still to be completed and consolidated but capable to offer more depth and emotional charge to their music. The band is moving, and it does not seem like an artificial maneuver.
Make no mistake, though: while this album deals with some heavy themes, it is not devoid of fun. With moments for nights out as well as nights in, Night People provides both entertainment and introspection. (The Young Folks)
Night People is a statement of intent for the band’s future. You Me at Six are telling the world to expect them at arenas across the planet in the next few years, and this dark, stylish record is their ticket there (Redbrick)
#6) Rainer Maria (S/T)
More than 10 years afther their previous release and the groop dissolution following their last concert in Brooklyin (it was December 2006), the American rock trio Rainer Maria comes back to the scene with a self-title album, which is at this point the sixth long-play work of their discography.
One of the interesting aspects of this release is that it looks as the ideal continuation of the musical journey that the band initiated from the initial raw and punk sounds of their early years into the more polished and refined style of rock that the band was approaching at the ten-years stage of career, which was also the time of their break up. It is from that specific point in time that the group has resumed their path, and the result is an interesting album that expresses emotions and complexity at the same time.
This is a new beginning for the trio. Some of them went through important experiences and radical changes in these years of silence (even a change of sex), but their music seems to start exactly where we left them ten years ago.
There aren’t many groups that have repackaged themselves so successfully this late in the game, and fewer still with a reunion album that stacks up this well against their most cherished work. (Pitchfork)
#7) In The End by Nothington
In The End, which is the most recent studio album from the San Francisco alternative-punk rockers Nothington, is another album of this chart which interrupts a long period of silence from the band. The LP ends in fact a hiatus of almost five years since their last studio release and it arrives when the band is celebrating ten years of activity.
Born on the ashes of their former band Tsunami Bomb, Nothington’s founders Gabe Lindeman and Jay Northington have developed through the years a special and successful mix of catchy end energetic rock which allowed them to gain a relatively high commercial success and which also elevated them as one of the most important rock groups coming from the Bay Area.
In this new work after their comeback, the two musicians resume exactly from where they left with the same successful musical recipe: radio-friendly catchy rock and melodic punk-rock anthems. There are a few moments in the album where the tones are a bit more thoughful and introspective, but the essence of the album is definitely on the energy side. Sometimes we don’t need at any cost musical innovations or masterpieces, but just nice and good rock songs to put in our musical playlists.
Nothington might have kept us waiting for a ridiculously long time, but “In The End” is nothing short of amazing. Every single song on here is an anthem for the disenfranchised that comes charging for you with a powerful rhythm section, killer riffs and choruses that beg to be screamed along from the top of your lungs. (Punk Rock Theory)
Getting the balance right between aggression and melody is tricky, but Nothington have done it better here than ever before. These are catchy-but-gruff songs that bristle with the burden of living but also with the joy of being alive; as such, they bring you up as much as they talk about real life weighing you down. Comebacks are often disappointing, but this is one that actually exceeds expectations (Alternative Press)
#8) Charm City by Carousel Kings
With Fool’s Gold, the last album by American easycore band Carousel Kings, we approach the porous border which exists between alternative rock and pop-rock.
This is the third full-lenght effort from the band and it represents one of those happy cases where there is a group of relatively young musicians who don’t show – and don’t want to show – any conceptual inclination or spirit of innovation, but they still manage to pack a collection of damn pleasant songs, easy to enjoy, and nice to hear in different moments of the day.
Heartfelt, imaginative and full of surprises, ‘Charm City’ shows off the four-piece’s impressive range. Running the gamut from breezy, yet soulful easycore (‘Glory Daze’) to thoughtful, anguished alt.rock (‘Something Isn’t Right’) and even dipping their toes into heavier climes (‘Dynamite’ throws in some crunching riffs), they stand out like a tie-dyed skyscraper in a sea of grey. (RockSound)
It’s always exciting to discover new bands you really like, even if it is about ten years after they formed. (Heavy)
#9) Stormchaser by Lucky Boys Confusion
With Stormchaser, the new and long awaited album from the American rockers Lucky Boys Confusion, we add another entry in the special club of those bands which have interrrupted this year a long period of absence from the studio. This album arrives in fact about ten years after the last LP from the group, which has been however engaged in a number of live shows in the meantime.
From a musical point of view the album features the band’s signature mix of multiple influences: from alternative rock to pop punk, passing through indie pop and also some flavour of reggae. Rhythms are generally fast and dynamics, although in some sections of the disc there are a few slowdowns – which are probably the parts less interesting of the album.
A special mention goes to Burn a Little Brighter, which is not only one of the most interesting tracks of the LP, but also one of the best alternative songs of the year.
Not only does Stormchasers mark a strong comeback from Lucky Boys Confusion, but it is also a classic, timeless release. These twelve cathartic songs will easily resonate with any listener and withstand the test of time, making Stormchasers an incredibly strong release. (The Prelude Press)
#10) The Blood Album by AFI
American rock band AFI (A Fire Inside) has maintained since the beginning of the century a constant rhythm of production of a new album on every 3 or maximum 4 years. In 2017, with their self-titled work (also referred to as The Blood Album because of the picture on the cover) they have reached the important result of the tenth studio album of a long and articulated discography.
During such long career the band traveled through an articulated and not always linear music track, which saw them start off initially with a scratching punk, form which they moved towards the more mainsream sounds of alternative rock. Also the results haven’t been always the same in some way even their last job didn’t received a particularly brilliant welcome from some critics.
Indeed, the album in its entirety is perhaps somewhat intermittent in terms of freshness and quality to be remembered among the best productions of their career, even if there are still a few tracks that really stand out for enjoyment and emotional charge, basically justifying the presence of the disk among the best alternative rock publications of the year.
AFI covers most of the band’s explored genres, giving fans from every era something to appreciate. Unfortunately, this means no one will be completely satisfied. It’s useless to try to please everyone, so here AFI follow their instincts and try to do justice to the styles that have inspired them thus far. (Consequence of Sound)