For a musical genre that many say it’s too much rooted in the past, the world of stoner music gave us this year a surprising number of great records. From the retro-rock of Kadavar and Sasquatch to the modernity of new groups like Cairo Knife Fight and As They Come, we have been offered a wide range of different interpretations of this fantastic style of music. And it hasn’t been easy to decide wich groups were to be included in the final Top Ten of the year and which ones should stay out.
Differently from the previous year-end charts I didn’t prepare for this occasion a new mixtape. The reason is that there was a stoner compilation which I published a few weeks ago (Kings of the Road) that has not only got a great attention by the readers of the blog but which became, in a short time, one of the most appreciated of the year. I present it again as it can be the ideal soundtrack to accompany the reading of the Top Ten chart. Enjoy!
MANEUVERS by Sasquatch
Sasquatch is a trio of retro-stoners from Los Angeles, in the U.S. The band, which has already earned quite a good reputation in the stoner panorama, released this year the fifth LP of their discography, named Maneuvers, which features also the new drummer Craig Riggs, who recently joined the band.
Sasquatch like to merge modern stoner rock with influences from the 70’s, and this approach is heavily applied also in their new work. With the exception of the energetic opening track of the album, the songs of the album settle-down on slower rhythms, on top of which the guitars are free to draw their interesting melodic lines, full of reverberations and other typical stoner effects.
The album is extremely concise. In less than 40 minutes we’re provided with an enjoyable collection of dirty and dense rock and roll. Personally I believe that these guys could have reached a better result with just a little more alternation between slower and faster songs, but in any case this remains a very good and nice LP.
TO THE ROAD by As They Come
To The Road is the debut album by the motorcycle stoner rock band As They Come, from Portugal. This funny but talented quartet from São João da Madeira is active since 2012 and before this debut album they published a couple of years ago their first homonymous EP.
The songs of To The Road are characterized by an easy approach to stoner with direct and essential rhythms and lyrics, without too many conceptual frills. What you don’t miss in their songs, however, is the incredible load of adrenaline and energy that fills every second of the record. That’s a very interesting and surprising debut LP and this band is absolutely worth to be tracked in their next steps.
SEVEN by Cairo Knife Fight
“Two musicians, one loop station, a synth and a couple of guitar amps”. This is Cairo Knife Fight, the rock music duo originating from New Zealand consisting of Nick Gaffaney (who’s also the founder of the band) and George Pajon.
With a musical style that that fits into an ideal meeting point between Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails, the music from Cairo Knife Fight pushes the boundaries of conventional stoner and embraces inputs and elements from many additional genres.
Their new album, Seven, was written and recorded in only 8 eight days and you can feel from almost all the songs of the LP the beauty – but also the limits – of such an instinctive and spontaneous writing.
THE DEPTHS BELOW by Cortez
American rock band Cortez, from Boston, released this year their second full-lenght album, The Depths Below, which represents a peculiar version of stoner rock with many catchy elementes and evident influences from heavy rock and grunge.
The LP arrives five years after their homonymous debut album, and it somehow contains the same recipe of stoner where groovy riffs are alternated with more slower melodies. The final result is definitely interesting, mostly thanks to the impressive performance of vocalist Matt Harrington.
Cortez band has the habit of letting a lot of time passing before a new publication. As a matter of fact, until today each new album came almost five years after the previous one. In the case of the last album, however, this time frame was also used to improve the cohesion between the elements of the group as there have been many changes in the line-up after their debut LP in 2012. Because of the above, a new album by the band is by itself an important event. And given the quality of the songs of The Depths Below, in this case is definitely an enjoyable one.
ROUGH TIMES by Kadavar
Rough Times, the new album by the German band Kadavar, is another of those albums that draws heavily in that unbridgeable basin given by the music of the 70s. With respect to many other retro-rock bands, however, the music played by Kadavar has the declared objective to imitate as faithfully as possible the atmospheres ad the sounds of the glourious era of rock and roll.
With this premise it is clear that an album like Rough Times is destined to divide the listeners. Many people will say that the concept behind this LP doesn’t find so much justification in the second decade of the new century. However, if you leave aside these kind of considerations and listen to Kadavar’s songs for what they are, i.e. beautifully crafted rock and roll tracks, at the end this is an album that is capable to transmit a wide range of sensations.
There are a few songs, in particular, that shine for their absolute quality, such as the title track of the album or the single Die Baby Die. And it’s not by chance that the album has been often contributing to the stoner mixtapes and playlists we have presented in the pages of this blog.
SLEEPING THROUGH THE WAR by All Them Witches
Sleeping Through The War by All Them Witches has been one of the first albums to be recommended this year by this blog, even if at that time it was not straightforward to imagine that at the end of the year the LP would be entering the Top 5 of its genre. This is because the songs on this record – apart from a couple of particularly catchy singles – need some time and repeated listens before revealing all of their qualities.
Starting from the very first track of the album we are drawn into the obscure and melancholy territories created by the band. The songs are full of psychedelic elements supported by a solid stoner rock implant. And among the 10 albums included in this chart, Sleeping Through The War is maybe the one more representative of that intimate and poetic side of stoner music.
This is the fourth album in the career of the band, and their sound today shows a clear sense of maturity. It looks like that the four guys have incrementally learned to balance the various influences which contributed to their music: psychedelia, stoner rock, alternative metal, blues and bit of sludge. Year after year, album after album, these guys from Nashville have now consolidate their own and unique style of music. And this is a very good one
VIBRACIONES DORADAS by Causa Sui
Causa Sui is an instrumental stoner rock quartet from Denmark which has taken the interesting habit of publishing a new album roughly every year; sometimes it’s a full-lenght release, other times it’s a live recording of one of their concerts, and in some cases it’s a collection of special recordings (sessions), more experimental and in which they are typically accompanied by other guest musicians. The last of Causa Sui’s releases is a five-chapter mini-LP named Vibraciones Doradas, which is at this point the the thirteenth official publication since their debut in 2005.
The album delivered one of the finest collections of stoner rock tunes I have heard this year. From all of their songs it’s possible to feel the pleasure that these rockers have in playing their music, both when they’re following tight rhythms or when they are free to float with their instruments over more relaxed drum rates. Vibraciones Doradas is undoubtedly one of those jewels of the underground rock that should deserves a far greater visibility of what the band has achieved so far.
As a side note, every time I’m engaged with one of their new releases, I always find myself thinking of what could have happened in their career if the band had integrated a frontman. In fact, although the music of this group develops on the fairly classic canons of psychedelic and instrumental post-rock, I still feel that there are so many of their songs that would have benefited by some evocative and engaging lyrics.
EMPEROR OF SAND by Mastodon
Emperor of Sand, by American heavy metal band Mastodon, belonged to the category of the mostly awaited albums of 2017. And from the position the album gained in the final chart, at the end it turned out as another great album from what is nowadays one of the major bands in stoner music.
The four guys from Georgia don’t need too many introductions. With Emperor of Sand the band arrived in fact at the seventh album of a career which started almost eigthteen years ago. With their unique and strong mix of progressive and stoner rock, Mastodon become one of the preeminent metal acts of the early 21st century, gaining also mainstream success with some of their most accessible songs.
Emperor of Sand looks like two albums in one single disc. The work starts with a pack of the more aggressive, direct and mainstream-oriented songs, and then proceeds in the second half with the more complex and articulated tracks. The overall quality of the album, in any case, it’s very high. The only critic that I can express about the album is that it explores extensively the legacy and background of the band without any particular innovation in their musical approach.
THE COYOTE WHO SPOKE IN TONGUES by John Garcia
As long term fan of John Garcia I tend to adore almost every single album he publishes or where he simply contributes with his wonderful voice. In his last full-lenght disc, however, he really managed to convey a tsunami of emotions and the balance between new and old tracks is definitely satisfying. The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues is an acoustic album which contains new songs and some wonderfully rearranged tunes from the Kyuss era.
Much of the beauty of this record lies in the fact that John Garcia didn’t just follow the desire to pursue the commercial success by rearranging the most famous songs of his long and glorious career. Rather, it is evident the depth of emotions which he needed to communicate and which is at the basis of such a little masterpiece.
Here in this blog, the last album by John Garcia has spent many months on top of the overall music chart. The value of the album goes in fact well beyond the pure stoner world and this is a work which clearly represents one of the best things which happened in music in 2017.
FORCE FIELD by The Atomic Bitchwax
Last in First Out. One of the last albums to be reviewed in the blog becomes the top album of the stoner chart. Since the day of its release, Force Field by American supergroup The Atomic Bitchwax was immediately noted as one of the most powerful records of 2017. And at the end it deserved the award of best stoner album of the year.
With more than 25 years of history and characterized by a special relationship with the stoner legends Monster Magnet – a band with which the Bitchwax have always shared some of the main members of the line-up – this rock project founded by Chris Kosnik has always released high-quality publications. And their last LP, released in December 2017, absolutely confirms this rule.
From the first seconds since we push the button on our music player, we are greeted by the usual sequence of thick, energetic and catchy riffs, an element that has always been one of the main characteristics of their works. And in Force Field they manage to generate the same incredible level of energy without any slowing down. This is an incredible 35 minutes ride where the pedal of the accelerator is always pushed down, a celebration of the most unleashed and sharp sides of stoner rock. A simple and effective musical assault, but played with a surgical level of precision that is quite uniqe in modern stoner world. Push the play button, and start the ride.