In the meantime that the first albums of 2018 arrive to our music players, let’s continue the review of the best music that was released last year.
Among the music genres that during 2017 have seen the highest number of publications of excellent level, Alternative Rock holds one of the leading positions. The one that just ended was a notable year for the most agitated brother in the wide family of rock and roll , with a series of great albums that arrived with an almost constant cadence from the first months of the year up to the last weeks of December.
Selecting the top ten albums of the year was not an easy task. At the end I tried to find a certain balance between a number of major bands which confirmed, or even improved, the positive consideration they built during the last years, and a few debut works from new bands or side projects. The overall quality of the resulting chart is impressive.
And for better representing the state of alternative rock in 2017 I prepared a special compilation, in the form of a mixtape, where the best tracks of the past year are mixed together into a single stream of music. These are 50 minutes with the most energetic and catchy alternative rock of the last year, featuring the bands in the top ten list but also the other formations which contributed to make 2017 such a special year for rock and roll.
Last, but not least, you can enjoy the best alt-rock tracks in the dedicated playlist I maintain on Spotify. This will be updated with the new tracks of 2018, therefore I recommend for you to follow the playlist and check it regularly.
ALL IS IN SYNC AND THERE’S NOTHING LEFT TO SING ABOUT by Ghost Atlas
Ghost Atlas is the side project from Jesse Cash, the American singer and guitarist who’s primarily known for being one of the founders of the progressive metalcore band Erra. All is in sync, and there’s nothing left to sing about is the first LP from Ghost Atlas and it follows two previous EPs.
Those arriving to Ghost Atlas from the original works of Jesse Cash will appreciate on this album the melodic side of this multifaceted artist. For all the others, this LP represents a very interesting compilation of relatively accessible and energetic alt-rock tracks. Keeping a good rhythm throughout the record, Cahs offers us a very pleasant sequence of catchy tracks where he tells us about his feelings, his emotions and experiences.
As a side note, it’s interesting to say that Cash opted for a fully indipendent and self-funded route for the production of his work, actually investing thousand of dollars in this venture.
ONCE MORE IS ALL I AM by Face The King
I engaged with this album with pure chance and, as it often happens, unknown bands in certain situations can give you the most interesting surprises. Face the King present themselves as an alternative hard rock band based out of Long Island, New York, with influences ranging from Kings of Leon to Radiohead.
This four piece band is active since more than 5 years but Once More I Am is their first full-lenght album. Before arriving to this debut, however, they have refined and consolidated their style by playing both in their home area and also sharing the stage with major bands in the context of tours and festivals. There has been also an EP, named The Sound, that could be find from the band.
From a musical point of view, the music from this band offers a refreshing variant to that side of alternative rock which looks for mainstream sounds and – potentially – large audiences. Given this promising debut, with a little luck these guys could even make it.
AS YOU PLEASE by Citizen
With the album As You Please, Ohio rockers Citizen arrive to the third album in their discography, a stage that usually marks the transition to the final musical maturity of a band. But in this case, to be honest, it seems that the direction taken by the group after their two previous interesting works is still unclear. It’s like if there was the desire to remove that label of pop-punk band that somehow marked the first steps of the lineup, but without the capacity to find a completely original way to complete the transition towards a particular and unique vision of music.
In the meantime that this process completes, however, the band managed to drop in this new album a couple of songs that by themselves remain among the most pleasant things we heard in rock during 2017. Listening to these pieces one really gets the impression of the group’s still unexpressed potential. The effort of the band to evolve (and elevate) their sound is evident, but the results are not yet to show the level of success they hoped for.
Rainer Maria (S/T)
More than 10 years afther their previous release and the group 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-titled 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 looks as a new beginning for the band. Some of the members of the trio 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.
NIGHT PEOPLE by You Me At Six
One of the first albums that was reviewed last year on the blog, Night People by English rock band You Me at Six confirmed after many months and many listens 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 both fans and critics, not always positive.
To be considered presumably as a transition album, Night People contains however a few songs that enter without any doubts among the best compositions ever released by the band. As a matter of fact, some tracks of this album have been an almost constant presence in the rock compilations that were published on the blog.
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.
STORMCHASERS 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 in 2017 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, Stormchaser 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 also the least successful parts of the LP, in my opinion.
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 past year.
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 year, 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.
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 past 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 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 deservedly won a place in the Top 3 of its genre.
MODERN RUIN by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
One of the most cited albums in the blog during 2017, Modern Ruin by Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes features a perfect blend of many different genresand in fact for some time the LP bounced between the alternative rock and punk charts, before finding its definitive home here in the alternative rock page.
This is the second album released by the new band capitanated by former Gallows frontman Frank Carter, here supported by Dean Richardson, Thomas Mitchener and Gareth Grover (The Rattlesnakes). Released almost one year ago – it was 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 perfect sound which magnifies the fantastic voice of the band leader. And despite the ups and downs in the charts, this is a release that can’t really miss in your collection of the best music of the past year.
WOLVES by Rise Against
The disc that occupies the top position in the chart was initially one of the surprises of the past year when it was released in June 2017. Certainly not because the group was not known to me – actually they’re active since many years and have a wide discography of musical releases – rather because the music featured within their last album showed since the firts listens something very interesting and particular .
Wolves, the latest album by American rock band Rise Against, 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 and eventually reached the top position in its genre.
Besides the absolute beauty of its best tracks, the album in its entirety to be characterized by a very high quality of music and lyrics. Rise Against play a very effective and powerful rock and the value of their production goes well beyond the politic message they convey with their songs.