NN PRESENTS: Our Favorite Records from 2017

It’s that time of year again, when we the peeps at Never Nervous give you our top five albums locally (and not locally) that really stuck with us. It’s always an internal struggle to do it, because best of lists just seem like a lot of glad handling bullshit, making art into a competition, which just isn’t our style. The thing is though, we spend a lot of our time here writing about what we love and following that which we love wherever it takes us, and that’s all this is here. We’re just giving a little extra time to the albums that helped us through our day-to-day, whether that’s a voice to guide you through the dark or something to help you kick out the motherfucking jams.

I read this quote by Nick Cave, one that I wouldn’t be able to find now if I tried. It basically said that it’s a lot harder to create than destroy, which was his impetus for transitioning between the chaos of the Birthday Party to comparative cohesion of his solo work with the Bad Seeds. My take away from that is the challenge in finding the virtues in the world or focusing on the things that mean something to you and working from there. That is our unofficial, but totally official MO here. So if you think we missed something, sound off in the comments wherever comments can be signed off on. Tell us what riled you up this year because we want to know.


SYD PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


RMLLW2LLZ Concerto No.9 Movement II
It’s hard to listen to this album and not get a smile on your face. Romell Weaver, aka the mighty RMLLW2LLZ dropped an album that will and absolutely should go down in Louisville (and beyond) canon as one of the dopest hip-hop albums to hit the scene. He’s all over the place, from the smile inducing struggle of “Evolution” to the grit and grime of “So Amerikkkan”. It’s a testament to his love of music that he included such a wide and welcome variety of guest spots too, from members of Quiet Hollers or Joann Jene to Dom B. [LISTEN]


Kaleidico Afro•Brain
Simply put, there has never been an album like this to come out of Louisville. For that matter, Matt Moore, the man behind the curtains with Kaleidico, has crafted an album with few peers, pop, but oblique, vocals and chopped and screwed, but melodic all the same. This is dark, but hook heavy music, haunting and beautiful, unparalleled musically to anything going. [LISTEN]


Zach Stefanski Portland
I’ve been a fan of Zach Stefanski’s work since I first encountered it with his freshman album, Portrait. Mid-summer, Stefanski dropped his follow-up, Fancy Boy, so I found it a little shocking that Portland came so soon thereafter, just a few months later. This album is the stuff of indie pop legend, the kind of music that is easily compelling, thoughtful and urgent to the extent that this felt necessary for Stefanski to exorcise, but with plenty of room to just dig into your favorite track. [LISTEN]


Soft Self Portraits Hold Me Up To The Light
Seriously, these are good jams to chill out too. A one man show helmed by Cody Johnson, Soft Self Portraits carries the torch of early Washed Out, New Wave influenced indie pop with an emphasis on easy melody and sweet vibes. Johnson’s dulcet voice carries the show here, rounded out by the kind of simple drum machine work that helped put Beach House on the map. It’s that bedroom feel that influences the tunes here, the anyone could do this kind of thing that adds a sense of comfort. Hold Me Up To The Light is your friend, softly guiding you towards the brighter moments. [LISTEN]


Anwar Sadat Ersatz Living
It’s hard not to be blown away by Ersatz Living, the most recent full length from Anwar Sadat. This is an album that just screams from start to finish, that takes you to the darkest horrors of humanity. Fuck this album is intense, a primal kind of misanthropy that is confrontational and brutal. This is more often than not a scary album, a mission statement and confirmation of your bad move. This growls and snarls, grinding away through the meat and into the bone. [LISTEN]

Very Honorable Mentions: Michael Seymour – [1]; Jordan Jetson – Critical Mass; Sasha Renee – I Am Sasha Renee; Watter – History of the Future; The Filipino Snares – Part Time Machine; Sara Saltou – In Parts; GRLwood – 2 Fags Demo; Emma Ruth Rundle/Jaye Jayle – The Time Between Us

NOT LOUISVILLE:


Chelsea Wolfe Hiss Spun
Goddamn this record SLAYS. Chelsea Wolfe is some kind of dark arts priestess, just murdering people with the heaviest, most visceral, muscular, and all-in-all righteous riffs known to humanity, and Hiss Spun only adds to that legacy. This is intense and seething music, equal parts beauty and violence, the perfect companion to any rage you might feel at the ugliness in the world. [LISTEN]


Run The JewelsRTJ3
Of course this is on the list: how could it not be? While this was technically released just a hair before the New Year, it was and remains to this day one of my number one go to jams of 2017, a rough and ragged collection of bangers featuring Killer Mike and El-P, two of the greatest emcees to grace the mic. Catching them at Forecastle was a rare treat, an excellent opportunity for a date night that did not go unappreciated. Bless them for that. [LISTEN]


Dälek Endangered Philosophies
There is perhaps no greater example of underrated in the musical community than Dälek. Theirs is a musical legacy of the boldest boom bap overlain with a dense sonic fog, a morass of Kraut Rock vibes and Shoegaze. Their latest, Endangered Philosophies, the group return to what made Abandoned Language one of my all-time favorite records, a desert island cut by far. This is unflinchingly political, social or otherwise, and never shies away from getting raw as fuck. Give this your attention immediately. [LISTEN]


Metz Strange Peace
Y’all, this record is fucking boss. I haven’t had a good noise rock fix in a while, and Strange Peace scratches that itch in the kind of way that makes me want to pick up my aluminum neck guitar and let Peepaw Syd over here show these whippersnappers (that’s the rest of the world) how shit’s done. If this doesn’t rile you the fuck up, I don’t know what will, but I feel sad for you. Just let it in. Flip out. Blow your voice out screaming along. Blast this in your house and do all the dishes. Let it guide your productivity. Live it. [LISTEN]


Slowdive Slowdive
Real talk: I didn’t know fuck all about Slowdive until this album. I came at the Shoegaze game a little late, which for anyone that knows me is a little weird, since it’s totally my wheelhouse. I caught a segment of Song Exploder that featured the song Sugar for the Pill, and it had me hooked. This is beautiful music, a sea of delayed notes and reverb for days on end, the vocals honeyed, floating gently above the song. [LISTEN]

Honorable Mentions: Ty Segall – Ty Segall; Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now; Omni – Multi-Task; Baby Driver – OST; The Seven Fields of Aphelion – Keep the Ocean Inside


PHIL PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


Anwar Sadat Ersatz Living
We’ve given this album a lot of hype and praise over the last year or so, but in case you missed it, I’m here to remind you that Ersatz Living is the real deal Holyfield. This record is a brutal, face fucking mascaraed of visceral noise rock with an unconventional lean into industrial goth. Nothing can prepare you for Ersatz Living, so if you haven’t been indoctrinated, fucking brace yourself. [LISTEN]


Cereal GlyphsThe Second Hand
Throughout this record, Cereal Glyphs manage to carefully mash together the garage rock fun of early Jeff the Brotherhood and the toe-tapping psychedelia of “See Emily Play”-era Pink Floyd, all while maintaining a clever punk rock edge. The Second Hand is such a good time from start to finish, especially on tracks like gritty toe-tapper “Passions Not Enough”and “Get Up” which features a grooving bass line, a killer keys section and a healthy dose of wah wah for good measure. If you haven’t already, get this album in your rotation immediately! [LISTEN]


RMLLW2LLZ Concerto No.9 Movement II
Producer Yons D and RMLLW2LLZ prove to be a match made in heaven that we didn’t know that we so desperately needed. This isn’t just my favorite Louisville hip hop effort from 2017, but quite possibly my favorite on planet Earth. Concerto No.9 Movement II is a highly personal offering showcasing a plethora of deeply introspective lyrics backed by soulful, sometimes banging sometimes smooth beats. I truly cannot recommend this album enough. [LISTEN]


Bonnie ‘Prince’ BillyBest Troubador
It’s unusual that a cover record could come off as being such a personal release from the artist releasing it, but that’s exactly what you get in Will Oldham’s new assortment of Merle Haggard renditions which features an impressive roster of songs new and old. While these tracks are all easily recognizable to any Merle fan, Bonnie Billy’s fingerprints are easily identified. I especially love his renditions of “I’m Always On A Mountain (When I Fall)” and “Wouldn’t That Be Something”.  [LISTEN]


James LindseySame Sky
With Same Sky, the artist formerly known as Jalin Roze in my opinion puts forth his finest collection of songs. Lyrically there are a lot of uplifting positive messages delivered with a satin smooth flow, while the beats and production are pretty slick and a lot of fun. It’s worth mentioning that this album has a few assists from a few other homegrown bands/artists including Otis Junior, Twin Limb and House Ghost. My favorite track might be “Rainbows”, an introspective track with a badass beat and a cool hook. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


BullyLosing
For me personally, this was the most anticipated record of the year following Bully’s breakout 2015 album Feels Like. And whoa boy, Bully doesn’t let up here with a new batch of compelling, gritty songs that focus a bit more on the vocal range of badass singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno. In case you were wondering, Losing is my personal favorite album from 2017. [LISTEN]


St. VincentMasseduction
Annie Clark is without a doubt my favorite modern rock star. On Masseducation, she summons the ghosts of David Bowie, Prince and Donna Summer to create one of the baddest fucking albums of the year. While this record showcases a few brilliant lower key, softer tunes, I keep coming back to St. Vincent because of her songs that make me shake my ass — tracks like “Pills”, “Los Ageless” and “Sugarboy” which comes across like a futuristic disco jam.   [LISTEN]


Big ThiefCapacity
Singer/guitarist Adrianne Lenker is the driving force behind this collection of beautifully interesting indie folk tunes. Her soothing, almost unassuming voice is the main attraction for me as she puts forth a sort of Elliott Smith meets PJ Harvey vibe. My favorite song is “Mythological Beauty”, a solemn, yet somewhat upbeat toe-tapper with a warm vibe. [LISTEN]


John MausScreen Memories
Describing the music that John Maus makes is somewhat of a chore. He reminds of what would happen if Xiu Xiu and Type O Negative’s Peter Steele decided to collaborate to make clever art pop with a boatload of lush, beautiful synthesizers and upbeat drum loops. I often have no idea what he’s referencing or talking about, but whatever, this record is such a good time. Highly recommended. [LISTEN]


Run The JewelsRTJ3
Man, I really tried hard not to include this record on this list because I had RTJ2 on last year’s list. But damn, this might be not only their best album yet, but also the finest hip hop efforts of 2017. The production is slick, but still has enough grit adding a sort of punk rock edge to a ferociously powerful hip hop record.  [LISTEN]


JAKE PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


Jaxon Lee SwainNight Diamonds 
This EP is genius in it’s simplicity and it’s delivery. The first track from the album “Never Takin’ Em Off” is a raucous punk jam about Jaxon’s favorite pants. We can all relate to that one pair of pants that are absolutely perfect right? We would all wear them forever if we could. Never has a song tapped into that feeling as perfectly as this one, but rest assured that Night Diamonds is about more than just pants. It’s about love. Loving your pants, and loving your baby so much that you have to get something pretty for them tonight. Jaxon is a “Romantic Motherfucker.” That’s the only way to describe someone singing these lyrics over this brand of vintage party punk. [LISTEN]


RMLLW2LLZ Concerto No.9 Movement II
By this point, you’ve already seen this album recommended twice. All of us at Never Nervous are absolutely in love with this album and not without reason. RMLLW2LLZ and Yons D were able to give us the best of what classic hip hop has to offer, intense and introspective relatable lyricism coupled with grimy, layered beats. This isn’t just an album, it’s a 41 minute long piece of art and a major statement from two of the best artists in the city. [LISTEN]


Wax FangVictory Laps
This is an album unlike any other in the Wax Fang catalogue. While it maintains their unique arrangements and epic feel, it’s much more focused on catchy, pop-influenced hooks than usual. It’s also much more electronic. That being said, it also features some of their best rock ‘n’ roll jams in “The Pusher” and “The Things I Do For Fun.” How rock ‘n’ roll are these jams you ask? Well, “The Things I Do For Fun” features the line, “We’re going to a motherfucking rock ‘n’ roll show!” Those are easily the best words sung in the year 2017. After over a decade, Wax Fang are somehow still able to surprise us. [LISTEN]


Anwar Sadat Ersatz Living
It’s hard to describe what Anwar Sadat are. Goth? Industrial? Punk? New Wave? Nu-Metal? They are all of that, and none of it at the same time. It’s easier to describe what “Ersatz Living” represents. It’s the most well presented album about tension, anxiety, and depression that has ever come out of this city at the very least. I’ve played it for people who said, “turn this off it’s giving me anxiety.” That’s OK. Music isn’t worth listening to if it doesn’t make you feel something. The brilliance of this album is in how effective it is at making you feel something. This is the type of album that would remind Swamp Thing that he was once human. Of course, it might be easier to relate to if your brain is an anxious chaos factory too. [LISTEN]


Miracle DrugHow Much Is Enough
Sometimes, I need to be reminded that I once was an angry young dude with a lot of energy and that person still lives inside of me somewhere. Miracle Drug are the band that I go to for that. I don’t listen to hardcore much anymore, but fuck they are so good at it! For me, How Much Is Enough is a motivational masterpiece. Are you trying to be better person somehow? Do you need inspiration to put the bong down and get off the couch to complete meaningless tasks, or maybe even (God forbid) work out? Pop this album into your old iPhone 4s and commence and get shit done. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


Low Cut ConnieDirty Pictures Pt. 1
Full disclosure, I learned about Low Cut Connie through one of my best friends, Dave Chale (drummer in Wax Fang, Quiet Hollers, and Grafitti) who produced it. I don’t listen to this style of dive bar blues, or the blues at all generally even though I have a strong appreciation for it. At the recommendation of Dave AND Elton John I decided to see what it was all about. Turns out it’s a really good time. It’s lyrically interesting and all over the place from one song to the next. Whether it be about spreading herpes and pink eye, or the absolutely desolate vibe of this country everywhere you look Low Cut Connie find a way to make you want to listen. “Dirty Pictures Pt. 1” also features an incredible cover of Prince’s “Controversy.” I mean they fucking nailed it! [LISTEN]


Ugly GodThe Booty Tape
When I tell people this is my favorite album this year and try to explain why, I typically get blank stares. He’s not an intricate lyricist. These beats aren’t mind blowing, in fact he said it’s not even an album or a mixtape but somewhere in between.  What I can say about “The Booty Tape” for sure is that it’s hilarious. Remember listening to hip hop that was outlandish just because it was fun? He has an entire song making fun of himself, “Fuck Ugly God.” The best way to describe it is if Biz Markie and Ol’ Dirty Bastard had a kid that sometimes rapped in falsetto. If you need to just forget about stuff and have fun, give this album a try. [LISTEN]


SZACTRL
This album just grooves. It’s beautifully produced and perfectly written, and it’s seductive and honest like when she addresses her insecurities in “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” by saying, “you know I’m sensitive about havin’ no booty.” Or even the track “Drew Barrymore” where her ex, brings his new girl to the party and she somehow makes that a sexy ass song. The juxtaposition of her self-doubt coupled with a confident and sensual presentation make this album unique. Plus it really grooves. [LISTEN]


Kendrick LamarDamn.
Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper alive. He needed Damn. to remind people of that. He’s not only a jazz/avant-garde/acid-funk poet. He can also make a classic hip hop album that nobody else outside of maybe Jay-Z can touch, but I don’t have 4:44 on my list of best albums even though it featured great songs. Damn. is excellent from start to finish and an absolute must listen for any connoisseur of hip hop. [LISTEN]


MigosCulture
Culture rules. The beats are some of my favorite this year. From start to finish, this is an album that has a singular hypnotizing vibe. Not a lot of hip hop albums have that kind of connectivity. It’s reminiscent of some of the great Three 6 Mafia albums that kept you head bobbin’ from the first hit to the very last. Culture is catchy from start to finish, for that reason it is the album I listened to the most this year by a large margin. It was my favorite to do yoga to, to dance to, and to do housework to. [LISTEN]

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