Drunk Noise's Best Songs of 2017 // Part Four
Every weekday for five days we'll be giving you ten of our favourite songs from 2017. There'll be no arbitrary ranking, no shortchanging on info, and only some obvious answers.
'SKIP TO THE GOOD PART'
"It's a hell of a distance,
From your hand to your beer.
If anything changes, I'm right here."
It's Friendship's combination of the mumblingly quotidian and the brilliantly profound that makes 'Skip To The Good Part' seem so effortlessly personal on first listen. Ultimately, it's Dan Wriggins' superbly knotting lyrics that forefront this quality, as we are transported to what is likely to be a dimly-lit, swirling, grainy pub - fast preceding closing time.
At once it's brilliantly intimate, with a yearningly strummed guitar there's a real sense of a failure in communication, of people not saying what they really mean, when they really need to. And, if that's not 2017, then we don't know what is. Somewhere between Ryley Walker and David Bazan it feels unnaturally like fertile ground in it's almost mumblecore-esque nature. Wavering between gloomy and sweet, Wriggins' stumbles in and out of the poetic, and as winter insidiously encroaches, it's almost comforting - if the cracks weren't perhaps so painfully apparent.
'HAVE YOU HEARD THIS BEFORE I THINK THEY CALL IT JAZZ'
Anxiety Machine is a seemingly off-the-cuff side-project headed up by AJJ (fka Andrew Jackson Jihad) cellist Mark Glick. Announced by a single tweet from the man himself, it arrived with little to no fanfare. And, yet the lo-fi, modest, ambient electronica found on i am not entirely sure what i'm doing but i'm doing it anyway feels like something really rather special.
Opener, 'have you heard this before i think they call it jazz' is indicative of the record's appeal. Resembling the score to a long-forgotten 8-bit video game, it has a uniquely nostalgic, deep, glowing warmth. The fidgety, minimalistic soundscape is certainly reminiscent of work from artists like Tycho or El-Ten Eleven. Yet, there's an unerring specificity found in this small, emotive piece that makes it far from purely soundtrack material. Doubt may be a recurring theme found across this unassuming work and even the project's name itself, but this is an assured, stirring composition that finds humanity in the machines.
"There’s only so much you can say in a text
Reading between the lines is hazardous
A slow reply can really mess with your head"
A punk-rock figurehead of Melbourne’s famous DIY music scene and co-founder of Milk! Records, it says a lot that the least interesting way to frame Jen Cloher is that she just so happens to be the partner of another internationally acclaimed songwriter. On 'Forgot Myself' it is however an unavoidable touch point, primarily because while Courtney Barnett’s intricate, assured guitar forms the backbone for Cloher’s barbed, Rolling Stones’ referencing slacker rock - it's that she might also be the focus of the song itself.
'Forgot Myself' is a little more sharp-edged, a little more rough and ready than Barnett’s own oeuvre but its nonetheless pervasive, as distance and loneliness are tackled brilliantly, in a series of revealing epithets. However, Cloher is never guilty of over-intellectualisation, her masterful spiralling, stream of consciousness lyrics twist and turn as the most simple of sayings are utilised for stark poetry on the ultimate crisis of isolation, identity.
Following Death Peak, avant-electronic producer Clark returned with a new 12” single - and for us it's quite something. Aptly titled 'Honey Badger' it feels entirely instinctual, careering from one style to the next, from techno, to hardcore - to a downtempo, almost solemn conclusion. As such it's tonally all over the place, though cavernous, foreboding kicks are one of the few mainstays, until that cinematic crest.
Thankfully, it doesn't feel scattershot, instead decidedly animalistic in it's utter loss of control. And, though it is asymmetrical there's a distinct, imposing atmosphere that maintains throughout as it's singular consistency. Scintillating and engaging all at once, Clark is evidently full of ideas, eight albums (and more) on. Most of all though this is a rabid, schizophrenic belter that demands your attention.
"Let’s go swimming like we did on that one NYE
Let’s burn up in the sky like a kamikaze"
Although 'Sells Out' enjoyably darts all over the place Been Stellar's off-kilter sounds gain their best traction when following in the vein of post-punk greats, and specifically the greats named Interpol. On 'Kamikazes' this is figured brilliantly with wiry, screeching guitars forming the track's brilliant climax, as if caught fire themselves. Though, 'Kamikazes' may see Been Stellar in a somewhat self-inflicted tailspin, it's a spectacular and, paradoxically promising sight to behold.
"Happy for both of you,
I give it a year, possibly two..."
It's fair to say the twinkling effort from Australian-born, Tokyo-based musician Andy Burns came as a bit of a surprise to us. Arriving as a kind of hybrid between Wesley Gonzalez art-pop and something decidedly more emo (especially with that album artwork), its quite unlike anything we've heard all year. The title track from the newly released LP is more than a fitting introduction, with Burns' casting some acidic, Baxter Dury-esque lamentations.
Though, musically it verges on uplifting there's an exhaustive, haunting bite to 'Excited'. Indeed, Burns' notes, "It's about self sabotage and sneaky couchsurfers stealing your girl and soiling your couch. It was made with old korg pianos, drum machines and a Chinese fender guitar". Certainly, bedroom pop then, but it's so impressively and personally produced that it transcends any possible four walls.
"The birds singing
The sun rising
As I wait for you"
Hazy rock masters Real Estate never seem like they're truly straining themselves, though thats probably far from the point. A jangling beauty, 'Darling' never strays from their ingrained style too far, though its a crystalline refinement of everything that makes them so effortless. It's a crisp, echoing number that we could play over and over and over and over and over and over...
"All that we learned, all that we have paved
We will destroy the earth and all we've made"
On Capture's opener swelling guitars and an impressively intricate composition are quickly, and brilliantly, undercut by lead singer Steven Hamilton's surprisingly limp sentiment of heartbreak, merely - "Why Bother?". As awing as this is on it's own, it's also the softest soundtrack to the impending apocalypse you're likely to hear all year. This of course only emphasises and extends the track's fantastically disquieting nature - indeed it's both as beautiful and as foreboding as that album artwork.
Though, we adore 'You Know Me' with it's indie-hit muscles and inherently Shins-infected sound, it's on 'Why Bother' that Thunder Dreamer best weave their meticulous, cinematic sound with a growingly distinctive voice. And, it's for this very reason that this engulfing masterclass stands as one of the finest songs this year. Colour us bothered.
Scottish Post-rock giants Mogwai can do no wrong in our books and 'Coolverine' finds them once more at their atmospheric best. It's a brooding, powerful cut that's as vast as it is microscopic in its coverage. We'd be pretty flabbergasted if these folks didn't fit on an end of year list for us, and 'Coolverine' certainly makes sure we won't buck a trend. Not only is it almost indescribably beautiful, but it also gets major points for a cracking title.
SLAUGHTER BEACH, DOG
"I'd say you look tired
Sing, my secret choir
Soak my scrapes and sleep tight
Sing, my brave acolyte"
If Modern Baseball's greatest moments have been that of grandiose angst then Jake Ewald's Slaughter Beach, Dog project acts as a stirring counterpoint. Instead, quiet epochs are found in his restrained backyard tales on love, fantasies, and the effects of age. We were head over heels for Motorcycle.jpg and though 'Acolyte' follows a rather quieter, different path, it's equally as stunning.
With drifting melodies backed by soft whistles and a strummed acoustic guitar Ewald's lyricism is truly allowed to shine, as candid and microscopic details come in and out of focus in the dwindling sunlight. Acting as the last song on the new record, it marks an excellent and somewhat forlorn bookend to Birdie. Concluding with a charming, almost fragile verse, 'Acolyte' proves once more that there can still be interesting and new love songs to be told, it just takes a different kind of storyteller.