ghostly shadows

swatztj  asked:

Talk to me about Korra dealing her trauma post book four and how Asami fits into her long term recovery bc I cannot get enough

Oh man, you’re basically asking me to spill out my soul. I could go on forever about Korra’s recovery arc as well as Asami in general (hence why it took me FOREVER to respond to this – !!! I’m so sorry @swatztj​ !!!). Let’s see where this goes… (warning - word vomit below)

* * * * *

Korra’s recovery arc was one of my favourite about the entire series. While it’s amazing to know that Korra and Asami are off living happily together (korrasami forever <3), I always do enjoy seeing individualistic aspects of these two characters and how their unique traits can complement each other. But, let’s dive into Korra’s arc first.

Korra was first introduced to us as the freaking Avatar, master of all four elements - we had to deal with it. We saw her as a very strong, physical being who mastered her waterbending, earthbending and firebending at a young age. Her demeanor was brash, loud, aggressive and direct, used (in many cases) as a tool to hide insecurities.  She was more of a punch first, think later sort of gal and all she ever wanted to be in her life was the Avatar, there was no question about it… that was, until the aftermaths of Amon, Unlaq and Zaheer transpired.

*Though since this about Korra’s trauma in Book 4, we will focus more on the post-Zaheer conflicts*

Korra was kidnapped, chained, poisoned, forced into the Avatar State, smashed against mountains and stripped of the air within her lungs. She was at her most vulnerable moment and completely out of control.

Some of us believed that Korra would get right back up after Suyin removed the poison from her system. After all, it didn’t seem to take too long for Korra to spring back into action after briefly losing her bending in addition to her connections with the past Avatars (though, this isn’t to say that she didn’t endure any pain, grief, self-doubt or negativity during those periods).

However, at the end of Venom of the Red Lotus, we saw Korra as an empty shell – incapacitated, quiet and unresponsive to the outside world. Internally, a whole other battle was being fought. 

She was told that the airbenders would return to their nomadic roots while she recuperated. She was told that they would work together to end discord and restore peace and balance. The woman who had always dreamed of being the Avatar, master of all four elements and bridge between worlds, was no longer needed. Her physical power and self-identity was gone.

* * * * *

I’m trying to understand why this happened to me. But nothing makes any sense. I’m tired Katara. I’m so tired.” ~ Korra (B4:E2)

In the beginning events of Book 4, we see Korra detached from her friends and family. She could barely sleep or eat and spent much of her wakeful moments in silence. When see was faced with times of sleep, she would constantly be plagued with the intrusive horrors she endured by herself in Book 3. This trauma caused Korra to fall into a depressive state as well as develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and hope faded away from her at every passing second. With the little sliver of willpower she had left, she finally made the decision to visit Katara – the first step needed to begin her recovery arc.

After months of being incapacitated, the steps needed to regain mobility took time and patience for Korra. We slowly but surely saw her become more and more active. A quick toe twitch turned into a few walking steps with Katara’s guidance. While these were fantastic accomplishments for someone wheelchair-bound, things moved a bit too slow for Korra’s tastes. We saw her lash out in anger/disappointment at Katara as well as Tenzin when he visited the compound to see her spar. Though Korra made progress, it doesn’t spark enough hope for someone who had been eager to get out in the real world her entire life.

While she was healing physically, Korra was still faced with phases of “fight, flight or freeze” throughout her recovery. Certain triggers continued to appear when she began to walk, spar and bend again, which caused flashbacks to flare up at unexpected moments. Her body would lock up and her mind became fixated on her traumatic past. She still felt as though she was being attacked, reliving the effects of the poison and suffocation over and over again. This caused Korra to hit a wall – she didn’t quite understand why those flashbacks and freeze ups kept happening, but she truly believed that she needed to expose herself to action again. Here is where another key element to Korra’s recovery arc comes in – exposure.

* * * * *

The mind can be a powerful ally or your great enemy.~ Katara (B4:E2)

Originally posted by yipyipmotherfuckers

The opening shot of our Avatar in Korra Alone was very indicative of the condition of her mental state – shattered, distorted, unstable, but not necessarily unrepairable. After embarking on a voyage to Republic City, we saw another confrontation between Korra and her past trauma; this time in the form of an eerie apparition. She turned away from her destination (Republic City) to walk an anonymous life in the Earth Kingdom with the hope of reconnecting with herself and her Avatar spirit.

Throughout Korra’s journey, she constantly struggled with hallucinations. Sometimes she visualized Raava – with whom she ran towards - but other times (more often than not) she faced with her own ghostly shadow – with whom she backed away from. These apparitions only seemed to become stronger whenever Korra fought them. Her “punch first” tactics remained ineffective as her hallucinations constantly countered her with bending and chains. Even when she was in combat with other opponents, they morphed into her ghostly visions, forcing her to constantly fight with herself and lose each battle in the process.

This, understandably, got quiet infuriating. A part of Korra knew that her visions were not real, but she couldn’t escape them as they seemly controlled every aspect of her day-to-day life. She had enough, making the decision to finally chase after these phantoms as opposed to fighting them. Little did she know that her decision would lead to the familiar face of Toph Beifong.

* * * * *

“…You need to face your fears. You can’t expect to deal with future enemies if you’re still fighting the old ones.” ~ Toph (B4:E4)

Unsurprisingly, Toph hadn’t changed one bit. Her demeanour remained direct, harsh, taunting and honest and this seemed to take Korra by surprise. After all, she was used to being met with looks and words of sympathy (understandably so) after her horrible incident. The bluntness used by our old metalbender, while unexpected, was another step that helped Korra towards her recovery.

Toph was able to quickly realize that Korra was very detached from the world; instead of looking forward she would always looked back in the past:

If there’s one thing I learned on the beat, it’s that the names change but the street stays the same.

Yes Korra did hold Avatar title, but she was still a person – a human being who could only accomplish and change so much within her own lifetime. Other Avatar’s would come and go and so would other acts of evil.

What was great about this confrontation was that little spark of defensiveness and enthusiasm we were used to seeing in Korra before the Book 3 finale. Korra knew of and believed in the accomplishments she achieved throughout her life as the Avatar. She challenged Toph on this exchange, but in a less angry and hostile way that we were used to seeing in the first few Books. 

This ultimately led to the two characters sparring, where Korra seemed to be having moments of excitement despite losing the battles. It was quite a refreshing site to see, in my opinion.

Originally posted by avatar-satos-spirit

Not only did Toph confront Korra on these issues, but she also detected small amounts of liquid metal circulating throughout the Avatar’s body. She attempted to rid this metal of her system, but Korra resisted, letting her fears and flashbacks take over again. This would be a task that Korra would have to do on her own; and it is one that she would successfully complete.

Korra used Toph’s advice to metalbend the liquid out of body and release some of those fears that she held close, tapping into her Avatar state. Toph was able to ground Korra back to the world again and make her feel more in tune with reality.

While this helped her physically, Korra’s battle was not over as she experienced yet another hallucination while facing Kuvira for the first time. Now, Korra needed to revisit her biggest nightmare of all face-to-face – Zaheer.

* * * * *

That poison should have killed you. But you were able to fight it off. You think your power has limits. I say its limitless.” ~ Zaheer (B4:E9)

Originally posted by yumighoul

Korra’s confrontation with Zaheer immediately began with an act of determination and fury. She finally stood before the man that traumatized her life and boldly claimed how he held no power over her anymore. That daring and direct demeanor she showed to Zaheer was reminiscent of her persona back in the earlier Books. However, just like in the past, these defiant acts were used as a way to cover her insecurities.

Zaheer lunged towards Korra with the intent of triggering her fears once again. Despite his chained position, Korra backed away in panic and this ultimately broke the belief that seeing him bound would make her unafraid. Korra was terrified of not only him but of being perceived as useless and of not being the person she used to be again.

Zaheer challenged these fears and claimed that neither of them were the same since the events that happened years ago; he was chained despite learning to fly and she was limitless despite holding herself down. Korra would never be the same person again as she would have to carry the trauma  with her for the rest of her life. 

However, instead of associating said trauma with pain and weakness, she could use it for strength. As Zaheer had said, the liquid metal should have killed Korra, but it didn’t. She was the one that survived despite all odds pointed against her. She had won the battle in the end and he had been the one who lost. The fact that she remained alive points to the idea that she had no limits.

We have to remember that Korra was alone in her showdown with Zaheer. None of her friends or family could aid her. Her severed connections to the past Avatars left her alone to fight against Zaheer and the poison in her most vulnerable state. Korra resisted the poison by resisting the Avatar State for as long as humanly possible. When she could no longer hold off that particular battle, she fought for her life as well as Raava’s, despite how painful and agonizing every second of it was. She was truly unstoppable and she had yet to recognize or consider this amazing feat.

Korra had to accept what happened to her and while this meant acknowledging the bad, it also meant acknowledging the good. Instead of fixating on the moments of suffocation and powerlessness, she had to let the scene play out entirely - focusing on the future and not just the past. The past was not something she could change.

For the first time in nearly three years, Korra gained control over her fear. She accepted what happened – the pain, the exhaustion as well as the endurance. She had made it and in the process, connected back with her spiritual energy.

Originally posted by yipyipmotherfuckers

Korra reached an understanding with her trauma. While her past was not something that she could simply shrug off or ignore, it could be used as a tool of recognition in which Korra could connect with others at a deeper level. As Toph had said in the swamp:

Sounds like you’re carrying around your former enemies, the same way you’re still carrying around that metal poison. You maybe consider you could learn something from them?

Which can be coupled with Tenzin’s own words of:

It’s true, there will always be new conflicts and enemies to face. But the important thing is to learn from your enemies and better yourself over time, which you have.”

Korra learned from her painful struggles and was able to use new-found knowledge to reach out to others – including her own enemies. She greatly opposed the methods used by Kuvira to unite the Earth Kingdom, yet she still related to and understood her at a personal level, even going as far as to risk her own life to save the dictator. She understood Kuvira’s emotions of fear, abandonment, vulnerability and lack of control and this level of empathy displayed wasn’t something we saw Korra use towards Amon, Unalaq or Zaheer.

Originally posted by giffingkorra

Korra truly found inner peace once she found her way out of the dark tunnel. She proved to herself and others that she was more than just a symbol of physical prowess. She had found inner peace with herself and her trauma, drawing meaning from it which will ultimately help to make her become even stronger in the future.


Korra fought, learned and recovered from some of the darkest moments in her life. She will always carry the scars left behind from the incident that happened in Book 3, but she made herself an even better person by pushing forward instead of holding back. Korra became a beacon of hope for so many of us and remains a character that we will always hold near and dear to our hearts.

* * * * *

“I want you to know that I’m here for you. If you ever want to talk or… anything.” ~ Asami (B3:E13)

Now, I’ll try to make the Asami part quick because this response has gone on for far too long :p.

I think Asami took the role of Korra’s anchor and voice of reason, even if neither of them fully realized it from the get-go.

Asami bore witness to it all – Korra’s gravely injured body smashing into rocks as well as her diminishing hope and sense of self. She saw her best friend falling deeper and deeper, but if there’s one thing we know about Asami Sato, it’s that she will always have your back.

Asami took on the role of Korra’s caretaker; she helped her dressed, pushed her wheelchair around, made conversation and she presumably helped her bathe, eat and sleep. She was truly there for her despite her other responsibilities of being the CEO of one of the most prestigious companies in the world. Korra was her priority. Heck, the woman was even willing to drop everything and accompany Korra while she recuperated in the Southern Water Tribe.

Originally posted by korrafreakingsami

These feelings of sadness and hopelessness were quite familiar to Asami. We know that she’s had a pretty difficult life from the start - her mother was murdered, her father sided with the equalists, she had to take command of a large company at age 18 and overall, she had a lonely life. Due to these unfortunate events, it was likely that Asami understood Korra and her depressive state at a far deeper level than anyone else who was close with Korra. Asami neither pushed nor prodded and instead gave an open invitation for Korra to talk with her whenever she was ready

Korra did end up taking Asami’s offer up as we see her communicate to her via a letter in Korra Alone. Korra opened up quite a bit to her, explaining how hard the past few years had been, how she couldn’t tap into the Avatar State, how she kept having hallucinations and how she feared that she would never fully recover again. There was a reason why Korra contacted Asami and not Mako, Bolin or the others. She knew that Asami would understand her at that vulnerable time and felt comfortable enough to expose a very fragile part of her life. Asami was the rock that Korra could hold onto and I’m sure that she felt some relief and comfort after sending her letter off.

This comfort continued in Remembrances. Korra expressed her same worries again, but Asami’s consistent support, admiration and belief in Korra and her abilities shined through during the exchange.

And finally, we know that what goes around, comes around. After Kuvira’s attack on Republic City, Asami lost her father for good. This time, Korra was the one who took the initiative to provide emotional and physical support for her. She apologized for her three year absence and suggested taking a vacation where the two of them could finally relax and take care of each other without any interruptions (…besides the big rock spirit thing…). 

Korra and Asami had seen each other at some of their darkest moments and while they were strong and developed individually through their past traumas, they would and always will be stronger together and persevere through any obstacle thrown at them.

Originally posted by otterbender

The. Freaking. End :)

“Uh... good news bad news time, Ted.”

Ted the Animator: “Oh dear.”

Carl the Animator: “Hey, at least there is some good news involved, ‘cause… y’know… good news is good.”

Ted the Animator: “Let’s get this over with. What did you do?”

Carl the Animator: “Well, I created reeeaaally nice lantern glow cutouts for the swamp zombie scene that follow perfectly when he moves his arm.”

Ted the Animator: “…ok, good job, those are tough. What’s the bad news?”

Carl the Animator: “I forgot to move his arm.”

Ted the Animator: “…oh.”

Carl the Animator: “I might have been multitasking while watching Maru the cat try to fit into a tiny box.”

Ted the Animator: “I didn’t think the ‘no cats in the studio’ rule was going to have to start applying to video cats, but you’re just full of surprises I guess.”

Carl the Animator: “It was a VERY tiny box. I couldn’t resist.”

Ted the Animator: “I… I don’t even know what this looks like. The zombie’s ghostly shadow self is leaning down, while he himself stays perfectly still.”

Carl the Animator: “Whoops.”

Ted the Animator: “Actually, that would make for an interesting overarching visual theme for a monster, were it not just a random screwup.”

Carl the Animator: “Ooh! Ooh! Can we do that for the rest of the episode?!”

Ted the Animator: “No. It would make no sense, be completely unfitting… and we don’t get to write the scripts.”

Carl the Animator: “Humph.”

Ted the Animator: “It’s bad enough for the light thing to happen just once. Even more would–”

Carl the Animator: “Twice.”

Ted the Animator: “…eh?”

Carl the Animator: “I might’ve accidentally used the same loop a second time.”

Ted the Animator: “…oh, Carl….”

Carl the Animator: “Is that enough precedent to do the whole episode like it, now?!”

Ted the Animator: “No, but it is enough to get your illumination-cel privileges revoked.”

Carl the Animator: “But moooooom…

Ted the Animator: “You heard me, young man.”

Anti Headcanons

Right, time to share my ideas:

  • Anti is a Fetch, a doppelganger spirit from Irish folklore. They usually show up as a death omen to the person who sees them, also copying their exact appearance, though it’s more ghostly and shadow-like
  • Normal fetches control their own apparition, but for some reason Anti materialized in Jack’s body, meaning they both fight for control of their body and mind constantly
  • His supernatural properties cause nearby electronics and technological devices to act up or stop working – like how compasses fail to work in the Bermuda Triangle
  • As Jack’s fetch, he’s gained abilities which connect with the human’s interests; computers, pieces of technology, phones, etc.
  • He’s able to use these abilities to ‘glitch’ into Jack’s videos, but only a few times at once, as it uses an incredible amount of energy and willpower, not to mention having Jack’s consciousness fighting him while doing so
  • Anti’s powers are greatest around October, when the veil between the supernatural world and the real world is thinnest
  • His strength also grows when Jack is frightened, stressed, sad, or is feeling any incredibly strong emotion; it weakens Jack’s mind and leaves his body vulnerable. This is usually how Anti gains control of it
  • When another otherworldly spirit or non-human presence is nearby, Anti’s control increases drastically; the presence is usually Darkiplier
  • So, to recap the ways Anti can take control of Jack’s body:

                -  When Jack is experiencing strong emotions

                -  During October

                -  After preserving enough energy to break free for a short time

                -  When another supernatural presence is nearby

  • When not in control of their body, Anti resides in the depths of Jack’s mind; there, he’s able to experience what’s going on, but is unable to really do anything. He does, however, voice his opinion on things a lot (which Jack can hear), and enjoys attempting to bring up unpleasant memories or thoughts, which might trigger Jack’s emotions and create an opportunity for control
  • The volume of the voice Jack hears from Anti when in his mind can vary from a distant echo to an ear-bleeding, crackling screech
  • One of Anti’s favorite hobbies is corrupting Jack’s dreams, changing them into disturbing, bloody, mind-altering nightmares which seem to last for days on end. These often result in Jack jerking awake and fearing going back to sleep

“They became for ever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.”
 ― J.R.R. Tolkien

A-B-C-D-E-F-G - Shalaska - pureCAMP

a/n - hi everyone! now, if anyone’s wondering, i promise promise promise i am working on jttou and hoping to get it done soon (im almost there!) However, with the house move happening soon its becoming a bit tough. if it’ll tide u over, here’s a l o o o n g oneshot i wrote this entire evening!! <3

*tw for car crash mentions/description*

Keep reading

valentine’s;

kim taehyung | part of a series of a series of weightlifting fairy kim bok joo inspired drabbles. you ask why taehyung doesn’t bring you flowers like the other girls. you get a surprising response. | 1k words | fluff. | first part here: motivation, second part here: cute when you’re jealous


Originally posted by jeonbase

“Taehyung, why did you bring me here?”

Taehyung stops shoving beef into his mouth for the first time since you’ve both sat down, his mouth full and his eyes wide as he looks over the table toward you. He hadn’t thought to mention it, thinking if he did you might get mad at him, but he had noticed you had been upset since he picked you up for your date that evening. Taehyung had known to be simple with you; food and an action movie and you’d be set for your “romantic” valentine’s day celebration. But your grip on his hand throughout the movie was stiff, you cowered into his side whenever a couple laughed near you two, and you had barely touched your food since you two arrived at the restaurant.

Needless to say, he was worried sick. “To… eat? Why don’t you want to eat?”

You shift slightly in your seat, looking a bit awkward as the food goes virtually untouched by you. “Well… it’s just… we always eat here.”

He frowns and sets his chopsticks down, eyebrows furrowing. “Of course we always eat here. It’s your favorite restaurant!” “Hey, I know that!” You interrupt at his bewildered tone, becoming defensive. Instantly, Taehyung takes this as his cue to settle down. 

When you notice he’s silent, waiting for you to elaborate, you exhale with more force than you probably should, “You know, it’s just… Seokjin is taking his girlfriend ice skating, and Jimin is taking his to Gangnam, and we’re just kind of… we’ve never done anything romantic. You didn’t even bring me flowers. I had to watch everyone at school get flowers!” “You don’t even like flowers-” “That’s not the point! The point is, Kim Taehyung… I want you to do something romantic for me today.”

You suddenly wonder if you should take that back when Taehyung’s eyes spark with excitement, his smile turning embarrassingly wide when he realizes exactly what you’re asking of him. Taehyung had always accommodated your rather distant tendencies, always cutting down on the affection and giving you a head’s up before he would say something particularly cheesy. He would always ask to kiss you, and he let you dictate how long kisses and hugs should be. 

He had suppressed his affection for long enough, it seemed, because you actually wanted him to be mushy this time. He tried not to show his excitement. He failed.

“Then, if that’s the case, I’ve got an idea.”


As soon as your toes sink into the cool sand of the beach, your eyes shoot up to Taehyung, a skeptical look on your face. “I said romantic. Why are we at the beach?”

“Beaches are romantic,” Taehyung grins, his face illuminated by the moonlight. When you look out to sea, you see the moon casting ghostly white shadows along the black waters that lap at the edge of the beach and threaten to pull in whatever got too close. “And you said you wanted romantic.”

“But-” “No buts! You asked, and I deliver. Now, start running.” Taehyung grins, cheeks looking particularly chubby as he kicks off his shoes and coat onto the sand. You blink, a quiet question of if he was actually serious or not. He doesn’t say anything more, just raises his hands to your ribcage and tickles.

You squeal in surprise and suddenly you’re off running, Taehyung following close behind with his hands held out threateningly, reminding you of just what would happen if you slowed down. Your laughter is loud and unabashed, taking turns looking back at him and seeing where exactly you were headed. Thankfully, you were the faster runner out of the two of you, and Taehyung could only get close if you let him. 

For the first couple of minutes, you focus solely on escaping him, but when you see him starting to slow down, you purposefully slow your walk, glancing back to see if he would notice. 

The poor, lanky boy is on the verge of giving up on you altogether until he sees you’ve slowed down significantly, and you can practically see his ego boost by two hundred points. “Ha! You may be faster, but I have more stamina.” Sure, you think, turning away from him to giggle under your breath.

Finally, his arms wrap around your middle and you almost want to tease him for taking so long to reach you even when you weren’t trying, but the triumphant smile on his face is too cute to diminish, and you instead stamp your lips together into a fond smile, turning in his hold to face him. Chest to chest with your arms lazily wrapped around his neck, Taehyung heaves deep breath after breath, but he looks happy and content. You can just make out the pink, flushed tint in his cheeks under the moonlight, and your hand instinctively comes to curl up against his skin in adoration.

“May I kiss you?” He asks, softly, once he catches his breath.

You only nod, and he leans down to capture your strawberry flavored lips with his, his throat rumbling with a sigh of content when you kiss him back just as eagerly. Even the cool, February air doesn’t dull the warmth you feel rush through your body when Taehyung kisses you. 

He peels away with a satisfied smile, “Strawberry. You remembered.” “Of course I did, boy. I wore it just for you.” His smile seems to only grow the longer he stares at you, unmoving, adoring, loving, happy. 

“Was this romantic for you?” He asks finally, and you snap out of your own lovey reverie to answer, trying to hide the bashfulness in your tone, “Yeah, I’m… sorry I got mad at you earlier.” “No need to apologize. I’ll always jump at the chance to make you embarrassed.” 

Your eyes shoot up to his in shock, your arms dropping from around his shoulders so you can hit him on his arm, “I’m n-not embarrassed!” 

“You’re sooooo embarrassed! You love me! Admit it, you wanna kiss me!” He grins, teasing you in a sing-song voice as he jumps back from your next attack.

“Come back here, punk! You can kiss my fist!” You laugh, springing forward with renewed energy, trailing after your dumb boyfriend, laughing into the night air with nothing but pure, unadulterated endearment.

The 50 Best Albums So Far In 2017

Reflecting on 2017 is challenging when the, at this point predictable, headline of the day is our Commander In Chief, tweeting childish diatribes toward TV personalities. So far, the year has felt more like an unending hangover from the destructive bender that was 2016 than a fresh start. (The only lingering presence worth keeping has been Frank Ocean; keep droppin’ singles, Frankie. Please. We need you.)

The last six months haven’t been all bad, though. Despite facing its fair share of adversity (PWR BTTM, venues closing, the impending threat of defunding The National Endowment for the Arts, among a ton of other shitty stuff), the underground music world has continued to produce some of the best, most important artworks of this tumultuous era. Now, more than ever, artists of marginalized identities are holding the spotlight and using it to showcase fascinating, unique and incredibly valuable perspectives that were formerly sidelined by the rock music machine. The industry is shifting, and we’re graced with the opportunity to witness its metamorphosis.

Here’re 50 pieces of music that prove creativity is thriving in an age where we need it most—and 2017’s only halfway over. (Every album title is a link to the music so you can listen while you read!)

Adult Mom – Soft Spots

In terms of albums that speak with more emotion than any other, Soft Spots is one that takes the entire cake. Adult Mom’s use of poetic lyrics help decipher situations in life that showcase how people feel. Every delicate glance, every minimal conversation and even the way people think are analyzed within the length of this LP. I generally like to play this on long walks, just to analyze and think over every little thing ever, if only to realize that I need to be more in tune with Soft Spots.

– Sean

Big Thief – Capacity

Very few artists in today’s world are able to find the balance between beauty and agony as well as Brooklyn, New York quartet, Big Thief. Throughout the band’s sophomore record, Capacity, a ghostly shadow hangs off every note, leaving a bittersweetness on the tongue. Vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s quivering whispers float above the soft instrumentation, propelled forward by an emotional honesty that is almost unmatched by their peers. Songs like “Shark Smile” and “Mythological Beauty” showcase Big Thief’s poetic, storytelling prowess that have made them the band they are today. Capacity offers a less-is-more approach to their sound, stripping back the layers and leaving their insides entirely exposed. The vulnerability and rawness captured on Capacity establishes Big Thief as some of this generation’s finest songwriters.

– Yong

Charly Bliss – Guppy

This indie rock superband is like fireworks packed into a fishbowl. From Eva Hendricks’ epic, guttural punk yowl on tracks like “Percolator” to their bouncy, playful lyrics, Charly Bliss set off a storm in the world of punk rock with their sparkling debut Guppy. Charly Bliss embodies the 90s more than jean jackets and plaid skirts, and by the sound of this record, they listened to more than a little bit of Bikini Kill and Veruca Salt while they were writing. But while it’s attractively grunge, their sound is also pop-punk, and this album is a laudable effort for being feminine in a genre that so often condemns women and their work. It’s catchy, and fun, and a refreshing new take on the genre whose songwriters are often scared of truth. On “Percolator,” Hendricks effortlessly convinces the audience that “it’s cool, I’m in touch with my feelings.” Guppy is confident and angsty, but not annoying or too self-important: “I’m everybody’s favorite tease/put your hand on my knee/that’s what friends are for.” In true riot grrrl fashion, it lauds girls for doing what they want and stays away from shame: “I want to touch you/I want to cry/floating above you/I think I might.” I could keep quoting the fantastically feminist lyrics, but you’d be better served by listening yourself. Guppy echoes with truth—and awesome guitar parts. The songwriting is smart and fresh, and the music is quick and addictive like poppy music should be. Overall, Guppy is ready to square up against the boring boy band pop-punk albums that this scene has (rightfully) outgrown.

– Lucy Danger

Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

Back in January, I wrote a review of this record, and I still stand by everything I said. The more I listen to it, the more it grows on me. It’s more polished, has a more elaborate theme compared to the bands previous releases, and it still rips. The energy and confidence that oozes out of this album is contagious. Fueled by a more cushioned sound, Cloud Nothings combine hard power chords and a fast paced drumming/bass backbone to provide what I consider to be their most coherent and complete work to date.

-Steven

Cool American – Infinite Hiatus

Almost a year after Cool American released one of my favourite records of 2016, they came right back and put out another solid full length.  The Portland, self proclaimed, “Dorito-pop” indie rockers take their music one step further on Infinite Hiatus. Full-bodied guitar riffs and catchy-as-hell choruses help turn a laid back, loafer type lyrical experience into something that delves a bit deeper; that is to say that life is essentially disappointing, so why not have some fun while we’re at it.

-Steven

Deer Leap – Wind & Words

Deer Leap have always been on the cusp of something more, but have always been tethered to the basement. Wind & Words is their way out. Featuring a jam packed 20 minutes of soul-vibrating bass, winding guitars, and haunting vocals, these 6 songs are perfect for summertime drives. The first half is invigorating; a light and pleasant soundtrack to admiring the scenery as you drive along, while side B leaves you contemplative, nostalgic for something you haven’t even found yet.

– Chris Musser

Diet Cig – Swear I’m Good at This

Diet Cig is a return to what I think pop-punk should be; simple, catchy songs that pack a lyrical punch. They’ve put together one of my favorite releases this year with their debut record, Swear I’m Good at This. Check out “Tummy Ache” or “Sixteen” to see for yourself what all the hype is about.

– Ryan Manns

Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming

The melancholic vibe across I’m Only Dreaming is littered with delicate love songs and Eisley have stolen the most listens to an album (by me) of this year. Released via Rory/Equal Vision Records, Sherri and Garon DuPree took the helm of the family band and proved their vision of Eisley is just as powerful as before. Featuring pop refrains that bite with emotion, instrumentals that breathe with heart and an ambiance that feels like its floating, I’m Only Dreaming is an record that deserves to be embedded in your very soul, like it is mine. “Song For The Birds” also happens to be one of the best songs of this year.

– Sean

The Flats – Auburn in the Everlast EP

For a songwriter, the past can often serve as a place to dwell. For The Flats’ Chris Kerekes, there’s no time. On the Toledo band’s latest EP, Auburn in the Everlast, they burn the past like fuel, venerating their uncertain future with wide-eyed excitement. From the explosive first moments of “Electric Light,” to the hypnotic refrain of “Transparent,” to the peppy guitars of “Unviable in your World,” The Flats consistently prove themselves to be one of the most dynamic and fervent groups in indie rock right now. They even have a song about Bernie Sanders (“Is the War Worth the Cost?”). This six song short-player came out in January and i’m still finding new things to enjoy with each listen.

– Riley Savage

Girlpool – Powerplant

As a lover of everything twee, Girlpool’s Before The World Was Big was an instant favorite of mine in 2015. Whereas that album featured Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad crafting ornate harmonies as a bass+guitar duo, Powerplant adds the drums that I feared may prove to be too much for their delicate songs to handle. Fortunately, Powerplant not only handles adding a drummer but also manages to exceed the hype that accompanied Before The World Was Big. In widening their musical scope, Girlpool have also found that the world doesn’t feel as big as it once was, as their songs deal with the anomie of entering one’s early twenties. On “Soup” Tucker and Tividad sing about the overbearing burden of potential while on “It Gets More Blue” they liken this modern-day malaise to “always digging in trash”.

– Jordan

Gnarwolves – Outsiders

Outsiders is once more responding to the sense of moral displacement engulfing the UK, and similarly to Los Camp’s Sick Scenes it’s with pensive altruism rather than thoughtless anger. Being heavy rock devotees, Thom Weeks and company have always existed in the margins of socially conservative rural England; but the rise of Right populism has alienated them more zealously, as true outsiders. They’re at their most melodic and soulful here – though perpetually threatening a hardcoreish breakdown – to acutely represent their sense of isolation, loss, and their battles with mental health. Outsiders is a state-of-the-nation speech, but with Max Weeks’ murdering his drumkit in the background.

– Kieran

Grayscale – Adornment

Grayscale’s latest offering Adornment is an impressive and coherent record, showing growth since their debut release last year. The personal songwriting certainty required vulnerability but it allows for listeners to explore their own emotions within a space that varies from optimistic to reflective on past pains. Instrumentally the record is experimental but strategically uses acoustic moments, provoking guitar work, and more to make the lyrics even more heartfelt.

– Hannah Hines

Half Waif – form/a EP

Throughout the stunning new EP from Half Waif, Nandi Plunkett (who also plays in Pinegrove) confounds upon and transmits her many moods, emerging with the year’s strangest and most therapeutic pop record. On last year’s Probable Depths, Nandi built complex orchestral pop songs that were simultaneously airy and percussive. But on form/a, her songs are perfused with a multitude of synthetic bells and whistles; song after song, her stirring double-tracked vocal melodies are enveloped by layers of gloomy electronic production and fortified by a strong, vibrant low-end. What really sets this release apart for me is how focused and reflective it is. On form/a, Nandi contemplates with her words and with her music.

– Riley Savage

Heart Attack Man – The Manson Family

There are many kinds of sadness, and many ways to combat negativity. On the debut LP from Heart Attack Man, frontman Eric Egan expresses a familiar sadness — one that seeks to understand the world around him but gets more frustrated the more he learns. It basks in loneliness and boredom, belabored at the thought of his personal relationships. So where do we go when we need some deliverance? The same place Egan himself went: to the proverbial garage for some noisy catharsis. The Manson Family is a purgative rock record — a relatable and thoughtful temper tantrum that, despite its anguish, feelsreeeally good as a listener. Heart Attack Man consistently pen sharp riffs and sticky hooks throughout the record, overshadowing some less-than-flashy percussion and a few inconsistent vocal performances (stuff that sounds better with each listen anyhow). The Manson Family is a therapeutic experience where both band and listener can air out their Caufieldisms for 35 minutes. I mean come on, at some point we all feel like we’re “Surrounded by Morons.”

– Riley Savage

Hundredth – RARE

Rarely (ha) does a hardcore band make a transition into a new genre as smooth as Hundredth did on RARE. The Hopeless Records staple of a band decided to tackle a bold challenge (that was entirely cathartic and genuine) and produce a shoegaze record. Known for their steady rhythms, RARE showcases beats that push instead of pull, melodies that are not forced into screams and an overall pace that is perfect to work out to. Don’t sleep on this record, or the band’s new sonic identity.

– Sean

Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Back again and bringing that noisy rock that I love so much, Japandroids have set themselves up as one of my go-to “listen to this” bands. High energy and a lot fun, you can take them anywhere. Listen to the title track “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” or “No Known Drink or Drug” and tell me it doesn’t make you wanna dance.

– Ryan Manns

Jay Som – Everybody Works

On her album Everybody Works, Melina Duterte—aka Jay Som—sings of fantasy and being comfortable in one’s situation. “I like the bus,” she sings on “The Bus Song,” “I can be whoever I want to be.” She makes the mundane magical, accompanied by airy guitar and flowing percussion. Spacious isn’t usually an adjective used to describe drumming, but that on Jay Som is such. She waits, and watches, and absorbs the world around, taking the listener along with her experiences. Everybody Works reflects on all the tiny actions that make up our daily lives, which create our world. It grows sonically from the soft “Lipstick Stains” to a fuzzy speed on “1 Billion Dogs,” and sinks back into personality and fear on “Baybee,” but never loses the catchy, smart song structure. Listening to this album is like viewing the world from below a fishtank: the light is filtered and colored so that we can notice the specks that make up our view. The world is a much more interesting place hearing it through Jay Som’s perspective. As one of her song titles asks: “One More Time, Please.”

– Lucy Danger

Joey Bada$$ – All AmeriKKKan Bada$$

It’s hard to talk about Joey Bada$$ without talking about how he started. A half-decade ago, Joey was many things: a true-to-life teen rap prodigy, the leader of New York’s Pro Era collective, and a militant voice for the disparaged. 5 years later, Joey is still prioritizing lyricism and raging against the machine, but he’s kept a remarkably open mind about hip-hop and the process of creating music. Last year, he dropped a song called “DEVASTATED,” an on-trend radio banger that would become his biggest hit to-date. And while it was a departure for Joey, the shoe seemed to fit. The album that would follow fell in the shadow of Kendrick’s “April 7th” proclamation — a release date Joey had set more than a month beforehand. While DAMN. ended up dropping a week later on the 14th, AABA’s hype was temporarily swallowed by the success of “Humble” and the prospect of new music from K Dot. But once the clutter subsided and fans sat with the new LP, it was clear that Joey had delivered his most diverse and formidable release so far. On AABA, Joey reinvents himself seamlessly, dipping into other genres and gracefully pushing beyond his rapper’s rapper reputation. That is not to say that Joey sells himself short with his flows on this album; if you want bars, you’ll find ‘em on songs like “Y U DON’T LOVE ME?,” “ROCKABYE BABY (feat. Schoolboy Q),” and others. But what really makes AABA such a compelling listen are melodic, soul-infused records like “FOR MY PEOPLE” and hooky pop-rap triumphs like “TEMPTATION.” Its exciting that in 2017, we’re still discovering new things Joey can do with his voice, and with his mind.

– Riley Savage

Kendrick Lamar – Damn.

If Good Kid M.A.A.D. City demonstrated Kendrick’s flair for visceral biography, and To Pimp A Butterfly his credibility as political historian and commentator, Damn.—more straightforward in self-comparison but by no other means—showboats his virtues as poet and storyteller. Less conspicuously grandiose, but still hella ambitious and pristinely refined; whether he’s dragging pretenders to the throne on ‘Humble’ or conjuring a Best Picture nominee in four minutes on ‘Duckworth’. This record concentrates on banging, but never tactlessly. Kendrick continues to operate on an entirely different planet to everyone else in rap, and if anything Damn pushes himself even further away.

– Kieran

Kevin Morby – City Music

With the likes of Kurt Vile, Angel Olsen, Courtney Barnett, Mac Demarco and, hell, even Big Thief, there really isn’t a shortage of breezy, 70s-ish, folky, sometimes psychy rock acts floating about today. Nevertheless, Kevin Morby, with his best Dylan impression in full swing, still managed to put out one of the most pleasantly warm and irrefutably lovely albums of the year. Despite sounding like a million different things, City Music is a masterful display of both punchy soundtracks for sunny walks and lilting stretch-outs for nighttime drives. Although the record’s title first struck me as corny and sickeningly nostalgic for the globalized United States of 2017, it quickly won me over. Morby crafted 12 songs that convince even this city slicker that I’m wearily gliding down the Midwest interstate, catching my first glimpse of the distant metropolis glow. Even in an age where it’s difficult to associate anything vaguely American with anything other than a dystopian nightmare, City Music makes me want to hop in the back of a VW Bus and trek out to L.A., fulfilling the the rock ‘n roll prophecy Morby’s cherished forefathers spoke of. Anything that gets me that gooey about the 50 states in this era must be pretty damn compelling.

– Eli

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

Do we need more King Gizzard? Probably not, but the Australian psych-rock seven-piece keep giving us reasons to want more. Flying Microtonal Banana was the first of supposedly five new albums they’re planning to drop this year (last week they dropped their second, the three-part sci-fi concept record Murder of the Universe) and it’s somehow even more of a ride than last year’s widely praised Nonagon Infinity. Something about this record just feels more focused, more groove-driven and easier to down than the quite literally infinite roar of Nonagon. Plus, the Eastern-influenced guitar effects that sound like the entrancing tunes of a cartoonish snake charmer are endlessly fun and far wackier than anything bands of their caliber have put out in recent years. Given we still have at least two more releases from these guys this year, we’ll have to wait and see how this holds up come December. For now, though, “Open Water” is the jam.

– Eli

Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes

A four-year interval between No Blues and Sick Scenes has hampered neither the caliber of Los Camp’s songwriting, nor the pertinence of their message. Responding to a UK increasingly pilloried by economic inequality and political atomisation, Gareth David’s lyrics are somber and disquieting, but also generously non-judgemental, and even a little hopeful (a hope vindicated by June’s General Election result). Still, a homelessness of values, of identity, circulates Sick Scenes, propped by some of their shrewdest, most lovely arrangements and ideas; and even when encumbered by political heft they’re as self-effacing, witty, and delighting in detail as ever. One of their best records to date.

– Kieran

Lorde – Melodrama

Young pop superstar Ella Yelich-O’Connor, as anticipated, has come back roaring with her new album Melodrama. Four years isn’t that long, but in the world of music, it meant fans constantly asking Lorde when she would be releasing her next installment. Four years of the 20-year-old Lorde’s life is a significant portion, and just as her life has changed and developed in that time, so has her work. As she said to Tavi Gevinson months ago, her music is a reflection of “the inside of her head.” For the deep and vivid picture that she paints on this album, I don’t know a listener who hasn’t had the (even fleeting) desire to live as colorfully as Lorde does throughout Melodrama. She documents love’s end the way only someone who has experienced it can. She whispers conspiratorially about partying and closeness, and infatuates her listeners with images of chasing those existence-less “Perfect Places.” She feels without abandon and for herself. The addictive aspects of her first album are audible at times, like in “Sober II (Melodrama)” and “Supercut,” but she is clearly living in a world so much more lush, four years later. From the soft guitar introducing “The Louvre” to the weeping vocals on “Writer in the Dark” and “Liability,” to the screeching sounds of what sounds like furniture being rearranged on “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” all listeners can do is grab Lorde’s hand tight and take in all of herself that she has to offer on Melodrama.

– Lucy Danger

The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

While Lovely Little Lonely is actually the 6th full length studio album for The Maine, it may be the first many people are taking the time to listen to. Alt-rock elements reminiscent of Third Eye Blind mixed with more instrumental indie pop moments you’d expect from The 1975 create an appealing and dynamic listening experience. While not exactly a concept album, LLL is certainly a concept with a deeper lyrical narrative and song transitions that beg for that start to finish spin. It’s admirable that The Maine is still DIY at heart, using the record label turned-community 8123 to release their music, as well as their friends’. Songs such as “The Sound of Reverie” and “I Only Wanna Talk to You” sound even more cinematic in the context of summer.

– Hannah Hines

Meat Wave – The Incessant

Another record I reviewed at the beginning of the year, Meat Wave kicked 2017 off on the right foot. Released in February, The Incessant is still a regular, almost daily listen for me. Its in your face nature packs a punch. The addicting guitar hooks along with the snarly vocals do a great job of snatching your attention and keeping you intrigued throughout this true punk record. The Chicago trio ultimately produced a record of self-reflection and embarked into new territory; hitting their stride in what I consider their most complete and cohesive album yet.

-Steven

Milk Flud – Flake

As a self-proclaimed wimpy emo-revivalist, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to hear that I know just about nothing about hip-hop, “beats”, and any sort of sound-bite driven music. It’s not something I particularly go out of my way to listen to, and thus I haven’t spent much time with the genres. That’s why I felt so stupid when I listened to LA based beat-maker Milk Flud’s latest album, Flake, and realized I was depriving myself of so much great music that exists in a whole world of personally unchartered territory. I found through by its association with Making New Enemies—a cool, Portland based, record label and creative collective. Catchy hooks, interesting sound clips, and varying dynamic aesthetics immediately draw you in and keep you listening, as the album flows song to song seamlessly. Indie-elitists beware, Flake will hook even you.

– Delaney

Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me

In April of 2017, I had the honor of booking Mount Eerie to headline my college radio station’s music festival in Portland, Oregon. It started back in January, when I emailed Phil Elverum the day after “Real Death” premiered and in the midst of a city-debilitating snowstorm. Elverum called me the next day and we spoke on the phone for eight whole minutes. When I first heard his voice I almost dropped my phone, my favorite musician and my idol was actually talking to me about playing a show. During the concert itself, he played A Crow Looked At Me from front-to-back, all the way through, including two other unreleased songs at the bookends of the set. When he began plucking the notes on “Ravens”, my favorite song on the album, my head was in my head and my palms were soaked in tears. Eventually, someone next to me in the crowd put their hand on my shoulder throughout the song, and to me, that was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. Death is real, but we don’t have to deal with it alone. Folk musicians have had a growing obsession with death recently (Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji) but none have written an album as critically reflexive, as genuine, or as powerful. This is album is truly a masterpiece.

– Jordan

The Obsessives – The Obsessives

Whatever The Obsessives were eating between this and their debut needs to be tested for artificial growth hormones. The Philly duo made an enormous leap from forgettable alt-emo into one of the most entertaining bubblegum slacker-rock acts in existence on their 2017 self-titled, slamming through a grab-bag of gratifying hooks, riffs and clever lines about shoplifting snacks, boredom and the hazy growing pains of your early twenties. The band leave their shameless Pixies indulgences right in plain sight on the addicting standout “Surfer Rosa,” a whimsical gesture to the origins of their musical mindset but also a cheeky challenge that bangers like “It’s Ok If,” “If You Really Love Me” and “You’re My God” honestly qualify to contend in. There’s enough 21st century synthwork, fuzz-drenched chugging (“Violent,” “Now She’s Smoking”) and youthful fervor on here to stand a good 50 yards from any easy comparisons, though. The Obsessives is yet another testament to the infinite half-life of enjoyable pop-rock.

– Eli

Oso Oso – the yunahon mixtape

Collectively decided as emo’s crowning jewel of 2017, the yunahon mixtape is a masterpiece. Released all the way back in January, entirely unannounced, this album made its way into our hearts. Impeccable lyricism marries with some of the catchiest riffs around as the album unfolds before us; nothing but a testament to the abounding songwriting and musicianship abilities Oso Oso mastermind, Jade Lilitri, possesses. the yunahon mixtape is a tender, sweet, warm album that showcases an unparalleled thoughtfulness in both its content and its quality. It’s selectively polished production offers a refined aesthetic that truly allows all aspects of the album to shine as best fit. Simply put, the album has made itself comfortable at the top of 2017’s best lists, and surely not without reason.

– Delaney

Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go 

I’m with someone new/and I know that you would love her if you met her,” frontwoman Ellen Kempner mutters quietly yet clearly beneath her breath during the last few lines of “If You Met Her.” It’s a song about reflecting on her best friend’s passing and wishing she was still alive to meet her new partner. It’s a feeling I’ve fortunately never dealt with, but Kempner’s somber yet catchy delivery over the minor-key bassline, along with her sparing use of distorted guitar, give the song a sense of stream-of-conscious sincerity that hits me harder than almost anything I’ve heard all year. The rest of A Place I’ll Always Go is equally direct, but the tracks are so consistently captivating that it’s almost like there’s two ways of listening to it: either reading along and allowing yourself to empathize as best as you can (the loss of Kempner’s friend is the central theme), or cranking it and jamming along to some of the most rewarding and subtly adept indie rock of the year. Either way, it’s a trip.

– Eli

Paramore – After Laughter

Quite simply there isn’t a bad song this band can write. While After Laughter took many by surprise as a drastic aesthetic change for the band, I actually found it to be a rather logical progression for their musical catalogue. Prior to the album, Paramore’s self-titled took the band in a much poppier direction, leading to their eventual 80s synth-pop revivalist current state. The upbeat, bubbly, production-driven album is a surefire soundtrack for the summer, featuring  bangers like “Rose Colored Boy”, “Fake Happy”, and “Caught in the Middle”—all guaranteed to keep your sun-soaked fun going all season long.

– Delaney

PileA Hairshirt of Purpose

Pile has been one of the most inventive and unique punk bands over the past decade, but their 2017 release A Hairshirt of Purpose is their most focused effort yet, showcasing a band that’s truly honing in on the things that set them far apart from most other rock bands. The album brazenly changes moods and motifs on a dime, demonstrating an understanding of restraint, composure, and purpose through their trademark deconstructive songwriting. A sequence of four particular songs in the middle of the album, “Texas”, “Hairshirt”, “I Don’t Want To Do This Anymore”, and “Dogs” serve as a perfect introduction to Pile’s contribution to modern rock music.

– Jordan

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

A politically charged album, Nothing Feels Natural is a deeply groovy post-punk record that has a lot of meat on its bones. It doesn’t sacrifice the raw force that the band is known for. Lead singer Katie Alice Greer carries their unique sound by means of snarly attitude and hate-fueled emotion to ultimately make music for the people who don’t want to take the bullshit, but instead, fight back. And in times like these, this record sure arrived right on time.

-Steven

Remo Drive – Greatest Hits

Earlier this year, the music video for a song called “Yer Killin’ Me” by Remo Drive caught fire on Youtube and crept onto the playlists of any indie rock fan with their ear to the ground. This is for a few reasons. For one, the video is an endearing goof with all the charm of suburban Minnesota. Secondly, the song is really fucking good. And third, they may have gotten a little co-sign from the internet’s busiest music nerd. RD newcomers like myself would soon find that “YKM” was hardly a fluke. The band’s debut LP, Greatest Hits, expounds upon the positives of the single, delivering a project full of sharp melodies, clever lyrics, and noisy pop-punk sing-a-longs. The production on this thing is anything but polished, but that seems to work in its favor; because most of Greatest Hits is so raw, the potent humor and emotion of the record remain in focus. Frontman Erik Paulson is a particularly self-deprecating lyricist, and an especially talented vocalist. Like Barry Johnson or Steve Ciolek, Paulson’s singing voice is stylish and emphatic — so much so that it makes an album full of pop-punk instrumentals sound like one of the year’s best indie rock records. Catch me bumping “Art School” all year as I anxiously await the follow-up to Greatest Hits.

– Riley Savage

Run The Jewels – RTJ3

Run The Jewels (the rap group comprised of NYC’s El P and Atlanta’s Killer Mike) started 2017 off with a bang, releasing their 3rd full length album as a group just as the year began. I honestly thought they couldn’t do better than RTJ2; that record combined frantic beats and top notch lyricism. Forgive me for ever doubting them. RTJ3 built upon what the pair did in their first 2 albums, and then broke through the ceiling and pushed the bar to the clouds. This is the political album the world needs in the age of Trump. “Choose the lesser of the evil people, and the devil still gon’ win.” These 2 rap about the real deranged world we live in, “Can’t contain the disdain for y’all demons. / You talk clean and bomb hospitals / So I speak with the foulest mouth possible.“, and they have for a long time, check Mike’s “Reagan” or El P’s Funcrusher Plus. I feel like I’m learning something listening to their bars, and that’s because I am. Their minds are clearly on the pulse of the universe. RTJ3 is proof.

– Hendo

Rozwell Kid – Precious Art

After proving themselves as objectively one of the best riff-machines in modern music via 2014’s Too Shabby and their stellar 2015 EP Good Graphics, Rozwell Kid took the time to tighten, polish and then wax their signature sound for their proper breakthrough, Precious Art.  Singer/songwriter Jordan Hudkins’ voice sounds better and more confident than ever on tracks like “Total Mess,” “Michael Keaton” and even the outrageous interlude, “South By,” where he reaches a falsetto we never knew he was capable of. The band as a whole sound effortlessly cohesive on “Boomerang,” “Wendy’s Trash Can” and “UHF On DVD” as well, clearly the payoff from dedicated gigging. Although no Rozwell Kid is bad Rozwell Kid,  there isn’t really anything on here that the band hasn’t already played with previously. Nevertheless, the Virginia foursome are blowing up, and all of the new fans inevitably flocking to this thing (largely due to SideOneDummy pushing it, the absolute perfect label for these guys) will have plenty of chances to attain Rozwell Kid enlightenment by the time it’s over and ready to be replayed.

– Eli

(Sandy) Alex G Rocket

After the singles “Bobby” and “Proud” dropped, DIY-bros who swear they just stopped listening to emo music collectively took to the internet to ask the asinine question: “Is Alex G country now lol?” As if sounding vaguely like country music is even supposed to be an insult, (country music is good, don’t talk shit on Blake Shelton) it is safe to say that Alex Giannascoli’s latest release Rocket is not a country album, rather it’s his most diverse, multifaceted, and challenging album yet. It’s also the most cohesive collection of songs in his career. Whereas previous Alex G releases were generally united by their lo-fi production, Rocket maintains a yearning, curious, and self-aware aesthetic from start to finish.

– Jordan

Sinai Vessel – Brokenlegged

Most of the time I’m searching for a record to complement the season surrounding me. So it comes as a surprise to myself that I’ve been spinning Sinai Vessel’s Brokenlegged nonstop since it was released. Vocalist Caleb Cordes’ pain and yearning manifests throughout every note sung, every string plucked. I feel desolate and alone; at the end I’m left introspective and awkward. I didn’t write this record, but it’s so relatable that I’m open and vulnerable as if I had been singing this entire time. It takes courage to dig below the surface, and Sinai Vessel do it with a running start on Brokenlegged.

– Chris Musser

SlowdiveSelf-Titled

Shoegaze legends have been reuniting left-and-right, usually announcing a string of tour dates including a music festival near you, and then in some cases, making plans to write a new album. While My Bloody Valentine’s mbv felt like a footnote to Loveless and has lost its luster since 2013, Slowdive’s new self-titled album, their first in 22 years, sounds exactly how a Slowdive album in 2017 should sound. Combining the ambient, spaced-out atmospherics of Pygmalion and the majestic, lush shoegaze of Souvlaki, Slowdive is one of the best reunion albums in recent memory. Every song creates a vast soundscape with dense, sensuous textures to get lost among. Back in April I tweeted that “It’s the kind of album that should play while I make summer memories, at night”, imagining something “like a montage of me and all my super hot friends (who are models, by the way) playing at the waterfront and kissing and drinking rosé as Slowdive plays”. Now that summer is coming, I can finally make this Twitter dream a reality.

– Jordan

Smidley – Self Titled

Foxing is great, but Smidley is happier. The self-titled debut from Conor Murphy’s solo project is anything but fantastic. The songs are infectious as shit, led by opening song “Hell.” The record is a stand still portrait of Murphy’s current life, filled with stories and aspects of being in a touring band, constantly feeling fucked up and enjoying every second of life that needs to be enjoyed. The album features a plethora of guest musicians, making the record actually more of a fun and vibing party than a business. Hell, it’s a fucking art piece.

– Sean

Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else – Enjoy The Great Outdoors

There’s something beautifully paradoxical about a record’s title that encourages its listeners to turn off the stereo and go outside. Though, the timberland textures and cool, earthy atmosphere of Enjoy The Great Outdoors resemble a tranquil trot through the woods in its own right, providing a similar opportunity for wandering thought that a trail in Vermont does. For his second full-length with Run For Cover, the consistently hermetic Spencer Radcliffe enlisted a team of hikers (Everyone Else) to accompany him on a venture across 10 tracks of shaded, groove-driven indie rock. It’s still got the hand-crafted feel of his previous works, but the brisk bassline and rustling instrumentation of a track like “Static Electricity” embody the ascent to a mountaintop. It’s one of those songs that sounds like a living organism, and it might be the best thing Radcliffe’s ever left his footprint on.

– Eli

The Spirit of the Beehive – Pleasure Suck

When I first heard this album, I was blown away by the boundaries that were pushed by the Philadelphia group. Pleasure Suck, being their third release, is arguably their most ambitious and way-out-there work to date. From start to finish the band produce a wide range of dense noise that’s puzzling at times, yet gratifying nonetheless. All that said, it should be known that layered between the beautiful palettes of soundscapes are the hooks and melodies that make Pleasure Suck an immersive experience.

-Steven

SZA – Ctrl 

Since 2012, Solána Imani Rowe has turned heads with her diverse blend of musical influences that make up her brand of R&B. Rowe, who performs under the stage name SZA, quickly rose to popularity, turning heads with her unique voice. Her RCA debut, Ctrl, shows off her growth since her previous mixtapes, blending bubbly melodies and soulful bellows. Lyrically, SZA pairs painfully honest lines with the quirky and humorous, making each song relate to the listener in a different way. Ctrl draws on influences beyond standard hip-hop and R&B boundaries, wearing traces of alternative/indie rock and electronic proudly. Ctrl is a masterfully crafted record that possesses a little bit of everything, allowing everyone to find something beautiful in SZA’s emotional debut record.

– Yong

Tall Ships – Impressions

There’s been a strain of theme in indie rock this year about self-reflection and interiority; reacting to the tempest of our external reality, we should become hypersensitive about how we engage with each other, and ourselves. While David Bazan and Craig Finn have produced beautiful records touching on this, they’re not Impressions. Weaving indie rock guitars into the intricate web of math rock and post rock chords and signatures, their despotic meticulousness supports Ric Phethean’s gorgeously emotive ruminations on regret, loneliness, the arbitrariness of everyday choice, the imperative and futility in seeking meaningful connection. Their music is opulent and nourishing, Phethean’s verse even more so. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

– Kieran

Tigers Jaw – Spin

It took me seeing these songs and this band live to really appreciate just how special spin is. Tigers Jaw are known for their downtrodden melodies, but here, they have choruses that bounce with a different kind of energy. Riddled in looking at the past and how things have gone, Tigers Jaw stand tall with introspective lyrics that feel too damned familiar to just let them slide by. No, the entirety of spin needs to be sung loud.

– Sean

Turtlenecked – Vulture

Although Turtlenecked may not appreciate the comparison, Vulture is essentially the art-rock response to Car Seat Headrest. Like indie rock’s 2016 trophy, Teens of Denial, this record is grand in its approach yet lo-fi in its texture; a marvelous and, at times, overdramatic performance of a young man’s precocious tendencies. Vulture is a far more deranged, nuanced and experimental work than Will Toledo’s, though. The second full-length from the Portland, Oregon project of singer/songwriter Harrison Smith is a wacked-out flurry of manic garage rock, pre-90s punk, bedroom-learned key/synth noise and a basket of different vocal approaches: baroque falsetto, spitfire mumbling, soft crooning and demented yelping. Smith is as melodious as he is berserk and unpredictable, making this a record that truly does ripen with age as you begin to make sense of all the moving parts. From start to finish, this is one of 2017’s unearthed gems.

– Eli

Vagabon – Infinite Worlds

Who was it that said “every really great rock album is under 10 songs and 45 minutes”? Laetitia Tamko’s release Infinite Worlds certainly follows these guidelines. Aptly titled, this album is a world of beauty packed into a short 28 minutes. “I’ve been hiding/in the smallest/space/I am dying to go,” Tamko sings on “Fear and Force,” a track that transitions from her soft, reedy voice to a bassy, percussion-heavy song and back again in under four minutes. Vagabon has stories to tell, and does so poetically and beautifully. She entices the listener to trust in her and look inside themselves for the grace with which she sings and plays. From the fuzzy, romantic “Mal á L’aise” to the cathartic, sprawling “100 Years,” Vagabon has transcended the “boring” stereotype of indie rock and made something huge, fascinating, and lovely.

– Lucy Danger

Vasudeva – No Clearance

An instrumental that speaks more words than most albums with a message, No Clearance is an experience. Vasudeva prove that time and time again they can make their melodies ring louder than any scream. For some reason, I have really grown to this album while cooking. No idea why, but taking No Clearance out on a long drive with beautiful scenery does the job as well. This Skeletal Lighting release is one for the ages.

– Sean

A Will Away – Here Again

This record is a thrill of a listen, starting with the opening song (just so happens to be the title track). The guitars are bright, instilling a feeling of inner joy that comes out in the rarest of fantastic albums. Here Again is just that, finding A Will Away in the center of soaring hooks and tremendous melodies. The vocals across the entire album are beyond catchy, almost downright innately pleasing. A soothing release from a band continuing to make the climb to bigger places, A Will Away’s Triple Crown Records debut pleases in every season, every year and every play through.

– Sean

White Reaper – The World’s Best American Band

Despite my initial failure back in April to fully “get” this album, along with my conscious effort to dislike it simply based upon how blatantly unoriginal it is, I finally cracked. A name that smirks as widely as The World’s Best American Band is bound to break through any ardent rock fan, no matter how tough the exterior, and it was the tongues-out, water guns-out solo in “Eagle Beach” that delivered the final blow. This will be one of the most unapologetically kick-ass slices of rock ‘n roll to come all year, perfect for Friday-at-5PM fist pumps, beach day boogies and beer-chugging…uh…chug-alongs. Oddly enough, the best tracks, “Daisies” and “Another Day,” don’t come until the last few swigs of the record, perhaps purposely on White Reaper’s part; saving the former for hyped-up-howling and the latter for crushing your cans, soaking your living room and scurrying outside to catch your Uber. If this isn’t the soundtrack to your weekend, you ain’t livin’.

– Eli

Honorable Mentions!

Here are a few more albums that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, but are still very much in the consideration for end of the year lists, and warrant another listen:

  • Free Throw – Bear Your Mind
  • Harmony Woods – Nothing Special
  • Sampha – Process
  • Two Inch Astronaut – Can You Please Not Help
  • Stef Chura – Messes
  • Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice
  • Captain, We’re Sinking – The King of No Man
  • Sorority Noise – You’re Not As _____ As You Think
  • Ratboys – GN
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The 50 Best Albums So Far In 2017 was originally published on The Alternative

The stage is set

Sherlock builds his Victorian fever dream like a play. The stage is set, the curtain raises, we are ready to begin.

But any play has a structure, there are different acts and many scenes. And The Abominable Bride is only the first act.

If there is indeed a final act, that means the play is still going on by the time Mary reads her text. Mary gets the text about the curtain rising, John is more to the point ‘London Aquarium’, come immediately.

In many way, the differences makes the most sense. Mary is the actor in the play, John is the spectator. He doesn’t belong to the closed world that this imaginary world exists in.

He knows this is just a play and that nothing is real, he’s a storyteller after all.

But more than that, the final act is about Mary Watson, and the story of the merchant of Baghdad.

SHERLOCK: Your office said I’d find you here.
VIVIAN: This was always my favourite spot for agents to meet. We’re like them: ghostly, living in the shadows. (…)

SHERLOCK: Nice location for the final act. Couldn’t have chosen it better myself. But then I never could resist a touch of the dramatic.
NORBURY: I just come here to look at the fish.  I knew this would happen one day. It’s like that old story. (…) There was once a merchant in a famous market in Baghdad. (…) I’m just like the merchant in the story. I thought I could outrun the inevitable. I’ve always been looking over my shoulder; always expecting to see the grim figure of-
MARY: -Death.

Sherlock has figured it out and sought her but she knew he was coming for her before he even figured it out. One last time, she thought, I’m going to look at the sharks (because we do see them), because right then she’s certain she’s going to see the grim figure of Death. And Mary finishes her sentence as soon as she comes.

That is the final act. Appointment in Samarra, the protagonist facing Death.

And yet, the question is never answered, Sherlock still doesn’t know. This is why our last shot is this.

He needs to go even deeper. Even if he needs to sink until there is nothing but darkness all around him.

This is the final act, but the play is still going on, it began in TAB whose resolution gave him the beginning of an answer but it will not stop until that question is finally answered.