If the first month of 2017 is any indication, this is going to be an epic, intense, complicated, awe-inspiring year for music. Already in 31 days we’ve received much-awaited masterpieces like I See You by The xx, remastered gems like 2004’s Mountain Rock from Pacific Northwest cult heroes Dear Nora (which serves as a clear influence on brainy, resilient new rock albums by strong women like Allison Crutchfield’s Tourist In This Town, burly collections of unrelenting punk from Massachusetts’ The Fake Boys, little known but damn promising LA trio Thurst, and Spanish hell-raisers BIZNAGA, whose Iberian blast comes courtesy of the rad folks at Slovenly Records. Gentle psychedelic folk is still a slam dunk for fighting the wintertime blues, and The Proper Ornaments’ beautiful sophomore Slumberland Records effort shines the brightest in these cold, gray days. Other Americana highlights from January include Lilah Larson’s stark debut LP Pentimento and Fred Thomas’ ramshackle Changer, which wears its DIY ethos on its heartfelt sleeve (Thomas also helped fellow Michiganer Stef Chura write and record her debut full-length, the wry, resolute Messes).
In harder rocking territory, the first month of the year was no doubt highlighted by Ty Segall’s self-titled slab of sunny, razor-sharp garage-psych brawn and Japandroids’ celebratory return to climactic form, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. The Molochs hit just the right noirish notes on their timely record America’s Velvet Glory, recorded in the same LA hotspot as ’60s-influenced work by labelmate Hanni El Khatib. Prolific The Fresh & Onlys frontman Tim Cohen gets righteously reserved on the folksy Luck Man, while anyone with a heartbeat will connect on some level with the quirky perspectives of long-established songwriters like Matthew Squires and Tobin Sprout (of Guided By Voices fame). Want to get noisy, abrasive, and confrontational? Try stomaching the sonic assaults of Uniform, So Stressed, and Priests, or the jagged, irreverent art-punk of Pollen Rx, an up-and-coming Austin band that’s easier (and more fun!) to digest than first meets the eye. Ditto for Tall Friend, who come off way more charming than songs like “Cockroach” and “Guts” sound.
Whew — believe it or not, this only scratches the surface of January’s jams, which clock in at… well, listen to the playlist and see for yourself. Bookmark it, even, so you can revisit it over the next few weeks as we contemplate this brave new world we all inhabit (and we start building your February playlist, too).