Top 10 (Not Drone Or Metal) Records Of 2017

Here’s the first of three lists. In case you couldn’t tell by the title, the other two lists will be a drone list and a metal list. This one has records that don’t fit in either of those lists. However, I could’ve argued for maybe half of these showing up on the drone list, but I tried not to get too loosey goosey with my definition of drone.

There’s a ton of debuts here (6 to be exact) which is really exciting. Here’s hoping they continue their genius. The reviews/descriptions are pretty short on these and will be the same on the other lists because I just don’t have enough time to write 30+ full reviews. Imagine they’re just taglines or something.

Instead of uploading a song to stream for every record, I made a playlist on Spotify. I’m not crazy about Spotify for a lot of reasons, but in this context, it falls short because two of the artists on this list aren’t on Spotify (numbers 9 and 4), so you’ll just have to seek those out for yourself.

Update: I added song streams for everything below because I ended up doing it for the metal list and felt weird if I didn’t do it for all the lists.

As always: Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.
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Album Review

Top 20 (Not Drone Or Metal) Records Of 2015

Third list! One more to go. No genre theme this time, but I excluded drone & metal records because they have their own lists. Although there are a few that almost made it onto either of those other lists (see: 12, 10, 7, 6), I felt they weren’t quite droney or metal enough to make the cut, so now they’re here. I hope there’s some new jams in here that you haven’t heard yet and that it’s not too predictable.

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the huge lack of some of my favorite records that were just too big for me to want to include. Namely, Carly Rae Jepsen, Chrvches, and Purity Ring (among others). Those definitely wouldn’t seen some Top 5 action.

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Album Review

In The Meantime Part 1: Good Dreams

Just because I stopped writing for a bit doesn’t mean I stopped listening. Actually felt like I did way more listening than usual, or maybe it was just more quality listening without the review cloud storming up in my brain. Either way, here’s a quick rundown of some chill records I’ve been jamming these past few months. Part 2 will be the louder noisier scarier stuff.
danny paul grody - between two worlds album cover
Danny Paul GrodyBetween Two Worlds (Three Lobed)
Omfg this is one of my favorites from this year, Grody (of the forever missed Tarentel) goes way beyond the experimental guitar soli stuff and turns solo guitarscapes into a lush & serene ocean spanning this life and every other, delicate drone, subtle piano, & obscured vocals breathing bliss into every moment of this record. For a guitar record, it goes places you never dreamed of.
Alessandro CortiniForse Volume 1 (Important)
This has been getting tonnnns of spins over here. Cortini is from Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels, which automatically (shamefully) made me not care about this. But for some reason I listened to a sound sample and was instantly sold. This is some incredible minimal/maximal single-Buchla-synth drone stuff that’s got the occasional rhythm and is fucking out of this world awesome. Sadly you missed your chance with the 2xLP, it’s sold out. Luckily, Volumes 2 & 3 are forthcoming before the year’s end. This is gonna be a trilogy to write home about let me tell you.
Hell On Earth Bathetic copy
EarnHell On Earth (Bathetic)
Why this guy isn’t at the top of the drone chain yet I don’t know. But lets hope Hell On Earth puts him there. I can hardly imagine a more beautifully dark record than this, channeling soft woozy bliss into a black mourning shroud, this is the ghostly stuff you see out of the corner of your eye on a sun-drenched foggy morning, supremely perfect, definitely one of the best drone records you’ll come across this year.
Henry PlotnickFields (Holy Mountain)
It’s hard to not call every embarrassingly talented kid that hasn’t even hit high school a genius, but here we have 11 year old Plotnick’s debut 2xLP of melodic loops in the vain of the early minimal masters and goddamn this guy is fuckin going places. Regardless of his age, Fields is a fucking triumph of transcendental zoning. Fingers crossed he keeps recording.
the archivist - the wooden laser album cover
The ArchivistThe Wooden Laser (self released)
I was maybe a bit biased from the get-go due to this guy’s name but objectively speaking this record is the fucking best. The Wooden Laser is a barely there minimalism, crank this fucker up and you can still hear you pet’s heartbeat 3 rooms over. An ambiance formed around dusty tapes and whispered electronics, you can give 100% of your ears to this and it’ll show you all the crevices in the fabric of reality.
sarah davachi - the untuning of the sky album cover
Sarah DavachiThe Untuning Of The Sky (Full Spectrum)
A debut of this caliber shouldn’t be going as unnoticed as it is, Davachi has cuddled up next to a variety of electronics (ARP, Buchla, Serge, Mellotron) and coaxed tender long-form minimal drone dreams out of them, deeply saturated in warmth & finessed to a level of tonal perfection I don’t think many people ever achieve.
d burke mahoney - loran-c album cover
D. Burke MahoneyLORAN-C (self released)
An homage to the 1350 foot transmitter LORAN-C in Greeland that collapsed in 1964, this is a beautiful drone record that’s overwhelmingly minimal, the kind of sounds you hear emerge from a silent room that has various quiet machines powered up, the sound of a room breathing, exceptional, precise, & absolutely perfect. Also, it’s free.
lustmord - the word as power album cover
LustmordThe Word As Power (Blackest Ever Black)
I was never too into Lustmord but when I heard this was a drone record based on various guest artists’ vocals (Jarboe! Soriah!), I had to check it out. Blew my expectations right out of the water. I love some quality black magic ritual drone like Phurpa and Zurvan and this fits right in, expansive & evocative detailed drones resonating through empty caverns, so fucking excellent.
marisa anderson - mercury album cover
Marisa AndersonMercury (Mississippi)
How I’ve yet to hear of Anderson before this record is a baffling travesty. She picks & strums her way on electric, acoustic, and lap-steel guitars playing 100% awesome experimental Americana, twanging & echoing under wide open skies and doing an assortment of styles, bluesy drags, lazy folk, dusty Appalachian ragas, and tying it all together with an old fashioned tenderness. Love this so much.
Big Blood - Radio Valkyrie 1905-1917 album cover
Big BloodRadio Valkyrie 1905-1917 (Feeding Tube)
Insanely fantastic record from this Maine psych folk duo, only their second full length and somehow they’ve already honed a hazy dark sound that puts everything else to shame. Songs fit for midnight forest rituals and ghost stories by the fire, a seriously warped ethereal vibe that’s unshakeable after the first track’s vapors seep into your pores.
molly drake album cover
Molly DrakeMolly Drake (Squirrel Thing)
Unearthed recordings from the 50s by Nick Drake’s mom!! This woman has an undeniably charming & enchanting voice, singing sweet somber tunes & floating effortlessly on her piano, this is a record that’ll transport you to the drawing room you never got to hang in.
agarttha - a water which does not wet hands album cover
AgartthaA Water Which Does Not Wet Hands (King Of The Monsters)
Agarttha is one Francesca Marongiu (of Architeuthis Rex) conjuring a doomy folk, or folksy doom, or some manner of subdued occult magik that pours out of your speakers like a fog, offering elements of psych & pop that are as inexplicable as they are welcome. One weird fuckin record, covers you in a thick layer of moss that you’ll never wash off.
Julianna BarwickNepenthe (Dead Oceans)
Been enthralled with Barwick ever since I saw her open for Eluvium years ago and her new record takes her layered vocal bliss to uncharted heights, sometimes venturing into pop territory, but pure fucking heaven through & through. Hands down one of the most beautiful records and completely deserving of all the praise that’s been heaped upon it lately.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers Ensemble – What Happens When We Stop (Full Spectrum, 2013)

Andrew Weathers Ensemble - What Happens When We Stop Cover album cover
Andrew Weathers EnsembleO/OU (Ensemble) (Full Spectrum)

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Another incredible album from my favoritest fucking guy. What Happens When We Stop is a cross country album, started in North Carolina with Weathers’ buds, elaborated on the road headed out west, and finished up with his pals in California. This one’s just as wonderful as the last, Guilford County Songs, but still not quite as masterful as the debut, We’re Not Cautious. There’s a notable lack of prominent banjo, and I fucking love the banjo, but a big focus on the guitar, more so than before, which is awesome because the guitar work just gets better with each release. Everything is just as warm and incomparably serene as ever, old American folk perfectly melded with contemporary drone & neo-classical, subtle electronics peaking through the twinkling piano, harmoniums humming beneath hypnotic acoustic strumming, but Weathers’ voice has changed a bit, a lower tone and letting his drawl shine through, a little disorienting at first, but it still works beautifully, and honestly, the guitar, just so fucking sweet with those drones, I could listen to Weathers pick away all day with the strings & brass & reeds & everything else droning in the backseat, it’s the most heavenly sound you can get. This dude is unstoppably awesome and I will devour everything he throws at us. You should probably join me in my devouring and pick this up, it comes with a sexy photo book with the work of Aaron Canipe, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Album Review

Radere – Dreamless (Full Spectrum, 2013)

RadereMarin (Full Spectrum)

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A fantastic hunk of guitar bliss for your V-Day courtesy of Radere, aka Mr. Carl Ritger. Dreamless is his first album recorded to tape and the analog warmth shines through. Glorious layers of processed shimmer, drifting in the hiss, chilling on your mountaintop porch watching the sun rise over the peaks, touching the skies while stardust floats down, gorgeous grit smoothed over into washes of static euphoria. Ritger even forgoes his guitar for one track, using only feedback loops and voltage controlled oscillators to create a panning & searing whirlwind, definitely the rowdiest I’ve ever heard him get. And Full Spectrum co-head Andrew Weathers adds a heavenly vocal harmony to the final track, which he & Ritger recorded in San Francisco military bunkers last summer. Truly wonderful work here. The physical limited letterpressed edition comes with photos from Ritger’s Instagram stream, which if you haven’t scoped yet, I’d recommend fixing that asap. His beautiful aesthetic sense isn’t limited to his tunes.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers & Andrew Marino – We Don’t Have Sun Like This (Full Spectrum, 2012)

Andrew Weathers & Andrew MarinoSingle Girl, Married Girl (Full Spectrum)

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Alright, so technically this record doesn’t feature Andrew Marino. At all. But that’s because it’s not just a record. It’s music & a book, with Weathers making the sounds and Marino taking photos. Every song Weathers wrote is tied to a pair of photographs Marino shot, and the music kinda takes the back seat, getting just a digital release that accompanies the physical book (of which there’s no digital counterpart as far as I know, but you can check out Marino’s Flickr for some examples). And since I don’t have the book, this review focuses solely on Weathers’ contributions.

If there’s any dude who knows how to incorporate melty drones with vocals and acoustic plucking, it’s this guy. And if there’s anyone you can count on having their next release being just as good, if not better than their last, it’s this guy. Andrew Weathers records are like my favorite thing right now. And probably forever. He just pushes all the right buttons, but he also pushes them so perfectly. His drones are fucking top notch, elegant & soft, can i buy cialis at walmart warm & sunny, and totally blissful. Then he mixes in acoustic guitars and banjos, sometimes accompanying the electronic minimals, sometimes just by their bare self, founded in Appalachian tradition and tweaked with a keen eye for the discerning 21st centurian, always with a delicate tenderness that feels like Weathers is hugging you through your speakers. And his singing is just what takes it to the next fucking level, vocals like an ironed sheet of satin, rich and friendly, implicitly welcoming you to join in. And all of it has a hint of melancholy that’s beautifully subtle, giving everything that perfect amount of bittersweetness. Clearly his work with the Andrew Weathers Ensemble has found its way back home in his solo work and I’m all for it. Speaking of which, this is every bit as amazing as AWE’s We’re Not Cautious, which made my Top 10 list a couple years ago. This is seriously incredible work and every release Weathers puts out just makes me more shocked that he’s not being praised as Drone Folk Hero. What’s wrong with you people. This is where your ears should be.

Album Review

Andrew Weathers Ensemble – Guilford County Songs (Full Spectrum, 2012)

Andrew Weathers EnsembleSkin Holding Atoms In (Full Spectrum)

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A new Andrew Weathers Ensemble album! For those that don’t recall, the record they put out last year, We’re Not Cautious, was number 2 on my Top 10 Drone Records, so a new one is obviously quite exciting. Here they’re stripped down to a quartet with just a banjo, and some harmonicas, strings, guitars, the occasional saxophone, and, of course, their wonderful voices. One of the best things about Cautious was how lush everything was, which is a little lost here, but not by necessity, rather by choice. There are some very thick and warm sounds, especially when all four players are going strong, but a lot of the times it’s just one or two of them, maybe just the two cellos, or a solo banjo (the best), or even just the harmonicas (also the best), and then it can get quite sparse, and I imagine the others setting their instruments down just to watch their pals do their thing, getting really into it, and watching with reverence & camaraderie, until they feel moved enough to pick up their musicmakers again and join in. There’s such a feeling of warmth and friendship on here, even when it gets dark and sounds like Constellation-style neo-chamber music, the intimacy still reigns, and you’re right there with them, part of the sound, and you want to sing out and join the chorus supporting Weathers’ richly dominant lead. Guilford County Songs doesn’t quite match the untouchable greatness of We’re Not Cautious, but what this Ensemble does is so captivating and life enriching, that anything they put out is a winner.

Album Review

Radere – A Season In Decline (Full Spectrum, 2010)

RadereA Season In Decline (excerpt)

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Radere, aka Carl Ritger, is a pretty awesome droner (and active Soundclouder). He’s put only put out a handful of records, 2 of which are on Full Spectrum. His debut, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart released in early 2010, was outstandingly beautiful & minimal. Now, in the same year, he drops another intensely killer record on FS, this time taking things to the more extreme side of drone, getting downright rowdy.

A Season In Decline is a single 40+ minute track that’s unbelievably tender. It starts out with some snow crunching underfoot and lots of hiss, setting the mood for the wintery soundscape. The footsteps fade and are replaced by a subtle resonant guitar, floating around with the remnant flurries. Chilly & delicate, there’s hints of more organic recordings, all over a foundation of the hushed wind of nighttime snowfall.

Not one to blow his load all at once, Radere takes his time getting to the massive static beast on the latter half of the record. He waltzes through some moonlit forests, admiring the naked cheap prices for cialis tree branches weighing down with snow, content in introspective meditation. But FUCK, the chaos that unfolds afterwards, it’s like the whole time he was preparing to battle a demon snow dragon. 20 minutes of unnerving whirlwinds, clanging icicles, psych drenched howls from the underworld, walls of solid shoegazing bliss, heavenly textures glimmering in sheets of ice, the sun breaking through the brutal cold, all wrapped in a blanket of dense static warmth. Clearly, the battle is won. The snow dragon is defeated by the power of pure beauty.

The wonder of this piece is how smoothly it transforms from a sweet & lonely silent night into a wall of euphoric destruction. Of course it’s easy to tell the difference between the first 20 seconds and the last when you listen to them side by side, but over the course of the album, the change is so discrete. Definitely a winter wizard at work here. Radere may be somewhat of a newcomer, but damn if he doesn’t have the chops to take this shit to the next level.