2017: Survival of the Grooviest.
We all know it’s been a rough year. There were some astrological curveballs in the mix – most notably The Great American Eclipse™– but Saturn’s shift into Capricorn just before the Solstice is perhaps the most important, and definitely the heaviest. This is where the rubber hits the road (or the shit hits the fan). Luckily I’m a child of Saturn via my Midheaven, so I’m an old hand at rolling with that particular planet’s changes.
I was half-heartedly considering a “best albums” update, but as my pursestrings were kept very tight during the second half of 2017, there’s lots of music out there that I didn’t pick up on. So instead I’ll briefly mention some releases that lifted my spirits this year.
Jane Weaver got lots of attention in 2017 – I’ve not purchased Modern Kosmology yet, but enjoyed her single The Architect. The names of critical darlings like Hawkwind, Can and Stereolab often get dropped around Weaver, yet a deep vein of knob-twiddly dad rock like The Alan Parsons Project and mid-period Mike Oldfield also runs through her work. Back when Jane & I were young, those guys were the antithesis of cool; nowadays, hipster kids clearly eat that sound up like so much kale and quinoa. Props to Weaver – she pulls it off better than most.
Alison Goldfrapp and her eponymous band kicked out the (electronic) jams this year as well. Silver Eye is in the upbeat style of Supernature or Head First, though there are some moody/ethereal bits like Tigerman (which evokes Bryan Ferry’s later solo work beautifully). Sadly the band’s recent videos are blatant Jodorowsky ripoffs, but their May show at Brooklyn Steel was one of my top gigs of 2017.
An old headbanger friend turned me on to Myrkur, and I got a kick out of her latest CD Mareridt. To be honest, willowy blondes overdosing on runes and Scandinavian landscapes is NOT my usual jam. But Amalie Bruun pisses off Black Metal purists and sexist jerks with such glee that I can’t help but cheer her on. Even if she's just having a laugh, and Myrkur isn't everyone's cup of aquavit, surely Metal is all about doing your thing and paying the haters no mind?
The soundtrack to my 1st half of 2017 was Jennifer Crighton’s Hermitess, which conjures up winter chills, deep solitude and the quiet closeness of death. At times the album’s production reminds me of Marble Index-era Nico – stark, minimalist, real. Anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t stop raving about it! Crighton works on various musical & artistic projects, but hopefully another solo album is in the works.
Then in August, things heated right up with Ruby the Hatchet’s Planetary Space Child. The music’s full of heavy grooves, mind-blowing harmonies, choogling organ and blistering guitars…but Jillian Taylor’s vocals move things into another stratosphere entirely. (And she delivers the goods live!) This ain’t no good-time rock ’n’ roll, however; eerie, ominous and intense, it veers between brutal psychedelia and full-on prog, with a touch of NWOBHM to provide some leavening.
While other bands shared space on my stereo this year (Three Days Dark, Here Lies Man, and L.A. Witch), the above artists really wormed their way into my psyche. Their music inspired me to keep going and stay focused despite all the chaos and misery. I thank them (and you) for helping me survive 2017, and giving me the strength to kick serious ass in 2018!