#1 Corridor – Supermercado

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For yesterday’s exciting new smash sounds, today, look no further than Corridor, Montreal’s hottest new underground art rock quartet. Dominic Berthiaume (bass & vocals) Jonathan Robert (vocals, guitar & synths) Julian Perreault (guitar) and Julien Bakvis (drums & percussion) make up the four essential ingredients behind the fab nu low-fi guitar-centric rock sensation that is Corridor. And much like the McCartney lyric, “I go back so far I’m in front of me”, so it is with Corridor, their early ‘70’s New York underground art vibe so retro and yet so legit it sounds altogether fresh and new. One has to go back to 1974 for Television’s first ever gig at CBGBs to feel the kind of integrity three guitars and a drum can inspire. With two full-length albums in two years and a six song EP from 2013 to their credit, Corridor are perfectly poised for continued success. Stay tuned.

Rating: 9/10

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#2 Robert Cray – And Hi Rhythm

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Thirty-seven years ago in the spring of 1980 twenty-seven year old Robert Cray released his first album Who’s Been Talkin’. At the time he was one of the shiny new kids of the youthful burgeoning blues scene of the early 1980’s that included Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Healy, Colin James and a host of others. Some 20 odd albums and five Grammy Awards later in a career spanning four decades 64-year-old Cray has firmly established himself as one of the elder statesman of the blues. For his latest album Cray has teamed up with two seasoned blues elders, R&B soul giants Charles and Leroy Hodges of the legendary Hi Rhythm Section. Recorded at Willie Mitchell’s historic Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm joyfully channels the spirit of those original Hi Records recordings, celebrating their magic in the atmosphere of the same room in the same building by many of the same folks who contributed to all those hit soul records from Al Green in the early 1970’s. Pure magic!

Rating: 9/10

#3 Alt J – Relaxer

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English indie rock band Alt-J, also known (in the fashion of “the artist formerly known as” Prince) by the triangle shaped symbol for the 4th letter in the Greek alphabet (typed out on an Apple Mac using the key sequence Alt+J) are celebrating their 10th anniversary with the release of their third album in five years. After having survived both winning the British Mercury Prize for their debut record in 2012 and losing founding member Gwil Sainsbury in 2014, the Leeds trio are back with their first album of new material in three years. Hot on the heels of the meteoric success of their #1 2014 sophomore record, Relaxer knowingly ambles along under the heavy burden of high expectations and big shoes to fill. A wonderfully odd and unexpected album, uneven in parts, the overall success of Relaxer is largely due to the strength of its singles and individual tracks “In Cold Blood” and “Hit Me Like That Snare”. Enjoyable, intriguing and bewildering all at once.

Rating: 7.5/10

#4 Cheap Trick – Christmas Christmas

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After a smattering of Christmas singles and curios over the years legendary Cheap Trick have just now got around to releasing their first ever full length Christmas album, aptly titled Christmas Christmas. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at Blackbird Studios, their 19th studio album in 40 years (and second 2017 release after the We’re All Alright album from earlier in the year) is a dizzying trip through rock ‘n’ rolls storied Christmas past not unlike like the Dickensian ghosts of Christmases past, present and perhaps even Christmases yet to come. The lineage of rock ‘n’ rolls finest is all here, from the early days of its rhythm and blues beginnings in Charles Brown’s Please Come Home For Christmas through to the riff king himself Chuck Berry and his Run Rudolph Run. Christmas Christmas bravely marches to the beat of its own drummer through the flash glam scene of early ‘70s post-Beatles England with Roy Wood’s Wizard track I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and on to Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody. The punk rock roots of Ray Davies’ Kinks classic Father Christmas as well as The Ramones Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) are both served well here. Beyond aping the classics Cheap Trick keep these evergreens fresh with altogether new and interesting middle 8ths for most of the tracks (including an entirely unexpected and utterly pleasing Beatles mash up amidst the Brown classic Please Come Home For Christmas). Add to that three originals, a traditional piece and one odd little SNL sketch bit and there you have it, the 12 songs of Christmas Christmas (get it? 12? Yup, they went there). For a band poised to celebrate their 45th anniversary with a showman guitarist on the verge of turning 70, Christmas Christmas is nothing short of inspiring. Robin Zander’s ever-powerful boisterous pipes and Rick Nielsen’s relentless guitar chops betray both their actual ages. Brimming with youthful exuberance and celebration, Cheap Trick’s Christmas Christmas is one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll Christmas albums ever made.

Rating 8.5/10

Editor’s Note: Cheap Trick’s Christmas version of their classic track “I Want You To Want Me” IS NOT included as part of their latest Christmas album Christmas Christmas, however, it is simply too good to not include as part of this article. You’re welcome. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 

#5 Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

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Grizzly Bear have conjured up a most intriguing quizzical listening experience with Painted Ruins, their first album of new material in five years. Since their formation in Brooklyn, New York in 2002, Grizzly Bear’s music has become increasingly more and more difficult to define. Over the past 15 years they have been described as everything from experimental atmospheric art rock to neo-psychedelic folk rock. The very fact that much of their music defies most labels is itself perhaps the keenest qualifier of their worth. In an era defined by rigid lines which all too often box artists in Grizzly Bear are neither pop nor rock or EDM or straight up psychedelia. Existing somewhere in-between Grizzly Bear are indicative of the New Rock, a mesmerizingly modern mix of the latest centuries production tech informed by some of the finest elements of what has come before. Although Chris Taylor’s fuzz tone bass work gives much of the record a modern day psychedelic feel popularized by Tame Impala it is an earlier era one must turn to in order to find the true psychedelic heart of this record. Look no further than The Turtles stellar 1968 single You Showed Me (penned by Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds) or perhaps more importantly the baroque chamber pop brilliance of The Zombies masterwork Odyssey And Oracle, also from 1968. Some 50 odd years later Grizzly Bear embark on their scintillating journey through Painted Ruins with “Wasted Acres”, a superb opening that deftly pulls the listener deep into the record setting the tone for what is to come. Things really get cooking at the top of Side C with tracks Aquarian, Cut-Out and Glass Hillside. Like a one-two punch, the final three tracks on the flip of Side D pleasingly wind the album down and play out what remains of a thoroughly engrossing 48-minute long archeological dig through the painted ruins of Grizzly Bear’s fifth record in 13 years. For the finest interstellar aural trip of 2017 Doctors recommend sequentially spinning this record as part of an epic psych trilogy that begins with The Flaming Lips Oczy Mlody and concludes with Dhani Harrison’s In///Parallel, dig?

Rating 8.3/10

 

 

#6 King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

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This ain’t your Dad’s free U2 album, forcibly ingratiating itself through Apple upon an unsuspecting and, for the most part, unamused public. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Australia’s whimsical stalwarts of progressive psychedelia, are back with their 4th album of the year following the Flying Microtonal Banana, Murder Of The Universe and Sketches Of Brunswick East LPs and they are giving this one away for free.

According to the band’s website http://www.kinggizzardandthelizardwizard.com “This album is FREE. Free as in, free. Free to download and if you wish, free to make copies. Make tapes, make CD’s, make records. Ever wanted to start your own record label? GO for it! Employ your mates, press wax, pack boxes. We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy”.

In posting the master tapes and artwork for Polygondwanaland online, their twelfth studio album in five years, the record will be entirely in the public domain, available to be produced and distributed by anyone who cares to. ATO Records, Blood Music and Greenway Records have already expressed interest in pressing the album in light of the fact that the band themselves will not be selling the record in any shape or form. Fans are also jumping at the opportunity to produce their own versions of the album through numerous crowdfunding campaigns springing up all over social media.

If it wasn’t clear before it most certainly is now, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are perhaps the most interesting and noteworthy rock band in the world today, if not for their music for their sheer chutzpa, audacity, cleverness, chic cheek and sheer nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic. These 7 guys are single-handedly making rock ‘n’ roll fun again, fun and unexpected, as it should be.

The 10 track 44-minute song cycle that makes up Polygondwanaland is a smorgasbord of what King Gizzard does best, conceptual psychedelic whimsy mixed with a plethora of their latest obsessions, whether it be microtonal fusion, progressive polyphonics, spoken word or whatever else happens to grab their fancy. Particularly pleasing is the blend of acoustic (see Paper Mache Dream Balloon 2015) vs. electric (see Nonagon Infinity 2016) intentions of their past efforts merged together here as one to produce a warm wash of analogue synth rhythms, flute lines and acoustic guitar riffs against a backdrop of heavy technicolor prog rock. Curiouser and curiouser down the rabbit hole they go. Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

Rating: 9/10

7 Hanson – Finally It’s Christmas

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Finally, it’s Christmas, and not a moment too soon. 20 years after the release of Snowed In, Tulsa, Oklahoma power trio the Hanson brothers Zac (drums), Taylor (keyboards) and Isaac (guitars), with help from Andrew Perusi on bass, return with their first new album of seasonal fare since 1997. Expertly produced, arranged and recorded by sound engineer C.J. Eiriksson and long-time Ringo Starr collaborator Mark Hudson, Finally It’s Christmas is a fresh new addition to the holiday canon, its intricate layers of vocal harmony and keyboard flares reminiscent of the Queen inspired masterworks from early ‘90’s Jellyfish. One could even go so far as to say that if Jellyfish had made a Christmas album back in the ‘90’s it might very well have sounded a lot like this. In addition to contributing much of their own original material to the project Hanson manage to put a whole new spin on contemporary Christmas classics reenergizing Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas with an R&B infused rock ‘n’ roll sensibility as well as reimagining Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime, Charles Brown’s Please Come Home For Christmas and the Motown classic Someday At Christmas. 25 years into a successful music career Hanson have navigated the murky waters of childhood superstardom and fame with grace and charm, maturing into the seasoned music professionals they are today. A rock steady effort from a true class act Finally It’s Christmas holds the promise of what is surely on the horizon for these three talented men. To be continued…

Rating: 7.5/10