algiers

Rock, punk, metal, country, improv, world, noise, and more: What our editors dug during this eclectic year in music, and their most-anticipated albums of 2018.

There must be zombies! Despite dire predictions in 2017 about the death of the electric guitar, they were spotted all over the musical landscape—whether in the hands of lions of the instrument, like John McLaughlin, who played his last tour, and Annie Clark, or in the seemingly unlikely mitts of pop idols like Harry Styles and Kesha.

Our editors own choices for the year’s coolest albums were equally eclectic, if consistently more 6-string centric. Metal, country, punk, jazz, blues, rock, roots, noise, experimental, and world music were all part of our gang’s 2017 smorgasbord of sound—with very little overlap. The Zep-drunk Greta Van Fleet were the sole double-up among our picks, and Neil Young and Robert Plant were the only representatives of the classic-rock camp on our in-house “hit” list.

Otherwise, as we at Premier Guitar look forward toward a bright (and gear filled!) 2018 and wish you and those you love much happiness, join us in celebrating some of the best music of 2017. Maybe you’ll discover a few new artists you’d like to hear. There’s certainly many among our favorites who aren’t household names—yet. Or maybe you’ll see a few glaring omissions. Either way, read on and be sure to share your own picks for the year’s greatest music in the comments section.

TED DROZDOWSKI—SENIOR EDITOR

Reeves Gabrels
Imaginary Friends Live

In which Gabrels rewrites the rock guitar bible in 11 live performances packed with so much invention it’s head spinning. I was at Nashville’s Family Wash the night this set was recorded, but it wasn’t until I heard it here that my mind was entirely blown by the former Bowie/current Cure axe-destroyer’s execution. Every song is packed with “holy fuck” qualities: epic tones, killer riffs, brilliantly tossed-off fills and digressions, and solos that soothe, stun, and drip with lysergic intelligence. Raw and impeccable at the same time. If you dig rock guitar that straddles the trad and the rad with absolute authority, this is an essential album. No bullshit!


Chelsea Wolfe
Hiss Spun

Thanks to PG contributor David Von Bader for turning me on to the psychedelic universe of Chelsea Wolfe. I love everything about this album, from Wolfe’s dramatic post-Diamanda Galas singing to the storm clouds of guitar that hover above her Caligari-esque compositional landscape. It helps that Queens of the Stone Age’s Troy Van Leeuwen adds stunning outbursts of guitar, but he’s only a guest in a world of Wolfe’s imagining. And it’s one hell of a place, with Everests of ephemera balanced by passages as heavy as Hephaestus’ hammer. Wolfe is a guitarist and conceptualist to be reckoned with.


Mark “Porkchop” Holder
Let It Slide

I’ve spent a lot of time in the dirty alt-blues trenches, so this album hits home. It’s raw, powerful, and demanding—a sonic demon breathing fresh, searing air into a largely stale, deflated genre. Holder is a badass who conjures the joys and menace of the corporal world artfully. I’m mostly over hearing traditional blues covers on new recordings, but Holder and crew’s version of “Stagger Lee” is a beast. It sounds like a vintage Black Sabbath cut, but meaner. Holder’s scorched-earth slide playing—mostly on baritone—is distinctive and relentlessly nasty. And their live shows have more blood and guts than a slaughterhouse. Catch them on perpetual tour.

Most-anticipated 2018 releases: Jim Campilongo Live at Rockwood Music Hall, Jack White, My Bloody Valentine.

Wish list: Tom Waits, Tool.

TESSA JEFFERS—MANAGING EDITOR

Greta Van Fleet
From the Fires

When I first heard this young band from Frankenmuth, Michigan, two words popped into my head: “Led Zeppelin.” Heck, I thought for sure they were British! Once you get past the feeling that they sound too familiar, because they undoubtedly do, it really doesn’t matter. This band of 18- and 21-year-olds is fucking incredible. It’s not surprising all their U.S. dates sold out in advance in 2017. These lads possess something special that the world (at least any world worth living in, in my opinion) will always crave: talent, soul, and passion. With this trifecta carrying them to the top of the charts, the quartet—made up of three brothers and a drummer—are winning over starving rock fans in droves. From frontman Josh Kiszka’s first mountaintop “Yeeeeeaaaaaaah” to the precocious guitar riffs and solos of his twin brother Jake Kiszka, that are never trite, this double EP is about feel. When I fall for a piece of music, I simply don’t overthink it, because it’s time to jam.


Algiers
The Underside of Power

The opening track of this intense, neo-soul rock record is called “Walk Like a Panther,” and includes a sample of a speech by the late Illinois Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton. In the world we live in now, “signs of the times” politically potent music isn’t rare, but Algiers’ musical benchmarks and deviations are. The fire-and-brimstone songs play tug-of-war between street-punk and church, with aggressive guitar riffs, Motown pop vibes, gospel-tinged cries of rebellion (delivered powerfully by frontman Franklin James Fisher), dark bass lines, and even a bit of electro-trance. Guitarist Lee Tesche says growing up in Atlanta influenced Algiers in many ways, from exposure to ’90s hip-hop to having the space for garage bands and tons of instruments, of which a smorgasbord is used on this record. Fisher, Tesche, and bassist Ryan Mahan met in high school, moved to foreign countries, got graduate degrees, saw the world, and then reunited to make music again. Joined by Matt Tong (Bloc Party) on drums, they made a stylistically schizophrenic sophomore album that’s unlike anything else in 2017.

Most-anticipated 2018 release: Greta Van Fleet.

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