AudioStream Reviewer's Choice: 5 Favorite Albums (and more) of 2017

The AudioStream gear-reviewer team teams up to share their favorite new music (and more) from 2017 (it was a very good year). Enjoy!

Michael Lavorgna

Show Me The Body, Corpus I
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun
Boris, Dear
Aldous Harding, Party
Heliocentrics, A World Of Masks
Favorite Compilation

Various, Mono No Aware

Favorite EP

Sudan Archives, Sudan Archives

Favorite Classical Release (tie)

Ēriks Ešenvalds, The Doors of Heaven | Golijov: Azul

Favorite Reissue

Non Band, Non Band
Favorite Discovery

Akira Rabelais,The Complete Digital Discography
Favorite Full Color Facsimile Of An Original Manuscript

Anonymous, Touch Me Not (FULGUR)

Favorite Mezcal (Distillato de agave)

Rezpiral Espadin de San Baltazar

Steve Plaskin

Lizz Wright, Grace
David Crosby, Sky Trails
Chuck Loeb, Unspoken
Cantus, Northern Lights
Gregory Porter: Nat King Cole & Me
Lizz Wright’s new album is a wonderful collection of varied music including songs by Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and k.d. Lang to name a few. I love Liz’s voice that reminds of Odetta Gordon’s voice from the early folk days. The sound is very good with 3 tracks that include a chorus that really opens the soundstage.

David Crosby’s new acoustic release is another well recorded presentation of man who has had a turbulent life, but continues at age 76 to make great music. The quality of the recording is good with a purity and liquidity often lacking in new musical releases.

I was deeply affected by the death of Chuck Loeb this year. He was a wonderful jazz guitarist, composer and producer that worked with many big names including Fourplay. This recording is reminiscent of the smooth jazz he performed with Fourplay with the addition of vocals from Carmen Cuesta and his daughter Christina Loeb. The recording has a big sound with good definition and impact.

Norwegian female choir Cantus was featured in Disney’s animated film Frozen. The recording has a huge soundstage with a wonderful sense of bloom. The recording captures the ethereal sound of Cantus’ Norwegian folk music with the addition of a contemporary flavor.

Gregory Porter’s interpretations of Nat King Cole’s music is a real winner for those of us that still love to listen to Nat King Cole. Porter combines his talent with arranger Vince Mendoza and the London Studio Orchestra to create new interpretations that honor Nat King Cole’s music. Porter’s voice is well recorded with dynamic life and detail. I did find the orchestra to sound a little dry at times, but overall, this is a recording I keep coming back to for sheer listening pleasure.

Alex Halberstadt

Danay Suarez, Palabras Manuales
SZA, Ctrl
Nilüfer Yanya, Plant Feed
Alice Coltrane, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
Ifriqiyya Électrique, Rûwâhîne

Favorite Wine

François Pinon, Vouvray "Le Trois Argiles" 2015
Hermann J. Wiemer HJW Vineyard Riesling 2015
Poderi Sanguineto Rosso di Montepulciano 2014
Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz 3C Extra Brut NV
Enderle & Moll Basis Pinot Noir 2015

Ola Björling

Sigha, Metabolism
Steve Roach, Nostalgia For The Future
Brian Eno, Reflection
Otto A Totland, The Lost
Impetuous Ritual, Blight Upon Martyred Sentience
Ian William Craig, Slow Vessels classifies Sigha's Metabolism as "Techno, Abstract, Experimental, Downtempo" which speaks accurately to the direction and diversity on display here. "Dystopian" might be one of the most overused words ever when describing techno, but this album deserves it. Mixing abrasive and serene, forceful and receded, chaos and structure, all with excellent production value, this is a proper album in the true sense.

I have around 90 records by Steve Roach. Ninety! At a glance his output can seem like new age slush, but to my ears everything he does has a depth to it that rewards repeat listening more than almost any other ambient musician. He got Grammy nominated for another album this year, 2016's "Spiral Meditations", but I find Nostalgia For The Future to be his strongest in 2017.

Maybe I can lump Brian Eno's Reflection in with the above, as it's another album nominated for a Grammy in the same category as Steve Roach, yet it's a very different take on ambient. The app version of the album is generative, and perhaps the most accomplished attempt at Eno's original vision of ambient as "endless music". Deeply beautiful.

While in many ways the diametrical opposite to the ambiences of Steve Roach and Brian Eno, Blight Upon Martyred Sentience is also remarkably similar: A constant sonic state, music where your only choice is to merely exist inside of it as there is nearly nothing to grab onto as a sonic landmark. But rather than lush serenity and harmony, Impetuous Ritual traffic in punishing, dissonant, and overwhelmingly oppressive death metal murk of the most cavernous, wretched, and inhuman variety.

Recorded at Nils Frahm's studio, The Lost is deeply beautiful and intimate solo piano music mixing composition and improvisation, all with a stunning sense for melody.

Just as a cheap filter can lend an otherwise mundane photo a sense of emotional heft—basically the trick that made Instagram worth billions—tape hiss and crummy microphones can do the same for sound. If Slow Vessels was recorded in some pristine audiophile way, I doubt it would be as interesting. Stick your head into this bleached sonic Polaroid and bathe your brain in warm nostalgia, soaring longing, and hazy melancholy.

Favorite Hot Sauce

Dawson's HEATONIST #1

jimx1169's picture

...Lizz Wright then give Natalia M. King a listen. Start with either "Soulblazz" or "Bluezzin 'til Dawn"
Also a Lizz Wright fan FWIW.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Thanks Jim
Patrick Butler's picture

Wonderful selections for 2017! Not sure how Akira Rabelais escaped my notice, but I'm thrilled to find a new obsession. Many thanks for sharing, and best wishes for the New Year.

torturegarden's picture

Lots of good records listed here. My top Ten plus is at: