It's that time of year again! There were dozens of compelling releases in Maine music this year, but here are some of our personal favorites across the board, with select quotes from their original reviews.

 

Ada

Ada 

Ada 

(listen here)

Ada have long been one of Portland's most mysterious and mutable bands. Their self-titled album, released last winter, was a masterpiece, recorded by Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Efrim Menuck. Sadly, it would be the last chapter of their story, as the band split soon after, with two of its members joining Lisa/Liza's band. We wrote:

The hour of music they play here is sprawling, jazzy, intuitive and improvisational, surpassing the limits of Americana, folk, post-punk, jazz, and noise music. In fact, Ada functions more like a dream than an album, the tracks less like songs than group meditations. Captured here, recorded live with no overdubs on the heels of the band's midwestern tour, the group seem extraordinarily attuned to one another. _NS

Armies

Armies - II

Armies 

Armies II 

(listen here)

While it began three years ago with the vibe of a side project/excuse to duet on some L.A. pop songs, Anna Lombard and Dave Gutter's Armies are very much a real thing. We wrote: We wrote:

I like to imagine that Lombard and Gutter have been listening to a lot of R&B duets of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Ashford & Simpson. McDonald & Labelle. Ingram & Austin. Armies aren’t as croony as their forebears, nor so Diane Warren-y about necessitating a big emotional apex, but the vibe is there and, truly, their new record is super fun, funky, often intense and occasionally ... hilarious?  _Victoria Karol

GRTT

Golden Rules the Thumb 

Golden Rules the Thumb

(listen here)

The self-titled debut from songwriter Tyler Jackson (of Foam Castles and Endless Jags), this seven-piece collective synthesized much of what's been good and interesting about the Portland indie-rock scene the last decade or so, folding in the labors of a lot of the same personnel who made it so. We wrote:

GRTT’s jangle-pop meets psychedelic folk-rock is really interesting ... because it tweaks a lot of my ‘80s and ‘90s college rock strings. I hear so much of that Athens, Georgia-style grit and chaos on this record (think REM’s Murmur), but it’s a smooth, intentionally crafted and produced collection of songs, too (think Tame Impala’s 2010 release InnerSpeaker). The lyrics are shoegaze-y and introverted enough to feel personal, and the music is so blissful and fuzzy and endearingly cheerful. _VK

NakedStranger

Naked Stranger - Tenants of the Big House

Naked Stranger 

Tenants of the Big House 

(listen here)

This psychedelic guitar-and-chant album from Leif Sherman Curtis (Conifer, Olas, Moneycastasia, AOK Suicide Forest, Coalsack in Crux) seemingly came out of nowhere this summer. Inspired by Curtis's travels and studies in South America, Tenants was often jaw-droppingly gorgeous, flashing influences ranging from 1960's Brazilian tropicalia, Bolivian singer Luzmila Carpio, and NYC noise outfit Swans.  

beholding

Beholding by Kafari

Kafari 

Beholding

(listen here)

A founding member of the influential jazz/hip hop group Jaw Gems, Kafari split off recently to focus more on his solo work, including playing and teaching the rhythm bones and releasing this elegiac piano album, titled Beholding, in September, as a sort of "self-help tool" for healing and strengthening. We wrote:

On tracks like “Secret Part of You” and “Unbroken,” his piano melodies seem lifted from deep spiritual memories, while fragmentary pieces like “All or Nothing” offer more repeated-listening depth in their 90 seconds than many whole albums do.  _NS

  

milo_budding

milo - budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies

Milo 

budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies

(listen here)

Rory Ferreira, aka Milo, is increasingly recognized as a national gem in the rap world these days, but for as long as he's a resident of Biddeford — where he keeps his fabulous record shop and studio Soulfolks — he's a Maine artist to us. He dropped his gorgeous full length album, budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies (a low-key tribute to Charlie Parker), an album which to our ears sounded simultaneously more vicious and peaceful than previous albums. He's reportedly retiring the Milo moniker, but he's very much not done. _NS

mouthwashington

Mouth Washington - Fourth Floor

Mouth Washington 

Fourth Floor 

(listen here)

The latest album from Portland's beloved indie-punk act Mouth Washington was technically released in December of last year, but we didn't want to lose it in 2017's Best of shuffle. We wrote:

With Mouth Washington, the stakes are always high. Agony, joy, confusion, vulnerability, and desperation all show up in the stories that frontman Max Hansen tells on Fourth Floor. For nearly an hour, they convey them the hard way, mining each of their droning, probing post-punk anthems for maximum cathartic depth. Engineer Ron Harrity leaves intact all of the band’s dizzying, ecstatic urgency, the messy collisions and roiling seasick anthems on this achingly beautiful album. _NS

Sibylline

Sibylline

 

Sibylline 

SPACE

(listen here)

A repackaged edition of the group known as Hannah Daman and the Martelle Sisters, Sibylline gave their Americana folk an atmo - spheric, earthy makeover. We wrote:

Sibylline’s music is in the Celtic tradition — Daman spent a couple of years in Scotland honing her craft — and all of the imagery that comes along with that lineage is here: dark forests, majestic animals, wild women with frost in their hair and dirt under their fingernails. There are some deeply spiritual motifs here that range from Pagan threads of animal spirit guides to Christian notions of heaven. But also, it’s trippy, y’all! I was not prepared for how psychedelic this record is. This is an acoustic Americana record in the Celtic tradition. Yes there is a Be Good Tanyas or Wailin’ Jennys situation going on, but those bands are too concerned with relationships and mundane, terrestrial things. Sibylline pours mushroom tea all over those concepts and blasts right the frig off. It’s totally far out.  _VK

LaurenTosswill_MyHomeIntheYear

Lauren Tosswill - My Home in the Year

Lauren Tosswill 

my home in the year 

(listen here)

The prolific sound artist Lauren Tosswill was another of the year's highlights. Known for her live performances and their fully embodied capacities, which blur the lines between art happening and noise music, Tosswill's four-track album my home in the year is best appreciated as a document of the development a singular budding artists in Portland's often barren avant-garde. We wrote:

Tosswill’s performance-driven, interactive approach is by nature inclusive and accessible, and because her primary instruments — her voice in spoken word, her physical presence, her real-time decision-making — are ones everyone practices daily, her work is much more ably reckoned with by listeners who have already determined their aversions to noise.  _NS

WFCB

Weakened Friends - Common Blah CD/LP/DIG (Don Giovanni Records)

Weakened Friends 

Common Blah 

(listen here)

After a string of tantalizing EPs, Weak - ened Friends fully realized their potential with Common Blah, a plucky, punky, loud-asfuck grunge record for today. We wrote:

While Weakened Friends’ previous outings have been lighter, more insulated, teenaged works. Here, the drums are hit hard, the guitars are raw and loud, and the vocals are screams. It’s not a political record in the least — all of the songs are about personal things, from love stories to breakup stories — but it is a record that must have been made in direct response to the cultural climate under which Sturino, Hoffman and Jones labor. And while the music itself has a spin of ‘90s English on it while preserving much of the band’s signature sound, its responsiveness to the world might actually be the most grungy thing about it.  _VK

 

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