MAGNET’s #24 Album Of 2017: Algiers’ “The Underside Of Power”

It’s hard to argue with Algiers even on paper: They’ve been described as dystopian soul, and who doesn’t want to hear that? Soul in a soulless world helps the poison go down. But it’s also obsolete; any soul act is “dystopian soul” in 2017, even if this one fuses techno punk and gospel in a raging firestorm of drum machines that admittedly undercut a tiny bit the amazing sticksman Matt Tong, who made Bloc Party’s first album the only true barnburner of the dance-punk wave. But Algiers’ second LP lacks nothing in neck-snapping, locomotive propulsion on such spooky tornadoes as “Cry Of The Martyrs” (where an extra harmony on the final verses gives the song a fourth melodic dimension) or the tambourine-abusing title tune, which wouldn’t be unreasonable to hear in a church. Their concessions to R&B don’t trade in rock’s blunt force for polyrhythmic complexity but rather a spaciousness that gives lead firebrand Franklin James Fisher the proper haunted reverb for his sustained vibrato. Nothing gets in the way of his voice, so the musique concrète of bluesy howls and eerie backup choirs bolstering him on tracks like “Cleveland” and “Animals” are mere cobwebs up against the battering ram of his instrument. A band like this could only have been born for the end of the world, which sounds so much sweeter than it is while The Underside Of Power is playing. —Dan Weiss

MAGNET’s #25 Album Of 2017: House And Land’s “House And Land”

The past has a lot to say to the present, but what you hear depends on how you listen. Singers/multi-instrumentalists Sally Anne Morgan and Sarah Louise Henson are tuned in to the harsh realities and uncertain hopes expressed by old Appalachian folk songs. They hear how gender and class can box you in, making economics as important as hormones when you’re deciding whether to stick around the old homestead or run off with a handsome stranger. They hear that no matter what shaped your choices, you have to answer for them. And they hear how the drones and dissonances that folk singers have been savoring down the generations have laid the groundwork for the tonal layers and timbral clashes of current avant-garde practice. Everything they hear goes into House And Land’s music, which is as rich and rough as the hillside topsoil under your feet after a renewing season of fire and rain. Just as the protagonists of their songs assert agency despite their circumstances, the duo achieves great variety working with two voices, some stringed instruments and a wheezing squeezebox. —Bill Meyer