Monday, December 4, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2017 Number 10 - A Giant Dog with A Sweet Spirit

My number 10 favorite album(s) of 2017 is a tie because I feel like they are two sides of the same artistic expression and fit well together. I recently saw Sweet Spirit open for The Afghan Whigs and Har Mar Superstar and was blown away by their music, energy and range. To then find out that Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen, who front the band, also have another band, A Giant Dog, and that both released albums this years, drew me in even more. Once I listened to both albums, I was hooked on both bands. If there's one word I would use to describe their approach, it would have to be unbridled. Ellis and Cashen have an undeniable hunger that propels their work, with a passion and a sense of melody that stands out. Both of these albums are flat out contagious and had me pumped all the way through.

Toy

A Giant Dog is the older band, with more of a 70s glam punk flavor and their latest album, Toy is as raw as it is melodic. Lyrics are fun and off-kilter without being unintentionally cheesy which is not easy to do. "Photograph," is a little bit funny, a little bit shocking and kind of beautiful with lyrics like "You're naked and the house is cold/The mirror says you're getting old/I wanna see you with your sagging tits/I wanna see you with your jeans all split/I wanna kiss you when your teeth all rot/And all your memories are things we thought." I didn't really get into HBO's Vinyl, but there's a scene in the first episode where the main character wonders into a New York Dolls show in a building that is slowly crumbling. He finds himself in sweaty ecstasy as the music drives him and the rest of the crowd into a sort of throttling trance at this music that is empty of pretension grabbing them by the soul and shaking them out of the numbness of everyday life. That's kind of how this album feels and it's so fucking perfect for forgetting about how fucked up the world is for a few minutes.

St. Mojo

Meanwhile, Sweet Spirit's St. Mojo dives into pop, country and disco, sometimes simultaneously. It's experimental, but like Toy, it's empty of pretension. That is the real accomplishment of both these bands, and it comes through even more so in Sweet Spirit. The earnest sense of fun here is pretty close to what their live show was like. Anything can happen and as songs go from power pop to country, funk and really, whatever else they feel like playing, it feels like everything does happen. This is overall a high energy, fun album, for sure, including a tongue in cheek ode to Pamela Anderson in "Pamela." But then there's also a couple of more poignant moments like "The Mighty" about remaining strong in the face of adversity, particularly when the more powerful forces that hold us down "have further to fall." Truly a message for 2017.

The pairing of these two albums works almost like a double album. You don't have to listen to them back to back, but I find it hard not to at this point and it really doesn't matter which goes first. I'm looking forward to hearing more from them.

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