A Playlist and a Beerlist for New Year's Eve

December 31, 2017

By Jerry Cowgill, December 31, 2017

2017 looks like it will turn out to be a year that I will never forget. To say it has been challenging is an understatement.

With divisiveness at an all time high, people's horrible actions coming out of the woodwork, and a seemingly bleak future, it may be hard to look back at this formative year with anything short of disdain. It is important to remember, albeit sometimes hard to envision with wide eyes, that beautiful things blossom out of cow shit.

What has 2017 been but an effective representation of a hunk of manure?

As the year thankfully comes to an end, let’s look at all the beautiful seeds that have sprouted out of the year, whether in the form of gut-wrenching new records that beg to played over and over, or flavor-filled hops used to create new, out of this world beer.

These albums are what kept me going through the year, reminding me that no matter how dark the days get, i can spend the nights in drunken revelry with the new Kendrick Lamar and an earthy saison. If there is one takeaway that all need to hold onto moving forward, it is that we need to “be humble." So sit down, shut up, listen, and drink.

This is by no means a definitive list of the best music or beer to come out within the past 12 months. This is a just a list of best new music and beer compiled by a guy who has an esoteric and adventurous palate when it comes to both pursuits. 

10. Vince Staples / Big Fish Theory
Dogfish Head Beer To Drink Music To ‘17

Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples hit his stride with his latest release, Big Fish Theory. The first track, “Crabs in a Bucket," foreshadows that this is not the Vince Staples that we are used to. That track, produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, is a unique departure from what we’ve seen before. Staples explores race relations (“They don’t never want to see the black man eat, Nails in a black man’s hands and feet”), his celebrity position ("I’m on a new level, I’m too cultured and too ghetto”), and systemic problems in troubled neighborhoods (“No, the cops don’t come for some weeks”).

This album is a defining moment for the Long Beach rapper, and cements his place in rap culture. Whether you're looking for an introspective record to sit with and break down, or some catchy rap hooks over heavy beat, Big Fish Theory has it all.

Dogfish Head Beer To Drink Music To ‘17
Beer To Drink Music to is a great beer to drink music to. Who would’ve thought! This isn’t the first year this beer has been made, but the 2017 version of it was unreal. This specialized beer was the official beer of Record Store Day and is a perfect brew to take in Vince Staples sophomore studio album. The beer transports you to a tropical paradise, much like Vince Staples California homeland, with its infused kiwi juice and hibiscus flowers. This vivacious blonde ale is top-notch.

9. King Krule / The Ooz
Firestone Walker Leo vs. Ursus Inferos

The Ooz
This is a melancholic masterpiece. The London-born singer takes his production expertise to unknown territories and shatters genre boundaries. Try and define this type of music and you will shortly realize that the The Ooz is more than a squeamish title, it’s a subtle metaphor for the way Krule eases us into his sporadic and maniacal mind: “I seem to sink lower, gazing in the rays of the solar." 

King Krule sunk deep into his psyche and created a 19 track exploration of consciousness. He may have spent too much time looking in the sun, but he gave artists a new standard to strive for.  

Firestone Walker Leo vs. Ursus Inferos
Currently the latest installment of the Leo vs. Ursus series, Inferos stands out as a bold and spicy double IPA that has enough hops to last through the lengthy King Krule record. The beer has a fiery orange-yellow hue resembling the hair color of the gloomy vocalist. The spiciness from the rye is not overbearing due to the light citrus and caramel flavor profiles and you’re left with a fresh pine bitterness that begs another sip.  

Samuel WikiIrascible, talented... creative.

8. Tyler, The Creator / Flower Boy
3 Floyd’s Dark Lord BA Russian Imperial Stout 2017

Flower Boy
Possibly the most beautiful seed to sprout this year is Flower Boy. Tyler, The Creator has always been seen as an oddball, an isolated rapper looking for his voice. Flower Boy proves that he has found it. This record was made for himself, a sort of reflective memoir for his inner confusion, self discovery, and self awareness. He explores himself in order to better himself, and we all benefit.

The artist admits that he has said regretful things in the past and he uses this platform as a means of confession. Due to this, he may not be the most popular rapper, but that just fuels the fire: “Ain’t nobody fuckin with T, but that may just be my ego>" Nobody can stop him. This is the start of an evolution for Tyler as an artist and I’ll be there for every step of the way.

3 Floyd’s Dark Lord BA Russian Imperial Stout 2017
This year’s complex Dark Lord Imperial Stout was bizarre enough to pair with Flower Boy. Every year on Dark Lord Day, a new version of this Imperial Stout is released – and the 2017 version is unbelievable (current asking price for only bottle on ebay is $125). There are so many flavors jumping out of this sweet and luscious beer: chocolate, cherries, soy sauce, cinnamon, plums, fig, you name it and it’s got it. If you happen to find a bottle of this creamy delight, do not miss out!

7. Harry Styles / Harry Styles
Off Color Known Gnome

Harry Styles
Diverging from his boy band past, Styles is finally writing the music that he grew up on; the music he was meant to play. With his debut, self-titled album, he's created a name for himself; with a past composed of both One Direction and The Voice, that is a feat in itself.

Raw talent alone is what drives his name, but let’s be honest; the man oozes swagger and doesn’t lack in the suave department. Known for being reserved in regards to his personal life, the door into Style’s vulnerability slowly starts to crack open by the album’s end: “Comfortable silence is so overrated." Pop music should use this album and its artistic integrity as a goal to work towards. This is a solid pop album from start to finish, at times aiming to redefine the genre itself.

Off Color Known Gnome
Off Color’s beers are never short of interesting. With their newest creation, they give a nod to the old school porters just as Harry Styles nods to the older musicians that inspired him. Off Color’s website informed me that back in the day, porter brewers used a bark called quassia in place of hops to avoid hop taxes. Known Gnome is a nutty, eclectic porter infused with quassia and licorice root, giving the brew a subtle sweetness.

But while I’m here, I’m gonna sing just like a songbird.”

6. Sylvan Esso / What Now?
Lagunitas Eroica

What Now?
On Sylvan Esso’s sophomore album, Amelia Meath & Nick Sanborn further cement their genre-breaking electro-pop sound. Together they construct intimate melodies over heavily synthesized beats, creating an antithesis to modern pop music – nowhere more obvious than in the track “Slave to the Radio."

The folk roots of the duo blossom in the tender cozy moments, where the Amelia’s voice wraps around you like a blanket by a roaring fire (“All you’ll HEAR is sound, and all you’ll FEEL is sound, and all you’ll BE is sound”). It is a feat for an artist to be able to embody a feeling of fleeting euphoria, but there is magic in Amelia’s voice; harmonious and intangible.

Lagunita’s Eroica
Lagunita’s newest addition is as funky as hazy as the new Sylvan Esso record. Eroica is a farmhouse ale that gently rides the line of being both a sour and a saison. It’s fresh, light, and crisp with a dry finish. The ale is aged in red wine oak barrels giving it a resemblance of  a glass of fresh bubbly. The first reaction is immensely tart but is very quickly alleviated by quirky sweetness.  

5. Hiss Golden Messenger / Hallelujah Anyhow
New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin Ale

Hallelujah Anyhow
“I’ve never been afraid of the darkness, it’s just a different kind of light." Hallelujah Anyhow is a record about facing adversity in trying times, and M.C Taylor harnesses that energy into painstaking celebrations of what really matters; the music. Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest release is a continuation of the American folk bands' quiet melodies and intrinsic orchestration.

The band has an organic chemistry that allows each member to shine through in distinct moments, void of ego. This record touches on political issues, but with the mindset of empowering the everyday citizen to aspire to be gracious and admirable. M.C Taylor doesn’t have all the answers, but he attempts to bridge that gap the only way he knows how, perseverance in the darkest of hours: “But while I’m here, I’m gonna sing just like a songbird."

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin Ale
Every year, new pumpkin ales flood the shelves and it can be a bit much. The trend usually conjures up more pumpkin beers that you can imagine, with most ending up only average. New Belgium’s Atomic Pumpkin is not one of those boring beers. It has the typical cinnamon, allspice sweetness and aroma found in the usual pumpkin beers. Instead of the classic sugary finish, it is spicy as hell due to HABANERO peppers. I can’t think of a better way to spend the fall than sitting around a campfire, listening to Hiss Golden Messenger, and swigging this fiery take on a pumpkin beer.

InterboroA music-themed beer for our music and beer list.

4. Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett / Lotta Sea Lice
Creature Comforts & Interboro Stay G-O-L-D

Lotta Sea Lice
Lotta Sea Lice begs the question of what other collaborations have we not thought of that we absolutely need in our lives? Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett came together to create a record composed of call & response conversations of two songwriters. No one expected them to collaborate before it happened. The result was a twangy-riff fueled country album that stands out from any other of the same category.

The genuine styles of both artists meld into one, creating a beautiful melodic relationship resembling that of the late Johnny Cash & June Carter. Lotta Sea Lice is an unexpected gift; one that I never knew I wanted and now one I can’t live without.

Creature Comforts Stay G-O-L-D
The beer world was also blessed with an unexpected collaboration this year; Interboro Spirits & Ales (in collaboration w/ Creature Comforts) and Run The Jewels (whose latest album would’ve been on this list if it came out only one week later). The two parties came together to create a magnificent and refreshing IPA. This hazy, pineapple-peach flavored IPA smells completely dank in the truest Run The Jewels fashion. Just like Lotta Sea Lice, it is an unexpected gift.

3. The Districts / Popular Manipulations
Stone Brewing Ghost Hammer IPA

Popular Manipulations
The Districts' third album is my vote for best rock album of the year. The band is still somewhat underground, playing smaller clubs and not really on the radar of mainstream music fans. I have a feeling this will be changing very soon.

The Districts encapsulate the sound of stadium rock and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were selling out arenas in a few short years. The band's influences are easy to spot all over this record, graciously nodding to the beloved Hot Fuss by The Killers, and other artists of the same caliber such as Arcade Fire and The Black Keys.

Popular Manipulations is hauntingly beautiful, littered with reverberating melodies and pulsing rhythms. WIth this latest release, The Districts are one step closer to solidifying their sound, while being more adventurous with their introspective (“Or am I all alone? No, I’m just a narcissist”) and sometimes ambiguous lyrics (“A little birdie with a broken wing, Why does it taste like salt?”).

Stone Brewing Ghost Hammer IPA
Stone Brewing is known to be consistent in putting out quality beers, and Ghost Hammer is no exception. This highly floral IPA is medium bodied, possessing hints of citrus and tropical fruit.  Ghost Hammer is not showy or pretentious, just a solid IPA. This makes it a great pairing for The Districts new record, a solid rock album.   

Batiste SafontAll hail King Kendrick!

2. The National / Sleep Well Beast
Left Hand Saison au Ble de Minuit

Sleep Well Beast
The National’s seventh studio record hones in on their familiarity. It is not a drastic change from their original, well-tuned sound, but rather a revitalized pursuit of maturity in their tone. Sleep Well Beast will resonate for years to come.

This may be the most brutally honest Matt Beringer has ever been in his lyrics. The isn’t a happy and lighthearted endeavor, but more a reflective and contemplative exploration of the anxieties of a man that are so damn relatable. There is a delicate beauty in being able to listen to a record and feeling an impalpable touch of sadness: that process is therapeutic in the way that it reminds us that we’re not alone in how we feel. In the opening song, Beringer softly serenades us with the line “Nobody else will be there." Sleep Well Beast is a calming expression of coming to terms, establishing itself as a lifelong companion.

Left Hand Saison au Ble de Minuit
This new farmhouse ale from Left Hand Brewery carries unconventional qualities; the most striking being the dark brown color that it pours. The outlandish nature of this saison matches the eccentric character of the frontman of The National. It is fresh, dry, and crisp. Brewed with midnight wheat, this ale takes on a distinct smell and flavor profile. This pairing is anything but ordinary.

1. Kendrick Lamar / DAMN
Revolution Sun Crusher

Once DAMN came out in early April, I knew it would end up being the album of the year for me. Just like his previous release, To Pimp a Butterfly, this record needs to be dissected slowly for full appreciation. Sure, you can throw it on and it bumps harder than most rap out there, but there is so much more to Kendrick than his fierce verses and domination of beats.

What makes K-Dot stand out over any other rapper or artist in general is his storytelling. Lamar immaculately depicts real life experiences that he has gone through in eloquent detail with deep uses of dramatic imagery and perplexing metaphors.

With every release, we learn a little more about Kendrick; his anxieties, his fears, and his weaknesses. You can listen to “DUCKWORTH” and witness almost firsthand how his father was almost killed by the man that signed Kendrick himself. You can listen to “FEAR” and explore the horrors that plagued Kendrick; whether a seven year old boy being abused by his mother, a 17 year old boy fearing death from his gang-banging surroundings, or a 27 year old fearing losing everything he has built for himself.

With every listen, something new jumps out and that “Holy Shit!” moment comes. Kendrick has perfected the conceptual album, making it hard to compare this record to others with the amount of honesty and integrity that went into it. All hail King Kendrick!

Revolution Sun Crusher
Revolution brewery is kind of like Kendrick Lamar; if you see their name on something, it’s guaranteed to be amazing. Sun Crusher is a wheat ale that is so hopped up, it puts a bulk of the IPA’s in the market to shame. It expresses a clear golden body, with zesty citrus and earthy grass overtones. This past year, Sun Crusher was my go to beer and DAMN was my summer anthem.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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