We here at E.D. love trying to do our part to uncover hidden gems and present to you, our wonderful readers, albums and movies we think are underrated or overlooked. Last year, I posted an article entitled “Underrated/Overlooked 2016.” I had a lot of fun putting that list together, so I’m going to make that list an annual tradition. So here are five underrated and/or overlooked albums of 2017 and five underrated and/or overlooked movies of 2017. Enjoy, and tell us your picks below!
5 Underrated/Overlooked Albums of 2017
At the Drive-In’s in•ter a•li•a
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Genre: Post-Harcore/Art Punk
I’m not the biggest fan in the world, necessarily, of the Texas post-hardcore band At the Drive-In. I recognize that their previous album, Relationship of Command, released in 2000, is rightfully a classic and rightfully regarded as a great album. Still, post-hardcore and, in general, the kind of music At the Drive-In have always played just isn’t really my cup of coffee. I can enjoy it, and I often do, but not all the time. That being said, I rather liked this comeback record of theirs. Yes, it’s still post-hardcore and art punk as usual for this band, but I found a lot to like in it. The guys sound energized and on fire, and tracks like “Governed by Contagions” make me want to scream along: “That’s the way the guillotine claps/She’s the one who’s governed by contagions.” Crazy awesome! I was surprised, then, to find that a very large number of fans didn’t care for in•ter a•li•a, and I didn’t get it. After a while, I came to figure that At the Drive-In’s music just can’t have the impact today that it did back in the late ’90s and early ’00s. At the Drive-In will never be able to replicate what fans saw in something like Relationship of Command. I feel if anyone listens to this without preconceived notions, they’ll come away enjoying it, if they are able to enjoy this sort of music.
Mutoid Man’s War Moans
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal/Hardcore
I’m not surprised War Moans wasn’t a smash hit. Mutoid Man is still pretty underground, and they play a blend of music that might make any promoter sweat something fierce trying to figure out how to market War Moans and to whom. Mutoid Man play a raucous, rowdy, fist-pumping awesome blend of heavy metal, hard rock, hardcore punk, post-hardcore, metalcore, math rock, noise rock, alternative, sludge, thrash, and prog. However, they do this with such confidence, ease, and skill that it’s only when you stop to think about the music that you realize how varying and eclectic Mutoid Man’s influences are. War Moans is their best work: best performed, best written, and best produced. Their 2015 LP Bleeder was exciting, but War Moans is straight up quality. The bass and guitars are fuzzed out and loud, the drums are steady and blasting, and the vocals are surprisingly clean. The songs are catchy, too, in their hooks, riffs, and lyrics, with the lyrics ranging from standard and serious to ridiculous and hilarious, some of these ones being the most fun, like on “Kiss of Death” and “Date with the Devil.” Oh, and freaking Marty Friedman even drops in for some killer guest guitar work on the title track. If you are a fan of fun heavy music, War Moans will not disappoint you.
Impalers’ The Celestial Dictator
Release Date: September 1, 2017
Genre: Thrash Metal
In recent years, one, specific thrash band stands out to me as being severely underrated: Impalers. These Danish thrashers just aren’t that popular over here in the states, but they deserve to be. Not to be confused with another current, Texan, heavy metal/punk band of the same name, Impalers have been releasing solid thrash since their debut, Power Behind the Throne, in 2013. Since then, they’ve released two EPs and two LPs, the second being The Celestial Dictator. If you are interested in thrash or aggressive music in general, you should give their entire discography thus far a listen. I find The Celestial Dictator, overall, their best work so far (though there is a lot I like from 2015’s God from the Machine too.) From beginning to end, The Celestial Dictator kicks your butt all around the room, with only occasional pauses for breath, and it rarely stumbles. They’re not perfect (who is?), and a few moments feel just a little too close to Impalers’ influences. Yet here they’ve put everything they can do on fine display, especially their instrumentation and philosophy-leaning lyrics (which I’d love to discuss). Check out The Celestial Dictator and Impalers. You’ll be glad you did. If you only want to hear a couple of tracks to start off with, find “Terrestrial Demise” and “Sun” on Spotify or a similar streaming service.
Sons of Texas’ Forged by Fortitude
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal
Sons of Texas lay it on thick. They sound like a strange, Southern concoction of Stone Sour, Slipknot, Pantera, Soundgarden, Seether, Lamb of God, ZZ Top, Black Label Society, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kyng, Guns N’ Roses, and Shinedown. They mix hard rock, nu metal, traditional heavy metal, and Texas blues into an easily drinkable, frothing brew. For the most part, it is radio-ready heavy metal and hard rock, neither very offensive – despite its attempts at edginess – nor very risky, but it is certainly appealing to people like me, and if you like what you’ve heard about it, you’ll enjoy it too, especially if you have positive feelings toward Texas, which the band certainly does. It’s also heavier and faster than Sons of Texas’ first album, and it features awesome rhythms and several mosh-worthy, head-banging-worthy moments. Sons of Texas have lost a lot of that AOR, alt rock feel they had on their debut album. Here, they feel more powerful, yet without being afraid to slow it down if they wish to do so. I especially enjoy the guitars, with versatile work both in the rhythm and in the soloing, plus the drums are solid, providing more might than on the previous album, and the bass is loose and funky. Forged by Fortitude is most certainly worth checking out if you’re a heavy metal fan. The reason it went under most people’s radar: the band is just still up-and-coming. If they tour heavily and keep producing good work, I think we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.
Evil Invaders’ Feed Me Violence
September 29, 2017
Genre: Speed Metal/Thrash Metal
I thoroughly enjoyed this album when I first spun it a few times back at its release in September. However, I don’t think I fully appreciated it. Since I wasn’t taking away any particularly memorable moments, I kind of forgot about the record. Then, I revisited it, and, look, this may not be the most catchy metal of 2017, but it is super bad-ass, and the instrumental work is fast and skilled. Evil Invaders play, alternatingly, thrashy speed metal and speedy thrash metal, but I think the band fits slightly more on the speed metal side of things than the thrash side, unless you just want to look at Evil Invaders’ style as thrash without any East Coast influences and without any groove influences. Whatever you call it, however you categorize it, Evil Invaders’ music kicks you in the skull, and if you don’t keep up with it, it has no problem dragging you forcefully along. The band took their name from the title of a Razor album, and this Belgian band does nostalgic justice to that particular brand of Canadian speed metal. A twin guitar attack bites your face off, while the drums fly off the rails with you, in a good way, and the bass burrows into your brain. The vocals do lack a bit, but that’s not enough to keep Feed Me Violence from being an album any speed or thrash fan ought to check out i-freaking-mmediately.
5 Underrated/Overlooked Movies of 2017
Release Date: January 20, 2017
Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks)
About once every year, I feel an urge, a temptation I’ll call it, to visit McDonald’s and buy a Big Mac for myself. Now, I don’t particularly care for McDonald’s, and I don’t necessarily love Big Macs, but this annual desire of mine is a testament to years of genius (or maybe manipulative) marketing. This year, The Founder caused my need for a Big Mac. I’m not really sure why, though. This movie doesn’t really make Ray Kroc, the “founder” of McDonald’s look good, and it certainly doesn’t make him look like a positive role model. It does, however, present fascinating journeys, for Kroc, for the McDonald brothers, and for the McDonald’s restaurant franchise, the first of its kind. The movie does feel slightly bland sometimes and maybe a little too straightforward, but that’s overcome by an interesting story and great performances from Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, and John Carroll Lynch. The Founder doesn’t gloss over much or polish it up, but it may cause you to take an impromptu trip to “the Golden Arches” out of admiration alone, or even disgust. Why was The Founder overlooked? Probably because biopics aren’t really all the rage right now, the trailers didn’t seem to pull many in, and the release date changed at least once or twice. It’s worth the watch, though.
Release Date: August 18, 2017
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11, Magic Mike)
I love the idea of an auteur, and sometimes, often, auteurs even turn out amazingly. Steven Soderbergh is nothing if not an auteur, and with Logan Lucky he took his auteurism to a whole new level, making this film a movie-making and marketing experiment. He directed, lensed, and edited Logan Lucky himself, and he may have even written it, though no one is quite sure about that one. On top of all this, he distributed Logan Lucky independently via his own company in an attempt at a new auteur-focused distribution model. The model doesn’t really seem to have worked out, as the movie only made $47 million on a $29 million budget. Regardless, Logan Lucky is really good as a less glamorous Ocean’s 11 that works excellently as a heist film, as a dive into hick/hillbilly/redneck culture without punching down on that culture, and as a familial drama about two down-on-their-luck brothers who can’t seem to catch a break. I think this movie did poorly solely due to the lack of quality marketing. Everyone I’ve talked to who watched the movie thoroughly enjoyed it. The pace may be just a bit more laid-back than you’re used to, at least in a movie like this, though. Watch it! It’s available to stream for free for Amazon Prime users right now.
Release Date: August 18, 2017
Directed by Taylor Sheridan (Writer of Sicario, Hell or High Water)
Over the over one-hundred-year-old history of motion pictures, filmmaker after filmmaker has attempted to tackle the Native American struggle that has been so tragically interwoven throughout the history of the U.S. Few of those films, for my money at least, have been able to do this theme and topic real justice. 1950’s Broken Arrow, directed by Delmer Daves and starring Jimmy Stewart – which was, as far as I know, the first post-WWII Western to portray Native Americans caringly or sympathetically – is still my favorite presentation of this period of the Native American relationship with the rest of us. Wind River appealed to me from a similar viewpoint, even if the Native American struggle is really the backdrop, though also a heavy informer, for the story at hand. The bleak beauty of the land the people in Wind River inhabit comes across simultaneously haunting and gorgeous, and writer/director Taylor Sheridan, one of my favorite current Hollywood talents, weaves that skillfully into a story of terrifying humanity and circumstances and human horrors with tiny, tiny rays of light shining in. So why did this one get overlooked? Maybe just because people aren’t into Westerns right now, or the trailers made the movie seem too dark, or the film held an unfortunate association with the Weinstein name. Whatever the reason, don’t let Wind River remain below your radar. Check it out for the scenery, the plot, the themes, all the little details Sheridan gets right, and for standout performances from Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Gil Birmingham, as well as the others.
Ingrid Goes West
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Directed by Matt Spicer
A few movies in the past few years have tried to focus in on the current cultural obsession with social media and the psychological/sociological issues it amplifies in people. I’ve only seen one movie that does this with any success, knowing, or accurate insight: Ingrid Goes West. It helps that, unlike some of those other films, screenwriters David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer – who also directed the movie – actually know intimately how social media platforms work. It also helps that the script, direction, and acting all pull you in to the story at hand. In fact, they do this a little too well sometimes. There were moments so cringey in the first half hour that I almost abandoned the movie. If you feel that way when watching it, keep going. The movie rewards you in the end, at least it will if you find the things it’s talking about interesting. Ingrid Goes West only got a limited release in theaters last year, and it’s not free for streaming, as far as I know, on any paid streaming platforms, so I’m willing to bet a good portion of you haven’t seen it yet. Trust me, though, seek it out. It’s one of last year’s better films, and it doesn’t just have current relevance either; its overarching look into the humanity, both dark and light, of its characters makes it relevant no matter the time period. The movie also hilariously lambasts hipsters, so you have that to look forward to as well.
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Directed by Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale)
I think this one’s underwhelming box office performance is pretty easy to unpack, and it’s not because of the movie’s quality. The Foreigner is actually a solid political thriller from the guy who brought us GoldenEye (my favorite “ridiculous” Bond movie), The Mask of Zorro (my favorite action-adventure flick), Casino Royale (my favorite Bond movie), and the unfortunately underrated Edge of Darkness. But something I said before may be the answer: political thriller. The Foreigner‘s marketing team didn’t do that great of a job with its promotion, and what it did do made people think this would be a” Jackie Chan kicks major ass” movie. Then, when the people who did buy tickets to see the movie sat down in the theater, they found out they were in for something pretty different from what they were expecting. Jackie Chan does get to jump into action a few times, but it’s less often and more brutal in nature than the sorts of things to which Chan’s fans (I’m right in there with that bunch) are accustomed. Instead, Chan, under Campbell’s steady directorial hand, gives perhaps the most serious, sincere, and heartfelt performance of his career. Additionally, Brosnan’s character has more or less equal importance and screentime to Chan in The Foreigner, and he also gives one of his best recent performances.
Here’s to 2018 being as good a year for movies and music as 2017 was!