2017 Albums: Artists Then vs. Now

2017 has been a year to look back.

Time passes and people change. The same goes with your favorite bands. Popular groups from back in the day, like Broken Social Scene, The National, even Blondie, have rolled out new albums this year.  

We millennials who grew up on social media know the “what the hell” reaction of looking back on your life in posts. That first profile picture where you still have that MySpace hair swoop? Cringeworthy. Even with the cringe, it’s fun to remember where you were and what was happening in your life way back when.

This month, we noticed a Facebook trend where people took a stroll down memory lane and then sprinted back to the present day by posting their first and their current profile pictures next to each other. Those trips back in forth in time were so fun, we wondered how our favorite bands would look with their new releases side by side with their debuts.  

Blondie

s/t  — Pollinator

s/t

Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein were in the honeymoon phase of their relationship and formed a band that would later become a standard-bearer in New Wave. Blondie released their  self titled debut in 1976. This album melded punk with reggae and funk in ways the world had never heard.

Pollinator 2017

Their eleventh album, Pollinator keeps the disco-punk vibe, but adds more synth and futuristic beats to show that while they’re all-stars, they’re still very much in the game. At 71, Debbie Harry remains a rock ’n’ roll icon. Though she and Stein called it quits on their relationship in the late ‘80s, they stayed together as partners in life and music.

Depeche Mode

Speak & Spell — Spirit

Speak & Spell 1981

The band was new and struggling trying to make it in ‘81 when Mute Records founder Daniel Miller gave them a chance to make a record. Speak & Spells came out October of that year and peaked at number ten on the U.K. charts, spearheading their career.

Spirit 2017

With its members now in their 50s, Depeche Mode stays true to the group’s vibe. They still stick to eerie ‘80s synth beats but their years of refining their sound are evident in the polished album Spirit.

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Psychocandy — Damage and Joy

Psychocandy 1985

Before their debut, the struggling band would show up to clubs claiming to be the opening act, sneaking in a quick set before rushing out. In late 1984 their set at ICA Rock Week ended with a volley of bottles thrown from the crowd. Thanks to that riot of a show, publicity for the band skyrocketed—Psychocandy was released less than a year later.

Damage & Joy 2017

On their seventh album, The Jesus and Mary Chain still dare to tackle politically incorrect subjects. Following a 19-year recording break, the angst was at a boil—their wild, lost youth is embedded within their sound. Despite their age, they still feedback and squeal with their signature drug-infused rock ’n’ roll vibe.

The Flaming Lips

Hear it is —Oczy Mlody

Hear It Is 1986

Formed in 1983, the band went through several lineup changes, eventually landing on Wayne Coyne for lead vocals, before the release of their debut album three years later. Coyne was still working at Long John Silver’s. The band signed to Enigma Records’ psychedelic branch, Pink Dust Records and released Hear it is in ‘86.

Oczy Mlody 2017

With his Long John Silver’s days long behind him, The Flaming Lips are still growing strong. Oczy Mlody is just as bizarre as The Flaming Lips have always been, only slowed down and more contemplative. Many of their earlier albums have crazy jams and solos that emulated a melodic rocket launch.  Now they’re concentrating on strung out echoes, low buzzes and Coyne’s inner space voyaging lyrics.

Spoon

Telephono—Hot Thoughts

Telephono 1996

With an EP already under their belt, they were bursting to get an LP out. When Telephono was released on Matador Records it immediately received mixed reviews. Spoon honed their sound and became a pioneering force of a new musical blend of post-punk, psychedelic and pop.

Hot Thoughts 2017

Lucky number nine, Hot Thoughts is their only other record on Matador Records, making this album extra special to Spoon’s heart. Hot Thoughts takes advantage of their musical talents by adding new and different instruments to the mix. They’ve lost a little of their initial garage-y vibe but none of what makes them fun.

Gorillaz

s/t—Humanz

s/t 2001

Gorillaz was formed as a cartoon band to comment on the how vapid MTV had become. After their first EP Tomorrow Comes Today and the wild success of their single “Clint Eastwood,” they started taking themselves seriously. Their debut album hit number 6 on the U.K. charts.

Humanz 2017

After a seven-year hiatus, still sticking to their animated portrayal and political views, Gorillaz have released their fifth album. They’ve embraced an even heavier hip-hop approach, with a different high-profile musician featured on almost every track. According to Gorillaz, with events like the U.K.’s Brexit and the U.S. presidential nomination of Donald Trump, a black cloud has rolled over humanity and this album gives us insight into the situation.

The Shins

Oh, Inverted World—Heartworms

Oh, Inverted World 2001

Formed by James Mercer in 1996, Mercer was depressed and fed up with the failure of his music. Things didn’t look up until the band scored a tour with Modest Mouse in 2000 which led to a single on Sub Pop. The wild popularity of their single got them a record deal, and boosted them to be the most anticipated indie rock albums of 2001. With the release of Oh, Inverted World, The Shins shot up in popularity.

Heartworms 2017

Their first album in five years, The Shins haven’t changed a bit. Which is just fine with us. Their melodies are still just as uplifting, and their lyrics are still just as in-depth about life and love. Mercer is the only original member of The Shins, but is still good friends with the members of Modest Mouse.

The National

s/t—Sleep Well Beast

s/t 2001

Childhood friends Bryan Devendorf, Bryce and Aaron Dessner moved from Ohio to New York City and formed The National in 1999, performing free shows regularly in the Lower East Side at the Luna Lounge. They released their first album on a record label that the Dessners created, and their first album was met with high praise.

Sleep Well Beast 2017

The highly anticipated new album will be released this September and will be the group’s seventh album. Their last release was in 2013 with the album Trouble Will Find Me, which Pitchfork described as their, “leanest and most aerodynamic record yet.” With Sleep Well Beast being released after their longest hiatus between albums, it’s anticipated to be their most productive one yet.

Broken Social Scene

Feel Good Lost—Hug of Thunder

Feel Good Lost 2001

This first album was recorded as a duo in 1999, between core members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning with several different contributors who eventually became long-term members. Their music didn’t reach their charts until their third album (self-titled) in 2005, which won Alternative Album of The Year.

Hug of Thunder 2017

Their first release in about seven years, Hug of Thunder will be out this July on City Slang/ Arts & Crafts. Also featuring several contributors like Feist and members of Metric, they shared their first single off the album “Halfway Home” on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and have already gotten praise from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.

Future Islands

Waves Like Home—The Far Field

Wave Like Home 2008

Though formed in 2006, the band didn’t enjoy mainstream success until 2014 after performing on the Late Show With David Letterman. The clip quickly became the most viewed video on the show’s YouTube channel.

The Far Field 2017

The band’s fifth album was highly praised, though not as highly rated as the band’s 2014 hit album Singles. Consequence of Sound describes The Far Field as, “a reminder of how skilled Future Islands can be when everything locks into place,” adding that the band often outworks most of their peers, it just took them a decade to find their audience.

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