10 Best Albums of 2017
Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
In 2017, Spoon served up further evidence of their consistency and greatness. They continue to experiment and challenge their fans without losing the tight song craft, melody, and cool they’ve had from the beginning.
Foxygen turned in a darkly fantastical concept album about… something… while reinterpreting British Invasion psychedelia like no-one else.
Sam Outlaw, “Tenderheart”
When I first heard Sam Outlaw, all I wanted was a looser sound and he delivered! Yes, it’s this close to easy-listening country, but it sounds incredible. The standout track is “Bottomless Mimosas”.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, “The Nashville Sound”
The band rages around Jason Isbell on standouts like “Cumberland Gap” and “Molotov” while “If We Were Vampires” is perhaps his best love song. The acoustic numbers are as good as ever while I think he’s finally found the right mix of players and production to make the rockers just as solid.
Moses Sumney, “Aromanticism”
Sumney’s sweet, cooing falsetto laments love and questions the point of it all. It’s a kind of romance nihilism. I think he believes in love. There’s a blooming glow warming the bottom of this record with bass guitar by Thundercat and jazz-inflected R&B arrangements. If Sumney is so done with love, why does he sound so sad singing at its funeral?
HAIM, “Something to Tell You”
Finally, a fun follow-up to HAIM’s stellar debut! Even more Fleetwood Mac-like than before. Impeccable musicianship and ever-curious production experiments from their A-list collaborators.
The War on Drugs, “A Deeper Understanding”
It’s going to take me all year to digest “A Deeper Understanding”. It’s like there’s a stereo buried under the Delaware River blasting Simple Minds. Songs surge and heave with new vigor, filtering up through blankets of reverb. Granduciel continues to crib from 80s Dylan and Springsteen, now with a heavier sprinkling of synths. I’m into it.
Colter Wall, “Colter Wall”
Canadian singer-songwriter Colter Wall is apparently 22 years old. But his voice is probably 85, at least. It’s deep, gravelly and surprisingly lived-in. I think I can tell he’s stretching for the lowest notes, but it won’t be long before he settles down even deeper. The songs are dark paeans to past lives lived, sleeping rough, and other outlaw activities.
JD McPherson, “UNDIVIDED HEART & SOUL”
I love that JD McPherson’s new record brings him closer to pop. But like, closer to pop music the way Spoon is pop music. Tight songs, retro sounds in new modern jackets, sharp lyrics with occasionally arcane references and mysterious allusions. Every track is a highlight, but you want to check out “On The Lips” for something that reminds me of Arcade Fire and Fitz and the Tantrums both, yet uniquely JD McPherson.
Hiss Golden Messenger, “Hallelujah Anyhow”
Like The War on Drugs, I think I’ll be working with both this new record and 2016’s “Heart Like A Levee” for some time. The songs have a tendency to sound the same if you’re not paying attention. I’d still like to examine the lyrics more closely. They’re weird and clearly highly personal. For now, I just know I love the soulful singing, warm production and arrangements that remind me of The Band in the very best ways.
Highlights of 2017
These are all the songs I fell in love with that didn’t quite fit in other posts. But they’re still a part of what made 2017 a great year in music. Highlights of the highlights include Ryan Kinder, Phoenix, Aaron Watson, Jazmine Sullivan, and EXO.
To find the full list of highlights, please click the link above to find the playlist on Spotify.