According to various sources, I listened to at least 80 albums in 2017, and there were a lot of good ones! Special thanks to Spoon and Wolf Parade for making it feel like 2006 again. Congrats to Robert Pollard on releasing his 100th studio album! For the past two years I procrastinated until MARCH to put this list out, so in an effort to remain timely I stopped writing when I realized I had words for at least ten albums I deemed list-worthy. Enjoy!
As always, I tend to leave off albums everyone may already know about. There’s a video playlist at the end with a lot more tunes, but I’ll also start this list off with some…
Honorable honorable mentions
I was planning on going into detail for these albums, but then…didn’t.
Alex Lahey – I Love You Like A Brother
Bonny Doon – Bonny Doon
Cherry Glazerr – Apocalipstick
Colter Wall – Colter Wall
The Courtneys – II
Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator
Miguel – War & Leisure
Oh Wonder – Ultralife
Overcoats – Young
Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go
Sacred Paws – Stike a Match
Sallie Ford – Soul Sick
Two more honorable mentions
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion Side B+
I got all excited thinking CRJ put out ANOTHER album of E•MO•TION cast-offs that would still be better than most pop released this year, but it’s just Side B with an extra song. That song, however, might be her best since “Call Me Maybe”. 2017 was a shit year, so thanks to CRJ for sneaking this sunny album onto my playlist (again).
The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s
I thought about making this my #1 because holy hell this is a good album. I missed seeing the original lineup by about a year, and this recording really spotlights how great Bob’s guitar was. Required listening, and let’s just pretend it’s #1 on my 1986 list.
And now, ten albums I enjoyed in 2017
10 Grandaddy – Last Place
Grandaddy has always been one of my favorite bands, so I was beyond excited when I found out Jason Lytle was getting the band back together, and Last Place did not disappoint. New Granddady that sounded like classic Grandaddy–which I suppose some could view as a negative, but it didn’t bother me one bit–I was just happy to hear new Grandaddy, and I was more than ready to buy tickets when they came to town. Then, a week before they were scheduled to hit the road, founding member/bassist Kevin Garcia suffered a stroke and died at the age of 41. The tour was cancelled, and 2017 continued sucking, but albums like Last Place kept things bearable.
9 Parnter – In Search of Lost Time
In their video for “Play the Field“, Partner don sports jersies with 420 and 69 on the backs, and that kind of sums up Partner. They are unapologetically stoned, Canadian, and gay (but not for each other)–the song you listen to usually determines that order of preference. In Search of Lost Time is a fun album, with phone-recorded bits and goofs in between bubblegum power-pop songs songs about frozen pizza. If Weezer and Teagan and Sara got melted down into an edible, it would taste like Partner.
8 Kamaiyah – Before I Wake
Another Night In The Ghetto was #3 on my list last year, so I got amped for Kamaiyah’s full-length debut this year…and then it got delayed. It’s an understatement to say that she had a rough year, but that didn’t stop her from releasing another mixtape that, while it doesn’t have the cheery bounce of Another Night, is clearly more proof that she is a force to be reckoned with. There’s something about her style I really dig–I think it’s how she can sound nostalgic and new at the same time, and she’s a rapper who thinks like a singer.
7 The XX – I See You
In the five years between their second album and this one, Jaime xx took an experimental electronic detour and released an album critics liked, but I couldn’t get into. Hearing I See You, though, I think it was a good detour, because this album is a much fuller XX album than their first two. The hushed bedroom vocals are still sultry, but the quiet jangly guitar-pop has been kicked up a notch with much more interesting production and BEATS.
6 Bedouine – Bedouine
Bedouine is Azniv Korkejian–born in Aleppo, Syria, she moved to the US at the age of 10 after her family won a green card lottery. A lot can be said in 2017 about an immigrant’s art being appreciated over being unheard, but this list is not that place! She herself does not get deeply political, save one song with lyrics like “Why must they get involved? / What on earth could this solve?” She wanders wide-eyed from song to song, each tune draped in a warm 60s folk glaze, and it’s beautiful.
5 Fazerdaze – Morningside
I remember five or so years ago I was really into dream pop–that reverby, breezy soothing pop from bands like Real Estate. I think Real Estate actually put an album out this year, but I didn’t bother, because I needed more rock in 2017. But then a band like Fazerdaze comes around that reminds me why I liked that genre so much in the first place. The reverby lyrics, smooth jams, warm fuzzies…ahhhhhhhh yeah that’s the stuff. Maybe it’s the DIY feel of the album, or maybe she adds just enough bass and drums and groove to keep it interesting, but this is an undeniably good, relaxing album. One video is nothing but Amelia Murray (aka Fazerdaze) slowly longboarding down a street, and that seems like a perfect image for this album.
4 Charly Bliss – Guppy
If you’re no stranger to my lists, you know I’m a sucker for 90s indie rock. And if it’s 90s indie rock you seek, look no further than Charly Bliss. It’s easy to cop the style of 90s indie rock, but Charly Bliss has the substance to back up the style, and Guppy is one of my favorurite debut albums this year. What amazes me most about this band/album is how sugary they get without going over the edge. They strike the perfect balance between that style and substance so an album full of sugary rock-pop tunes never gets sickening. Have you ever stayed awake at night wondering what Jawbreaker would sound like fronted by Carly Rae Jepsen? Charly Bliss got you covered.
3 White Reaper – The World’s Best American Band
White Reaper was my favorite debut of 2015, and I was a little worried about their sophomore album because garage rock bands generally just release more of the same. So here we are with an album that not only claims the superlative, but kicks off with fervent cheering a la Alive II or Live at Budokon–and I’ll be damned if the band doesn’t live up to their own hype. Whether or not they are indeed the world’s best American band is irrelevant, because it’s clear that THEY think they are, and that’s all that matters when that belief comes across tenfold in another barnburner of the catchiest, rockingest albums of the year.
2 The Regrettes – Feel Your Feelings Fool!
After seeing The Regrettes perform their AV Undercover take of “Fox on the Run” I was hooked. (It is not lost on me that The Mats also cover it on the honorably mentioned Live album above). At the ripe old age of five, Lydia Night saw The Donnas perform, and it was a life-changing event that got her studying guitar, singing, and songwriting ever since. Fast-forward ten or so years later, and she’s fronting The Regrettes. All songs here were written by Night (save one), but she’s said they’ve started writing new material together which is great, because while Night is an undeniable force with splashes of Karen O and Kathleen Hanna, it’s clear that each member of this band adds something unique to their sock hop punk energy. At times they remind me of an old fave, The Eyeliners, and I will always favor bands whose fun is infectious whilst rocking–which The Regrettes have in spades. The songs bounce effortlessly between teen crushes, body positivity, and gender discrimination (with that last tune dedicated to Donald Trump on their Twitter)–I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this band.
1 Sheer Mag – Compilation / Need To Feel Your Love
For AT LEAST the past two years I’ve been talking about Sheer Mag to anyone who would listen. Since 2014 they’ve released one EP per year, and those three EPs were released in January, remastered as the Compilation LP. As if that weren’t enough to finally get them on my list, they released Need To Feel Your Love in July, a bonafide debut LP with all new tracks. Each album is chock full 70s rock hooks, sweet licks, and catchy riffs. 70s riff-rock has kind of become a cheap commodity in modern music, but it’s undeniable Sheer Mag are genuine–they’re not trying to just cash in on a retro vibe, and that’s evident in their lyrics and punk brazenness.
Take “Expect the Bayonet“, one of my (many) favourites–it starts off sounding like it could be on a groovy Fleetwood Mac album, but before you know it Tina Halladay is howling verses like
From the sorrow we created
A fragile state of blood and whim
Made for rich men in their white skin . . .
So you better atone
Or you’ll surely regret
And if you don’t give us the ballot
Expect the bayonet
“Fan the Flames” could be a Thin Lizzy Saturday night jam…about slumlords, gentrification, and rent inequality. And don’t let the kick-ass guitar of “Suffer Me” distract you from the fact that it’s about the Stonewall Riots and LGBT struggles.
“Can’t Stop Fighting” references a Mexican city where woman are kidnapped and/or murdered with little to no justice. I could keep going, but this is some Minutemen-level shit right here, and I’m INTO IT. That’s not to say they can’t also jam out a solid love (lost) song, because they can. Sheer Mag have been one of my most favourite bands of the past few years, and the LPs they released in 2017 dominate the top of my list.
Hey thanks for reading! Here’s a video playlist with a lot more stuff from 2017 I enjoyed, and let’s hope 2018 is better (in general, the music is always good).