Opinion: The top 10 albums of 2017
What can a lowly record reviewer do when not looking for the cure to Peter Laughner’s acute pancreatitis? The answer is simple: make end-of-year lists.
Before we begin, I want to address something: Both Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator, as well as countless others, put out great albums this year.
My list is only ten and does not include every good album that was released this year.
1. “Pure Comedy” is the third album by J. Tillman under the name, Father John Misty. It consists of colorful, political and social ramblings exacerbated by LSD ruminations. It is an epic in scale that is painfully humorous at times.
2. “Capacity” by Big Thief: Compelling and personal music, far more complex than meets the eye. Everything about the project shines. The guitar playing is amazing and the voice is soulful beyond his years. It is unconventional music that might be the future of alternative music.
3. “Dedicated To Bobby Jameson” by Ariel Pink. A focused outing by one of the weirdest in modern music. More insular than his last effort. For fans of freak music, but mainly for people who haven’t listened to R. Stevie Moore and want to.
4. “The Nashville Sound” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Isbell is a songwriter that rivals the best, putting out some of his best songs with an amazing band. At times in vein of the avenues explored on the Drive-By Truckers’ last album; Isbell left that group in 2007.
5. “What In The Natural World” by Jake Xerxes Fussell. Bone chilling renditions of traditional folk music, as well as a Duke Ellington cover. Haunting, but with the afterglow of life.
6. “Joan Shelley” by Joan Shelley. A personal set of emotional tunes. Moving guitar work and a matured vocal keep the album fresh, but spare. Subtle touches, with some drums augmenting the mix, make for a listening experience unlike anything else in the folk world right now.
7. “This Old Dog” by Mac Demarco. Demarco continues to embrace his love of Steely Dan and their production. It is a record about growing old and loss, in a way that his other records failed at. Catchy with some odd grooves, but not the typical Demarco noodlings.
8. “From A Room Volumes 1 & 2” by Chris Stapleton. The double set of records serves as Stapleton’s follow up to his higher success, “Traveller,” from 2015. Two albums of the same caliber writing that made Stapleton famous in the first place. There is a reason he’s called the king of country music by some and it’s albums like these that cement that fact.
9. “City Music” by Kevin Morby. When I first heard that Vinyl Me Please was sending me the fourth solo album by Morby, I was bored. Nothing about the record stood out and I could not bring myself to listen to it.
At the Solid Sound Festival, I watched him play an intimate, somewhat unannounced set, and watched as a horde of people asked for his autograph as he stood only five feet from me.
It’s an interesting record that I don’t feel equipped to describe, but it’s a record I fell in love with when I finally played it. He’s not the next Dylan as some have declared for whatever reason, but he makes some great tunes.
10. “If All I Was Was Black” by Mavis Staples. Staples’ fourth collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, a political masterpiece that brings the soul and holds a groove. Mavis is great, Tweedy is great, and of course her band is excellent as ever on this short yet to-the-point collection of tunes.
“Soul of a Woman” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings;
“Let Us Be” by Gambles;
“The National by Sleep” Well Beast;
“Masseducation” by St. Vincent;
“A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs;
“Crack Up” by Fleet Foxes;
“Wintres Woma” by James Elkington;
“Across The Multiverse” by Dent May;
“Colter Wall” by Colter Wall; and
“Lotta Sea Lice” by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile.