A perfect example is Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy; I loved this album as surprised as I was by it, yet it’s not on this list, why? Well, I don’t really know, I think when you really get down to it, my favorite version of Misty is Fear Fun and most of Honeybear, I thought his lyrics were pretty wicked and the production was spectacular as always but I couldn’t sing along to it like I could his other work. Some of the songs were too long for me, juxtaposed with long songs from producer Jonathan Wilson who fills those long songs with outstanding R&B guitar, Pure Comedy maybe had a little too much piano. Maybe this was just an excuse to talk a little about an album I didn’t review and that just barely missed making this list I don’t know.
2017 is also a year filled with the least local albums I’ve ever included, which I think is because the region is having a bit of an artistic crisis, where labels are folding and bands are moving away or putting their music to the background to focus on their day job. Personally I would say that the two hottest music scenes in the country are places that you’d totally expect to find great music, Nashville and Los Angeles. I think Seattle will get back there and soon, probably in 2018 but right now we’re rediscovering our identity. So for my 2017 list I would like to remind everyone that these are in no particular order… okay except for Peace and Information which is my favorite release of 2017, everything else is in no particular order
There was no album I listened to more than this one in 2017 and it very well might still be my most listened to album rolling over in 2018 who knows. Jenny took all the great work of her 2013 album Automechanic and built upon that with producer Jonathan Wilson and wrote an album that feels like another era but is definitely for today. There’s something to writing amazing upbeat and catchy protest songs, or fun heartbreak songs, or just the most spite filled and angry song you can imagine… Jenny’s vocals are soooo good and her writing is second to none. Peace and Information made shitty news always seem a little better.
The surfy, LA basement garage rock feel of this album was stellar. This album kinda came out of nowhere but was absolutely outstanding. It felt kinda dirty, kinda illicit the kinda album that wasn’t explicit but for some reason you hid from your parents because you don’t want them to know you have it. Some of the songs burn like an unattended cigarette while others are like car fire. Whoo it’s just flat out great!
Every list needs it’s dark horse right? Familiars is the first post Kithkin release for drummer Ian McCutcheon who hit on a very timely sound… is it timely if it sounds like it came straight out of 1983? I always thought that Ian’s voice felt out of place in Kithkin (though it worked) but his vocals are so spot on here. I’ve listened to this album a lot in 2017 and it’s barely been out… I also don’t think I would have known about it had Ian not sent me an email telling me about the release. Digest Self is a person discovery for Ian but also a really dark and beautiful album wrapped up in an 80’s synth slow-dance jam.
This album came out this year? Holy shit 2017 was a long year. I’ve had to remind myself that it was indeed this year that I drove down to Olympia to interview and film Eleanor Murray for her latest music project with GianLucca Bucci, Cavegreen. Vita Lucida takes the songs from from their EP add’s new ones and tweaks the old ones. The key difference between old Cavegreen and new Cavegreen is how much Eleanor’s performances helped shape the sound into something while still electronic and atmospheric but it now thuds with more base and has the total intention of being an dance album.
It’s rare that a band’s third album can get me so excited but I really felt like I finally understood Chastity Belt with I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone. For years I thought of them as a fun party band because… well Seattle Party. But they also played the part of a semi serious jokey band really well. Time to Go Home shifted my perception somewhat but it was really with this album that I saw a band that juxtaposed sincere heartfelt lyrics with a laidback facetious persona. The title track was one I heard the bad play over a year ago and it alone made the album one of my most anticipated of 2017. It delivered in every way.
Pickwick bet the farm and staked their reputation on LoveJoys which was a huge risk for the band. They turned to producer Erik Blood who was hesitant about producing the album at all, but pushed the band into some really exceptional and risky territory. If you were a huge fan of Can’t Talk Medicine there’s no guaranty you’ll love this but you cannot deny just how well made it is. It’s funky it’s soulful it’s not exactly what we’re used to from the band but then it’s not so different you won’t recognize them. I’m not the kind of fan who wants to sit back and hear my favorite bands crack out the same album after album simply because the formula works, I applaud Pickwick for doing what they did and while I’m not certain it has totally paid off there was no way I could have made this list without putting LoveJoys on it.
In 2017 Sisters graced us with not one but two outstanding albums. That’s totally unfair, how many bands struggle to ever put out one album like these and here they went ahead, they spit into the wind and came away with a totally dry shirt. How do I pick one? Well, I went with Drink Champagne for some really sappy reason. My mom liked it. Sorry. One part Merrill Garbus, one part Wye Oak, and maybe like three or four parts Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. I review a lot of albums that I am certain my mom has no interest in ever hearing so when one comes around that she actually likes it really gives me the warm fuzzies. Having said all that on the darkest, ugliest, most despicable day of 2017 you needed only to put on this album and you could walk away feeling that everything was going to be alright.
I feel like a hack for putting this album on the list. If I go into a coma on January 1st and wake up on December 29th 2018 I’d sit down at my computer and ask “Did LAKE put out an album this year?” If the answer is yes then I know I’ll be 1/10 of the way through my list. LAKE can do no wrong in my eyes, there’s so much thought and attention to their music that no matter what they do it feels like the music can transcend the “do I like it or not” question. But let’s not cheapen Forever or Never because more than ten years after they started writing music they still manage to keep the music fresh even with their reworking the very first song they ever wrote together (On The Swing). LAKE feels like that band that will go on forever because they never settle. See what I did there.
Introducing Karl Blau is a very special album, every aspect of that album just falls into place beautifully, it also put Karl on the map for a much wider audience who might never have heard the masterpiece that is Zebra. But all the while for me there was something bitter sweet about that album which consisted completely of Nashville cover songs, because Karl is a musical genius and I desperately wanted people to hear his original music. Out Her Space is the re-re introduction to Karl Blau. What a really exceptional album, it got me a little emotional, there’s such a personal poetic beauty to these songs both lyrically but also instrumentally. I want to live in a world where Slow Children becomes a radio hit.
The inclusion of this album was real last minute. I had about five albums floating in and out and just couldn’t quite decide, then I heard the Queen of San Antonio Angelica Rockne’s debut album and I instantly knew what album that wasn’t currently on the list that should be. My immediate impression was that Rockne sounds like Patti Smith if she performed California country with a little Nashville twang. This particular sound has been really intriguing to me the last couple of years and so when this came in I felt like I just found exactly what I was looking for. It should be noted that some of the other albums that I just nearly missed the list here were Bully’s Losing, Jessica Boudreaux’s No Fury, most importantly is Gold Star’s Big Blue which is actually a really lovely companion album to Queen of San Antonio possibly even Jenny O’s Peace and Information.