The year 2017 will go on record as the first year I bought more downloads of albums than CD’s. I guess I’ve finally succumbed to the idea that a digital download is just as good as the compact disc. All things being equal, I prefer a complimentary copy of the vinyl with my purchase of the download. So, without any further digressions, here are my top 40 albums of 2017 with streaming links if I could find one.
1. RVG – A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend)
This Australian band’s debut album grew slowly on me. It’s initial pressing sold out before anyone outside their circle even heard about them. Rooted in some of the best Australian bands like the Triffids and the Go-Betweens. Soaring guitars and lyrics filled with the bleakness of real life fueled songs that got better and better with each listen.
2. Fazerdaze – Morningside (Flying Nun)
I was surprised not to see this album on more year end lists. Blissed out bedroom pop that is in the same realm as the better-known Jay Som. For my money though, Fazerdaze has a better hit ratio.
3. Bedouine – S/T (Spacebomb)
This record came out of nowhere and sounded like nothing else this year. Part Carpenters, Jim Sullivan and Leonard Cohen. Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian who goes by Bedouine posses a smooth and soothing voice and made the comfort record of the year.
4. Cable Ties – S/T (Poison City)
The debut LP from this Australian trio was full of piss and vinegar. The songs were based on great grooves the reminded me of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the angst-ridden vocals of Jenny McKechnie flashed with hints of Sleater Kinney. A band to be reckoned with!
5. Malenas – S/T (El Nébula)
Melenas from Pamplona, Spain take their Flying Nun records and translate them into toe tapping Spanish jangle. Who new that Jangle pop was a lingua franca? If world peace ever happens, expect Melenas to be featured on the soundtrack.
6. Baxter Dury – Prince of Tears (Heavenly)
On his fourth album, Ian Dury’s kid delivers a brilliant set of songs. From the sleaze of the opener Miami to the filth laden vocals of guest Rose Elinor Dougall to the surprisingly clean cameo of Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson this record keeps you on your toes.
7. UV-TV – Glass (Deranged)
The debut record from this Florida trio had the sugar-coated blitzkrieg pop reminiscent of the Primitives combined with Spacemen 3 druggy drone. The louder you turned it up the better it gets on this brilliant record.
8. Girl Ray – Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)
This trio of teens from Wales deliver bouncy, breathless pop that sounds like part bucolic beauty and part wild overgrown garden. Elements of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Kevin Ayres lend excitement to Earl Grey and make them a band I’m excited to see what comes next for them.
9. Lars Finberg – Moonlight Over Bakersfield (In the Red)
Striking out on his own, or retreating back to his hometown of Bakersfield, California? A little bit of both as the Intelligence front man and founder teams up with Ty Segall to make a solo record that sounds like an Intelligence record. I love the circuitousness of it all and truth be told, Lars could make a record of him blowing into beer bottles and I’d probably love it.
10. Zebra Hunt – In Phrases (Tenorio Cotobade)
I chose not to make a separate list of Seattle albums this year due to the issue of the seemingly disappearing Seattle scene. Thankfully the city still has these fellows who make Feelies-Flying Nun styled jangly pop that is second to none. Album number two from Zebra Hunt sees the band maintaining the insanely high level of quality of their debut.
11. Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)
This seemed to be an odd team-up, but it worked. The two bands, one from the Sahara, the other from France met in the desert to meld their styles and come up with avant desert grooves that shake rattle and roll like rock and roll is supposed to do.
12. Feature – Banishing Ritual (Upset! the Rhythm
Make a record. Break up. Release the record. This trio of women seemed to have it somewhat backwards, but their Wire inspired pop that scratches, rubs and soothes sometimes all at once makes for a winning record.
13. Star Tropics – Lost World (Shelflife)
Chicago’s Star Tropics blend of indiepop jangle, Sarah records, For Against and New Order won’t win them any awards for originality, but the quality of their songs and the atmosphere they create is no rip-off either.
14. Kelly Lee Owens – S/T (Smalltown Supersound)
For fans of Kate Bush, Bjork and the Cocteau Twins Kelly Lee Owens is a godsend. You hear elements of all the aforementioned, but nothing obvious due to Owens skipping off down her own path of ethereal pop bliss.
15. Black Springs – When We Were Great (Oven Material)
Instead of calling this an album, Black Springs chose to call When We Were Great a compilation of songs from their past giving you the idea that the band are no longer together. Mystery aside, this record has elements of dreampop, shoegaze and jangle and a confidence that has me pulling for them to make another record.
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
I nearly wrote this Canadian band’s sophomore effort off, until Lollipop came up on shuffle one day. That song reminded me how effortlessly easy this band makes great pop songs. After Lollipop, Plimsoull Punks hit me, and after that Not My Baby and I was a believer again.
17. Destroyer – Ken (Merge)
With Ken, Dan Bejar has fully stepped into the Scottish rain soaked landscapes of the Blue Nile. The sound is majestic and the outlook is dreary and sad, but with Bejar you get laughs with your tears. It was unfortunate that he decided to forgo appearing on the latest New Pornographers LP this year, but that means this album is all top shelf stuff.
18. B Boys – Dada (Captured Tracks)
I loved how Dada seemed to be both punk and post-punk at once. Or maybe it was the goth sound made me think of Christian Death and the Chameleons. Who knows, but it was loud and fun. I also loved how there ain’t a clunker in the bunch.
19. Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies (Black Acre)
After teaming up with Paul Simon last year, Cristiano Crisci returns with album number two of dark world inspired rhythms. A Thousand Skies is cut from the same cloth of tribal rhythms and slithering melodies that veer towards drum and bass, but he adds some guest vocalists this time around.
20. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Sister Polygon)
Washington, DC’s Priests ably carry on the politically informed pop/punk that was championed by a litany of bands from the nation’s capital. Nothing Feels Natural Feels urgent and agitated and under attack. Priests kick back and write songs worth rallying around, which is much needed in this day and age of moral drift.
21. Flat Worms – S/T (Castle Face)
Flat Worms which features former members of Dream Boys, Sic Alps and Thee Oh Sees hit the ground running on this pummelingly great record. Lead off song Motorbike sets the scene of this menacing record. They’re sound like a biker gang that digs Suicide, but thinks synths are for poseurs. Big and bad!
22. Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star &
Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines(Sub Pop)
I guess the two Shabazz Palaces LP’s from this year are considered a rap album, but it’s so out there in terms of mainstream rap that I don’t consider it as such. This is sci-fi fantasy that transcends musical boundaries. You like the Peter Thomas Orchestra? How about Can? That Clap! Clap! record? And a thousand other things. You can probably come at these two records from a hundred different directions and still dig them both.
23. Mo Troper – Exposure & Response (Good Cheer)
Mo Troper’s second album may not change the world, but it’s pristine orchestral pop will restore your faith in it. This is wide-eyed, wide-screen beautiful stuff likely influenced by albums by Jellyfish, Jeremy Egnik and Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground.
24. Holiday Ghosts – S/T (PNKSLM)
Manchester’s Holiday Ghosts self-titled debut is a bouillabaisse of low-key, unpolished pop. The group have a lot in common with bands like the Pastels, Comet Gain and the Envelopes. The vocals are shared between band members giving the album the feel of a vaudeville variety, but they keep the plot tight and the songs sweet.
25. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas (Rough Trade)
You would think that after high rate of release this duo keeps up that they’d run out of ideas, but English Tapas sees no let up and in fact may their best one since Austerity Dogs. Mop Top even sees them introduce a melody and chorus, and gasp, no swearing. Are they aiming for the charts?
26. The World – First World Record (Upset! The Rhythm)
Take a tiny bit of Banarama, and add in some Specials and Selector and you get a sort of idea of what the Bay Area’s the World are going after. Steeped in 80’s punk and ska and sporting pop an astute pop sensibility First World Record is a sax laden tour de fun.
27. Novella – Change of State (Sinderlyn)
Change of State sees Novella continuing on the same trajectory of their debut from 2015. Motorik beats, icy, layered vocals and clean sounding guitar riffs. This batch of songs is stronger and they approach the same quality that Broadcast reached on Tender Buttons.
28. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (Domino)
Protomartyr’s fourth album is a towering achievement. It simultaneously comments on the sorry state of society, shares its rage and does so with songs that make you want to raise your fist and shout the chorus. Up the Tower, Don’t Go To Anacita and Male Plague are among the band’s best. My only complaint about this album is that the best stuff is hidden on side two, but that is minor.
29. Slowdive – S/T (Dead Oceans)
It’s weird to think that Slowdive were scoffed at by the British press during their first incarnation in the 1990’s. That press is long gone, out of business. Slowdive are still with us and making brilliant music. Their self-titled comeback is packed full of dreampop featuring both Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocals. Slowdive can still conjure it.
30. Business of Dreams – S/T (Kocliko Records)
Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts strikes out on his own into the world of 80’s inspired synth-pop. Inspired by the death of his father, Cunningham made a record that is personal in nature but its pop hooks combination of synthesizers and guitar riffs make it more than palatable to general populous.
31. Spinning Coin – Permo (Domino)
After a handful of singles, Glasgow’s Spinning Coin finally deliver the goods in their debut long player. As you might expect it’s a combination of ramshackle Pastels like pop and good natured Teenage Fanclub guitar pop.
32. Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs)
Juana Molina has been making records for a while now. Halo is her seventh album. Her formula hasn’t changed too much over the years, creating loops and building them up into a bricolage. In the past it could get busy, but Halo sees her cleaning things up a bit and delivering more straightforward earworms.
33. Oh Sees – Orc (Castle Face)
At this point, a jaded listener might think Oh Sees records are delivered off a conveyor belt, one that changes its name after each new model. Dropping the Thee, John Dwyer’s group sees no creative letdown despite fewer letters. In fact, Orc delivers classic sounding rippers interspersed with Eno style ambience.
34. The Stevens – Good (Chapter Music)
Album number two from the center of the Melbourne indie scene, didn’t seem to get the attention of their debut. Too bad, because this batch of songs is high quality. At 18 tracks, Good has that uncanny quality that Guided by Voices had in that run in the Bee Thousand to Under the Bushes era.
35. Last Leaves – Other Towns Than Ours (Lost & Lonesome/Matinee)
Marty Donald, who was the chief songwriter in the Lucksmiths took a long break after that band called it quits. It’s great to hear him again, this time doing the singing as well as playing guitar. He’s got most of his former band along with him as well. Last Leaves of course will remind you of the Lucksmiths, but this band is something different in that they look more to classic rock than indiepop or at least infuse their pop with some sharper edges and more serious topics. They call it older and wiser.
36. Faith Healer – Try ;-) (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert was a member of the Edmonton punks Tee-Tahs .That is in the past and this is her second album as Faith Healer. Try ;-) lives on the same planet of the Brewis brother’s Field Music. Combine Jallbert’s croon and her ability to write a good pop hook you have something special.
37. Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura (Castle Face)
Kelley Stoltz may have peaked commercially on his Sub Pop debut Below the Branches when his song Birdies Singing was being used in commercials. I haven’t heard him in any commercials since, but honestly the guy keeps releasing great albums. Solid through and through and Que Aura is no different from the previous four in that regard.
38. Corridor – Supermercado (Requiem Pour Un Twister)
Supermercado is Spanish for grocery store. Corridor is French for angular pop. Supermercado is the second album from Montreal’s Corridor and it is a brilliant melange of pop and sharp jabs and lots of hooks.
39. Rays – S/T (Trouble In Mind)
Rays do great Modern Lovers style rock. The songs feel like they could fall apart at any moment, but they end up making it through each one without the doors flying off the speeding dilapidated vehicle.
40. Trementina – 810 (Burger)
On their second album, Chile’s Trementina forego the obvious shoegaze effects and travel down a far more interesting path of warped dream pop that only the Swirlies have dared to go before.