Because my list of albums to listen to still contains a lot from 2015 and 2016, my listening of 2017 albums wasn’t quite what I would have liked it to be. This will continue to be a problem in 2018 unless I fix it. Anyway, while you should probably just go ahead and listen to Simon’s list, here are my top albums of 2017. Forgive the shorter than normal writeup. I have some serious deadlines in the next week, which is also why I haven’t been around here as much as usual.
1) Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
I was shocked to see this album not appear in many lists. It was highly acclaimed upon its release, but doesn’t seem to be making that sort of impact. That’s too bad, as Katie Crutchfield’s breakup album is one of the finest of the genre, comparing favorably to Blood on the Tracks, Shoot Out the Lights, Sea Change, etc. This hyper-literate and razor sharp songwriter also has expanded her musical horizons, moving from a soft indie-folk of her early work toward pop songs here. This is a simply fantastic album that I love very much.
2) Run the Jewels, RTJ3
Technically, RTJ dropped this just after Christmas last year, but it’s officially a 2017 release and it’s such a great album of much needed anger toward an unjust and horrifying political system.
3) Juana Molina, Halo
Masterful sounds from the veteran Argentine artist in what is probably her best album yet.
4) Margo Price, All American Made
An excellent follow-up to her debut that made her famous, songs such as “Pay Gap” and “All American Made” show that country music doesn’t have to have retrograde politics, while sounds such as “Cocaine Cowboys” show that she can have fun with lyrics too.
5) John Moreland, Big Bad Luv
Another excellent album by this modern master of songwriter. Like Simon, I might agree that this is a tick below his jaw-dropping previous two albums, but it’s still really really good.
6) Jason Isbell, The Nashville Sound
I thought this was a solid improvement on Something More than Free, which has never been a favorite of mine. I still think this album struggles with his usual filler material on the backend, but songs such as “Cumberland Gap,” “White Man’s World” and “Anxiety” really demonstrate his amazing talent.
7) Bomba Esteréo, Ayo
Perhaps not quite as great as their last album, but this Colombian band is so winning and wonderful.
8) Toxic: Mat Walerian, William Parker, Matthew Shipp; This is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
Anytime Parker and Shipp record together, you know you are in for a treat. Walerian’s flutes and horns add great deal to the mix and he’s a fine younger talent of his own.
9 Algiers, The Underside of Power
Angry, political, and anthemic is what we needed in 2017. Algiers brought it big time.
10) Chris Stapleton, From a Room, Volume 1
A worthy followup for Stapleton, what a great singer and talent.
10 additional albums I thought were very good, in more or less order:
11) Rhiannon Giddens, Freedom Highway
12) Matt North, Above Ground Fools
13) Wadada Leo Smith, Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk
14) Torres, Three Futures
15) Ibeyi, Ash
16) St. Vincent, Masseduction
17) Amadou & Miriam, La Confusion
18) Bonnie Prince Billy, Best Troubador
19) Jade Jackson, Gilded
20) Steve Earle, So You Wanna Be an Outlaw
And the one album everyone loved that I just didn’t get, and there’s always at least one of those, was Valerie June’s The Order of Time. I just don’t like her voice. At all.
If I did this list 6 months from now, it would probably look quite different. But this is where it stands today.