10. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Front Porch Sessions
This is the album I can’t imagine anyone but me liking. If this album works for you, let me know, I would be curious to hear some of your other favorites. This is stripped down hillbilly washboard blues at its’ best. It takes a unique ear to love this one. Written as a tribute to sitting on the porch and jamming, this one is my private escape album of the year.
Here is their viral video from a few years ago to get a picture of their style.
9. Eddie Berman – Before the Bridge
This was one of those albums that every time a track came up while on shuffle in the 2017 playlist I would always check and see who it was. It was always this twangy guy. Maybe the most soothing guitar album of the year.
8. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
This scored so high because I felt it hit all the marks of a great pop/rock record of yesteryear. It had the elements of having five or six hits. Not sure why it didn’t. It had smart songwriting and elements of every genre. The yesteryear it conveys includes CSN, Bowie, Stones, Fogelberg. It is loaded with smart and addictive songwriting. The sky is the limit for this guy.
7. Mondo Cozmo – Plastic Soul
A recommendation from a friend and what we have here is a non stop upbeat record of inspiration. Reminds me of a band from the 90’s named Spiritualized. It is catchy throughout. When I say catchy think “Natural Blues by Moby, Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or “Bitter Sweet Symphony” from The Verve. This will probably get played quite a bit at the shop.
Beautiful video of “Hold On To Me”
6. John Mellencamp – Sad Clowns and Hillbillies
This Mellencamp record is a subtle gem. This album went unnoticed like the few before it. But, the subtlety is in the depth of the unassuming songs. Tackling age, politics, religion, racism from a place in life that is reflective and wise rather then the old pissed off Mellencamp.
I purposely didn’t put any videos in for the top five. There should be no distractions when listening to these classic records.
5. Kendrick Lamar – Damn
I was honestly unattached to the Kendrick experience before this album. After seeing the “Humble” video I was immediately attached. A trip back to the last couple of albums reinforced the power of storytelling that continues on this release. Lamar’s less than optimistic storytelling on Damn is as good as anything you will hear this year. This seems to be the album on the most top ten lists. I’m all in with Kendrick from here on out.
4. U2 – Songs of Experience
The fan boy wants me to put this higher. Instead I will just be wordier in my review. To totally get the U2 experience, make a cup of coffee and read this tremendous Rolling Stone interview.
U2 is that band you probably love or hate. People call them pretentious, I call them hopeful. People call them overly optimistic and I say give me overly optimistic all day long. They bring unified to the table which makes for their consistency. None of are worried about solo projects. They come back to the table with all their creative ideas for one purpose; to create the next epic U2 album. I love the fact that they’re only 14 studio album in a span of a 40 year career. To me, that is commitment to the craft of a great album each and every time. It’s funny when you look at the Songs of Innocence and all of those people being upset that the record was on their iPhone without permission. That album was unbelievable. If people would’ve got over their own personal pretentiousness and feeling invaded upon they would’ve realize U2 might’ve released their best album since Joshua Tree. Really. Go back and listen to it. It is tremendous. And that brings us to this album Songs of Experience.
The record begins with the acoustic ballad, “Love Is All We Have Left”, that reckons back to the “MLK” ballad that ends Unforgettable Fire. Love is the tone here. U2 is convinced love will conquer the ills of the world. I tend to agree. The album is quirkily arranged though. The middle covers some pretty heavy material, “Summer of Love”, “Red Flag Day”, “The Showman” with some music arrangements that seem much lighter than the material being handled there. That throws the album a bit off for me and I would still say I think the Innocence record is better than this one. But, if you take the time to read the Bono interview linked above I think you will find some answers to the approach of this album and the power of love that lies within.
3. The National – Sleep Well Beast
Of all the bands I love and needed to come through this one met all expectations. Not since The Boxer have I been so satisfied with a National record. They even added a guitar solo or two. Say what? This along with my top two pics are the most satisfying listens from the drop of the needle until the silence at the end. And just like #1 and #2 the songwriting is so solid, so polished, so profound, so honest, that it is going to hold up over time.
2. Run The Jewels – 3
Released digitally on Christmas Day 2016, this record came out too late to make on on last year’s list. When it came to this record I needed the bass. I needed the beats. I needed the anger. I needed the feistiness. I needed the words. I needed it not to be shallow. I needed it to have substance if we were going to get feisty. RTJ brought the whole game. The fact this holds up to take #2 having been released so early in this year’s campaign is a testament to its’ brilliance.
1. Gang of Youths – Go Farther in Lightness
This Australian band took third best in the Australian Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums list, behind Kendrick and Lorde. It was a band I would never have discovered without my friend, Tyler Scott. This was the record I wanted to find that would encapsulate 2017. Angry. Emotional. Hopeful. Honest. Transparent. Every musical element. Deep throated vocals, driving emotional guitars, string interludes, aggressive piano ballads, and lyrics wordier than a Run the Jewels track. This record owned me from day one and reigns at the top of this 2017 list.