It’s that time of year where we once again get to sit back and create a year-end list which highlights our favourite albums of the year. Just as I’ve started this piece in the past, I would like to get the following out of the way…….This is not a best of list. By no means does this list represent the best albums of 2017. It is absolutely absurd for someone to do an actual best of list and think that it matters. Music is so subjective that is impossible to make a best of list. The albums that have come together to craft my list are simply the albums that I enjoyed more than any other this past year.
I would also like to point out that this year I digested much more local music than major label artists. It seemed like at every turn there was another killer album being dropped by someone located on the East Coast. Needless to say they all didn’t make the list and for that I apologize, however I will continue to spin the hell out of them on a regular basis.
Lastly, at the end of this piece I’ve put together a playlist of some of the music that I’ve spent the past year listening to.
Now that we have that handled, let’s move onto my favourite albums of 2017 (in no particular order)…
Mike Bochoff – Distractions
Right away we start with some controversy. Take a look on Spotify and it says the release was in 2016 but I have it on high authority (Mike himself) that the release for this six song EP was in 2017. This might be the shortest album on my list but front to back it’s as solid an album as any other. “Distractions” has Mike dipping his toes back into the folky, singer/songwriter waters that we have grown accustomed to, while exploring a more pop/rock-infused marriage. “Bad Company” and “Spirit of ’96” are songs you’ll have stuck in your head for days to come, but it’s “Sons of America” (a reinvention from 2009) that really pushes Mike and company into the upper echelon of songwriters.
Floodland – Static Walls
I realize that there is no order to this list and this is nothing against the other 8 incredible albums I’ve picked, but this is hands down my favourite album of the year. Slammed with killer melodies and hooks for days, Static Walls, is the guitar-driven indie/rock sound I’ve been looking for all year. Songs like “Coriolis”, “CDQ” and “Austringer” allow lead guitarist Luke Levy to sprinkle Edge-like tones throughout, while “All Out” and “Hurricane” bring a quiet tenderness to this jam packed LP.
Matt Mays – Once Upon A Hell Of A Time
Make no mistake, Once Upon A Hell of a Time is a true rock and roll album. Where artists have started to add more elements of rap, pop and new wave to their sound, Mays has very quietly stripped his sound back to help craft this long-awaited release. “Faint of Heart” is an instant classic that will find itself on the FM dial 20 years from now, while “Perfectly Wasted” and “Ola Volvo” are the songs you will continue to revisit time and time again. On one hand, it’s disappointing that we’ve had to wait five years for new material from Mays; however, if that’s what it takes to churn out an album as good as Once Upon A Hell Of A Time, then wait we will.
Waxahatchee – Out in The Storm
The first thing that jumps out with Out in The Storm, is that it has a beautiful elegance, surrounded by an almost gritty garage band feel. Filled with honesty and tragic heartache, Out in The Storm digs deep into the psyche of singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield as she navigates the turbulent waters that we call relationships. Dreamy at times, this is the type of album that is perfect as it is currently constructed, yet would sound just as good stripped down acoustically.
Mo Kenney – The Details
Mo Kenney has been a face in the music scene for the past five years, but for the first time it truly feels as if she has finally arrived. For as great as her prior two albums were, they always seemed to be a little too polished. Now, this is not a shot as both are very pleasing to the ear, but with The Details, Kenney dives deep into a world best described as a pop-induced darkness. Heavy topics such as depression and alcoholism are explored throughout the album, but at no point does it feel as if you are being weighed down. It also comes with what is arguably my favourite track of the year, “Unglued“.
Beck – Colors
Can you all remember back to 1994 when a scrawny California kid stepped up to the plate and created the anthem for a generation, with the hit “Loser”? How far we’ve come in 23 years. Over the course of that time, Beck has dipped his toes into all different sorts of waters. From grunge to country to rock, Beck has shown that he has the ability to dabble within the entire musical landscape, but at no point is he better than when he’s full-blown pop, and this album is his true calling to the pop world. This album is filled with songs that would easily find their way to any late-night dance club.
The Barrowdowns – Come What May Come
I’ve been trying to find the words to review this album all year and still to this day I find myself at a complete loss. Let’s just say that at no point this year did I fall in love with an album as much as I did this one. Each and every time it comes on, something new and interesting stands out. It could be the way one of the songs is arranged, or the way the vocals blend together. Again, it’s so tough to place my finger on it, and after playing this LP more than any other album this year I’m still tongue-tied. Let’s just say that it is simply beautiful.
Mister Heavenly – Boxing The Moonlight
It’s been a long time coming, but after a six-year hiatus, super group Mister Heavenly have finally returned with the incredibly catchy 11 song LP Boxing The Moonlight. Drawing heavily from their experiences of playing with their primary bands (Man Man, Islands, The Unicorns, Modest Mouse and The Shins), this trio has lightened the tone for a more clean and clear sound, the second time around.
Dance Movie – Pierce
Another album that has been almost five years in the making, Pierce is a full-on assault of heart-on-your-sleeve indie rock. Singer/songwriter Tara Thorne is no stranger to exploring her thoughts or emotions, and it is no more apparent than on this 11 song LP. Opening with “Nosebleed” and “Friday Night Mights”, the album sets the listener up on a journey of heartache and lost love, while taking beautiful pit stops along the way (see “North Star” and “Give Up The Grace”). But let’s be clear on one thing; Thorne is not the type of person you will find feeling sorry for herself. For as much as this album is about the love that could have been, it is also a big FU to those who are only here to get in her way.
Top picks on the album – “Nosebleed“, “Penny” and “Too Legit to Commit”