Okay, we’re halfway through the year. And in the next half, the majors will likely be dropping their biggest albums, hoping to grab up all the Black Friday money. (As if anyone still buys music!) And that means its time to look at what’s hot so far in 2017.
Quick and dirty: My twenty favorite albums of the year so far, and, as always, I give indie albums a significant edge over the label releases. This blog is really about independent music, songs made without big budgets, but sometimes artists get through because their work is so DAMN good. (Foreshadowing.)
This is going to be a really tough year for lists, because there have been so many truly amazing records released so far…
20. Lucky Girl by Deb Talan. I’m giving the bottom slot, knocking out some tough contenders, to a little folk singer who won my heart with a sweet little tribute to U2 from a record that’s full of gems like this…
19. False Youth Etcetera Vol. 1 by Roadkill Ghost Choir (EP). I doubt you’ve heard many albums like this one before. And if you have, please share them with me. This is just the first half of their record, which they are prereleasing as two digital EPs.
18. Herstory by Young M.a. It may not be as polished as the other work on this list, but that’s part of what makes it great: A female rapper who says raw, and doesn’t resort to R&B hooks. And, an out lesbian to boot.
17. Pumarosa by The Witch. One of the most exciting debuts of 2017, and proof that there are still new places for rock and roll to go.
Hit next for more!
16. Diabolical Bastard Billionaire Genius by Isa Muhammad. Homeless-man-turned-rapper comes out with some tough, conscious jams. I’m hoping for much more from him.
15. What Our Enemies Know by Minor Moon (EP). It’s not fair to allow EPs to compete here, since they’re so much shorter, but the soaring, contemplative pop songs on this one are all so strong it gets a place. It proves pop music can have weight, and still be pop. Looking forward to a full release.
14. Guppy by Charly Bliss. Whatever this is, if you’re into the 1990s, you’ll fucking love it. Start to finish, but it denies easy classification.
13. Volume One by BNQT. And indie rock supergroup, with a bunch of radio-ready, soft rock tunes. Nothing wrong with mellow rock.
12. Painting Pictures by Kodak Black. Kodak seems incapable of doing anything wrong musically. Too bad he can’t stay out of jail.
11. Everybody by Logic. My son’s favorite rapper finally comes out with a proper album–not just a collection of singles. Very, very strong work by an artist who has been working on his craft for the better part of a decade, and is ready for the next level.
10. Prisoner by Ryan Adams. I love this album now, but when I first heard it, I didn’t. I thought it was good, and good for Ryan Adams is good enough, but then I saw him live and realized–wow. These songs smoke and burn.
9. Lost on You by LP. A great collection of songs by a singer/songwriter who, until now, was content to exist in the shadows, writing for others.
8. 4:44 by Jay-Z. I’ve only had a few days with this record. I’m sure I’ll like it even more as I listen more. This is some grownup stuff from the best rapper alive. It’s political, it’s smart, it pulls no punches, and Hova clearly gives no shits about airplay.
7. The Never Story by J.I.D. J Cole’s latest discovery is one of the hottest new voices in rap. He ain’t no “harmony thug,” it’s real rap–just a man and a mic, simple beats, and production that doesn’t distract from his wordplay.
6. My Moment by Tee Grizzlee. Fresh out of prison with hardass words to say. Bluster, violence, real gangsta shit.
You’ve probably guessed at least 2 of the top 5, but hit next to be sure you’re right!
5. City Music by Kevin Morby. Every track is beautiful. You can get lost in his voice, but don’t–his guitarwork is extraordinary.
4. Hot Thoughts by Spoon. My favorite working band puts out another album of fantastic material. Every time I hear a Spoon album I think it’s the best one they’ve ever done.
3. Dragonfly by Kasey Chambers. It was very hard for me not to have Spoon as my #1, or my #2…And Kasey takes #3 because, other than the Grateful Dead, she is the first artist I have ever seen twice in the same year. This album is tremendous–and not nearly enough people have heard it. And hearing her play “I Ain’t No Little Girl” live will make your head explode.
2. DAMN by Kendrick Lamar. This is topping everyones’ lists. And with good reason.
1. The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell. I don’t know Isbell’s latest record will be able to hold this position at the end of the year. My top five are basically a toss-up–I love them all. But “Hope the High Road Takes You Home” speaks to me in a way few songs can–and every time I hear it, it breaks me.