Another year is winding down, which means that it is time for the ubiquitous best of year lists. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best albums of 2017.
The Heathens plugged in their guitars more so than previous albums without losing any of their Texas Americana allure. Even though songwriters Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist have distinct songwriting personalities, Duende still maintains a cohesive feel. It’s proof that 1 + 1 can equal 3 (or in this case a band of five).
Featured Twangville coverage of Band of Heathens: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Readers’ Pick: Duende by Band of Heathens, and Monday Morning Video (and Audio) – Willin’
The former Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s frontman channels his personal tribulations into an album of majestic pop splendor. He shifts effortlessly from the restrained folk of “Lil Dead Eye-d” to the melodic pop outburst of “Fool.”
Featured Twangville coverage of Richard Edwards: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 2 and Monday Morning Video: Richard Edwards
Ramirez broadens his sound on We’re Not Going Anywhere, strapping on an electric guitar and adding a variety of keyboards to the mix. It’s the intensity of his voice and writing, however, that remain the focal point. His songs are about emotion as he laments the state of society, both political (“Stone Age”) and personal (“People Call Who They Wanna Talk To”).
Featured Twangville coverage of David Ramirez: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2017, Part 2, Americana 2017: Mayer’s Picks (Part 2), David Ramirez – We’re Not Going Anywhere, and David Ramirez – A Lyric Explained
Moreland’s songs are vivid and raw, qualities that are amplified by the hardened ache in his voice. Yet he maintains a gentle dignity that makes his music tremendously compelling.
Featured Twangville coverage of John Moreland: John Moreland – Big Bad Luv, Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 4, and Readers’ Pick: Big Bad Luv by John Moreland
It’s becoming almost routine for Isbell to appear on top ten lists every time he releases an album. While 2015’s Something More Than Free was a generally muted affair, The Nashville Sound has a more diverse musical palette. From the jaw-dropping ballad “If We Were Vampires” to the stirring rock of “Hope the High Road”, the common thread is a top-notch dedication to the songwriting craft.
Featured Twangville coverage of Jason Isbell: Monday Morning Video – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit/Live from Columbia, SC, October 16, 2016
It’s been one heck of a long wait between albums for New York-based Mike Errico. Was it worth it? Absolutely. His lyrics, not to mention his sense of melody, are as sharp as ever. All the better that he plugged in the electric guitar and lets it shine.
Featured Twangville coverage of Mike Errico: Mike Errico’s Sinking Ship – A Twangville Premiere and Monday Morning Video: “You Shook Me All Night Long”
The power of Gold Rush stretches beyond the brawny guitar-driven rockers that fuel Hannah Aldridge’s sophomore full-length release. The Muscle Shoals-reared artist displays a commanding confidence in both her songwriting and performances.
Ryan lets you know where things stand right out of the gate. “Everything sucks, it’s as bad as it gets,” he sings on the opening “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator.” The ire, sometimes fused with resignation and sometimes with determination, give Hustle Up Starlings a burning intensity. Ryan’s passion – in both voice and song – transcends the sobriety to make the album oft uplifting.
Featured Twangville coverage of Matthew Ryan: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 3, Americana 2017: Mayer’s Picks (Part 2), and Monday Morning Video: Matthew Ryan “The World Is”
Hoge delivers one of his most satisfying albums in years, a strong statement given the consistency of his output. The strength of Anchors is Hoge’s dissection of relationships that are for the most part battered or broken but are set against some of the most engaging melodies you’ll hear this year.
Tommy Stinson perfectly combines harmonious pop with tumultuous rock. Throw in a no bullshit attitude and you’ve got one kick-ass record.
Featured Twangville coverage of Bash and Pop: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 2 and SXSW 2017 – The Sounds, Part 1
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.