The Free Weekly’s Favorite Albums of 2017 … so far

The Free Weekly’s Favorite Albums of 2017 … so far

It’s an easy observation to make it’s been a hectic start to 2017 thus far. Thankfully, there have been some pretty sweet tunes coming out that we’ll be listening to throughout the next seven months and will likely stick around for our end of the year best of lists.

They say art reflects the times, and the best music has been as varied as the events of the day. Some are sardonic and surreal, others bombastic and sentimental.

We already know we’re “dead wrong” and “tasteless buffoons” on all of these picks, but these are our favorites so far in 2017:

Nick’s Picks:

Valley Queen

Destroyer – EP — Valley Queen

This Los Angeles-by-way-of-Little Rock songstress rocks in the way Neil Young does — excellent songwriting and righteous guitar playing. Valley Queen is Laurel Canyon meets My Morning Jacket, and I’m way too giddy about it; Destroyer is easily my favorite release of the year. Natalie Carol’s voice flutters and croons in an astral Americana way not unlike Florence Welch, and each and every song showcases the band’s talent in dynamic — often climatic — ways.

Favorite Song: Pulled by the Weather

Sheer Mag

Compilation (I, II, & III) — Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag are a modern day guitar riff anthology. Based in Philadelphia, this female-led proto-punk/70s bell-bottom rock n’ roll group bustles with stellar, kick-ass energy. The album is a remastered compilation of the group’s first three EPs and while the recordings sound like they’re from a dingy garage, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Don’t let the Def Leppard-looking logo deter you, just one taste of Tina Halladay’s furious howl and lead guitarist Kyle Seely’s phenomenal guitar hooks is all it takes. Keep an eye out for their upcoming debut LP Need to Feel Your Love, these guys are on the up and up.

Favorite Song: What You Want

Freedom Is Free

Freedom Is Free — Chicano Batman

A hodgepodge of tropical soul, psychedelic rock and funk music from the world over, the latest release from Los Angeles Latino group Chicano Batman is a soundtrack to a sun shining day. African and Latin soul influences are abound, and some of the smoothest tracks I’ve heard in 2017 are here. The band recorded at Daptone studios (Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones), and whatever they touch becomes gold. Once you accept Bardo Martinez’s distinct singing style, it’s a world of funky organs, silky bass grooves, buzzy guitars and seriously crispy drumming. Put this record on your summer playlist and keep it there.

Favorite Song: Passed You By

The French Press

The French Press — Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

With a jangly sound reminiscent of 80s college indie rock, Melbourne-based Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are making a strong case for Australia becoming the next great music scene. Their lyrics offer up vignettes with multiple vocalists taking on characters in an almost play-like format. In “French Press”, two brothers try to keep in touch over long distances as their relationship complicates and “moves out of range” before surging into a wild instrumental outro.

Favorite Song: French Press


& I’m Fine Today — SUSTO

Another up-and-coming group, rooted in the cosmic-Americana vein, SUSTO blends the visceral storytelling of country music with the bombast and excitement of rock and psychedelia. Comparisons to Sturgil Simpson are warranted. The moods of the album ebb and flow throughout the album, traversing topics from homosexuality in the South to drugs and reconciling with the religion singer-songwriter Justin Osborne left behind. I have it on good authority that these guys are a total blast live, too.

Favorite Song: Wasted Mind

David’s Picks:


Northern PassagesThe Sadies

The Toronto outfit perhaps best known for its collaborations with Neko Case, Gord Downie, and John Doe returns with its tenth studio album that features a vocal cameo by one of my favorite songwriters, Philly slack-rocker Kurt Vile. True to form, the Sadies seamlessly shift from sizzling bar rock, to tumbleweed country & western, to breezy, heartland Harvest rock that sounds like the Northern Lights pictured on the album’s cover.

Favorite Song: “It’s Easy (Like Walking)” (feat. Kurt Vile)

Pure Comedy Father John Misty

Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

The sultan of studied snark returns with his most piercing (and painfully empathetic) critique of the human condition yet. A friend calls FJM the postmodern reinvention of the singer/songwriter ideal, and I agree. Pure Comedy poignantly slams our “total entertainment forever” culture to the symphonic sounds of strings, horns, and lots of piano (an intentional choice due to the instrument’s timelessness). Much like The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak, Father John Misty “isn’t wrong; he’s just an asshole.” You Gen Xers might empathize with our album review published earlier this month.

Favorite Song: “Total Entertainment Forever”

New Pronographers

Whiteout Conditions – The New Pornographers

Dan Bejar’s strange sounds are noticeably absent from Whiteout Conditions, the Canadian supergroup’s best LP since 2005’s critically-acclaimed Twin Cinema. There’s not a weak track on this album, which should be pictured next to the Webster’s entry for “pop rock” (what it should be, anyway). A.C. Newman is a peerless pop song penner, and Neko Case’s vocals always inspire awe.

Favorite Song: “This Is the World of the Theater”

SINGLE POCKET JACKET -most common format

Notes of Blue – Son Volt (whatever that is) godfather Jay Farrar’s eighth studio album with Son Volt finds solace in the tunings, techniques, and tenor of the Mississippi Delta. I gushed about this album back in March, and I remain smitten.

Favorite Song: “Back Against the Wall”


Volume 1 BNQT

Is this the year of the supergroup? Between the New Pornos, Broken Social Scene’s forthcoming Hug of Thunder (their first since 2010), and BNQT (pronounced “Banquet”)—which features members of Grandaddy, Band of Horses, Travis, Franz Ferdinand, and the criminally-underrated Midlake—2017 is shaping up to be just that. As with most collaborations, Volume 1 is all over the place—from the Abbey Road-esque “Real Love” to the ridiculously playful prog-rocker “Hey Banana.” Pay no attention to Pitchfork’s predictable dismissal, which is exhibit Z of their reviewers’ well-documented tendency to take themselves too seriously. This record just sounds like a group of talented musicians having a ball.

Favorite Song: “Hey Banana”

Best Album of 2017 (so far)

Damn Kendrick Lamar

DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar

K.Dot’s latest is clearly a cut above the rest in 2017. Lamar is fiercely talented, and his performances on “DNA.” and “HUMBLE.” — each song on the album acts as meditations on the topics — are off the hook. If there could be an audio definition for the word “lit”, it would be this record.

 Most Anticipated Album in 2017

Nick: Witness — Benjamin Booker

I saw Benjamin Booker at SXSW this year, and he and his band killed it. I’m excited to see how his electrifying set translates into the new album. Early reviews promise it to be a raucous mix of rock, gospel and soul hooks with punk ethos — just my speed.

David: Sleep Well Beast — The National

Little Rockers Adam Faucett & the Tall Grass have occupied this spot for months, but word on the street is their forthcoming LP might not drop ‘till ‘18, so today I’ll go with Sleep Well Beast by The National whose first single, “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness,” recently hit airwaves.

The Local NWA Scene

2017 has already seen excellent releases by The Too’s (whose performance at Block St. Block Party ‘17 was perhaps the best performance by a local band we’ve ever seen) and White Mansion, and rumor has it that The Good Fear and Sad Palomino have been in the studio. We can’t wait.

Categories: Cover Story