Putting my two cents into the annual listings – a totally and entirely personal POV of awesome musical goodness produced this year.
2017 was an excellent year for music and to pick a filtered list of the best stuff is a tough choice with the amount of good new releases produced over the last twelve months. So here’s the ones that I kept spinning on the record player:
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Kicking off the list, which is in no particular order because all these records are spectacular in their own right, is ridiculously talented songwriter Ryan Adams and his sixteenth studio album Prisoner. Released in February via Blue Note Records, Prisoner is a hauntingly beautiful album that presents a cathartic heartbreak album that picks apart Adams’ marriage to Mandy Moore. It takes influences from ’80s rock ballads, especially Haunted House reminds of Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love record. Overall, this masterpiece is the perfect partner in crime for when you’re in need to feel all the feels – out loud. Earlier this year, Ryan Adams played his new record in full at East London’s Rough Trade East as part of a small in store gig.
Dave Hause – Bury Me In Philly
Philly-born rocker Dave Hause released his third studio album Bury Me In Philly in February via Rise Records. And it’s been a busy year for Dave ever since – he’s toured the UK with his own headline show, including a night at London’s Garage, this was followed by festival slots and various supports in the US. In the fall, Hause hit the road with Frank Iero & The Patience in the UK, playing an incredible set at Tufnell Park Dome. And in 2018, he’ll be back supporting Brian Fallon on his UK headline tour. Bury Me In Philly documents Dave’s move across the country, his new love, and the connection he’ll always have with Philadelphia. And let’s not forget the total banger that is Dirty Fucker – Dave’s (not-so) slight dig at Donald Trump.
All Time Low – Last Young Renegade
Baltimore pop-punkers All Time Low’s Last Young Renegade is the follow up to their 2015 record Future Hearts. With seven albums under their belt and their debut So Wrong, It’s Right turning ten years old All Time Low have explored some new sounds with LYR. A more poppy feel and additional synths have sure given the band a new set of fans while making sure they didn’t wonder too far from their signature guitar-fueled pop-punk their dedicated long-term fans know and love. Last Young Renegade is one of those albums that just keeps growing on you and you’ll get to a point where you won’t be able to stop listening to it. To celebrate the release via Fueled By Ramen Records earlier this year, the four boys will be coming to the UK, supporting themselves with a SWIR set.
Charlie Worsham – The Beginning Of Things
Time to bring you some country music goodness on this list. And who better to represent than one of the UK country scene’s favorite singer-songwriter Charlie Worsham. His sophomore record The Beginning of Things was released in April this year via Warner Bros. Records Nashville. Born in Mississippi, Charlie has been calling Nashville his home for a few years now, it’s also where he recorded both his debut record Rubberband and The Beginning Of Things. “Few people in country understand the genre’s diverse roots like Charlie Worsham, and how it can be both a place for silliness and sarcasm as well as loss and longing.” Rolling Stone notes about The Beginning Of Things and hits the nail on the head. Latest single Cut Your Groove is more on the learning-life-lessons side of things and balances well with fun tracks like Take Me Drunk. Ahead of his set at London’s Islington Assembly Hall supporting Lucie Silvas, Charlie talked writing his new album and touring the UK.
Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights (reworked)
All These Countless Nights was originally released by Norfolk alt-rockers Deaf Havana in January this year. In October the band then shared a reworked version of the album which featured songs off the original release reimagined. Overall, both records, aka both versions, are spectacular. The tracks tell of struggle with addiction, relationships and identifying with your roots. In November, Deaf Havana played a run of small shows across the UK in support of their new record, including a goosebump-inducing show at Cambridge’s Junction. The band’s fourth studio album should definitely be on your must-listen list for 2017.
The Menzingers – After The Party
Also released in February this year via Epitaph Records was The Menzingers’ new effort After The Party. It’s the quartet’s first release since 2014’s Rented World. The LP kicks off with the line “Where are we gonna go now that our 20’s are over” and the record continues with coming-of-age stories from there. Singles like Lookers deliver the catchy tunes we know and love. It’s 20’s nostalgia at its finest while never leaving sight of casting a critical and sometimes sarcastic eye on the past. In April, the band headed to the UK in support of the new release including a headline show at London’s KOKO. Next spring they’ll be back with support from PUP and Cayetana.
Knuckle Puck – Shapeshifter
Okay, at this stage we may have established that my list is filled with pop-punk. But the amount of great pop-punk records released this year was heartwarming to say the least. On that list of fabulous releases is also Chicago five-piece Knuckle Puck with their sophomore album Shapeshifter, released via Rise Records in October. Potentially one of the best pop-punk records of the year. Shapeshifters is packed with brilliant melodies and expansive guitars, that will have you hitting repeat again and again. Their latest single Want Me Around impressed with crunchy chords and muscular choruses. “I hope the album instills a little bit of hope in people,” guitarists Nick Casasanto says. “You look at politics and how fast the world is now, everything the internet is bringing to the world. It’s difficult to form an identity when there’s so much in your face. I hope people realize they should consume the things that really speak to them. Through that, I feel like it’s the most satisfying way to be who you want to be.” And although the band had to cancel their UK tour in 2017 for personal reasons, they’ll be back next May Bank Holiday when Knuckle Puck will be part of the huge Slam Dunk Festival line up.
Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Vol 1 + 2
One of the best country records this year comes from Chris Stapleton and his two studio albums From A Room Volume 1 and 2. Both released this year via Mercury Nashville Records and was recorded at Nashville’s vintage RCA Studio A with producer Dave Cobb. The records are full of country, blues, folk, soul and Southern rock, with Vol 2 sounding more stripped back and featuring harmonizing vocals from Stapleton’e wife Morgane. And while he might be new to some country fans, Chris has been playing and writing songs since early 2000, having written a little over 1,000 songs so far.
Dropkick Murphys – 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory
Boston Celtic punks Dropkick Murphys released their ninth studio album via their own record label Born & Bred Records in January this year. The band’s live shows are nothing short of epic and audience participation is mandatory. With this new record, the six-piece take on drug issues in their hometown, a punked-up cover of You Never Walk Alone and even a tribute to their hometown of Boston with heartbreaking track 4-15-13, the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing. The album delivers the iconic Dropkick Murphys sound and lives up to its title with anthems of struggle and the good times that need to be had. Especially prevalent is the band’s dealing with the drug problem in Boston, because they have lived through it and are still seeing it all happening around them. Not only have they created the Claddagh Fund charity to help recovering addicts in their local communities, but vocalist Al Barr had to deal with his own heartbreak when his brother-in-law died of an overdose. So on 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory Dropkick Murphys do what they do best: write kick-ass anthemic songs about the pain and the glory. When they played London’s O2 Academy Brixton in February, the capital was once again reminded why the Boston punks are one of the most underrated live bands.
ROAM – Great Heights and Nosedives
Rising British pop-punks ROAM just recently released the follow-up to their 2016 debut record Backbone. Great Heights and Nosedives, released via Hopeless Records on 13 October, oozes confidence and shows the band in their best light. Tracks like Playing Fiction and Life For Dead showcase ROAM’s refined craft in writing pop-punk bangers. Ballad-esque Curtain Call will have you feeling all the feels with Alex Costello’s vocals and acoustic guitar sound. Just last month they played a pop-punk extravanganza at Tufnell Park Dome with support from Stand Atlantic and WSTR.
Dolly Parton – I Believe In You
Everyone’s favorite fairy godmother has released her first children’s album full of amazing tracks for your kids on 13 October via Dolly Records. Most of the tracks were produced by Tom McBryde, Tom Rutledge, Paul T. Couch and Richard Dennison. All proceeds will go to Imagination Library. A charity launched in 1995, Dolly Parton to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. “My first album was released 50 years ago and it’s been an amazing 50 years since then. I am very excited that now I’m coming out with my first children’s album in all of those 50 years. I’m proudest of all that all of the proceeds from this CD will go to the Imagination Library,” Dolly said. “It’s been 20 years since the Imagination Library was launched. We’ve seen 100 million books get into the hands of children and hopefully there will be many more.”
Rise Against – Wolves
Released on 9 June via Virgin Records, Rise Against’s Wolves can’t be missed off this list. acked with political criticsim and a sound that takes us back to their roots, the record calls on their fanbase to rise up. Frontman Tim Ilrath said about the album: “Wolves isn’t about creating a safe space, it’s about creating a space that’s dangerous for injustice.” Just two days after the release, the band recently played a small show at London’s The Garage and last month Rise Against returned for a huge UK tour including a politically charged gig at O2 Academy Brixton.
Margo Price – All American Made
Time to talk about some more great country music released this year – including Margo Price’s second studio album All American Made. The Nashville native digs deep for her picture of America today and delivers one of the most political country music albums in a long time. Themes of poverty and sexism are not usually found in popular country music, so Margo is taking a gamble, but it’s one that paid off. Her talented story-telling and songwriting capture the listener from start to finish and engross them in a world where “cowboys are city-dwelling music industry vampires; whose farms are bankrupt and acquired by corporate overlords; whose citizens are treated like dirt because of their gender” (PItchfork).
The Used – The Canyon
American rock quartet The Used’s The Canyon is heart-wrenching and filled with an overwhelming amount of sadness, all wrapped into McCracken’s raw voice and punching melodies as the band poured their heart and soul into this album. A lingering feeling of grief lies over the record as while writing The Canyon, one of Bert McCracken’s closest friends committed suicide in the pair’s hometown. But the band take this sadness and grief and turn it into one of their best records to date which we’ll get to hear live in the UK next February!
Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child
You can’t have country music legend and overall life-goals role model, Willie Nelson, release a record and not add it to your list of favorite things that year. The 84-year-old country veteran is far from calling it quits and even pokes fun at the fact that he’s still alive on his new record with Still Not Dead and the hilarious video to go with it. The album was written partially via text messages with co-producer Buddy Cannon and offers a perspective on a live lived and growing old, all with a heavy dash of irony. Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson, is set to play the UK’s biggest country music festival C2C next March.
Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters released his first album in almost 25 years on 2 June via Columbia records, titled Is This The Life We Really Want?. Produced and mixed by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Paul McCartney), the record includes 12 new tracks that contain “unflinching commentary on the modern world and uncertain times” and follows on from Waters’ 1992 album Amused To Death. Roger Waters will be taking his pioneering Us + Them tour to the UK next summer playing Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham with his critically-acclaimed show as well as a date at British Summer Time in Hyde Park.
As It Is – Okay
Brighton pop-punk outfit As It Is shared their sophomore album Okay via Fearless Records this January. The record is full of the band’s signature poppy guitar riffs, happy melodies and relatable lyrics to add to the mix. The five-piece sprinkle a little power rock in between the pop-punk goodness making this record one of the best of 2017. Rocksound have perfectly described the album with “On okay. they inhabit a place where everyone hangs out in diners, white picket fences line the streets and people still use the word ‘swell’. It sounds idyllic, but everything is most certainly not rosy.” With poetic songwriting skills, As It Is take on topics like growing up, divorce, suicide and more creating relatable escapes in the shape of pop-punk tunes.
What were your favorites of 2017? Did I miss any gems on this list? Let me know over on Twitter!