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Top 10 of 2017

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As promised, here’s the list of my favorite albums of 2017. If you’re here, you likely already know that I’m drawn particularly to Americana and other roots-y sounds. That’s definitely true this year, too. But I may surprise you once or twice.

10. Mario Batkovic, Mario Batkovic  Naturally enough(?), I begin with a solo accordion project. Batkovic’s tool is surely unfashionable. But little else I heard in 2017 seemed so, well, 21st-century. The opening track, “Quatere,” draws you in (wow, that’s an accordion?!) with its accessibility. The tracks that follow take you into more experimental terrain. You’ll want to go.

9. Típico, Miguel Zenón — The Puerto Rican saxophonist’s 10th album showcases his talented quartet, all of it. I struggle to find the right words to describe the music. Latin, sure. Modern, too. Mathematical? Sophisticated? Enjoyable.

8. The Mavericks’ Brand New Day  I’ve always been drawn to The Mavericks’ rootsy/jazzy/Tejano/country/retro-poppy vibe. But I fell for this album like no other Mavericks album before. Happily enough, Raúl Malo’s voice is as big as ever, and it pairs so well with a set of up-tempo, optimistic songs. Start with the title track.

7. Prisoner by Ryan Adams — This album is just so damn listen-able. Infectious, even. And I’m not just saying that because one of the tracks, “Doomsday,” was (ironically?) stuck in my head in February when I found myself on the way to the emergency room. (All’s well.) Honest, well-made rock. As always.

6. John Moreland’s Big Bad Luv  Moreland returns to my Top 10. This year, as the Oklahoma singer-songwriter’s new album dropped, I noticed that many of the reviews mentioned Bruce Springsteen. When you hear the songs, and Moreland’s delivery, you know why. I’m blown away by the whole album, but I’m particularly drawn to “Sallisaw Blue” (p.s. I grew up just down the road from Sallisaw), “Lies I Chose to Believe,” and “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before).”

5. Masseduction by St. Vincent — In 2017, I doubt you needed any reminder that life can be messy and chaotic. But you got a good one here. Relationships as plane crashes? Lost friends and lost homes? Pharma crisis? Über-superficiality? It’s all chronicled on Masseduction. And I couldn’t—didn’t even want to—look away. Picks: “Hang On,” “New York,” “Los Ageless.”

4. The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit  Isbell is a mainstay on my annual Top 10 lists. This year, he brings along his bandand smart, near-timeless songs about love, race, inner life, the rural economy, and so much more. Stunning work. My favorites: “When We Were Vampires,” “Anxiety,” “Cumberland Gap.”

3. ism by Steelism — ism combines some of my favorite things: twang, pedal steel, all-instrumental Americana. And the zany spaghetti Western and surf overtones don’t hurt, either. Swoon. Standout tracks: “Re-Member” and “Eno Nothing.”

2. Iron & Wine’s Beast Epic  I laughed for weeks about an AllMusic email that described Sam Beam’s latest as “reliably autumnal.” The hell? That was probably code for Beam’s return to a stripped-down sound. But the songs“About a Bruise” and “Thomas County Law” are faveswork in all seasons, I assure you.

1. Philip Glass: Piano Works by Vikingur Ólafsson — You might think that a collection of Glass’s piano etudes—composed as technical explorations more than anything else—might be a bit cold. But there’s nothing at all sterile about Ólafsson’s rendering of these compositional studies. Glass’s logic is there, to be sure, but so is the pianist’s delicate, almost tender, touch. Too, Ólafsson presents the etudes out of order, and the result is a collection that truly hangs together, with one piece seeming to destine the next. Highly, highly recommended!

Honorable Mentions: Life Will See You Now, Jens Lekman; JD McPherson’s Undivided Heart & Soul; Diet Cig’s Swear I’m Good at ThisThe Order of Time, Valerie June; Caroline Spence’s Spades and Roses; and Ladilikan by Trio Da Kali and the Kronos Quartet.

Written by Jimmy

December 31st, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Music

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