2017 was a solid musical year. There were new albums from mega-stars Lorde, Jay-Z and Chris Stapleton. Everyone will debate which albums were best, but it all comes down to personal preference. With that in mind, here are some favorites, broken down by category.
Best new artist: Charly Bliss
Lead singer Eva Hendricks has a distinctive voice that its easy to either love or hate. Their 2017 release Guppy is a very young album in multiple ways, but it captivates, luring the listener back for more.
Runner up: Trapo
Best concert: Father John Misty
Did Father John own the stage at Red Rocks in Denver on August 25, or did own him? Judging by the rips in his attire by the end of the show, a case could be made either way. Lead singer Josh Tilman’s alter-ego bounced and slid across the stage throughout, performing with unmatched passion.
Best “Local” artist you might not have heard of: Cristina Vane
Residing in Venice Beach, Cristina Vane’s music hasn’t made it to the Midwest or East Coast yet. But with prominent shows in Los Angeles and the West Coast, that could change soon. With her steel guitar, Vane is a perfect mix of country and blues.
Runner up: GGOOLLDD (Milwaukee)
Sad to see you go: (TIE) Don Williams & Tom Petty
It’s tough to see one of your favorite (remaining) country and rock artists pass in the same year. But life continues on, and we’ll always have their music as a remembrance.
Also missing: Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens)
Best rap album: Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
2017 was an incredible year for rap. Drake, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar all dropped fantastic albums. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and nothing compared to Big Fish Theory. Combining a 90’s dance beat with rap and powerful lyrics, the album caught my attention a week before Jay-Z’s 4:44 dropped.
Runner up: Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
Best country album: Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Volume 1
Stapleton’s vocal range and song writing make him one of the best country acts of the last decade. From a Room: Volume 1 is contradictory to most of the genera, pulling country away from the pop influence that dominated the last decade and back towards its roots. Stapleton as some fun in his music as well, evident by songs like The Stems.
Runner up: Margo Price, All American Made
Best Rock Album: Beck, Colors
Beck’s follow-up to the Grammy-winning Morning Phase did not disappoint. Beck promised a happier and more fun album this time around, and Colors lives up to the description.
Runner up: The Shins, Heartworms
I’ve never been a huge Jason Isbell fan, but when The Nashville Sound dropped early this year, I decided to give it a try. Isbell masterfully weaves deep and meaningful lyrics into a country sound, producing one of the best written albums in a while. Some of the best versus from this album:
“Lovers leave, chaos and cloths
in quiet corners where you rarely ever go” – Chaos and Cloths
“The Family farm’s a parking lot
for Walton’s five and dime” – Last of My Kind
“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get 40 years together, but one day I’ll be gone
or one day you’ll be gone” – If we Were Vampires
The album is in constant rotation on my iPhone, receiving multiple plays per week. It is a record that others will be compared to for the next few years.
Runner up: Beck, Colors