Best of 2017: 10-1

-10: Wooden Wand - Clipper Ship

James Toth returns with another heady psychedelic folk masterpiece. Lyrically off-kilter and sonically on-point, this is music that isn't afraid to take risks but manages not to lose the listener on the voyage. One Can Only Love = contender for most listened song of the year.

-9: Rostam - Half Light

Hearing the life that he brings to this album makes me concerned for future Vampire Weekend releases without him. This is a bubbly, daring summer fling that’s a little rough around the edges but ultimately endearing.

-8: Fleet Foxes - Crack Up

This is the album that finally got me into these guys. Pastoral folk with an arty bent, and harmonies for days. The songs meander, but hooks and melodies pop out of nowhere and keep you on your toes.

-7: Barr Brothers - Queens of the Breakers

On their third album, the Montreal folk outfit strike a more even keel. The blistering blues and sleepy harp have met in the middle to create the best distillation of their sound to date.

-6: Bonnie Prince Billy - Best Troubador

Oldham does Haggard and does it justice without just replicating. Less honky tonk and more soulful, this is a record for everyone, fans of both and neither alike.

-5: Hiss Golden Messenger - Hallelujah Anyhow

MC Taylor makes soulful, meaningful, personal albums, and this one is no exception but is unique in its sense of urgency and necessity. Rather than being the product of years of writing and recording, this album willed itself into existence over a few days, less than a year after 2016’s Heart Like A Levee. It is an urgent call to arms to those who are trying to stay positive in today’s political climate.

-4: Jake Xerxes Fussell - What in the Natural World

A folk record that asks the big questions in the plainest way possible, achieving at once an obvious simplicity and the complexity of true mastery of an art. This is timeless in the best possible way.

-3: The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

These guys met an impossibly high bar - it was hard to fathom anything grand enough to follow their previous album, but this is bigger, more expansive, and well... deeper.

-2: Do Make Say Think - Stubborn Persistent Illusions

This is my favorite post-rock album of the last decade or so. Every year, there is an instrumental album that I listen to a lot at work that inevitably works its way pretty high on my list just due to sheer familiarity. I think this is more than that. This is one of my favorite types of records - dynamic, expressive instrumental rock that doesn't feel like work to listen to. The hooks are memorable and catchy, the builds don't feel forced. There are moments of quiet contemplation and moments of cacophony, all of it with measured control. I'm not crossing my fingers for a a tour, but this would be something incredible to see live. 

-1: Kevin Morby - City Music

I was pretty reticent to give him the best album two years in a row, but damn it, this is what I liked the most this year. I don't think I like it quite as much as last year's "Singing Saw", but the highs on this are so incredibly high and even the songs that I didn't like as much at first jump out to me now on later listens. It's a beautiful set of songs about cities and the people who occupy them. It's music that has a dreamy vagueness to it, obviously reminiscent of the music of the 60's, but at this point it's such a defined voice that it no longer feels like homage. In a year that a lot of bands came back with big "statement" albums after years of toil, I'm much more drawn to this that just seems to be pouring effortlessly out. 

In my time I'd like to stay young forever
Like a tide, the crest beneath sunny weather
May we fill these lungs with laughter
And we may shake these bones with style
And may we claim all that we're after
And may we do it wearing a smile
And may the breath we breathe be free