Folks, by now you all know I’m a list maker. Some people hate lists. I understand that. But I am a list lover. There are some great lists out there for 2017, especially for music. My fav list of best music is Bandcamp’s list of 100 best albums of 2017. Start with 100 and make your way to the top, wishlisting a bunch of records as you go.
If it isn’t clear by now, I’m addicted to music. I love a good melody, combined with great lyrics, a mellifluous voice or three and some fine instruments. In 2017, I purchased--or obtained as free samplers--85 albums, 25 of which were released this year. So here are my arbitrary favourite ten:
1. Ghostpoet – Dark Days + Canapes [Pias Recordings, BRITAIN]
I love Obaro Ejimiwe’s voice. It’s low and sexy as hell. I only found out about him earlier this year, probably from someone else’s list. I immediately purchased Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, which I always want to call Peanut Butter Soul and Melancholy Jam. Dark Days + Canapes continues the low key vibe I learned to love in PBB&MJ with songs about the injustices of the day. It’s the perfect album for this time. Put this on your dark playlist along with Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker and you’ll be ready for the apocalypse.
2. Cherry Glazerr – Apocalypstick [Secretly Canadian, USA]
Your quintessential don’t fuck with me girl band out of LA. Reminds me of Girl in a Coma and Girlpool, two other favs. Clementine Creevy has a fierce voice. The music has a steady beat and some sick licks. I think of the Runaways. Marc Maron should interview Clementine on WTF.
3. Shilpa Ray – Door Girl [Northern Spy Records, USA]
She has an amazing voice and the music feels like a throwback to the 50s and 60s with a 21st century doomy sensibility. I think of Dusty Springfield or Skeeter Davis. There’s a feistiness to the music that pleases me. You can dance to Morning Terrors Nights of Dread. The lyrics are catchy and witty. She's also really hilarious.
4. Juliana Hatfield – Pussycat (American Laundromat Records, USA]
First off, I like her voice. It’s soft yet clear, kind of buttery yellow without being overly rich. I like the lyrics and subjects of her songs, which are unapologetically sexual, especially Short-Fingered Man.
5. Ron Sexsmith – the Last Rider [Cooking Vinyl/Compass Records, UK/USA]
It’s no secret that I have a sweet old fashioned crush on this man, so it should come as no surprise that I love his latest. The combination of his voice and the great melodies he composes have created another memorable record. Some of the stellar tracks on the album for me are Worried Song, West Gwillimbury (we can do a playlist of Ron’s place songs alone, which would be fun!) and Shoreline. The album is reminiscent of Whereabouts in its melancholy but with a happier tempo. It’s great to see Ron producing his own album, along with the talented Don Kerr.
6. Jack Pine and the Fire – Left to Our Own Devices [Jack Pine and the Fire, CANADA – Ottawa]
Speaking of crushes…
This album mixes an easy slow understated sound with some jump up and dance numbers. The voice of Jack Pine (aka Ottawa singer, song-writer, producer, Gareth Auden Hole) reminds me somewhat of the country troubadour sounds of a young Russell De Carle of Prairie Oyster.
He’s got the range in those lovely melodic slides. The lyrics are fun, thoughtful, sly. The band makes a solid contribution on the album with fiddle, guitars, and drums. I especially love Lone Wolf, and Make Up or Break Up, both on his previous EP; however here the back up vocals and added instruments add texture and give the songs a different tone. I like both versions, although the fingering on the EP pleases me a little more. The video below is an older rendering of the song.
7. Bill and Joel Plaskett – Solidarity [Pheremone Recordings, CANADA]
Beautiful lyrics, great melodies and voices, there’s something extra special about this CD, a collaboration between father and son. Makes me think of cabins in the woods, the smell of wood burning in a fireplace. And just when you think everything’s mellow you get some wild electric guitar in there and sweet sweet fiddle music, then accordion…if Ghostpoet brings you down, get uplifted with these two fellers and accompanying musicians, Mo Kenney, Erin Costelo & more!
8. Emm Gryner – Only of Earth [CANADA]
This is an achingly beautiful album. Emm’s voice is so resonant and haunting. I’m starting to think that the main thing my choices have in common is a touch of melancholy and a dash of maverick. Emm went her own way to create this album, just as Jack Pine did for his album. It’s a record with a lot of variety from the more plaintive tracks, such as the Passing of Ayro to the upbeat Imagination. This will be the first of what we all hope will be a trio of albums. ““Only of Earth” is a soundtrack to a story, inspired by true events and fiction. Inspired by the the mystery of childbirth, the work of motherhood and the intrigue of love, life and loss, “Only of Earth” is a multi-media experience that will incorporate music as much as sketches, videos, a book and eventually, a live show.” from PledgeMusic’s updates.
this video is not from the album and i have no explanation.
9. Fiver (Simone Schmidt) – Audible Songs from Rockwood [Idée Fixe, CANADA]
I had the pleasure of hearing Simone for the first time at a Basement Revue performance at the International Festival of Authors last autumn. I was blown away by her beautiful voice and the songs from this album, which are haunting and substantial. The inspiration for the album were the case files of patients at the Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane between 1854-1881. My favourite is the acapella song Yonder White Mare. I’d love to hear Simone do a duet with Sam Amidon. She’s nothing short of amazing.
10. Wesley Stace - Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding [Yep Rock Records, UK]
I want to end with a bit of a quirky one and why not? This guy is also a novelist. So he’s already in my good books, not that I’ve read his work, but judging by these songs, he’s a good writer and he’s got a superb voice. The Jayhawks are also involved here. Note that he has in the past gone by John Wesley Harding, to make matters confusing or fun, if you’re like me. I could go on and talk about even more confusion in regards to the album of the same name by Bob Dylan, but let’s move on…His voice reminds me of Elvis Costello, especially in You’re A Song, which could be Elvis’s follow up to Good Year for the Roses or Baby Plays Around. Wesley/John has a lovely voice. I can imagine him singing madrigals in a choir as a youngster. I love the song, How to Fall. The whole album brings me great joy. It’s quite and I don’t think it received much acclaim, but here it is…getting acclaim from me!
Honourable mentions: Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness, Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looks At Me (already on a lotta lists, so doesn’t need to be here, Laura Marlin’s Semper Femina).
There’s still time to buy music for your dear friends and family for the season. I highly recommend Zunior.com and Bandcamp.com to get great tunes for all and sundry.
I may be back with more favs of the year lists or I may not. What are your favs? Drop me a line or a message or whatever you like.
May you find joy, love, comfort, an appreciation for the absurd, empathy, whimsy, good pals, a soft kitty, the best fudge ever and a secret garden in 2018.