MaxSounds Top 20 Albums of 2017

Since we’re almost half-way through 2018 I figure I should get my 2017 list out there.  As usual, after the top five, the order is not very meaningful.  Also, my yearly list is based solely on the albums I’ve purchased and I’m sure there are many great records that I missed —  but really, you can’t hear everything!  I’ll fill in the blurbs as I get a chance…

Here we go…

  1. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION. Just like in 2014, St. Vincent’s album came in at number 1. This record is quite different from her previous one, but it still grabs the listener from the opening bass riff of Hang on Me and doesn’t let go until the bass-heavy outro at the end of Smoking Section. While St. Vincent has always been just a vehicle for whatever Annie Clark wants to do, she has always had a stellar band backing her up – both on her records and in concert. Having said that, this record felt much more like a solo offering, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw her live recently that she performed alone – without her band.  It was disconcerting at first but after not too long it made sense and her spectacular guitar playing, singing, and stage presence made it a compelling and memorable show.
  2. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding. Here’s another band from my 2014 list that scored high again.  This band, which still reminds me of classic rockers like Springsteen and Dire Straits, sounds perfect in 2017 yet could really be from any time in the last 30 years.  Their lyrics and melodies are timeless, and they let their songs stretch and breath – never in a hurry. There are ten songs on the record and they average over 6.5 minutes per track.
  3. Steven Wilson – To the Bone
  4. Temples – Volcano
  5. Robert Plant – Carry Fire
  6. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
  7. Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
  8. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
  9. Portugal the Man – Woodstock
  10. The National – Sleep Well Beast
  11. Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want?
  12. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
  13. Ray Davies – Americana
  14. Austra – Future Politics
  15. Alex Cameron – Forced Witness
  16. 16. The Black Angels – Death Song
  17. Mastadon – Emperor of Sand
  18. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  19. Afghan Whigs – In Spades
  20. Jack Johnson – All the Light Above it Too

Top San Diego Albums:

  • Birdy Bardot – Birdy Bardot II

Birdy Bardot II

I love coming home to find a 12″/12″/1″ package on my doorstep. This time it was especially cool since it was the new Birdy Bardot LP! This local San Diego band is definitely good enough to break out of the local market.  You can read a full review of this groovy/soulful/retro/pop record here at ListenSanDiego.  You can buy the record and check out some other great San Diego bands over on The Redwoods San Diego page.  Once you’ve listened let me know what you think in the comments.

Greyface – What Did You Lose

I read a book once by Jacob Slichter, the drummer for 90’s alt-power-pop band Semisonic, called “So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star”. It was an interesting peek into what it was like to try to make it as a rock band. The times are quite different now with the fracturing of the record company model and the emphasis on social networking etc – but the energy and passion of the musicians is still the same. This new band from LA, Greyface, reminds me of that story and the effort it takes to break out to a wider audience. Check it out!

Dirty Pennies – Bad Machine – Jan. 14, 2017


Dirty Pennies, a rock band from San Diego, California play their new song, “Bad Machine” at the Ray at Night street festival in North Park. This song, written only two weeks prior and performed only once before, was created as a reaction to what our whole political process has become and is perfect timing considering the controversies surrounding the incoming president. Continue reading

wimps – The Soda Bar, San Diego -June 29, 2016

[photos by Happy Place Media

After guitarist Rachel Ratner announced they were going to play “a bunch of songs in a short amount of time”, wimps, a 3-piece punk band from Seattle,  launched into “Vampire,” a short, relentless blast of rock ‘n’ roll which as far as I can tell is about being a vampire (or not!). Continue reading

Tacocat – The Soda Bar, San Diego – July 20, 2016

With song titles like, “Men Explain Things to Me”, “FDP” (first day period) and “Hey Girl” (about dudes that cat-call), it’s clear that Tacocat, a 4-piece punk/pop/surf band from Seattle, are not writing songs for me (a 56-year-old man who still likes early Blue Oyster Cult).  But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate their surf-inspired melodies, clever lyrics and infectious energy.  Continue reading

Joe Jackson – Spreckles Theater, San Diego – June 18, 2016

Like many others there are certain bands, and songs that draw me back to very specific memories.  I was 19 when Joe Jackson‘s first album, Look Sharp!, arrived in the spring of 1979.  I was just finishing my freshman year at UCSB and music was undergoing an upheaval.  I arrived at my dorm the previous fall listening to bands like Rush, Queen, UFO and Blue Oyster Cult.  I was aware of punk rock and new wave but just hadn’t really been exposed to it.  But as that first year in college went along there were a lot of different sounds blasting out of the dorm-room doorways.  Blondie, The Boomtown Rats, Elvis Costello, The Records, The Beat (Paul Collins‘ version), The B-52’s were competing with the classic and hard-rock records I grew up with.  And this record by Joe Jackson just seemed to cement it all together, sending me down a power-pop/new wave rabbit hole that I didn’t emerge from for a few years. Continue reading