Here are the albums that held me all year, the things that made me sad or tap my toe, or want to listen to over and over.
10. Charlie Parr, “Dog” Charlie Parr isn’t interested in happy songs, and that’s what makes his narrative so stellar. He’s a Piedmont blues picker, and on “Dog,” he’s exercising personal demons; file under blues, but Parr walks the rootsy-punk line.
9. Bohannons, “Luminary Angels”This Chattanooga, Tennessee, rock band channels the best of ’70s rock with an indie-rock mindset. Hints of Thin Lizzy swirl around a Jason and the Scorchers roots-punk influence, featuring big riffs and sing-a-long bits exuding a loose Southern charm.
8. Danny Barnes, “Stove Up”The prolific and ever-experimenting Barnes took a step back in time to his roots as a bluegrass musician, albeit one that sits on the outside of the bluegrass genre. In a tribute to banjo legend Don Stover, Barnes wrangled together a top-notch band to make a traditional bluegrass album that has just a touch of Barnes’ signature weird sound.
7. Guantanamo Baywatch, “Desert Center”Surf rock is the dominant sound in their 2017 release – obvious via numerous instrumentals – but this Pacific Northwest punk band is as much Soft Boys as they are Ventures. “Desert Center” is loaded with splashy guitar and loads of reverb, a bright blast of garagey rock ’n’ roll.
6. The Ants, “Golden Submarine”Lyrically ambiguous yet playful and humorous, the stories that live in the Ants’ latest exist alongside outsider melodies. They’re a band that could lean to the left or the right and find themselves in indie-rock or even jam category, yet their exact world on “Golden Submarine” is electric-roots weirdness.
5. The Sadies, “Northern Passages”It’s easy to hear that The Sadies have grown as songwriters. Their 10th album, while still revealing the band to be fierce purveyors of countrified garage-rock, also has a knack to add a psychedelic edge to everything they do. Anything that leans toward a Kinks or Thirteenth Floor Elevator sound still reeks of The Sadies. “Northern Passages” was recorded in the Good brothers parents’ basement, a dose of DIY amongst their rock and twang.
4. Jason Lowenstein, “Spooky Action”It took awhile. Fifteen years between solo albums proved to be worth the wait, as Lowenstein, a multi-instrumentalist with ties to Sebadoh and Fiery Furnaces, churns out a text-book album for Indie-rock 101. Void of any tricks or flash, it’s a gruff-vocaled, no-frill, honest and straight-ahead dose of rock music.
3. Big Walnuts Yonder, “Big Walnuts Yonder”The musical partnership of Mike Watt and Nels Cline dates back to the ’90s. Cline has always provided the guitar daggers over the steady thuds of Watt’s bass. Big Walnut Yonder channels Captain Beefheart, resulting in a dark and unpredictable dose of psychedelic punk.
2. Porter and the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, “Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You”The late Chris Porter’s final album, already in the can prior to the car accident that took his life last year, is a tragic and beautiful wreck of an album, a heart-on-your-sleeve record worthy of the roots-rock canon. It’s heavy in every sense, a lyrical dark dose of small-town reality within a band that plays it loud, yet able to stop on a dime to back the story of broken people and their broken dreams that live in the songs.
1. Ty Segall, “Ty Segall”The prolific Segall can craft a song. His formula remains at its heart aggressive garage rock. On his second self-titled album, he’s all that, while crafting simpler tunes heavy on melody and reminiscent of early psychedelic gems. These are the sleepers on the album; Segall’s talent is deep, and this album reveals his ability as someone who is more than capable of captivating a sweaty club while also dropping what could be a three-minute hit.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]