This year was a trainwreck for just about everything from politics to movies but the music was amazing! So much so, I had anxiety just thinking about how the Top 99 would shape up. We saw releases from industry heavy-weights, DIY newbies, and underground dwellers. All pounding out release after solid release. Of course with so many fine records being dropped, some may have slipped under the radar.
Without voting or ranking, us writers at Bearded Gentlemen Music have compiled this list of records that didn’t make the main Best-of-List. Not because they didn’t deserve to be on that list, but because the voting / democracy always comes first.
B.G.M.’s Honorable Mentions: The Rest of The Best Albums 2017 Edition
Hurts To Laugh – Hope It Works Out
While most ‘experimental’ rock bands are figuring out ways to make songs into psychedelic epics, Hurts To Laugh are figuring out ways to make punk, death metal, sound like pop! The results are one of the most satisfying rock albums of 2017! Hope It Works Out wastes no time getting to the hooks of The New York Dolls all the while conjuring up God knows what like Slayer. Music this heavy shouldn’t be this fun. But just like their array of influences, somehow Hurts To Laugh made it work. Indie rock is a better place for it! – Aaron Cooper
Wilsen – I Go Missing In My Sleep
How often do we listen to music and feel truly spoken to and at peace, simultaneously? I’m not talking about “easy listening” or downtempo tunes. I’m not talking about the music that plays at a masseuse’s studio: waterfalls and warbling flutes. In the realm of music today, when was the last time you found an album you know you could listen to every night before bed? Not to fall asleep, but to place you in the moment before it. Because since discovering Wilsen’s debut full-length album, I Go Missing In My Sleep, I’ve found it hard to end a day without it.
Wilsen’s homage to stillness was composed during the brief moments before morning when New York City’s still half asleep. Tamsin Wilson uses this borrowed, undisturbed time to thread poetic words with delicate sounds. What emerged is a set of songs that, like a dream, begins as if it has always been, leaves the eyes closed, and takes the mind on a journey worthy of repetition. – Kelsey Simpkins
Fret – Through The Wound The Light Comes In
Whilst I never reviewed Fret for Bearded Gentlemen Music, I have covered a few of their releases on my other blog, as well as seeing them live at various shows in the North-East of England. 2017 was a great year for the Newcastle trio with two UK tours with Mirrored Lips and Lovely Wife, and the release of Through The Wound The Light Comes In.
While Fret has been compared to a depressive Beach Boys, I’ve always thought that they sounded like Sonic Youth during the 100% era if they influenced surf rock tunes perfect for extreme sports montages. They have a fuzzy tone to their sound great when you’re wanting something zone out to, which also works brilliantly when played live.
I adore songs such as “Tired”, “Attune”, and “Loop” (my favorite of the album). There’s a sound to this record which sends a shiver down my neck and I can feel the excitement building each time I put it on. Sometimes it sounds like it could fall apart at a moments notice, yet they always seem to bring it back together. It may have missed out on the main list but it was still in my own top 10 and I think it needs to be included in this one, so check it out! You won’t regret it! – Eddie Carter
Angelo De Augustine – Swim Inside The Moon
It goes without saying that whenever the Asthmatic Kitty record label comes up, you have to mention Sufjan Stevens. Many of the artists on the label seem to live in his shadow, though ripe with talent. My Brightest Diamond, Helado Negro, and many others all have released projects in the last few years, and all are amazing. This year, Angelo De Augustine crept up out of nowhere with his folk-acoustic gem, Swim Inside the Moon. Stevens also has his fingerprints on the record, helping direct and animate one of the music videos.
In essence, the faint whispers of De Augustine’s quiet vocals hearken to Elliott Smith in his early days, complete with the broken anguish of what made For Emma, Forever Ago such a sleeper hit roughly a decade ago. Swim Inside the Moon is brief, but so powerful. It goes right through me every single time, and beckons repeat listens for lazy weekends or introspective nighttime walks in the park. – Daniel Carlson
P.O.S. – Chill, dummy
What I love about P.O.S. who, as he freely raps, “picked a repellent name” is his relentless, intellectual weaving between the ugliness and beauty of life in 2017. He’s sharp, he’s funny as fuck, and he’s got a lot to say. Thankfully, it’s all worth listening to. Every track on Chill, dummy touches some vulnerable spot, whether it’s his dreamy post-trauma reminiscences on ‘sleepdrone/superposition’ or his innate fury at being regarded as both dangerous and unimportant on “Born A Snake”.
I think this is gonna be one of those albums where we see tracks pop up in movies and video games over the next few years. Get on it now, so you can answer the inevitable “what’s that song?” questions. – Tatiana Maria
Sundara Karma – Youth Is Ever Only In Retrospect
Easily one of the most promising British bands on the scene right now. Youth Is.. was a long, long time coming but it delivered in spades. It’s far too accomplished sounding for a debut album, although that is mostly owed to the fact they formed in 2011, 6 years before this record and as a result have had time to master their craft.
In terms of what their craft entails, imagine a record made for people that like the music of fellow British band The 1975 but can’t deal with the egotistical, faux-tortured poet bullshit of frontman Matt Healy.
I really hope Sundara Karma stick around because British bands bursting onto the scene and actually staying there, have been few and far between. If Youth Is.. is anything to go by, I’m sure I have anything to worry about. – David Dring
Leslie Feist – Pleasure
Leslie Feist can write a catchy pop song like nobody’s utter fucking business, and sell it. Don’t think anything Apple past the MacBook Pro would’ve gotten anywhere near mainstream if it weren’t for her. Anyway, “Any Party” from 2017’s Pleasures is a fucking incredible song. It’s got everything I like about Ms. Leslie: an invented cliche/catchphrase rather than an established, easy to identify with pop culture standby takes the lazy out of songwriting and gets all of my respect and adoration, right there.
“You know I’d leave any party for you.”
Brilliant, Leslie; brilliant. Well recorded acoustics, e.g., vocals, drums, and a slightly overdriven acoustic guitar endearingly slightly clumsily played. I’d pay to see a set of Feist performing only this track 8-10 times in a row, followed by an encore of “I feel it all” with muppets. That’d be SWEET. Fuck it, I’d masturbate to that. Maybe already have, a gentleman never tells. – Pariah Jones
Repeat Repeat – Floral Canyon
With so much focus on revolt and resistance, it’s easy to overlook the art that makes you want to get up and dance. After all, a good percentage of rock n’ roll is escapism, right? Repeat Repeat are masters of power pop anthems you can sink your teeth into and Floral Canyon is their defining moment. Sugary sweet harmonies, 80s-esque grooves, and the most satisfying rhythm section of any record this year, Floral Canyon’s infectious hooks make you forget what a dumpster fire 2017 was. – Aaron Cooper
Caitlin Pasko – Glass Period
The depth that Pasko reaches in Glass Period is very personal. A rare emotional journey documented in six songs that are specific enough in origin, but vague enough for the listener to connect with on their own level. Described as a “small chapel to personal grief,” I imagine listening to this collection in mid-morning, as soft light filters through stained glass to reach the luminous wood floors of her private construct. A solace from the outside world, but not separate from it. A place that only exists because this album does. – Kelsey Simpkins
Iron Monkey – 9-13
9-13 is the sound of the terminally pissed off, downtrodden revolt against the world. The primal expression of a fucked generation with nothing to lose. I love (for want of a better word) that Iron Monkey came back together and unleashed this untamed beast of an album. Now, some people are going to compare 9-13 to their previous incarnation and that’s natural. But it’s something I’ve tried avoiding. Iron Monkey’s first run was such a tour-de-force it would be unfair to compare.
Iron Monkey have stayed true to themselves and that is more than enough for me. Also, a lot of people might reject this because it’s not the original line-up. But those people need to get over it, this is a great Iron Monkey album. 9-13 does not fuck up their legacy.
In fact, it brings a new dimension to it and what more would you want? It’s great to have Iron Monkey back in any form and having a new album is just the cherry on top of a huge cake. Granted, the cake is toxic and will kill you, but that’s always the risk you take with Iron Monkey anyway. Hopefully, there will be more to come, as this is a spectacular album! – Eddie Carter
Hundredth – Rare
Since we’re now a few years removed from Title Fight and Turnover completely flipping the switch on their sounds, this time around Hundredth gets the honor of throwing their fans a curveball. Formerly a melodic hardcore band, Rare trades any of that for shoegaze textures and walls of sound. Hello to the new Chadwick Johnson, a hybrid of his former screaming self (“Down”) and the new and improved reverb hero. – Daniel Carlson
Fiordmoss – Kingdom Come
Released in October 2017, Kingdom Come from Berlin’s Fiordmoss is the dark, groovy shit you play for people who are desperate for the clubs of their youth, where it was all ecstasy and trip-hop. I’d put this on in the aftermath of a dinner party where we’d all had a couple good drinks and I wanted to impress my guests with how niche and European my taste in music can be. If you have any fiction-writing friends, this could be a fantastic inspirational album to turn them on to: some tracks, like “Bitter Almonds”, sound like fairytales, while others, like the standout “Motherland”, remind me of the prologue to something epic. -Tatiana Maria
Tomberlin – At Weddings
There needs to be a word for “love at first sound,” because although rare, it has happened more than once over the years. And it’s always late at night, when I find myself scouring the internet in search of humanity. I’ve found it in Lemolo on New Year’s Eve, in Kyle Morton at the end of summer, and now in Tomberlin. “You Are Here” softly announces, “I am here and nowhere else and you are all I want.”
Musician Owen Pallett proudly calls this work, “absolutely the most beautiful record I’ve ever worked on,” which he contributed to, mastered and produced. It’s the product of a one Sarahbeth Tomberlin, from Louisville, Kentucky. And like the others on this list, she’s only a fifth of a century old. It echoes and sways, ebbs, and flows, lingering long into the night and hopefully in the genre of ambient folk. – Kelsey Simpkins
For some reason this album is not on the Internets… – Editors
Salar Rajabnik – Black & White World
For decades artists like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty tapped into the ideology of the every-man. Sadly, most artists utilizing the same ideology in 2017 com off aggressive or bleak. Salar Rajabnik’s Black & White World offers an alternative. Combining the honesty of Paul Westerberg and the sentimentality of Big Star, Rajabnik takes on pressing issues of today’s political landscape with unflinching confidence. Life can be a sad place and the people who inhabit it can be cruel but in spite of the world’s ugliness and cruelty, Black & White World is a glimmer of hope – Aaron Cooper
Chris Catalyst – Life Is Often Brilliant
Life Is Often Brilliant is an album with its roots in the past, but brought right up to date. It’s obvious Chris Catalyst is cut from the same cloth that brought us Drowning Poole, Honeycrack, and even The Wildhearts. However, Catalyst has a distinctive twist; there’s a personal feeling making it hard to ignore. Considering my first introduction to Catalyst was Robochrist (imagine Devin Townsend meets an acid trip, with death) and his main project Eureka Machine,( a no-nonsense rock band with more tunes than every series of X-Factor) I like this record for keeping everything simple.
Life Is Often Brilliant is just a pure rock album gently reminding you that it’s not all that bad all the time. Or how sometimes you need to look around and see the good things around you.
Since it’s release, I have come to appreciate its charms. It’s as unique and special as anything his contemporaries have released via PledgeMusic. I like this album an awful lot and it’s been a pleasure to review it again. I’m just sorry that my original got lost in the void. Either way, I had an excuse to listen to this gem of a Power Pop/Rock record and it is glorious! – Eddie Carter
Overcoats – Young
Imagine Joseph, but with one less voice and an electronic twist. Meet Overcoats, the sultry folktronica sensation that I’m head over ears in love with as of this week. It’s like folk got an upgrade that included sass 2.0, syncopation, and an invitation to dance. Their music works a capella, it thrives acoustically, it jams stripped down, and it shines as a recorded product. Who knew folk could be this flexible and funky? – Kelsey Simpkins
The Coal Creek Boys – The Wolf & The Bear
One of the most interesting aspects of John Paul Smith’s Coal Creek Boys project has always been evolution. The second album Out West traded the dive-bar vibes of the first record with gorgeous instrumentation and heartbreaking storytelling. With The Wolf & The Bear, things get a bit more personal. Now with distorted guitars and gut-wrenching vocals, The Wolf & The Bear is much closer to Alice In Chains than Johnny Cash.
The storytelling is still there but instead of history lessons, Smith and co. pound out introspective songs of loss, deception, and pain. Personal truths aren’t always pretty but Smith understands the beauty in that. The Wolf & The Bear hurts but rewards and not many albums did that sort of thing in 2017. – Aaron Cooper
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry & Subatomic Sound System – Super Ape Returns To Conquer
Imagine if someone had the nerve to remake Revolver, Pet Sounds, or Aladdin Sane. I am guessing all of the rabid Bowie, Beatles, and Beach Boys fans would have a fit. HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? THAT IS SACRILEGE! I can see the collective twitter meltdown. Those groundbreaking rock albums are pretty well known, to say the least.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry & The Upsetters made Super Ape Returns To Conquer over 40 years ago. This record is on that level of classic in the world of dub and reggae. Subatomic Sound System, with the legend himself at the helm, re-imagined Super Ape Returns To Conquer. Here is what the collective has to say about it on their bandcamp:
Subatomic reincarnates the magic of Perry’s Black Ark studio in Jamaica, going in heavy on Ethiopian horns & percussion, reinvigorated by booming 21st-century bass & beats to capture the energy of their innovative live electronic show and vibes of the urban jungle.
The original album is a cornerstone in the development of independent, producer fueled, beat and bass driven music. This new album breaks ground of its own as Perry & Subatomic create an unprecedented level of dynamic improvisation between live performers, computers, and studio manipulation, exploding traditional concepts of what is a live performance versus a studio recording.
I can’t believe I am saying it but this might eventually work its way above the original in my personal favorites list. Time will tell. Check back with me in another 40 years and I’ll let you know. Hell, Lee will probably be touring still at 120 years old. -Matt Jamison
The Transcendents – Dirt Songs
I love the way The Transcendents approach music. They just seem to go headlong towards not giving a fuck. It’s such a joy when the listener realizes how much thought and effort they have put into their sound. I’m not gonna lie and say they’ve made the easiest listening album of the year; this is still far off the beaten track and heading towards a point far off the horizon.
So, what is it that makes this release stand out for their other works? Well, the songs on Dirt Songs are the usual quality mix of off the wall, and the Beefheart loving, bat crap crazy noise we have come to love from The Transcendents.
There are a few pieces which require extra spins. Overall, it’s another fine release from one of the pioneer mavericks from An Nua-Shéalainn. – Eddie Carter
Shredders – Dangerous Jumps
What an absolute fuckin banger of an album. When you’re tired of listening to rap that sounds like it came straight out of the early 2000s and want something that sounds fresh and slick, give this album a spin. Dangerous Jumps has hard-hitting beats complementing lyrics that twist my tongue, make me laugh, and some that are gonna be perfect for a banner at a political rally.- Tatiana Maria
Ibeyi – Ash
Ibeyi are a pair of French-Cuban sisters, who sing together in brilliant harmonies in a literal handful of languages. This album has an undeniable femininity to it; these women are proud of who they are, where they come from, and what they’re learning.
“No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms” quotes Michelle Obama and eloquently rides the line between gospel sang with your community and the gospel whispered to yourself when you need a dose of strength. If I could push only one of the albums of 2017 into the ears of the women I love, this would be it. – Tatiana Maria
Yellow Days – Is Everything Okay In Your World?
I discovered Yellow Days on YouTube during my King Krule obsession earlier this year. I was watching a bunch of Krule videos in the background and a video of Yellow Days debut album Harmless Melodies autoplayed and I was like “holy shit I love this”.
I have this term I use to describe a certain sound or vibe to music called ‘Slacker’ I don’t mean it in a derogatory sense I mean it in like a chill, jammy, care-free, open-ended type of way. Mac Demarco’s music would be good example of what I call Slacker .
The main thing that stood out with Yellow Days is the vocals, so soulful and mature, but with that Slacker type feel. I was convinced that the singer for Yellow days had to be some old weathered dude that had lived a rough life. Well, I was shocked to find out it was an 18 year-old named George van den Broek and that Yellow Days is basically a solo project of his.
If you listen to the “Your Hand Holding Mine” and you don’t feel a warm euphoria wash over you then you’re hopeless and I can’t help you.
Anyway, Yellow days dropped a new album this year called Is Everything Okay In Your World? and it is just as good if not better than its predecessor while still having that Slacker type of vibe. I still can’t get over how young Yellow Days is. George van den Broek is one of those old soul type of people with an optimistic / romantic / appreciative perspective on the world and that perspective definitely shines in Yellow Days’ vocals and music. Is Everything Okay In Your World? is a must listen. – Jon
(Disclaimer: I listened to Mac Demarco’s new album This Old Dog a ton this year and it is one of my favorites of 2017, but it didn’t make the year end list because I used my points else where. Plus, everyone knows Demarco so I didn’t think it belonged on this list either. Sorry Mac. – Jon)
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.