10. KXM- Scatterbrain
If you’re missing King’s X, then this one will satisfy your craving. Ray Luzier (KoRn) is on drums, George Lynch (Dokken & Lynch Mob) is on guitar, and Doug Pinnock (King’s X) is on bass and vocals. This is their second album, and it is much more varied in its music styles than their debut. I never was into Dokken, but George Lynch’s guitar work is killer -especially on “Breakout”.
9. Big Big Train – Grimspound
I give Grimspound the edge over its sister album, The Second Brightest Star. What a great collection of tributes and vignettes of everything that is good about Great Britain. Using small details to convey big ideas is really difficult, but BBT are masters and make it look easy.
8. Dave Kerzner – Static
This album continues to grow on me, and if I had to make this list in a couple of months, it would probably be higher. It’s much more aggressive than his last outing, and a lot less indebted to Pink Floyd. Dave synthesizes so many styles on this one, and it is still a coherent piece of music.
7. Glass Hammer – Untold Tales
A collection of odds and ends that never fit on earlier albums, this sure doesn’t sound like a bunch of rejected tracks. “Identity Principle” is one of the best songs in their catalog, and “Troll” is a hilarious stomper that takes down social media jerks.
6. White Moth/Black Butterfly – Atone
Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT & Skyharbour) and Jordan Bethany sing a suite of duets that is otherworldly and haunting. Indescribably beautiful, so I won’t say any more.
5. All Them Witches – Sleeping Through the War
This is a band from my city of Nashville, and I wasn’t even aware of them until I heard a track on Tony Rowsick’s Progwatch podcast. If Loretta Lynn and Robin Trower had a child, it might sound like these guys. Their first album is a little too stoned for my taste, but on this one the songs are tighter and very satisfying. “Alabaster” is a tour-de-force.
4. Steven Wilson – To The Bone
I’m probably the only person in the world who didn’t like Hand.Cannot.Erase. I thought it was a ordeal to listen to all the way through. So To The Bone is like a life-affirming celebration for me. I love every song, especially the ones where he demonstrates his appreciation of early-80s new wave. Rick Krueger’s review says it all for me.
3. Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
John Mitchell continues the winning streak he started with Please Come Home. Here’s my review of The Big Dream. Suffice it to say that I love this album.
2. Syd Arthur – Apricity
I’m bending the rules a bit here, since this was released in 2016. However, it came out late in the year, and I didn’t get to hear it until early 2017. It’s a wonderfully playful set of songs that are funky yet challenging. They remind me a little of early Talking Heads, leavened with classic Traffic.
1. Richard Barbieri – Planets + Persona
I may be the only person in progdom to consider this the best album of 2017, but I have listened to it more than anything else released this year. It’s not even close. I listen to it in the morning before I head out to work. I listen to it when I’m driving in my car. I listen to it in the evening before I fall asleep. Barbieri was the keyboardist for Porcupine tree, and this is his third solo album. He has gathered together a group of musicians from all over the place, and they have crafted a work of beauty. Yes, it’s all instrumentals (with some wordless vocals and spoken-word samples). They definitely have a jazz feel – harkening back to mid-80s Mark Isham and mid-90s Wayne Horvitz style music. All I know is that putting this in the CD player is like slipping into your most comfortable sweater and relaxing with a glass of fine wine. It’s definitely not all sweetness and light, but the contrasts serve to make the “pretty” passages pack an emotional wallop. Carl Olson’s review does it better justice than I could ever do.
Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know what your favorites of 2017 are in the comments!