As promised, in addition to my TOP 10 PROG and TOP 10 METAL lists for 2017, here are my TOP TEN ROCK ALBUMS of 2017. I say “rock” but really this is the list where I include everything that is not so easily divvied up onto either my metal list or my prog list. So I guess it’s really ROCK/POP/OTHER, but that doesn’t sound as good in the title. In any case, I am sticking to the usual constraint of ten, but of course (as usual) I also abandon the metric system to make the list into an expanded imperial dozen:
Hobosexual Monolith is heavy and hilarious retro rock, so good that you will want to own it in its delicious gatefold LP edition. The lyrics will have you laughing at all the references, especially in wild songs like “VHS or Sharon Stone.”
U2 Songs of Experience is an unexpected delight, being the best album they have released in eons. It incorporates all the best elements of each of their past musical periods. I have been with these guys since Boy and October, so my opinion carries credibility. Believe me, it’s so good it takes you back to those happy memories from the early days, when you heard something truly fresh and unique and infectious.
Weezer Pacific Daydream starts off with the archetypal Weezer sound on “Mexican Fender” (a killer single) but then suddenly morphs, around about track five, into an album that mines the sounds of the 1950s and 1960s for the rest of the disc. Unexpectedly, it works. Kudos to Weezer for not playing it safe, and for taking musical risks.
The Beaches Late Show comes out of Canada (just like your dear scribe) and displays mastery of rock and roll songwriting. An astonishing display of talent by these four women who can rock like nobody else.
Beck Colors is the best album by Beck that I have ever heard. The songwriting and production are flawless. Highlights include “Dear Life” and “Up All Night,” as well as the remix of “Dreams.” But who am I kidding, every track is a winner.
Matt Mays Once Upon a Hell of a Time also comes from Canada (just like your dear scribe). This album first grabbed my attention with the killer pre-release single “NYC Girls,” which has magnificent lyrics, including references to a time “when you could still smoke in bars.” I downloaded that track along with “Olo Volo” and I simply couldn’t stop listening to them. Eventually, I bought the whole album and it too won me over, slowly but surely, with its classic rock ethos.
Lana Del Rey Lust for Life is the best thing ever recorded by Lana Del Rey. It delivers on the early promise that she showed in previous releases. “West Coast” was the single that hinted at her true greatness to come. Now this album is her masterpiece, with brilliant songwriting, singing, and production. I couldn’t stop listening to it during the summer.
HAIM Something to Tell You is a perfect pop record. The songwriting is brilliant, and any prog lover will appreciate all of the subtle artistic touches enhancing each and every track on this first-rate album. I’m sad they had to cancel their concert in Vancouver this summer, but I hope to see them rock out live some day soon.
Black Star Riders Heavy Fire is the heavily charming third outing from those dudes from Thin Lizzy who still remain after Phil Lynott is gone. By the way, check out Craig’s excellent tribute to Phil from earlier this year. Black Star Riders may have deliberately chosen not to call themselves Thin Lizzy, to thereby avoid invidious comparisons, but that doesn’t change the fact that they still sound like Thin Lizzy, especially including new vocalist Ricky Warwick. Buy hey, that is a darn good thing in my books.
Big Wreck Grace Street can also be claimed by Canada (just like your dear scribe). This is a superb album and I can credit my fellow Progarchist and Editor Carl (aka CEO) for turning me on to it. It’s hard to pick a favorite track, because there are so many good ones, but “One Good Piece of Me” is arguably pure perfection. By the way, don’t miss Big Wreck’s genius cover of “Closer to the Heart” on the 40th anniversary disc of Rush A Farewell to Kings.
That sums up my top ten rock albums, but don’t forget I also offer the imperial dozen. To that end, I include Adrenaline Mob We the People, which could also have gone on my metal list. This band gets subjected to a lot of mockery, but I am unashamed to admit I love Russell Allen’s perfect rock vocals and Mike Orlando’s jaw-dropping guitar work. I include them on this list to pay tribute, after they sadly suffered serious injuries from a highway accident this summer. They are on my mind, as I myself am trying to heal up after a bad car accident.
Finally, Night Flight Orchestra Amber Galactic is added here, even though it overlaps with my prog list. It’s really an excellent AOR album, but any prog lover will appreciate the stellar musicianship, especially on tracks like (my favorites) “Sad State of Affairs,” “Jennie,” and “Space Whisperer.”