1. Lydia Loveless, Boy Crazy and Single(s): Alt-country spitfire couples prickly lyrics with hooky guitars in the power-pop nuggets comprising a great reissue package. Her spare take on Elvis Costello’s “Alison” is so emotionally naked, I almost feel dirty listening to it.
2. Old 97s, Graveyard Whistling: Thick slashes of chewy, punkish guitar provide spicy counterparts to a set of wry, potent songs that keep these Texas rockers firmly in their sweet spot. Like eating taco meat with a spoon.
3. JD McPherson, Undivided Heart and Soul: If Buddy Holly had lived and relocated to Motown, he might have sounded like this. Throwback songwriting and arrangements thickened up with Black Keys-style production make for a roots-rockin’ blend of rhythm and melody.
4. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound: “Nobody here can dance like me, everybody’s clapping on the one and the three.” Intelligence and humor accompany Isbell’s shift from self-reflection into Springsteen-esque character studies and more upbeat country-rock.
5. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Sidelong: Best album of 2017 sounds like Tammy Wynette fronting the Ramones if they were talented hillbillies with moonshine breath. Kick-ass country with a protagonist proclaiming her badassery with hilarious and/or chilling images.
Favorite show of 2017: Veteran alt-country warriors Old 97’s showed an adoring Top Hat crowd how grown-ups do it, playing gimmick-free rock ’n’ roll (with a fill-in drummer!) while we sang every word to them. Rhett Miller’s tender reading of “Question” melted hearts and gave me the year’s biggest man-crush. (Ednor Therriault)
1. Kendrick Lamar, Damn: I keep thinking that rap king Kendrick Lamar is peaking, and then he releases his next album and I’m like, “Nope, not yet.”
2. Perfume Genius, No Shape: This tender, celebratory album about love helps me feel happy when I want to feel happy and lets me feel sad when I want to feel sad.
3. Big Thief, Capacity: I didn’t think I wanted to listen to yet another indie rock outfit from Brooklyn ever again, but it turns out that I really, really do. “Mary” is the track of the year.
4. Lorde, Melodrama: Lorde is a pop superhero and her sophomore album is majestic in every regard.
5. Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy: The best yet from a talented but complicated rapper who seems to be maturing both musically and personally (well, a little bit personally, maybe).
Favorite Show of 2017: I can’t believe that I’m saying this in a year where I saw my beloved P.J. Harvey live, but Julien Baker’s clear, bright, heartbreaking voice made for the most magical night of live music for me, at Missoula’s Top Hat. (Sarah Aswell)
1. Shahs, Vineland: While this album is awaiting a proper vinyl release, it came out digitally this year and blew my mind with how different and great a band they are.
2. Dreamdecay, YÚ: Another mind-cleanser from this great spacey, hardcore-y band from Seattle.
3. Rakta, III Technically a last-year release, but I got it this year and it’s a spooky, layered, pumping record by this great Brazilian trio.
4. Fantasy Suite, First Impression: I’m a sucker for well-executed and austere pop, and Fantasy Suite’s record is a total classic.
5. Swamp Ritual, Sunchaser: Think of a heavy dose of green smoke pouring from a souped up van driving a little too fast on a desert highway.
Favorite show(s) of 2017: This is a toss-up between seeing the Plastic Harmony Band and Trumans Water at the ZACC; Shovels and Fantasy Suite at Freecycles; Big Business, Mahamawaldi and Jolly Jane at the Badlander, and this month, the Jesus Lizard doing a reunion show in New York. (Josh Vanek)
1. Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy: Here’s that unpopular opinion of this album being musically better and more socially relevant than Kendrick Lamar’s Damn.
2. Aldous Harding, Party: Lush, lush, lush beautiful minimalist music. “Imagining My Man” was my most listened to song this year, I’m sure.
3. Ariel Pink, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson: This entire album is like songs from different late-1960s albums that make you feel as if you’re visiting a past world.
4. Richard Dawson, Peasant: Speaking of past worlds, this is an incredibly unconventional album and the equivalent of listening to a renaissance fair. Choruses and cult-like drums abound.
5. Brockhampton, Saturation 1 - 3: Brockhampton released three albums this year. You can’t go wrong; the band knows how to make a hook.
Favorite show of 2017: Human Leather at the Union Ballroom for Camp Daze. (Ryan D’avid Carr)
1. Chastity Belt, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone: Smart, quintessential NW post-punk/shoegaze album about dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of existence.
2. Pixx, The Age of Anxiety: Angular synth-pop in the vein of Grimes delivers timely commentary in a catchy vessel.
3. The War on Drugs- Deeper Understanding: An album I was highly anticipating, and it definitely delivered.
4. Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett, A Lotta Sea Lice: A beautiful document of a beautiful musical friendship, with vocals calling and responding in a perfect way.
5. Caroline Keys, Mean to Stay: An amazing album from this Missoula-based artist isn’t easily pigeonholed. It’s somewhere between folk and country with an experimental bent, created by a top-notch team of local musicians. (Adelaide Every)