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Timmy Awards

Timmy Awards- The Best Albums of 2017

It's 2017 and the Timmys are terribly late. I'm just happy they are DONE. Now to get caught up on 2018... You can get videos for them all in this YouTube playlist. If you click "play all," it will play them from 50 right on down to #1. New this year is an additional playlist of live performances by nearly all of the Top 50 artists. A lot are from NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series, a great place to see some awesome artists.

Man Forever

50. Man Forever - Play What They Want: Pretty early into this album, you can tell this group is led by a drummer. It's a percussive whirlwind from start to finish, with guest appearances from Yo La Tengo and Laurie Anderson.

Strand Of Oaks

49. Strand of Oaks - Hard Love: Not quite singer/songwriter, not quite full band, Strand of Oaks is Timothy Showalter and this is his sixth album. Sometimes you can hear a little Bon Iver, other times Ryan Adams or Paul Westerberg. (On the 2018 follow-up album, Harder Love, I hear a little Springsteen, too.)


48. Gnod - Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine: In case you didn't know where Manchester's Gnod stood politically, they conveniently spell it out for you in their album's title. Psychedelic but not in a peace and love Technicolor sort of way, but rather in a dark, noisy way deeply inspired by krautrock and post-punk

Chicano Batman

47. Chicano Batman - Freedom is Free: The band's name says a lot - Chicano most definitely as the Latin rock influences run deep, and Batman in the Adam West-sense: 60's/70's funk rock that's a little campy and in full Technicolor. Very retro but in a good way.

Karen Gwyer

46. Karen Gwyer - Rembo: Originally from Michigan and now based in the UK, Karen cooks up techno that's danceable (Not that I've tried it) but works plenty good on headphones. The first track kind of sets a mood, then the drum machines kick in...


45. Ibeyi - Ash: I fell like if Ibeyi didn't exist, NPR would somehow create them. French-Cuban twins who can dazzle with both their voices and thoughtful, personal songs with R&B, jazz and African influences.

Vince Staples

44. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory: Clever raps and catchy beats, this is a solid album and Vince is a rapper to watch.


43. Jlin -Black Origami: So, footwork...a genre I don't know a lot about, though it was created miles away from where I type this. This music pulse and skitters along and unfolds the more you listen to it. If you like your electronic music on the more experimental side, dive right in.

Endless Boogie

42. Endless Boogie - Vibe Killer: Yet another band with an appropriate name. Grimy, chugging blues rock with a fair amount of psych that just keeps going. "Back in '74" is an autobiographical account of seeing Kiss playing a kite festival in St. Louis.

Ted Leo

41. Ted Leo - The Hanged Man: Ted is back with his first solo album in seven years and you can tell both the political state of the U.S. and a late term miscarriage for Ted and his wife along with some bumps in his career have taken their toll, but Ted comes roaring back with a set of really well-crafted songs.

Read a really long and revealing article with Ted on Stereogum - a really deep look into both his career and his personal life.

Julie Byrne

40. Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness: A really appropriate album cover. On it, a black and white photo of Julie looks both fashion-model perfect and very warm and comfortable. The folky songs feel the same way - both meticulously crafted and expertly recorded. and at the same time, cozy and warm.

Here Lies Man

39. Here Lies Man - Here Lies Man: Deeply rooted in the 70's with heavy funk, psych and African influences throughout.

Michael Chapman

38. Michael Chapman - 50: The 50 stands for the number of years Michael has been performing. He started in the UK folk scene in the mid-60s and his intricate guitar playing has influenced a number of moder folkies like Steve Gunn who produces and plays guitar here.

Robyn Hitchcock

37. Robyn Hitchcock - Robyn Hitchcock: On his 21st solo album, Robyn goes the self-titled route and with the help of his Nashville neighbor Brendan Benson producing, comes up with a hook-laden set of tunes with a lot of energy and the quirky wit which has become his trademark.


36. Japandroids - Near To The Wild Heart Of Life: A former top 5 Timmy finisher, Japandroids still make more hooky pop-punk noise than two guys should be able to. Not a lot new hear, more of a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it' album from them.

Meat Wave

35. Meat Wave - The Incessant: Chicago's very own Meat Wave comes charging out of the gate in this unrelenting set of tight post-punk which almost flies off the rails but stays grounded with help from Steve Albini producing.


34. Spoon - Hot Thoughts: If Spoon puts out an album, it's bound to be in my Top 50, it's just a matter of how high. This is another solid collection of catchy songs by them. It won't create new audiences for them, but should keep their existing fans happy until the next one.

Once And Future Band

33. Once And Future Band - Once and Future Band: If you wondered what it would sound like if hipsters tried their hand at prog rock, look no further. If that hasn't scared you off, check this out. You'll hear a lot of Yes influences, which if you're in the right mood, can be over-the-top in all the right ways.

Twisted Pine

32. Twisted Pine - Twisted Pine: I love discovering new bands and this one totally came out of left field. On our 2017 family vacation to New Hampshire and Maine, we decided to see bluegrass mandolin whiz Sierra Hull when she played Portsmouth, NH. We had never heard of Twisted Pine, but their sweet female harmonies and bluegrass/pop sound were the highlight of the evening. Check out their covers EP Dreams as well!

Grizzly Bear

31. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins: Folk-influenced alternative pop-rock with more synths in the mix than previous albums. Another band that will likely make the Timmys each time out.

Cloud Nothings

30. Cloud Nothings -Life Without Sound: Like Japandroids, Cloud Nothings also cracked my Top 5 albums back in 2012. This effort is not as catchy as Attack on Memory, but their poppy hooks and punky energy are still there enough to make this a worthwhile listen.

Lone Taxidermist

29. Lone Taxidermist - Trifle: If the words "performance artist" scare you off, jump to the next entry (actually, jump to 27.) If you like the weirder moments of Bjork, Tune-Yards, Grace Jones or Laurie Anderson, you may really like Lone Taxidermist, aka UK artist Natalie Sharp, who takes synth-pop to unusual new places.


28. BNNT - Multiverse: I didn't go back to see how many Polish noise duos have made the Timmys in the past, but I dare say BNNT are the first. Swedish Saxophonist Mats Gustafson joins them on two tracks. This is not metal exactly, but damn is it slow, sludgy and heavy.


27. Madonnatron - Madonnatron: I think I've already passed the limit of the number of times I should us the term "post punk", but it's been a pretty strong year for that. Madonnatron are 4 women from London and let of certain amount of darkness slip in, adding a hint of L7 to the proceedings here and there.

Sleaford Mods

26. Sleaford Mods - English Tapas: I don't think these guys could be more British if they tried. A duo of vocalist Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Fearn - live, Andrew stands with a pint in his hand nodding along to beat while his mate Jason rants about all the things about modern Britain that piss him off. The Fall is a reference point for sure, but the Mods get more topical/political.

King Gizzard

King Gizzard

King Gizzard

King Gizzard

King Gizzard

25. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard- Flying Microtonal Banana/Murder of The Universe/Sketches of Brunswick East/Polygondwanaland/Gumboot Stomp: My awards, my rules - meaning, if a band releases five albums in one year and I decide I want them all to share the #25 spot, I can do that. King Gizzard made the 2016 Timmys with their dizzying psych freakouts, and 2017 shows them taking that formula in different directions.

In order of release date:

Flying is named after a guitar modified to reach notes normally found in Middle-Eastern music and has that quality throughout its hypnotic grooves.

Murder is interesting but with all the spoken word bits, probably the easiest one they could have omitted if they wanted to take it easy and just release 4 albums in a year. But it's not without its merits, either.

Sketches is a collaboration with the LA act Mild High Club and has a 70s jazz/psych vibe to it.

Polygondwanaland is closest to the King Gizzard I first heard - dark, prog/psych that sounds like a lost album from the early 70s.

Gumboot is the most varied of the five and shows a bit of a poppier side (relatively speaking)

If the term "prog-psych" doesn't scare you off, dive in anywhere.

J. Roddy Walston & The Business

24. J. Roddy Walston & The Business - Destroyers Of the Soft Life: A pretty straight-forward rock album for the Timmys - it got reviewed in Rolling Stone but not Pitchfork, which is the opposite of most records that make it here. A solid, hook-laden modern rock record - think Kings of Leon meets Dr. Dog .


23. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent: Arty, brainy, wordy - the lyrics and meaning take several listens to really unfold (I'm still picking things up) and the music has a complimentary sense of urgency.

Jay Som

22. Jay Som - Everybody Works: Recorded entirely alone in her bedroom studio, Jay Som's second album is catchy, dreamy pop - too quiet and intimate to break into pop radio, too sweet to take over alternative airwaves.

Colin Stetson

21. Colin Stetson - All This I Do For Glory: One man and his saxophone - including the of his breath and his fingers clacking the keys. All instrumental and at times dark and spooky, an interesting take on how a traditional instrument can be used to create new and original music.


20. Circle - Terminal: New to me, but these Swedes have dozens of albums to their name over the past 20 years. Metal meets prog meets psych.

Tom Caruana

19. Tom Caruana - An Adventure To Pepperland Through Rhyme & Space: Using Beatles music and putting rappers on top is not new - Danger Mouse made a name for himself that way with The Grey Album - but that's not to say it's a tapped-out field. This is 2 CDs worth of raps on top of Beatles loops, done really well, utilizing some of the biggest names from rap's golden age.

Listen to Disc One

Listen to Disc Two


18. Priests - Nothing Feels Natural: D.C. punks Priests - 3 women and a man - bring a lot of fury to their full-length debut but the music is tight and has all the right touches to keep this from being just a collection of angry songs.

Fleet Foxes

17. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up: Softer and folkier than previous efforts, their complex, mostly acoustic songs grow the more you listen to them. Not their strongest album but still worth checking out if you like the quieter side of indie rock.

Rose Elanor Dougall

16. Rose Elinor Dougall - Stellular: In the 2006 Timmys, I described the album by The Pipettes as "Phil Spector's girl groups meet Bananarama in a disc that is polka-dot centric and fun." Rose Elinor Dougall was on the three Pipettes and she is quite a bit different as a solo artist. Gone is is the retro fashion and the sound is modern but still very poppy. Alternative ABBA - as odd as that may sound - might give a decent idea of the sound here.


15. Vagabon - Infinite Worlds: A quiet female voice and lone guitar start off this album but crunchy alt-rock guitars join by the 30 second mark, then fade in and out, both in this song and the rest of the album. Vagobon is Lætitia Tamko, who came to New York from Cameroon as a teenager. This is thoughtful indie rock that is both quiet and loud and just the right time.



14. Thundercat - Drunk (and also Thundercat - Drank): Alternative soul music, too weird and alternative to be just plain old soul music, too funky and jazzy to just call it alternative. The guests include Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Kamasi Washington AND Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. At times it even reminded me of Frank Zappa. If the original album isn't a crazy enough ride for you, Drank is a chopped and screwed remix, available on Spotify - nowhere as good as the original, but unique enough to mention it's existence.

13. The National - Sleep Well Beast: Another regular Timmy award honoree, The National mix up their tried-and-true formula a little by increasing tempo here, adding more guitar there. You definitely can tell it's The National - there's no mistaking that voice - but they expertly expand their boundaries here without going too far.

12. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy: 75 minutes of sprawling, intricate, theatrical singer/songwriter pop. I hear a little Randy Newman, George Harrison, Rufus Wainwright, maybe even Jackson Browne, and sometimes his old band Fleet Foxes. An acquired taste, to be sure, but he is creating his own style and getting pretty close to perfecting it.

11. Idles - Brutalism: UK punks Idles attempt to out-British the Sleaford Mods, and with lines like "the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich," they may have succeeded. This record keeps growing on me- as I write this, their follow-up Joy As An Act Of Resistance is out and is even better, including "Danny Nedelko, a pro-immigrant anthem that has the ghost of Joe Strummer running through it.

10. Snapped Ankles - Come Play The Trees: They wear masks and caveman-like costumes. They create their own "synth log" instruments they play along with guitar, bass and drums. This shouldn't work at all, but when they lock into a groove, it works awesome.

9. Myrkur - Mareridt: OK, full disclosure - I first heard this album while I was browsing Rough Trade Records in Brooklyn - a store I always wanted to go to. So I was already in an amazing mood. This black metal infused album really struck a nerve (purists probably wouldn't call it black metal at all, but I don't think there are too many black metal purists reading the Timmys.) The project of Danish singer Amalie Brunn is dark and sometimes shreiky, sometime ghostly, with the occasional hints of Scandinavian folk. Not my everyday type of listen but a really impressive, unique album.

8. Richard Edwards - Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset: Richard Edwards, singer of Margot & The Nuclear So and So's, was diagnosed with C. Diff in 2014. C. Diff is and intestinal infection and he lost 40 pounds in a matter of days. While dealing with this health issue, Edwards and his wife divorced. So Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset falls in the same vain as classic break-up albums as Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks and Beck's Sea Change. The sound of these songs does remind me of a sunset, but one at the end of a cold winter's day, not unlike Bon Iver's debut.

7. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination: I wanted to avoid saying post-punk again, but it would take me forever to finish these write-ups if I searched for a more approriate word. A Muslim woman from the UK, Shah addresses refugees, Islamophobia and other political hot-button issues. Rhythmically, I hear Talking Heads at time, the album grooves along nicely while delivering its message.

6. Waxahatchee - Out In The Storm: Waxahatchee is singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield with a little help from her friends. While these songs sound very 2017, echoes of female-led college rock of the late 80s/early 90s come through - Belly, Breeders, maybe even some Veruca Salt. Great melodies throughout.

5. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 3: While technically released on the last day of 2016, I had to include Run The Jewels here. Killer Mike and El-P deliver the good once again. Rapid-fire, uncompromising rap over infectious beats. They released an excellent new track for the movie Venom in 2018, and Run The Jewels 4 is supposedly in the works, watch out for it.

4. Lorde - Melodrama: Yes, I'm as surprised as you. But "Green Light" was an awesome single and while nothing else tops this, this is a good collection of infectious pop which avoids cliches and sees Lorde developing as an artist. Skilled production from Bleachers' Jack Antonoff helps and Melodrama is an apt title as these songs show Lorde working through relationships and finding herself. She opens up her diary to us in the form of a well-crafted pop album.

3. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream: As much as I dislike farewell tours that aren't and bands that split up then reform, I can't stay mad at LCD Soundsystem. They're back, and I am thankful for that. Not their best album, but they set the bar very high for themselves on previous efforts - their good is still really great.

2. Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator: Alynda Lee Segarra can best be described as a folksinger/songwriter, but on this album she has expanded her palette. It's a concept album about a Puerto Rican street kid who in attempting to escape her city, falls victim to a spell and wakes up 40 years later. The songs work well without the story and multiple music styles emerge throughout -salsa, doo-wop, folk, blues and rock, including the Lou Reed-ish "Living In The City"

David Bowie

1. St. Vincent - Masseduction: St. Vincent has made my list before and I am certain she will again. When I first heard Los Ageless I didn't like it - I thought it was a little too slick and was a play to make money/become more popular. But upon listening to the album, it fits in and I appreciate it more. It is poppier than previous efforts - Jack Antonoff shows up again - but it's still a St. Vincent album. Great songs very skillfully presented. (Side note: In fall of 2018, St. Vincent released MassEducation, a piano and vocals version of these same songs. Not as good as the full production but nice to hear the songs stripped to their core to both appreciate the songwriting as well as the craftsmanship of Masseduction.



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