This wasn't just one of the best years for local albums. It may have been the best in recent memory, period. From all the great local releases, here are some of the best of 2017.
- Ward Hooper
A Tribute to the Travelin' Lady: Rosalie Sorrels (self-released)
From the canny track sequencing to the photos on the disc covers, this amazingly consistent four-CD tribute to the late folk music icon was done with love and care. Its 44 songs—which include performances by local acts as well as nationally acclaimed musicians—don't just honor the life of a beloved artist. They celebrate the joys and sorrows that we all experience on our journey from the cradle to the grave. That emotional breadth and depth help make A Tribute to the Travelin' Lady the best local release of the year.
- Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us (self-released)
This brooding, mournful follow-up to the tumultuous Twilight Midnight Morning (Obsolete Media Objects, 2015) confirms Sun Blood Stories' status as the most exciting young rock group in Boise. It may take a couple of listens to get used to the album's droning interludes and jarringly goofy bonus track, but the wailed vocals, malleable beats and hypnotic riffs kick in instantly.
- Adam Rosenlund
Half Shy, Bedroom Visionaries (self-released)
Synth-pop artist Karen Havey lives in Seattle now, but she played in Boise for several years as Hey V Kay, which qualifies her for this list. Plus, her latest EP is too good to ignore. Its polished production, beguiling vocals, literate lyrics, supple beats and indelible tunes are all proof of Havey's immense talent.
- Western Daughter
Western Daughter, Driftwood Songs (Take This to Heart)
Western Daughter had planned to break up after Driftwood Songs, but band members changed their minds after WD attracted the attention of a label. It's a good thing. Few indie-rock groups can balance raw power, intricate arrangements and heartfelt introspection the way WD does. Here's hoping for another album (or four).
Tispur, Sleepy Creature (Obsolete Media Objects)
With cryptic lyrics, haunting melodies and high, gender-neutral vocals, Samwise Carlson doesn't sound like anyone around. His debut LP as Tispur captures the wistful, dreamy charm of his music—a perfect wintertime soundtrack.
- Tyler and the Train Robbers
Tylor and the Train Robbers, Gravel (self-released)
One of the highlights of the Train Robbers' debut album Gravel is "Mom's Old Fender," which name-drops Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and John Prine. That last might be the most telling. Like Prine, singer-lyricist Tylor Ketchum (who's only in his mid 20s) has an eye for detail and a plainspoken evenhandedness that songwriters of any age should envy. With Johnny "Shoes" Pisano's slick guitar and the smooth rhythms of Jason Bushman and Flip Perkins backing him up, Ketchum makes maturity sound exciting.
- Oceans are Zeroes
Oceans Are Zeroes, Oceans Are Zeroes (self-released)
In a May 2017 interview with BW, lead singer Joseph Lyle said he hoped his band's self-titled album would "make people think in a big way." Big is right. Epic sweeps, melancholic melodies and thunderous power combine to create a near-transcendental experience.
- Dark Swallows
Dark Swallows, II (self-released)
Dark Swallows' eerie tunes, plaintive vocals and mesmerizing guitar drones have made it one of the most distinctive local groups of recent years. The band's sophomore album captures the visceral force and seductive pull of its live performances. Also, it's nice to actually hear what frontperson Ivy Merrell is moaning about—"Seed of Love" has some vivid lyrics about an abuse-ridden childhood.
The Jerkwadz, For Love and Protest! (self-released)
For Love and Protest! is worth owning just for the high-powered "Shotgun," the single catchiest song any Boise punk has ever written. The other nine tracks are tuneful as well, with Andy A's clear production adding muscle to Dub Wade's nimble drums, Cacie Lee's rumbling bass and Jimmy Sinn's roaring riffs and disarmingly melodious vocals.
- Nick Delffs
Nick Delffs, Redesign (Mama Bird Recording Co.)
Nick Delffs released plenty of memorable music with The Shaky Hands and Death Songs, but he has never sounded looser or more assured than he does on Redesign. His lyrics may allude to suffering and romantic dysfunction, but they're overpowered by spirited vocals, luminous tunes and buoyant rhythms.
Other great local releases
Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (self-released); Lounge on Fire, Lips of Calypso (self-released); Storie Grubb, From the Backyards of Eden (self-released); Like a Rocket, High John the Conqueror (self-released); Teenage Candy, Life in Pink (self-released); 2x2, 60-90 BPH (self-released); Stepbrothers, There is Always Something to Worry About (Flesh & Bone Records).