Top Indie albums from 2017
Forever (Pirate Press Records)
Despite playing across London during the era of the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash, Cock Sparrer never quite achieved the global recognition of their scene mates. More than four decades later, however, Cock Sparrer are still at it, surprisingly with only one non-original band member, and have managed to turn in possibly their best record yet, Forever. Finding a home in the U.S. on the punk and vinyl-friendly label Pirate Press, the album is an exercise in brilliance spread out across a dozen tracks.
Curse Of Lono
Severed (Submarine Cast Records)
Last year, London's Curse Of Lono put out one of the year's best EPs. With Severed, their first full length album, they prove that they were just getting started. With 10 songs, the band combines folk, Americana, alt rock and goth for one of the most exciting things to come out of the UK in years. You can pick up influences as varied as Tom Waits and Radiohead, but still with an originality that defies obvious classification. This new collection of songs only goes to bolster the argument that this band deserves a much bigger audience.
Adios (Bloodshot Records)
The fact that Cory Branan is not on the tongue of every musical tastemaker around is proof that the system is broken. Across a half-a-dozen albums Branan spins out one brilliant story after the next blending in rock, folk, country and Americana for a mix that's hard to resist. He is the heir apparent to folks like John Prine and Guy Clark. His latest, Adios, continues to hammer in that point. This latest is nearly flawless from start to finish, whether it's just Branan with an acoustic guitar or he's drenching his music in swampy organ lines, he easily moves in and out of genres, deftly proving he could put out a record for just about any crowd.
Stiff Little Fingers
No Going Back (earMusic)
As the snobby record store clerk in High Fidelity points out, Green Day essentially ripped off Stiff Little Fingers. The Belfast punks had a great, but criminally underrated run from the late '70s through the early '80s before reforming again a few years later. Nowhere is there brilliance more evident than on No Going Back, the two-disc re-issue of their 2014 effort. The band is a little less sloppy than their earliest albums showed; the production is a little cleaner, but that just serves to better highlight the guitars and Jack Burns' fantastic vocals. Of the dozen or so tracks that make up No Going Back, there is not a single song that doesn't deserve to be on the record. This reissue is paired with a second disc of demos and acoustic versions of "My Dark Places" and "When We Were Young."
Brand New Day (Mono Mundo Recordings/Thirty Tigers)
The Mavericks have been serving up their country/Tejano/swing/funk gumbo for more than 26 years now and it's just as fresh on this their ninth studio album, as it's ever been. Brand New Day, like just about most of their catalogue, is refreshingly original, incorporating sax, accordion and organ into what would, on its own, still be a great collection of country and rock numbers. The added mix of instruments, along with Raul Malo's distinctive, commanding vocals makes for an inspired listen.