One of my favourite things to do, as we get to the end of a year is look back. It’s a great time to reflect, a great time to look forward and a great time for Top 10 lists.
Note: I suggest that you listen, while you read.
Recently, someone said to me, “I don’t know how you find time to listen to music.“. My response was, “I don’t know how you live without music in your life every day.”. For me, music is a constant. It lifts me when I’m down, it drowns out the noise of the world when it’s too much and it gives me hope.
2017 has been an interesting year for me music-wise, and I think my Most Listened to Albums list reflects this.
Following Joshua’s lead, my list isn’t in any order and I’ve added an honourable mention section at the bottom.
Let’s do this!
Most played track: Thunder
I’ve been a huge fan of Imagine Dragons since the release of their debut album Night Visions. Having been lucky enough to have caught the band live for both the Smoke + Mirrors tour and the ƎVOLVE, it was an easy call to put this album on my list.
When they started teasing this album in 2016 I was excited and when they released Believer on February 1st, I listened and I was over the moon. It gives us the awesome signature drums we associate with the band, plus there are so many words in this song, and Dan sings them like it’s nothing (trust us, is a huge deal), and their use of “the drop” in this song is perfection.
The track Yesterday is one of my favourites and a big part of that is because of the experience of hearing this song live, with tens of thousands of people singing along. I still get goosebumps and tear up every time I hear this track.
And yet, when I head to Spotify, Thunder is always my first choice. There’s just something about it that I love.
ƎVOLVE debuted at number two on the US Billboard Top 200, ending up at number one in both Canada and on the US Rock chart. It’s gone platinum in the US and Austria and gold in France, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Singles Thunder and Believer both charted in the top 5 and Whatever it Takes has over 112 million views on YouTube.
Imagine Dragons also captured a spot on my Highlights and Top Memories of 2017 post.
Most played track: Built by Pictures
The Iceberg opens with minimalist horns and finger snapping and just like that, you’re in.
Oddisee, with Good Compny behind him, has put together the perfect combination of a super talented live band paired with important political hip-hop.
I’m the first to admit that I’m late to the Oddisee party and I’m doing my best to catch up. The Iceberg has some of my favourite lyrics of the year including this one from Hold it Back.
I make more than my sister
Cause I was born as a mister
And I ain’t never been to college, and she graduated honors
Yet the bosses think that I’m a better fit, huh
The album is funky, abundant with thoughtful lyrics and stories that give us a snapshot of life, and although I couldn’t find it on any Billboard charts, it struck a chord with me. Give this one a listen, there are 12 tracks and I can bet at least one of them will stick with you.
Most played track: Hardwired
This Toronto-based band is familiar to you if you’re a regular reader. We’ve been tracking the guys since we first came across them as Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist entrants. Since that time we’ve gotten to know Noel Johnson, Trevor Crook, Nathan Crook and Jared Craig pretty well. We’ve watched them hone their craft and come into their own.
The Album is the first full-length offering from Johnson Crook and it’s a rich collection of stories, harmonies, textures and melodies. It gives you a little bit of everything and wraps it up in a tidy package. You’ll find fun upbeat party tunes, anthemic songs and tender, soft and sometimes sad love songs.
Putting this album on the list was an easy choice, I have a copy in my car and I listen regularly on Spotify. Choosing a most-played track, now that was the tricky part. It’s rare that I put this album on and don’t listen straight through and my favourite song changes based on my mood. In the end, I went with Hardwired mostly because I feel it and I think you will too.
I’m going to say it again, you should be listening to Johnson Crook. The band got a nice little bump in their streaming numbers when Spotify included their dark and sorrowful song Shadows on the Folk 2017 Playlist. They’re in some pretty special company on that list.
Most played track: This Old Heart
There’s something campy about Midland. And by campy I mean great. They don’t take themselves too seriously, they’ve found a way to mix classic country with today’s more modern sound and it’s working.
With a September release date, you’d think it would be tough to get on a year-end list, but I’ve had a chance to hear Midland live twice this year, first at Toronto’s The Dakota and then again at Boots and Hearts. These guys are super talented and I’m glad that they’ve taken time from their busy schedules to work on music together. It’s amazing.
In case you didn’t know, Midland is lead singer Mark Wystrach who was an actor and underwear model, bass player Cameron Duddy who’s an MTV Video Music award-winning video director (Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars) and lead guitarist, Jess Carson. They come together with luscious harmonies and great guitar work and we get the feeling of a honky-tonk loud and clear.
On The Rocks has a beefy 13 tracks and after This Old Heart, I’d include Electric Rodeo, Drinkin’ Problem, Check Cashin’ Country and Burn Out to my list of favourites.
This Old Heart is a great story song and one that I embraced wholeheartedly.
Most played track: Most of Me
I first saw Andrew Hyatt in 2015 at Burlington’s Sound of Music and I saw the spark of what was to come.
Since then Hyatt has gone on to release his first full-length album and he’s started a professional relationship with Dallas Smith, with Smith is now acting as Andrew’s manager. This change saw him heading out on tour with the Canadian Country star and releasing a brand new single, Do It With You, which is brand new music. This has us looking forward to even more new music.
Iron & Ashes is a record about changes and life. It includes three tracks from his EP Never Back Down including Goodbye Gone, Running on Empty and my most played track, Most of Me. There are twelve tracks and they run the spectrum including some heartbreaking stuff (She Ain’t You), some fun, upbeat party songs (MGR, That’s How I’m Livin’) and songs that are fresh and hopeful (On Me, Laid Back And Easy).
If you’re a fan of country, rock or even pop, give this one a listen.
Most played track: ROCKABYE BABY (feat. ScHoolboy Q)
The latest offering from New York’s Joey Bada$$ dropped on April 7th, 2017. So far we’ve seen three singles – Devastated, Land of the Free and Temptation. If we’re looking at numbers, and we are, AABA peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart
There’s a distinct split on this album, the first half, that he refers to as “The Heroes Side,” is laid-back. It’s melodic and while the music is less dark, the subject matter is anything but. The second half, which Joey refers to as “The Vindictive Villainous Side,” is a collection of tenacious songs.
The album is rife with controversial topics including oppression and the consequences of that oppression, police brutality, and to my delight, Donald Trump. There are lots of other artists featured on AABA including J. Cole, Chronixx, ScHoolboy Q and more.
My favourite track on the album is Rockabye Baby featuring ScHoolboy Q, there’s something about the piano part that gets stuck in my head. The lyrics and yeah, there’s a “Fuck Donald Trump”. This song makes my body move, the chorus is impossible to ignore. I love his delivery and with this album, he’s created a fan in me.
Most played track: Work Shoes
New World Alphabet is the fifth studio album for USS. It’s full of catchy choruses paired with thoughtful and provoking verses. It’s classic USS and the first single, Work Shoes, is my most listened to track. Jason and Ash have been making music together now for 10 years and there’s a maturity about this album.
The guys did a very cool kick off to their tour with six shows in the six. They started at the Cameron House followed by The Mod Club, The Opera House, Rivoli, Adelaide Hall and finished up the six at The Danforth Music Hall. It was a fun, exciting time and fans of USS were thrilled.
Most played track: Waiting On You
I love this album and I especially love Waiting On You. I find it impossible to not sing along when this song comes on. It’s rock and roll, it’s bluesy, but it’s still country.
The record, produced by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush is produced beautifully and it’s full of positive messages and love.
The Project is twelve songs and it includes previously released promo singles like Good, Criminal, Space, and Worth the Wait as well some brand new songs. It’s a put it on and leave it album. It’s a great listen anytime.
Most played track: Chills
This EP and especially this song were impossible to ignore. It was everywhere and I played it a ton on Spotify. In fact, Chills was my most played song of 2017.
This is great songwriting paired with great delivery. James Barker wrote the song with Travis Wood, Gavin Slate and Donovan Woods who are kicking out country hits like nobody’s business. Chills was the third single released from Game On and the band’s first number one.
The band toured with Dean Brody during 2017 and they’re set to headline their own tour starting January 11th in Halifax with Meghan Patrick and Jojo Mason. We’ll be chatting with them soon and we’re expecting there will be new music coming!
Most played track: Losing Sleep
Losing Sleep is the first full-length album from the Cameron House’s Ferraro brothers. It’s got an old time rock and roll feel and while prepping for my interview with the band prior to this year’s NXNE, it got stuck in my head. And it stayed there. I’m a fan of 50’s music and there’s a hint of that here but the music doesn’t feel dated. It’s fresh, fun and full of amazing harmonies.
This record falls into the put it on and leave it category for me. Ten great tracks and while the title track Losing Sleep gets my most played track nod, Shake It Off and Coffee & Smokes are close behind.
Barney Bentall: The Drifter and the Preacher, Cage the Elephant: Unpeeled, Crown Lands: Rise Over Run, Dallas Smith: Side Effects, JJ Shiplett: Something to Believe In, Jess Moskaluke: Past The Past, Lady Antebellum: Heart Break, Matthew Good: Something Like a Storm, and last but definitely not least a single, that I couldn’t leave off my year-end list – Goodnight, Sunrise: Remember Now.