This has been incredibly difficult to narrow down; these are all albums I’ve reviewed here this year. I got down to nine and then it started to get tough (and I started to worry about offending friends). So there are no apologies for having a few honourable mentions at the end of this piece. As always, in no particular order:

For All Our Sins” – Sound of the Sirens – I’ve been a fan since the first time I saw them. They’ve been building a reputation and a fanbase for a few years now, self-releasing a couple of EPs and an album but this one was backed by a recording deal which meant that Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood were able to move beyond their classic live sound of guitars (and mandolin), foot percussion and stunning harmonies to introduce keyboards, choirs and even a bit of psychedelia. At the album launch party, Jeremy Vine tweeted live footage of Abbe and Hannah and even played the lead track “Smokescreen” on his Radio 2 show the next day. Give it a listen here.

Street Rituals” – Stone Foundation – This is another band that I’ve been following for a few years now and marvelling at the way their talent and work ethic has taken them to the top of the vinyl charts in 2017. This album is the best so far (although “To Find the Spirit” and “A Life Unlimited” are bloody good as well) and having Paul Weller as producer and contributor didn’t do any harm either. The album harks back to the socially-conscious soul albums of the early seventies turned out by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield and has the band pinning their political hearts firmly to their sleeves. And I may have mentioned that they are an absolutely lovely bunch of people.

Gold Rush” – Hannah Aldridge – This is Hannah’s second album; crowd-funded and featuring songs she’s been working and collaborating on with various writers for a few years. How do you categorise Hannah’s music? Well, the easy answer is Americana, but that’s just a marketing tool these days (same as ‘blues’ really, with or without an upper-case B). The last time I interviewed Hannah, she was favouring ‘Southern rock’, hinting at Tom Petty, although this album has a distinct feel of the Stones “Sticky Fingers” on the rock songs. But put the rockers to one side and you have two absolutely beautiful melancholy slow songs, the title track and “Living on Lonely”. Both of those songs are lyrically intense and melodically gorgeous and that’s a combination I can never resist. Hannah’s going to be back in the UK next year; you really should make the effort to go out and see her.

A Girl in Teen City” – Oh Susanna – I loved this album from the very first listen; it’s built around the theme of growing up in Vancouver in the eighties. It’s poetic, it’s melodic and it’s humorous, but most of all it’s human. It’s the story of a real person, Suzie Ungerleider, and her adolescence, with references to the music of the era and so much more; the “American Graffiti” style of “Thunderbird” and the Springsteenesque widescreen of “My Old Vancouver”. Honestly, my words can’t do it justice, you should really listen to it for yourself.

Unfinished Business” – Paul Brady – If you survive as a musician for over fifty years, you’re doing something right. In Paul Brady’s case, he’s doing a lot of things right. He’s still writing superb songs, still picking good covers and he’s still surrounding himself with top-flight musicians who know how to sell a song without overdoing it. This is an album that says ‘if you’re good enough, you’re young enough’. All the experience is there and it all sounds so deceptively effortless. Make some time to listen to it over the holiday.

And those honourable mentions? How about “The Penny Collector” – Carrie Elkin, “Mockingbird Soul” – Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough, “Static in the Wires” – Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro and “Tennessee Night” – Ed Dupas.

 

Back in May 2017, Allan reviewed “A Girl in Teen City” by Oh Susanna (or Suzie Ungerleider); he loved it. We’re really pleased that Suzie has decided to contribute to our High Fives this year, and that she’s got into the spirit of the feature by naming her five favourite post-gig eateries from Atlanta, Georgia to Vancouver, BC. We’re much too coy to say whether the album will feature in Allan’s albums of the year.

 

I love food but gorging before a gig can be awful for singing. You feel like the thing you ate is blocking your throat and smothering all your notes.  So before the show it’s best to keep it light and eat a salad or almonds. So after the show it’s like a reward to go eat yourself silly in the middle of the night. Here are my top five post show delights. 

 

BBQ Ribs at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack – Atlanta, Georgia

 

 

Smoked Meat Sandwich (note: always order “fat” – never lean) from Schwartz’ – Montreal, Quebec

 

 

Bubba’s Poutine –  Downtown Kingston, Ontario

 

 

 

Lobster with Ginger and Green onion at New Sky Chinese Restaurant – Toronto, Ontario

 

 

 

 

Fresh Warm Glazed donut from Lee’s Donuts – Granville Island Market in Vancouver, BC (after staying up all night and getting there at 7:30 am when they open) …best consumed with coffee from JJ Bean.