L: Sarah Cahlll – Eighty Trips Around the Sun
R: Roland Kayn – A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound

Best of 2017: Noteworthy Recordings

Trying to tally the year’s “best” recordings is a thankless task, not least because there’s no realistic chance anyone has heard everything. Seeing I Am a Man by Ron Miles turn up on several lists compiled by critics whose opinions I hold in esteem, for instance, I was tempted to rush it into my list, as well… but chose instead to acknowledge that I’d simply not heard it early enough, nor invested sufficient time getting to know its soft-spoken merits. There surely are other examples I could cite. Moreover, I spent almost no time or effort on contemporary pop and hip-hop releases in 2017: not for lack of excellence, but simply because my attention was fixed elsewhere.

Therefore, the following lists comprise the new recordings and archival projects that impressed and moved me most in 2017, each category featuring a top pick marked with a star (☆). I also compiled a supplemental list of still more albums that brightened my year… which might seem like overkill, but actually just scratches the surface. Any one or more of these titles easily could have leapt to the main list; several jumped back and forth for weeks. They’re all worthy. (Ron Miles, as it happens, turns up twice: once with Jason Moran and Mary Halvorson; once with Greg Saunier and Halvorson again.)

Omitted here were all National Sawdust releases, some of which I singled out for praise in this previous list, and – regrettably – one leading contender for my top album of the year… until I learned it had been available on CD in Iceland and on Bandcamp globally in 2016: Epicycle, by Gyða Valtýsdottir. (You still should hear it.)

20 New Recordings

☆ Sarah CahillEighty Trips Around the Sun: Music by and for Terry Riley (Irritable Hedgehog)

Pierluigi BilloneITI KE MI; Equilibrio. Cerchio – Marco Fusi (Kairos)

Hafdís Bjarnadóttir (self-released)

Joda ClémentTIME + PLACE (Glistening Examples)

Sarah DavachiAll My Circles Run (Students of Decay)

Nat EvansCoyoteways (Mon Amie)

David FirstSame Animal, Different Cages Vol. 3: Civil War Songs (for Solo Harmonica) (Fabrica)

Jürg FreyCollection Gustave Roud (Another Timbre)

Rebekah HellerMetafagote (New Focus)

Dana JessenCarve (Innova)

JlinBlack Origami (Planet Mu)

Irene Kurkachants (Edition Wandelweiser)

George LewisAssemblage – Ensemble Dal Niente (New World)

George LewisThe Will to Adorn – International Contemporary Ensemble (Tundra/New Focus)

Alex MincekTorrent (Sound American)

Matt MitchellFørage (Screwgun)

Nicole MitchellMandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE)

Kelly Moranbloodroot (Telegraph Harp)

Áine O’DwyerGallarais (MIE Music)

Tyshawn SoreyVerisimilitude (Pi Recordings)

10 Archival Releases

☆ Roland KaynA Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound (Frozen Reeds)

Alice ColtraneWorld Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)

Jürg FreyL’ame est sans retenue I (Erstwhile)

Keiji HainoWatashi Dake? (Black Editions)

Joe JonesIn Performance (États-Unis)

Mary Jane LeachPipe Dreams (Blume)

Pep LlopisPoiemusia La Nau Dels Argonautes (Freedom to Spend)

Spontaneous Music EnsembleKaryobin (Emanem)

Sun RaThe Magic City (Cosmic Myth)

Midori TakadaThrough the Looking Glass (Palto Flats/WRWTFWW)

More Music You Ought to Hear

Sarah AnglissEaling Feeder (self-released)
Ellen ArkbroFor organ and brass (Subtext)
Martin ArnoldThe Spit Veleta (Another Timbre)
Django Bates’ BelovedThe Study of Touch (ECM)
Bell WitchMirror Reaper (Profound Lore)
Bent KneeLand Animal (Inside Out/Sony)
Tim Berne’s SnakeoilIncidentals (ECM)
Antoine BeugerOckeghem Octets (Another Timbre)
Olivia BlockOlivia Block (Another Timbre)
Anouar BrahemBlue Maqams (ECM)
Jaimie BranchFly or Die (International Anthem)
Kate Carrthe story surrounds us (Helen Scarsdale)
Isaiah CeccarelliBow (Another Timbre)
Joda Clément & Mathieu RuhlmannKindred (Marginal Frequency)
Alex Cline’s Flower Garland OrchestraOceans of Vows (Cryptogramophone)
Daniel CorralRefractions (Populist)
Kara-Lis CoverdaleGrafts (Boomkat Editions)
Mario Diaz de LeonSanctuary (Denovali)
ElderReflections of a Floating World (Stickman)
ensemble, et al.The Slow Reveal (Imaginator)
Morgan Evans-WeilerUnfinished Variations (for Jed Speare) (Weighter)
fraufrauleinheavy objects (Marginal Frequency)
Kate GentileMannequins (Skirl)
Randy GibsonThe Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield 16 VIII 10 (Kansas City) – R. Andrew Lee (Irritable Hedgehog)
Magnus GranbergNattens skogar (Insub.)
Cameron GravesPlanetary Prince (Mack Avenue)
Impetuous RitualBlight Upon Martyred Sentience (Profound Lore)
IncantationProfane Nexus (Relapse)
Vijay Iyer SextetFar from Over (ECM)
LongleashPassage (New Focus)
Chelsea McBride’s Socialist Night SchoolThe Twilight Fall (Browntasauras)
Matt MitchellA Pouting Grimace (Pi Recordings)
Roscoe MitchellBells for the South Side (ECM)
Jason MoranBANGS (Yes Records)
PancracePancrace (Cairos Edition/Penultimate Press)
Michael Pisaroasleep, street, pipes, tones (Hubro)
Éliane RadigueOccam Ocean 1 (Shiiin)
Mariel RobertsCartography (New Focus)
Keith Rowe/Michael Pisaro13 Thirteen (Erstwhile)
Marc SabatHarmony (Another Timbre)
Greg Saunier​/​Mary Halvorson​/​Ron MilesNew American Songbooks, Volume 1 (Sound American)
Nadia SirotaTessellatum (Bedroom Community)
Kaitlyn Aurelia SmithThe Kid (Western Vinyl)
Linda Catlin Smith Drifter (Another Timbre)
Chiyoko SzlavnicsDuring a Lifetime (Another Timbre)
Craig TabornDaylight Ghosts (ECM)
James WeeksMala Punica (Winter & Winter)
Steven WilsonTo the Bone (Caroline)
Scott WollschlegerSoft Aberration (New Focus)
Nate WooleyPolychoral (Mnóad)

1 reply
  1. pistachionick
    pistachionick says:

    Just found this list from a random internet search and am enjoying working my way through it – easily the most eclectic and adventurous selection I’ve seen. Thanks for compiling it.


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Further reading

Last Words: National Sawdust Log at a Time of Transition

As National Sawdust Log ceases operation at a time of drastic challenge, editor and lead writer Steve Smith looks back at what this bold joint initiative among artists, journalists, and critics achieved.

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