It's time to check out the 2017 Best Of lists and look back on another great year in Knoxville music. This gets harder and harder to narrow down every year. It's a good problem to have. It means Knoxville's music scene and talent pool continues to grow.
One trend I couldn't help but notice on this year's singles list is that there's a lot of new blood. There are plenty of artists that are coming out with first releases this year, and a handful of bands/artists on this list are under the age of 21. If the present wasn't exciting enough for Knoxville music, the future is looking pretty dang good as well.
The Top 17 in '17 changed a lot. It went back and forth and back and forth until we ultimately decided to change it to from Top 17 to Top 20 in 2017. There were so many good tracks that came out this year, and it made for some tough decisions. As always, if you hear something you're in to, be sure to share it.
Keep an eye and an ear out for our Top 20 Albums of 2017 coming next week, and if you notice some artists missing from this list, it might be because they're going to be on the albums list instead.
20) Connor Kelly f/ CeCe Coakley - "Ivy"
Connor Kelly exploded on the scene in 2017 with a couple of massively popular songs on Spotify, especially for a brand new artist. On this track he gets some help on vocals from CeCe Coakley.
19) Sydni Stinnett - "Dance When It's Raining"
The young, super-talented singer/songwriter Sydni Stinnett graces us with this bright, cheerful tune "Dance When It's Raining."
18) Xandria Cross - "Combat Boots"
It's very refreshing to hear a big-sounding, anthemic pop song coming out of Knoxville. Upstart pop singer Xandria Cross hit the scene this year with a couple of impressively well-produced singles. You'd do well to put this girl on your radar.
17) Freddy Ka$h - "Facts"
One of Knoxville's premier trap rappers Freddy Ka$h references Peyton Manning on his way to destroying this beat with his poised high-paced flow.
16) Kelsi Walker - "Skin, Bones, and Fear"
Kelsi Walker displays her powerful vocal abilities on "Skin, Bones, and Fear" accompanied by pounding drums, fiddle, and guitar. It's her first official release, but Kelsi plays it like a seasoned pro.
15) Art Smashes Records - "Old Dreams"
Another newcomer, Art Smashes Records exploded onto the Knoxville music scene this year with a handful of punchy, alt-rock tracks. "Old Dreams" is an uptempo, dreamy song with a pop hook that's sure to inject some positive energy into your day.
14) Notty Taylor f/ Erybody Jones - "Space"
Notty Taylor and ErybodyJones trading off verses is a one-two punch that I could get used to. Both of these guys have solidified themselves as mainstays in Knoxville's hip-hop scene and they both come in with some great lines in this song. This beat was produced by T.Ant, and you're likely going to hear more about him when our Top Albums of 2017 list comes out next week.
13) Ukamea f/ Beck & Boobie Cambridge - "WeTheKids"
It was inevitable that Maryville would get some representation on this Top 20 list thanks to Ukamea. The talented double-threat rapper/singer continues to be a prolific recording artist putting out a lot of good stuff in 2017. On "WeTheKids" he gets Beck & Boobie Cambridge to join him on the track adding some new perspective and flows on the track.
12) High Heat - "Desperation"
It's going to be fun to watch High Heat go from high-ceiling potential to seasoned, realized talent. At this point for them, it could simply be a matter of putting together nine or so more songs like "Desperation" and playing the hell out of them taking their show on the road to promote a possible breakout record.
11) Cam Bean f/ Lil Trillium - "Drugs"
"Drugs" by Cam Bean may be the single best effort of a balanced rap track with a pop hook of this year. This song was released as a series of singles, and any one of the other ones could have gone on this list as well, because they're all quality tracks. Lil Trillium has some more tunes to check out in his SoundCloud as well.
10) J-Bush f/ Dee Smiff - "Is This A Dream"
Good Guy Collective is all up in this countdown. Answering the question that the song title asks, this must be a dream, because this level of funkiness in hip-hop beats doesn't exist in the real world. J-Bush and Dee Smiff both come smooth with it while horns blare. Samday produced this beat, and you'll see more from him (as well as J-Bush) a little farther down the page.
9) Persona La Ave - "Gloria Miami"
"Gloria Miami" by Persona La Ave is super fun 80s movie montage music with lush synths and conga-style drums. Now where did I leave my white sport coat?
8) The Verns - "Island Sounds"
When The Verns release new music, there is no telling what you're gonna get, and that's really exciting. "Island Sounds" was probably one of the biggest and most delightful surprises of the year. In fact, it was difficult to choose which track by The Verns to use in this countdown, because they're all fantastic, and they're all so different.
7) SAMDAY f/ J-Bush and Black Atticus - "The Woods"
If Warren G's "Regulators" was written and recorded in East Tennessee, it would sound something like "The Woods" by Samday, J-Bush, and Black Atticus. All three rappers are at the top of their game on this track, and it's full of Knoxville landmark references. Samday's dreamlike beat on this song sets the tone for some perfect cruising music.
6) Night Colors f/ Thelo-Que - "Shadow"
The precociousness of Night Colors and how much they've grown in their craft in 2017 makes it feel like this song was released several years ago. After all, they first release this song under their original moniker Hazel. It really is a beautiful tune. The dancing synths and harmonizing of Hannah and Elijah Cruise really make this track.
This song also displays how dynamic of a rapper Thelo-Que can be. This is not at all the kind of beat that we're used to hearing him rap on, but he delivers in spades. Plus, it's always cool to see some cross-genre collaboration amongst Knoxville artists.
5) Count This Penny - "Somebody Else's Baby"
If you like sipping whiskey and listening to sad songs, it doesn't get any better than "Somebody Else's baby" by Count This Penny. "I watched you weave a web that tangled up the likes of me. Then leave me lonely drunk and spoiling for a fight," will hit you right in the feels. There's a certain warmth to Amanda Rigell's voice and every time I hear her sing, I have to drop everything I'm doing and thinking about and listen with every bit of attention that I have to give. Add to that Allan Rigell's vocals and guitar playing, and you've got a heck of a formidable duo in Count This Penny.
4) Blond Bones - "Sierra"
2017 gave us one song from Blond Bones, the follow-up to their Few of Days EP. "Sierra" is quite the departure from Few of Days in terms of arrangement and instrumentation, but you can kind of track the style and slightly dark tone from one thing to the next. The beefed up rock sound makes their live show a little more for a dank bar than a coffee shop, but the recording of "Sierra" would be at home in either one. That can be a difficult needle to thread and Blond Bones hits the mark perfectly with this track.
3) D.Parker - "Summertime Add-Ons"
Every year when it comes time to put theses lists together, we come across someone we missed throughout the year. D.Parker was one such artist, and I'm now angry that y'all have been hiding him from me! "Summertime Add-Ons" is crazy, pure sensory overload in the best possible way. The beat has so much going on, rich floating synths, booming drums with claps and snare hits, and all kinds of different sounds played against each other. You can listen to it ten times in a row and pick out something you didn't notice before each time. It can be difficult to flow over a beat with so many different layers, and D.Parker cuts through it like it's nothing. Then... Once you think you finally have the song figured out, it completely switches up into a -- I don't even know what -- upside down "Oochie Wally" sample(?) and somehow that half of the song goes even harder than the first. This is some excellent and completely original work from D.Parker.
2) Three Star Revival - "Wait"
Three Star Revival is serving up a big ol' helping of southern-fried funk. Their lineup is stacked with talent including one of the best lead guitarists in town in Cam Moore (that solo at about 3:49 is just perfect), keyboard extraordinaire Greg Walton, a baller rhythm section with Tyler Reddick and Bo Kitzman, and charismatic frontman Ben Gaines. This newest release is the closest that Three Star has come yet to bottling the energy of their live show into a studio recording. TSR has had quite a year, and their single "Wait" has us super pumped for their new music set to be released in 2018.
1) William Wild - "On An Island"
Everything about "On An Island," the reverb-heavy vocals, subtle horn sample, overall vibe of the song, and even the album artwork is perfectly relaxing and chill. There's something about every one of William Wild's songs that makes me want to pack up and take a weekend road trip to the point where I wonder if it's intentional. "'On an Island’ is a song about a very specific moment on tour last year. A moment of clarity within a tornado of new experiences and big questions that I did/do not understand," was the preface given on William Wild's Facebook page upon the song's release. It was a nice explanation of where the welling, uplifting buildup of the song came from.