It is with great pride that we present to you our picks for the Top 20 Albums / EPs from Knoxville bands and artists in 2017. Every year, this list gets harder and harder to narrow down. This time it took weeks to compile and order even after keeping an ear on all of it throughout the year. All told, we had around some 65 albums and EPs that were up for consideration, and the records that are worth your time extend well beyond the twenty listed below.
With that in mind, if you disagree, we highly encourage you to spread the word of the local band that you love. We welcome dissension in the interest of getting your favorite Knoxville bands heard!
Also, if you hear something that you like that is on this list, we ask that you please share this post. Share it faaaaarrr and wide, friends. Here it is. The Top 20 Albums / EPs of 2017 from Knoxville.
20) Joe Reb - He's A Quiet Man
Just when we thought we had this list all wrapped up, Joe Reb dropped a Christmas Day surprise. This is the first solo release from Blond Bones' Joe Rebrovick who got an assist from his Blond Bones cohort Christian Barnett with some electric guitar and piano work. "I hope the songs speak for themselves, and I hope that as you listen you can find something in them that makes you think, makes you smile, makes you cry or makes you call your mother," said Joe about this gorgeous seven-song EP.
19) Albert Murrian - Art Rock EP
Albert Murrian came up with a really cool concept for a four-song EP. The EP is called Art Rock, each song is about a different artist, and the release was paired with a visual art series by photographer David Denton.
18) Bad Idols - Earthling
Grab a hold of something before you hit that play button on Earthling by Bad Idols. This record is balls-to-the-wall punk rock that'll raise your blood pressure right quick. The record is fast and intense throughout and gets melodic at times and anthemic at times, and at one point I'm sure I heard a Tim 'The Toolman' Taylor "uhhUHHH." They call themselves Knoxville, TN's "most unlovable punk band." I find that hard to believe.
17) Tractorhead - Mud, Blood, & Beer
Tractorhead's Mud, Blood, & Beer is some gritty, roots-rock goodness with awesome song titles like "Jesus Mowed My Lawn," "Drinkin' & Mowin," and "Kick A$$ American." It's a mix of western twang with southern rock, and that combo suits them very well.
16) Heiskell - Emotional Terrorism
Jeff Heiskell (formerly of The Judybats) put out Emotional Terrorism, a solo follow-up to his 2015 record Arriving, a few months back. It's a wonderful, jangly pop-rock album that has some songs that are very easy to get stuck in your head (like "Whiskey Lick"), and you'd welcome them with open ears. Then there are dark, dream-like songs like "I Want More Life" and "Lullaby for the Self-Absorbed" where the emotional terrorisings are likely to occur.
15) Mic Harrison & The High Score - Vanishing South
If anyone ever asks how to describe the sound of East Tennessee, hand them Mic Harrison & The High Score's Vanishing South. Southern rock, a hint of blues, and some gospel-bluegrass style call-and response bits, southern-fried soul, and kick-ass guitar solos are all present on this record.
14) Peak Physique - a Couple
We've typed a lot of words on Knoxville Music Warehouse about how well the songwriting pair of Matt Honkonen and Wil Wright work together. Here's a few more. Peak Physique's first full-length record a Couple is full of deeply satisfying synth beats and R&B hooks. There really is nothing quite like their specific brand of blended hip-hop, R&B, rock, and electro-pop.
13) tANT - Trill Life Dope View
When tANT is being featured on this website, we're usually talking about the beats he produces making others look good. Well as talented as he is, it should come as no surprise that he's a dope rapper in his own right. The production is tight and full of diverse beats, as was to be expected, and tANT checks every box possible on this record with good flow, good voice, and good lyrics. More of this, please.
12) Adeem The Artist - Flamingo EP
Adeem The Artist put out two ornithological EPs in 2017, The Flamingo and The Owl, and either one would be right at home on this or any other top albums lists. In fact, it was difficult to choose which one to include, and the tiebreaker came down to The Flamingo had five songs and The Owl had only four. Few out there can paint a picture with their songs as well as Adeem. The Flamingo EP has heart melting moments as well as heart breaking ones. Two major highlights are the poppy upbeat "Stars" and the very sweet closer, "The Way She Smiles."
11) The Holifields - The Holifields EP
What a debut from Knoxville psychedelic rock outfit The Holifieds their self-titled EP is. Listening to this record really feels like you're being transported into outer space, and not just because the album cover has space helmets on it. Everything about this EP, especially the buildup and instrumentation on "Magic Tea," is impressive to say the very least. We're really looking forward to what these guys come up with moving forward.
10) Good Guy Collective - What The Water Tells Me Soundtrack
What The Water Tells Me was a release with a really cool concept. This Good Guy Collective effort was put out as a soundtrack to a hip-hop puppet show. Yes, you read that correctly. The creative concept is only part of why this record is great. Mostly, it's just full of good songs that feature all the rappers we love on the Good Guy Collective roster like Dee Smiff, Nu$ense, Luna Riitz, and J-Bush. Plus, it includes new track by The Theorizt. What a treat!
9) Carly Bannister - Carly Bannister EP
Carly Bannister's debut, self-titled EP is stunning. It's well-written, well-produced, and there are three excellent special guest features in only five songs - her brother Ben Bannister, sister Ellie Holcomb (whom many may recognize from Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors), and Jillian Edwards. Her EP release show at Awaken Coffee back in the summer was overflowing with people trying to lean in and listen. That's because her friends and friends' friends knew then what everyone else is beginning to find out, that Carly Bannister is an incredible talent.
8) Thelo-Que - Life's Wonderful Up Here
There is just one banger after another on Life's Wonderful Up Here by Thelo-Que. If you're not nodding your head halfway through the intro, you will be on "Ride With Me," and if you're not by then, seek medical attention, because you may be dead. There are chant-worthy anthems like the hook in "120" and there are funky tracks like "These Days" and there are wavy, smooth as hell songs like last year's KMW #1 single "The Ville." This is a must-hear hip-hop record from Thelo whether you consider yourself a hip-hop head or not.
7) Joey English - Dining Womb EP
Dining Womb EP is five excellent songs stripped completely bare. Joey English made the decision to record these songs directly to cassette, and it really makes this EP an intimate experience as though you're listening to him play while sitting in a dining room right next to you. As a really neat bonus, Joey enlisted Evie Andrus to play some fiddle on track three entitled "Rapture," an Antony & The Johnsons cover.
6) Meob - Meob
Meob is Knoxville's indie-rock scene power trio/supergroup made of Andrew Sayne and Stephen Osborne of Madre and Joshua Manis of Gamenight on the drums. The whole vibe of their self-titled record is influenced by indie-rock before indie-rock became a giant umbrella term. Built to Spill is a good place to start when playing the comparison game, because the title of the fourth song on the record is an homage to that band called "Built To Chill." Andrew's shredding guitar licks and Stephen's awesome bass grooves combined with Josh's quick drumming and fills is just a winning combination.
5) GhstFcV - Suicide Everything
Making a concept album about suicide and dealing with themes like anxiety, depression, and drug use that people would want to listen to is a tough needle to thread. GhstFcV comes through in a big big way on Suicide Everything. The songs are dark, both sonically and thematically, and they hit super hard almost in defiance of depression, thoughts of suicide, and the other tough things being rapped about. Shoutout to the aforementioned tANT and other producers like Fuego x Boogie, Relevant Beats, Matt The Independent, and Dmani Reeves for coming up with some truly original, eerie beats that tie the whole record together. Plus, there's a feature from rapper Benjamin iii who's been putting out great stuff in town for years. He's on the song "Low Vibes" which may be the best one on the album.
4) Electric Darling - Electric Darling EP
If you're a fan of soulful rock n roll, Electric Darling's self-tilted EP is a must-hear. There are really no breaks or slow-downs in this seven-song EP as every song is one that you just gotta dance to. Electric Darling is gearing up for a new chapter with a new front-woman, but in the meantime we have this stellar record with vocals from Yaz.
3) Jubal - Warm Regards,
To record Warm Regards, Taylor Kress and Bonnie Simmons set out to Austin, Texas to work with producer Sam Simmons. They also got some help from Matt Nelson (Cereus Bright) on the standup bass who since cutting this record now plays with Jubal live with some regularity. The throwback folk sound of this album is a curious blend of dark and sweet. It's somehow gritty and gentle at the same time, and Taylor and Bonnie's vocals play off each other perfectly.
2) Mathien - Bad Friend
Before listening to this record, I saw Chris Mathien say on Twitter that he thought this album was his best yet. (lol Way to play the expectations game, man. You're supposed to lower the bar!) So I went into playing Bad Friend for the first time with extremely high hopes, and it delivered in every way by brining the same self-assured soulful flare and thoughtful lyrics that we're used to hearing from him and doubling down on something that made his earlier 2017 release DoWhutNah?! special - working with Austin TX's Soul Food Horns. The whole record is beautiful, and there are so many interesting sounds tied together masterfully. Bad Friend is the kind of record you can put on when you're sad, when you're happy, when you're mad, when you're sulking, when you're in a celebratory mood, or any type of way you're feeling.
1) Sweet Years - Coat Guts
Sweet Years had a pretty killer 2017. They've had packed-out show after packed-out show and a really cool music video release over the summer, and their album Coat Guts was the centerpiece of it all. Coat Guts, if I'm not mistaken, is the first Sweet Years record with a runtime of over 20 minutes. It makes sense, because for the most part their songs are much more sprints than marathons. From the very first twenty seconds or so of intro on the opening song "Concerning Blood" it has that weird guitar effect just letting you know it's about to go down, and then for the rest of the song it has a really subtle build-up. It's very cleverly done. For a band that uses so much sports imagery and allusions, that opener is like the warm up and stretch before the main event. Then from the moment in "Fireproof" when Dakota says "I'm tired of being people with you motherf***ers," it's go time. Every song on Coat Guts is memorable, and there's not a single second of filler on it. Dakota does things with his guitar that sound like revelrous (barely) controlled chaos that are completely mind boggling. Put that on top of Travis Bigwood's bass grooves and Zach Gilleran's drumming (Knoxville's rhythm section) and you have the album of the year.
HONORABLE MENTION: Moccasin Cowboy - L is for Lasso, The Pinklets - The Pinklets, Lamont - Dream Warrior EP, Shayla McDaniel - 26 Letters, Bark - Year of the Dog, TooSicc Jackson - Bleach Tape, Shimmy & The Burns - Happy To Be Here, Ryan Meeker - Foolish, Mayfest - Growing Pains EP, Tree Tops - Ghosts Don't Dance With Shoes
NOTE: Ex-Gold's Tour EP, according to their Bandcamp, is a part of a full-length album that has yet to be released and will likely be on next year's list.