Here you go, my entire Top 101 in one nice and concise post. You’re welcome.
- The Speedlights, “After Tonight
- Most Vivid, “You Make Staying Easy”
- Loyal Sally, “Out West”
- The Prof.Fuzz 63, “Three-Way Tie for Dog of the Year”
- LEV, “Search Party”
- Artemus, “White Noise”
- Toadies, “Broke Down Stupid”
- Hello Shannon, “Slowly”
- Sunbuzzed, “Ooze”
- Jana Pochop, “Lightning”
- Rat Rios, “Sliver of My Beauty”
- Riders Against the Storm (feat. Mobley), “Mali”
- The Black Angels, “Currency”
- Dead Flowers, “Let Me Be”
- The Rich Hands, “Fast and Loose”
- Silas Nello, “Holy Ghost Blues”
- The Unlikely Candidates, “Violence”
- French 75, “Your Love”
- Brian Lambert, “Blood”
- Josh Halverson, “Crossing That Line”
- The Cover Letter, “Josephine”
- Emily Bell, “Can’t Talk Back”
- Loafers, “Bobby”
- Brightwire, “Despite the Grey”
- Ask for Joy, “Deep in the Night”
- Native Fox, “Your Name”
- Teenage Sexx, “Hero in Danger”
- Oil Boom, “Angelo No. 9”
- The War Bonnets, “Math”
- Ishi (feat. Cure for Paranoia & Sam Lao), “Crocodile Tears”
- Quiet Company, “On Single Moms”
- Little Beards, “Office Matinee”
- Reagan James, “Better Than This”
- Crystal Yates, “Raining in Amarillo”
- Jean Caffeine, “Winterland (Talking Blues)”
- Medicine Man Revival (feat. -Topic), “We Are Love”
- Farah, “The Only Ones”
- Ty Richards, “Shoulda Coulda Woulda”
- Ronnie Fauss (feat. Ben Kweller), “Saginaw Paper Mill”
- JIBE, “We’ve Only Just Begun”
- The Birds of Night, “Blackout”
- Gaston Light, “Newport Drive”
- Northern National, “MoneyBlind”
- The Delzells, “Snide Reply”
- Alex Rose, “Sherbet Colors”
- Cameron Matthew Ray, “Anymore”
- As the City Sleeps, “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted”
- Ducado Vega and Zenya, “Bombay B”
- The Venetian Sailors, “Out in the Open”
- Joe Gorgeous, “The Matter”
- American Shit Storm, “Let’s Start a Fire”
- David Ramirez, “I’m Not Going Anywhere”
This is the kind of song that gives goosebumps to your goosebumps. The production is stark as can be, and that is exactly how it should be for this song. Anything more than the piano and Ramirez’s deeply emotive vocals is just a distraction to the message.
- The Motel Pines, “Circadianism”
Proof that sometimes all a song needs is basic chords and strong hooks. The Motel Pines may not be breaking new musical ground, but they are throwing quite a party on this well explored rock terrain.
- Jessie Frye, “Honey”
Ms. Frye dived head first into the pool of pop music, and the results are as strong as Frye’s fans would expect. Jessie is a musical chameleon, and adapts her style flawlessly to whatever style she chooses. The Ghost is curious to hear more in this musical vein.
- Snow Tha Product, “Waste of Time”
Snow is not good for a girl rapper; her skills on the mic put most men to shame. This is an anthem for anyone that has seen the light as to what a waste of time an ex was. Oh, and you haven’t seen the video, you’ve been missing out on three of the most entertaining minutes you’ll see all year.
- Emmeline, “If You Can’t Love Me”
After months and years of teasing, it looks like 2018 will be the year to Rise. Here’s a sneak peek of the upcoming album. The production on this album (courtesy of Joe Phillips) is quite remarkable, bringing an extra serving of style to Emmeline’s already impeccable songs.
- Sonar Lights, “Reset”
What is it about the title “Reset?” Cut Throat Finches earned the #1 slot in last year’s countdown with a song of the same name. This Sonar Lights composition may have charted lower, but this track finds the band lightening their heavy sound, and the results are gorgeous.
- Devy Stonez, “Up the Stats”
The opening hooked me in instantly, and Stonez’ smooth flow kept me listening throughout the whole track. Here’s to Devy’s stats going up in 2018, again and again.
- Goodnight Ned, “Gaslighting”
Is it just me, or did this track not get the attention it deserved? Goodnight Ned released a powerful and lyrically razor-sharp track, but it seemed like their was less talk about Ned than usual. Maybe everyone somehow didn’t know about the release of the track. Well now you know, and if you’re still sleeping on it, that’s on you.
- Rosegarden Funeral Party, “Horror Music”
Moon Waves is no more. John Kuzmick’s project, Acid Carousel, has deservedly gathered plenty of attention. Let’s not overlook the fact that Moon Wave’s ex-lead singer, Leah Lane, has started this strong, moody new wave-esque project, Rosegarden Funeral Party. Fans of The Cure and Siouxsie will undoubtedly find this track fits their musical taste like a proverbial glove. Side note: if the screams in this song are courtesy of Ms. Lane, she should audition for a horror film.
- Ansley, “Lucky Smoke”
I always knew Ansley, lead singer of Panic Volcanic, could growl with the best of them. This track proved that her voice can be as gorgeous as it can be gravelly. That versality is part of what earned her my Ghosty Award for Best Female Vocalist. As for the track, well, it’s simply beautiful.
- Dark Rooms, “I Get Distracted”
Fans of Dark Rooms gravitated towards the eerie “I Get Overwhelmed”, but The Ghost connected more with the soulful groove of “I Get Distracted”. Blame it on the ADD.
- The Angelus, “As I Live and Breathe”
I could have just as easily chosen “Thunderbolts I Scatter”, “The Other Side of the Mountain”, or any of the other tracks off of There Will Be No Peace. It’s an album that is appreciated best in its entirety. Still, I guess since I have to choose one song, “As I Live and Breathe” is a solid choice.
- Power Trip, “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)”
The Ghost has often overstereotyped metal as being incoherent and stupid. Power Trip is anything but that. Their lyrics are sharp, and their melodies are not a blur of noise, but carefully orchestrated for maximum impact. It’s heavy, it’s brutal, and it rules.
- Jackie Venson, “Fast”
It would seem to The Ghost that Ms. Venson is a woman with a heart and some killer guitar chops. Her guitar skills are present around every curve in this track. Her lyrics suggest a woman with both heart and a strong sense of priority.
- Midnight Opera, “Hounds at Sunset”
The best way I can describe the sound of this song is to imagine what it might sound like if darkness became at peace with itself. Moody, and somewhat melancholy, yet never morose or melodramatic.
- Siberian Traps, “Lemon Balm”
Siberian Traps are a band that knows the power of a good pop hook, and Indicator has plenty. “Balmorhea” was a close runner up for my favorite track off the album, but the hooks on “Lemon Balm” were just harder to dent.
- Anchor North, “Slope Haul”
It’s hard to put my finger on what it is about the track, but for some reason it feels like something that would have felt right at place on a pop station in 1992. Perhaps this is The Heights’ long lost cousin, with all the pop hooks but not of the guilt associated with the TV band. That analogy doesn’t do the track justice though. Although plenty catchy, there’s a smooth sophistication to this track that was completely missing in the previous comparison.
- Beth // James, “Bring Your Fire to Me”
Mikaela Kahn may have begun her musical journey in Denton, but she’s hit her musical peak in Austin since becoming half of Beth // James. This track is a sultry slow burn that sounds like equal parts desire and heartbreak.
- Henry the Archer, “New Mexico”
How to describe Henry the Archer? That’s a tricky one. They’re kinda funky and soul, yet there’s a rock edge to tracks like this. It’s a unique sound that HTA has created, and it’s a likely reason that I’ve found tracks like “New Mexico” so compelling.
- Lorelei K, “Lavender Hue”
The bare arrangement pf “Lavender Hue” allows for Lorelei K’s lovely voice to shine. There’s beautiful shades of melancholy, honesty, and empowerment throughout this ballad.
- Alyse Black, “My Body Is Burning”
There’s a unique sensuality in Ms. Black’s voice, and her tone feels familiar yet distinctively her own. This Austin based singer knows how to deliver a powerful vocal on tracks like “My Body Is Burning”.
- Ron Bultongez, “The Calm”
I owe a debt of gratitude to Droo D’Anna (of Droo’s Peace Crush) for helping me discover Ron Bultongez. Ron’s voice can be soulful or sorrowful, depending on the track. On “The Calm”, it’s a pretty even mix, and the simple yet haunting refrain of “run, run from me” is not likely to leave the listener’s head anytime soon. And on a completely unrelated note, he has amassed quite the collection of Ghosty Awards for a guy I hadn’t even heard of during the first half of 2017.
- Christina Cavazos, “Stay”
This young Austin singer-songwriter has managed to write a ballad with a sweet beauty to it that is reminiscent of 90’s acts like Innocemce Mission, Mazzy Starr, and Sixpence None the Richer. This is the kind of song that melts a heart.
- BNQT, “Unlikely Force”
Eleven years later, Midlake finally released a follow-up to their wildly successful album The Trials of Van Occupanther. Alright, so there are a few flaws with that statement. First off, Midlake released two albums after Van Occupanther. Second, “Unlikely Force” was by BNQT, which does feature members of Midlake, but is in fact not Midlake. In spite of all that, “Unlikely Force” feels more akin to songs like “Roscoe” and “Van Occupanther” than any track from the previous two Midlake efforts.
- Charley Crockett, “Night Train to Memphis”
The Ghost has to confess that he likes the bluesy side of Mr. Crockett best. Still, The Ghost is thrilled with the success Crockett has encountered while exploring his country/western tendencies. There’s plenty of winners on Lil’ G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee, including this track.
- Quentin Moore, “Party Drugs”
Don’t let the title fool you: “Party Drugs” is no simple party jam. Sure, the groove of this song could get a party started, but that’s just the pop surface of the track. There’s a sharply written critique of society in “Party Drugs”. Lines like “Why you wanna take the hard way? It’s not worth the hype. Just ask Kaepernick and Kanye” show the singer taking aim at those who persecute truth tellers with a heart serving of satire and irony. It’s writing like this that earned him The Reader’s Ghosty for Best Album for Black Privilege.
- Acid Carousel, “Higher Than the Beatles”
Many bands try to bring a modern perspective to psychedelia, but Acid Carousel seems to be quite content making an album that feels like it could have been released in 1967 instead of 2017. The only slight regret is that the band’s energy in their live shows is hard to capture on record.
- Sarah Jaffe, “Bad Baby”
Sure, Sarah Jaffe is always great. But for some reason, “Bad Baby” is one of the most enjoyable songs she’s done in a long while.
- Chris J Norwood, “Longshot”
A lot can happen in the course of seven years. That’s how long ago it was when Mr. Norwood first sent me his music. Seven years later, it is safe to say that he is among the area’s premier songwriters. One could argue that “Longshot” is the perfect metaphor for Norwood’s career, and The Ghost is thrilled that he let it ride.
- Pearl Earl, “Meet Your Maker”
Killer song. Killer video. Killer musicianship. I rest my case.
- Matthew Logan Vasquez, “Same”
Houstonite Matthew Logan Vasquez manages to bring a gritty sound to tracks like “Same”, and simply put, it works. Vasquez combines all the best of rock, soul, blues, southern sounds, whatever, and makes it his own cool vibe.
- The Texas Gentlemen, “Pain”
There’s no denying that The Texas Gentlemen are one of the strongest musical presences in the scene. The band adapts the better musicianship portions of a jam band without ever veering into the cheesier aspects of jam bands. Perhaps that’s why the album is TX Jelly instead of jam. Either way, the musicianship on tracks like “Pain” is spot on.
- Calhoun, “Georgia”
Calhoun are back after a four year absence, and they’re none the worse for the time off. All the hooks are still present, as is Tim Locke’s ability to tell a story in the context of a pop song.
- Vandoliers, “Endless Summer”
Most of the time, musical reflections of youth veer heavily on the sentimental side. While there’s still a poignancy in the lyrics of “Endless Summer”, Vandoliers lead singer Joshua Fleming manages to capture the energy of childhood youth in this track. Bonus points to the band for the Billy Idol reference.
- NiTE, “Dreamer”
Speaking of youth, The Ghost spent much of his younger years fixated on synth heavy acts like Thomas Dolby, Depeche Mode, New Order, and so on. It’s a subgenre that seems woefully underrepresented. Thankfully, NiTE is bringing 1980’s style synths and beats back in style. All The Ghost needs now is a good dance floor and this song pumping through a club’s speakers.
- Salim Nourallah (feat. Chris Holt & Paul Averitt), “Back on the Chain Gang”
The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang” is one of my all time favorite songs. One might think this would give Salim an advantage by covering it. Truth is, covering a song like this is a double-edged sword. When covering a beloved song, it is easy to either become a pale imitation of the original, or to lose the entire meaning of the song. Mr. Nourallah managed to create a unique rendition of this track, one that is different enough that it feels unfair to compare the two. As for the song’s meaning, the heartbreak in the lyrics is evident in Nourallah’s performance.
- PIECES, “A Kid Named Reverb”
The Ghost gives “A Kid Named Reverb” the unofficial award of most overlooked track of the year. It was easy to overlook this song. One can only find the song among the myriad of releases on Bandcamp. With a generic name like PIECES, it does nothing to stick out. Still, PIECES composed an amazingly catchy track in “A Kid Named Reverb” that is ambitious in structure but never at the expense of melody. Here’s hoping that PIECES get the attention in 2018 that they missed out on in 2018.
- Lizzie Boredom, “Dead Men Can’t Cat Call”
Merriam-Webster declared “feminism” the word of the year. With much of the news focused on reports of sexual harassment and assault, it’s a needed turn of direction for our nation. Yet Lizzie Boredom was ahead of the curve, releasing this track months before the birth of the #MeToo movement. This is an unapologetic slam against males who disrespect woman. Oh, and these ladies are not breaking the stereotype that “girls can’t rock”; they’re shattering it into tiny shards of glass.
- Garrett Owen, “Rose Hill”
I wonder if Garrett Owen believes in the cliche that good things come to those who wait. After years of being largely overlooked, Mr. Owen finally grabbed the attention of a local music community that rarely gives singer-songwriters the break they deserve. Interestingly enough, “Rose Hill” is a composition of Owen’s that it took him over a decade to complete. This listener is glad that Owen managed to finish this track, as it remains his most beautiful work to date.
- Shadows of Jets, “Houndstooth Coat”
Is it just me, or is there a strong resemblance between the intro to “Houndstooth Coat” and Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart”? That’s alright, even if the similarities were intentional, one can’t blame a musician for a nod to the late great Petty. Also, SOJ bring an alt-rock spaciness meets power-pop vibe to the song, which Petty would have never done. Oh, and this song is fun. Lots of fun.
- Sweet Spirit, “The Mighty”
Most of the music of Sweet Spirit focuses around fun, fun, and more fun. “The Mighty” is a rare change of pace for the band. It’s a song with a message of compassion for the less fortunate, and a warning to those who judge and mistreat others. “The Mighty” may not be the song you use to crank up the party, but it is bound to strike an emotional chord in anyone with a heart.
- Atlantis Aquarius, “Full Moon”
Jordan Cain was once part of Jonathan Tyler’s backing band, Northern Lights, before beginning his own southern rock group, Atlantis Aquarius. Mr. Cain studied under a master of the modern southern sound, and at this rate, The Ghost may soon say that the student has become the teacher.
- Tomkat, “Teardrops”
Ever have a band that you like release an album that makes you say to yourself, “I knew you were good, but I never knew you were THAT good.” That was my response to Icarus, Tomkat’s first full length release. This is an album of song that are complex in their melody, but simple to appreciate. The band’s new work also finds themselves with a more sophisticated style, and sounding more confident in their ability than ever before. This is a band that his tightened their sound, and here’s hoping the rest of America notices.
- Andrew Holmes, “England”
Some songs you fall in love with immediately, and others slowly take a hold of your heart and before you realize it, the song has become one you can’t let go of. My relationship with “England” falls more into the latter category. Mr. Holmes has a unique voice that at first felt didn’t grab me. Yet there’s something simple and pure in “England” that captivated me more and more with each listen. If Holmes has an album worth of songs of this caliber, then he might be the area’s next great singer-songwriter.
- Old 97’s, “I Don’t Wanna Die in This Town”
In some ways, “I Don’t Wanna Die in This Town” is both a quintessential 97’s song and a total departure. The clever wordplay is a standard of Rhett Miller’s songwriting, and the melody even feels partially stolen from “Won’t Go Home”. Still, Graveyard Whistling finds the bands recording its darkest and most insightful music to date. Anger is replaced by fear, and the despair feels all the more desperate. Best line: “There was a highway/Frank’s singin’ “My Way”/Or maybe it was Sid/Now I’m payin’ for what I did”
- Blue, the Misfit. (feat. XES), “Perfect Night”
I’m about talked out on how amazing Blue is. There’s only so many ways to call a guy a musical genius. Just listen to him, and if you don’t get it, well, I can’t help you.
- Falgoo, “Safe Passage”
From the first time I saw Ashley Falgout perform with Verm & Loretta, her soulful voice grabbed my attention. Her current project, Falgoo, features members of Dead Flowers as her backing band, and the result is just amazing. Falgout gives one of the strongest vocals of the year on “Safe Passage”, taking simple lines like “I’m going home” and turning them into declarations of hope.
- Pool Lights, “Wonderful Thing”
I’m not going to lie and say that “Wonderful Thing” is a complex musical masterpiece. It is a pop song, pure and simple. Yet to manage such a joyous sound in less than two and a half minutes is anything but a simple feat. Pool Lights composed an utterly and undeniably satisfying song with “Wonderful Thing”. And in a year that’s been filled with madness and tragedy, sometimes a “Wonderful Thing” of a pop song is all you need at the end of the day.
- Andrew Delaney, “Amelia Earhart”
Sometimes a singer can take a phrase and make that phrase mean more in verse than it ever can on paper. Andrew Delaney managed to do that throughout his album The Escape Artist, but never more effectively than in “Amelia Earhart”. In the second verse, he sings “If I know you, and I probably don’t”. There’s a sense of heartbreak in how he delivers that line that probably couldn’t be appropriately expressed by most writers in a thousand words. Much of “Amelia Earhart” manages to pull of the art of putting more meaning into each word than it seems should be possible.
- Kaela Sinclair, “Clear Eyes”
While this song was only released in November, I dare not even try to count the number of times I’ve listened to “Clear Eyes”. I fell in love with this song quickly, and hard. I went to Oaktopia largely for Ms. Sinclair’s performance, and I cheered loudly upon knowing she was closing her set with this song. It’s a heartbreaker of a song unlike most. Ms. Sinclair opts not to revel in overly dramatic language, but maintains a simple and direct delivery. This only makes the lyrics hit even heavier. Lines like “Believe me, I know how this story ends” show the singer accepting of the pain of her reality. “Clear Eyes” is simple, honest, and beautiful, and connected with me deeper than any other song this year. Kaela, you’ve more than earned the right to the #1 song of 2017.