Best of 2017 - Greg Simpson's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2017

Greg Simpson's Picks (2017)

Staff Picks

Hey there! It’s Greg, your friendly neighborhood Punknews Podcast producer. I’m also the co-host and producer of Best Midwestern, and although we’re taking a little breather at the moment, we had plenty of super fun episodes this year, including our 2-month long “Midwest Ska Tournament" which concluded with our listeners’ votes finding Slapstick besting Suicide Machines in the finals, and Brendan Kelly joined us for a victory episode. Subscribe here,why dontcha?

On the personal punk rock front this year I’ve continued to work at Sonic Iguana as well as get my own studio off the ground, Velour Underground. Wanna record with me at either place? Hit me up! On the music-making front, Outdoor Velour is still going strong, and I’ve started a new punk band, Dopplepopolis so there’s a lot of rock music going on over here. Check out the first track from the upcoming Dopplepopolis EP "Bloodbath Salts", produced by yours truly at Velour Underground.

Onto the topic at hand. It’s a bummer but I was only able to put together a Top 15 instead of Top 20 this year. There was a lot of stuff released by bands I like that could have potentially made my list but I never got around to buying. Sorry to Protomartyr, Wavves, Cults, Waxahatche, The Lillingtons, St.Vincent and The War on Drugs. You coulda had a chance. With that said, here’s what I did buy and dug in 2017.


15. Japandroids: Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Anti- Records

While Japandroids aren't breaking any new ground for themselves, there's nothing wrong with another album full of giant singalong anthems as far as I'm concerned. They made us wait awhile for this and distance makes the heart grow fonder.

14. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: The Echo of Pleasure


They bring the fuzz back after the weak, too-clean Days of Abandon, thank goodness. With an even stronger 80s vibe mixing with their fuzz pop, this album is a welcome return to form but with a twist.

13. The Shins: Heartworms

Aural Apothecary / Columbia / Sony

On their last album Port of Morrow The Shins were flexing. I’m not looking for forced power and big blown out production when I listen to The Shins. I missed the simple twee Shins of old, and Heartworms brings the band back towards the sounds of Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, their best albums. The songwriting doesn't quite reach the heights of those classics, but there is enough to grab onto to make this a worthwhile and fun record.

12. Mister Heavenly: Boxing the Moonlight

Polyvinyl Records

Stepping away from the self-coined 'doom wop' of their debut, Mister Heavenly returns with a diverse and more punchy album. I'm a sucker for anything Nick Thorburn is a part of.

11. Rainer Maria: Rainer Maria

Polyvinyl Records

The trio picks up right where they left off 11 years ago as if they'd never stopped. A gritty and powerful outing, they show this new wave of emo upstarts how it's done while also forging new ground in the genre.

10. Surfer Blood: Snowdonia

Joyful Noise

Their first album after the death of lead guitarist Thom Fekete, Snowdonia takes a more laid back approach, perhaps in sonic memoriam to match the one printed in the liner notes. While I'm missing Thom’s soaring, catchy guitar leads, JP Pitts' vocal melodies continue to land right where I need them in this solid batch of tunes.

9. Telethon: The Grand Spontanean: A Tale Told In Five Acts


More hard hitting, fast, and ambitious than their debut Citrosis, Telethon launch themselves from Midwest upstarts to being a true force to be reckoned with.

8. The Riptides: Canadian Graffiti

Something to do records

I was conflicted about putting this on the list since I had a big hand as an engineer for the album, working with producer Mass Giorgini at Sonic Iguana. I even played some guitar and keys on this thing. But cmon, I'm not in the band, so i figure it's fair game. It's the best pop punk album of 2017, showing the best of both sides of the band with a huge quotient of harmony-laden earworms and a healthy handful of ultra fast, rough-throated shredders.

7. The National: Sleep Well Beast

4AD Records

One of their most gorgeous albums to date, focusing on the more chill side of their sonic palate. A larger piano presence and subdued electronics separate it from the rest of their catalog, with songwriting as skillfully crafted as ever.

6. Slowdive: Slowdive

dead oceans

When all your past albums have become shoegaze touchstones, how do you possibly follow it up new music 22 years later? Answer: this is how. The reunited veterans show us all how spacey, dreamy music is done, while bringing added power to the rhythm section. It impossibly stacks up.

5. Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound


Their last album Here and Nowhere Else was my favorite record of 2014 so this album was highly anticipated for me and these guys didn't let me down. An honest-to-god rock band, Cloud Nothings once again prove they are directly following in Nirvana's footsteps in that they bring amazing melodies buried behind the teeth gritting and screaming.

4. Alvvays: Antisocialites

Polyvinyl Records

Alvvays continues to hone their sound, and boy is it a sound I'm a sucker for. As good as any of the first wave of twee bands, their lush guitar textures and perfect reverb-drenched vocal melodies hit my sweet spot.

3. Nana Grizol: Ursa Minor

Orange Twin

I've been waiting seven years since the amazing Ruth, and Ursa Minor is worth it. Touching, heartfelt indie pop with a rawness around the edges, Nana Grizol, please don't make me wait this long for the next one.

2. The Jesus And Mary Chain: Damage and Joy


One of my favorite bands ever finally put out the new album that had been hinted at for years (you can look back at my past Punknews lists and see I'd made a running joke out of anticipating their new album each year starting in 2004 maybe?). And obvious extension of the sound they were rocking on 1998's underrated Munki, Damage and Joy finally satiates my need for more JAMC. Solid grooves, good noise, some feedback, heavy female vocal presence, this album kicks my ass I'm so glad for it.

1. The Mountain Goats: Goths

Merge Records

C'mon, it's The Mountain Goats, you knew it would be way up on my list, you just didn’t know if it would make number 1! Goths is John Darnielle and crew's ode to black-clad outcasts, but it's a surprisingly peppy and jazzy album filled with choirs, winds and electric piano in lieu of guitar. Lyrically, it's perfect as usual, with so many gems: "I'm hardcore, but I'm not THAT hardcore." They again prove why they are one of my favorite bands of all time.