Category Archives: Best of 2017

Announcement of LA Music Critic Award nominations for second half of 2017

We think that 2017 will go down as one of the most prolific years in outstanding music being released by indie artists.  We received and reviewed so many that we had to change the review period.  Consequently, we considered more than 235 albums and EPs that were released between July 1 and November 30, 2017, in compiling our nominations for the LA Music Critic Awards.  Albums and EPs released from December 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018 will be considered for the first half awards of 2018.

Fans are encouraged to vote for the Fan Favorite Award.  To vote for your favorite,  simply leave a comment below in the following format:  “I vote for (name of artist) for Fan Favorite.”  No other comments will be counted toward the Fan Favorite Award, and each reader may only vote once.   Comments made on other social media sites will not count.

Fans are also encouraged to comment on other award nominations, and those comments will be reviewed by the Awards committee.  However, they will not count for the Fan Favorite Award unless the comment specifically says that the artist is being nominated for the Fan Favorite Award. 

The deadline for voting for the Fan Favorite Award is Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at midnight MST.  The full list of winners will be announced at 6 p.m. MST on Friday, February 2, 2018.

Without further delay, here are the nominations.

BEST EP (Male) – Ryan Sims, My Side of the Story; Sam Marine, Big Dark City; Ben Anderson, YouTopia; Matt Westerman, Life Out Loud; Vinnie Paolizzi, Kids

BEST EP (Female) – Jacquie, The Only One; Katie Costello, New World; Cara Frew, Dance; Helen Culver, Seven Year Glitch; Libbie Schrader, Red Thread

BEST EP (Group) – Mare Island, Eponymous; TYA, No Money, More Love; RVBY My Dear, Cycles; Social Repose, Empress; Surf Rock is Dead, We Have No Friends?

BEST EP (International) – House Hounds, Saturate; Wolf & Moon, Frames; HUNDREDS, Wilderness; The Raft; Orion; The Raft, A Lullaby

BEST CD (Male) – Canyon City, Constellation; Chuck McDermott, Gin & Rosewater; Case Garrett, Aurora; Rusty Young, Waitin’ for the Sun; Bryan Stephens, Village of Dreams

BEST CD (Female) – Monica Chapman, Small World; Chelsea Williams, Boomerang; Cindy Alexander, Deep Waters; Marina V, Born to the Stars; Katie Costello, Twice the Love; Amilia K. Spicer, Wow and Flutter

BEST CD (Group) – The Commotions, Vol 2; Great Willow, Find Yourself in Los Angeles; Andrea Harsell and Luna Roja, Something for the Pain; FreeWorld, What it Is; Chris Daniels and the Kings, Blues with Horns

BEST HOLIDAY ALBUM – Katie Garibaldi, Home Sweet Christmas; Balsam Range, It’s Christmas Time; Jennifer Hanson, Under the Tree; Beth Marie Anderson, Christmas with You; Bloodshot Records, 13 Days of Xmas; Blue Elan Records, A Blue Elan Christmas

BEST VIDEO (OFFICIAL) (Male) – Matt Hawkins, Steel Ya Blues; Brandon Bonine, Remember my Name; Canyon City, Midnight Flight; Josh Johnstone, Just What it is; Rod Melancon, Dwayne & Me

BEST VIDEO (OFFICIAL) (Female) – Janey Street, Undone; Dree Mon, Rebel Soul; Lexie Rose, Wrong; Katie Costello, Hearts on Fire; Rachel Ariana, Imperfect; Suzanne Santo, Ghost in my Bed

BEST VIDEO (OFFICIAL) (Group) – FlecHaus, Tell me Something; Satellite Citi, Undead; Elizabeth and the Catapult, Ambrosia; Oh Geronomo, No More Stones; Pet Fangs, Gold Coast Dreaming; The Flatliners, Indoors

BEST VIDEO (LIVE) – Sierra Blanca, Paint the Road; Bernie Faulkner, Potbelly Stove; Calico the Band, The Leaving Kind; Rosi Golan, Underneath; Chelsea Williams, Anything Worth Saving

BEST VIDEO (LYRIC) – Mellott, Shooting Stars; Rachel Price, Love is War; The Rebel Light, Where did all the Love Go; Chris Chilton, Adonai; Jared Finck, New Kids

BEST VIDEO (HOLIDAY) – Redhead Express, Love is Christmas; Chelsea Williams, Peppermints and Mistletoe; Kate Steinway, White Christmas; Pam Taylor, Let’s Get it on for Christmas

BEST VIDEO (INTERNATIONAL) – Straw, Bang Bang; Straw, 1965; Captive (ft. Hannah Trigwell), I Could be the One

BEST VIDEO (COLLABORATION) – Blue Elan Artists, Shine Down on Us; David Garfield and J. Paris, I Lied; Beckett and Claire Ridgely, Butterflies

BEST SINGLE (Male) – Mikey Wax, “Spaceman;” Zvchvivh, “Think of Me;” Tim Maiden, “So Far Gone;” Matt Zambon, “Blue and Yellow;” Jason Crosby, “Final Step”

BEST SINGLE (Female) – Hannah Lucia, “Your Love;” Heather Bond, “Keep it Quiet;” Ashleigh Watson, “Little Love;” Liz Kennedy (ft. Taj Mahal), “Everyone Knows how it Goes”

BEST SINGLE (Group) –   Featurette, “Upside Down;” Delsinki, “Wishing Upon a Star;” Echo City, “Burn Me;” Astral Queen, “Take it all the Way;” The Sound of Ghosts, “Train to Nowhere”

BEST INTERNATIONAL ARTIST/BAND – The Fisherman and the Sea, Belle Miners, The Raft, HUNDREDS, Wolf & Moon

BEST COUNTRY ARTIST – Case Garrett, Tim Bennett, Whitney Lusk, Kaylee Keller, Ryan Sims

BEST COUNTRY BAND – CALICO the Band, Steve Azar and the Kings Men, Honey County

BEST BLUES ARTIST – Pam Taylor, John Verity, Stacy Jones, Alastair Greene, R. D. Olson, Dave Hunt

BEST BLUES BAND – Paradise Kings, FreeWorld, Andrea Harsell and Luna Roja, BB and the Blues Shacks, Chris Daniels and the Kings, The McKee Brothers

BEST POP ARTIST (Female) – Marina V, Cindy Alexander, Katie Costello, Alex Mabey, Maggie McClure, Rosi Golan

BEST POP ARTIST (Male) – Curtis Peoples, Fernando Perdomo, Matt Westerman, Bryan Stephens, Ben Anderson, LeRiche

BEST POP BAND – Flood Coats, Seasonal Beast, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Warbly Jets, High Dive Heart, Laini and the Wildfire

BEST ROCK ARTIST – Billy Burnette, Rusty Young, Ben Lorentzen, Russ Carrick, Robert Francis, Peter Simpson

BEST ROCK BAND – The Khourys, Surf Rock is Dead, Social Repose, The Slants, Xs and Arrows, Dopapod

BEST R&B/SOUL ARTIST – Ray Goren, Leslie Clio, Zoey Clarke, Louise Lemon

BEST R&B/SOUL/RETRO BAND – The Marias, The Commotions, Burgess Meredith

BEST ROOTS/AMERICANA ARTIST (Female) – Lydia Loveless, Shannon McNally, Liz Kennedy, Chelsea Williams, Amilia K. Spicer, Suzanne Santo

BEST ROOTS/AMERICANA ARTIST (Male) – Rich McCulley, Marc Berger, Chuck McDermott, Jason Hawk Harris, Sam Marine, Vinnie Paolizzi

BEST ROOTS/AMERICANA BAND – Great Willow, The County Liners, JD and the Straight Shot, The Empty Pockets, Dead Rock West

BEST BLUEGRASS ARTIST/BAND – The Jerry Douglas Band, The Grascals, My Girl My Whiskey and Me, Tommy Emmanuel and David Grisman

BEST JAZZ/INSTRUMENTAL ARTIST/BAND – Tout, Noon, Monica Chapman, John McLaughlin, KRON, Dave Yaden

BEST DANCE ARTIST/BAND – The Innocent Bystanders, TYA, Elephant Stone, Niteshifters, Cara Frew


BEST PUNK BAND – Franks and Deans, Emmer Effer, Hang Tight, The Paranoid Style

BEST HARD ROCK/METAL BAND – SBK, Vacant Home, Aviator, The Black Hand, Downfall 2012

BEST FOLK ARTIST – Ben Bostick, Canyon City, Garrison Starr, Fred Smith, Sierra Blanca, Brandon Luedtke

BEST FOLK BAND – Tony Lovato and MEST, Fire Chief Charlie, Amber Run, Nescora, FXRRVST

BEST TRADITIONAL FOLK BAND – Storywrens, The East Pointers


RISING STAR – Ray Goren, Kaylee Keller, Rachel Ariana, Gina Sicilia, Chelsea Williams

We encourage to subscribe so you can keep up with the Awards and with our blog year-round.  We’ll be back tomorrow with the first reviews for the next cycle.

Best indie albums of 2017

Here’s our list of the best indie albums of 2017.  Some of them were nominated and/or won LA Music Critic Awards during the first half of 2017, and most of the rest will be included when the nominations for the second half of 2017 are announced on January 17.  Consider this your “sneak peak” of those nominations.  Every album on this list has been reviewed in the “Get it or Forget it” column of our Blog.  How many of them do you have?

Honorable Mention:  Even though we have selected 25 albums for our list, there were a few that didn’t make the list, but deserve mention, including Ride by Marc Berger, Find the Silver Lining by Kelly Fitzgerald, Little Folks Like You and Me by Mike Younger, Small World by Monica Chapman and Honestly by Jay Asher.  Definitely check out these albums.

25.  The East Pointers, What we Leave Behind – This award-winning Canadian band has what they need to break into the American music scene.

24.  Becca Richardson, We are Gathered Here – Check her out at the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles on January 20.

23.  Harper Grae, Break Your Crowns – Definitely check out this rising star from Nashville.

22.  Rusty Young, Waitin’ for the Sun – Young was the former lead singer for Poco, and the band has reunited to support his solo artist.  This is his first solo effort for Blue Élan Records.

21.  The Show Ponies, How it all Goes Down – The band recently announced they would be disbanding and this album was their final one.  They were an LA Music Critic Award winner during the first half of 2017.

20.  Elizabeth and the Catapult, Keepsake – Check her out when she performs at Sundance this year.

19.  Great Willow, Find Yourself in Los Angeles – This band is becoming a player on the Americana circuit.  Check them out live if you live near there.

18.  Bryan Stephens, Village of Dreams – Another great Blue Élan Records artist.

17.  Jeffrey Halford & the Healers, Lo-Fi Dreams – Another LA Music Critic Award multiple nominee from the first half of 2017.

16.  Ray Goren, Me – This past LA Music Critic Award winner has a great future ahead.

15.  Marina V, Born to the Stars – This Russian-born singer-songwriter is one of a kind.  Welcome back to the charts.  More than 65,000 worldwide fans can’t be wrong.

14.  Chris Daniels and the Kings, Blues with Horns – This indie artist has had a storied career and his latest is one of his best.

13.  Chelsea Williams, Boomerang – Another premier act from Blue Élan Records, she will also be performing at Sundance.

12.  Jangling Sparrows, 140 Nickels – Watch for these guys near the top of the Americana music scene.

11.  Andrea Harsell and Luna Roya, Something for the Pain – This band is a Missoula, Montana staple that is definitely going places.

10.  Halladay Quist, self-titled – Another Montana artist with a family legacy of musical excellence.

9.  Gina Sicilia, Tug of War – Another Blue Élan Records artist who is at the top of her game.  Multiple LA Music Critic Award winner.  Watch for her 8th album coming soon.

8.  Amilia K. Spicer, Wow and Flutter – Another past LA Music Critic winner, this is one of the best Americana albums released in quite a while.

7.  Seasonal BeastMuscle Memory – One of our best “finds” this year, watch for great things from this New York duo.

6.  Breaking Grass, Warning Signs – Another multiple LA Music Critic Award winner, this band is redefining bluegrass music.

5.  Wendy Sweetlove, Dirty Sunday – She was nominated for several LA Music Critic awards right out of the gate,  She is definitely an artist worth checking out.

4.  Janey Street, In my Own Skin – Reigning LA Music Critic Icon Award winner, she is another of the special breed of artists signed to Blue Élan Records.

3.  Rod Melancon, Southern Gothic – Multiple LA Music Critic Award winner, he is the last of these artists signed to Blue Élan Records.  He is currently touring Sweden.

2.  Katie Costello, Twice the Love – This artist has consistently produced award winning albums.  She also had one of the Best EPs of 2017.

1.  FreeWorld, What it is – The pride of Memphis, this band is redefining American Blues.  Check them out the next time you’re in Memphis.

Best American EPs of 2017

Continuing on with our “Best of” lists for 2017, here are the Best 15 EPs released by American artists, as well as a few more that deserve mention.  You can find the complete reviews of each EP in our Get it or Forget it columns.

Honorable Mention – Red Hymns self-titled EP; Helen Culver Seven Year Glitch; After Hours Radio What Happened?; Broken Bellows The Card Table; Life Lessons Best When in Motion

15.  Sam Marine, Big Dark City – Definitely a surprise, this five song EP was obviously the result of an artist who has learned how to become part of the local community and reach out to them for help when needed.  We think you’ll be hearing a lot more from this artist in the future.

14.  Surf Rock is Dead, We Have no Friends? – A perfect combination of American and Australian ingenuity, this was another surprise this year with a huge potential.

13.  Eli Raybon, Green – This 20-year old Southerner has risen to the challenge and has set the bar high for subsequent projects.

12.  Mare Island, Eponymous – Likewise this Bay area band has some large footprints to fill in the future with this amazing debut EP.

11.  Ben Anderson, YouTopia – Indie label Chromodyne chose wisely in signing Anderson, and his four-song EP shows great promise.

10.  Riley Smith, self-titled – Riley Smith has made quite a name for himself as an actor on such beloved programs as Frequency and Nashville.  He can now add accomplished musician to his resume, as this EP was simply amazing.

9.  Ryan Sims, My Side of the Story – Another rising star in the country music field had a lot of help from his friends, including Jason “Slim” Gambill, Darryl Jones, Kenny Aronoff and Kim Bullard.  They helped him achieve a breakthrough sound that will have him rising up in Nashville in no time at all.

8.  Jacquie, The Only One – She survived NBC’s The Voice and a bad experience with the music industry to come back stronger than ever as an indie artist.  Can’t wait to see what’s next from this future superstar.

7.  Social Repose, Empress – Nearly 300,000 Facebook fans can’t be wrong about this one, and their latest EP proved just how good they are.

6.  Matt Westerman, Life Out Loud – One of LA’s brightest rising stars, Matt Westerman has a very promising future ahead.  We truly believe the sky is the limit for him.

5.  The Khourys, Good Stuff – Sisters Guila and Jahnna will surprise you – imagine one doing vocals and one doing rap – the combination is heaven’s nectar.  They are just as good in concert.

4.  RVBY My Dear, Cycles – Australian born and Brooklyn based musician Gabbi Coenen blew us away with her sophomore release.  Watch out for this one.

3.  Alex Mabey, Enough – An alumni of the Durango Songwriters Expo, Mabey seems destined to follow in the steps of another famous alumni, Meghan Trainor.

2.  Katie Costello, New World – A perennial winner of many awards, including the LA Music Critic Awards, Costello brought us both an EP and an album in 2017, and both were superb.  Here’s of taste of what makes this artist so great.

1.  Vinnie Paolizzi, Kids – Biggest surprise of the year was receiving an EP from this young self-promoted artist that simply blew us away.  We are dying to see what comes next from this young man.

Best international EPs of 2017

We have reviewed a total of 338 albums and EPs this year.  As you can imagine, there have been quite a lot of great ones along the way, and we plan to share some of them with you over the next four days.  We are breaking our “Best of 2017” lists down into four categories – Best American EPs, Best International EPs, Best American Albums and Best International albums.  Today we will share our Top 10 Best International EPs.  Individual reviews are available as part of our blog’s “Get it or Forget it” series.

10.  Elephant Stone, Remix of Fools.  This five-song EP contains remixes from the band’s Ship of Fools album,  The best of those songs is the Young Galaxy remix of “The Devil’s Shelter.”  Check out these lads from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

9.  Amber Run, Alaska.  This four-song EP contains two songs from the band’s sophomore album For a Moment, I was Lost, as well as two cover songs, including Maggie Rodgers’ “Alaska.”  This band hails from the UK.

8.  Strange Boy, Annunciation.  The band released their debut EP with four songs.  They are also from the UK.

7.  TYA, No Money, More Love.   Queensland, Australia is responsible for this amazing band, who has brought us five new songs.

6.  The Raft, Coming up for Air.  Phil Wilson aka The Raft is responsible for two of the best EPs of 2017.  This one was released back in August.  Wilson hails from the UK.

5.  The Fisherman & the Sea, The Beggar Princess.  This EP is part of a group of four scheduled to be released before their debut full-length album later this year.  We can hardly wait.  Our first band from Finland.

4.    The Raft, Orion.  Gift number two from Phil Wilson.  This one is the best of the three EPs he released in 2017.

3.  Hundreds, Wilderness (Akustik Edition).  German siblings Eva and Philipp Milner have brought us a true treasure with an acoustic version of some of their hits, along with an acoustic cover of Bon Iver’s “Plume.”

2.  Wolf & Moon, Frames.  Stefanie and Dennis met at a party in the Netherlands, and now travel the world sharing their dreampop material.

1.  Cara Frew, Dance.  Cara splits her time between her native South Africa and the US, bringing great electro pop dance music wherever she travels.

We’ll be back tomorrow with the Top 15 American EPs.  See ya then.