2017 Heavy Spins

Top Picks from Ocooch Mountain Music Founders


Parker Forsell, Peter Engen

Parker Forsell’s Top Picks

I listen to a ton of music for my job, typically involving a listening session of 15 or 20 different acts as part of the work day. By the time I slow down, it’s usually early morning or at night, and I put a record on the player. I have only a turntable connected to my stereo these days and it has been an important step for me in learning to take it easy. There is still nothing like it, pulling the vinyl from the sleeve, looking at the album art… having to get up and flip to the other side. So, all my 2017 released Heavy Spins (except The Nunnery) are on vinyl.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “The Nashville Sound” - you probably have seen the former Drive-By Truckers 2017 effort on some other lists. Well, by putting down the bottle and focusing on his writing the past few years, Isbell has produced some gems - this album is pure gold.

Blackfoot Gypsies “To the Top” - saw these guys live two years ago at Mile of Music and was really excited they were able to play Mid West Music Fest and The Root Note last year. The Rolling Stones meets The Black Crowes - plenty of swagger here.

Iron & Wine “Beast Epic” - I can remember first listening to The Creek That Drank the Cradle over a decade ago and being absolutely floored. While I felt some of his other recordings have been uneven, his latest really struck a chord again with me.

Can “The Singles” - 1970s German psych-rockers, who I first discovered while hanging with a bunch of crazy artists/musicians while traveling in Germany many years ago. Some completely obsessed fan/audiophile spent years tracking down every scrimp of recorded material left off Can records and put together this massive triple album of tribal, face-melting, psych funk. Unreal.

Gloom Balloon “Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom, Underneath the Stars and the Moon” - Iowa indie-freak folker Patrick Tape Fleming is simply one of the more inspiring guys on the planet. He says this is his farewell record. Let’s hope not.

Hiss Golden Messenger “Hallelujah Anyhow” - while not as memorable to me as 2016’s Heart Like A Levee, this was still one of my favorite listens of 2017. This dude hits deep for me.

Sylvan Esso “Echo Mountain Sessions” - I was first inspired by former Minneapolitan Amelia Meath’s work in her former band Mountain Man. The Echo Mountain Sessions were a full band re-working of songs that originally appeared on Sylvan Esso’s most recent full-length, What Now. The band included her two former band mates from Mountain Man and Ryan Gustafson of The Dead Tongues. Yeah man.

The Nunnery “Fire Dove” - in the vein of Sylvan Esso, Sarah Elstran is another interesting Eau Claire artist delving into ambient, meditative, electronic territory. Have played this recording on repeat several different days during this cold winter. She is amazing.

The War on Drugs “A Deeper Understanding” - did not get this until end of year urgings by Jacob at Mid West Music Store. I have been a fan of The War on Drugs for years, but had not invested in vinyl, which inevitably leads me to my ‘deeper understanding’. Cinematic, propulsive, enveloping and gauzy psych rock.

Daniel Romano “Modern Pressure” - I fell upon this Canadian guy a few years ago when he was making the only records I had ever heard that successfully held a torch to my all-time fav Gram Parsons. A lyricist that a poet can love, while being a good enough musician to actually play all the instruments on this record. It has been a leap for me the last two records as he has moved beyond alt country into a more 60s groover-pop vein, but I am down for the ride, wherever Romano wants to take me.

Peter Engen’s Top Picks

I have a “cave” I go into to listen to music. 2017 was a trying time, a long year of bittersweet orange and Himalayan Salt lamps. My cave is filled with cables and cords and devices that play recorded music, everything from the old Edison Records made at the turn of the last century, to 78s and 45s that I listen to on my refurbished 1971 Rock-ola Jukebox. Of course, the 33s get the most time and are usually stacked in piles wherever they fit. I also listen to a lot through the headphones... digital files sent by friends, rough cuts... sometimes just minutes after birth. My heavies for this year go something like this:

Los Colognes “Wave”- we’ve had the pleasure of working with these guys a few times over the last couple years and as they blossomed out of Nashville, dripping with JJ Cale’s style, I fell hard. The B side slab of their newest vinyl is my perfect chill-out zone. I prolly’ drink that side up at least every other day.

Charlie Parr “Dog” - the buoy in the deep end, the preacher, church, the sincerest sound out there. After the year Charlie had, and his subsequent “coming out” as far as his behavioral health issues, places Charlie firmly at the top of all things brutally honest in my book.

Actual Wolf “Faded Days” - another home-run offered by Red House Records, Eric Pollards dreamscapes and layered tracking goes straight to my core. I met him one afternoon (maybe it was night) at the International Folk Alliance two years ago. He walked into our private showcase room, introduced himself, and just started playing. I had brought a big bag of medicinal cookies and we both worked through them while he just stood and played. He is on the leading edge of what I call the “new Laurel Canyon sound”.

Tyler Shea - everything and anything this guy does is touched with genius. Most of you will know him as Ellis Brown from Feed The Dog. Tyler’s writing style is complex and massive, his lyrical content is almost always filled with more vulnerability than anyone his age. He is one part tragic and one part pure love, held together with masterful techniques. Keep your ears to the ground on this... something big is always brewing in his mind.

Grateful Dead “5-8-77 Live at Cornell” - was 2017’s big release for the phenomenon that is “The Dead”. I fought hard online to get one of the highly coveted vinyl box sets of what many heads consider the holy grail of shows. Well, I was persistent and got one of the 7700 numbered sets and it was more than worth it. Although an anniversary release, it’s still on a daily rotation in my cave. Slab 5/6 of the 10-slab vinyl is my highlight. A 23 minute “Dancin’ in the Streets” flips over to a “Scarlet/Fire” that is beyond words. This particular slab doesn’t even go back in its jacket, that’s how much I spin it.

Parker Forsell  author

Parker Forsell is the Managing Director of the four-day, 11-stage, 400+ musician Mid West Music Fest and founder of Ocooch Mountain Music. Since 1992, Forsell has been organizing events, music performances and grassroots community networks of consumers, farmers and musicians. He has been a…