Every year, West Michigan seems to overflow with great releases from homegrown musical talents, and 2017 has been no exception.
Rising regional stars like Traverse City’s The Accidentals, Albion’s Jake Kershaw and recent Nashville-transplant Billy Strings all marked huge milestones in their young careers this year, while longtime hard-rocking favorite Wayland continued to put its small West Michigan hometown on the musical map with its latest high-volume LP.
The year also saw our music community say goodbye to one of its most promising bands, Vox Vidorra, as the winner of Revue’s annual Best of the West readers’ poll parted ways before releasing its long-awaited second album. Headlines and heartache aside, the triumphs far outweighed the challenges and this list is just a taste of some of the absolutely fantastic and wildly diverse records that make our home one of the best places for original music.
Last Gasp Collective, Agape
Completely incomparable, Kalamazoo’s Last Gasp Collective emerged early in 2017 with its debut full-length. The LP beautifully blends the sometimes disparate worlds of hip-hop and classical, indie rock and jazz with an absolutely masterful touch and open mind. Like nothing else, the group’s collaborative spirit gives the record a freeform feel without losing its focus on making individual voices heard and their dreams known. In a year when unique voices and daring dreams meant more than ever, Agape was a refreshing breath of fresh air.
Lipstick Jodi, self-titled
Poised with promise for years, Lipstick Jodi made a lasting impression on the Grand Rapids music scene with the release of its full-length debut this fall. Easily exceeding even the most extravagant expectations, the album brilliantly captures all of the band’s indie-rock intricacies, alt-rock appeal and pop-punk power. Lead vocalist/guitarist Karli Moorhouse has grown into a captivating voice, both for the indie scene and the LGBT community, and her genuine songwriting here has pushed her band into the forefront of West Michigan’s future.
The Fever Haze, Slouch
Sometimes passion burns so hot from within, it consumes everything. Those are the stakes behind the latest — and last — LP from Holland’s The Fever Haze. A true grit rock ‘n’ roll band through and through, the band’s swansong stands tall against its gigantic influences, emerging from the shadows of Bruce Springsteen, Wilco and Built To Spill with a determination and yearning that are unyielding on the record. The band will celebrate the staggering strength of its final album with one last hurrah in its hometown on Dec. 2 at the Park Theatre.
Mark Lavengood, We’ve Come Along
For more than six years, Mark Lavengood toured the country and recorded bluegrass gold with Michigan roots outfit Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys. But by the end of 2017, he decided to part ways with his musical brothers and sister to raise his own family and double down on the projects he’s helped foster in Grand Rapids. As one of the most likeable and awe-inspiring players in our area, Lavengood couldn’t have released a better solo record to serve as the start of his new chapter or showcase his immense talent.
Lokella, Shedding Skin
West Michigan’s once gigantic metal and hardcore music scene has undergone one metamorphosis after another over the last decade, and no band embodied those visceral growing pains in 2017 more than Lokella. The group rose from the ashes of post-hardcore juggernauts Fine Fine Titans last year, but with a more melodic and nuanced sound. Led by frontwoman Jennifer Bartlett, the band has grown into its own, casting off the past while adding layers of haunting atmosphere that hint at a fascinating future.