Top 30 Albums of 2017

It’s that time again. 2017 may have been political and social nightmare, but at least we got some good tunes out of it. From virtually every corner of the musical spectrum even. Here are the thirty records that pleased my ears the most over these past twelve months. Enjoy!

30. Migos – Culture

Migos - Culture

Trap artists showed up big in 2017, but Migos were the only ones officially endorsed by Donald Glover on live television. With the power of memes at their side, they delivered what is easily the most replayable and catchy record in the genre this year. Favorite song: “Bad and Boujee.” Even if overplayed, this song is one hell of a banger,

29. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

Few people are more upset with the current state of affairs than indie’s beloved jackass, Josh Tillman. Though not quite as fully realized as 2015’s “I Love You, Honeybear,” “Pure Comedy” gets points for taking on our absurd and chaotic dystopia with sharp observational humor and biting sarcasm. Favorite song: “Total Entertainment Forever.”

28. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

The latest record from the Detroit post-punks is a searing slow burn of white hot fury. The record takes on so many topics, to the point of messiness, but the underlying energy present in each of these tracks make for an engaging listen. Favorite song: “My Children.”

27. The National – Sleep Well Beast

The National - Sleep Well Beast

The National get even darker this time around (if that was even possible). The songwriting may not be as tight as their previous releases, but the shift towards a minimal and foreboding atmosphere apart from something more abstract is refreshing to hear from this band. Favorite song: “Nobody Else Will Be There”

26. Slowdive – Slowdive

Slowdive - Slowdive

Slowdive’s brand of 90’s shoegaze and dream pop has aged miraculously well. The music pays tribute to the old without simply repeating it, and manages to create something that stands completely on it own in 2017. Perhaps it’s time for shoegaze to return full force. Favorite song: “Star Roving.”

25. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$

Joey Badass - All-Amerikkkan Badass

Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$’s latest effort is significantly more cohesive than his 2015 studio debut. It’s angrier, more focused, more accessible, and more versatile. Joey’s able to throw earworms at you one moment, and make you take to the streets the next. Favorite song: “TEMPTATION.”

24. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Soul of a Woman

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Soul of a Woman

Last year, in November of 2016, Sharon Jones passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, a battle that hadn’t kept her from recording or taking to the stage for multiple performance after powerful performance. “Soul of a Woman” works as a beautiful send-off for Jones and the group that pioneered neo-soul over the last decade. Faorite song: “Call on God.” The album’s subdued finale is enough to squeeze tears out of a stone.

23. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up.jpg

“Crack-Up” is Fleet Foxes first piece of new music in six years, and it definitely feels like it. The music is complex, abstract, and inventive, as if it’s been stewing for years. Robin Pecknold’s lyrical imagery remains as potent and unparalled as ever. Favorite song: “Third of May / Ōdaigahara.”

22. Hurray For the Riff Raff – The Navigator

Hurray For the Riff Raff - The Navigator

Alynda Lee Segarra solidifies herself as the leading voice in modern Americana with “The Navigator.” In reflecting on her roots in the city, Segarra creates a monumental record dedicated to the downtrodden and unheard, something sorely needed and much appreciated in this day and age. Favorite song: “Pa’lante.”

21. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

Few things get the blood rushing quite like old school, traditional thrash metal. Power Trip scoops the best parts of the genre straight out of the ’80s and reinvigorate it with new energy. Few records from 2017 are this outright enjoyable and nostalgic. Favorite song: “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)

20. White Reaper – The World’s Best American Band

White Reaper - The World

The cheeky Louisville punk rockers finally realize the potential they’ve been hinting at over the years with “The World’s Best American Band.” The record is jam-packed with catchy melodies and fuzzy guitars almost to the point of pure pleasure center overload. Favorite song: “Judy French.”

19. Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now

Jen Lekman - Life Will See You Now

Indie pop’s favorite swede finally returns with a multitude of lush, sweet tunes, this time reflecting on his middle age. Despite the long break, Lekman’s ability to write lovely, silly, and all-around hugely enjoyable music has not diminished in the slightest. Favorite song: “Wedding in Fenistere.”

18. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

LCD Soundsystem - american dream

LCD Soundsystem’s reformation after their largely publicized 2011 break-up turned quite a few heads this year, but those worries were quelled with the release of their new record. James Murphy’s music has always been political but none exude sheer anger and frustration quite like “American Dream.” The Group’s iconic, colossal synth builds are perfect for getting that anger out in the open. Favorite Song: “How Do You Sleep?”

17. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Whereas Vince Staples’ last album, “Summertime ’06,” was a gritty, overwhelming look at Staple’s inner-city childhood, “Big Fish Theory” is a trimmed, inventive look at his place in the rap world. Borrowing aspects from grime, techno, and other genres, “Big Fish Theory” is proof that no one is doing it quite like Staples is. Favorite song: “Yeah Right.”

16. Moses Sumney – Aromanticism

Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

Moses Sumney enters the spotlight this year with a gutting and isolating debut. Sumney’s heavenly falsetto, and self-proclaimed obsession with aloneless, make “Aromanticism” one of the most absorbing and gripping experiences of the year. Favorite Song: “Don’t Bother Calling.”

15. Wiki – No Mountains in Manhattan

Wiki - No Mountains in Manhattan

There has not been a celebratory, feel-good east coast record of this calber in years. Wiki’s “No Mountains in Manhattan” is a love letter to home that is playful, fun, and stuffed with passion. Favorite song: “Mayor.”

14. Jay-Z – 4:44

Jay-Z - 444

Jay-Z goes back to basics for his best record in years. Songs are minimalist and messy, and overtly personal. Jay-z strips away the glamour of his mogul status and examines his marriage, his life, and black culture in America and the music industry. Favorite song: “Smile.” Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter, comes out as a lesbian in an absolutely beautiful track about not taking life for granted and loving who you want.

13. Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

Open Mike Eagle, perhaps the most slept on underground rapper of our time, takes a nostalgic look back at his childhood Chicago suburb in an abstract and dense fashion. Anybody can make a love letter to home, but few can do it with quite as many layers of intricacy quite like Michael Eagle. This is his most complex and rewarding work to date. Favorite song: “95 Radios.”

12. Kelela – Take Me Apart

Kelela - Take Me Apart

Kelela is in a league of her own in the electronic R&B scene. Her avant garde approach to song structure, and immaculate voice, on top of production from people such as Arca, there was no other R&B album that sounded like this in 2017. Favorite song: “Take Me Apart.”

11. Alvvays – Antisocialites

11 alvvay - antisocialites

Canadian indie pop group Alvvays are the antidote to a bad day. “Antisocialites” is an intoxicating mix of sugary sweet pop with never a dull moment or lull. Fuzzy riffs, insanely catchy melodies, and Molly Rankin’s unique vocals combine into the musical equivalent of a warm hug. Favorite song: “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)”

10. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper

Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

This 83-minute, one-song doom metal opus is a trek into despair. At times crushingly heavy, and others unbearably sad, “Mirror Reaper” is a magnificent, monumental record that is completely absorbing and immersive. Doom Metal hasn’t seen a record this complete or massive in years. Favorite song; “Mirror Reaper.” This is one long, amazing track.

9. Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva is a Mighty Long Time

Big K.R.I.T. - 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time

Big K.R.I.T officially takes the crown of southern rap king with this fantastic record. A double album, the first half bursts at the seems with bass-addled bangers, while the second half tones it down to look inward. K.R.I.T. is expertly versatile so as to test our subwoofers at one moment, and tone it down for some soul-searching the next. Favorite song: “Big Bank.”

8. Perfume Genius – No Shape

Perume Genius - No Shape

Mike Hadreas is an absolute production god. I have no clue how he does it, but virtually every song on his latest record, “No Shape,” is mind-blowingly lush and extravagant. Hadreas’ immaculate production, vulnerable vocal style, and romantic lyrics combine to create something truly special. Favorite song: “Slip Away.”

7. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

Tyler the Creator - Flower Boy

Tyler, the Creator sheds the edgy kiddo façade for his best, most mature record yet. Instead of blaring on about how much he wants to stab Bruno Mars for laughs, Tyler turns inward towards themes of loneliness, romance, and hidden potential. His production is cleaner than its ever been, and his lyrics are more complex and interesting than ever. This is a perfect example of an artist taking a creative leap forward and sticking the landing. Favorite song: “See You Again.”

6. Arca – Arca

Arca - Arca

Venezuelan producer Alejandro Ghersi, up to this point, had kept to the shadows, either with his previous instrumental records or for production with Bjork and Kelela. With this self-titled record, he bloomed into a brand new artist. Ghersi’s fragile, eloquent Spanish vocals overtop his iconic industrial instrumentals resulted in some of the most beautiful compositions this year. Favorite song: “Anoche.”

5. King Krule – The OOZ

5 king krule - the ooz

What’s most amazing about “The OOZ” is that Archy Marshall is only twenty. How he has come up with something this weird, unique and brilliant is completely beyond me. “The OOZ” is an anomaly: a sort of electronic, jazz, trip hop/rock album? The fact that virtually nothing else sounds like this record puts in in the upper tier of 2017 releases. Favorite song: “Dum Surfer.”

4. Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

4 waxahatchee - out in the storm

Katie Crutchfield’s latest album as Waxahatchee, “Out in the Storm,” doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a break up album as we’ve always known them. But it accomplishes everything it sets out for so beautifully, it’s impossible to not be enamored. Crutchfield’s Alabama twang croons potent and lovely lyrics over stunning, melancholy melodies to wonderful effect. Crutchfield is proof that traditional indie rock is far from dead. Favorite song: “Recite Remorse.”

3. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar - Damn

It was inevitable. Kendrick Lamar’s follow-up to 2015’s masterwork “To Pimp A Butterfly” had everyone watching. Though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of “TPAB” or even “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City,” it’s a perfect showcase for him. It’s his most accessible and radio-friendly yet, without giving up on the nuanced style, multi-layered lyricism and complex subject matter that have marked his career so far. That’s truly remarkable. Favorite song: “HUMBLE” It’s not my most played song of the year on Spotify for nothing.

2. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

I have never heard a record so devastatingly sad as “A Crow Looked at Me” in my life, and not sure if I will again. It’s written in the midst of the death of Genvieve castree, wife of singer/songwriter Phil Elverum, with some songs from a mere few days after. There’s no showy production, and no cohesion to the lyrics. This album is essentially a man consumed by grief putting his scattered thoughts and emotions to music. It’s easily the hardest listen on the year, and something I’m not sure if I’ll revisit it again anytime soon, but as a unique piece of raw sorrow, it stands alone. Favorite song: “Ravens.” This one hurts.

1. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

1 the war on drugs - a deeper understanding

The War on Drugs are one of, if not the most, professional bands in indie rock. Ever since 2014’s “Lost in the Dream” the group has been placed in the upper echelon of the genre, and for a good reason. There are virtual no other groups that match their level of obsessive, meticulous composition. Each little piece of music is meant to compliment another. Everything is made with a purpose. With “A Deeper Understanding,” they somehow outdo themselves. Frontman Adam Granduciel is at the top of his game in every way. Lyrics cut deep, guitar solos rip your face off by their sheer emotional resonance alone, and nearly every song makes you want to pack your bags and drive off into the sunset. This is a beautiful listen and easily my favorite of the year. Favorite song: “Strangest Thing.”

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