2017 has been extremely shitty for a lot of reasons, thankfully we had a ton of great new music releases to ease the pain a bit. For the most part, this is my personal favorite list with the exception of a few numerical placements where I yielded to greatness, which is noted. I hope you find some music that slipped by you here, and I hope you end up enjoying it just as much or more so than I did. Cheers to the embarrassment of musical riches that were bestowed upon us in 2017.
50. Blue Lips (Lady Wood Phase II) by Tove Lo
This is a recent release so only time will tell, but I like the lead single “Disco Tits” so much that I had to include this album.
49. Musas by Nathalia Lafourcade
48. Painted Ruins by Grizzly Bear
Standout Track: “Mourning Sound”
47. Siberia by Vanbot
46. After The Party by The Menzingers
Standout track: “Black Mass”
45. Dear by Boris
The mighty Boris returned in a very mightily fashion. More of the same, and that’s just fine with me.
44. 4:44 by Jay-Z
Clearly I had no choice but to put Jay-Z’s thirteenth studio album 4:44 at number 44. Jay isn’t the reason it made the list though, that would be the veteran No I.D. and his stellar production over the entirety of the album. I can’t embed it here because Jay-Z doesn’t want you to hear it a.k.a. it’s only on Tidal.
Standout track: “Caught Their Eyes (ft. Frank Ocean”
43. Slowdive by Slowdive
42. Life After Youth by Land of Talk
Standout tracks: “Inner Lover” and “This Time”
41. I See You by The xx
Standout Tracks: “I Dare You” and “Lips”
40. The Hanged Man by Ted Leo
39. Aromanticism by Moses Sumney
38. Orc by Oh Sees
37. Chalice Hymnal by Grails
Grails have been consistently good and criminally underrated since they began, and 2017 is no exception.
36. V by The Horrors
35. Utopia by Bjork
34. Okovi by Zola Jesus
33. 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time by Big K.R.I.T.
Standout tracks: “Subenstein (My Sub IV)”, “Big Bank”, “Ride Wit Me”, “Get Away”
32. Strange Peace by METZ
31. Thrice Woven by Wolves In The Throne Room
30. Spear In The City by Bodies of Water
29. The World’s Best American Band by White Reaper
Standout tracks: “The Stack”, “Judy French”, “Party Next Door”
28. Luciferian Towers by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
27. Good Nature by Turnover
26. Sincerely, Future Pollution by Timber Timbre
An often underrated band delivered once more this year with this solid effort which includes my favorite song of the year, “Velvet Gloves & Spit”.
25. A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie
Anyone listening to this without hearing the back story might be a bit lost, although a lot of it is self-explanatory. Phil Elverum lost his wife to cancer not long after they had their first child, and these are the songs he wrote in the time he was grieving. This is one of the most crushing stories I’ve heard recently, and the songs do his terrible circumstances great justice. The songs are powerful, emotional, heavy as all fuck, and they are beautiful. I saw him perform them live this past spring and you would’ve been hard pressed to find a dry eye in the crowd. This is not an album I can visit with often because it is too much for me, in fact I’m getting choked up just typing this short excerpt about it, but I am thankful he was strong enough to share his thoughts and emotions with the world in the hardest of times.
24. The Navigator by Hurray For The Riff Raff
Folk-blues? Americana? Country? Indie? I don’t know which genre Alynda Segarra identifies her music with; she might draw from all of those things. What I do know is that she does it with conviction and feeling, and she has something to say.
Standout Tracks: “Rican Drums”, “Hungry Ghost”, “Pa’lante”
23. Need To Feel Your Love by Sheer Mag
This thing is dripping with all kinds of moxy and swagger. It struts. It saunters. It sashays.
22. Hiss Spun by Chelsea Wolfe
This may or may not be on here because of my extreme bias and penchant for loving everything that Chelsea Wolfe has ever done. Hiss Spun continues her incredible run of high-quality albums.
Standout Tracks: “The Culling”, “16 Psyche”
21. Apocalipstick by Cherry Glazerr
This album feels like it is held together by a thread at times, and that is why I think it is so fun.
Standout tracks: “Had Ten Dollaz”, “Sip O’Poison”
20. Soft Sounds From Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast is back for the second year in a row in nearly the same spot on my list, although this album was a big leap forward for her in every aspect as far as I am concerned.
Standout tracks: “Machinist”, “Road Head”, “Till Death”
19. A Short History of Decay by John Murry
This is satisfied my everlasting appetite for brooding music with beautiful melodies for 2017.
Standout tracks: “Come Five & Twenty”, “One Day (You’ll Die)”
18. The Ooz by King Krule
Alright here is the deal – I love Tom Waits. I think he is one of the best songwriters in the history of music, certainly from America. The thing is, Tom Waits is not actively making music anymore, and although I am not positive that King Krule COMPLETELY hijacked Waits’ style, I’m saying that when I listen to this album (which is great), I get some heavy Waits vibes, and clearly that is a compliment coming from me. It is a long, expansive, bluesy and jazzy journey that is going to take time to completely unravel, but it is certainly interesting and entertaining.
17. Forced Witness by Alex Cameron
This is so ridiculous that I love it, I think it’s some kind of 80’s flavored dance indie-pop/comedy album, but who knows? I’m pretty sure he’s making fun of me, and probably you too, but it is a fun and catchy listen.
Standout tracks: “Runnin’ Outta Luck”, “The Hacienda”, “Marlon Brando”
16. City Music by Kevin Morby
A great summer album full of summer moments that make you feel of summer and think how summery it all is outside and around you. It also makes you realize you have a love/hate relationship with summer and everything involved.
Standout tracks: “1234”, “Aboard My Train”, “City Music”
15. Hot Thoughts by Spoon
It is hard to rate new Spoon albums, both within their catalog and in comparison to their contemporaries, because every Spoon album is so goddamn good. I would venture to say they are the most consistent band of the new millennium with a catalog that is jaw dropping when you stop and think about it. So, with that said, I get a new Spoon album that is right up there with all the others and think, “oh, yeah, it’s Spoon doing Spoon things” and kind of moved on. I came back to this one in the last couple months and thought, “OH YEAH! IT’S SPOON DOING SPOON THINGS”. I have no idea how they do it.
Standout tracks: “Hot Thoughts”, “WhisperI’lllistentohearit”, “Can I Sit Next To You”
14. Nothing Feels Natural by Priests
Punk rock and female vocals? I didn’t need anything else to press play and love this album. It feels very well thought out, which isn’t traditionally how punk music is played right? But it works very well. The methodical approach and the beautiful vocals make this a delight.
Standout tracks: “Nothing Feels Natural”, “Jj”, “No Big Bang”
13. Every Country’s Sun by Mogwai
Mogwai didn’t invent post-rock, but in my mind they are the gods of it. They are the reason I delved so deeply into the genre, listening to everything I could from every band I could find. When this one was released I wasn’t sure how it was going to hit me being that their earlier releases were an important part of my life in what feels like forever ago. I admit I haven’t kept up with their recent soundtracking releases like I did their earlier albums, and while I think Rave Tapes is a very solid album, it didn’t expose the same magic that previous Mogwai albums did. This may have given Every Country’s Sun an advantage, because it fucking blew me away. The first half has its moments, but by the time the last four songs started to build and build into some kind of unfathomable ball of energy, it was already too late and I was engulfed. Talk about going out with a bang, for fucks sake, and the only thing more shocking was in fact that I was shocked, because Mogwai have been doing this for twenty years.
Standout tracks: The second half.
12. Near To The Wild Heart Of Life by Japandroids
I was neck deep in a Japandroids obsession for the better part of a year when this album was released. Celebration Rock is my favorite album of the decade so far; I think it is 100% perfect. There was no way Japandroids were going to top Celebration Rock, so when I listen to this album, I listen to it in a vacuum. Yeah, we all know how great they can be, but that doesn’t mean they have to be perfect every time or that their other music pre- and post-Celebration Rock is diminished. If Celebration Rock never existed, this album would be a lot higher on everyone else’s list. They tried some new things but what it comes down to is that it is still Japandroids. It’s indie punk rock music to drink and party to. It’s full of feel-good nostalgic and longing feelings. They are a band I’m perfectly fine with staying in their niche and I’ll take as much of this as they can give.
Standout Tracks: “True Love And a Free Life of Free Will”, “No Known Drink Or Drug”
11. You Tried by Hater
Two things I am one of the biggest suckers for are; 1) minimalist indie guitar rock 2) female vocals singing great melodies, and when you put those two things together, you have You Tried by Hater. This is such an easy listen for those exact reasons, it breezes by and leaves you wanting more, giving you no choice but to play it again.
10. The Underside of Power by Algiers
I guess I would call this soulful apocalyptic experimental post-punk, and if that’s not the best goddamn combination of things I don’t know what is. I love the rawness of this album and the stage it is able to set. It is easy to imagine a world with the sky crashing, the mountains crumbling, and the oceans upheaving all around when this is on. Everything here simmers and soars at different points; it is full of beautiful contrast.
09. Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples
Big Fish Theory is a big left turn from Summertime 06 and Prima Donna. The electronic music influenced beats on this make it a little less accessible than his previous releases in my opinion. I loved it right away, but I think that is the reason that this probably isn’t the first album I would send someone to if I was trying to put them onto Vince’s genius. That said, it still has some downright unbelievable moments in it. He is one of the best doing it right now, and the fact that he keeps pushing his creative envelope leaves me very excited for his future.
Standout tracks: “745”, “SAMO”, “Big Fish”, “Yeah Right”, “Rain Come Down”
08. Relatives In Descent by Protomartyr
I first described this album like this: “It’s perfectly controlled chaos. It builds and crashes out of nowhere. It’s the feeling of rolling down a mountain with no brakes while laughing uncontrollably. It’s thrashable and it’s danceable at the same time. This is a master class in post-punk.” And now, after having it for a few months, I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It has done nothing but grow on me.
Standout tracks: “My Children”, “Windsor Hum”, “Don’t Go To Anacita”
07. Pure Comedy by Father John Misty
As far as ideals and concepts go, this is that album released this year that I resonate with the most. In fact, Josh Tillman’s entire run as Father John Misty has done so. The commentary on life, love, and especially society seems to be very close to in tune with my own, so hearing those ideas over some great musical arrangements through those majestic vocal chords of his really does it for me. It’s satirical and tongue in cheek, and it really reminds me that it’s all pretty much hopeless. I suppose we like to revel in the bleak at times. This is my least favorite of his three albums, but to use a poor yet easily understandable analogy, it’s like picking whether to drive a Ferrari, a Porsche, or a Lamborghini. He is, by far and away, the most interesting indie artist today, at least to my cynical ears.
Standout Tracks: “In Twenty Years Or So”, “So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain”, “Smoochie”
06. ken by Destroyer
By many accounts Dan Bejar is one of the best songwriters of his generation. He never ceases to amaze me, that’s for sure. Kaputt is one of my favorite albums of the decade, and he struck gold again this year with his latest reinvention of Destroyer, his take on 80’s new wave and post punk. This is music for the inebriated intellectual to watch the sunset in a high-rise lounge.
Standout Tracks: “Rome”, “Ivory Coast”, “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood”
05. Cry Cry Cry by Wolf Parade
I am a huge fan of Dan Boeckner and his many musical projects. I think he is one of the best songwriters of the past 15 years. Admittedly, before this, I was more of a fan of his work with Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and Operators than Wolf Parade, but I was still very much excited for this album. I always gravitated towards him more so than the band’s other vocalist, Spencer Krug. Not surprisingly, Boeckner delivered once again on his Cry Cry Cry songs (namely “Flies On The Sun” and “Weaponized”). Very surprisingly, Krug blew me away for the first time with his songs on this album, “Lazarus Online”, “Baby Blue”, and “King of Piss and Paper”, specifically. Add my prior love of Boeckner’s talent and a new found appreciation for Krug’s and here you have one of my absolute favorite albums of the year.
Standout Tracks: “Lazarus Online”, “Baby Blue”, “Weaponized”, “King of Piss and Paper”
04. Sleep Well Beast by The National
It took a little bit of time and effort, but this album ended up right where all of The National’s other albums stand with me; amongst the very best of the new millennium. They have been one of the most consistent bands, creating mood-setting music that is emotionally demanding of its listeners. The lead-up to this album had the members speaking on their different approach to it, on them trying new things in the songwriting, on them being in a different state of mind, etc. and while all of those things may very well be true, what we ended up with is just another album by The National, and that is perfectly fine with me.
Standout Tracks: “I’ll Still Destroy You”, “Guilty Party”, “Born to Beg”, “Carin At The Liquor Store”
03. Contempt by Couch Slut
I had no idea who Couch Slut were before this release, and I also had no idea how much I needed Couch Slut in my life. I have always leaned on heavy music in trying times, and much like Deafheaven’s New Bermuda two years ago, this ball of seething rage brought me such a great feeling of much needed catharsis right when I needed it. It helped me through shit, and it was also this year’s go-to album when I couldn’t decide on what music to play. “Ah, just throw on that Couch Slut. Let’s Couch Slut it up in here. Now it’s going to be one of those kind of days.” I realize this isn’t for everyone, for most people I know in fact, but this was the calm of my storm this year.
02. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick got us buzzing last April with “The Heart Pt. 4”, and two weeks later he dropped “HUMBLE.”. I don’t think I’ll forget that day anytime soon, and I think that song will be a classic played for decades to come. It is going to be for kids this year what “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” or “California Love” was for me when I was younger. I have already heard it a countless amount of times and it has yet to lose any of its luster, and the rest of the album is not far off from its highpoint. I saw Kendrick on the DAMN. tour and it blew my fucking mind. I knew it would be good, but I had no clue it would end up being one of my favorite shows in recent memory. He is leaps and bounds above the rest.
01. A Deeper Understanding by The War On Drugs
As is often true, there is a difference between “the best” and “my personal favorite”. Obviously “the best” is subjective because of personal experiences with each piece of music, and so if this were a “50 personal favorites” list it would be similar, but in a slightly different order, especially here at the top. Couch Slut’s Contempt is probably my favorite album of the year and the album I listened to most, but I think The War On Drugs really nailed his sound with A Deeper Understanding. The songs are so incredibly perfect, both accurate and precise, and I think the craftsmanship shown in the songwriting, recording, and producing is going to stand the test of time better than anything else released this year. Its bright moments are as bright as they get, and it is consistently stunning throughout. Flawless victory.
Standout Tracks: “Thinking Of A Place” is my runner up for song of the year.