December 13, 2017
It’s been another glorious year in music, and with all that consumes us on a daily basis, music tends to be the best method of therapy. There are many lists that circulate this time of year, but one thing is for sure, our writers listen to a lot of music, so it gives us great pleasure to share our favorite picks each year. Legendary rock artist Tom Petty who recently passed once said: “Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.” We couldn’t agree more.
Here are our favorite albums of 2017 by our music writers:
Sean Titone’s Ten Best Albums of 2017
10.) Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go
On Palehound’s sophomore album, Boston singer/songwriter Ellen Kempner deals with grief, loss and hope, while wearing myriad indie rock influences on her sleeve (Breeders, Elliott Smith, Beach House, Pixies and more). While her debut Dry Food was a more low-fi affair, A Place I’ll Always Go has bigger production, bigger hooks and a confidence that belies Kempner’s young age.
Favorite Songs: “Room,” “Flowing Over”
9.) Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black
Mavis Staples has been a beloved singer for over 60 years and her voice has crossed generations as a civil rights activist and founding member of The Staples Singers. On her newest album and third collaboration with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Staples and Tweedy embrace activism through music, and they’re pissed off and can’t take it anymore. On If All I Was Was Black, their sights are set on police violence, the current administration and race relations, all set to a soundtrack that grooves, sways and rocks with all the heart and vigor Staples can muster.
Favorite Songs: “Little Bit,” “Ain’t No Doubt About It”
8.) Beach Fossils – Somersault
As the first few strums of crystalline guitars chime their way into Somersault’s leadoff track, “This Year,” it’s clear that Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils didn’t lose a step during their four-year hiatus between albums. In what is their strongest record to date, they expand on their sonic palette with harpsichord, horns and even drowsy spoken word courtesy of Memphis rapper Cities Aviv, while maintaining their mastery of an easy, breezy sound that will appeal to fans of The Kinks, Real Estate, Washed Out and DIIV.
Favorite Songs: “This Year,” “Down the Line”
7.) Benjamin Booker – Witness
For his sophomore album Witness, New Orleans musician Benjamin Booker stole away to Mexico City for creative inspiration. It was all in an effort to look inward while in an isolated, foreign environment, as well as look outward toward American culture, racism and how best to combat it. Booker’s raspy howl is in fine form as he continues to add new ingredients to his musical stew of rock, punk, gospel, and soul.
Favorite Songs: “Right On You,” “Witness”
6.) Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
On their gorgeous 5th studio album Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear delivers a musical Russian nesting doll that rewards repeated listens. The yin and yang of vocalists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen remains one of the more beguiling pairings in indie rock, and their synth-driven, folk-inspired prog-rock is as exhilarating as ever.
Favorite Songs: “Mourning Sound,” “Cut-Out”
5.) Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
What exactly is “The Nashville Sound” in 2017? If it’s anything like what Isbell and his incredible band, The 400 Unit, have crafted on his 6th studio album, then that “Sound” is in good hands. Barnburners and ballads, autobiographical musings and tales of blue-collar Americans, all cohabitate an album full of introspection, anger, hope, the state of the country and Isbell’s place in it as a progressive, Southern white man. And I’ll just go ahead and say it: “If We Were Vampires” is one of the greatest, most haunting love songs ever written.
Favorite Songs: “If We Were Vampires,” “Chaos and Clothes”
4.) Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
However you approach Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty and his outspoken persona, you can’t deny that his emergence as a singular and unique voice has struck a nerve with many. I stand in the pro-Misty camp, and Pure Comedy, in all of its cinematic, widescreen and acerbic glory, is one of my favorites of the year.
Favorite Songs: “Pure Comedy,” “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution”
3.) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Toronto band Alvvays raised the bar on their endearing brand of impeccable, fuzzy guitar pop on their sophomore album, Antisocialites, and with it, all the promise of their debut rose to intoxicating new heights. Buoyed by the dreamlike, otherworldly vocals of singer Molly Rankin, songs like “In Undertow” and “Dreams Tonite” set a mood of bliss, melancholy and nostalgia that goes down like a fine, vintage wine. Elements of shoegaze and punk infiltrate their sound on their newest effort, and it’s a good look for this promising young band.
Favorite Songs: “In Undertow,” “Plimsoll Punks”
2.) Big Thief – Capacity
Last year, I picked Big Thief’s debut Masterpiece as my #1 album of 2016. And their follow-up Capacity did not disappoint. There is a grim, yet dazzling majesty to this album, and Adrianne Lenker’s lyrics continue to captivate on an often wrenching level. On songs like “Shark Smile,” electric guitars crackle and spark like a dancing, downed power line after a storm, while softer ballads like “Watering,” “Pretty Things” and “Coma” reveal vulnerability and pain filtered through a lens of beautiful folk music.
Favorite Songs: “Shark Smile,” “Mythological Beauty”
1.) The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
The War on Drugs’ 4th studio album evokes mood with a capital “M.” After standing on the shoulders of classic rock giants (Springsteen, Petty, Dire Straits etc) over the course of their previous work, lead singer and songwriter Adam Granduciel and his band of brothers from Philly finally stand alongside those giants with an album that was lovingly and painstakingly crafted with all the bells and whistles that come with a major label budget. It’s an emotionally moving journey with several peaks and valleys, and A Deeper Understanding should be required listening for every long road trip.
Favorite Songs: “Holding On,” “Strangest Thing”
Shirley Griffith‘s Ten Best Albums of 2017
10.) Kehlani – SweetSexySavage
Sultry, chill SweetSexySavage shows Kehlani has a few things to say and she’s not going to lose focus. Sparse beats and pulsing samples take a backseat to Kehlani’s genuine, unembellished voice. The album is positive and light without being overbearing in any singular aspect.
Favorite tracks: “Piece Of Mind,” “Undercover,” “Get Like,” “I Wanna Be”
9.) Day Wave – The Days We Had
Day Wave is just really pretty music. The guitars and synths shimmer slowly like the sun reflecting off calm waters. The album is lush and bright with familiar tones that make the music endearing and pleasant. Plus, each note on the album was either played or sung by Jackson Phillips, and it’s impressive that one person created a sound so sonically rich that it peers with full bands like The Radio Dept and DIIV.
Favorite tracks: “Something Here,” “Bloom,” “Wasting Time,” “Promises,” “Disguise”
8.) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Dreamy Canadian indie rockers, Alvvays, deliver again on their sophomore release, Antisocialites. The hazy, retro instrumentation under Molly Rankin’s yearning vocals settles deep in your heart the way nostalgia nestles itself in soft, romanticized hues. The album is melodic, bouncy, and more confident than their charming 2014 self-titled.
Favorite tracks: “In Undertow,” “Dreams Tonite,” “Plimsoll Punks,” “Not My Baby,” “Saved By a Waif”
7.) Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go
What’s so great about Palehound’s Ellen Kempner, other than her artful, fuzzy guitar solos, is how warmly personal she is. Kempner’s vocals are a slight whisper so that each concept seems like a cozy secret resting on your shoulder, creating intimate flourishes amongst the rockin’ album.
Favorite tracks: “Hunter’s Gun,” “Room,” “If You Met Her,” “Turning 21,” “Backseat”
6.) Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet
Listening to this album is like falling into a hallucinogenic trip. Each note played comes together in a somehow nonchalantly brilliant orchestration. Small instrumental additions flutter and bloom within the darkened, cooler songs creating whimsy and buoyancy in the album, which also features terrifying and beautiful planetary soundscapes.
Favorite tracks: “Diving Woman,” “Road Head,” “Machinist,” “Boyish,” “The Body Is A Blade”
5.) Vagabon – Infinite Worlds
Speaking of indie gems, Laetitia Tamko is certainly one to keep an eye on. Tamko’s massive vocals are capable of gut-wrenching simplicity just as easily as they can command the pensive guitar strums, corralling them into a swirling chaos held together by remarkable bass rhythms.
Favorite tracks: “The Embers,” “Fear & Force,” “Minneapolis,” “Cold Apartment”
4.) Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar
The queen has returned. The iconic Gossip singer branched out this year to bring us lowly civilians a complete debut solo album full of swagger, attitude and, above all else, that incomparable, unabashed voice. Without the cult pigeonhole of Gossip to adhere to, Ditto was free to experiment with different electronic and organic sounds throughout the album to complement and expand her raw range.
Favorite tracks: “In And Out,” “Savoir Faire,” “We Could Run,” “Go Baby Go,” “Love In Real Life”
3.) Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher
Cloher’s been around for quite a while now, establishing herself as a rightful legend in Melbourne, Australia’s indie scene. Her self-titled release brings a bubbling, full actualization, delivering a steadfast perspective with that sharp voice over cruising, easy guitars. Cloher quips about privileged indie white kids, Australia’s anti-gay marriage stance, and even cracks intimately into the jealousy she experiences while watching partner Courtney Barnett achieve worldwide fame.
Favorite tracks: “Forgot Myself,” “Regional Echo,” “Sensory Memory,” “Shoegazers,” “Strong Woman,” “Waiting in the Wings”
2.) Alex Lahey – I Love You Like A Brother
Australian Alex Lahey’s debut album, ILYLAB, goes full force with clever lyrics executed in a fun, slightly bratty tone over shredding, fuzzy guitar chords. The album details awkward relationship snafus with touches of cheeky assaults and lighthearted knowing. The album is friendly, immediately catchy, and a seriously impressive debut effort.
Favorite tracks: “Every Day’s the Weekend,” “I Love You Like a
Brother,” “I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself,” “Awkward Exchange,” “I Want U”
1.) Kesha – Rainbow
Kesha’s first release since her highly publicized sexual assault legal battle with former manager, Dr Luke, is an empowering, intimate and triumphant collection of songs that even months later brings massive tears to my eyes with their honesty and pain. This album means so much to me that I’m getting a tattoo inspired by its power to overcome and keep hope alive.
Favorite tracks: “Bastards,” “Hymn,” “Learn To Let Go,” “Rainbow,” “Spaceship”
Cameron Lee‘s Ten Best Albums of 2017
10.) BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation II
Originally founded by Ian “Kevin Abstract” Simpson and Ameer Vann in High School as “AliveSinceForever” in 2012, this alternative hip-hop collective is storming the underbelly of indie rap and R&B music similar to the early trajectory of Odd Future and even further back, Wu-Tang. With a cornucopia of sounds, voices and spoken word, BROCKHAMPTON epitomizes indie hip-hop culture in 2017.
Favorite tracks: “GAMBA,” “SWEET,” “GUMMY,” “SUMMER,” “TOKYO”
9.) Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
This 24-year-old singer-songwriter plays the type of sad songs that make you visualize the somber introspective montages in your favorite coming-of-age films. Combining folk sound stylings with enchanting vocals, Bridgers’ music follows the lead of fellow somber indie rock artists like Ryan Adams and Julien Baker, who are also big supporters of Bridgers. Stranger in the Alps is the perfect album for a cold and rainy road trip gazing into the flashing forest trees.
Favorite tracks: “Motion Sickness,” “Smoke Signals,” “Scott Street”
8.) Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
At first listen, Cleveland, Ohio indie rock band Cloud Nothings’ play the type of care free rock ‘n’ roll and upbeat post-punk music that may be reminiscent of your high school or college music soundtrack. But the range of their musical instrumentation and the vocal aptitude of Dylan Baldi set this indie power rock group apart. With bulky pop hooks camouflaged with the heaviest of guitar riffs, Life Without Sound is a fun album for most all occasions.
Favorite tracks: “Modern Act,” “Up To The Surface,” “Sight Unseen,” “Things Are Right With You”
7.) Tei Shi – Crawl Space
Argentinian-born, Canadian-raised, and the daughter to Colombian parents, indie synth-pop New York-based singer-songwriter Tei Shi’s cultural background may be equally as impressive and diverse as her latest album, Crawl Space. Mixing an equally haunting and poppy blend of electronic synth sounds with some jazzy notes, her voice is vulnerable, celestial and pensive. The album plays like a dreamy journal of a young aspiring songstress navigating her way through this callous world.
Favorite tracks: “Keep Running,” “Say You Do,” “Creep,” “Baby”
6.) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Canadian indie rock outfit Alvvays followed up their 2014 self-titled project with a gem of an album in Antisocialites. With the dreamy and whimsical voice of vocalist and guitarist Molly Rankin, the album balances upbeat glam rock numbers like “Pimsoll Punks” with a few slower more beautifully sorrowful songs like “Dreams Tonite,” the latest from Alvvays is one of the easiest albums to rock out to in 2017 from front to back.
Favorite tracks: “Plimsoll Punks,” “In Undertow,” “Dreams Tonite,” and “Saved By A Waif”
5.) Kelela – Take Me Apart
DMV native Kelela’s debut studio album Take Me Apart takes off where her 2015 EP Hallucinogen stops. Her seductive and sensual tone paired with the experimental beats with pop sensibility puts Kelela in a league of her own. The album is stimulating in every nook and around every corner with an avant-garde sound paired with creative vocal arrangements and effects. Take Me Apart sounds like a future R&B album sung in a cavernous abandoned high tech spaceship.
Favorite tracks: “LMK,” “Waiting,” “Blue Light,” “Altadena,” “Frontline”
4.) Syd – Fin
As a veteran member of the L.A. hip-hop collective Odd Future and leader of the indie R&B Soul group The Internet, Syd has been putting out stellar music since 2009. With several collabs under her belt with Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator, Thundercat, Isaiah Rashad, Daniel Caesar, Kaytranada, and more, Syd’s Fin has propelled her career to new levels. Her sly and mellow demeanor and melodious vocals about her personal relationships and surroundings offers something enjoyably unfamiliar in a lacking genre.
Favorite tracks: “All About Me,” “Dollar Bills,” “Over”
3.) The National – Sleep Well Beast
The long-awaited follow-up to The National’s 2013 The Trouble Will Find Me came just in time for the fall and winter months. Like your favorite cold weather blanket, The National’s Sleep Well Beast snugs warm and tight, but doesn’t leave you too comfortable. The album mixes various styles of rock and includes a wide variety of instrumentation and synths, leaving your ears wholly satisfied.
Favorite songs: “Day I Die,” “Carin at the Liquor Store,” “Guilty Party,” “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
2.) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is the album his core fans probably wanted in 2015. He showed his poetic adeptness and musical diversity with To Pimp A Butterfly, so with this year’s release, K. Dot went back to the good kid, m.A.A.d city formula of more traditional west coast hip-hop production and straight bars. Don’t get it twisted, Kendrick still finds ways to break traditional rap song structures and sounds. Damn. might be the most enjoyable album to listen to in his catalog and that’s saying a lot.
Favorite tracks: “DNA.,” “HUMBLE.,” “DUCKWORTH.,” “ELEMENT.”
1.) Sampha – Process
Something happens to your mind and body when the piano keys to Sampha’s “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” plays. The world turns a little more still and your ears and soul get swept up in the wistful words of the British singer-songwriter. His new brand of stylish electronic R&B and Soul is as unique as his vocal delivery. Hollow yet whole, squeamish yet strong, Sampha is a vessel that delivers alluring wordly sounds that are a much needed musical diversion.
Favorite tracks: “Blood on Me,” “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano,” “Take Me Inside,” and “Incomplete Kisses”
Delaney Clifford‘s Ten Best Albums of 2017
10.) Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface
Coming off of 2013’s COPE, Manchester Orchestra had some rebuilding to do. A Black Mile To The Surface learns from the mistakes of COPE and capitalizes on its successes, forming a record befitting of the Manchester Orchestra name. This record seems to have restored faith in the band’s ability to do what they’ve done on their previous releases, and more. It’s safe to say that Manchester Orchestra is back in force with a record that demands your attention.
Favorite tracks: “The Gold,” “The Wolf,” “The Sunshine”
9.) Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy
Yet another band that has been redefined in 2017, Full of Hell has come back to us with an absolutely devastating record. After Rudiments of Mutilation, Full of Hell worked with the likes of Merzbow, The Body, and Psywarfare, descending into the hell of absolute noise-metal. With Trumpeting Ecstasy, Full of Hell has firmly established their roots more in the genre of grind than anything else, unleashing hell for eleven songs straight, and igniting a newfound passion for the group.
Favorite tracks: “Crawling Back To God,” “Trumpeting Ecstasy,” “Gnawed Flesh”
8.) Amenra – Mass VI
As far as Amenra goes, this record is revolutionary. Building on their already monumental sound, Mass VI blends black metal and screamo like never before. It’s exceptionally difficult to put this record into any boundaries of genre, as Amenra continually refuses to be boxed in. This record changes perspective on heavier genres wholesale.
Favorite tracks: “Children of the Eye,” “Diaken,” “A Solitary Reign”
7.) Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In The Alps
Going back to Julien Baker’s new record, Phoebe Bridgers is probably one of the only artists that could possibly put out a more heart-wrenching record. Stranger In The Alps handles the notions of depression, loss and flat-out pain better than most this year. With Bridgers’ beautiful voice alongside a perfectly simple instrumental ensemble, nothing can save us from the tears on this one.
Favorite tracks: “Funeral,” “Scott Street,” “Chelsea”
6.) Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
2016 brought UK artists like Skepta, Giggs, JME, and Ghetts into the public eye of the United States. 2017 has brought us Stormzy, who has taken a serious spotlight in the UK grime scene. His latest work, Gang Signs & Prayer takes the classic grime genre and turns it on its head, infusing elements of jazz, R&B, and soul. If there’s one UK rapper that deserves your attention this year, it’s Stormzy.
Favorite tracks: “First Things First,” “100 Bags,” “Don’t Cry For Me”
5.) Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
Break out the tissues and headphones, Julien Baker is back. After her debut release, Sprained Ankle, in 2015, few thought it possible to create a more heartfelt, absolutely gut-wrenching record, but somehow the young Tennessee-native has found a way. With further stories of heartbreak, abuse and loss, Baker has stayed right in line with her older material while somehow managing to put a special twist into this album; a message of hope and redemption. Disclaimer: prepare to cry. A lot.
Favorite tracks: “Hurt Less,” “Everything That Helps You Sleep,” “Happy To Be Here”
4.) Slowdive – Slowdive
What can be said for the first record in 21 years from one of the best bands in the shoegaze genre? The long-awaited release has put Slowdive back on the map for anybody foolish enough to cross them out. Reminiscent of the band’s breakout record, Souvlaki, Slowdive revives the genesis of the band, with a mature touch. There’s no other way to say it: Slowdive is back on top.
Favorite tracks: “Sugar For The Pill,” “Everyone Knows,” “Falling Ashes”
3.) Cloakroom – Time Well
The Sultans of Sound have returned with their latest work of crushing noise. Specializing in over-driven bass tones, soft-spoken vocals, and an aura of doom and gloom, Cloakroom has extended their reach into the abyss with Time Well. Aligning with stoner-metal, emo, and shoegaze, all at the same time, this record has something for everyone.
Favorite tracks: “Seedless Star,” “Concrete Gallery,” “The Sun Won’t Let Us Go
2.) Noah Gundersen – WHITE NOISE
WHITE NOISE is an album that redefines Noah Gundersen’s sound. For years, he’s been known as an artist to expect a soft-touched, folksy melody from, but with WHITE NOISE, Gundersen has flexed his rock star side, crafting beautifully produced anthem after anthem and stealing our hearts all over again. If you wanted to listen to an artist who has entirely overhauled his sound and image with a single record, listen to this one.
Favorite tracks: “HEAVY METALS,” “SEND THE RAIN (TO EVERYONE),” “BAD DESIRE”
1.) The National – Sleep Well Beast
The National has returned to give us one of the best records of 2017, this time with a fresh twist on the sound we’ve all come to know and love. For as many songs on this record that fall in line with their usual melancholy and beautiful, slow-strummed ballads, there are as many that take on a new fast-paced aggression that makes the blood run hot. It’s hard to imagine this record not being on everyone’s top-ten lists.
Favorite tracks: “Day I Die,” “Born To Beg,” “I’ll Still Destroy You”
Kelli Raulerson‘s Ten Best Albums of 2017
10.) Tei Shi – Crawl Space
Don’t let the pop vibe confuse you. Valerie Teicher, an artist who came up in the vibrant, multi-faceted Brooklyn “do it yourself” scene, is Tei Shi. Defying what it means to be DIY, she’s straddling genres and making experimental accessible, all while controlling her music from top to bottom – self producing and choosing who to collaborate to make her vision a reality.
Favorite tracks: “Keep Running,” “Your World,” “Sleepy”
9.) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Emotional detachment is a good subject for sophomore albums. Touring incessantly seems to inspire a sense of longing either for a life once lived or for the promise of something more stable down the round. Antisocialites delivers these dreamy, whimsical ramblings but with wit and a hint of sardonic self-deprecation thanks to Molly Rankin (and Alec O’Hanley) of Alvvays manning the pen. Backed by carefree melodies and smooth production values this album strikes the balance perfectly between hopeless wandering and optimistic resolution.
Favorite tracks: “Already Gone,” “Forget About Life,” “Not My Baby”
8.) Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
Waxahatchee’s latest release is a richly realized album about letting go — a cathartic release of long-repressed issues, self-reflection and the journey to find solace in one’s independence again. In a year full of strong female voices, the track “Never Been Wrong” hits the proverbial nail on the head.
Favorite tracks: “Never Been Wrong,” “Recite Remorse,” “Hear You”
7.) Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
Aussie rocker Courtney Barnett and Philly Kurt Vile are unparalleled in their vivid, stream-of-consciousness songwriting. Lotta Sea Lice, a mellow album combining the eccentricities of both Barnett and Vile, blends their unique sounds to create a natural harmony that proves two is be better than one.
Favorite tracks: “On Script,” “Blue Cheese,” “Untogether”
6.) Jamila Woods – HEAVN
The Chicago-based singer, songwriter and poet is best known for her collaboration with Chance the Rapper. But not for long. HEAVN is an eclectic mix of poetry, positivity and empowerment. Woods first solo album is confident and deeply rooted in her experience as a black woman – honest, confident and resolute – easily one of the strongest R&B albums of the year.
Favorite tracks: “Lonely,” “Blk Girl Soldier”
5.) Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Referred to by some as the poster band for anti-Trump alienation, this DC quartet’s debut album Nothing Feels Natural represents so much more. Having started the album in 2014, its lyrics represent issues that were present long before Trump propagated them. Yet still, it’s an album that resonates more loudly given the year of its release and one that certainly echoes the cries of many.
Favorite tracks: “No Big Bang,” “Pink White House,” “JJ”
4.) Valerie June – The Order of Time
This Tennessee native dubs her sound “Organic Moonshine Roots Music” and with tales of family, love, hardship and spirituality it’s a fitting genre. June, however, goes a little deeper as she debates the mysteries of the unknown and the transcendent in hersongs. Or maybe that’s just the moonshine talking.
Favorite tracks: “Just In Time,” “Shakedown,” “Love You Once Made”
3.) Jay Som – Everybody Works
The California singer and multi-instrumentalist’s music is termed “bedroom pop” due to its dreamy and intimate quality. Recording as Jay Som, Melina Duterte plays every instrument and produced nearly every sound on the record, blending fuzzy pop and jazz-inflected harmonies with emotive orchestration and distortion.
Favorite tracks: “Baybee,” “Take It,” “Remain”
2.) Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
Fueled by hope and despair, the Memphis singer has rightfully earned her reputation as one of today’s saddest songwriters, crafting heartbreaking ballads about depression, addiction and fighting to find and keep faith in trying times. With hauntingly honest vocals and raw acoustics, it’s hard not to be emotionally invested as you listen. You find yourself rooting for the singer because somewhere in her pain, you hear your own.
Favorite tracks: “Claws in Your Back,” “Hurt Less,” “Even”
1.) Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Soul of a Woman
If Soul of a Woman reflects anything about Sharon Jones, it is a testament to her strength and unwavering heart and soul as her final album (Jones passed away from pancreatic cancer late last year). Recorded while she was in remission in 2016, Jones’ voice and songs are bold, honest and down-to-earth. Embodying pure Soul as she always did, Jones’ gave us an album that showcased her strength, persistence, pain, grace and complete command – a combination uniquely her own.
Favorite tracks: “Pass Me By,” “Searching for a New Day,” “Just Give Me Your Time”
Lane Claffee‘s Ten Best Albums of 2017
10.) Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
Honestly, I can’t bring myself to listen to this album very often. Not because I don’t think it’s great, but because it is one of the most soul-crushing albums I’ve ever heard. As devastating of a listen as it is, it seems right to include it. This album covers the tragic loss of Phil Elverum’s wife and, while it maintains hushed cadence and melody, sometimes Elverum seems to be so distraught that he justs document the tragedy in a trance-like whisper, like on “Real Death.” It’s truly a heart-wrenching listen, but worth one nonetheless.
Favorite tracks: “Real Death,” “Seaweed,” “When I Take The Garbage Out At Night”
9.) Big Thief – Capacity
Brooklyn’s indie rock band Big Thief’s latest release, Capacity is a quieter departure from 2016’s Masterpiece. It has tinges of rock ‘n’ roll as well as folk music, but still maintains a certain level of intimate delivery that makes this album stand out from other current indie rock bands. Each song off of Capacity has the ability to be personal, lamenting, and warm all at once.
Favorite tracks: “Shark Smile,” “Mythological Beauty,” “Mary”
8.) Mac Demarco – This Old Dog
This Old Dog seemed to be one of the least hyped Mac Demarco releases, but it features some of his best songs to date. While a lot of his earlier work calls back to classic rock like Steely Dan and John and Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band, this album features much more acoustic guitar that any other release of his. Overall, It’s a relaxing listen, and shows Demarco at an introspective point in his songwriting, talking about growing older, as well as issues with his father.
Favorite tracks: “My Old Man,” “This Old Dog,” “For The First Time,” “Still Beating”
7.) Thundercat – Drunk
Drunk is a quirky, funky release from Thundercat. The songs are as funny as they are soulful and groovy. With an album that features Kendrick Lamar, Kenny Loggins, and Michael McDonald, it’s safe to say it’s an eccentric listen. Whether it’s the yacht-rock sound of “Show You The Way” or the space-funk of “Them Changes,” Drunk was definitely one of 2017’s oddest and most interesting listens.
Favorite tracks: “Show You The Way,” “Friend Zone,” “Them Changes”
6.) Brian Jonestown Massacre – Don’t Get Lost
Anton Newcombe and his band the Brian Jonestown Massacre should be on anyone’s radar who considers themselves up on the underground rock scene. Newcombe is a veteran and is one of the most prolific artists of the last few decades. Don’t Get Lost is another great BJM release and features a lot of extended, psychedelic cuts that show the band is as good as they used to be, if not better.
Favorite tracks: “Open Minds Now Close,” “Throbbing Gristle,” “Nothing New To Trash Like You”
5.) You’ll Never Get To Heaven – Images
In March, Canadian duo You’ll Never Get To Heaven released their third studio album, Images, through Yellow K Records. Showing some influence from concepts of minimalism and 1980s pop music, Images is a lulling, ethereal dream pop album that seems like it didn’t get the attention that it deserved. While the release was sort of low-key, it is a must listen for any fan of the electronic dream pop genre.
Favorite tracks: “Shared Dreams,” “White Light,” “Beyond the Clouds”
4.) King Krule – The OOZ
The OOZ seems grimy and sickly compared to Archy Marshall’s last release as King Krule, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, but in the most compelling way. The album is a dizzy, ambivalent mix of punk, dub, jazz, and trip hop that becomes more interesting with each listen. As Marshall abstractly describes in a Pitchfork interview, the album is about what you do subconsciously, as a living being: “Your beard, your nails, all of that…you don’t ever think, ‘Wow, I’m actually pushing all this stuff constantly—my brain’s creating all this gunk, this forcefield.’”
Favorite tracks: “Dum Surfer,” “Logos,” “Emergency Blimp”
3.) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
When I first heard DAMN., like many other people, I felt kind of disappointed. I didn’t think it was a bad album by any stretch, but since it followed the incredibly profound To Pimp A Butterfly it just didn’t make sense to me at the time. It took a few listens for me to realize that it was a more abrasive version of the conscious rap style he had crafted for himself previously. It’s a solid album, and is louder and more cutting where To Pimp A Butterfly was more jazz influenced and complex. On a side note, the Collectors Edition seems kind of silly, since it’s just in an .mp3 format right now. Though I really don’t want to sound contrarian, it definitely plays better that way.
Favorite tracks: “DNA.,” “YAH.,” “HUMBLE.”
2.) Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Ariel Pink’s latest release, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a sonic callback to an earlier point in his career, when his material was recorded on tape at home. It’s got that same lo-fi beauty to it, while still having some of his most catchy, straight forward cuts of his career. “Another Weekend” is an introspective, simplistic art-rock track, while “Feels Like Heaven” is gothy dream pop, and is also undoubtedly one of the best love songs of the year. Overall, it’s just another top-notch, idiosyncratic pop album from one of today’s most enigmatic artists.
Favorite tracks: “Feels Like Heaven,” “Another Weekend,” “I Wanna Be Young”
1.) Sampha – Process
Ever since the release of his first EP, Sundanza, in 2010, Sampha has been in the background of works by some of today’s most popular artists, including Drake, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and Solange. On Process, we get to experience Sampha in the spotlight. The album is a batch of intimate, atmospheric alternative R&B tracks that discuss grief, insecurity, and worry in a way that his contemporaries don’t even come close to.
Favorite tracks: “Under,” “Timmy’s Prayer,” “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”
Here is a playlist of our favorite songs and albums of 2017. Enjoy!
In this article
- Alex Lahey
- ariel pink
- beach fossils
- benjamin booker
- best albums
- best records
- best songs
- Beth Ditto
- Big Thief
- Brian Jonestown Massacre
- Cameron Lee
- cloud nothings
- courtney barnett
- Day Wave
- delaney clifford
- Father John Misty
- Grizzly Bear
- Jamila Woods
- Japanese Breakfast
- jason isbell
- Jay Som
- Jen Cloher
- julien baker
- Kelli Raulerson
- kendrick lamar
- king krule
- Kurt Vile
- lane claffee
- mac demarco
- mavis staples
- Mount Eerie
- Noah Gundersen
- north carolina
- phoebe bridgers
- sean titone
- sharon jones
- shirley griffith
- slow dive
- Tei Shi
- The National
- the war on drugs
- Valerie June
- You’ll Never Get To Heaven