Another year; another top albums list! I was both eager and hesitant to start off 2017, but I trusted that music would be the only thing that got me through the year - and for the most part, it did. 2017 was a pretty eventful year and the music was no exception. There were a ton of anticipated releases from some of the biggest artists and some very strong debuts - even though, aside from Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. there was no clear blockbuster. Here is the list of my favorite albums to come out of 2017.
20. Incubus - 8
Incubus has been a staple in my musical journey for many years, but by the time the band got to 7th album, If Not Now, When?, Incubus sounded nothing like the band who burst on the scene in 1997 with S.C.I.E.N.C.E. - they sounded old and tired. 8 doesn't necessarily sound like the band who gave us classics like 'Pardon Me,' 'Drive', or 'A Certain Shade of Green', but Incubus did come back from their hiatus sounding excited, inspired and fresh. A happy return.
Check out: 'State of the Art'
19. Eidola - To Speak, To Listen
I was introduced to Eidola's To Speak, To Listen from a new blog that I'd discovered over the spring. I'm embarrassingly ignorant of the many different sub-genres that Eidola might be categorized under - but I do know when I hear something that I like. To Speak, To Listen is one of those albums that sounds fresh no matter how many times you listen to it, because there's always something new to discover. I've been spinning it for the better part of the year and I still don't know it like I know the back of my hand. The album has recently been released in its instrumental form. A stunning album from start to finish.
Check out: 'Tetelestai'.
18. Sampha - Process
When Sampha released his breakthrough album, Process, I was feeling pretty vulnerable as I'm pretty sure a lot of people were feeling in the earlier months of 2017. I was looking for something that I could really relate to, emotionally. I latched onto Process because of its honesty of family, friends and ultimate love of music. 'Kora Sings' and '(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano' take me back to being in my room all day and recording my little 'albums' on a boombox. Sampha's voice is a breath of fresh air from a lot of the other voices clouding up the airwaves. Process is a fantastic debut.
Check out: '(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano'
17. Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie
I wasn't too excited for the release of this collaborative effort between Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. First, because Christine McVie was finally back in the band and yet Stevie Nicks just couldn't be bothered to make a new Fleetwood Mac album because she's supposedly focusing on a new album and touring - again. So, while we have hundreds of iconic artists dropping like flies, we have to hope no one passes from the most successful line-ups of Fleetwood Mac and wait for another album. I also think it's stupid that they can release a Fleetwood Mac album if it's just Lindsey and Stevie - but not Lindsey and Christine?!? Secondly, I wasn't too impressed with first single, 'In My World'. However, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie proved to be one of the most surprisingly enjoyable albums of 2017. It may be a bit too much of a Buckingham project, but McVie (who was always the sweet balance to Buckingham and Nicks) shines through. Although there is nothing groundbreaking (when you create albums like Rumours and Tusk, do you really need to prove anything?) Buckingham/McVie feels like visiting old friends.
Check out: 'Red Sun'
16. Beth Ditto - Fake Sugar
Beth Ditto's Fake Sugar was a largely overlooked album this year - but it's a gem. Ditto says that this is her 'Southern album' - largely inspired by the music she listened to growing up. Fake Sugar's hooks and sweeping sonic palate is impressive for The Gossip front-woman's first solo effort. With bops like, 'In and Out' and 'We Can Run', it's a shame that Fake Sugar got pushed under the rug.
Check out: 'We Can Run'
15. Dreamcar - Dreamcar
The self-titled debut from super-ground Dreamcar (No Doubt minus Gwen Stefani and AFI's Davey Havoc) was the soundtrack to our summer. Dreamcar's appeal is that it is a low-stakes album and the band have no shame in creating some of the best '80s inspired hooks since Duran Duran's Rio. First single, 'Kill for Candy' should have been a sleeper summer hit - but alas, that went to 'Despacito' and Charlie Puth.
Check out: 'Kill for Candy'
14. Tyler The Creator - Flowerboy
Flower Boy was not on my 'anticipated release' radar, but I really respect Tyler The Creator's honesty throughout the album. Over the course the album, Tyler gets to the core of his isolation as he comes face to face with what has molded him in the man he is today. He spews wisdom to younger generations while taking his own advice and finally lets himself shine. Flower Boy is a lot more complicated than its surface suggests, but as the album continues it is evident that Tyler has found the perfect balance.
Check out: 'Where This Flower Blooms'
13. Beck - Colors
Colors was one of the most highly anticipated releases in 2017. When Beck took home the Grammy for Album of the Year with his album, Morning Phase, I was just as shocked as everyone else - mostly because I didn't even know that he was still making relevant music. When 'Dreams' was released as the lead single in 2015, I was really excited to hear more! Who knew we'd have to wait until the fall of 2017 for a full album?!?!
Colors is not a perfect album - although it did meet my expectations. The album suffers from being inconsistent and the first batch of songs fail to really keep the listener's attention. The better material is found on the album's B-Side where Beck shows off his pop hook chops without shame. It may not be his most consistent album, but he's never sounded happier.
Check out: 'Up All Night'
12. The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Another hotly anticipated album of 2017 was The War on Drugs' A Deeper Understanding - and it did not disappoint. When the 11-minute lead single, 'Thinking of a Place' was released in early 2017, I was thrilled because 2014's Lost in the Dream was one of my Top 5 favorite albums of that year. On A Deeper Understanding, Adam Granduciel and Co. refuse to dial back on their major-label debut and offer the ultimate Los Angeles album. The only reason that A Deeper Understanding doesn't rank higher on this list, is because A Deeper Understanding expands the sound found on Lost in the Dream - making the sound feel more like home instead of something fresh and new.
Check out: 'Holding On'
11. Linkin Park - One More Light
I understand if anyone wants to argue if wants to quit reading about my musical opinions after seeing One More Light on this list. First off, I don't think it's a perfect album - it's arguably the laughing stock of Linkin Park's catalog. However, once you get over the simplistic pop sheen and structure - it's not half as bad as it sounds on paper. When you take into account that these were the last songs to be released by Chester Bennington, they become a lot more real. What made Linkin Park one of my favorite band's is that Chester was a voice for those of us who felt we couldn't scream, shout or cry out. He made it acceptable for male rock singers to emote.
One More Light is on this list because after you strip away its pop sensibilities, it is Linkin Park through and through. It's flaws make it only better over time.
Check out: ' Talking to Myself'
10. St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION
MASSEDUCTION is the closest to pop as you're going to get from St. Vincent. Although the indie-songstress had toyed with pop hooks on her 2015 self-titled album, Annie Clarke went balls-to-the-wall pop when she stuck model Charlotte Kohl's ass, clad in bubble-gum pink tights on her album cover. Everything screamed Pop, with a capital P, in anticipation for MASSEDUTION. The truth is - St. Vincent does what she does best with a more pop-leaning sound. It's not completely pop in the same way that Beck went pop on Colors, but it's just pop enough that you know Taylor Swift is going to steal it for the masses to eat up on her next album.
Check out: "New York"
9. Silverstein - Dead Reflection
There's nothing more depressing than seeing a band beating a dead horse. Thankfully, Silverstein isn't one of those bands! Aside from a few albums, I never kept up with Silverstein's career and only stumbled upon Dead Reflection from the hype on various music blogs. What I discovered was yet another reason why my-scene-was-so-much-better-than-yours for all of the younger music fans who are infatuated with the new 'scene' bands (Yes, I'm arrogant about my emo bands). Scene wars aside - Dead Reflection is an impressive album from a band who can still pull a few new fans. It's also one of their strongest efforts - you can tell that Shane Told poured his heart and soul into every lyric. There are also more pop hooks abound, making Dead Reflection the perfect companion to their sophomore album, Discovering the Waterfront.
Check out: 'Lost Positives'
8. LP - Lost on You
I was absolutely thrilled that LP was releasing full-length album, Lost on You, this year. I had no idea that the album had already been released in 2016 everywhere else except the US. Imagine my surprise that the song, 'Lost on You' had become a global hit everywhere except The States! That's no surprise though.
I fell in love with LP's last album, Forever for Now, so much that it depressed me that I had no one else to celebrate LP's music with, because no one knew who she was. I am so happy that LP has had success all over the world because her music is so deserving of success.
If there was one downfall with Forever for Now, it was that the sound and LP's unique vocals were constantly battling for room - and it was a bit overwhelming at times. Lost on You sheds that big sound allowing LP to branch out with different sounds while still keeping her pop sensibilities at her core. The album's center is 'Lost on You', and while there are multiple standout tracks along the way - nothing really tops the successful worldwide single.
Check out: 'Lost on You'
7. Lorde - Melodrama
Lorde had a lot to prove with Melodrama. Her debut album, Pure Heroine, not only made her a superstar, but also helped the songstress win a multitude of awards at the young age of 17 - making her one of the most promising artists since Adele. That's a lot to live up to. She's supposedly also good friends with Taylor Swift - so everyone is constantly comparing them and while Swift continues to break sale records, Lorde's Melodrama proves that she's yards ahead of her peers. Instead of getting super experimental, Lorde settles her analysis of the drama within a single house party - what else is a 21 year-old really supposed to be worrying about? There are tiny missteps along the way ('Hard Feelings/Loveless') but no complete stumbles on the album. From start to finish, Melodrama more than lives up to Lorde's promises.
Check out: 'Green Light'
6. Paramore - After Laughter
There was nothing more awkward than Paramore's out-of-thin-air video for lead-single, 'Hard Times'. Here was pint sized Hayley Williams singing about dark clouds and sadness over music that has never sounded more jolly and happy. I had very little expectation for After Laughter, because there are only so many line-up changes a band can have before they become a figment of the band that they originally were (The Motels, anyone?). But, I can honestly say - although Paramore sound nothing like the teens who gave us All We Know is Falling - After Laughter blew me away because it was the music that I really needed to hear at the time.
America - we've been through some shit recently, and 2017 was unbearable, at times. After Laughter is a whirlwind of depression, anger and forgiveness. Everything that I was basically feeling in 2017. I couldn't hang on to the bad - I had to acknowledge it and then let it go in order to move forward. After Laughter was the perfect soundtrack for that. I don't know what kind of demons Hayley Williams had to get out of her system - but I'm glad she did.
Check out: 'Told You So'
5. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
I love DAMN.
It's an album that I really had to wrestle with all year. But, I had to do that with his last album, To Pimp a Butterfly, as well. The best music isn't always something that instantly fall in love with. It's the music that opens itself up to you the more that you spend time with it. Lamar explores his role as celebrity while trying to stay grounded and true to himself on an album that can be interpreted in different ways; it's a completely different album if you listen to it from finish to start. What I take away from DAMN. it's that whenever rap music genuinely touches music listeners and the artist tries to use their platform for 'good' - there are always people trying to pull them down by using the same bullshit they've been spewing for years about rap and hip-hop being a bad role model for younger listeners. I've never been the biggest rap/hip-hop fan, but I know how to stop and listen to what is really being told to me.
For a year with no clear Blockbuster album - DAMN. is more than deserving of that title.
Check out: 'DNA'
4. SZA - CTRL
Hands down, 2017's most important breakout artist is SZA.
SZA begins CTRL informing her negligent boyfriend that she slept with his best friend on Valentine's Day. Elsewhere, SZA touches on the loneliness and utter despair of being the unwanted woman - in a way that other artists could not deliver this year. Never before, has the exploration of modern love sounded so groundbreaking and fresh. SZA is an important artist to keep your eye on because she has been bubbling under the surface for years. It's hard for me not to believe that much of the sound of Rihanna's ANTI was largely inspired by SZA.
Check out: 'Love Galore'
3. Acceptance - Colliding by Design
No one told me that Acceptance's Phantoms was such a beloved classic in the pop/emo music world. I remember the album very well - I loved it, but then they broke up. I may have heard that they got back together for a reunion tour but I had no idea they had recorded a new album when I saw Colliding by Design under the Spotify new releases tab - but I'm so glad that I decided to check it out.
Colliding by Design never left my rotation this year. While it is a re-introduction to a band that I really enjoyed when I was 20 years-old, it was also a testament to how much our lives change in any amount of time. Colliding by Design felt like catching up with friends I hadn't seen in twelve years and finding that their stories were my stories as well. Here's to new beginnings!...and put Phantoms on vinyl!
Check out: 'Come Closer'
2. The xx - I See You
I See You was the first great album of the year - if not one of the first big albums to be released in 2017. I've never been a big fan of The xx - but I was really intrigued with first single, 'On Hold.' Jamie xx really gives the band new life by finally coming to the forefront of the mix alongside his band mates. I See You is an album that I've enjoyed all year, as well. It was an album that I could put down at times and revisit whenever I was overplaying some other artist or album. I'm actually very surprised that it hasn't charted higher on other 'Best of 2017' lists. I think it's The xx's strongest album by far.
Check out: 'I Dare You
1. Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to The Surface
No opening line to an album has haunted me more than: 'I notice you when you're noticing me'. Manchester Orchestra's A Black Mile to the Surface is my choice for top album of 2017 because - to me - it's an honest look at the terrors and joys of marriage and fatherhood. With its vulnerably honest lyrics and cinematic sonic landscape, A Black Mile to the Surface is breathtaking and beautiful.
Opening song, 'The Maze' brilliantly analyzes the parent/child relationship and how each is 'a maze' to the other. I was a stay-at-home dad for 2 years, and there is nothing more frightening than realizing that your child picks up on every little thing that you do, whether you realize it or not - and your behavior shapes them. What makes the song more brilliant is that most of the lyrics could be from the perspective of the child or the parent.
At its core, A Black Mile to the Surface is a great analysis of relationships and how, as you get older; as you become a husband/wife/partner or parent - you realize how important all of these relationships are - how you must prioritize them; nurture them. Once I became a parent, I realized how precious time really is - and how your words, actions and the work you put into those relationships truly affect the people in them.
There is a re-occurring line that pops up in different songs, 'There's nothing I've got, when I die, that I keep' - and as selfish as we find ourselves, that's a very important lesson to learn in life. The materialistic things that we have; that we acquire throughout life - cannot go with us when we die. How we treat each other; the relationships that we build and nurture throughout our lives - that's what lives on. That's what people remember.
Check out: 'The Gold'
I created a playlist of all the tracks that's I've recommended from each album. Enjoy! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!