I adore music, and I consume a lot of it. As with the last few years, I’m going to rank every album I’ve purchased, which this year came out to a nice, round 50. What this means is I listened to many more songs/records than these, but these are the ones I felt were good/intriguing enough to put on my phone and give dedicated time to. This year’s list is a little wordy, so I’m going to break it up into two posts. I’ve grouped the albums that were around each other, regardless of genre, and found some commonalities. I enjoyed doing this format last year, and think it makes for the best way to read this list. Thanks for checking it out.
Hoped For Better.
49. Vince Staples—Big Fish Theory
48. Japandroids—Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Last year’s list started in much the same way, where a lot of the stuff that populates the bottom are albums I got because I thought they’d be great, and they…weren’t. In Kehlani’s case, it was a few good singles and a lot of not good stuff. A lot of people really connected on the Vince Staples album but those beats were no good to me, and both the Japandroids and Feist albums were kinda boring. I mean, Feist’s is for sure. Japandroids just kinda did the same thing they’ve been doing, and this felt like the time where the formula ran out.
One Hit to Grab Ya.
Bad and Boujee. Mask Off. Illuminant. Probably couldn’t tell you any of the other songs on any of the albums, but goddamn those tracks were good enough to land these albums on my list.
43. Elder—Reflections of a Floating World
42. Movements—Feel Something
When I was younger, I was very into heavier music. That’ll still show up later in this countdown, but these were two albums that—while very different—spoke to that past. Elder put out a dreamy, stoner metal dreamscape of a record that was enjoyable for its musicianship and listenability. With Movements, I absolutely loved their “Outgrown Things” EP, it hearkened back to a time where music was overly emotive and I adored it. This new long-player isn’t nearly as good, but has flashes.
Hoped For Better Part II.
41. Taylor Swift—Reputation
40. Fleet Foxes—Crack-Up
People who had this FF record in their top 10 I just can’t believe are serious. It has nothing that made Fleet Foxes great and their first record in my top 10 of all-time. It’s dense and unlistenable, and people have a tendency to equate “challenging listen” with “good”. It is, in fact, not good. And Taylor’s album sounds like a desperate try-hard desperately trying hard. It has none of the cool effervescence of 1989 and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she puts another album out in 2018 to make up for this one.
The Good Hip-Hop/Groove Run.
39. Young M.A—Herstory EP
38. Brockhampton—Saturation I, II, III
37. DJ Khaled—Grateful
36. Calvin Harris—Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1
35. Mike WiLL Made-It—Ransom 2
As I’ve said before, I’m a hip-hop fan but it’s never been my genre of choice, so usually I have a good deal of hip-hop albums I enjoy but don’t listen to all that often. In most of these cases, the album has 3-5 scorching tracks(Harris, Khaled, Mike WiLL), but Young M.A and Brockhampton are here because they’re two of the most promising artists(well, Brockhampton is like 3000 people) coming up. I just think both will be capable of better and more consistent stuff than we’re seeing here.
34. Future Islands—The Far Field
33. Circa Survive—The Amulet
32. Iron and Wine—Beast Epic
Hey, it’s three bands who have albums I absolutely adore and couldn’t imagine life without! (Singles, Juturna, and The Shepherd’s Dog, respectively). And hey, they all did pretty good this year! Three very different-sounding bands that maybe speak to my wide-ranging tastes, but these were all solid albums from solid bands that were tough not to enjoy. HOW MANY MORE TIMES CAN I SAY SOLID WHO KNOWS TUNE IN TO THE TOP TEN TO FIND OUT
The Real Good Hip-Hop Run.
31. Aminé—Good For You
30. Princess Nokia—1992 Deluxe
29. NERD—NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES
An indie-rap darling, a hard-as-hell lady rhyme-spitter from New York City, and two very fine returns to form after some very bad albums highlight a run of hip-hop albums I actually really liked. A lot of places had Jay-Z higher, but I think he’s done so much damage for me with his last few efforts I just can never take him seriously as a top-10 artist again. But 4:44 was good. “Lemon” is a top-10 track of the year, so is “Caroline”. And Nokia makes me scared to be alive, which I do love from my rappers.
Let’s Get Sad.
27. Weaves—Wide Open
26. Julien Baker—Turn Out the Lights
25. Big Thief—Capacity
2017 felt like a big year for sad music(which we’re gonna get to a lot more of ahead), or maybe it was just that we were all sad, all year. These are different levels of sad, mind. Weaves was sad in the “Canadian person of colour” way, shining a light on issues we seem to feel divorced from in our country (see Tanya Tagaq’s appearance on “Scream” for the most compelling evidence of this). Julien Baker and Big Thief were just good, old-fashioned sad-ass, beautiful vocal performances, and Slowdive was sad in the sense that it was the perfect record to throw on late at night while you were driving home and needed a good think. All very good records with different vibes, all of them sad.
The Best Hip-Hop Run.
23. Joey Bada$$—ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
22. Drake—More Life
21. Kendrick Lamar—DAMN.
For my money, the three best true hip-hop records that came out this year. Joey Bada$$’s record reminded me of mid-90’s hip-hop in all the best possible ways. Drake proved that you can release a 21-track record people WILL care about. And Kendrick is Kendrick. I’ve talked before about how I like Kendrick but don’t love him, as I find his flows often disruptive of the beats and the music less accessible as a result. But “DAMN.” was certainly as cohesive and consistent a record as Kung Fu Kenny has put together. I just think for me, he’s a better guest-verse rapper than album rapper. *shrug*
20. Phoenix—Ti Amo
19. Charly Bliss—Guppy
18. Julia Michaels—Nervous System.
I hate that heading as much as you do, but we can move past it. Three albums that are all pop-leaning (well, Julia Michaels’ record is as pop as you like), and three albums that got a LOT of play for me this year. I still never recovered from Phoenix doing a pre-release interview where they said the album was mostly about ice cream, and then discovering the album was ACTUALLY mostly about ice cream. THEY NAMED TWO SONGS AFTER GELATO FLAVOURS. I mean, COME ON. Charly Bliss’ record is what pop-punk is meant to sound like, and Julia Michaels had two top-10 songs on her phenomenal debut that proved songwriters can also be great artists.
Girls, Guitars, Hell Yeah.
17. Louise Burns—Young Mopes
15. HAIM—Something To Tell You
I’m a big sucker for great female voices(as you’ve seen already and will really see in my top 10), and I’m an even bigger sucker for a band fronted by a female guitar player who can shred. While none of these albums featured out-and-out shredding, all three were albums with perfectly constructed tunes that got me moving. I was especially surprised to see HAIM’s album not get much love on other year-end lists, because it was nearly perfect, but all three of these are worth your time.
Old Dudes Doing Well.
14. The War on Drugs—A Deeper Understanding
13. Elbow—Little Fictions
Elbow is my favourite band, so you know they’re gonna be on here no matter what, but their latest was as good as ever. They’ve been around forever, and there are so few bands that have the consistent catalogue they do. I wish more people loved them as much as me. The War on Drugs is a perfect driving album, and “Strangest Thing” is probably my song of the year. I’m not even sure the dude from WoD is that old, but he seems that way, so whatever.
Moves and Grooves.
12. Toro y Moi—Boo Boo
Chaz Bundick puts out so much music every year under so many different names it’s almost impossible to keep track of and that not all of it is that great. However, this Toro y Moi release is his best. It has a consistent mood palette, the beats are outstanding, and it features some of his finest songwriting. I feel it’s another record that really slid under the radar this year, and shouldn’t have. A bonafide standout. SZA’s record is the opposite, a record EVERYONE talked about, and for good reason. A powerful new voice in the scene.