Best Albums of 2017

Best Albums of 2017
Final Version
For previous years see
I listened to a lot of other albums, but didn’t like them enough to put on the list. For all of my catalog and ratings, head over to my RateYourMusic page.

LPs

  1. Craig FinnWe All Want the Same Things
    • Finn remains one of the best story-tellers we have in music right now. He has spun a web of characters and narratives with the Hold Steady. This is his 3rd solo LP, the first of which was “meh” and the 2nd of which was fantastic. It seems that with We All Want the Same Things he has settled into the sound and style he started honing with LP2 “Faith in the Future.” If he can continue alternating the great solo LPs with good Hold Steady LPs, I’ll be a happy happy fan! On this album I really loved every song – with the exception of “It Hits When It Hits.” At first, I skipped over “God in Chicago,” but it has now risen as one of my favorite tracks. It may be the most powerful story Finn has every told.
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  2. Sorority NoiseYou’re Not as ______ as You Think
    • A new-wave Emo album about struggling with depression and the emotional fall-out of friends committing suicide? Really?! How can this not come off as overplayed, shallow, and insincere – or at least a major downer that is unlistenable. Well, Cameron Boucher can pen some powerful lyrics and the band sounds absolutely great. This album really surprised me. I liked their last one, but didn’t expect to love this one. But I do. Boucher’s words don’t come off as insincere. They are stark and honest. He grapples with real problems, depression, death, faith (or lack thereof). There aren’t many emo-punk-rock albums I would suggest people really carefully listen to the lyrics of – but this one you should. Challenging and powerful stuff here – wrapped up in catchy-as-anything pop punk emo.
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  3. Kendrick LamarDAMN. [clean version]
    • Yes, I got the edited clean version (which doesn’t just bleep or blank out profanities but actually changes some of the lyrics). What can I say. This album is just so good. Probably my favorite Kendrick album. Its hard to pick the best tracks, though I could pick my least favorite pretty easily (I’m looking at you LUST). I could also do without Kid Capri’s hypeman role. Meh. Here’s some (not clean version – WARNING!) samples below. Also, he’s putting out some of the best music videos in the industry.
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  4. Queens of the Stone AgeVillains
    • I’m not a huge QOTSA fan, but Like Clockwork was pretty good. Villains isn’t like anything else I have in my library, but it really works for me. Such a fun album. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now features one of my all-time favorite moments in music history – long long build up to when everything kicks at about 1:40. In any case, a lot of good tracks on here – maybe not Fortress though.
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  5. The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to DieAlways Foreign
    • I didn’t hear TWIABPAINLATD’s 2015 album Harmlessness until the end of the year and I didn’t really give it much of a listen until 2016. Otherwise, I may well have put it at the top of my list for 2015. It is defintely the 2015 album that I have listened to since. So so so catchy. Harmonies galore, long crescendo-core tracks that don’t follow traditional ABABCB song structures – rather, most go ABCDEFG and never repeat the same part twice. Such a fun album. Well, I had high hopes for Always Foreign and on first listen I was disappointed. I was ready for more bubbling energy and pop hooks. Instead, some dark, brooding, and slow-paced tracks (with some fast ones mixed in). However, upon repeat listens, it grew on me more and more. Quite nice. The lyrics also stray into some interesting social/political commentary.
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  6. SpoonHot Thoughts
    • Spoon. Each album they sound very different but very much still Spoon. I don’t know how they walk that line between innovating and not losing their identity. Hot Thoughts is full of great tracks…but as good as They Want My Soul? Ehh….I don’t know about that. Also, in “Can I Sit Next To You” Spoon gives us an impossible-to-NOT-dance-to track, a la “I Turn My Camera On.”
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  7. The Mountain GoatsGoths
    • A Mountain Goats album with John Darnielle not touching a guitar – not even once?! This sounds worrying. A Mountain Goats album entirely about local 80s and 90s Goth culture and scenes. Ok…you have my attention. There are some sleepers on this album for sure, but enough really great tracks to keep me coming back to it.
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  8. Iron & WineBeast Epic
    • Probably my favorite Iron and Wine album since Shepherd’s Dog. Kiss Each Other Clean had a *couple* good songs (Walking Far From Home was great), Ghost on Ghost had a couple good songs, Sing Into My Mouth didn’t do it for me at all and neither did Love Letter for Fire. On Beast Epic we see the sound stripped back down to what made it great in the first place – no more overwrought production to get in the way of Beam’s gift for songwriting, melody, harmony, and poetry.
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  9. Do Make Say ThinkStubborn Persistent Illusions
    • This is one of many post-rock instrumental bands that I have in my library to listen to while writing. However, they are always bands that I hit “skip” on if they pop up on shuffle. There are a few tracks on Stubborn Persistent Illusions, however, that I I listen through every time they pop up. Especially Return, Return Again – which is hands down my favorite DMST track ever and up there on my list of instrumental post-rock tracks by anybody.
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  10. Jeremy EnigkGhosts
    • Come on Enigk! Your “World Waits” was amazing. OK Bear was OK, but that was 8 years ago! Perhaps it was worth the wait, because Ghosts is just wonderful. I hope he makes enough off this crowd-funded album to put out another LP soon. Enigk has a gift for melody and for arrangement. So many layers of vocals, guitar, strings, etc. Just lovely stuff.
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  11. The NationalSleep Well Beast
    • Another great National Record.
  12. OddiseeThe Iceberg
    • A recent find. I like his message. I like his production. I like his flow.
  13. Fleet FoxesCrack-Up
    • A sleeper, to be honest. A bit boring and aimless. But, enough beautiful moments to deserve recognition.
  14. Jim JamesTribute to 2
    • A surprising treat. Fun to hear My Morning Jacket’s frontman do some takes on other peoples’ songs.
  15. JapandroidsNear to the Wild Heart of Life
    • This was low on my list but came up a few spots over the past month or two. Some fun stuff here. Some #eyeroll moments too.
  16. Benjamin Gibbard – Bandwagonesque
    • A full Teenage Fanclub cover album. Better than the last DCFC album.
  17. BeckColors
    • A few amazing tracks. Colors, Wow, Dreams, Dear Life. The rest…not worth your time.
  18. Father John MistyPure Comedy
    • I still prefer his work as J. Tillman by a big margin. His FJM persona and shtick get old. Some nice moments here though.
  19. MogwaiEvery Country’s Sun
    • Mogway. Always good. Ever great?
  20. David BazanCare
    • I love Bazan, but don’t love the electronic production here.
  21. Sufjan Stevens, et. al.Planetarium
    • This would rank higher, but there enough “skip” moments that drag down the really transcendent ones.
  22. ElderReflections of a Floating World
    • I don’t do stoner rock or metal or psychadelic rock. But, this has some great stuff. A harder version of Appleseed Cast, with worse vocals (way worse).
  23. Dent MayAcross the Multiverse
    • Hard to listen to on repeat.
  24. Matt PryorMomento Mori
    • Eh? Ok.
  25. Josh Ritter – Gathering
    • Don’t like the americana/country spin on some of this. Lets get back to The Animal Years!
  26. Joshua JamesMy Spirit Sister
    • A few good moments.

EPs or Mixtapes

  1. RadioheadUnreleased Tracks (I Promise, Man of War, Lift) from OKNOTOK / OK Computer 20th Anniversary Bonus Disc
    • Unfair? But how can you compete with unreleased OK Computer-era studio tracks?!
  2. Gift of GabRejoice! Rappers are Rapping Again!
    • Bowling Pins is just so good. Guest spots from AFRO and RA the Rugged Man are worth a listen.
  3. Sufjan StevensThe Greatest Gift (Outtakes, remixes and demos from Carrie & Lowell)
    • Some VERY good new tracks and some pleasant remixes.
  4. The Mountain Goats –  Marsh Witch Visions
    • Nice.
  5. Sorority NoiseAlone
    • A nice little quiet set.
  6. Great Lake SwimmersThey Don’t Make Them Like That Anymore
    • Ok.

Singles, Comp. Tracks, Misc. Tracks

  1. The Hold SteadyEntitlement Crew b/w A Snake in the Shower
    • The Entitlement Crew sounds like a vintage Boys and Girls in America b-side.
  2. S. CareyBrassy Sun
    • Cannot wait for his album next year.
  3. Sufjan StevensTonya Harding
    • When Stevens is on, he’s on.
  4. S. CareyStill Still Still
    • Zzz. But nice.

 

Live Albums

  1. Sigur Ros and the LA PhilharmonicLive at the Walt Disney Theatre
    • Pure magic.
  2. PinegroveElsewhere
    • Meh.

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