A lot of things can be said about 2017, but a lack of good music will not be one of them. Over the course of the last twelve months, I found nearly 30 albums that left a strong impact on me. Some brought me joy, some tears, and some just made me think as I worked to survive this tumultuous time. From these thirty, I managed to pare the list down to my Top Ten favorite albums of 2017 (with another 10 worth mentioning). Over time, I’m sure my opinions on some of these will change, and I look forward to debating any album’s merit, and learning of ones that didn’t make my list. Until then, here is what I have:
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2017
1.Bleachers – Gone Now
Over the last two years, Jack Antoff has proven himself an expert in pop songcraft, writing and producing tracks for Lorde, Taylor Swift, and more importantly, himself. With his latest venture under the moniker Bleachers, Antoff has created an album that is both cohesive as a singular piece of musical art, and overflowing with radio-ready singles. Gathering influence from 80’s pop and stadium rock, songs like “Don’t Take the Money” and “Hate That You Know Me” could have ruled the radio and MTV during its heyday, yet also sound completely in-tune with our modern aesthetic. The ways in which Antoff calls-back to certain phrases and melodies throughout the album feels natural instead of gimmicky, and overall helps infuse this work with a romanticism and nostalgia that no other pop album released this year managed to capture so well.
2.Matthew Ryan – Hustle Up Starlings
Matthew Ryan is one of the most consistently strong and underrated song-writers working today, and his latest release only continued to solidify that. Ryan’s throaty, near-whispered vocals are an emotional weapon, capable of inducing a nuclear impact of hurt, regret, wistfulness and longing. What gives this album an extra adrenalized boost is the production work of Brian Fallon, upping the tempo on excellent tracks like single “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator”. It’s an extra burst of power to a collection of songs that are at once beautiful and emotionally devastating.
3.Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Youth Detention
The best true rock n’ roll album of the year. Mixing the southern rock heft and hustle of the Drive-By Truckers with the eclectic songwriting of R.E.M., the songs on Youth Detention explode with punk energy, cracklin’ hooks, and stadium-worthy jams.
4.Matthew Good – Something Like a Storm
If the title of the album didn’t convey it clearly enough, Matthew Good‘s latest release is brimming with drama, dread and an impending sense of darkness encroaching on us, and it’s a perfect soundtrack for a year that encompassed all of these fears and uncertainties. From the bitter acceptance in “Bad Guys Win” to the contemplative title track, Good’s evocative imagery and poetic lyrics bring artfulness to a bleak landscape.
5.Dispatch – America, Location 12
There is a journeyman’s quality to Dispatch‘s latest work, but one where the person journeying eventually returns to the reality of American life and has to face it. While tracks like “Only the Wild Ones” and “Painted Yellow Lines” evoked carefree times and youthful romance, they are balanced with political scorchers like “Skin the Rabbit” or “Rice Water”. Even as the lyrics shift, there is no arguing that it’s one of the group’s most musically consistent works, blending folk rock with sparks of reggae and hard rock. A great showing that proves why they are one of the most successful independent bands around.
6.Lucky Boys Confusion – Stomchasers
These Chicago boys made their long-awaited comeback this year with an album that shows the pop-punk sound is far from dead. But then, LBC have always been more than just pop punk, incorporating more mature songwriting and doses of ska, reggae and dub into their style to expand it beyond the typical Warped Tour fair. And with tracks like “Sun in My Eyes” and “Good Luck”, you’ll be wondering why this group isn’t yet playing arenas with the Green Days and Fall Out Boys of the world.
7.Sorority Noise – You’re Not as __ as You Think
There’s been a lot of talk online about an “emo revival”, and Sorority Noise are the first group I’ve listened to that makes me believe it’s real. Combining indie rock melodies, punk wails and thoughtful and funny lyrics about struggles with mental health and suicide, You’re Not as ____ as You Think rewards repeated listens to unpack the depth of each song.
8.Chastity Brown – Silhouette of Sirens
Lovely, swooning folk rock from a soulful chanteuse. Brown shows an incredible range on Silhouette of Sirens, from delicate to expansive. One could picture these songs playing during a long drive, a rainy evening, or a protest march, and they would only enhance those moments.
9.Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life
While not as impactful as their Celebration Rock, the Japandroids‘ third album is still chock full of power punk pile-drivers driven by Springsteenian storytelling about breaking out of small towns and chasing big dreams. It’s crisp open road rock n’ roll with a bursting romantic heart at its center.
10.Miles Mosley – Uprising
Barn-burning soul from Kamasi Washington‘s stand-up bass player. Rave-ups like “Young Lion” will hit you like a bulldozer, and if you don’t get caught up in the piano-driven jam “Abraham”, then you certainly should never claim an affinity for funk, because it’s the funk song of the decade.
TEN HONORABLE MENTIONS (In Alphabetical Order)
Brand New – Science Fiction
Brian Owens – Soul of Cash
Flobots – Noenemies
The King Blues – The Gospel of Truth
Mexican Institute of Sound – Disco Popular
Murs – Captain California
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Talib Kweli – Radio Silence
Ted Leo – The Hanged Man
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Looking to listen to these albums? Find a playlist below featuring the first ten (in order), plus the honorable mentions and other great albums from 2017:
CESAR’S TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2017
Here, in alphabetical order, are Indy Review co-founder/contributor Cesar Lozano’s Top Five albums of 2017:
Alessandro Cortini – Avanti
Alvvays – Antisocialities
Feist – Pleasure
Nine Inch Nails – Add Violence
St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION