It’s been awhile since I’ve done this, but this year I decided to bring it back. My favorite albums of 2017. It was a rough year, but a stellar one for music.
1.LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
The reunion album to end all reunion albums. James Murphy reconvenes his beloved LCD Soundsystem project and the results are that of a grisled beast, the dark computer chip. Paranoia, intended and deliberate doom that you could still shake your ass too. This is what 2017 sounded like.
2. Big Thief – Capacity
The songwriter of the year for me. When I saw Big Thief live this summer at Pickathon, lead singer songwriter Adrianne Lenker was so inward, it was hard for her to project the usual persona of performance. Her songs come from a dark and personal place, fiction and fact blending and twisting. A more varied outing than their debut, Masterpiece, the songs on Capacity grind their way down into the deep tissue of our muscles.
3.Kendrick Lamar – Damn
The way the album folds on itself, with bits of narrative cut up and split through the 12 tracks on Damn, Kendrick reaches new heights of storytelling and mood that culminates in the masterful track Duckworth.
4.Kevin Morby – City Music
These songs appear lightweight and fun when one first hears this, but with Morby’s deadpan delivery, there’s an unease about this record that really stuck to me. It was hard to not be enthralled by the simple pleasures of Morby’s City Music.
5.Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
Fourth album from Katie Crutchfield broadens her sound a bit, in this unflinchingly defiant record, driving songs about all the things she’s going through. She’s been on a roll lately, with each release showing more of her strengths as a songwriter, this summer I simply couldn’t stop listening.
6.The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
The arrangements haven’t changed much, but where 2014’s Lost in the Dream was a standard edition car, 2017’s A Deeper Understanding is a luxury model.
7.Alvvays – Antisocialites
The love affair starts the first time you put on ‘In Undertow’, the opening track on their sophomore release, Antisocialites. The kind of song you could hear everyday for the rest of your life, and on this second album, they find the perfect balance between sweet vocals and arrangements that support their ever-expanding vision. It’s a classic sound that relies on the chirp of old country music, the sweet vocal spot of Kirsty Maccoll and Tanya Donnelly. It’s timeless.
8.Bonny Doon – Bonny Doon
Heard about this from a friend who’s a music publicist, and there it so much Bonny Doon draw from on their debut. It’s a lazy summer afternoon of a record, perfect for lying in a hammock by the river. “What time is it in Portland?” became an instant favorite.
9.Samphia – Process
Piano and vocals that sound like cracked open R & B because that’s what it is. It’s highly spiritual stripped down music, as intensely uplifting as it is jaw droppingly gorgeous.
10.Ryan Adams – Prisoner
The guy might get a bit of stick for being more style than substance, but on his upteenth album, Ryan Adams explores the divorce process and offers up 12 more songs that show what a wellspring of inspiration he’s operating with. There’s a yearning to these tracks, they go in deep and describe the way he felt about his recent divorce, and sonically he has never sounded as assured as he does here.
11.Sandy (Alex G.) – Rocket
An album that came straight out of left field, a record to fall in love with, for sure. Folk meets lo fi experimental which could be a mess if it was in less skillful hands, but Sandy (Alex G.) delivers one of the albums of the year, it’s sheer unpredictability will have you reaching for the repeat button.
12.Fleet Foxes – The Crack Up
There’s so much to digest on the Fleet Foxes third album, you’d be forgiven if you gave it an initial pass, but stick around and you’ll be privy to the expansive gorgeous harmonies that haunted their first two albums. LIke before but deeper, longer and stronger.
13.Slowdive – Slowdive
Slowdive pick up not quite where they left off with 1998’s Pygmalion, but instead opt for the sound of the band smack dab between 1991’s Just for a Day and 1993’s Souvlaki, and what’s amazing is how well they pull off the classic sound. Its as if the band went back in time and turned left where before they turned right. It’s sublime.
14.Bjork – Utopia
The Icelandic wonder returns to a more joyous, ebullient sound on a record about dating and falling in love.
15.Elbow – Little Fictions
From start to finish, their best album. Lead singer Guy Garvey’s voice is a joy to behold.
16.Julien Baker – Turn out the Lights
17.The Parson Red Heads – Blurred Harmony
On Blurred Harmony, Portland, OR’s Parson Red Heads try on several styles and manage to add fresh insight into a variety of sounds. One spin and you’ll be convinced.
18.Afghan Whigs – In Spades
It took seeing them play songs of this album live to convince me that this album was one of the best of the year. Even without their recently deceased guitarist David Rossiter, Greg Dulli has once again made some of the best music of his career out of tragic events.
19.The National – Sleep Well Beast
20. Shout out Louds – Ease My Mind