It’s been discussed ad nauseam in nearly every year-end review: 2017 was the pits. And those sentiments aren’t wrong! 2017 sucked! We elected the worst president in this country’s history and we have a government trying to rob its citizens of basic rights. The world is melting around us while California burns to the ground. Things are bad! And outside of my wife, family, and friends, very little this year helped take things out of the shit. The major thing that helped get me (and I’m sure countless others) was the musical output of 2017 — there was an overwhelming amount of incredible stuff released over the course of 12 months and almost impossible to notate all. So instead of boring you with a list of my 100 favorite albums, I cut it down to the 10 that most impacted my life in 2017. Enjoy this list, feel free to share and discuss with me, and hope for better in November.
Even when I’m not listening to this album I’m still thinking about it. Julien Baker’s second album, Turn Out The Lights, is a once-in-a-liftime piece of art that so accurately depicts living with depression, regret, and doubts and trying to move on from it. It’s a record that will be remembered for years — songs like “Even,” “Claws In Your Back,” and “Hurt Less” dig into your psyche and bring out those holy shit moments unlike any album in recent memory. Baker has the rare talent that transcends her music into an out-of-body experience that encapsulates all of your senses. This is one of the absolute best albums I’ve heard in the last decade-plus — a record that’ll be passed on and shared with friends, family, peers, etc akin to legends like Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, and the like.
I wrote earlier this year that Code Orange’s Forever is a genre-defying, boundary-pushing, incredibly rewarding album that put the rest of this past year on notice. A record that never plays it safe and interlopes different techniques and methods to take your senses to uncomfortable levels (tracks like “Real,” “Mud” and “Dream2”) was rewarded with a Grammy nomination. 2017 was only the warning, the hurt goes on and the takeover continues in 2018.
From the very moment “No Halo” hits your ears, it’s already evident that Sorority Noise’s incredible third LP is going to be an uncompromising, honest look at life and death and how to cope with it. You’re Not As __ As You Thinkseesaws between cathartic abrasiveness and somber minimalism (“Disappear” and “First Letter From St. Sean), oftentimes with both dynamics in play (“Leave The Fan On”). After years of promise, Sorority Noise finally delivered on that potential by creating a record that’ll resonate for years.
Four years after releasing his overwhelmingly dark electronic masterpiece Obsidian, Will Wiesenfeld aka Baths decided to take a left turn and enter the fantasy realm, resulting in the vibrant, life-affirming Romaplasm. The fantastic opening track “Yeoman” begins on an airship and really Wiesenfeld never leaves that state of mind throughout the album’s twelve richly-textured tracks. “Extrasolar” shimmers in the light, while “Adam Copies” drips with untamed urgency. There is still a sense of realism throughout and the heartbreaking “Human Bog” is the center of that, while the upbeat “Out” has Wiesenfeld coming face to face with his faults. Overall, Romaplasm is the best work of Wiesenfeld’s career and proves that Baths is a multi-faceted project that can take on any form.
Twenty-plus years in the game and still no signs of slowing down, 2017 has Converge viciously re-enter the metal and hardcore conversation. Five years removed from the colossal All We Love We Leave Behind, The Dusk In Usfeatures Converge at its most nuanced yet sinister self. Post-rock glaciers like the title track and “Thousands of Miles Between Us” continue to show Converge’s excellence at creating doom, while “Arkhipov Calm,” “Trigger,” and “Cannibals” harken back to those early basement-dwelling years of the band’s career. But it’s when both world’s collide that Converge is at its very best as “A Single Tear” and “Reptilian” begins and end the record with some of the very best work of the band’s illustrious career.
Very few vocalists can command a room like King Woman’s Kristina Esfandiari voice. On her band’s Relapse debut, Created In The Image Of Suffering, Esfandiari captivates throughout and nothing is safe and focuses on the existential dread, cult-like tendencies, and doomsday prophecies. “Deny” is an album highlight that juxtaposes Esfandiari’s haunting vocals along devastating and rising riffs and drums while “Hierophant” is one of the most stunning songs of the year — a dizzying mix of seduction, pain, and devastation. Despite the horrors Esfandiari lays out on Created In The Image Of Suffering, there is a sense of empowerment at its core — King Woman has created one of the best doom/metal debuts in a long time.
Doubters would think that the best years had already passed Circa Survive, but the post-hardcore veterans proved that those thoughts were far from correct, as the band’s sixth LP, The Amulet, is quintet’s most challenging, personal, and darkest album yet. Anthony Green has never sounded better, as there’s a certain resolve to his lyrics. The title track along with “At Night It Gets Worse” and “Rites of Investiture” feature a band reinvigorated and confident in their craft and message. After a decade-plus of continually searching, Green seems to have found a certain kind of a peace within his life and the band is just hitting its stride.
Always Foreign was written during a volatile time — internal issues were plaguing the band as well as the shit show that was the 2016 election. From that came Always Foreign — the band’s most punk record ever. Covering topics such as corrupt politics, xenophobia , addiction, and betrayal, TWIABP dropped the spacey atmospherics with a more direct faster movement that hits hard and hits often. The run of “The Future,” “Hilltopper,” and “Faker” is some of the band’s most exhilarating work to date, while “Gram” and “Marine Tigers” tackle some of the toughest issues the band has ever written about and shows off their incredible skill at melding different dynamics. Always Foreignturned the page onto a new chapter for The World Is A Beautiful Place and, as always, it’ll be interesting to see where the band goes next.
The creation of A Black Mile To The Surface resulted in obsessive attention to detail, a lot of second guessing, and a grueling recording process, and yet Manchester Orchestra emerged with their most majestic and challenging record yet. Vocalist/guitarist Andy Hull was looking to totally deconstruct the sound of his band and he accomplished that and much more. Because of its structure, the album can feel like a three-part film — “The Gold,”
“The Moth,” “Lead, SD,” and “The Silence” being the four pillars of the record — thus making the album’s scope feeling more intimidating and exhausting than ever before but ultimately rewards you as one of the year’s most captivating listens.
Going from the comforts of an independent music label and becoming the centerpiece of a major label imprint can lead to intense pressure and disastrous results. But Tigers Jaw embraced it and never looked back, teaming up with familiar friend and producer Will Yip to create spin — a twelve track adventure consisting of a terrific blend of indie-pop tracks. Brianna Collins joined Ben Walsh with the songwriting duties and the result consisted stronger hooks, sweeter melodies, (Collins shines on “June” and “Brass Ring” while Collins turned in his best writing ever in “Guardian” and “Escape Plan”) and an album that ascends Tigers Jaw to the very top amongst their peers.
The Rest of the Best (11-30)
11. Sinai Vessel – Brokenlegged (Tiny Engines)
12. Special Explosion – To Infinity (Topshelf)
13. The National – Sleep Well Beast (4AD)
14. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In The Alps (Dead Oceans)
15. Adult Mom – Soft Spots (Tiny Engines)
16. Glassjaw – Material Control (Century Media)
17. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)
18. Spoon – Hot Thoughts (Matador)
19. Kesha – Rainbow (RCA)
20. Lorde – Melodrama (Republic)
21. The Spirit of the Beehive – Pleasure Suck (Tiny Engines)
22. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (Loma Vista)
23. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Dead Oceans)
24. Planning For Burial – Below The House (The Flenser)
25. Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie (Lame-O)
26. Paramore – After Laughter (Fueled By Ramen)
27. Alex Lahey – I Love You Like A Brother (Dead Oceans)
28. Prawn – Run (Topshelf)
29. Lemuria – Recreational Hate (Turbo Worldwide)
30. Ratboys – GN (Topshelf)