2017 was a frustrating, infuriating, and often heartbreaking year. From the politics to the abuses and scandals that trickled all the way down to our little music scene, it felt like every day had some scrap of bad news to serve up. It was a year where we really needed something to lean on and keep us resilient and resolute, and the artists featured on this list responded to that call of duty admirably.
The 25 records featured below are eclectic and far-reaching. Some are achingly personal reckonings with personal demons and mental illness. Others are scathing indictments of the political status quo. Some explore the cycle of getting older and losing your youth, while others revel in the excitement and confusion of being young. Some are pop records, while others are hip-hop or folk, country or post-hardcore, emo or classic-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. They are all distinctly different, but they all had at least one thing in common: for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes at a time, they all made 2017 feel a little more bearable.
So, without further ado, I give you Chorus.fm’s Top 25 Albums of 2017. In the words of one of the artists featured below, I hope you find something to love.
Andrew Belle will release his new album, Dive Deep, on August 25th. Today I’m excited to bring you the premiere of the new song “When the End Comes.” When describing the song, Andrew said:
“When the End Comes” is about just that – it’s about how on one hand I can know that at the end of my time here I won’t care about much else besides the people that I love and who love me back; and yet I get so distracted and caught up in my own head with everything going on these days that I need reminding of that on a daily basis. At the end of my life there will only be a handful of things that mean anything to me and so I wrote this song about keeping those things close and putting everything else in the background.
Pre-orders for the album are now up and ticket packages for the upcoming tour are also available. I’ve been looking forward to this album for a while, and it doesn’t sound like it’s going to disappoint.
When Matt Nathanson started writing his new record, he had a vision. He wanted it to be political. He wanted it to be uplifting. He wanted to inspire his listeners to see a brighter future.
The songs that came out of him had other plans.
Sings His Sad Heart, the follow-up to Nathanson’s 2015 LP Show Me Your Fangs, is personal instead of political, sad instead of uplifting, and lost in thoughts about the past instead of looking forward to the future. It is a complete contradiction of the album that Nathanson wanted to make. And yet, it’s also the most at home he’s sounded on a record since 2010’s breezy Modern Love.
Then again, Nathanson has always been an artist defined by his contradictions. He’s a riotously funny and jovial live performer who makes crushingly sad records. He’s a guy who exudes confidence and charisma onstage but admits he isn’t very confident as an artist. And he’s a songwriter who’d name the happiest song on his record “Sadness.”
When I spoke to Nathanson in August, I called him “the most nostalgic guy in the room.” It’s a role I often find myself playing: the guy who digs through TimeHop every day and sends pictures and “remember this?” messages to old friends, or the guy who spends entirely too much time thinking about people he lost touch with, wondering if they ever think of him too.
Spotify has lifted the 10,000 song library limit.
Brian Sella is a notoriously sweet guy. So sweet, in fact, that he doesn’t even correct me when I refer to his band’s new single as “Raindrops” rather than its correct title, “Raining.” When I ask him if he still gets nervous playing shows, he replies, “Oh, totally!” When I inform him that I’ve been doing interviews for three years now, but that I was still nervous to speak with him, he laughs.
“Oh, don’t worry about it! You’re a professional. That’s what you’ve gotta tell yourself.”
In the context of The Front Bottoms’ discography, Going Grey reflects Sella’s current “vibe,” a word he uses frequently in our conversation. As he’ll tell me, the band learned that an “anything goes” attitude in the studio can result in plenty of band and fan favorites. In this way, Going Grey is an expansion of the polished-yet-experimental sound of their 2015 powerhouse, Back on Top. It continues to analyze topics such as mortality, relationships and getting older – oftentimes within the same three-minute pop song.
I wrote a lot of album blurbs in 2019. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know that 1) I’m an insane person, and 2) my big writing project this year was a rundown of my 200 favorite albums of the 2010s. I concluded that project in mid-December, around the same time that everyone else in the music criticism world was sharing their “Best of 2019” lists. For a few days, I debated not even writing up a list this year. I was so emotionally exhausted after pouring so much of myself and my life into that end-of-decade piece that I just couldn’t see myself sitting down to do it all over again—albeit, on a much smaller scale. But then I started delving back into my favorite 2019 albums, albums that I maybe hadn’t spent enough time with in my race to relive a full 10 years of music. And then I started making late-year discoveries, new albums I’d overlooked that excited me greatly. Ultimately, I decided I couldn’t let a year end without the big-list ritual that I have followed every year since 2011.
I did give myself some extra leeway this time, though. Instead of going to 40 albums, as I have for the last several years, I stuck to 30. I also opened the door for late additions (and for the corresponding deletions they would require). The resulting list is not at all what I expected it would look like even two months ago. It’s a list loaded with exciting new talent and with albums that I can’t wait to spend more time with, brushing up against records I’ve already listened to hundreds of times, from artists I’ve loved for many years. I can’t say it’s my favorite end-of-the-year list that I’ve ever made, but it might be the most unexpected. I could feel my music tastes yearning to shift and grow in new directions while compiling this collection of 30 albums, which is frankly a very exciting place to start a brand-new decade. So bring on the 2020s! But first, here are my 30 favorite albums of 2019.
I started writing online by uploading HTML files to some free server in 1996. Angelfire? Geocities? Something like that. I was playing around with this relatively new thing called “the internet” and had no idea what I was doing. I created a little “about me” page that talked about how much I loved Blink-182, MxPx, and the comic Foxtrot. I’ve been doing some variation of this for over 20 years. When I first picked the name “AbsolutePunk.net,” it was because I saw a vodka magazine ad, I thought it would show up first in an alphabetized Yahoo! directory, and my adolescent brain thought I was a little punker. At the time I had no idea that this would end up being my career or that I’d gradually shift the website into an online alternative music publication that would cover thousands of artists, have hundreds of contributors, and be read by millions. The growing pains were tough. The servers couldn’t handle the traffic we were seeing, the overhead cost of running this website from my parents’ basement or my dorm room became almost unsustainable, and a little band called Fall Out Boy exploded into the mainstream and brought millions more searching for the exact kind of music we were talking about in our little corner of the internet. Searching for answers and help, I ended up selling the business I had created in my teens.
I think it’s safe to say that didn’t quite play out as I thought it would. However, the love for the music outweighed it all. In many ways running the website became the very job I had tried to avoid. Stress. Anger. Depression. A frustration brought on by the feeling of a constant cycle of defeat. But, so many of you still read my quirky sarcasm in the news. People still talked with the staff about music, life, and pop-culture. You’ve still read our features, read our incredible reviewers, pored over our articles, and listened to Drew, and Thomas, and I talk on podcasts. People still wanted to know what Jesse Lacey had for dinner. I had started my first business, AbsolutePunk, LLC, as a teenager with cargo shorts and puka shells. I started my second, Chorus, LLC, in my early thirties — an online consulting business that included running that very same website I had started when we all wanted to look like Kenny Vasoli. Today I’m writing to announce that my second company is buying back my first.
Coming off of a successful debut album brings a lot of added pressure and attention towards your next effort. Luckily for us, Diet Cig are well up to the task at hand as they pick up right where they left off on Swear I’m Good At This with some more self-described “slop pop” here on Do You Wonder About Me? When I last spoke with guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman in regards to what they had in mind for their next album, their optimism infectiously carried over into the recording process for this record. The dynamic duo of Luciano and Bowman has crafted a satisfying sophomore album that expands upon the ideas introduced on their debut, and they fully realize their potential as artists on this LP.