Year Wrap-Up: Our Favorite Albums of 2017
Today we venture into the world of music. 2017 was a wonderful mix of outstanding and disappointing, with some major artists dropping massive stinkers and smaller fish making their biggest waves. Here's what we were spinning/streaming the most this year.
Matt's Top Five:
If anything could possibly define 2017 in three words, the title of Priests’ second full-length could do the job. The year has been fraught with political and social upheaval, each week (or day, seemingly) bringing a new threat to our rights or sanity. None of it feels normal. Even though the record was released at the beginning of the year, the members of Priests channel the anxieties that have been stirring for entire lives and have only begun to present themselves more prominently now. Nothing Feels Natural isn’t just a political statement, but it’s also the band expanding their raw punk energy into new permutations. From the bouncing rockabilly of “JJ” to the ocean wave of the title track, nothing felt more meaningful or sounded more beautiful to me all year.
A yin must have it’s yang, right? Though the themes of Priest’s 2017 effort may have resonated with me the most this year, nothing made me happier than Guppy. The two albums come from opposite sides of a mood board, but escapism is always welcome in times of turmoil. Charly Bliss filled their debut album with so many dizzying riffs that I have a hard time picking a favorite song. The pop punk perfection just improves with every track until the final comedown, “Julia,” finally gives us the catharsis we needed.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m just imagining Alvvays exists, not just because their music sounds dream-like (which I’m sure they’re sick of hearing by now), but because it shouldn’t be possible for a band to stuff so many instant classics onto one record. Just like their debut, Antisocialites is a flawless collection of hooks and reverb.
One of my personal 2017 highlights was seeing Waxahatchee live. The sound of Out in the Storm is louder and more urgent than the band’s previous albums, but no less intimate. Much has been written about the content of the record being “post-breakup,” but to me it feels more like “blank slate.” This is the sound of someone realizing their power in the aftermath of catastrophe, and it’s the best music they’ve made yet.
Though I was a fan of the first Ratboys record AOID, it’s on GN that I feel they’ve truly found their pocket. From the emotional opener “Molly” onwards, the band weaves roots-y, country influenced rock tapestries that burst with life. Of all the albums on this list it was the most pleasantly surprising and consistent, the perfect soundtrack for a rollercoaster of a year.
Mike's Top Five:
This should come to no surprise as anybody who knows me knows that I love Linkin Park. With the passing of lead singer Chester Bennington, One More Light rings out with truer words than previous albums. This is arguably their best album since Minutes to Midnight and their only album I purchased in a physical copy. I’ve listened to it cover to cover without skipping a song as everything on the album resonates on my level in one way or another.
Oh Lorde, what have you done. You’ve gone and made a great album that I really enjoyed and constantly look forward to putting on. While yes, the hit song "Green Light" is probably one of the best of this year, the story the entire album tells is what makes it truly come alive. It’s an easy listen and the sound washes over you anew with each and every track as it brings about the life of the party. It's no wonder that this album is up for multiple Grammys this year.
Yup, it’s exactly what you would think. While it may not be the best album out there, it is one of the most unique albums that came out this year. The fact that there are songs about taking Godzilla to the mall and a duet with Dolly Parton on the same album and both are really good says something about Kesha’s talent as an artist. If you happened to pass this by earlier in the year, now is the perfect time to go back to it and give it the proper due.
This album is very soulful and has the potential to be one of his best albums. While there weren’t any big party songs, this album does provide a reminder that Luke Bryan is a humble country artist. What Makes You Country is exactly that, as it’s not always about the big party or the loud music, but instead about your roots and the people around you. Luke Bryan nails what makes him country and proudly brings that soulful sound to us in the most Luke Bryan way possible.
It’s no surprise that the best musical this year would have an amazing soundtrack. The music is the best thing about the film and I have listened to this cover to cover already in the short time since its release. I love everything about this soundtrack, especially the duet between Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron. While the lyrics may not be that imaginative and can work in multiple settings, that doesn't mean they don't resonate to the story. You don’t need to see the film to enjoy this music, but it does help.