Best Albums of 2017 | Runner Up Top 10

As promised, here is part two of my three part series of my favorite music from this twelve month nightmare I was told was supposed be called twenty seventeen. I truly hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did putting it together.

Cheers🍻

20 | Lecrae

All Things Work Together

Last year my favorite record was da’ t.r.u.t.h.’s It’s Complicated and it was within the same genre as this one: christian rap. It came as no coincidence either, because the way in which I discovered it organically transpired as I rediscovered music I used to listen to not more than just a few years ago. It began as I listened to last year’s Switchfoot album. On it was a song featuring Lecrae which inadvertently brought me back into his catalogue of music I was neglecting. The Switchfoot song was Looking For America and it helped remind me that Christian music didn’t always need to be about the end of times or the ten commandments to be good. From there I discovered da’ t.r.u.t.h. and it was a consistent listen throughout the year. That was how my favorite record from twenty sixteen developed. Over those several months last year I had also listened to Lecrae’s Church Clothes more times than I had worn actual church clothes in nearly all my life (and that was a struggling attempt to poke fun at the fact that, with a modest refusal to grow up, I insist on still wearing a t-shirt and levis to church on Sunday). Now, let’s set a mental precedent for those that are unfamiliar with Lecrae: he is basically to rap culture what Switchfoot is to rock music. With that being said, I find it more than just a coincidence that he guest vocaled on the most recent Switchfoot record. Regrouping (this is a mini review of Lecrae not Switchfoot) I can express in absolute that this record is not perfection. What it is, rather, is necessary and relatable. This is an expression of a black man in a white world not yet able to completely understand his role, but exceptionally grateful for where he is at. This album isn’t for everyone, but it was definitely for me during the point in my life that I heard it. I look forward to his greater eclipse into more mainstream successes, which is inevitable.

Favorite tracks:

can’t stop me now, facts, I’ll find you

 

19 | LCD Soundsystem

American Dream

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Typically, as expressed multiple times before, I steer clear of records released after a bands’ retirement, or any mention of a hiatus. Bands that do this have proven over the years that momentum can often be subject to sacrifice when rest is granted. American Dream is the anthem for the exception to this rule that I have made up entirely for myself in my own head. LCD Soundsystem returns essentially unannounced with the album that was never supposed to have happened. With the lengthy farewell from several years ago it was understood that this aging rock star was filing for an early retirement. The joke is on us apparently. He never quit to begin with, and the new album returns better than ever. This band is about as age appropriated and stereotypical for the basically-middle-aged-white-man-looking-for-dance-music-while-still-seemingly-hip subset of our society, but don’t allow that single description falter or misguide you. American Dream is one of the better indie electronic records out there and it is arguably the best one that they’ve released.

Favorite tracks:

how do you sleep, oh baby, call the police

 

18 | Queens of the Stone Age

Villains

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Villains sometimes are cast with a random but creepy redhead (refer to General Hux in the more recent Star Wars movies), and Queens of the Stone Age does not fail to disappoint. Lead singer of QOTSA, Josh Homme, is about as redhead and creepy as they come. Perfect foundational layer to any rock band seeking to fright. Last year Josh Homme collaborated with Iggy Pop to put together an album that I heard for the first time this last summer. It was the perfect pairing of a couple of rock & roll’s best badasses and it was my own unexpected surprise of the summer. It was then at around the same time that Villains was released. The consistency in Homme & Co. persisted as perfectly crafted rock & roll riffs spilled from my speakers one track after another. Not only is the fright carried with the pigment of Homme’s hair, but also in the songs that they make. They are exceptional mini soundtracks to the melodic nightmare you can’t seem to wake from. Next year celebrates twenty years since the release of their first album, and what better way to celebrate than to be on tour in support of one of your best records yet? Villains isn’t quite in the same caliber as the riff-heavy Rated R but it throws a good punch to the ears removing any reason to not include it in a debate about whether or not these songs are as enchanting or consistently catchy as those from Songs for the Deaf.

Favorite tracks:

domesticated animals, feet don’t fail me, the evil has landed

 

17 | Eminem

Revival

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As we continue my list of favorite albums from the year you should be reminded that I ended honorary mentions with the new edition to my list of guilty pleasures in Lorde. Here we find one of the mentioned guilty pleasures nested near the end of my favorite twenty. Eminem has always had a portion of my attention as early as the the My Name Is video played in heavy rotation on MTV. Now here we are, nearly two decades later, and I have literally grown disinterested with anything he has done since he welcomed us all to the Eminem show. Today he is as close to fifty as I am to forty and his new record easily contains some of his most vulnerable lyrics to date. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical juvenile tantrum and the immature lyric on Revival that everyone is used to, but this time the serious tone is more grounded and the message more sincere. He also has alienated his base by (as previously warned with the anti DT freestyle rap rant) drawing a figurative line in the dirt between him and any fan who disagrees with his politics. The album itself isn’t a political statement, but the few tracks that are driven by modern politics may as well be a digital punch to the face of at least fifty percent of his fans. Other moments on this record we see Eminem being nostalgic and regretful, poetic and hopeful, narcissistic but sorry, and self-reflective while doubtful. I’ll probably catch a lot of negative reaction here after claiming to have enjoyed this record as much as I did, but as I often say on here: “I do this for me, and I do not care”.

Favorite tracks:

like home, bad husband, walk on water

 

16 | Bleachers

Gone Now

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Gone Now is the quintessential pop masterpiece from the side project of the guitar player for a band who we all forgot. That band, fun., was topping the charts just a few years ago. Remember fun? No, not that fun.. I’m talking fun.; fun with a period, because apparently punctuation can be part of the name of your band now (i.e. P!nk, Panic! at the Disco, or simply !!!). But instead of screaming the name of their band, fun. simply presented themselves in monotone on paper with the standard ending to any sentence; a period. On stage was a different story. They were upbeat and in your face. The lead singer held the type of flamboyant persona that was missing from this part of the twenty first century. Now, just a few years later, with fun. not releasing any new material, it has provided an opportunity for Bleachers to emerge with the fun. guitar player as its creative catalyst. This record, Gone Now, is the twenty seventeen pop anthem for those wanting zero politics in their music. There’s hindsight, but not of the societal layer. There’s remorse, but not with a political undertone. There’s sadness, but not without also celebrating life and the people we have to share with it. Here, we may be experiencing a time where the musical entity in pop music in fun. has spawned a successor in Bleachers as becoming the more important of the two.

Favorite tracks:

all my heroes, I miss those days, everybody lost someone

 

15 | Priests

Nothing Feels Natural

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I first heard this album shortly after I shared my favorite music from last year. It was a solid jolt to get the year off to a good middle finger type of pace. This album plays as a series of vignettes, nine stories that materialize to a bigger picture of social unrest, economics in human relations, and the overall frustrations with modern politics. The music is enchanting, eerily angelic at times, but without any purpose to be uplifting. The lyrics are descriptively aimed at everything you want to complain about, but take the joy out of it as they do it for you. This record is as close to prog punk you can get without being so progressive that you lose interest in the song entirely. At a reasonable length, these songs hold a sound with more depth and musicianship not typically expected in a punk band. I had my eyes on this group all year. I’ll be looking forward to what comes next.

Favorite tracks:

pink white house, Jj, no big bang

 

14 | Big Thief

Capacity

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Ok. I am getting exhausted from all this angst. It is starting to take its toll. Let’s slow down for a bit and talk about something more palatable to adults my age. (Is that even a thing?) While seeking out palatable music for adults nearing forty is arguably a subjective statement it is also just as much the wrong thing to do as it is the right. Music speaks to me no matter what the genre. Emotions pulled from the music I listen is determined entirely by the mood I am currently in while listening. Good moods welcome pop music, angry moments discover new punk rock, nostalgia may ignite a series of thirteen essential blogs, and melancholy finds acoustic vivid storytelling. There is something about reflecting upon yourself in music with the very mood you are in that exuberates the silver lining to any emotion, and the way in which I channel my emotions through music may not be the same as yours. There is beauty behind the very existence of music. This album, Capacity, fueled the engine in my soul needing rebuilt so many times throughout this year. With these lucid representations of well-crafted storytelling I was able to find my way out of a few holes I would have otherwise been lost in. It was a trying year, personally, relationally, professionally, and on a grander scale, politically and socially. This record was my Xanax, it was my Ritalin. I appreciated everything about this album, and most of all I appreciated its timing.

Favorite tracks:

haley, shark smile, mary

 

13 | Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

Lotta Sea Lice

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A couple years ago in a similar setting as this I confessed my fan boy status toward Kurt Vile. Here he is again this year lending a hand, and a guitar, to the latest Courtney Barnett album. I did not anticipate Kurt & Courtney (no not that Kurt & Courtney) to collaborate in such a way as this, and I was initially unsure of its ability to come together properly. I’ve seen this before: prominent male songwriter teams up with equally prominent female in her own right to combine creative spells to craft an album that eventually falls flat to the listener. If you can’t think of any instances like this as I can, simply type in your search bar “Pete Yorn and Scarlet Johansson” or “Nora Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong”. I’ll give you a few minutes, you’ll see. The difference with this album isn’t necessarily the collaborative style of the project, but it was the literal sense that they took the conversation within the lyrics. From the opening lines to the record to nearly the end of the final song you feel as if you are a fly on the wall of the studio that these two are sharing. It is a conversation among would-be friends hammering out the details about writing the songs that they are singing. While Hail, Caesar is one of the better (if not only) films about making a movie, Lotta Sea Lice is setting a perfect precedent for what a record full of songs about how the songs become the song is supposed to sound. The imitative vocal nature of these two as they come together grasps the best of both artists to put together one of my favorite records of the year. Kurt’s lingering vocals and Courtney’s storytelling nature combine to make a musical integration that would come as an unexpected but very appreciated record.

Favorite tracks:

continental breakfast, over everything, fear is like a forest

 

12 | IDLES

Brutalism

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A self-description pulled from the IDLES website is as follows:

“At a point of uncertainty, IDLES bring you concise carnage. At a time of lies, IDLES bring you honesty. At a time of body shaming and Photoshop, IDLES bring you a visceral barrage of joyous bile. At a time of The Kardashians, IDLES bring you a story of working hard for what and who you love. In a time of polarized politics and murky waters; IDLES and bands like them are needed to remind people that it’s ok to dance and laugh and sing in the face of adversity.”

I don’t think I could have said anything more appropriately fitting to describe this band in as few sentences as I just shared. This record, Brutalism, is the debut from one of the best punk bands to emerge, ever. Just try and argue that with me. Based in England, these guys have a bright future in dark, unapologetic speak-sung punk anthems for the age of the social collapse. They are relevant. They might become huge. But they will be influential.

Favorite tracks:

well done, white privilege, mother

 

11 | Mount Eerie

A Crow Looked At Me

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A couple years ago Butch Walker made a heartbreakingly emotional record about the death of his father which translated into being my favorite records of twenty fifteen. This year I crossed paths with a record of similar discussion on the topic of death. Difficult emotions and widespread turmoil help the dawning of expression through art. This album by Mount Eerie is a nearly perfect lyrical arrangement of a love letter to a lost loved one. He opens the record with the softly sung monotone line “death is real” and from that very moment the tone of the album is very clear. I distinctively remember the first time I listened to A Crow Looked At Me, I experienced a kind of tears I never thought possible while listening to words from a stranger as they express heartache over a wife’s death through song. This album is utterly heartbreaking. It is completely personal. It is at times difficult to listen to. It is a final love note from a husband to his wife gone forever. Listen to this record with something to wipe away the tears, but also hear it in solitude because you are about to let sadness escape your eyes as you cry tears of sorrow for this poor man. This record gets as close as you can get using music to literally live through someone else’s trauma.

Favorite tracks:

crow, real death, toothbrush/trash

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