Another year, another list! Thanks for stopping by and reading.
2017 was an interesting year for music, many favourites returned with disappointments. Gorillaz, Mastodon and Arcade Fire all gave us arguably the weakest albums in their discographies. But there were also some really incredible releases from artists new and old. Much of my listening this year was dominated by two groups who collectively released 8 albums quality material, so this list was difficult to make. I didn’t want to flood the list with multiple entries from the same artists, so I’ve kinda lumped some releases together on this list. I’ll talk more in-depth about each album as we go through the list, so without further ado, my 10 favourite albums of this year!
10. No Shape — Perfume Genius
This is a gorgeous album with beautiful production. The lyrical themes deal with love and masculinity in untraditional ways. The album starts with a bombastic blast of sound, like getting hit in the chest by a beautiful man (Hurts so good). The song structures are traditional but used in clever and creative ways to get truly original songwriting. And the production of this whole album is brilliant, every sound and emotion is rendered so perfectly throughout the entirety of the project.
9. Pure Comedy — Father John Misty
I was initially a bit disappointed with this release. I Love You Honeybear remains one of my favourite albums, so expectations were high. I don’t think Father John Misty was too far away from my expectations. This 75-minute long collection of gorgeous acoustic tracks is full of cynicism, but lacking the romanticism or musical variety that makes FJM’s previous records so charming. But what this album lacks in charm, it makes up for in clever lyricism, beautiful instrumentation and FJM’s incredible voice (and pretentiousness).
8. Flower Boy — Tyler the Creator
It is wonderful seeing Tyler mature. Starting as a teenage fuckboi in ODD FUTURE, Tyler has grown to have a unique aesthetic both in fashion and in music. This is a big departure from his previous albums and it is his best album to date. The themes explored on this album are personal and mature. The concepts of loneliness, sexuality, and nostalgia permeate this album’s lyrics and production. I can’t wait to hear more of Tyler. This album also produced one of the best singles of all year, Boredom, and a great Tiny Desk Concert.
7. What Now — Sylvan Esso
3 years after their excellent debut, Sylvan Esso returns with an album full of electronic pop gems. But this time they experiment a bit more with their sound and expand their sonic palette to accompany more organic instruments. This album is full of delightfully witty quips and heartfelt sentiment. The music is creative in so many ways. The album answers its title, and then makes us ask it again “What now?”. This album also produced one of my favourite songs of the year, the subtle and gorgeous Slack Jaw.
6. who told you to think??!!?!?!?! — milo
milo is an incredible rapper hailing from the Hellfyre Club. The group that brought us, Nocando, Busdriver and Anderson .Paak. milo shows off his incredibly dense lyricism over some incredible beats, the majority of which were produced by him under his Scallops Hotel moniker. Sometimes, it can feel like milo is jumping from pretentious non-sequitur to pretentious non-sequitur, but over many repeated listens the mean of these songs unravel, and their deeply personal nature slowly becomes exposed. Always a master of obscure references and a bit of a showoff with his vocabulary, milo exceeds my expectations with a humorous, personal and intricate album, bolstered by his signature flow.
5. MASSEDUCTION — St. Vincent
St. Vincent returns with yet another creative album. Annie Clark has continued to grow and impress over her entire career. This is album is much more synth-based than her previous works and, despite my love for her guitar playing, the album still shines through stellar songwriting, great lyrics and a wonderful aesthetic. Some of her best hooks and choruses she has ever released.
4. Neō Wax Bloom — IGLOOGHOST
If you haven’t heard anything by IGLOOGHOST then it can be a bit hard to describe his music. The young producer has created a niche for himself that is incredibly unique and really sounds unlike anything else. It’s like a blast of colour but for your ears. It’s like a mystical world that you are blasting through at the speed of light. It’s incredible. Titillating, even. The young producer creates, dense, high energy, sugar sweet electronic music that blends elements of hip-hop, footwork, world music and even chiptune together in a highly caffeinated package. Check this out, I promise that you will not have heard anything like it.
3. SATURATION I, II, III — BROCKHAMPTON
One of the big stories in music this year has been the self-proclaimed “Internet’s first boy band”’s meteoric rise. I lumped these albums together, for two reasons: Firstly, I didn’t want the group to take up so many spots on this list, and secondly, I think that part of the experience of BROCKHAMPTON requires all of these albums. These albums contain some of the most creative voices in hip-hop. The production is fantastic and varied, they emcee’s are all great and have distinct personalities and flows. If I had to order the albums from best to worst I would say II, III, I. The group has put out so many incredible songs in such a short amount of time and really, you know, saturated, the internet with their presence. I’m excited to see what these boys do next.
2. Murder of the Universe — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Much like BROCKHAMPTON, King Gizzard release a baffling amount of great music in 2017, they released 5 full-length albums. FIVE. And they were all good. I didn’t want to have KGATLW take up too many slots either so I chose the best one of the five. These albums are all so distinct from one another that I can’t lump them together, so I recommend checking out their other stuff this year.
This album, however, is far and away the best release, and might even by my favourite in their entire catalogue. This album was a bit divisive, due to its many spoken word passages. I love the spoken word passages and I think that they don’t take away from the music at all. The album has 3 distinct stories all based on high-fantasy/sci-fi. But the best one is the last song on the album, Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe, about a cyborg that only wants two things. To die, and to vomit. This absurd premise becomes epic and terrifying as the universe is destroyed in an unfathomable volume of puke. It sounds gross, but I think that there is some depth to the lyrics and some great metaphors about humanity and the need to produce junk until we destroy everything we care about. But maybe I’m reading into it too much.
If spoken word stuff isn’t your cup of tea, I recommend Polygondwanaland, my second favourite release by the band this year. It is a veritable polyrhythmic wonderland.
1. American Dream — LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem is back from the grave. 6 years after their “final” show at Madison Square Gardens James Murphy has revived the band and released another incredible album of punk-disco/electronic music. Murphy has always been very self-aware. He is aware of his unlikely rise as one of the indie scenes icons. He is aware of his age (quickly approaching 50) and he is aware of his hypocrisy. But Murphy looks out just as deeply as he looks in. While LCD Soundsystem’s entire conception was a bit of a joke, this album is a commentary on the world we are currently living in. This album spends a lot of time contemplating endings. The end of friendships, the end of life, the end of loves, the end of youth. Murphy explores how we change, whether it be “Emotional Haircut”, a song about a mid-life crisis, or “Tonite” where we see the irony of the “old man” point-of-view on current culture.
This album also brings incredible music. The album is filled with danceable grooves from front to back. The great rhythms and riffs that Murphy can use for longer than you’d think. The 9-minute long “How Do You Sleep?” is the epitome of this use of a single groove. A dark, angry track slowly evolves from Murphy’s wails to an incredible driving disco groove. It’s like The Knife and The Bee-gees were forced to collaborate. The production is amazing, with retro synths, post-punk guitars and brilliant vocal performances all meshing into a sound that is uniquely LCD. One of the things I love about Murphy’s production is how he mixes the vocals lower than most other groups, causing his music to have this massive feeling. It doesn’t sound like he is singing over a track, but that he is surrounded by the instruments he is playing.
This album is both poignant, and fun. It’s indulgent but calculated. This is a brilliant album that you can sink your teeth into. The grooves draw you in and the lyrics keep you thinking. If only the real American dream was as good as this.
Albums worth checking out but I didn’t make the cut.
A Crow Looked At Me — Mount Eerie
I’m sure this album would have been on the list had I been able to listen to it the whole way through more than 3 times. This song starts with a punch straight to the gut and keeps on kicking you while you are on the ground. This devastatingly personal depiction of the loss of a loved one is hard to listen, but I think is an essential experience.
Aromanticism — Moses Sumney
A gorgeous album about the opposite of romance. Cool little twist. Amazing vocals and production.
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream — Open Mike Eagle
Mike’s most intimate and personal album yet. Talks about gentrification and nostalgia. I love Open Mike Eagle. If you don’t listen to him, start.
Rap Album Two — Jonwayne
Jonwayne is a depressed alcoholic who makes great music and raps real nice.
Mouth Moods — Neil Cicierega
This album is pure genius. Neil is my meme daddy.
Crack-Up — Fleet Foxes
More beautiful progressive chamber folk. Perhaps their most ambitious.
Ex Eye — Ex Eye
Saxophone master Colin Stetson joins Greg Fox for some crazy saxophone metal.
DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar
I don’t really need to mention it, but so people don’t comment. “Where’s DAMN?!”. Also, GOD is one of the worst songs released this year.