End of year lists are a tradition. They are the perfect level of trivial–mildly interesting, casually contentious, and utterly forgettable.
Also, given the plethora of fantastic music that came out this year, it makes no sense to limit the genre or number.
With this in mind, I offer up the best albums of 2017 in no particular order.
L.A. Witch, L.A. Witch
I’m a sucker for truly cutting, grit punk and these women can play some swirling, lost in your own head drone.
K. Flay, Every Where Is Some Where
My wife and I couldn’t stop playing this album this year. Whenever we were on a long drive it became the default. ‘Blood in the Cut’ was a track I kept singing and dancing to at home, much to the chagrin of my cat.
Kelela, Take Me Apart
I couldn’t get into Kelela’s 2015 album Hallucinogen, but this record just kept getting into my blood. There’s so much here allowing you to get lost not just in Kelela’s lyrics but the waves of beauty in her voice and music.
Pale Honey, Devotion
This duo is perhaps the best had writing aggressive-depressive rock.
Moses Sumney, Aromanticism
One of the albums I bought this year on vinyl. Aromanticism feels like something new even though there really isn’t anything groundbreaking about the songs or styling. I think the whole record is more maudlin than it needs to be but still, it is a stunning album.
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun
I’ve never heard anything from Chelsea Wolfe that I didn’t like. This album is a wonder of static drone, goth love. Whereas Lana Del Rey went good-witch this year, I’m glad to have Chelsea Wolfe holding up the bad-witch banner.
Gothic Tropic, Fast or Feast
A more conventional but no less pleasing album from Gothic Tropic, essentially just Cecilia Della Peruti, Fast or Feast mixes a kind of psychedelic loose rock with an ethereal flavor.
Jidenna, The Chief
Watching Luke Cage on Netflix was how I found out about Jidenna, and I will always love the show for allowing me to find this amazing hiphop artist. The Chief is loaded with great tracks and while I’m not wild about the splicing narrative, it’s a exceptionally rewarding project. I had to include the EP Boomerang as well because I’ve been playing Decibels nearly every day since its release.
St. Vincent, Masseducation
St. Vincent (Annie Clark) has consistently been one of the best performers and songwriters of the last few years. This fifth album feels more serious yet still weirdly playful in parts. I would argue, there’s a Nick Cave aesthetic in this album.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers
I’ve been loving this band for most of this century as well as its affiliates (Silver Mount Zion, Set Fire to Flames). This album continues to show the group as profoundly moving. Also I have an affinity for its ‘grand demands’:
an end to foreign invasion
an end to borders
the total dismantling of the prison–industrial complex
healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right
the expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again
The Mynabirds, Be Here Now
I find this album to actually be a wonderful sunny day driving record. I love the combination of light but sophisticated music over rather accusatory lyrics. For me, ‘Ashes in the Rain’ and ‘Shouting at the Dark’ are the best tracks on the record.
Sarah Jaffe, Bad Baby
I warmed up to this album quickly especially the tracks ‘No Worries,’ ‘Bad Baby,’ and ‘Freaking Out.’
Methyl Ethel, Everything Is Forgotten
This Australian rock outfit seems to always get me even when I don’t want to get into them like a Down-Under version of The Tragically Hip or Flaming Lips. Anywits. ‘Ubu’ is too goddamn catchy.
Alexandra Savior, Belladonna of Sadness
It would be too easy to compare or dismiss this album as a Lana Del Rey knockoff but doing so would ignore just how beautiful a mesh of Julee Cruise and Hope Sandoval this is. Only, Alexandra Savior’s songs will poison you and laugh above your dying body.
Swet Shop Boys, Sufi La
This hiphop EP gives just enough Swet Shop Boys to satiate given just how great their 2016 album Cashmere was. Stand outs are the inevitably crowd hype song ‘Anthem’ and ‘Zombies.’
It’s not a bold move to put this album on a Best Of list, yet to exclude it would just be petty. Ignoring the soul-surge pop of ‘Green Light’ (perhaps one of the best and most fun songs ever written), the album takes some listens to warm to but once you do, god is it wonderful.
Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
This album keeps showing Staples as perhaps one of only a handful of truly innovative hiphop artists able to blend the current popular aesthetic with a forward looking vision taking the genre elsewhere. For example, ‘Homage’ could almost be a Skinny Puppy track while ‘745’ is accomplished standard fare.
Algiers, The Underside of Power
Given our current political climate, we are in need of a new Rage Against the Machine. Algiers is that band. It’s like if Al Green awoke furious, then assembled an industrial band around him.
Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life
Lust for Life isn’t the kind of album you want it to be; it’s the kind of album it wants to be.
Mark Lanegan, Gargoyle
Mark Lanegan has one of those voices I covet. Sonorous, slightly menacing, but a times achingly tender–such is this album making it one of those quiet gems of the year.
Palehound, A Place I’ll Always Go
Ellen Kempner as Palehound is making some of the best indie rock music available. Her ability to fuse low-fi artistry with a true sense of craft and elegance of voice and lyric is stellar. ‘Carnations’ is perhaps my favorite track but each song amplifies the next in such a way to make choosing a moot point.
Apparently, we’ll be getting a sequel to Culture come early 2018. When this album dropped immediately at the opening of 2017, we had an early contender for album of the year. Culture holds up but at times it feels…unaware…but that probably says more about the listener than what’s being listened to.
London O’Connor, ΟΔ
Another album I bought this year on vinyl, O’Connor writes what feels to me like a new kind of shoegaze–beautiful and indifferent, charming and dull, slapdash and intricate.
Tennis, Yours Conditionally
The best pop music retro, it has a quality that suggests nostalgia without ever having a clear antecedent. Nearly every song on Yours Conditionally sounds like something you can’t quite put your finger on, but you let it go and soon find yourself in a dreamy somatic state.
Kendrick Lamar, Damn
I don’t know if Damn is Album of the Year, but I wouldn’t argue against it. I do know that I can’t stop listening to ‘Humble.’