the 20 best albums of 2017
2017 brought us some interesting albums, we saw bands that haven't put out a record since their heydays come back, other artists hit their strides and found their sound, others just got started. Between meaningless songs and albums, and perhaps too meaningful albums from others, I selected the best rock/alterative/indie albums from 2017.
Disclaimer: Get ready for my opinion.
20. Everything Now - Arcade Fire
Released in July of this year, Arcade Fire drops their 5th full length studio. While fans have mixed feelings for the lead single and titled track "Everything Now", the whole albums proves to be a love or hate relationship. I don't dislike the album per-say, but I can't say I dig it. There are some alright tracks like "Good God Damn" and "Put Your Money On Me", but the whole album seems weak in comparison to the rest of their work.
That being said, I still give it a spot on this list for 1. It's Arcade Fire, and I appreciate them trying out new styles (even if it's not the best), and 2. I'm still convinced the album may be a joke or stab at the modern day music industry. The music has less emotion and tends to be poppy most of the time, which I believe coincides with the album art and song layout seen below.
19. Milano - Parquet Courts & Daniele Luppi
This is a hard one to give an accurate placement for I have only just started to get into Parquet Courts. I've had time to sample some of their earlier work and last years banger "Human Performance" which is still their highest UK charting album, peaking at number 50. I feel like this album will eventually grow on me, but for now I stand my ground.
Part of the reason this album doesn't have a higher spot is the collaboration aspect of it. While Daniele Luppi isn't a bad edition to this album, this is more of his project than the Parquet Court's. I don't quite understand the concept aspect of the album yet, but the first track "Soul and Cigarette" is a wonderful tune with a great visual video.
18. Hot Thoughts - Spoon
Spoon is still with the times and still proves to be one of the tightest live performers of today's era. "Hot Thoughts" does have a more of an overall pop feel, but this certainly isn't a bad thing. They took an appropriate move for 2017 while still delivering great tunes like "Do I have to Talk You Into It" and "Shotgun." For being a group that emerged from Matador Records in the 90's, Spoon still has the funky hooks, nice leads, and prolific lyrics.
This is another group I need to dive into more, but even though i'm not in love with "Hot Thoughts", if their other records sound anything like this, I think I will like them.
17. You're Welcome - Wavves
This is another album that the fans either loved or hated. While this Wavves album is unlike any of Wavves albums to date, it's got spacey vibes while still being pretty surf oriented. It appears that Wavves is trying to be more commercial on this album. The songwriting feels weaker with the band sounding almost bored on certain tracks.
I really don't mind the songs, this wasn't a bad move on Wavves part. What does bother me is the production of You're Welcome, on previous albums they had coined their sound through lower quality gear and rougher producing. But now with King of the Beach and Afraid of Heights behind them, Wavves has purposely made their new album sound like an old one. With different sounding songs on this album, I would expect just the opposite.
16. Oczy Mlody - the Flaming Lips
Die hard Flaming Lips fans may disagree with me, but I call Oczy Mlody the Flaming Lips comeback album. The last album we got from Wayne and the boys was The Terror, which I found to be a very confusing album that lacked cohesiveness. The new album here I think possesses a new wave of Flaming Lips to come.
Seeing them live at 20 Monroe Live, they played the new songs with as much vigor and energy as they did with songs from Yoshimi. What baffles me is that they essentially took a pop album and dipped it in acid. The songs have radio pop appeal but drip in what I can only describe as toxicity. Past albums may have spoke highly of drugs, but Oczy Mlody practically preaches about them. This sort of stigma usually has either a positive of negative appeal, but I think the music and lyrical phrasing compensates for anything you don't like about it. The Flaming lips are still kicking ass.
15. Together At Last - Jeff Tweedy
Wilco has been very busy the past two years with releasing their comeback album Star Wars and follow up Schmilco, one would expect no more Wilco related releases for awhile, WRONG. Front man Jeff Tweedy puts out his first "solo" record Together at Last. While this album offers no new tunes, it does give you the live Tweedy solo sound you'd hear at shows. All of the selections were performed at Wilco's Loft last year as acoustic interpretations.
This is one of those great end of the night albums to wind down to, and Tweedy puts some wonderful twists on some classic tunes performed throughout his music career. Although it wasn't exactly what I wanted out of a solo LP by Tweedy, this is still a nice spin.
14. Hang - Foxygen
Listening to And Star Power... I expected an interesting follow up to come after, and it did. Hang came early in 2017 with a very theatrical style, I had very mixed feelings about the album at first, but very much enjoyed the huge string accompany on each track. Like the other Foxygen albums, this album is meant to be listened to from start to finish.
Seeing this album performed live helped me enjoy this album more. The character that Sam France gets into is very Bowie like, with Johnathon Rado hiding in the background playing great keys, guitar, and backing vocals.
13. Feeling Your Feeling Fool - the Regrettes
I say this with confidence when I say that Feeling Your Feeling Fool is one of the best debuts of the 2010's. All members are 16 years old minus the bassist, who is 21 years old. A super talented young group of rockers who I expect to see many more releases from, if this is them just getting started, then I imagine things can only get better from here.
The Regrettes are already playing venues that other bands take years to get to, and being on Warner Brothers at their age is quite the accomplishment. This band is fun on the record and at shows.
12. Ty Segall - Ty Segall
This is one dude I can always expect great music from. Ty Segall has been doing whatever he wants to do since he started, his fuzz driven guitar and high vocals gave him his signature sound. Segall usually records his records with just himself and a few guest friends to play some parts, but on his new self titled record, he puts together the Freedom Band to back him on his new release.
The Freedom Band consists of musicians he worked with on last years odd but wonderful baby themed album Emotional Mugger and 2014's glam rock suite Manipulator. This new album may not have performed well as the previous two, but the songs aren't weak in any sense with the guitar work being as strong as any Segall release.
Break a Guitar.
11. Precious Art - Rozwell Kid
West Virginia based rock band Rozwell Kid gives hope to an age that has killed rock radio. The last big rock radio time period was the early 2000's, but with Precious Art, Rozwell Kid brings back rock vibes similar to Weezer's Pinkerton with "Wendy's Trash Can" and "UHF on DVD"
Precious Art is a wonderful cohesive rock album that 2017 needed, Rozwell Kid isn't new with 4 albums under their belts, but they still have time to do even greater things to a rock scene that seems dead.
10. Sorcerer - Tonstartssbandht
Over the past 9 years, family duo Tonstartssbandht have released a whopping 17 albums through their bandcamp. The White brothers Andy and Edwin have put out one of their best albums this year with Sorcerer. At just three songs, it packs a jammy punch. Seeing Andy White play with Mac Demarco you think he's a cool dude who plays good guitar, but then with Tonstartssbandht, you are blown away! He comes on stage with a twelve string and immense energy, you can almost feel the bond the brother have playing and singing together. For a two piece, there is so much to take in.
9. ORC - Oh Sees
Another name change for the crazy and chaotic San Francisco band formerly known as Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer keeps the same lineup he has had for the past few years, two drummers, a bassist, and himself on vocals, guitar, and keys. Last years sister albums A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances exhibited the new lineup jamming together on different sounds. Now with ORC, they sound just as crazy and fun as ever before.
ORC goes back to sounds of older Oh Sees albums with a new twist, they sound more like a band than just another Dwyer lead release.
8. Lotta Sea Lice - Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
This album was a very pleasant surprise to hear this year. I had been a fan of Kurt Vile for a little while now and sort of blew off this album when I first heard about it. All I saw was "It's the new Kurt and Courtney" and strayed away from it, but after reading some decent reviews and giving this album a few spins, I fell for it instantly. The two sound wonderful together and play masterful guitars simultaneously. The duets come off as wonderful blends, versus the cheesiness I expected.
This is the kind of partnership I think could continue to work for multiple albums, the chorus on the songs are very strong and the switch between lead vocals flowed. This release is just as strong if not stronger than any other Kurt Vile album.
7. Triplicate - Bob Dylan
I surely didn't expect a 76 year old Bob Dylan could put out an album in 2017 that I would really enjoy. Triplicate is a relaxing collection of traditional pop covers done by Dylan with strings and other band accompanies. The vocals are different on this album, Dylan sounds like a different man who is singing with as much heart and contentment that Sinatra had done.
This is the kind of album I put on when I have friends over and we want to sit and relax, the music moves itself. Dylan proves that even in his old age, he can still produce quality work that is appealing to a large crowd. Dylan fans and non-Dylan fans can appreciate this album based on the music alone.
6. The Visitor - Neil Young
Being a Neil Young fan in these times can be troublesome, while Young has yet to put out a bad album, he isn't constantly putting out great albums. But because of Young's relentless album output, albums like Storytone and Earth can be looked past when he puts out solid albums like Psychedelic Pill and last years Monsanto Years. Young records again with Willie Nelson's sons, Promise of the Real to create another politically charged foot-stomper.
What I really love about The Visitor is the wide variety of styles Young and the band try out, as well as the excellent producing. I can't say I like all the songs on the new Young record, but more than 75% of them are fantastic. "Carnival" and "Diggin' a Hole" are songs I am sure to revisit. I think I payed attention to the lyrics on The Visitor more than any other Young release. He's kooky, political, and still has some soul to sing.
5. Graveyard Whistling - Old 97's
While 2014's Most Messed Up was a killer comeback for the 90's alternative rock four piece The Old 97's, they added another great album to their collection this year with Graveyard Whistling. The Old 97's return to Sonic Ranch on the border of Tornillo, Texas where the band recorded their first big album Too Far To Care. Also back on the album with the band is vocalist Brandi Carlilie on the lead single "Good with God."
Everything about Graveyard Whistling rings back to Too Far To Care from the producing to the songs subject matter. Front man Rhett Miller is still writing songs about girls, drinking, and being heartless, but he doesn't really need to write about anything else. Even with old subject matter, Miller still finds fresh ways to write about old topics.
4. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (all 5 albums, yes 5)
They fucking did it, psych-rock jam group King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard set out to release 5 studio albums this year and succeeded, even if it started as a joke, they wholeheartedly delivered.
First was the crazy cool Flying Microtonal Banana, an album the band had prepared special instruments with extra frets and different tunings not commonly used. They dropped the lengthy single "Rattlesnake" on the public and received mad reviews, the rest of the album respectively followed suit.
Next was the Nonagon Infinity and Eyes Like The Sky inspired Murder of the Universe. This album was released as three separate chunks on YouTube as crazy music videos, some of which scared the listeners with songs like "Vomit Coffin." Between the robot narrative and fast pace tunes, Murder of the Universe proved to be one of the hardest Gizzard albums.
In large contrast came the light pop and jazzy album Sketches of Brunswick East, performed with Alex Brettin of the Mild High Club after Gizzard front man Stu Mackenize and Brettin recorded demos on their iPhones. Sketches is a very pleasing listening from start to finish with paying homage to Gizzard's homeland.
Possibly my favorite Gizzard album of this year Polygondwanaland comes next with new sounds from the group that heads more and more into the kraut direction. They still have lengthy jammers like the albums opener "Crumbling Castle", but they expand with some mellower acoustic like tracks with some chanting.
And of course just days ago, December 30th, 2017, King Gizzard drops their last album of 2017 Gumboot Soup, a compilation album of sorts that features unreleased tracks from their past albums of 2017. Again not a bad album, the variety and collection is very fun.
One thing I can say is that if you haven't checked out King Gizzard yet, what are you doing with your life? It might be all hype, but i'm all aboard.
3. This Old Dog - Mac DeMarco
I anticipated the release of This Old Dog since my slight let down by Another One EP, I had just gotten into DeMarco when Another One came out and I waited forever to receive the next full length DeMarco album. He was glamy on Rock And Roll Night Club, coined his sound on 2, and was tired on Salad Days, what could come next?
The first singles from This Old Dog didn't impress me at first, but with repeated listens, they grew on me. Upon the whole album, I was hooked on all the songs, the non-singles almost reviled the single tracks. "Moonlight On the River" still holds as one of my favorite DeMarco tunes.
One of the best parts of this album for me was the maturing of DeMarco with the subject matter of his songs. The songs scream about the issues DeMarco had with his father throughout the whole album, but he portrays these ideas through upbeat short pop tunes, or slower lo-fi singalongs. With This Old Dog, DeMarco takes another step up as a song writer.
2. World's Best American Band - White Reaper
Albums typically take awhile to grow on me before I can be particularly fond of them, but on recent inspection, I absolutely dig the new White Reaper album. And while they may not be the World's Best American Band, they are certainly one of my current favorites, their first commercial album White Reaper Does It Again exhibited their great cohesive style and fun upbeat rock songs.
World's Best American Band seems like a bad name for an album, but the first track seems fitting with the sound of a cheering crowd to start the album. The hooks are stronger on this album than their previous, and I hear more diversity from White Reaper. They still have the sound I love from their first record, but they have refined it to a perfectly polished piece.
This album really speaks for itself, go listen to it you, fool.
1. Pure Comedy - Father John Misty
Perhaps it's too predicable that Pure Comedy would be my number one album of 2017. It's hard not to give this album attention. Father John Misty rode the fame of I Love You Honey Bear to create a largely thematic and political leaning double album, an album like Pure Comedy may have been misunderstood without the credibility of Honeybear. Misty is still cynical, but he shares in others cynical thoughts this time.
The first four tracks on Pure Comedy are instant hooks, whereas tracks like "Leaving LA" and "In Twenty Years Or So" take more time to digest. This whole album is a cohesive piece that is meant to be interpreted from every angle. You can spend multiple listens just following along with the lyric sheet, or the music arrangements.
It's really hard not to enjoy Misty's voice, he isn't one of the other pop figures of the music scene, the voice you hear on the record is the same voice you hear at his shows. A talented song writer and performer all around, and while I can't defend all of Misty's songs on Pure Comedy, he'd be glad to do it himself.
- Ryne's Reviews