The Top 30 Albums of 2017

29 Dec

Welcome back for another round of year end lists. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a bunch of television, film, and music lists. Hope you agree, disagree, and learn about new things.

Rules: EPs allowed, soundtracks not allowed, album has to be released in 2017 and entirely made up of new material (so no Sufjan, Beach House, Conor Oberst, Radiohead, etc. even though any new songs are eligible for the songs list)

30. The xx, “I See You”

29. Zola Jesus, “Okovi”

28. Vagabon, “Infinite Worlds”

27. Alex Cameron, “Forced Witness”

26. Jay-Z, “4:44”

25. Iron & Wine, “Beast Epic”

24. Slowdive, “Slowdive”

23. Jessie Ware, “Glasshouse”

22. Sampha, “Process”

21. SZA, “Ctrl”

20. Laura Marling, “Semper Femina”

19. LCD Soundsystem, “american dream”

18. Ryan Adams, “Prisoner”

17. Vince Staples, “Big Fish Theory”

16. (Sandy) Alex G, “Rocket”

15. Blanck Mass, “World Eater” – Harsh and unrelenting, but also lively and powerful. An assault on the senses, but an absolute musical marvel and a continued affirmation of electronic music as something that can be complex, artistic, and decidedly not radio friendly. It’s a brilliant, impassioned attempt to grapple with the confusion and discordance of 2017 (hence the world “eating itself”).

14. Mount Eerie, “A Crow Looked at Me” – Difficult to rank because of how singular of an experience the album is. No song in particular stands out, and the album overall is by no means an “enjoyable” listen. But it’s a crushing, deeply personal eulogy of an album, a bridge between simplicity and the vividness of raw emotion.

13. Lorde, “Melodrama” – A confident, stirring pop album, a perfect dose of introspection amidst the universal highs that her music taps into.

12. Big Thief, “Capacity” – Adrianne Lenker’s voice remains as glorious as ever, and the band’s second album is yet another winner. Restrained and punctuated by clear moments of beauty. “Mary” is one of the best songs of the year.

11. The National, “Sleep Well Beast” – A masterfully melancholy album with a boldness that keeps it compelling, as well as a beating heart underneath it all that defines the group. There are very few songs this year more lovely than “Carin at the Liquor Store”.

10. BROCKHAMPTON, “SATURATION” Trilogy – I know it’s cheating to mention the entire trilogy, but I feel like I have to (the first installment is easily the weakest). Even given the number of individuals involved, it’s still extremely impressive to witness the speed and quality of their production this year. The albums have their flaws, but the experimentation, the commentary, the bangers and more mellow R&B…all of it deserves our admiration.

9. Japanese Breakfast, “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” – More sprawling and ambitious than Zauner’s last, but still preserves the strength of the songwriting and in fact makes it stronger. From the catchiness of the first few songs to the gorgeous title song to the heartbreaking ending of “Till Death”, this is a really wonderful album all the way through.

8. Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN” – Mean, innovative, and masterful storytelling. Also slightly unhinged, and all the better for it.

7. Lana Del Rey, “Lust for Life” – It’s bloated. It’s meandering. But it’s also lush and breathtaking, a distillation and evolution of Lana del Rey the person and Lana del Rey the persona.

6. Manchester Orchestra, “A Black Mile to the Surface” – An absolutely thrilling album, with production both evoking post-rock pieces and powerfully propelling the vocals. The songs flow into each other smoothly, with a little trilogy in the middle of the album being one of the many highlights.

5. Susanne Sundfør, “Music For People in Trouble” – Last year, I labeled Big Thief’s album as the most slept on album of the year. This year, that title belongs to Susanne Sundfør. Boasting the best ending to any album this year and some of the most stunning musical moments in recent memory, the album finds the value in the empty spaces. It’s an ambient, hypnotic experience that treasures each instrument and note.

4. Julien Baker, “Turn Out the Lights” – An album crafted by vulnerability, one that grapples with heavy topics like depression even as it soothes you.

3. Paramore, “After Laughter” – There is no other album this year that has as much energy as this one does. Certainly a bit of a departure for the band’s sound, but pop is right up my alley and Hayley Williams continues to be one of the most entertaining performers in the business. Probably my most listened to album of the year.

2. Phoebe Bridgers, “Stranger in the Alps” – 23-year old L.A. native Phoebe Bridgers has catapulted herself onto the music scene with this near masterpiece. She has a very naturalistic sound that, when paired with an extremely wise and talented writer’s mind, creates something haunting and serene in equal measure. Bridgers is the type of talent who is already destined to make incredible music going forward.

1. Perfume Genius, “No Shape” – This isn’t even Hadreas’ best album (that belongs to “Put Your Back N 2 It”), but it’s the album of the year. The excellent opener (“Otherside”) tells you all you need to know about the album, transitioning from quiet beauty to a rich, exuberant, creative explosion of sound. It’s an incredibly dynamic piece of work, channeling personal songwriting into an album that celebrates the act of living with yourself.

For once, I actually will not be listing any honorable mentions or others considered (but I’d say The War on Drugs just barely missed out). I’ve gotten lazy, so typing out every single album that was in consideration for this list would be tedious. With my upcoming songs list, I’m trying to get as much variety from the year as possible, so you’ll likely get a very good idea of all the albums that would receive honorable mentions/others considered status. Please recommend any albums you believe should be on this list.


2 Responses to “The Top 30 Albums of 2017”

  1. Matthew Thompson December 30, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    Melodrama was my favorite this year. Any mention of Paramore requires me to mention I met Hayley once before a concert! It was really cool. I got a picture with the band and they are really great live! I missed a few of these on here, so I will look them up on Spotify. Looking forward to your TV lists!

    • polarbears16 December 31, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

      Oh wow, that’s really awesome. I’ve seen some videos and heard some stories about her fan interactions, and I hear nothing but good things.

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