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My Favorite Albums of 2017

Favorite Albums of 2017

IS TIME FLYING BY OR WHAT?! But seriously though, I know a lot of people think 2017 was worse than 2016, but for me, it was a year of growth, rebuilding and renewal, and I feel pretty great about it; I’m still emo, I’m still gay, but sometimes you gotta go through the darkness to see the light, right?

You could say the same for some of the artists and the albums that appear on this list, which are my favorite albums of the year. I say favorite, not top, because let’s be honest, there are other albums that came out this year that might be considered “technically” better than the ones on my list. Even the order of my list could be argued, but fuck it, they’re listed based on how much I love them, not who is a better artist or band, etc.

Anyway, back to that going through the darkness thing – lots of these albums are long-awaited returns for bands and artists that went through similar emotional journeys (or just needed a fucking break), so maybe that’s why some mean more than others to me. At any rate, I’m just happy that good, thoughtful music continues to exist in a world that increasingly doesn’t make much sense. And so, here are my favorite albums of 2017.

20. Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift / Planetarium / Carrie & Lowell Live

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To say that this was a prolific year for Sufjan would be an understatement. While I know that putting his three releases this year all at number 20 is cheating (and that’s not even counting “Tonya Harding”), there was just too much good stuff not to recognize on this list, and all three of these albums now hold a special place in my heart (and in my Sufjan library).

Favorite Tracks: “Exploding Whale (Doveman Remix)” / “Mercury” / “Should Have Known Better (Live)”

19. Arcade Fire – Everything Now

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Yes, it falls flat in the middle and there’s not excuse for a song as lame as “Peter Pan,” but the good stuff in Everything Now is really good. “We Don’t Deserve Love” never fails to stop me dead in my tracks.

Favorite Track: “We Don’t Deserve Love”

18. Spoon – Hot Thoughts

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I mean they couldn’t not be on this list, sooooooooooo…

Favorite Track: “Tear It Down”

17. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCATION

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Mostly just because of The New Yorker’s profile on her, but also because Annie fucking rules.

Favorite Track: “New York”

16. Conor Oberst – Salutations

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I was lucky enough to see Mr. Oberst perform in Denver this summer, and the songs on Salutations absolutely thrived when played live. Also, nostalgia, ya know? ALSO, any album that name checks John Muir AND Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is a winner in my mind.

Favorite Track: “Barbary Coast (Later)”

15. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

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Obligatory, but well deserving.

Favorite Track: “PRIDE”

14. Perfume Genius – No Shape

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Like, holy CHIC! Super fun and sexy and enduring album.

Favorite Track: “Valley”

13. LCD Soundsystem – american dream

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My personal american dream was fulfilled this summer dancing to “All My Friends” with all my friends at Pitchfork Music Festival, so that’s cool. american dream also slaps.

12. Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

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There’s a song literally called “K.” K.

Favorite Track: “Sweet”

11. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

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I’ve always been a big Laura Marling fan, and Semper Femina finds the artist at the top of her game. The album even earned her a Grammy nomination – chic for her!

Favorite Track: “Nothing, Not Nearly”

10. The National – Sleep Well Beast

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Because nothing fits depression better than The National!

Favorite Track: “I’ll Still Destroy You”

9. Lorde – Melodrama

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But like who’s the 31 year old that inhabits Lorde’s body? For real though, this albummmmmmm. Soundtrack for a generation I tell ya.

Favorite Track: “Supercut”

8. Rostam – Half-Light

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Listening to this album is like being curled up under a down comforter in some really good lighting with some chic candle burning, and who doesn’t love that? And in these dividing times, what’s a more enduring line than “Everyone of us has felt the lights go down”?

Favorite Track: “EOS”

7. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

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I mean my Wi-Fi network was named Central and Remote forever – it was also the original name of this blog – so yeah, I am a bit of a Grizzly Bear fanboy. Admittedly, Painted Ruins is still growing on me, however it’s also provided a great reminder of how talented this band is, and I’m glad they decided to come out of hibernation when we needed them the most.

Favorite Track: Tossup between “Neighbors” and “Sky Took Hold”

6. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

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It’s scary how well this man can lyricize basically every trope about American society and our downfall as humans while making it all sound funny, lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.

Favorite Track: “Total Entertainment Forever”

5. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

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Really honestly I don’t think a guitar solo has made me weep until this album came around and now there’s three of them on here that do just that. I also don’t think I’ve ever felt as blissed out as I have while listening to “Thinking of a Place” while driving in the mountains.

Favorite Track: “Strangest Thing”

4. Aimee Mann – Mental Illness

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I credit Aimee Mann’s Lost in Space” as playing a major role in my personal “musical awakening” in high school. And while there have been great Aimee Mann albums since then, Mental Illness is the first one that leaves me feeling as shook as I felt back in 2003.

Favorite Track: “You Never Loved Me”

3. Feist – Pleasure

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I had been anticipating a new album from Feist since 2011’s Metals became my standby lakeside companion in Chicago. Pleasure was well worth the wait, and I’m happy for its existence every day.

Favorite Track: “Baby Be Simple”

2. Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

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Lana’s just always kinda been my (and every other gay man’s) thing. I really don’t understand how she releases a new album every other year and they just keep getting better and better. Lust For Life is like, peak Lana, even though I hope the peaks just keep coming like they have been. It’s got everything – breathy ballads, Lana saying “fuck,” a song about drugs and marzipan, trip-hop beats, beaches, music festivals, and “Get Free,” a song that came to define my outlook on 2017 and life in general, a “modern manifesto” that got LANA TO SMILE ON THE ALBUM COVER.

Favorite Track: “Get Free”

1. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

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It was really looking like Fleet Foxes might not ever return, so when the rumors of a new album started swirling around, I tried not to get my hopes up. Then I saw Robin Pecknold open for Joanna Newsom at The Boulder Theater last year, and that had to mean something, right? Little did I know that I was hearing him sing a handful of songs he was working on for what would become Crack-Up, my favorite album of the year, one that exceeded all of my hopes and dreams for what I’d want in new Fleet Foxes material. I really don’t have much to add to what’s already been written about Crack-Up by much more talented writers other than to say the one-two punch of “On Another Ocean (January / June)” and “Fools Errand” reduces me to a puddle of goo every single time. Endless gratitude to these gentlemen for making music, and my favorite album of 2017.

Favorite Track: “Fools Errand”

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Top 30 Albums of 2012

Many things have influenced this list, most notably my move to Chicago in April. Being in a new city and getting to know music through headphones while riding the L instead of long drives around the chain of lakes in Minneapolis has certainly been a different experience, and a welcome change of pace. I’ve been truly falling in love with an album or bands because of my experiences at live shows in totally new venues to me. When it all ads up, I feel like this list would look a little different if I had stayed in Minneapolis.

I’ve also been nostalgic (story of my life), which is why the list is also a little #dark and emo – musicians like Andrew Bird and bands like Ben Folds Five “bring me back” and it feels weird/sad/good all at the same time. I mean does this even make sense?

This was also a weird year in music because nothing like, totally blew my fucking mind. Don’t get me wrong, every album on this list has definitely given me super fragrant moments, but nothing was really a revelation in terms of being something sounding completely different and new. I mean, Animal Collective released a new album and it didn’t even make my list. What? There are also two Minneapolis-based bands on this list. Double what?

At the same time, it almost made it harder to arrange this list, as a lot of albums could have been traded out for others equally as worthy – it’s just one song or a personal experience or another thing that determined which album one which slot.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ll feel differently about this or would have added other albums and will want to eat my own words six months down the road from now, because that always happens and I’m constantly discovering new music no matter what year it was released. So with all of that, here goes:

30. Poliça – Give You the Ghost

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Trust, I have lots of issues with this band, this album (I tweeted something to the effect that it basically sounds like GAYNGS 2.0), but damn if “Wandering Star” doesn’t take me places every time I hear it. Whatever.

29. Sun Kil Moon – Among the Leaves

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A kind album with kind music made for shuffling down Lincoln Avenue in the crisp air, especially while listening to “Sunshine in Chicago.

28. Yeasayer – Fragrant World

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This album kind of kicked off a theme of big names releasing albums that were good, just not great, or as great as their previous efforts. Sorry Yeasayer, I’m talking about you. But this was still decent, and album closer “Glass of the Microscope” does really nice things to me.

27. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

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It’s pretty. It’s depressing. It’s pretty depressing. I like it.

26. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

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Really solid album, with a live performance at The Cedar to put it over the top for me.

25. Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game

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Certainly not Rufus’ best work, but still enjoyable. This one may be more of a nostalgic pick for me, but you can’t deny the man’s skillz.

24. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit

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Sorry I’m not sorry.

23. Woods – Bend Beyond

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A very prolific band who released their best album yet this year.

22. The Shins – Port of Morrow

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Although I’d prefer to be a little bit more emo when spending time with The Shins, this is a solid album for a return.

21. Ben Folds Five – The Sound of the Life of the Mind

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I mean hiiiiiiiii, grade school, high school and college memories smacking me in the face. I really, really enjoyed this album.

20. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

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Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.

19. Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship

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A personal favorite of mine. I just love everything about this band. As for the album, it’s all fantastic, but “How Do I Know” is just pure fucking genius.

18. Shearwater – Animal Joy

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Again, I was honestly expecting something just a little more from Shearwater, especially for a debut on Sub Pop. Little gripes aside, I Shearwater are a great band and Animal Joy is still a joy.

17. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

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These ladies kinda came out of nowhere for me, but The Lion’s Roar is a sweet album filled with thoughtful songs that tug all the right heartstrings.

16. Passion Pit – Gossamer 

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After reading that Pitchfork feature, I think everyone just wanted to give Michael Angelakos a big hug. So I’m already emotionally vulnerable and then we learn all of that #dark stuff and then we have an album that sounds like a party on the surface but is actually just super sad? Sign me up Oh, also, my twin is in the band.

15. The Walkmen – Heaven

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Aaaand again, not my favorite album by The Walkmen, but Heaven still definitely has its moments.

15, Horse Feathers – Cynic’s New Year

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This isn’t groundbreaking music, but frontman Justin Ringle’s voice is just so nice, and these folk tunes are simple yet gorgeous at the same time, welcoming repeat listens for whenever you want to feel cozy. Yeahhh.

 

13. Grimes – Visions

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My goal in life is to become a Grimes backup dancer. Holy chic.

12. Tame Impala – Lonerism

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I don’t know what more I can add to the discussion of how good this album is, other than to say how good it is. It’s really good. “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,” is one of the best songs of the year.

11. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

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I don’t know if people just forgot about how good this album is, but In Our Heads has been snubbed on many other lists. Again, it’s nothing totally radical for Hot Chip, but it is some of their best work yet.

10. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

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LEAVE LANA ALONE!!! But seriously though, I really love this album, including the new songs added to the Paradise edition. Just give into it already.

9. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself/Hands of Glory

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The lovely Mr. Bird returns with another lovely album.

8. The xx – Coexist

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I guess I’d call this album dense, in the best way possible. You just kinda get enveloped in the whole thing. The xx just keep getting better.

7. Lost in the Trees – A Church That Fits Our Needs

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This album is about the suicide of lead singer An Picker’s mom. She also had cancer. Just know that going into this. The brilliantly arranged strings that swirl around these folk-tinged songs do Picker’s mom justice. It’s not the happiest album of the year, but there can be beauty in death, and A Church That Fits Our Needs emotes that in the best way. I saw a lot of shows this year and I think Lost in the Trees’ performance at Lincoln Hall was my favorite.

6. Grizzly Bear – Shields 

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I wanted something just a little more from Grizzly Bear, but again they get away with sounding like they’re playing by the numbers, because by the numbers for Grizzly Bear is extraordinary.

5. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

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Pyramids.

4. Dark Dark Dark – Who Needs Who

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Best breakup album in recent memory.

3. Beach House – Bloom

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Beach House never disappoint. Another situation where a band just keeps getting better. Put on “On the Sea” if you wanna see me cry in public.

2. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

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A nearly perfect album. It’s funny, touching and beautiful at the same time, with harmonies for days. You can listen to it over and over and it never gets old. The songs just drill in your head even deeper. The man can also dance.

1. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

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I mean have we met? We’ve been waiting for a while for this one. I’ll admit I was a little nervous when I heard she hadn’t really teamed back up with Jon Brion – the songs are some of the most stripped down and spare in her career – but this just highlights Fiona’s voice and the subject of each masterpiece. Sure there are musical flourished but only where they absolutely need to be, hitting at the perfect place to really pull at your heart, or head. She’s one of the finest songwriters around. The Idler Wheel was worth the wait and more. It was the best album of 2012.

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