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
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
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
I mean they couldn’t not be on this list, sooooooooooo…
Favorite Track: “Tear It Down”
17. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCATION
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
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.
Obligatory, but well deserving.
Favorite Track: “PRIDE”
14. Perfume Genius – No Shape
Like, holy CHIC! Super fun and sexy and enduring album.
Favorite Track: “Valley”
13. LCD Soundsystem – american dream
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
There’s a song literally called “K.” K.
Favorite Track: “Sweet”
11. Laura Marling – Semper Femina
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
Because nothing fits depression better than The National!
Favorite Track: “I’ll Still Destroy You”
9. Lorde – Melodrama
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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”