I love music. I honestly might love music more than anything in the entire world. If I could figure out how to extract some sort of nutrition from music, I would survive off of solamente music. I have never shied away from any type of music, and in this list you’ll notice my penchant for variety. It is the spice of life after all! It is in a borderline obsessive vein that I listened to 173 albums in 2017. So. It is with great pleasure that I present to you my top fifty albums of the year, and I wholeheartedly welcome you to comment and let me know what I’ve missed. After all, I might love sharing music 2nd most out of anything in the entire world…

  1. Lorde Melodrama: Showcasing sophisticated songwriting mixed with dark electro-pop perfection, balancing humor at times on The Louvre (“We are the greatest. They’ll hang us in the Louvre. Near the back, but who cares, still the Louvre”) with serious af social commentary, Melodrama is much more than a sophomore breakup record for New Zealand’s most famous musician since Bret and Jemaine. If 2013’s Pure Heroine wasn’t it, this album is certainly a bona fide breakout moment for the 19-year old who has a firmer grasp on the ways of the world than I can fathom. Homemade Dynamite features my favorite satirical line directed at our society’s inability to see the consequences of driving under the influence. It’s a dark set of lines that shine through as a scathing take on alcohol-induced privilege: “Might get your friend to drive, but he can hardly see/We’ll end up painted on the road/Red and chrome/All the broken glass sparkling/I guess we’re partying.” Lorde’s ability to eloquently provide subversive verses amongst the structure of successful mainstream singles should come as no surprise anymore, since Royals did just that and announced Lorde to the world as a true force. She continues to provide hot takes on hot tracks to a society desperate for them while continuing to address her own personal demons, and that combination is what puts her in a category unmatched this year. Melodrama is just that, an old-fashioned melodrama for the 21st century. Get into it…
  2. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Kendrick Lamar continues his ascension through the ranks of all-time hip hop legends with this year’s DAMN. Standout tracks ELEMENT. and HUMBLE. lead the way on a 14-track collection of exactly what hip hop should sound like. To give this album an added mystique: Kendrick released DAMN. On Good Friday with rumors swirling that he would release ANOTHER album on Easter as an allusion to the resurrection and him being Jesus, etc. With Easter Sunday coming and going with no additional release, it was later revealed that if you play the tracks on DAMN. in reverse order, you are treated to a different story and thus an additional album. DAMN indeed…
  3. Bonobo Migration This is the album that grew on me more than any other project this year. At first listen, I liked it a lot, but by late-November/early-December, I had fallen fully in love with it. Simon Green’s ability to transcend traditionally regional restrictions gives his music an unparalleled universality. From beginning to end on Migration, the listener can pick up sounds from all over the world with the highlight of such innovation coming about halfway through on the Moroccan-infused Bambro Koyo Ganda, a track that just so happens to feature the best beat drop-in of 2017. Bonobo reminds us of our ability to migrate and experience different parts of the world by not only interacting with coexisting cultures and experimenting with their sounds, but to actually record all over the globe WITH them. Migrate higher…
  4. LCD Soundsystem american dream This was my frontrunner for number one status from the moment I heard the Andrew WK-reminiscent opening piano on oh baby. This was my frontrunner for number one status before I ever even heard a single note, but my preceding love for all things LCD in no way biased my opinion to include american dream in my top 5 of 2017. James Murphy and Co. have produced their most complete collection of their storied career(s), their magnum opus reminding us of LCD Soundsystem’s ability to blaze trails and provide introspection which, in turn, allows for a better understanding of the world around us. How many bands can say that they’ve accomplished such a feat?
  5. Little Dragon Season High Seeing Little Dragon perform their live material from Season High twice over as many days during Lollapalooza week certainly contributes to their Top 5 ranking. Their extended live version of Strobe Light is something dreams are made of, and the rest of Season High is just as ethereal. The Swedish quartet switched production style this time around, and the result is a more compact dragon than their previous monsters.
  6. Big K.R.I.T. 4eva is a Mighty Long Time Speaking of a long time, Outkast and Goodie Mob and the entire Dungeon Family(!) would be so proud of this southern masterpiece from one of the best lyricists in the game today. Split into the best double album in recent memory, 4eva features futuristic funk spliced with insight into what it takes to be a true star in the world of music. K.R.I.T went out on a limb this year, and the polished results on 4eva will continue to pay major dividends.
  7. The XX I See You Opening track Dangerous sets a tone of hope that carries through, shining brightly, delivered so god damn smoothly from beginning to end on I See You. A lovely blend of world beats and insightful wordplay. Dance and provide room for introspection. An entire album of heaters. We see you…
  8. Ibeyi Ash Songs for the resistance if ever there were such a collection, Ibeyi provide plenty of optimism among the scathing cognitive dissonance on Ash. It’s defiantly equalitist. It’s daring in the face of adversity. It gives power to women in a world that tells them they’re less than. It gives life to the lifeless and a voice to the voiceless. It explores the idea of deathlessness, for crying out loud! Ash is so strong on so many levels. May the force be with you…
  9. Father John Misty Pure Comedy There are short stories, and there are novels. There are albums, and there are ALBUMS. FJM’s Pure Comedy is an epic album novel in its spot-on assessment of current affairs in America and abroad.
  10. Joey Bada$$ ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ Dead Prez would be so proud of this collection of socially conscious, politically-driven masterpieces. Joey Bada$$ is at the top of his game, and if he’s representing the route that hip hop is heading, then we’ll be alright for a long time. One of the best rebel rap albums since Let’s Get Free
  11. Queens of the Stone Age Villains Queens of the Stone Age prove once again why they’re still considered by many as the best rock band in the world. Villains is still not on the level of Songs for the Deaf or Rated R, but it’s damn close. I’m just full of gratitude to be hearing them perform at this level again. Solid.
  12. Mr. Jukes God First Amazing project made even better by the video for the De La Soul and Horace Andy-blessed Leap of Faith. Out of this world. If you take one thing away from this list, let it be adding the video to your watchlist ASAP (it’s at the top of the article you’re reading right now, if you need help finding it). Good shit…
  13. Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, James McAllister Planetarium Who’s ready for an interstellar musical trip into the depths of the galaxy?
  14. Kaitelyn Aurelia Smith The Kid Then let’s go on a psychedelic, existential journey, yea?
  15. SZA CTRL SZA’s ability to come in with raw brute force one minute and then soft as a whisper the next displays her range. Her subject matter present her vulnerability. I don’t know if I can recall an artist more audibly self-aware, but SZA delivers an album full of brooding, balanced, self-examining jams on CTRL.
  16. Tyler, The Creator Flower Boy Tyler is peaking on Flower Boy after years of good, not great projects. He has grown into his voice and is fearless as ever on Flower Boy, an honest, open display of an artist’s maturation and perfection of a craft he has wholeheartedly been committed to for what feels like forever.
  17. Feist Pleasure I had no idea I would end up liking this as much as I did. It is beautiful and flowing and mysterious and thoughtful. That organ on Young Up though! This was 2017’s biggest surprise, imo…
  18. Vic Mensa The Autobiography My current favorite Chicago rapper, Vic Mensa dives headfirst into the political climate and the resulting socio-political tensions with razor-sharp precision and punk rock tendencies. We could all value from learning a thing or two from Vic.
  19. Vince Staples Big Fish Theory His dark, EDM production style is almost counterintuitive to what he’s laying down lyrically, but it all blends perfectly. Let the liquor tell it…
  20. St. Vincent MASSEDUCTION Completing the unintentional Vic/Vince/Vincent portion of the countdown, St. Vincent hits the art-pop bullseye once again.
  21. Talib Kweli Radio Silence Kweli’s best output since 2002’s Quality, his succinct sound and distinct delivery show us once again why Kweli’s lyrical content and place in hip hop history are unparalleled.
  22. Thundercat Drunk I might have had more fun with this album than anything else this year. It’s the perfect “Walk around the city singing random lyrics at strangers” type of album, right? That is a thing we can do!
  23. Milo WHO TOLD YOU TO THINK??!!?! Milo bridges the gap between spoken word and hip hop with clever wordplay while challenging listeners to think critically and act accordingly.
  24. Sampha Process Bone-chilling soul music from the man responsible for countless others’ hits over the years. The material didn’t translate all that perfectly into an outdoor festival performance which was difficult to…process, but the album on its own showcases Sampha’s powerful voice and multi-dimensional musicality.
  25. Arcade Fire Everything Now So much hate surrounding this release from some of the band’s previously biggest fans! The truth is that if any other band put out Everything Now, it would be at the top of everyone’s lists. Arcade Fire explores some different sounds and styles for a somewhat eclectic record, but as you can tell from my list here, eclecticism is right in my wheelhouse!
  26. Sohn Rennen Stylized electronica for fans of James Blake and the like…but with more bite!
  27. Elbow Little Fictions Sort of an edgier Sting meets late-career Bowie meets mellowed out smart-rock. Interesting stuff from Elbow, as always…
  28. Brand New Science Fiction Fun fact: when I first heard that this album was coming out, I couldn’t believe that Brand New Heavies were putting out new shit. They’re not, but brand new Brand New is just as good. Solid, well-crafted tracks from the Long Islanders.
  29. Sevdaliza Ison Over an hour of soulful dance music accompanied by dualism-inspired cover art. Sign me up…
  30. Syd Fin The Internet and Odd Future’s favorite member ventures off into uncharted territory in more ways than one on Fin.
  31. Beck Colors You’ve got to love the musical career of Beck. One year he’s winning a Grammy for a folk sounding record, the next he’s flashing back to his Midnite Vultures days. Colors is Beck at his funkiest, channeling and challenging the latter of the previous statement. Life is like a Beck album. You never know what you’re gonna get…
  32. Nosaj Thing Parallels License to Chill? Chill Communication? What are…possible alternate titles for Nosaj Thing’s third full length? So chill…
  33. Mister Mellow Washed Out For those of you who still miss J Dilla, the production on this one is akin to the memory of the Detroit great. Experimental chillwave hip hop for fun-loving fans of the fusion.
  34. Moses Sumney Aromanticism From a blog post by Moses Sumney himself: “Aromanticism is a concept album about lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape. It seeks to interrogate the idea that romance is normative and necessary.” The album itself is just a beautiful manifestation of the blog post description. Sumney’s voice is purity, and the musical accompaniment is refined. This album is a vibrant vision.
  35. Future Islands The Far Field This one warranted many listens this year. Harvesting elements of post-punk and soul, blending them together with new wave and incredibly intense lyrical content have provided an immensely intricate listening experience.
  36. Spoon Hot Thoughts Exploring realms of inventiveness unknown to Spoon’s catalog over the years, Hot Thoughts creates a saturated atmosphere ripe for the audio picking.
  37. J.I.D. The Never Story Dreamville’s newest breakout channels Anderson .Paak, Kendrick, and Andre 3000 while showing why giving up football to pursue music was the right decision for the Atlanta emcee…
  38. The Shins Heartworms You either like the lo-fi feels of The Shins or you don’t. Heartworms is textbook Shins shit.
  39. Kingdom Tears in the Club Dance party in the U.S.A., y’all!
  40. Goldfrapp Silver Eye Proof that continuing to do what you love yields positive results. After not paying much (if any) attention to Goldfrapp since probably 2005 or so, they mess around and drop Silver Eye, a collection of songs that are both hella danceable and intriguing
  41. Sleigh Bells Kid Kruschev “I used to drink gasoline in the morning/in the middle of the day on the trampoline/summer time dreams Billie Jean…” Sleigh Bells reignite their guitars and hauntingly beautiful verses for a high energy cruise on Kid Kruschev.
  42. Crusades This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End Some of 2017’s best sing along moments sprinkled in, Crusades sound like AFI meets CKY. AFICKY? No? Well, either way, this is a well-rounded post-punk throwback to my adolescence.
  43. Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit The Nashville Sound Oh, you think you know what country music sounds like? That’s cute. These guys go hard and knock down some walls and pre-conceived notions on what the genre “should” sound like while they’re at it.
  44. Ron Gallo Heavy Meta Excellent rock and/or roll record with the best song titles of the year.
  45. Brother Ali All the Beauty in this Whole Life Old Kanye meets Killer Mike meets Chance meet their maker. Brother Ali brings the goods…
  46. Locksmith Olive Branch Locksmith was one of a few rappers I heard for the first time this year, and I sure am glad I did!
  47. At the Drive-In in•ter a•li•a As a longtime fan of At the Drive-In, this year’s output came as an underwhelming experience, but nothing will ever touch Relationship of Command, so I suppose it’s time we give up that ghost, friends…
  48. Jay-Z 4:44 Jay-Z’s most complete work to date. I wasn’t really sure if he had it in him to come this correct, but here we are…
  49. Jonwayne Rap Album Two Jesus H. Christ. What a mindfuck stumbling upon this became. You listen to Jonwayne and hear Biggie and Biz Markie and a splash of Plug One, and then you see him lookin’ like the long lost Griffin son from Family Guy, and it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s self-expression and it’s creative and it’s everything hip hop should be, so I guess it makes perfect sense.
  50. Kota the Friend Paloma Beach You got a friend in me, Kota…

 

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