2017 was a tough year for many. For most it was a sign of the dark times we are living in, but what helped us get through it all was the numerous stellar albums released by some of the best artists of our time. Everything from the emergence of America’s new favorite boyband BROCKHAMPTON, to King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s impressive achievement of releasing five albums in one year, or how about Father John Misty‘s cynical masterpiece about the human condition? The return of King Kendrick? These were all moments where the vast amount of talent in the music world was evident. At least we had that to give us hope. Here are my Top 50 Albums of 2017.
50. Artist: Gas
German producer Wolfgang Voigt returned after 17 years with a new album under the Gas moniker titled Narkopop, and it is an exercise in the meditative nature of Drone and Ambient music. It can be just as ignorable as it is captivating taking a page out of the Brian Eno Ambient bible.
49. Artist: Thundercat
Genre: Funk/R&B/Hip Hop
Thundercat’s love for old bass heavy Funk has always been obvious, but on his latest album Drunk the bass assassin’s bizarre personality shows up alongside the traditional style of those old records your parents used to listen to. Where else are you going to hear Dragon Ball Z and Mortal Kombat references backed by that sweet baby making music? This is his best album yet.
48. Artist: White Suns
Album: Psychic Drift
The nihilistic spirit of early Industrial music lives on through Brooklyn trio White Suns, a band whose music offers that tumultuous howl newer Industrial bands lack these days. Their new album Psychic Drift is chaotic, it’s manic, and it’s noise that requires an ear for music deconstruction. This is music that truly sounds dangerous.
47. Artist: Forrest Swords
Matthew Barnes under the name Forrest Swords showed us that World music and Electronic music go together quite well when done right with his new album Compassion. It’s not a new combination but pulling this sound off without sounding self-indulgent or pretentious is no easy feat. Forrest Swords does it seemlessly.
46. Artist: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Album: Gumboot Soup
Genre: Psychedelic Rock/Prog Rock
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s fifth album of the year was released the day before New Years Eve, which was cutting it very close, but the band delivered on their promise to release five albums in one year nonetheless, and just like their previous four albums, Gumboot Soup is a life of it’s own. It’s a bit incohesive and unbalanced at times with some tracks feeling like they belong somewhere else, but there is never a dull moment on this album.
45. Artist: Power Trip
Album: Nightmare Logic
Genre: Thrash Metal/Crossover Thrash
Who says Thrash Metal is dead? Power Trip doesn’t seem to think so. Introducing this generation to this sped up Hellish ride of a genre, the band makes Thrash sound new again, they’ve definitely studied their craft.
44. Artist: Here Lies Man
Album: Here Lies Man
Genre: Afrobeat/ Alternative
Incorporating Afrobeat inspired percussion into standard Rock instrumentation, Here Lies Man created a unique hybrid with their self-titled debut album. It’s rockin’ but at the same time pays tribute to the exotic beauty of Afrobeat.
43. Artist: Lou The Human
Genre: Hip Hop
The maniacal spirit of Horrorcore possesses this young rapper and he runs with it and does it his own way. Flowing his ass off while spitting relentless bars about drugs, sex, and murder, Lou The Human has shaped himself into being a dangerous up and coming MC, as well as an artist to watch.
42. Artist: Converge
Album: The Dusk In Us
Converge may not be the youngest band in the Metal genre right now, but with their new album The Dusk In Us they sound fresher than ever and shockingly focused to the point where they can square up against any new Metal act and expose their rookie status in a heartbeat. This is how it’s done guys.
41. Artist: Algiers
Album: The Underside Of Power
With their previous self-titled debut album Algiers introduced us to a world where genres such as Post-Punk, Southern Goth, Experimental, and Gospel all coexist topped with the penetrating voice of lead singer Franklin James Fischer. The lyrical content contained important subject matter touching on racism, politics, and all of the things that unfortunately divide us in this country. Their new album The Underside Of Power delivers the same tune but with more emphasis on the experimental side with dark and eerie instrumentation that reflects the frightening time we’re living in.
40. Artist: The Underachievers
Genre: Hip Hop
Here’s a new new act that old school Hip Hop heads can enjoy. With the spirit of the 90’s and the days where rappers were actually rapping backed with that soulful Boom Bap production, The Underachievers sound like veterans despite their young age, but it is very noticeable that these guys sound more inspired when rapping over production that leans more towards the dominating style of Trap. If they can utilize this and progress even further on their next release then they can release an essential album in the Hip Hop world.
39. Artist: Pharmakon
If you’re familiar with Pharmakon’s music then you know what you’re getting into when listening to an album of hers. The music is ugly, it’s dark, it’s noisey, and it sounds like the soundtrack to death. Her new album Contact is no exception and it delivers what us dark souls love so much.
38. Artist: METZ
Album: Strange Peace
Genre: Noise Rock/Post-Punk/Grunge
METZ returned with their third album last year which offered more of the same, but that’s okay because their aggressive and raw energy is still infectious and will get anyone raging, and in these trying times we need aggressive art.
37. Artist: Beach Fossils
Genre: Indie Rock/Indie Pop
Not a groundbreaking release but a fantastic listen. The lush instrumentation with a bit of a 60’s Psychedelic touch will make anyone swoon. This is Beach Fossils at their most melodic.
36. Artist: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard With Mild High Club
Album: Sketches Of Brunswick East
Genre: Psychedelic Rock/Acid Jazz
For King Gizzard’s third album of the year the band brought along Mild High Club for the ride and the result was a smooth acid soaked ride of Psychedelic Jazz that sounded like elevator music on LSD. Jams for days.
35. Artist: Arca
Genre: Dark Ambient/Experimental/IDM
On Arca’s latest album, the Venezuelan producer added operatic vocals to his usual eerie production filled with discombobulating synths and gunfire production. It’s a chilling but beautiful listen.
34. Artist: Rapsody
Album: Laila’s Wisdom
Genre: Hip Hop
Rapsody offers her wisdom indeed on her best album yet. The soulful production topped with her impeccable flow forces the listener to pay attention and it places her amongst the best rappers of this generation.
33. Artist: Big K.R.I.T.
Album: 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Genre: Hip Hop/Trap/Southern Hip Hop
With the vast amount of talented rappers and big names out there, it’s easy for a lot of rappers who are already established to be overshadowed by your Kendrick Lamar’s or your Drake’s, but Big K.R.I.T., a rapper who has been in the game for awhile has always had talent but like I mentioned earlier, he unfortunately gets overshadowed. That is until now. K.R.I.T. finally released the masterpiece he has always been capable of with 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, a double album that breaks all negative connotations about albums that go on for longer than an hour. This music is inspirational, thought provoking, and introspective. The production features various styles such as Trap, Soul, and Gospel, and it is a soothing experience with K.R.I.T. taking us to church.
32. Artist: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Genre: Psychedelic Rock/Prog Rock
Yes, another Gizz album. For their fourth album of the year, the band returned with that Prog Rock goodness their known for, combining their psychedelic sensibilities with some of the smooth jam instrumentation that littered most of their previous album Sketches Of Brunswick East. It’s a magical ride in the bizarre world of The Gizz.
31. Artist: Zola Jesus
Genre: Darkwave/Art Pop
There’s beauty in darkness, and Nicole Hummel AKA Zola Jesus embraces this beauty. Her new album Okovi is a tearjerking piece of art that plunges itself into the shadows. A place she calls home. With gut-wrenching string arrangements and experimental electronic production, Hummel delivers Goth drenched vocals of dark poetry.
30. Artist: Priests
Album: Nothing Feels Natural
With an energy level very similar to Punk legends such as X-ray Spex and Bikini Kill, Priests delivered one of the most raucous albums of the year featuring that minimal but infectious Post-Punk crunch filled with topical subject matter. It’s a must listen for lovers of noisy rebellion.
29. Artist: Mac DeMarco
Album: This Old Dog
Genre: Indie Folk/Jangle Pop/Indie Rock
Everyone’s favorite chorus effect loving goofball returned last year with his most mature album yet. An album that focuses on family and it’s highs and lows. These are all things we go through and Mac DeMarco sings them through his usual laid back vocals but trading in a lot of the Jangle Pop heavy guitars for more acoustic guitars and spacey synths. This is music to relax to and to make you feel at the same time.
28. Artist: Jay-Z
Genre: Hip Hop
In the Hip Hop world more often than not the younger generation tends to throw out older rappers and disregards anything they release after the “cutoff.” It’s unfortunate but it’s true, but what happens when a veteran still has much life left in him and has a new sense of inspiration? With 4:44 Jay-Z teaches us all to respect the veterans as he delivers his most personal and confessional album in his discography. This is a side of Jay we haven’t seen before. He’s vulnerable and regretful, and that sincerity is admirable.
27. Artist: King Krule
Album: The OOZ
Genre: Punk Jazz/Experimental/Indie Rock
Archy Marshall finally released his highly anticipated second album under the King Krule name, and it is an hour plus journey through the very melancholy mind of the young musician. The Noir heavy instrumentation echoes some of the best David Lynch movie soundtracks while Marshall passionately sings his woes. It’s a self-indulgent work of art, but it’s coming from a very interesting personality.
26. Artist: The Residents
Album: The Ghost Of Hope
Genre: Avant-Garde/Art Rock/Experimental
The mere fact that The Residents can still scare the living shit out of you after 45 years of their existence is impressive. They still remain the oddest band to ever walk this earth, and with their new album The Ghost Of Hope they’re scaring us with vivid storytelling of true train accidents. Try hopping on a train after hearing this thing. Thanks guys.
25. Artist: Spoon
Album: Hot Thoughts
Genre: Indie Rock/Alternative
Spoon ages like wine, and with their new album Hot Thoughts the band experiments even further with different sounds outside of their comfort zone, all while keeping that sexy swagger and those danceable grooves.
24. Artist: Ty Segall
Album: Ty Segall
Genre: Garage Rock/Hard Rock
How could a year be a year without a new Ty Segall album? After countless releases year after year Ty Segall dropped yet another album and it is heavy, it’s raw, and it kicks you in the face with it’s distorted guitars and bizarre vocal delivery. This time around Segall brought along his touring band into the recording studio, and the result is his most full and polished sounding album to date.
23. Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Genre: Hip Hop
After the immense success following the release of his masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar could have taken off five years and would be fine. We all know successful albums will buy you time, but just two years later King Kendrick was ready to drop his latest offering, and it is a back to basics work of art that sees Kendrick delivering his incredible conscious flow over bangin’ production that could win over people who were turned off from To Pimp A Butterfly‘s highly experimental nature. This is his most accessible album, but he stays true to himself and refuses to ride any popular wave.
22. Artist: Foxygen
Genre: Glam Rock/Indie Rock
If Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Elton John all made an album together this would be the result. Foxygen threw on their most glamorous clothing and makeup for this grandiose album that sounds like it can soundtrack a 70’s musical. It’s pure fun that will put a smile on your face.
21. Artist: Björk
Genre: Ambient/Experimental/Art Pop
Jokingly described as her “Tinder album” Björk followed an album of heartbreak with an album that finds the singer creating her own personal Utopia finding peace within herself after having to live the single life again, and it’s a place filled with heavenly flute choirs and Electronic production provided by Arca.
20. Artist: Ariel Pink
Album: Dedicated To Bobby Jameson
Genre: Hypnagogic Pop/Lo-Fi/Art Pop
It makes sense that oddball Ariel Pink would find a cult figure like Bobby Jameson so interesting, and it makes even more sense that he would dedicate his latest album to him. This album is a return to that Lo-Fi style that Ariel pink used to win over our hearts, and in true Pink fashion these tracks sound like they were recorded decades ago in an alternate universe. This album is roughly produced but most of it is catchy as Hell and features some of his most radio worthy tracks.
19. Artist: Joey Bada$$
Album: ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
Genre: Hip Hop
Following his breakthrough debut album, an album that flexed his infinite knowledge in the world of Hip Hop with his flawless flows and ear for the 90’s, Joey Bada$$ dropped his socially and politically aware work of art that is reflective of the state of this country. He doesn’t have all of the answers, and he knows it, but raising awareness is his mission and he truly believes this country can change it’s ways. Everyone else just needs to get on board.
18. Artist: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Album: Murder Of The Universe
Genre: Prog Rock/Psychedelic Rock/Hard Rock
King Gizzard‘s second album of the year was a huge departure from their previous album. It is by far their most Prog album dealing heavily with Sci-Fi themes such as self-aware cyborgs, altered beasts and machines that vomit excessively leading to the “murder of the universe.” Strange stuff yes but what else would you expect from The Gizz?
17. Artist: Code Orange
Genre: Metalcore/Hardcore/Industrial Metal
Faith in the safe imitator after imitator Metal genre that is Metalcore has been restored thanks to Code Orange‘s Forever. This band is dragging this genre into the next level and giving it a much needed evolution. This music is brutal of course, but the band dares to pull from different genres that most Metalcore acts wouldn’t dare touch such as Industrial and even drop D tuned Nu-Metal. These guys are the future of Metal.
16. Artist: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Album: Flying Microtonal Banana
Genre Psychedelic Rock/Prog Rock
This was the one that started it all. King Gizzard‘s first album of the year remains their best album of the year. With a unique approach creating an album entirely in microtonal tuning, this is one of the band’s most ambitious albums. It’s smooth but bizarre. It’s repetitive but never strays away from it’s captivating appeal. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard without a doubt are leading the Prog Rock genre at the moment.
15. Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Album: American Dream
One of the most anticipated returns of the year. James Murphy and Co. did not disappoint. Everything we love about LCD Soundsystem is on this album. The danceable production heavy on 80’s synths and drum machines, guitars that sound like they came from a New Order or The Cure record, and of course, a cynical James Murphy poking fun at us people and our pretentiousness. This is LCD Soundsystem 101.
14. Artist: St. Vincent
Genre: Art Pop/Indie Pop/Synth-Pop
With her latest sex-filled colorful roller coaster of an album MASSEDUCTION, Annie Clark solidifies her status as the queen of Art Pop. This album is sexy, melancholy, gut-wrenching, and fun all at the same time with fantastic synth-driven production provided by Jack Antonoff.
13. Artist: ADULT.
Album: Detroit House Guests
Genre: Electronic/Dark Ambient/Experimental/IDM
Electronic duo ADULT. continues to push the boundaries making unsettling and challenging music not concerned with making you pump your fist. This is dark music from another world and this time around the married duo invited various artists into their home to live with them while they created this magic. The collaborator’s presence is definitely felt but the music never loses it’s ADULT. touch.
12. Artist: Vince Staples
Album: Big Fish Theory
Genre: Hip Hop/Experimental Hip Hop/Hip House
Vince Staples has always had an ear for sound. Summertime 06 featured some of the most outlandish production unlike anything being made in Hip Hop at the moment. This combined with his gritty detailing of the street life he’s experienced made for an impactful album buried in nihilism. His second album Big Fish Theory goes down that same route but this time the production is even more experimental with EDM influenced beats that are both danceable and abrasive. His ear for Avant-Garde makes him one of the most important visionaries in music today.
11. Artist: IDLES
Genre: Punk Rock/Post-Punk
This is the most important Punk release of the decade. Yes this genre continues to spawn new acts whom have studied Punk‘s rebellious craft, and nothing is wrong with these artists, but at this point the genre is no longer edgy because it follows the same cliches which eliminates any chance of revolution, but out of the blue an act from the UK named IDLES blessed us with their presence and dropped the most forward thinking Punk album in years. Brutalism features all of those Punk elements we love so much while featuring relevant lyrical content that also throws that macho image in the garbage. This is Punk Rock maturity.
10. Artist: Chelsea Wolfe
Album: Hiss Spun
Genre: Doom Metal/Gothic Rock
Just when you thought Chelsea Wolfe‘s music couldn’t get any darker, she drops this bomb on us. This is pure music from the shadows. It’s slow burning fuzzed out guitars echo the best elements of Doom Metal, and her beautiful vocals that can go from soothing to piercing add melody to the rough and dark instrumentation. An essential release for people who love all things Goth.
9. Artist: The Ruins Of Beverast
Genre: Doom Metal/Black Metal/Avant-Garde Metal
This is the best Metal album of the year. The Ruins Of Beverast mastermind Alexander Von Meilenwald has always strived to make Metal that transcends what we‘re accustomed to in the genre, and it has built up to his masterpiece Exuvia. This is Metal that offers a meditative experience with atmospheric soundscapes, that Doom Metal fuzz, and demonic growls, all while consistently exploring shamanistic territory. This shows how experimental Metal can get.
8. Artist: Tyler, The Creator
Album: Flower Boy
Genre: Hip Hop/R&B/Alternative R&B
Our boy Tyler, The Creator is all grown up. This was a release that proved to us all that Tyler is more than just a shock rapper. Flower Boy is him at his most mature with lush production that is very colorful and heavenly. Tyler’s a lot more introspective on this album revealing his melancholy feelings of being alone, being unsatisfied despite all of the success and fame he’s received, and just yearning for a lover. This is true progression.
7. Artist: Protomartyr
Album: Relatives In Descent
Genre: Post-Punk/Gothic Rock
Protomartyr is Post-Punk to the bone, and they know it. They’re leading the genre at the moment with their dark minimal instrumentation and lead singer Joe Casey’s baritone vocals that echo Ian Curtis and Nick Cave. Casey’s intelligent lyrical content heavy on biblical references and greek mythology add that sense of Goth all while working in metaphors for the human condition in these trying times. I can’t think of another Post-Punk band more deserving of the title for “torch carriers.”
6. Artist: Run The Jewels
Genre: Hip Hop
With their third album RTJ continues to be the best Hip Hop duo out there right now. Killer Mike and EL-P’s back and forth is impeccable over EL-P’s larger than life bass heavy production that at times sounds like it can soundtrack a Sci-Fi movie about a Dystopian future.
5. Artist: Pixx
Album: The Age Of Anxiety
Genre: Art Pop/Synth-Pop/Indie Pop
British musician Hannah Rodgers AKA Pixx delivers Pop music with integrity on her debut The Age Of Anxiety. Filled with catchy hooks and melodic instrumentation that features Electronic elements with Dream Pop inspired guitars and dark synths, this album has brought a whole new life to Art Pop. If she continues to evolve and stay true to her ambitions to experiment we may be facing someone who has the power to dethrone an Art Pop queen like St. Vincent.
4. Artist: BROCKHAMPTON
Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Hip Hop
Without a doubt the self-proclaimed “Boyband” BROCKHAMPTON were the most exciting thing about 2017. These boys from Texas met on a Kanye West fan forum, moved in together in a South Central, CA home, and created their asses off making music after music after music. Their debut album SATURATION made the Hip Hop group dynamic exciting again with loveable personalities and infectious production that quickly developed it’s own signature style. Their first album in the SATURATION trilogy has bangers and also isn’t afraid to get personal with melancholy content about depression and the struggle to find one’s identity. This is Alternative Hip Hop at it’s finest.
3. Artist: BROCKHAMPTON
Album: SATURATION II
Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Hip Hop
For their second SATURATION album BROCKHAMPTON stepped up the production even further with beats that are a lot more Hip Hop driven and this time around they sound more aggressive and confident. This would be the best place to start if you’re trying to get into them for the first time. Bangers for days.
2. Artist: BROCKHAMPTON
Album: SATURATION III
Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Hip Hop
Just when we thought these guys couldn’t possibly top SATURATION II, they drop part III and it is by far their best work. The production is darker in tone and offers a Winter feel with each member sounding even more confident, but this is their most introspective and melancholy album that made up for a little bit of the flaws on the first album when they got personal. This album is an end of an era, but the next era will begin in 2018 when the group will release yet another full-length album. It’s impressive what this group is doing and it is highly inspirational.
1. Artist: Father John Misty
Album: Pure Comedy
Genre: Indie Folk/Indie Rock
No album encapsulated the dark time we are living in and the frustrating state of the human condition as perfectly as Father John Misty‘s Pure Comedy. With sharp lyrical content reflective of us humans and our many flaws, this album is a giant mirror. Joshua Tillman sounds like he’s lost hope commenting on the many negative aspects of our species, but he can’t help but sit back and laugh at how comedic this all can get, and with that sense of comedy comes hope. It’s not all cynical, there could be hope for the human race, and Tillman realizes this at the end. He becomes content with the fact that we are a flawed species. That’s what makes us so damn interesting.
Written By: Steven Sandoval