Time again for my annual best-of music review! Each year, I pick my ten favorite new albums of the year, where “new” means new to me, not necessarily released in 2017. Any albums I bought in the calendar year are eligible for the list, regardless of when they were released.
Here are my 2017 selections, in alphabetical order by artist (I pick the top 10, but I don’t order them further than that). A playlist of all these albums is on Spotify.
Guppy, Charly Bliss – I don’t recall where I first heard of this fun, energetic little pop-punk band. The vocals and the songs themselves remind me a little of early Cardigans, which is a good thing. The AV Club agrees, calling this album “ebullient, addictive, and an instant classic”.
No Burden, Lucy Dacus – What a voice, and a set of just excellent songs to showcase it. Troublemaker Doppelgänger is one of my favorites of the year, right up there with the very best songs in my library. I saw her and her band indoors at Stubb’s, it was a great show. (concert pic)
Swear I’m Good at This, Diet Cig – I’ve been waiting for the first full-length from this dynamic duo since I put their EP and single on last year’s list, and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did their opening set in Nov. ’16 or their SXSW show at Waterloo. Don’t miss a chance to see Diet Cig live. (concert pic)
Exile in the Outer Ring, EMA – Another brand-new artist for me, and a powerful one. A look over the song titles will tell you this isn’t light party music: “I Wanna Destroy”, “Blood and Chalk”, “Aryan Nation”, the list goes on. It’s good, hard, somewhat genre-defying music.
Painted Shut, Hop Along – Another new band, with a solid album of clever, well-crafted indie songs. It took a listen or two for the singer’s voice to grow on me; now it’s my favorite part of their sound.
Halo, Juana Molina – I’ve been a fan of hers for years (her last album was a best-of in 2013), and this is another good addition to her catalog. Experimental, melodic, and lighthearted, it’s also good music to have on in the background while reading or coding.
Run the Jewels 3, Run the Jewels – The first RTJ album I’ve really gotten into (thanks to Sound Opinions, I think), and it’s just fantastic. Their set at the ACL Music Festival was good, even though we didn’t know all the songs from numbers 1 and 2.
Cool Choices, S – I discovered this year that a singer from the now-defunct Carissa’s Wierd has been making solo music under the short (and difficult to search for) name “S”. Quiet, poignant, lovely songs. She performed the entirety of this album live in her hometown of Seattle as a farewell to this project, but unfortunately our trip there missed it by like two weeks.
Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz – Speedy Ortiz’s clever, literate lyrics and inventive noise pop have been a favorite for a while (their last album was a best-of in 2014). I’d seen them on Waterloo’s SXSW stage then, but was glad to have the chance to see a full show this year. (concert pic)
Out in the Storm, Waxahatchee – Their previous album, Ivy Tripp (see the track from that one below), was good, but their latest is a big step forward. A little uneven, but with a standout like “Silver”, and a memorably great show at Mohawk, this was an easy choice for this year’s best-of. (concert pic)
That’s it for my ten favorite “new” albums of 2017.
And then there are all the rest of the albums. To complete my annual time capsule, I also make a playlist of favorite single tracks from all of the year’s albums that didn’t make the best-album cut, ordered not alphabetically, but in the best mixtape order I can manage. This “Best of the Rest”, minus the Lola Tried song and the Grateful Dead live tracks (from bootlegs I dug up for shows that we saw live), is also a playlist on Spotify.
- Wiseblood – Zola Jesus, Okovi
- Not A Problem – S, im not as good at it as you
- Never Start – Middle Kids, Middle Kids †
- In My Feelings – Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life
- Favorite Transgressions – Sleigh Bells, Kid Kruschev
- The Space Program – A Tribe Called Quest, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
- Let Me Out – Gorillaz, Humanz †
- Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash, Combat Rock
- Wide Awake – Deep Sea Diver, SECRETS
- Dangerous Days – Zola Jesus, Taiga
- Hello Sadness – Los Campesinos!, Hello Sadness
- Stranger To My Happiness – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want
- Simulation – Tkay Maidza, Tkay †
- San Marcos – Lola Tried, Popsicle Queen † ‡
- Summer of Love – Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp †
- Rubin & Cherise – Grateful Dead, 1991-06-09 – Buckeye Lake Music Center ‡
- New Speedway Boogie – Grateful Dead, 1992-06-28 – Deer Creek Music Center
- Althea – Grateful Dead, 1994-07-29 – Buckeye Lake Music Center
† – saw band live this year
‡ – link to concert pic