Bad Year, Good Music: My 13 Favorite Albums of 2017

Well, it was a pretty shitty year for us earthlings, but thankfully there’s always the music. ‘Sentimental people call it Inspiration,’ as Hunter S. Thompson used to say, ‘but what they really mean is Fuel.’

Music = Fuel, that certainly rings true for me.

In 2017, I listened to about 560 albums — the most ever since I’ve been keeping track — and my top 13 favorite new releases are listed below. That said, additional recommendations are always appreciated!


13. Manchester Orchestra — ‘A Black Mile to the Surface’

indie / alternative

Lush, endearingly melodramatic songs about the fear of fatherhood, from what I can tell. All-around well-crafted rock.

12. Myrkur — ‘Mareridt’

black metal / pagan

Part-goddess, part-possessed-demon, Myrkur is a one-woman black metal project from Denmark. She’s worked hard at developing a unique sound over the years and it shows.

11. Hammock — ‘Mysterium’

ambient / shoegaze / post-rock

Melodic soundscapes like this make me wanna be a better person — not sure why, but whatever works!

10. Chelsea Wolfe — ‘Hiss Spun’

gothic / folk / industrial?

Dark, sophisticated, brooding music that was produced by Kurt Ballou from Converge (see #05 below). Chelsea Wolf definitely surrounds herself with the right people and makes the most of it.

09. Ex Eye — ‘Ex Eye’

avante garde metal? / jazz? / experimental

This collaboration between Colin Stetson & the drummer from Liturgy makes for a unique mash-up of genres. Ambitious, cerebral, churning blast-beat jazz.

08. Pallbearer — ‘Heartless’

pop doom / prog

Groovy riffs, looong songs, & clean accessible vocals that remind me of Geddy Lee reincarnated. This band is a doom gateway drug.

07. Gang of Youths — ‘Go Farther In Lightness’

‘indie rock’

Catchy & engaging, this is well-balanced poetic optimism with some great lyrical moments. Gang of Youths won me over this year.

06. Amenra — ‘Mass VI’

sludge / hardcore / post-metal

The smoothest sludge out there & the best installment of their ‘Mass’ series to date, imho. Great textures, excellent flow. Amenra is one of several bands emerging from the contemporary Belgium scene that never fails to impress (see #04, #01).

05. Converge — ‘The Dusk in Us’

mathcore / metalcore

It’s been a while, but finally a return to form for one of my favorite bands. So technical, so brutal, so raw. Never a dull moment. Converge always delivers.

04. Slow — ‘V – Oceans’

atmospheric doom / post-metal

A heavy, expansive, beast of an album, and more proof that there’s something special going on in Belgium lately (see #06, #01). Layers of deep dark funeral doom are swirled beneath lighter post-rock melodies without cheating nor feeling gimmicky. This stands out in a crowded landscape. Didn’t discover this until later in the year or it might’ve ranked even higher.

03. The Smith Street Band

punk / folk / emo

Melodic, scrappy, introspective punk rock from Australia. Produced by Jeff Rosenstock, these songs are littered with thought-provoking moments that somehow teeter between outright bizarre & totally familiar.

‘Suffer’ is one of my favorite tracks of the year and I’ve been digging this band more & more with each release.

02. Julien Baker — ‘Turn Out the Lights’

singer-songwriter

A heartbreaking embodiment of depression in album form. These straightforward, unadorned songs delve the deepest depths of human nature and somehow salvage pure musical poetry.

All 42 minutes are really solid songwriting, in my book, but the last song, ‘Claws in Your Back,’ is especially devastating & beautiful. A truly great closer to an unforgettable listening experience.

Huge respect for this young lady from Tennessee. ‘Turn Out the Lights’ is a remarkable work of art.

01. Brutus — ‘Burst’

post-hardcore / punk

Every once in a while an album comes along that just makes total sense to me, and this is one of those albums. A fresh amalgamation of all my favorite styles in a way that feels modern, relevant, & urgent. A revelation in form.

As far as hardcore debuts go, this must be as fully-formed & musically erudite as they come, and it doesn’t hurt that the vocalist-drummer is such an appealing musical prodigy who seems to have total command of her vision. Can’t wait for what they do next.

‘Burst’ — my favorite album of 2017. It’s pure Fuel for me. Cheers.


Honorable Mentions:

Bell Witch, Mount Eerie, Igorrr, The Menzingers, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Ulver, Power Trip, Counterparts, Mastodon, Wolves in the Throne Room, Propagandhi, Mogwai, Black Dahlia Murder, Slowdive.

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