2017 – the year that felt like a decade for many people. Though there was not as much protest music as I expected, the year was filled with an avalanche of great new albums, despite the apparent demise of the format. Hip-hop brought its “A-game” thanks to outstanding albums from King Kendrick (more on him later), Vince Staples (despite my wife’s musing that Vince’s name could be that of a country singer), RTJ (of course), and a surprise record from Jay-Z. Returns from HAIM, Ryan Adams, Spoon, and The National were also welcome with strong entries in their respective catalogs. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach crafted a solo record that was reminiscent of 60s’-70’s pop, while St. Vincent maintains one of the most innovative artists around on Masseduction. LCD Soundsystem was my most anticipated return of the year and american dream echoed James Murphy and the gang’s past, without feeling like a profit-driven reunion. Murphy still mused as if he was leading a dance party at the end of the world over nostalgic, new wave-inspired beats, but songs like “call the police” had a political edge that was appropriate for today.
In the end, the crown for my top album of 2017 went to Kendrick and it was almost apparent from DAMN.’s release in April. The Compton king rivaled RTJ’s aggression and political prowess, echoed Jay-Z’s lyrical mastery, and managed to have the most blistering #1 charting single in “Humble” of the year (imo). The album is sonically very different from To Pimp A Butterfly, but adds another chapter to the most exciting rapper in the game today. Also, the apparent fact that the album can tell two different stories when listening front to back is the slickest album move I have encountered in quite some time.
Check out my entire top albums of 2017 list below and stream the playlist on Spotify (sans 4:44 because TIDAL, lame). Let me know your top albums in the comments.
1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
2. LCD Soundsystem – american dream
3. Alvvays – Anitsocialites
4. Sylvan Esso – What Now
5. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
6. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
7. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
8. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
9. Jay-Z – 4:44
10. HAIM – Something to Tell You
11. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
12. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
13. Dan Auerbach – Waiting on a Song
14. The National – Sleep Well Beast
15. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
16. Foo Fighters – Concrete & Gold
17. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
18. The xx – I See You
19. Hoops – Routines
20. Cut Copy – Haiku In Zero