Years that end in “7” are all the best years for music in each decade over the last 60 years.
Favorite Albums of 2017
- Heartless – Pallbearer
- The Navigator – Hurray for the Riff Raff
- Big Bad LUV – John Moreland
- MASSEDUCTION – St. Vincent
- DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
- Capacity – Big Thief
- A Deeper Understanding – The War on Drugs
- American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
- Trinity Lane – Lilly Hiatt
- Hug of Thunder – Broken Social Scene
- Out in the Storm – Waxahatchee
- The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
- No Shape – Perfume Genius
- The Dusk In Us – Converge
- Hot Thoughts – Spoon
- What Now – Sylvan Esso
- Melodrama – Lorde
- Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
- Slowdive – Slowdive
- Take Me Apart – Kelela
- Nightmare Logic – Power Trip
- RTJ3 – Run the Jewels
- Prisoner – Ryan Adams
- The Order of Time – Valerie June
- Hallelujah Anyhow – Hiss Golden Messenger
- Ctrl – SZA
- Sleep Well Beast – The National
- Crack-Up – Fleet Foxes
- All American Made – Margo Price
- Dark Matter – Randy Newman
- Drunk – Thundercat
- Process – Sampha
- Witness – Benjamin Booker
- Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear
- Antisocialites – Alvvays
- Purgatory – Tyler Childers
- Soul of a Woman – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
- From a Room Vol. 1 & 2 – Chris Stapleton
- Love What Survives – Mount Kimbie
- Ti Amo – Phoenix
Kendrick Lamar. Drake. Future. Jay-Z. Tyler, the Creator. Run the Jewels. Taylor Swift. Ed Sheeran. Sam Smith. Lorde. P!nk. Kesha. Paramore. Imagine Dragons. Coldplay. U2. Foo Fighters. Queens of the Stone Age. Mastodon. Feist. Bjork. St. Vincent. LCD Soundsystem. Spoon. The National. Father John Misty. Fleet Foxes. Iron & Wine. Ryan Adams. Jason Isbell. Margo Price. Chris Stapleton. Pretty impressive roster for one year.
Hip, Hop, the Hippie the Hippie, to the Hip Hop and You Don’t Stop
Hip-Hop officially took over in 2017. People have been saying for years that hip-hop’s popularity has unseated rock and roll. Well, this year, it unseated what we consider traditional pop hits as a whole. Sure, if we take a look at the total numbers, the red-headed wonder, Ed Sheeran was king of the Billboard charts in 2017. But, if you look at the long list of hits for the year, hip-hop had the most hit songs of any genre by far. Drake, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, Cardi B, Migos, Future, Rae Sremmurd, Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Childish Gambino, 21 Savage, and the list goes on. Not only within the genre, but how its beats infiltrated other pop artist’s songs, such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift and Lorde. It’s been a steady climb, but hip-hop has never seen this amount of chart success, ever.
The Return of the Singer/Songwriter
The singer/songwriter never really went away, but the hefty rise in Americana music over the last 5 or so years had given headway to an amazing set of songwriters in today’s music landscape. All supporting and challenging each other to do incredible work. Since 2013o, nobody in folk/rock/americana has put together a more consistent string of albums than Jason Isbell, Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor, and John Moreland. Collectively, they have released 11 albums since 2013 and all of them are simply remarkable. Throw in releases from B.J. Barham, Robert Ellis, Sturgill Simpson, and Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee Segarra ; and then even more recent releases from Angel Olsen, Big Thief (featuring Adrianne Lenker), Margo Price, and Valerie June – and you’ve got an amazing renaissance of songwriters that are challenging the status quo with a simple melody and some poignant lyrics. It reminds me of a time like the early to mid-70s when you had the likes of Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Jackson Browne, and Neil Young putting out classic album after classic album full of great songs from start to finish – no filler to be found. You can say what you want about pop music trends. You can say what you want about the absence of rock innovators. You can say what you want about the album being a lost art-form that consumers just don’t care about. But, these artists are selling out theaters. They’re challenging the status quo at award shows. Above all, they’re making people care about what they listen to again.
Let’s Not Forget…
I listened to close to 100 albums that were released this year. I purchased close to 50 physical copies of those albums on either CD or vinyl. It’s been several years since I’ve consumed that much music in a year. It was incredibly difficult to keep this playlist to only 70 songs. But, some folks had to be left out. Big hit-makers like Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, Chainsmokers with Coldplay, The Weeknd with Daft Punk, and every other member of One Direction not named Harry Styles. As even as huge of a year for hip-hop (as stated earlier), you won’t find Migos or Cardi B on this playlist. I’m going to be a bit honest. I don’t understand why everyone thinks they are so great. Maybe it’s just my age. Even though I saw them in concert (and it was awesome), I left Foo Fighters off the year-end list. No U2. And there were two really good country albums that I chose not to highlight on my playlist, but will give some love here to the five people that are reading this – LeeAnn Womack’s The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone and Colter Wall’s eponymous first full-length.
My buddies in the Kenny George Band released their debut full-length album this year. I could’ve included one of their tunes in this playlist and you wouldn’t find pause. It’s an excellent alt-country rock album from a talented group of musicians. It also features some pretty cool album artwork. Purchase a mail-order physical copy here or purchase it digitally here, here, or here.
In Conclusion (the Case for…)
So, it would be unfair to declare 2017 the best year for music in the 2010s since the 2010s aren’t over. We’re also too close to these albums to really know how we’ll feel about them a decade from now – much less twenty or thirty years from now. But, if I were to open up for debate, I would point toward where the decade began… 2010 was a banner year for music. Especially for indie bands that were gaining mainstream-sized attention. LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, The National, Deerhunter, Spoon, Broken Social Scene, The Walkmen, Beach House, Titus Andronicus, Sleigh Bells and Hot Chip. Kanye released what is considered his magnum-opus. EDM masterpieces from Flying Lotus, Four Tet, Caribou, and Gorillaz. Hip-hop stand-outs from Big Boi, Drake, Curren$y, and Nikki Minaj. Pop albums by Rihanna, Robyn, Kesha, and Janelle Monae. So, in conclusion, the verdict has yet to be determined.