A lot of people came out with their lists for the year pretty early. I even saw a few websites touting a top ten of 2017 back in October. Last year I put mine out at the beginning of December, but that made me miss an entire month of music, including the surprise RtJ3 drop on Christmas day (luckily for me, and this list, we didn’t get a physical copy until January 2017). So I wanted to wait. I wanted to hear Morbid Angel’s death metal masterclass; Kingdoms Disdained, which won’t be appearing on this list but may be appearing on one in the near future.
I also wanted to hear the new Eminem release; Revival. When I heard his parking garage freestyle early in the year, I had high hopes for a new release, and I got what I wanted, however, what I got was an album of Mr. Mathers trying to be everything pop music has to offer, minus any semblance of what makes Eminem great. Lazy, uninteresting production, a terrible features list, as well as poor attempts with trap style delivery, make this almost a laughable experience, but really it’s just sad. Probably the worst Eminem album to date.
So maybe there is something to putting out lists early. Maybe albums that come out in December is just a rushed practice to get on one of these lists before the year is through. I’m sure if I did some research I could find an amazing album released in December. Oh, well. Here are my top ten albums of 2017.
One more thing before I get into it. I wanted to talk about Harmony of Difference, the EP released in September by band leader and modern jazz juggernaut, Kamasi Washington. First off, if you haven’t listened to the incredible masterpiece from 2015 entitled The Epic, then please do so now. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a jazz fan, the story this massive album tells can turn almost anybody into a fan. What we got this year from Washington and his crew was a small sample of what is to hopefully come in 2018. Harmony of Difference is a six-song gem that takes the term recurring themes to a new level. The first five tracks are re-worked concepts of the same basic themed, capped off by a thirteen-minute epic referred to as, Truth. The emotional toll the music has on a person is almost overwhelming. And if you like this and are wanting more, check out the Cameron Graves album from this year Planetary Prince. Graves is the longtime pianist who has worked beside Washington throughout his career. OK, back to the list.
Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator
Alynda Lee Segarra, the mind, and voice behind HftRR releases her sixth album. An album that tells a rich story of city life in modern-day America. Her folk/Americana sound brings to life these stories in a perfectly eloquent and raw way, which immediately brings you into the idea that this album is just nothing but raw feeling and emotion, whether that be good or bad.
Colter Wall – Colter Wall
When you look at Colter Wall, you may make certain judgments about what you think the music is going to sound like. This 22 year old Canadian has delivered something I haven’t heard since the passing of Mr. Johnny Cash over a decade ago, a true, outlaw country experience. A voice you would not expect from somebody of his age rings through the record like a whiskey on a cold night. Last year we had Sturgill Simpson in this spot, and although I still believe Simpson and Miss Margo Price are the king and queens of country music right now, Colter Wall is certainly a prince. This gent has a HUGE future ahead of him.
Kendrick Lamar – Damn.
It’s crazy to think that… I don’t want to say one of the worst, maybe I’ll just say one of the least best Kendrick Lamar albums, can still crack many top ten lists. This record deserves all of the hype it has gotten. Although less polished and rawer than his previous efforts, he still manages to shine a light on the injustices in the world, but still manages to well, be humble! If K-Dot can keep his mind right and his focus this laser sharp, he will be in the category of Pac, and Nas one day. Oh! Also, if you haven’t picked up Damn. yet, he just re-released a special edition of the album in which the tracks are in reverse order, which has revealed it to be a concept album. That is cool.
Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
I love albums that contain songs that tell a story. Phoebe Bridgers with her debut album does that as if she’s been doing it for decades. It’s as if each strum of her guitar is tapped directly into her veins and it is the essence of her life. A few lines even hit pretty close to home when it comes to how I’ve made myself think about myself and my interests. Killer, for instance, talks about how she has scared herself while talking about Jeffrey Dahmer on a partners couch. I do that at least once a year and I sometimes begin to question my sanity. I’m not the kind of person that gets affected by lyrics on a personal level at all, but these and a plethora of others made this a must for 2017. Her voice is also a subdued miracle. No dramatic pitch changes but she can grab a hold of a notion, or a feeling, and won’t let go until she wants you to be bled dry.
Lorde – Melodrama
One of my predictions actually came true! Lorde released her second album, and man, listen to me when I say this, it surpasses her debut in so many ways. Lyrically and musically this album delivers a much richer accumulation of what pop music can be. Melodrama is somewhat of a concept album of learning to live life in a more solitude and inward state, and how to find self-love within herself, which is, of course, after all the most important thing one can do on this earth.
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me
I won’t sugar coat it, or bury the lead. This album is rough. It is hard to listen to, but if you’re looking for music that delves deep into the darkest experiences of the human existence, this is it. A Crow Looked at Me is an album written and performed by a man named Phil Elverum. In 2016, Phil lost his wife, and mother to his 1-year-old child to cancer. This album is a document of his grieving process. This album isn’t clever, there are no metaphors that represent the symbolization of death and mourning, this album is real. He is not trying to hide anything from the listeners as to how he is feeling. The subject matter as mundane as a new backpack for his daughter become tear-jerking anecdotes, thoughts put to a very simple and basic soundtrack. Don’t look for beautiful singing either. Earlier I stated that this was a mere documentation of moving on in the face of absolute soul-crushing heartbreak and it is presented as such. This is as real as music can get.
Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now
Now for the most fun, dancy, catchy, smoothest records on this list. Jens Lekman is a Swedish born musician who can turn a phrase with the best of them. This is actually the first album I’ve heard from his but I am so glad I dived in. What you’ll find here is a collection of songs so accessible, fans of any genre will be able to dive right in and have a great time. You have strong wit, mixed up with the lighter romantic side of life and of course a little melancholy to boot. This is an album that is criminally underrated.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
Country music for people who don’t like country music. That’s a stupid way to describe this album and Jason Isbell’s career in whole but damn is it accurate. The Nashville sound takes what Bob Dylan and Tom Petty started and shines it through a southern prism that can make even the most hardened cowboy listen in awe. I was always aware of The Drive-By Truckers but never really gave them the time of day, but thanks to this album and some suggestions from a DBT aficionado, I can now say I am a fan for life.
Run the Jewels – RtJ3
Killer Mike and El-P are my absolute favorite hip op act working today. Lyrical geniuses who aren’t afraid to have fun are hard to come by these days (sit down, Kanye). I said it six months ago and I’ll say it again, I truly believe that this is the best out of the three. The bond these two minds share have never been tighter in more in line and that brings to light music that isn’t afraid to be funny, but also isn’t afraid to talk about what needs to be said.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
I almost hate that this is my number one. Not because it isn’t deserving of the spot because it absolutely is, but because this was also, The Needle Drops number 1 album as well. I swear I’m not copying! A lot of folks don’t like this album. I’m not entirely sure why, though. It is a robust scene of grandiose storytelling reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens’ Come on Feel the Illinoise. Perhaps because the entities that contribute to the shaping of the public’s opinion on what music they should be listening to, is who FJM is going after on this album. If you’re unsure, Father John Misty is the pseudonym of a gentleman named Josh Tillman. This album is the third album under the Father John Misty moniker, although certainly no amateur, he released several albums under his name J. Tillman. On Pure Comedy he lets his opinions be known about everything, whether it be politics, the entertainment industry, religion, all those things that make people feel uncomfortable. He even pokes fun at himself quite a bit, although you may not notice through the desert dry humor that flows through this opus, even referring to himself as, “just another white guy in 2017.” In today’s world, this album does run rather long at approximately 80 minutes (almost a Disney movie!), it’s a journey but one that is very necessary for 2017.
That does it! My top ten of 2017. One last thing, check out the Spotify playlist below! You’ll have an amazing playlist of over 100 songs approved by us at Ranting Media! Let me know what you think and let’s talk about music!