It’s been quite the year. Did anyone actually have a good 2017? The only thing I keep hearing is that this year tore just about everyone to shreds, myself included. On the upside, music happened. When it was good, it was really quite spectacular.
A little disclaimer, I by no means think that my list encompasses the absolute best music. This is a list of my favorite releases.
Without further ado, I give you my top ten albums of 2017.
Stand Atlantic – Sidewinder
I’m rooting for this band very loudly, at least it feels that way. I was thrilled when they released a very solid EP this September. Strong vocals cap off a slightly edgy but otherwise familiar sound. If We Are The In Crowd and early Tonight Alive made an EP together, you’d get something that sounded a lot like Sidewinder. I’m hoping for big things for this Australian trio, and would love to see them take off in 2018.
10. Sleep On It – Overexposed
The best way to describe Sleep On It’s gloriously colorful debut is musical comfort food. If this had come out a good four years ago, it would have probably been an album of the year contender. This year, it just barely squeaked on to the list. There’s a lot of good about this album. It’s bright, fresh, and utterly reliable. There’s not a bad track on a fairly ambitious twelve song album. I’ve come back quite a bit for repeat listens since it came out in November, and the main reason is that it’s about as catchy as it gets. Sleep On It built a truly infectious sound. If you like a bit of nostalgia give Overexposed a spin.
9. Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights
It feels like we waited quite literally forever between 2013’s Old Souls and All These Countless nights. Somehow, Deaf Havana stayed one of my favorite bands over almost four years. What we got was an experimental, odd, glorious piece of music. I still can’t quite figure out how I feel about All These Countless Nights, and it always slips away until I play it again. Don’t let that fool you, each listen is fantastic. The story telling, told in blunt, unrestrained lyrics is as honest as ever. There are songs that hearken back to older albums such as Ashes, Ashes and Fever. Then there are the more experimental tracks like Pretty Low and Ghost. Of course, the whole thing is rounded out by Deaf Havana’s main strength, aching ballads of heartache and healing in Happiness and Saint Paul’s.
8. The Wonder Years – Burst And Decay (An Acoustic EP)
Pull up a chair, sit back with a mug of something hot and a pair of fuzzy socks. It should be snowing outside, or at least raining. The Wonder Years have managed to pull off something that is not easy to do well. Old songs were stripped down to their simplest form, and remained incredibly poignant. The real strength of this acoustic project is that the lyrics shine even brighter than they do on the full band versions of these songs. Burst And Decay has a way of weaving itself around you as you listen and pulling you straight into the story. It’s not a snooze fest though. There’s a driving force behind these revamped songs that sends you straight through the seven songs without a moment of boredom. The only acoustic thing on this list, and rightly so.
Listen to: There, There
7. Hundredth – Rare
Ready to get weird? A little fuzzy? Look no further than what I’m looking at as Hundredth’s second debut album. It’s not often a hardcore band takes a sharp turn and turns into a shoegaze band, but here we are. Rare is entrancing. So much so that songs sort of blend into each other after a few minutes. I’m all for diversity in sound, but there’s also something a nice about not remembering what the beginning of the album sounded like when you get to the end of it. Rare is a hazy experience of an album. It’s a unique gem in the onslaught of new music this year. To be honest, I’m not sure how it found it’s way to number seven on my list, but again here we are. Let’s just go with it.
6. Knuckle Puck – Shapeshifter
Remember who took album of the year in 2015? Knuckle Puck’s incredible debut Copacetic swept the field. It might seem like a fall from grace to wind up at number six after their last appearance on this list. But Shapeshifter is an entirely different animal from the band’s previous release. It’s short, and feels a more like a collection of songs than a fully cohesive album. Therein lies the reason for a number six spot. The songs themselves are strong throughout. The band tried a lot of new things on Shapeshifter, and managed to pull it off without a hitch. Through countless listens, I’ve tried my hardest not to be blinded by the last three songs which are arguably the strongest material the band has ever released. Conduit, Wait and Plastic Brains are heart breaking, emotional perfect closers to a very diverse track list. It may be different, but Shapeshifter is an essential listen.
5. PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need of Hell
PVRIS has done it again. Another powerhouse album, tied neatly into ten flawless songs. The first time I listened to All We Know, my initial reaction was that it sounded like a piece of art. There’s light, and color and a lot to sink your teeth into. It’s expansive, atmospheric, mysterious. It grooves, bops and the best thing is that it moves. Most of the album is comprised of songs coming in over the four minute mark and it would be only too easy for the entire thing to drag. I’m here to tell you that possibly for the first time ever after a first listen, I had the feeling of “that’s it?”. Wanting more, I pressed play and started again, which is what I do often with this album. It’s larger sounding than White Noise, and doesn’t pull any punches lyrically. While absolutely heartbreaking in places, it’s not an entire sob fest. With all of the darkness of Hell, Heaven tends to swoop in in the form of anger. It’s welcome distraction from the heart of the endless self reflection. Give this one a spin when you need something to sink into and pull you under.
4. A Will Away – Here Again
Here we have a fail-safe of an album. Anytime I’ve been asked this year what I’ve been listening to, I’ve pointed every single person towards Here Again. It’s fresh enough to make the casual listener stop and take real notice. It’s also just accessible enough that the casual listener would have wound up there in the first place. A bit of rock, a little emo, a tinge of twang and folk thrown in for good measure. A Will Away made a debut that could go down as a modern classic. The main reason I’m so drawn to this band is the honesty and intention that shines brightly through the entirety of the album. It just feels real. No bells or whistles. Instead, the immense talent of this young four piece is hard to deny. As someone who didn’t have a clue about this band at the beginning of the year, they’ve climbed into my favorites. If you give any album on this list your full attention it should be Here Again. So why the number four slot? The most exciting thing about A Will Away is what comes next. There’s a lot of room for growth, and I can’t wait to hear it all.
3. The Gospel Youth – Always Lose
We’ve come to the album on this list that will fill you with all of the feelings in the best way possible. A little heartbreak, a little hope, soaring, massive choruses, unbelievable vocals. I dare you to listen to Always Lose and not be completely floored at least once. If the vocals don’t get you, the nostalgic melodies will. Always Lose could have easily come out ten years ago, or ten years from now and pack the same punch. It feels timeless, and timely all at once. Equally impressive is the cohesive, unwavering quality of the entire album. Pacing is an odd thing to talk about, but even the way these songs are arranged works in the album’s favor. There’s time to breathe in the right places. Of course, the slight lyrical nods to past material make my heart happy. It’s interesting that this came out in July, when listening back in December, it’s clearly a cold weather album. The sheer warmth in these songs is magical, and just what you’ll need going into winter.
2. Can’t Swim – Fail You Again
Coming in at a very close second, Fail You Again has been an almost constant soundtrack since it came out in March. Can’t Swim continue to blow me away with how entirely unique they are. Compared to everything else on this list, Fail You Again sounds nothing like any of it. It’s a bit brash, raw, unconcerned. Mixed with little glimpses of warmth, atmosphere, and huge anthemic instrumentation, it doesn’t hold much back. After the surprise success of Death Deserves A Name, Fail You Again continues the saga with more complex songs, and a track list that spans a range of emotions. It broods through a number of stormy topics, and really brings the listener into the muddy gloom. Can’t Swim brings the message that it’s okay to not know how, or what, or why. In the sea of carefully packaged hope, it’s a relief. There’s no blaring message of hope at the end. Instead, the repeated “you’re searching for truth and it will fail you again” drives the idea home.
1. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely
This is the first album since No Closer to Heaven in 2015 that’s made me cry. Actual tears in the middle of a park downtown. That’s high praise from someone who often spends weeks at a time completely numb. Before you turn away, Lovely Little Lonely is not a sad album, it’s vulnerable. There’s a giant difference between the two. The Maine have managed to play with emotion in way that makes you unaware that its happening at all. An interesting part of the album is how it seems to weave and and unravel throughout. It starts with noise, and ends the same way, as if it lives in it’s own sphere. When listening, you enter that wavelength, and it unravels around you at the end, setting the listener back into their own world. It’s a fascinating use of sound.
Lovely Little Lonely is an experience. From the eerie sounds of the ocean sprinkled throughout, to the flawless transitional tracks that bind the album into one seamless entity. It starts with light, upbeat tracks in Don’t Come Down and Bad Behavior. From there, there’s the subtle shift into more passionate material. Black Butterflies & Deja Vu is one of the strongest tracks the band has ever written and begs to be played while running off into the sunset. From there the key turns, and we’re taken from passion to a dream like section with the intricate, swirling Lost In Nostalgia. The last quarter of the album is where the vulnerability really shines with the intimate I Only Wanna Talk To You.There’s a turning point right before the final track that simultaneously feels like waking from a dream and being punched in the gut. In a single line of lyrics, the whole journey becomes crystal clear.
The Maine continue to grow and change with each release, and for a sixth full length, it feels more inspired and intentional than ever. I’ve been waiting to put one of my favorite bands ever at the number one slot, and Lovely Little Lonely fits perfectly. From the highest highs to vulnerable lows, The Maine have created a truly special album that feels uniquely personal.
Here we are. As far as most anticipated for 2018, there’s only a few off the top of my head. Albums from Marmozets, Boston Manor, Trophy Eyes and State Champs, and hopefully Walking On Cars. What was your favorite album of the year? I’d love to hear about in the comments.