Features Year End Lists

My Top 17 Albums of 2017

Here we go, I’ve finally finished my list of 17 favorite albums of the year. This has taken so much time for me to finish, let alone set the time aside to work on it. My job requires me to sit on my laptop all day and I sometimes find it hard to get inspired and work on posts after a work day, but I promised myself to get this posted today! I hope you enjoy and maybe even find a new alum that you enjoy. I have attached a playlist at the bottom that features my favorite three tracks from each album. Happy December! I’m ready for another great year of new music.

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Release Date – October 13, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 88

Annie Clark has always been one of those musicians whose prominence and level of talent have been on my radar, but one who I’ve continuously failed to fully pay attention to until this year. There is just so much music in the world and it’s impossible for one person to hear it all I just continue to remind myself of this fact. After hearing that Clark would be working with Jack Antonoff on this record, it was enough for me to plan to listen to the entire thing (he produced at least five of the 13 songs on the album). The album is chock full of glittery pop songs, choppy guitar riffs and synth production elements – focusing on the main ideas of “sex and drugs and sadness,” a sentiment that lives up to the idea that Clark is in fact the “female Davie Bowie.” When the album ends, the colorful, mysterious and dramatic finale track (where Clark sings about suicide) leaves the listener with more questions than answers, more intrigued with the body of work after the 41 minutes compared to pressing play on track one. This is the sign of a true artist, at least in Clark’s eyes. Clark’s collaborator and choreographer, Annie-B Parson, once told her, “The best performers are those who have a secret.”

Favorite Tracks: “Fear the Future,” “Hang With Me,” “Los Ageless”

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16. AminéGood For You

Release Date – July 28, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 77 (only has one review, though).

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I am absolutely not one to be education on hip-hop music whatsoever, and it’s a genre I tend to stay away from. Most hip-hop and rap music that I have heard tends to be loud and aggressive sounding (not in terms of lyrical content but the vocal style) and it’s hard for me to listen to most of the time and just makes me feel a little anxious and like I need to go run 20 miles. But when I heard Aminé for the first time, I was obsessed with “Caroline” – which was a huge song in 2016, and knew that he was someone I would like to pay attention to. Born Adam Daniel, Aminé’s debut album, released under Republic records, has received positive responses, noting his playful, “smooth, flirtatious, glossy” lyrics, paired with “serious” and “meaningful” storylines about ambition and materialism. Only 22-years-old, it will be interesting to see where Aminé’s storyline goes, but I’m sure it will continue to be colorful.

Favorite Tracks: “Caroline” (of course), “Spice Girl,” “Wedding Crashers”

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15. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

Release Date – September 29, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 81

I am the last person to consider myself to be a fan of hard rock, but something just falls into place for me when it comes to Wolf Alice. After stumbling upon their debut album, My Love Is Cool, in 2016, I was intrigued by their sound that often clashes with the lead singer, Ellie Roswell’s, soft, whispery vocals that often shock the listener once she chooses to really belt it out. These sorts of harder sounding songs on their sophomore album, Visions of A Life, are ones that I tend to skip over: I prefer the softer sounds over the harsher ones, which is why this album is lower on the list. Visions of A Life doesn’t hesitate to get heavy, despite its clichés about teen angst and falling in love (and being scared of getting hurt). Pitchfork notes it’s “an album about anxiety and freefall, and about death, both of one’s own hypothetical death and the literal death of others.” If you’re looking for a happy, upbeat album, Wolf Alice won’t be for you – but I don’t think they are very concerned about making music to please anyone.

Favorite Tracks: “Beautifully Unconventional,” “Don’t Delete the Kisses” (easily in my top 10 favorite songs of the year), “Space & Time,”

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14. Sundara Karma Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect

Release Date – January 6, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 61

The United Kingdom’s best kept secret goes by the name of Sundara Karma – a indie rock band from Reading, England. The band consists of a handful of 20-something males who have been creating music since they were 14 years old – and were signed to a record label in June 2015. The debut album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, weaves through themes of adolescence, love and the idea that, well, youth really is ever only fun when you look back on it and realize how easy things once were (hence the album name). This album had to be on my list, without a doubt, because I hadn’t heard anything else like it this year – with 15 solid songs with sparkling guitar riffs that would make any 90s band envious of their natural ability to craft a stadium sing-a-long track. Each song has its own unique sound without sacrificing cohesion – a key characteristic that I always consider when I decide whether or not I like an album. By the way, did you know that “sundara” means karma in Latin?

Favorite Tracks: “Happy Family,” “Loveblood,” “Vivienne”

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13. Dua LipaDua Lipa

Release Date – June 2, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 73

I know we all hate a music snob who claims that they’ve liked an artist from the beginning, but I owe my discovery of one of 2017’s biggest breakout artists to Lollapalooza. Every year, I study the lineup from top to bottom to find musicians I haven’t heard of yet. This is exactly what I did with Dua Lipa – a performer at the festival in 2016. While the majority of the attendees headed to the south side of the park to see X-Ambassadors, maybe 300 or 400 people stuck around the north end to see Dua Lipa perform – a 20-year-old up and coming pop singer from England. I remember being in such awe of her performance, her beauty, her vocal ability – and then she exploded in 2017. I had the opportunity to see her perform again at Lincoln hall in February this year – months before her debut album was released. Since then, she’s obviously created a huge career for herself: and one of the strongest albums debuts from a female pop star that I have heard in a LONG time. The album showcases her powerful singing voice and her ability to transition between ballads, dance tracks and massive f*** you songs to all the idiot men she’s dealt with (one can assume). Bravo.

Favorite Tracks: “Begging,” “Genesis,” “New Rules”

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12. FlorCome Out. You’re Hiding

Release Date – May 19, 2017
Metacritic Rating –  N/A

I first discovered Flor after I saw them open up for Halsey in 2015, but they sort of got lost in the shuffle afterwards, as their debut album didn’t come for over two years following my initial discovery. However, as I heard the announcement of their new album and saw that they were playing Lollapalooza, they were suddenly back on my radar. Like I will say about a couple other albums on this list, I was very drawn to Flor and their sound because I think they have a unique sound to any other artists in the indie pop genre. This definitely stems from the lead singer (named Zach)’s voice, which is light and flowery, angelic and intriguing. He doesn’t sound like anyone else in music right now. He has the ability to tell a story with a sense of ease and carefulness without sounding too overbearing or too typical of a band competing for success in this style of music. Honestly, this album wasn’t originally going to be included in this list until I was going through the potential options and I realized just how much I enjoyed the album and nearly every track on it. It sneaks up on you like that.

Favorite Tracks: “Hold On,” “Restless Soul,” “Warm Blood”

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11. The Front BottomsGoing Grey

Release Date – October 13, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 78

I don’t think I am pop punk enough to actually critique an album by The Front Bottoms, but I’m definitely going to try. I have been a casual fan of The Front Bottoms for the past couple years, never really digging deep into their catalog and I’ve never been to a show of theirs. I saw them at Lollapalooza in 2016 and realized how great of a band they actually are. I decided to pay attention to the release of their sixth album and very much enjoyed the singles “Raining” and “Vacation Town.” The album has been criticized by outlets like Pitchfork for going the typical route of punk bands (Paramore) with an attempt to electrify their aesthetic with 80s inspired sounds. I can’t say that I don’t understand this argument, but the sound still works for me and I think they sound their most refined. I’m no professional critic, but as long as the band continues to write about “How relationships rest on the essential, unglamorous terms of endearment that go unnoticed by everyone besides the ones who share them,” I will continue to be a fan.

Favorite Tracks: “Bae,” “Don’t Fill Up on Chips,” “Vacation Town”

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10. Foster the PeopleSacred Hearts Club

Release Date – July 21, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 56

Do you ever have those bands whose music you enjoy but you don’t really consider yourself to be too invested in them? That’s how I’ve felt about Foster the People for years – and then their third album came out. I’ve definitely enjoyed the two previous albums as well, but something about Sacred Hearts Club really made me pay attention. Although I sometimes struggle with the band’s authenticity level (what is their true sound? What are they really singing about? What do I know about them that’s beyond a 4 minute song?) but getting older and listening to a variety of different kinds of music on a casual level has made me realize that you don’t have to become a band’s #1 fan to appreciate their work. Sacred Hearts Club is a contemporary pop masterpiece from start to finish, creating a path through trumpet blasting tracks and trap beats about self-discovery, love and our current state of the world. This album would be higher on the list if I found more personal connections to the songs rather than me just admiring the productions and lyrical content on this album.

Favorite Tracks: “Doing It For the Money,” “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy,” “Sit Next to Me”

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9. SZACtrl

Release Date – June 9, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 86

On behalf of my own laziness, I throughly apologize to my readers and Sza herself (as if she’d ever read this) for how long it took me to hear this fabulous, wonderful, eye-opening album. From the moment I heard this album from start to finish, I was absolutely blown away by Sza (real name Solána)’s songwriting (she co-wrote every single one) vocal talent and her ability to sound raw, honest and real in everything she sings. Sza prides herself on creating music that rises above any sort of genre description, she once said that “labeling it [the music] removes the option for it to be limitless” and that it “diminishes the music.” Her music has a way of floating through all sorts of genres without being one over the other, you can truly hear the artist she has been influenced by (Stevie Nicks, Ella Fitzgerald and Björk) – what a combination. Her moments of vulnerability about sex, love, anxiety and of course, control are what makes this album a stand-out for me.

Favorite Tracks: “20 Something” (SO beautiful), “Drew Barrymore,” “Prom”

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8. OvercoatsYOUNG

I found these musicians in the nick of time, and boy am I so happy about it. I’ve heard of the band Overcoats many times this year, but like I’ve said before and will say again, it’s really hard to listen to every single musician whose name you’ve stumbled across. It’s just impossible. I already know when I die there will be millions of songs I have never heard and that’s a scary thought for me! Thank goodness that I finally listened to Overcoats this past October: and I immediately felt like I found what I have continuously been looking for in music. As you can tell from this list, I have been heavily influenced by female musicians this year, and those who have flawless harmonies and heartbreaking lyrics are some of my favorites (hello, we all know how obsessed I am with Joseph, the sister trio from Oregon). Overcoats, comprised of Hana and JJ, have been making some of the freshest, coolest original sounding music I’ve heard this year: you think folk and electropop doesn’t make sense together? Listen to Overcoats. You want female empowerment love songs that make you want to dance? Listen to Overcoats. Are you looking for the future of pop? IT’S RIGHT HERE. Do yourself a favor and listen to this wonderful, ethereal, beautiful, haunting album.

Release Date – April 21, 2017
Metacritic Rating – N/A

Favorite Tracks: “23,” “Hold Me Close,” “Nighttime Hunger”

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7. HAIM Something To Tell You

Release Date – July 7, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 69

HAIM really can’t do any wrong in my eyes, but the first time I heard this album, I was a little underwhelmed. I didn’t dislike anything about, but nothing about it truly blew me away. Then I saw them perform the album in September, and everything fell into place. I have never really been one to think that a live performance would make me enjoy a musician more than I did before seeing them perform, but seeing this album performed live, hearing the storytelling behind each album, and seeing and hearing the storytelling behind each song and seeing the pain and heartbreak that these sisters went through made it come to life for me. I have really been obsessing over that 90s sound by artists like Faith Hill, The Cranberries and Alanis Morissette (to name a few) and hearing these women in this album made everything fall into place. I can’t help but thank Rostam (whose album is coming up on my list) for his production on this album. Pitchfork says it perfectly: the ending notes on Something To Tell You “conveys the severe, almost nauseous feeling of love that goes frustratingly unresolved; the music has a wrongness about it and never quite settles. It just ends, and sometimes that’s all you get in life: the numb fadeout that lingers on until it turns into hard-earned wisdom.”

Favorite Tracks: “Found It In Silence,” “Ready For You,” “Want You Back”

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6. RostamHalf-Light

Release Date – September 15, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 77

I can’t help but say that when I heard that Rostam was leaving Vampire Weekend, I was sad, upset, confused, all of those emotions. Vampire Weekend is one of my favorite bands and has continued to release music with a fresh sound. I knew that a lot of what made Vampire Weekend stand apart from the rest had to do with Rostam Batmanglij, who contributed a unique perspective on Vampire Weekend’s music – Rostam is an Iranian immigrant and openly gay man.  I was super curious to see what sort of sound this album had, and I definitely think that Half-Light is the most original body of work I have heard in 2017. Staples of his sound are evident throughout the album, including hand drums and sounds reminiscent of the Middle East culture he left behind as a young child. I think Rostam’s point of view is so insanely important to the music industry, and clearly others seem to think so as well, considering that he has contributed work to the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX and Declan McKenna. His work has previously been floating in the backgrounds as a producer, songwriter and instrument player, and Rostam showcasing his ideas as a solo artist and performer is a beautiful thing to watch.

Favorite Tracks: “Bike Dream,” “Don’t Let It Get To You,” “Gwan”

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5. Harry StylesHarry Styles

If I could give Harry Styles the world, I would. I have been smitten with this cutie from the moment I first stumbled upon One Direction. Guys, I slept outside overnight on the ground so I can meet them (throwback to 2012). I have always been particularly fascinated with boy bands, the dynamic, and the potential of the individuals’ success if they ever were to go solo. And for the record, I still think Harry is the only one who can have a LASTING solo career. After the release of “Sign of the Times,” I was SO ready for the album, but was never expecting what was actually delivered. I knew that Harry could succeed alone, but I really didn’t anticipate that I would enjoy his solo debut as much as I did. I find his work to be the most genuine out of all of the 1D’s solo releases thus far, and I find his talent, stage presence and soft spoken manner the most charming and well received. Styles has always acted wise beyond his years, and this debut the flirts with rock, funk, masturbating (yep) and everything in between further pushes that narrative. If you haven’t heard it, did you actually live through 2017?

Release Date – May 12, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 68

Favorite Tracks: “From The Dining Table,” “Kiwi,” “Meet Me in The Hallway”

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4. LordeMelodrama

Release Date – June 16, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 91

After weeks of debating where this album fell on my list, I settled with the #4. Melodrama has been on repeat for me for MONTHS – and hearing it for the first time made me cry. Lorde’s ability to capture a 20-year-old woman’s emotions as she finds her place in the world, dealing with heartache and problems bigger than teenage angst has been a topic I think about all the time. Melodrama has beautiful moments the highs and lows of the human existence, the feeling of being invisible in the middle of a house party surrounded by strangers, just to skyrocket back to reality when the high is over and you’re lying in bed with a headache. I think Ella can do this better than anyone else, and this is a beautiful follow-up from the stellar Pure Heroine. I can’t say many bad things about it, but it falls at #4 compared to #2 or #3 (my number one spot can’t be touched) because I feel like there are moments that disconnect for me. I’ve written before that I that I don’t particularly enjoy song snippets and they make me wish for a full length song so I could further appreciate and understand the ideas represented. I wish that 1) “Hard Feelings/Loveless” was two songs, 2) “Sober II (Melodrama)” was a full length song, and 3) Liability (Reprise) was just apart of “Liability,” which is a pretty short song already. I respect and admire the hard work that as put into this album (and here’s a special shoutout to Jack Antonoff’s production). These things may not be as important to other people, but these are details that I personally pay attention to when I’m ranking albums.

Favorite Tracks: “Green Light,” “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” “Supercut”

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3. Taylor Swiftreputation

Release Date – November 10, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 71

I’m sure that ranking this album this high isn’t surprising to my readers, but I am still in shock over the outcome of this album. I was pretty convinced that it wouldn’t be one of my favorites of the year, but here we are – falling at #3. Taylor Swift #shook us all with the release of her sixth studio album, Reputation, after months of rumors and conspiracy theories about what this album was actually going to be about. I have followed Swift since the start, when her first album was entirely country and she spoke with a fake southern accent (guys, she’s from Pennsylvania). Needless to say, her journey has been a wild one, and Swift’s not innocent in her world of drama and scandals. I will stick by her side forever, but I know she’s not perfect and she’s made mistakes – which is an idea that I think she has addressed perfectly in this album. Whether or not the casual fan (or non-fan) can hear this, I know the die-hard fans like myself understand the walls that have been broken down in order for this album to be made. There are some of Swift’s best musical moments on this album – and probably one of her worst – but it takes the #3 slot for its shock value, vulnerability, and raw honesty in a way that we’ve never seen from Swift. Can we finally decide whether or not the old Taylor is dead or not?

Favorite Tracks: “Delicate,” “Getaway Car,” “I Did Something Bad”

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2. BleachersGone Now

Release Date – June 2, 2017
Metacritic Rating – 71

I was unsure of how Bleachers would follow up their debut album, Strange Desire, released in July 2014. I had to wait just about three years for a follow up, and I have to say that the wait was well worth it. Their first release meant a great deal to me (and you can read more about my opinion on both albums here), but I have to say that this album has given me even more than Strange Desire did. Jack Antonoff has had a hell of a year, and I admire his passion for not only the artists he collaborates with, but for the amount of heart he puts in his own music. Gone Now is a musical masterpiece inspired by the 80s and basically every John Hughes movie, ever – and delivered music that’s upbeat, hopeful and proud while simultaneously addressing themes of love, loss and death – which is no easy feat. Throughout the years, Antonoff has shown time and time again that he is capable of creating lyrics that are so personal yet are so universally true and relatable to his fans. I think there is some beautiful talent behind the ability to draw on topics so heartbreaking and making them louder than life. Jack said in a recent interview with The Guardian that his songwriting method is “the saddest, most upsetting, most real things someone might go through, and then finding a way to sew those into pop songs.” I think it’s working!

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Take the Money,” “Everybody Lost Somebody,” “I Miss Those Days”

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1. MUNAAbout U

Release Date – February 3, 2017
Metacritic Rating – N/A

If I could get anything out of a listening experience, I would want the music to make me feel every emotion on the spectrum: I want to dance, cry, sing, tell someone I love them, and ultimately, get me feeling inspired. This is exactly what Muna’s music has done from the moment I first heard their two songs on Spotify in February 2016. I had to wait an ENTIRE YEAR for a full length album – which was so difficult! About U is an album about heartbreak and not feeling good enough, but reminding that you can pick yourself up, look in the mirror with pride and face anything the world throws at you. This message is particularly special for MUNA – the three female musicians who make up the band all identify as queer and hope to use their music and voices to empower members of the LBGTQA community. A group of fearless, passionate, talented women creating beautiful art to heal and speak of issues bigger than themselves deserves my top spot without a doubt. I don’t think I could name another album that represents such an inspiring message with such cohesion and deep emotional and political power. I love every single song on this album and I never want to skip any of them, which is something I can’t say with any of the other albums on this list. That deserves #1 in my book.

Favorite Tracks: “Around U,” “Crying On The Bathroom Floor,” “I Know A Place”

Honorable Mentions:

Hippo CampusLandmark
John MayerThe Search For Everything
Khalid – American Teen
VéritéSomewhere in Between

There you have it! My favorite albums of the year. Thanks for reading and sticking through it. My wrists hurt from typing but I promised myself to get this out by December 1. I have one more end of year post coming, stay tuned.

You can see my 100 Favorite Songs of 2017 here.

– Kristin





4 comments on “My Top 17 Albums of 2017

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