With all of the insanity this past year, I think it's safe to say that 2017 was a year that often felt like ten, with the brightest point being when everyone came together to witness the total solar eclipse.
Much like last year, I spent most of my time trying to catch up to my seemingly endless backlog of podcasts and audiobooks, but somewhere in the midst of all that audio chaos, I found the time to thoroughly enjoy the following ten albums. And like I said last year, here's hoping that the following list of albums I could not stop listening to this year will bring you some solace as we leave 2017 behind and welcome in the New Year.
If you're curious and want to dig a little deeper into these albums, I've made a wonderful little playlist on Spotify that you can listen to here.
HAIM - Something To Tell You
It's been four years since the Haim sisters released their first studio album, Days Are Gone, and the wait was certainly worth it. HAIM has managed to zero in on what they do best, and the result is a beautifully crafted record rooted in bass flicks, sensational synths, and lovelorn lyrics. It's an ode to the classics - Fleetwood Mac, John Cougar Mellencamp, etc - seamlessly combined with the sounds of 2017. This album is an absolutely joy to listen to, start to finish.
Ghost Atlas - All Is In Sync And There’s Nothing Left To Sing About
Ghost Atlas is the solo project of Jesse Cash, best known as the guitarist and clean vocalist of his primary metal outfit, ERRA. With Ghost Atlas, Cash is able to explore a more melodic, alt-rock styling in the vein of Saosin, Circa Survive, and Secret & Whisper. This sits in stark contrast to the full grunt of ERRA. While different in sound and approach, there are still elements of ERRA peppered throughout this album. It's a complete credit to his skill set that Cash is 1. willing to branch out and try new things and 2. produce two wildly different yet totally focused sounds. This album is definitely a step away from his established sound, but it's one well worth taking.
Veil of Maya - False Idol
False Idol is the second album with not-so-new vocalist, Lukas Magyar. Magyar first joined for 2015's Matriarch, an album which I loved. This album showcases a band that is more content with its own sound than ever before, and the past two years have let the quartet refine their sound and tighten any loose screws from their last outing. Any shortcomings present on this album, and there aren't many, are quickly forgotten due to the nature of this album just being pure heavy fun. Guitarist Marc Okubo continues to prove his prowess at creating riffs that are both technically mesmerising and equally crushing, while Magyar's vocals are once again the standout feature, as his range is incredible. This album just shreds.
LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
American Dream is LCD Soundsystem's first new album in over seven years, and is the much awaited follow-up to 2010's, This Is Happening. Sonically, it serves as an honest hommage to the 1980s, but an intelligent and successful one at that. And as gratifying as this album is to long time fans, it also feels exactly like this year needs - a sense of angry, self-aware, urgency. The sheer vulnerability of this album goes deeper than the cheap cashgrab that this reunion could have potentially spawned.
Neck Deep - The Peace and the Panic
Based purely on their sound, you'd never know that this bright, sunny, pop-punk band are from the UK. It honestly sounds like they've taken their musical cues from Southern California and Florida than anything else (think New Found Glory, The Starting Line, and Yellowcard). What's perhaps the most striking thing about this band is that despite their sound, they aren't afraid to get introspective with their lyrics. Over the last two years, both vocalist Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Throrpe-Evans both lost their fathers while away on tour, and a close friend passed away as well. Rather than go full 180 into debbie-downer mode, they used that fuel some of the magnificently meaningful lyrics I've heard in this genre. The hook from the excellent closer, “Where Do We Go When We Go” summarizes the album’s mindset quite well: “I just wanna get one up on life before it kills me.” All in all, this album cements Neck Deep as the true heir to the long forgotten pop-punk throne.
August Burns Red - Phantom Anthem
Phantom Anthem is August Burns Red's seventh studio album (eighth, if you count Sleddin' Hill) and is a way for the band to get back to their roots. The overall feel and sound of the album is reminiscent of their 2009 album, Constellations, more than it is the technicality found in Rescue & Restore and the ambitious experimentation seen in Found in Far Away Places. While it definitely follows their signature pattern and sound, it's different enough to not sound stale. Detractors of the band will claim that it's formulaic, but Phantom Anthem offers a refreshing restart while improving on their overall sound. It's yet another solid entry into the band's fourteen year career as one of the most distinguishable metalcore acts out there.
Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
DAMN is not To Pimp A Butterfly. DAMN is not good kid, m.A.A.d city. DAMN is the album from Kendrick that I've been missing since Section.80. If your first thought upon hearing HUMBLE. was that this was going to be an album of straight bangers, well, you're in for a treat. DAMN is as disjointed in sound and arrangement as his previous two outings were meticulously crafted. It's lean and mean, and in an era in which hip-hop seems to be defined by insanely long durations and scores of fillers, DAMN arrives, says what it has to say, and leaves. It's slipshod, haphazard, and a rocky listen, but it's the Kendrick I've missed these last few years - a Kendrick more willing to experiment and say what he's really feeling. DAMN perfectly represents 2017 as a whole, and is well worth the listen.
Wage War - Deadweight
Deadweight is the sequel to Wage War's 2015 debut, Blueprints. Blueprints laid the groundwork for their newest album, as all of the elements needed for a good metalcore album are present here - breakdowns, high and clean vocals, riffs intended to get you in a circle pit, and atmospheric elements in the choruses. What's so good about this album is that while they're still tuning themselves into drop-G, they've learned from their first album and refined their sounds. Songs like Don't Let Me Fade Away are less heavy and more catchy while still feeling like a Wage War song. And while the band does have some run-of-the-mill breakdowns, listening to the album will eventually lead you to Indestructible. This song definitely sound like the borrowed from bands like Confide, but the breakdown was so good that I had to keep looping back just to experience it over and over again.
Ibeyi - Ash
Ash is the sophomore album for the French-Cuban Diaz sisters, and is art-pop in it's most minimal form yet. Everything is used so sparingly across this album, which really highlights the absolutely stunning (and sometimes auto-tuned) vocals. What makes this minimal sound work so well is that the duo doesn't really feel the need to unnecessarily busy up their songs, so when they do add another layer, i.e a Kamasi Washington sax solo, you really feel the hugeness of it. Aesthetically, this is a gorgeous album, but it does leave me wanting something...more, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ash is a great follow up to their debut album, and I cannot wait to see what else the Diaz sisters have in store
King Krule - The OOZ
The OOZ is an album that honestly defies all genre labels and expectations. Throughout the album, the music slips between rock, hip-hop, and jazz with a seeming deftness and confidence that can only come from someone with an intimate knowledge of the music he's seeking to make. It's incredibly easy to get lost in the varied sounds and lyrical complexities presented throughout the album. Every listen unearths new layers and depths to what is nothing shy of a total gem of a record.
The honourable mention this year has definitely got to go to the Tokyo based metal outfit, Crystal Lake. While the band didn't release a full LP this year (they released a three-track EP in October), they did release one of the, if not THE best, songs I've heard all year long. Apollo is one of those songs that I can listen to multiple times a day, every day, since it's release and get something new out of upon every listen. This song alone is as good as any of the full length LPs on this list, and I sincerely hope that they announce/release their third LP in 2017. Crystal Lake is absolutely crushing the competition. Listen below to see why this song is probably my favourite from this year