Josh's Top 20 Albums of 2017

The Top 20 Albums of 2017

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Thanks to my friend Aaron for this year's new music graphic. Yes, I used to be a DJ (a very mediocre DJ) back in the day. 

Let me be clear, these are my favorite albums of the year.

I don't look at anyone else's list. I don't pay attention to what is on the radio. I just listen to new music every week and decide what albums I liked most. I don't really look at this objectively at all or think that because I like an album that everyone else will too.

On the other hand, if you follow my weekly playlists, you already know that I listen to an absurd amount of new music every year (usually well over 200 albums a year).

I will always try to add whatever links to the music are readily available.

If you want to follow my playlists, add me on Spotify by adding Ypsifactj

Here We Go!

*21 (Honorable Mention) Uranium Club "All Of Them Naturals"

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Very glad to hear a post-punk return to Akron. Between this Minnesota band and the Coneheads we are finally hearing music rooted in early DEVO again, thank goodness. This was one of my early go-to albums this year. 

20. Big Heet "On A Wire"

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My good friends at Post-Trash turned me on to Florida's Big Heet (okay, we have only talked one time...but the result was that I checked this album out when it came out). Very happy that they sent this one my way! Great classic punk vibe with sneaky hints of craft thrown in (as an extra-added bonus). "Failure at Work" is a particular favorite (might define my life).

19. Vagabon “Infinite Worlds”

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Laetitia Tamko is pretty amazing. She has a great voice, great musical style, great confessional lyrics, and great musicianship. Vagabon is a great band with a great frontwoman. Another album that might have suffered in placement only because it came out much earlier in the year.

18. Young M.A “Herstory”

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Decent chance someone will argue with me, and probably be right, but this was not the strongest year in Hip-Hop in my humble opinion.

Young M.A. was a notable exception. I think her claim to be the "baddest emcee in the game" isn't that far off (totally unique character, great flow, great point of view). I guess I am one of those white people who know who she is she talks about too. If you haven't checked her out, here is your chance!

17. METZ “Strange Peace”

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Toronto's METZ is a band that plays music that speaks directly to that part of me that constantly feels like the world is a gigantic pressure cooker about to explode. Great loud and angry cathartic music for a world that feels like it could explode at literally anytime.

In other words, this album does indeed bring me "Strange Peace."

16. Cayetana - New Kind Of Normal

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Yes, this is a pretty conventional sounding band in many ways, but for some reason, I keep coming back and listening to more. I suspect this is because they are really good at what they do and catchy as all hell (seriously, the hooks on some of these songs are really memorable).

They can take me back to Mesa Arizona anytime they want! Great stuff.

15. Idles “Brutalism”

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Any album that starts out with someone screaming "No Surrender" sets a pretty ambitious table but Idles pull it off. This post-hardcore UK band ramps up the urgency to a point it is almost sometimes hard to take (Usually, this would have been about the time I jumped right in the nearest mosh pit at shows 20 years ago, today I just let out a primal scream in my mind as I shake my head in time).

14. Gold Class “Drum”

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Gold Class is the new age Killing Joke. They have such a huge, almost stadium friendly, vibe for a post-punk band. They aren't as narcissistic as U2 became but they have the feel of a band with that kind of ambition. They aren't quite there yet, but I would rather listen to them now than the parody of itself that Muse turned into. Oh, they are also from Australia FYI.

13. Meat Wave “The Incessant”

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Pure unadulterated dispassionate intensity. Like Idles and Metz, Meat Wave incessantly ramp up the feeling that you are running out of runway and have nowhere left to land. Almost like Meat Wave's frontman Chris Sutter is watching the world burn around him and kind of enjoys it (and yes, it is no surprise that this is a Steve Albini produced album and that it appears on my list).

12. Dream Decay  “Yu”

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It is so odd how experimental post-grunge music can almost take on operatic (or at least cinematic) texture at times. Yes, this is a really loud and grungy soup of noise, but if you get lost inside each song you hear little moments of loveliness and even peace. 

At other times, this album isn't operatic or cinematic at all, it just rips.

Dream Decay is from Seattle (as are, I just realized, several of the other bands on this list). I guess that means that it has been a great year for Seattle music (or that Seattle music speaks to me).

11. Cloud Nothings “Life Without Sound”

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Look, even the third best Cloud Nothings album is still pretty damn good. Sure, it is still a little strange to hear Dylan Baldi sounding contemplative, happy, and maybe even playful at times on "Life Without Sound" but not in a bad way. 

It has been out almost a full year and I still listen to it on a fairly regular basis. Nough said!

10. Versing “Nirvana”

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Look, if you are from Seattle and you name your album "Nirvana" it had better be pretty f'n good and luckily for Versing this album is spectacular. I only found this album a few weeks ago and I find myself craving songs like "Call Me Out" on a daily basis.

I do hear some Nirvana here but also a lot of Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., and Pavement.

9. Priests “Nothing Feels Natural”

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Okay, I have been pushing this album all year and it still holds up great. Priests, from Washington D.C.,  is a band that writes great music with important lyrics but who still find a way to keep it fun too.

Lots of callbacks to bands like The Slits and The Raincoats but manages to, at the same time, be totally its own monster too.  

8. LCD Soundsystem “American Dream”

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Hard not to think of LCD Soundsystem as retro, but to what or whom? James Murphy is like the Quintin Tarantino of music in that way. One second you have hip-hop 808's and cowbells, New Order-style synth flourishes over old-school hiss and pop dum machines and the omnipresent Kraftwerk style repetitive figures...Who knows how it all works but it always does.

Strange alchemy.  

Basically, what I am saying is that this is another great LCD Soundsystem album.

7. Odonis Odonis “No Pop”

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So, this one should certainly come as no surprise to any of the 15 people who regularly follow my music musings. I love this band and I love this album. I was lucky enough earlier this year to interview their singer Dean Tzenos and a few months later had the good fortune to get to hang out with him for a few hours before seeing them play in Detroit. 

This is a great album, it has been in near constant rotation at my place since it was released a few months ago. As strange as this sounds it seems fully music for today at the same time it clearly is influenced by bands from Skinny Puppy to Nitzer Ebb and from Foetus to Front 242. And it is not just the music, check out the linked interview above and read about the philosophy that undergirds the album. 

They are also really entertaining playing live too (if you ever get the chance to check them out).

6. Julien Baker “Turn Out The Lights”

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How Julien Baker manages to be so emotionally mature and honest so consistently at her age is impossible for me to understand. At her age, I was drinking to excess and flunking out of school (I got it back together eventually). In all seriousness, this is album blows up the myth of the sophomore slump. This many well-constructed, thoughtful, heartbreakingly performed songs rarely appear across multiple albums much less on one. 

5. Kendrick Lamar “Damn.”

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Kendric Lamar is another artist, like Julien Baker, that totally confounds all probability. Does this guy ever make bad albums? Doesn't matter if he is working collaboratively, experimenting, or just letting it all out, he is always great. 

All hail the King (and he is the undisputed King of hip-hop now). 

4. Waxahatchee “Out In The Storm”

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This is the album I often go to sleep to at night. Something about Katie Crutchfield's songwriting style and voice just soothes me and provides comforts to me (even when she is singing about troubling or sad subjects). I have been a fan of the sisters Crutchfield since the PS Eliot days, so it should be no surprise that I loved this album (IMHO her best to date).

3. Sacred Paws “Strike A Match”

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Few albums in recent memory make me as happy to hear as "Strike A Match" does. It takes me back to the halcyon days where I was listening to The Specials, The (English) Beat, Selecter, and The Clash in the 80's. 

This album and this amazing two-woman band distill ska down to its most pure and joyful essence.

2. Perfume Genius “No Shape”

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I went back and forth for what had to have been hours between #1 and #2.  Not sure it really matters, but regardless of how long I debated who should be the overall winner, ultimately this was a gut feeling.

From the very first note, you can feel that "No Shape" is an album of consequence, every second seems carefully considered and meticulously curated. I don't mean this in the sense that it is all calculation and no passion or soul, to the contrary, you can feel every bit of the love Mike Hadreas has found at this point in his life (and after much struggle). 

Beautiful songs impeccably and soulfully produced.

1. Protomartyr “Relatives in Descent”

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2017 has been a huge year for my favorite Detroit band Protomartyr. They have toured the United States and Europe (several times...I think they are in Europe right now) and released this powerful and amazing album.

The album starts with "A Private Understanding," a song that really shouldn't work but works so well that I would have it as a strong contender for song of the year. No moment disappears and all songs get better and better upon repeated listenings (all Protomartyr albums seem to improve with each land every additional listen).

If I have a frontman spirit animal it is probably Protomartyr's singer Joe Casey, he is literary, caustic, sarcastic, and funny in equal parts. A careful parsing of his lyrics yields great rewards.

This is the best rock record of the year, the best post-punk album of the year, and my number one album of the year.

Until next year, "Enjoy! Explore, Enjoy, and Share Music!"

Joshua B. HoeComment