Hey kids, it’s January, and you know what that means: every single publication has put out its end-of-year listicles, including their best albums. Sadly, I’ve perused some and deemed them to be extremely wrong, and as always it’s fallen to me to be the true voice of reason for the corner of the music world that caters to my taste. Without further ado, here are my top 10 albums of 2017.
10. Mount Eerie, ‘A Crow Looked At Me’
Full disclosure: I’ve only listened to this album once, but that was all I needed because good lord. Good lord. I would like to listen to it again, and have considered doing so many times, but I don’t think I can emotionally handle it.
Phil Elverum, aka Mount Eerie himself, wrote and recorded this album after his wife Geneviève passed away and… yeah. Though it’s composed of twee acoustic guitar and raw vocals on the surface, they belie something much deeper and much sadder, and it’s kinda beautiful. If you think your Mountain Goats could be improved with just that little bit more death, I’d recommend ‘A Crow Looked At Me’. But, like, only when you’re in a place where it’s okay to start sobbing.
Standout track: ‘Real Death’
When to listen to it: During your designated Crying Hour™.
9. Jens Lekman, ‘Life Will See You Now’
For his latest record, Jens Lekman has taken a break from wedding singing (yes! you can book him for your Gothenburg wedding!) to tell the tales of the people he sees and talks to and hears about every day. Each track on ‘Life Will See You Now’ feels more like a short story than a song, a quick snippet of life as told by our benevolent narrator Jens.
It’s incredibly saccharine, and that will put a lot of listeners off – but if you just want something nice for a goddamn change, this is probably the prettiest album that 2017 had to offer.
Standout track: ‘What’s That Perfume That You Wear?’
When to listen to it: It’s great for a long train journey. Unfortunately, it’s also a summer-friendly album, so you may have to wait a few months.
8. Bryce Dessner, James McAllister, Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, ‘Planetarium’
Here’s a collaboration that obviously makes sense: delicate fae singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, The National’s Bryce Dessner, classical composer Nico Muhly, and some drummer I’ve literally never heard of in my life all came together to create ‘Planetarium’: a cycle of songs about the celestial bodies in our solar system.
I could sit here all day and talk about how bizarre the premise is, but it’d just be me flailing my hands around for a bit and saying, ‘But it’s good??????? It somehow works????????????’ with a look of wide-eyed wonder about me.
Standout track: ‘Jupiter’
When to listen to it: When you’re chilling out but don’t want to be too under-stimulated. I imagine it’s also a great listen when you have taken some sort of drug.
7. Will Joseph Cook, ‘Sweet Dreamer’
I didn’t expect to put this one quite so high up on this list, but you know what? You know what? It’s a good album. Solid bit of pop music.
Cook’s an up-and-coming young lad in the music biz, and this, his debut, is chock full of potential. The vast majority of tracks are catchy, fun, and show that he’s pretty damn talented. I wouldn’t be shocked if he was a household name by his third album. We’re talking flawless vocals, electronic influences, a little guitar here and there, and melodies that make you think finally, some real pop music.
Standout track: ‘Take Me Dancing’
When to listen to it: When you need to sing along to something. In the shower, I guess?
6. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, ‘Zombies on Broadway’
So, I’ve been an Andrew McMahon fan since I was 13. I’ve been following his career for a long time, and at one point was that bitch considering getting part of the ‘Everything In Transit‘ album art tattooed on my arm. The thing is, he always puts out exactly the right album, and in 2017 he’s done it again.
‘Zombies on Broadway’ has him at his best, throwing out pop tunes that both feel contemporary and quintessentially McMahon, with influences from Billy Joel, Beach Boys, and the whole rock canon shining through.
Also I just noticed the shirt he’s wearing in the album art, which is [fingers doing the okay symbol emoji].
Standout track: ‘So Close’
When to listen to it: It’s fun, and it’s full of bops, it’s kind enough to include some bangers. Give it a spin while you’re out walking somewhere.
5. Perfume Genius, ‘No Shape’
In a difficult year, Mike Hadreas has gifted us this – an album of love that grows defiantly in the face of a hateful world.
‘No Shape’ is an immaculately produced work of art, with tightly-written songs that, ironically, lead us on a musical journey full of shapes. Tracks like ‘Otherside’ and ‘Wreath’ ebb like ribbons in a breeze; ‘Go Ahead’ and ‘Die For You’ feel stalactic; and ‘Slip Away’ just straight up slaps. It’s not just an album, it’s an experience, ya know?
Standout track: ‘Slip Away’
When to listen to it: Frolicking through a forest is a good bet.
4. Methyl Ethel, ‘Everything Is Forgotten’
It genuinely surprises me that I’ve only seen ‘Everything Is Forgotten’ pop up on one AOTY list, and it came from NME which had one of the wrongest lists of all.
I love this album. Funky basslines meet swirling, psychedelic guitars and frontman Jake Webb’s inner diva that happens to come out as his vocals. We get party tunes (‘Drink Wine’), mournful almost-ballads (‘Femme Maison’), and a straight-up banger (‘Ubu’). It peters out around the middle, but still, I’m already excited about their next album and it doesn’t even exist yet.
Standout track: ‘Ubu’
When to listen to it: If you ever find yourself locked in a massive spooky warehouse overnight, this would be the perfect soundtrack. If not, I guess just listen to it on the tube or whatever.
3. Lorde, ‘Melodrama’
A lot of publications are putting Lorde’s latest at their number one AOTY spot, and honestly? Fair play. If we aren’t talking about my specific taste in music, ‘Melodrama’ is almost certainly the best album to come out in 2017.
Lorde teamed up with producer Jack Antonoff – because who didn’t team up with producer Jack Antonoff in 2017 – to create her second album, a concept record about youth, parties, and the end of a relationship. And man, it is impeccably composed. Every beat, every sample, every lyric is tight as hell – which is remarkable as it also sounds like Ella crooned it all out in a single, perfect burst.
Standout track: ‘Green Light’
When to listen to it: At a party. Just stick it on all the way through from start to finish. ‘Melodrama’ is the party.
2. Rostam, ‘Half-Light’
Rostam blew me away this year. The former Vampire Weekend member brought out his first solo album, and it’s the softest, gentlest tour de force you’ll ever hear. There’s so much going on in ‘Half-Light’, so many bits and pieces to listen out for. Sound builds in waves and layers and all you can do is let them wash over you, let them cast all the bad feelings away, let them carefully plant one (1) kiss on your forehead.
Drawing influences from everything from traditional Iranian music to solid electro, ‘Half-Light’ spans genres but still feels neat thanks to Rostam’s impressive songwriting skills. Each track sounds like he’s spent a lifetime perfecting it, and honestly, it’d be sacrilege if you only listen to this album once.
Standout track: ‘Bike Dream’
When to listen to it: When you need a hug and Rostam’s kind eyes gazing upon you.
1. St Vincent, ‘MASSEDUCTION’
You know when you break up with someone, and you get to that post-relationship point where it’s fine, you know that you don’t ever want to be with them again and you’re cool with that, but god you feel fucking awful? And the depression of being suddenly very alone is colliding head-on with the restless anxiety of just wanting to be done with all this shit, thanks? Annie Clark has captured that feeling to an absolute T. ‘MASSEDUCTION’ is at once one of the saddest and sexiest pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
But it’s not just that. That would impress me enough. The fact is, this album slaps. Like, bloody hell. It goes hard. Flawless production (yes, hello again, Jack Antonoff), teamed with Annie’s lavish voice and detached-yet-somehow-ultra-personal songwriting style, make for a hell of an album. Electronic beats dance with delicate piano and stripped-down minimalism in precisely the right places. It’s gorgeous. I can’t believe this album even exists.
Standout track: ‘Los Ageless’
When to listen to it: You don’t need an excuse, just listen to it, for god’s sake.
Honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut: Grizzly Bear, ‘Painted Ruins’; Kesha, ‘Rainbow’; The National, ‘Sleep Well Beast’; Toothless, ‘The Pace of the Passing’; Xiu Xiu, ‘Forget’
Hey! Like my taste in music? You fool! You complete moron! But also, you might like my playlist of all the best 2017 tracks, on Apple Music and Spotify.