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Editors’ Picks: Best albums of 2017

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Illustration by Cynthia Alfonso, see more of her work here and here

2017 is almost over—both a blessing and a curse (we all thought things couldn’t get worse than 2016 but here we are…). Our editors are going through moments of musical and cultural reflection and we’ll be rolling out a series of our favorite moments of 2017. Stay tuned for more. 


King Krule — The Ooz

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I know I’ve talked about King Krule a lot but Archy Marshall hurts my soul. Looking at him some sort of maternal instinct takes over and makes me want to feed him, take care of him, shelter him even as he continues to slink through the night and the muck of the underground. In The Ooz Marshall manages to capture the essence and sound of depression. It’s pretty humdrum, melancholy, and beaten down except for a flashes of energy and anger (“Dum Surfer,” “Half Man Half Shark”). The record is searing honesty in a way that’s so painful and necessary—like it’s never even occurred to him that he could keep from spilling his innards as he croaks through the pain of self imposed loneliness.

—Tamim Alnuweiri

Cherry Glazerr — Apocalipstick

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I’m not sure that there’s much to say about this album. Cherry Glazerr feel like the type of band that I should be hesitant about liking but fuck it! They’re fun, the songs are catchy and it’s a welcome break from some of the depraved moroseness proliferating much of the music that’s coming out of the indie circuit.

—Tamim Alnuweiri

Charly Bliss — Guppy

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When I first ran across Charly Bliss, I remember thinking they were a one “hit” wonder band. Their Soft Serve EP had one banger (“Love Me”) but the other songs were forgettable filler tracks. Live they had their same exuberance that they do today, but the songs weren’t there. Cut to 2 years later, and Guppy has made me a Charly Bliss convert. The band threw out the first version of this record, re-recording it and adding additional tracks, and their labor paid off handsomely. The bright sheen of Guppy makes its hooks undeniable without sacrificing the band’s muscle. This alternately bright and hard soundscape is the perfect complement to the band’s penchant of making songs that feel like someone spiked the punch at prom: sweet at first, but with a hidden wallop. Singer/rhythm guitarist Eva Hendricks veers from the dark to the darkly hilarious across the album. “Put your hand on my knee / That’s what friends are for” she sneers on album opener “Percolator.” On “DQ” she sings “I laughed when your dog died it is cruel but it’s true… does he love me most now that his dog is toast?” Hendricks has talked about her love for Josie and The Pussycats, and now the band has lived up to their feline inspirations and then some.

—Mo Wilson

Priests — Nothing Feels Natural
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As soon as Trump got elected, people started hemming and hawing that 2017 would see a rebirth of punk in response to the dire political turmoil. Priests would have dropped Nothing Feels Natural either way, but the tumultuous year definitely puts the album into perspective. Priests trashed our countries election cycle (“Pink White House”) pondered the indignities of service work (“Nothing Feels Natural”), and most chillingly chanted “ACCEPT THE TRIUMPH OF THE MACHINE” (“Puff”). They added fresh elements of surf and r&b into their punk squall, making an album that feels as alienated and uneasy as we did this year. There’s a hopeful thread amidst all the malaise—”cause so much hate can only mean we’re accelerating” Greer sings on “Puff,” referencing that all this conflict means that soon we will reach some kind of conclusion. Until then, I’m glad we have Priests to soundtrack our conflicts and grievances. I can’t imagine a better soundtrack for the revolution.

—Mo Wilson

Macy Rodman — The Lake

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Macy Rodman may not be a name you’re super familiar with, but she’s a revered figure in the north Brooklyn queer scene. As the former host of the party Bath Salts, she’s been making twisted pop music for years now. Her last EP featured the hilarious semi-viral ode to sloth “Lazy Girl.” On her debut album The Lake Rodman proves there’s more to her than camp. Describing this album as “PJ Harvey at the club”, Rodman partnered with Sweat Equity label head/producer JX Cannon to combine pop, industrial, and techno into a cinematic mix tied together by her gravelly voice. This album has everything: a sex-filled banger (“Grunt”), a breezy ode to the drudgery of bartending (“Strawberry Margaritas”), a spacey empowerment anthem made up entirely of collaged Bruce Springsteen lyrics (“Born to Run”).  On several tracks Rodman takes church-esque organs and merges them with the hard sounds found at raves to invoke a spiritual sense of catharsis, bringing to mind the French blog house duo Justice. At other times her soundscapes are purely surreal, and take a dip into the disturbing. The album’s highlight is “She Will Be a Relic One Day,” a throbbing song that fully expresses Rodman’s rage but also her resignation that even the fuckery of 2017 will one day be behind us.

—Mo Wilson

Ice Balloons —Fiesta

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Anything you read about Ice Balloons features the laundry list of their ridiculously cool band members, so we’ll let you google that one. It’s impressive. Their 2017 release Fiesta put me into a crunchy weekend coma when I first listened to it, and has stuck to my speakers ever since. The string running through of Fiesta over-modulated fuzzy bass lines and frantic hooky vox make for a comfortable dark place to come back to after trying out upcoming hiphop and punk acts. Not sure if the comparison is welcome, but a lot of the album recalls late 80s Jane’s Addiction, in the best way way.

Vince Staples — Big Fish Theory

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As Vince himself has stated and tweeted, it’s the electronic album of the year. He’s definitely going for something that most other rappers don’t do, as he’s done with all of his albums, which is trying to capture a specific sound, era,and vibe and develop a concept throughout it. With Big Fish Theory you’re an art school kid somewhere in the UK in the late 90s/early 2000s and you spend your weekends at deep house raves with some added hints of Kendrick Lamar and classic Vince sarcasm. The choruses are repetitive, but that’s what’s fun live. The verses are snarky but perfectly technical. Underneath and mixed into all of this is some incredible production. 

—Will Collins

Protomartyr — Relatives in Descent
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Mood of 2017, captured. There’s a repugnance to Protomartyr’s rambler-in-chief, Joe Casey. At live shows, it comes off as the heart-aching depression you feel in your throat right up underneath your chin. On records, especially Relatives in Descent, it’s more pissed off than pissed on. The 70s rock chords simmering over this album create a nice little ring, but the grudgey trudging of the face of modern post-punk remains just that.

—Will Collins

Tyler the Creator — Flower Boy

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As someone who’s been following him throughout his career (I came across Bastard my junior year of high school during publications/newspaper class), it’s really beautiful to be able to see someone like Tyler successfully “realize” a vision. Previous limitations (read: immaturity, impatience, lack of clear vision) have been bypassed for a wonderfully constructed album in which hip-hop’s resident Alex DeLarge possibly came out as gay and and featured an ensemble cast of Rex Orange County, Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy (<3), Kali Uchis, A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith, and more. There’s slightly psychotic bangers and introspective spring-time ballads, all coming together cohesively to paint a gorgeous portrait.

—Will Collins

SZA — Ctrl

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Within the first minute of her intimate studio debut SZA gently sings, “Leave me lonely for prettier women / you know I need too much attention” setting the tone for one of year’s most vulnerable releases. Ctrl traces the singer-songwriter’s many losses in love, but rather than getting stuck in the maudlin like so many of her contemporaries (Lorde’s Melodrama mines the same themes song after song), SZA’s effortless flow keeps the listener buoyed. “I just take it day by day,” she admits on “Broken Clocks.” It’s a record of emotional contradictions: one moment she’s the mistress who wants more and another the girl who just wants to get off, simultaneously confident but also in shambles. In a lesser writer’s hands such shifts would disorient the listener, but there’s a frankness to SZA’s work that grounds it, ensuring we follow her ever-changing thought process. After all, what’s more relatable than not knowing what you want? Not to mention the universal theme that drips from every line: her determination to be happy. The result is an album that has leaped across genre borders, touching listeners of every proclivity with its radical honesty. Seriously, even the local Mac DeMarco enthusiasts are bumping Ctrl. And if you’re in your 20s, you should too, because no other album this year confronts the uncertainty of growing up like this.

—Jacob Seferian

The Moonlandingz — Interplanetary Class Classics

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A fake true band or a true fake band, that is The Moonlandingz. Don’t let the truth mess up a good story, and if you tell me a good story I’ll love you. That’s how the Moonlandingz makes me feel. The story of Johnny Rocket (native of Valhalla Dale) and his Moonlandingz begins with an absurds idea, energy and talent for music. Lias Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski from the Fat White Family recorded the first album of Moonlandingz topping the experimental electronics of the Eccentronic Research Council and the gothic carnival music of Fat White Family, the group then hired Sean Lennon for production. They all give birth to a space, goth, sexy opera. A galactic circus traveling between the darkness of the night and into your ears. 

—Julie Anna George

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard — Polygondwanaland

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The Australian psychedelic rock band that formed in 2010 in Melbourne is prolific, especially in the last few years, and it’s something that makes me happy. Their curiosity and taste for musical exploration seems limitless. King Gizzard is not afraid to artfully mix shiny pop, cool jazz and progressive rock with a sort of Frank Zappa reminiscence. They’ve always liked to combine the eternal instruments of rock with synth and Mellotron tablecloths and others much less used, such as the setar Iran, a lute with three or four strings, the zurna, a Turkish oboe and glass marimba, a kind of xylophone with glass slides. With each new recording, the will to renew itself, sometimes by small touches by introducing unexpected sounds, other times by a change of style more marked while maintaining the same bases, singing, chorus, guitars and metronomic percussion. When they move away from pure psychedelic rock they keep the energy to continue their explorations all over the place and build a music more complex and without borders. Polygondwanaland is a pretty shinny diamond on the middle of the King Gizzard crown.

—Julie Anna George

Dream Machine — The Illusion

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Doris and Matthew Melton are a duet and a real couple, a rock’n’roll one. The album is composed by only four hands, and the writhing guitar of Matthew is thus confronted with ambitious keyboard partitions imagined by Doris, keen on classical music, creating a stupendous amalgam: a kind of progressive glam, at the song format, filled with exciting choruses and solos, where they converse, fight or embrace each other. 

—Julie Anna George

Broken Social Scene — Hug of Thunder

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I’ve really missed Broken Social Scene. I’ve missed music that pulls out all the stops, that feels unearthly in its extravagance, bold but delicate, monumental yet finely, delicately nuanced. “Hug of Thunder” is Broken Social Scene’s first album in seven years, but not much has changed. The collective reunited all 15 original members for the record, including now-veritable stars such as Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning who have all carved their own individual niches in the indie scene, and recruited some new talents as well. The music still feels transportive, the same way it did when I was 13 and listening on the stereo in my playroom, lying on the floor starting at the ceiling. “Certain times in our lives take up more space than others,” they sing on the title track and I think of how they were one of those formative bands who gave me proof that life stretched out wider than the walls of my room, further than I could ever imagine. They helped shape me; they helped make the holes I still look to full, asked the questions I still try to answer. When Kevin Drew sings “It’s you, it’s me, it’s all we believe,” on the explosive closer “Mouthguards of the Apocalypse,” I still get that rush and I feel all of the doors opening again.

—Nikki Barnhart



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