Happy December! I’m so honoured to have put together this list which, in my opinion, represents the top 20 albums released in 2017. This was a big year for music, and specifically musical returns, and I believe that many artists have put out some of their best work yet. It was a challenge to narrow it down to 20, but somehow I did. Enjoy!
20.) Humanz – Gorillaz
Although this isn’t my favourite Gorillaz album, it sure is a lot of fun. Humanz is a fresh comeback filled with collaborations. I don’t think it was necessary to have as many collabs as they did – however, they did make the album fun. The 19-track album is one to dance to, with fewer instrumentals and even more electronics. If I didn’t already love Gorillaz, I may not have enjoyed this album as much as I did; as I already carry a heavy prior respect.
19.) Crack-Up – Fleet Foxes
Perhaps one of the best Indie-Folk acts of the decade, Fleet Foxes have released their first album since the absence of Josh Tillman (aka Father John Misty), but have only created something bigger and better. Fleet Foxes are known for their down-to-earth folk sound, but have expanded it with this album – perhaps with a bit more of a progressive sound. They have definitely slowed things down a bit, allowing you to really breathe in the sound and experience the atmosphere of the waves they create on a deeper level.
18.) Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples
This was a diverse move for Staples. To me, the sound of this album was unexpected. He includes more elements of dance and electronica than ever before, while incorporating his Hip-Hop roots. It includes a variety of collaborations and commentary, giving the album a personality unlike any of his other albums.
17.) Planetarium – Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, James Mcalister
This collaborative album is an atmospheric work of art. Of course, the main and obvious theme being the solar system, it digs into deeper meanings of life through the representation of space. Between the collaboration of these particular musicians, the album is truly something epic and takes you on a trip. Again, all of these artists are something beyond talented, so to see them come together is an explosion of something beautiful.
16.) Dedicated to Bobby Jameson – Ariel Pink
Ariel Pink has to be one of the most under-rated musicians and producers of our time. He has this unique sound. It’s common these days that many bands find inspiration in their music from the 80’s and 90’s. However, Pink creates his own sound. It sounds like he’s referring back to something, but it’s like he’s created this unknown dimension that is incredibly attractive to the ear. Overall, the album is very Retro and Lo-Fi. If you know of Ariel Pink, you know to expect a bit of wackiness, but I find this album to be his least-weird yet. The album still carries Pink’s strange ways, but is perhaps the most solid and put-together yet.
15.) Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels
RTJ has done it again. Although the duo released this album back in 2016, it was released far too late in the year for it to make any year-end lists. So with that being said, I’m including it in this year’s list. RTJ has yet to disappoint me with an album, and this album is truly a banger. I heard it included in the soundtrack of many of my nights out. It’s Hip-Hop, Electronic, Poetic, Up-beat, and everything you’re looking for in a good time.
14.) ‘Antisocialites’ – Alvvays
This female-fronted Toronto band has just released their second album, and they most certainly lived up to the hype. The album is Indie, dreamy, euphoric, shoe-gaze, and fun. I heavily enjoy the depth that the album perpetuates, as it touches on a variety of feeling and genre, which is what made Alvvays create the spark they did this year. They played a total of 10 shows at the Mod Club in Toronto, along with the rest of their successful tour.
13.) DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Lamar’s work in the industry is highly respected, and I feel as though it has become common sense that when he puts out an album, that you can only expect the best. Although DAMN. is the weakest of his albums, it is still highly impressive. It’s evident that he’s playing around with his style, but I’m all for it. He was able to produce a fun album that was a perfect soundtrack for the summertime; still telling a story. If you wish to get the full experience though, listen to the album backwards.
12.) Melodrama – Lorde
Lorde has easily put out the best Pop album of the year. This was an excellent follow-up to her first album, Pure Heroin. She matures her sound a bit more – singing about growing up and her growth as a women. During her time off, she went through a break-up, and spent a substantial amount of time by herself, getting to know herself better, and appreciating herself independently. The album is a perfect display of this. The melodrama lets listeners in deeper not only emotionally, but instrumentally as well. This album is a further development into Lorde’s unique Pop sound.
11.) American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
Everyone thought LCD was done back in 2010, but here they are again. What do you think of when you envision the American dream? What you would expect within that thought process is essentially the main theme of this album. It’s up-beat, something to dance to, but also has sentimental values that make you think. I heavily appreciate this comeback album.
10.) Slowdive – Slowdive
Making their first release in nearly 20 years (with a new lineup), was quite a statement for the legendary Shoegaze-Rock band. I was quite hesitant and almost nervous to listen to the 8-track album considering the circumstances, but I was left far from disappointed. I thought the idea of making it self-titled was a little odd at first, but I learned to love it. It’s a reminder of the fact that regardless of how much time has passed and the change in line-up, they are still this epic shoe-gaze band that can continue to make breathtaking collections of music. The album has it’s highs, lows, and everything in between – and it’s so worth the listen.
9.) Outrage! Is Now – Death From Above
The Toronto duo never fails to impress. The past two albums have been diverse – one being very aggressive, and the other a bit on the softer-side. As Outrage! Is Now is a political album, it could have been easy for them to make the collection of tracks loud and angry. However, they made the album incorporating both Pop and Rock elements. I wouldn’t say this is a Pop-Rock album, but they’ve played around with these dimensions and created yet another incredibly impressive piece of work. The band has mentioned that they don’t consider themselves to be just “one thing”, and that their sound will continue to evolve.
8.) This Old Dog – Mac Demarco
Demarco brought out the unexpected with this particular album. While still incorporating synths and psychedelic stylization, he slows things down while also utilizing the main theme of self-reflection. Throughout the album he often makes reference to his father, his outlooks, and similarities he sees in his and his father’s character. Although it wasn’t the Mac Demarco album I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised with this piece of work. The album includes his longest, and probably best song yet, “Moonlight on the River.”
7.) Sacred Hearts Club – Foster the People
Foster the People is a well known Alternative Rock band. They have been in the scene for just under 10 years, but have definitely made their place. Their first album, Torches, was a hit. It carried a large variety of electronic and rock elements to it, but was a bit more on the dance side of things. Their second album, Supermodel, focused a bit more on the Rock side of things. Sacred Hearts Club takes a nice middle seat between the two; but they have very obviously taken a new direction with their electronics. As easy as it could have been for them to take part in the Chainsmoker effect (when artists lazily make a chorus a bass drop), they took a new spin on electronica in their sound, making the album incredibly attractive.
6.) SATURATION Trilogy – Brockhampton
Brockhampton, known as the “internet’s first boy band,” has released three different albums this year: SATURATION I, SATURATION II, and SATURATION III. If I could say one word in terms of a reaction, it would simply be “wow”. They incorporate elements of Pop, Hip-Hop, Dance, and more. They have quickly created a powerful identity for themselves and I cannot wait to see what 2018 brings for this diverse group of men.
5.) Pure Comedy – Father John Misty
Father John has created an album filled with Rock, Soul, Folk, and so much passion and relevance to today’s society- a perfect album for 2017. He includes themes of religion, politics, becoming self-aware, and the album is ultimately a collection of music with the idea of self-reflection. It most definitely is not as Folk as his past albums, but this is a good change.
4.) The Ooz – King Krule
King Krule has a unique sound. He’s able to utilize elements of Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul and Punk, and somehow make it into something that takes you into a darker universe for awhile, whilst listening. This was the follow up to his first album, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. I would say this album doesn’t exactly take an entirely new direction, but it definitely takes you to an even drearier and darker side of things. Of course there are some very dark moments on the first album such as “Cementality”. However, you’re still getting those moments on this album, but slowed down a bit with more of an edge on the instrumentals, including “Dum Surfer,” “Lonely Blue,” and so much more.
3.) Flowerboy – Tyler the Creator
This album represents growth on a large scale for Tyler. The album has excellent production, intricate lyricism, tracks were placed in order strategically, and it was an overall display of his maturity as an artist. He included elements of Jazz and Soul, which was unexpected in comparison to his past pieces. It was enjoyable to see Tyler not only step out of his shell, but grow tremendously. This album is truly a beautiful piece of art.
2.) Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear is a band fulfilled with a variety in dimension between their complex lyrics and diversified instrumentals. Something I’ve always admired about their art is that not one song sounds like another, and very rarely is a filler track found on an album. With Painted Ruins, you’re taken on an atmospheric journey including themes of life, love, and an exploration of their sound with a harder-hitting focus on percussion. This album was well worth the five year wait.
1.) A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs
This album was highly anticipated following the band’s prior album, Lost in the Dream. The previous album was critically acclaimed, so the outcome of this one was questionable – and they were able to make it even BETTER. This album digs deeper into emotion, and speaks the feelings we often don’t know how to put into words when undergoing relationship struggles. In terms of stylization, it’s highly influenced by Bruce Springsteen in instrumentals and pace, and by Bob Dylan in vocals.
From Toronto with Love,