|Cosby's Choice Awards 2017|
Grab some puddin' and some pops. It's about time to slip on the bathrobe, pour ten ounces of Laphroiag, and sit down with some of my favorite jams of the year. I could say the first twenty are about as close as I could come to an order... but like politics and pokemon, taste is subject to change.
|1||Run the Jewels|
Run the Jewels 3
Although this technically came out Christmas last year, I didn’t properly sit down with this album until this year. Therefore, it makes the list. Not only have Killer Mike and El-P managed to craft their best album yet, but they’ve also managed to create one of the best albums of this year (and last year), interweaving social and political issues seamlessly through a desolate wasteland of apocalyptic beats. And while this is definitely their darkest album, it also seems to be their most hopeful. In today’s political climate, isn’t that what we really need?
Favorite Track: "Report to the Shareholders/ Kill Your Masters"
The Future in Whose Eyes?
If I could think about one album that's been on constant repeat for me this year, it's been this album. The new Sikth is not only my favorite metal release this year, but my favorite album of this year. After taking a brief (11 years) hiatus Sikth are back with their first full length album. Frantic, angry, and cynical, this album is a prog metal dream (or nightmare, depending how you look at it). Massive hooks soar over weaving melodies and chugging riffs.The band has really honed their craft on this one, not only musically but thematically. The spoken word poetry on this is the best it’s ever been, crafted so that it deepens the already brooding, midnight-black atmosphere.
Favorite Track: "The Moon's Been Gone for Hours" into "Riddles of Humanity"
To the Bone
It’s hard to imagine a follow up to Steven Wilson’s masterpiece “Hand. Cannot. Erase.”. That album, in a nutshell, was a modern day prog classic. Not only did it pay homage to some of the genre’s earlier acts (Pink Floyd, King Crimson) but it managed to do so in a way that felt modern and fresh. “To the Bone” is another strong chapter in Steven Wilson’s discography; an emotional album that has held my hand through the darkest moments of this past year. This album is chaulkful of monolithic moments, and is a definite check for anyone who enjoys a well composed album from start to finish.
On a side note, the song “Refuge”, without a doubt, is my favorite song of this year. Although the song has its intended meaning, there is a different one for me that never fails to get the water works going. Hands down, the most beautiful song of this year.
Favorite Track: See above.
Emperor of Sand
This album punched me way harder than I expected it to, especially considering their last two albums were a bit lackluster. Given the backstory behind this album, its relatability really became quite the gutpunch and I swiftly felt drawn in by the concept underneath it. Mastodon has taken what they’ve learned from the past two, more pop metal affairs, and found a way to integrate in some of the more proggy elements from past albums that made me initially fall in love with them. It’s heavy, it’s powerful, and it’s one of their most solid albums to date. Don’t pass this one up.
Favorite Track: "Ancient Kingdom"
Somehow, Steven Wilson has managed to find a second spot on this list. As to be expected with Wilson, the album is a solid rock affair encompassed by a morose, melancholy attitude. This album is the one I put on when I need something a little more subdued. Reflective and honest, this is a great album for the end of a long day or a beautiful sunrise.
Favorite Track: "44 to 48"
|6||Stevens / Dessner / Muhly / McAlister|
This album is massive, and easy to get lost in. The brainchild of Sufjan Stevens (Singer Songwriter legend), Bryce Dessner (Indie Rocker), Nico Muhly (Composer), and James McAlister (Drummer), this album is a colossal composition, meant to be listened to in one sitting. It does a brilliant job of combining sweeping symphonic arrangements with glittering electronics. Stevens is in perfect form on this as well, floating gracefully through the washes of sounds like a lost astronaut drifting through the cosmos. This album is dense, and requires multiple listens, but in the end it’s worth it.
Favorite Track: "Mercury"
This is the second weirdest album that I’ve listened to this year. Crazy, immediately gripping, and absolutely ridiculous, this album was definitely a fun last minute surprise. Would I say there is a whole lot of depth to this album? No. Would I say it’s a fun, shocking, and surprising listen the whole way through? Yes.
Favorite Track: "Opus Brain"
If I could recommend one metal album to anyone this year, it would be this one. Are there other metal albums that I ranked higher than this one? Yes. Are there other metal albums that are heavier or more aggressive than this one? Yes. But I would recommend this to anyone because of how bold and daring this album is. “Sorni Nai”, the bands previous album, is one of my favorite albums of all time, and a modern classic. This album demonstrates just how versatile and misunderstood the term “metal” is, which brings this emotional album about childhood and the passage of time to one of the higher spots on my list.
Favorite Track: Just listen to the damn album.
The title says it all folks. These guys create music that is, on the surface, sonically the equivalence of laughing at a fart, but on a deeper level this album is a great exercise in pedal work and jolting stop/start math rock.
Favorite Track: "Trash Generator"
You're Not As ____ As You Think
This is definitely one of the more “raw” releases on this list. The album is packed full of energy and emotion, and unabashedly dives headfirst into songs about death, suicide, and survival thanks to brutally honest, almost diary-esq, lyrics. Despite going to dark places this album is about hope, and the sunrise after the long night.
Favorite Track: "No Halo"
2017 was the year without Bowie, so it seems only fitting that someone rise up and try to fill his shoes. While that act itself would be impossible, this album comes damn close to achieving that. Filled with massive, broadway-esq hooks, psychedelic arrangements, and vocals so cheesy they put velveeta to shame, this album is a whole lot of fun. This album doesn’t take itself seriously, and neither should you.
Favorite Track: America
Experimental and aggressive, this is a great album with a lot of interesting variety. Songs like “Rhesus Negative” grind forward relentlessly, while others like “Please” are darker and more subdued. This album has energy, and it’s one I wouldn’t pass up whether you’re working out or grinding out work late into the night. One of the biggest surprises for me this year.
Favorite Track: "Rhesus Negative"
|13||White Moth Black Butterfly|
If I could use one word to describe this album it would be “atmosphere”. The music transports the listener to dense European forests and dark, cold lochs. Daniel Tompkins (one of the best modern metal vocalists) and Jordan Turner are brilliant on this album, both haunting and vulnerable in the delivery of the lyrics and the album tells a brilliant story about loss, atonement, and redemption.
Favorite Track: "ii: Penitence"
Written at Night
The title says it all. This album plays like a late night rambling, an artist caught in a stupor of introspection. It has the attitude of the city at night, and Uncommon’s delivery is full of cynical venom and authority. Definitely my favorite hip-hop album of 2017 (Run the Jewels being more honorary than anything).
Favorite Track: "God's Aim"
Is This The Life We Really Want?
I love Pink Floyd. “The Wall” and “Wish You Were Here” are two of my favorite albums of all time and so you can imagine my hesitation to check out the solo project from one of the remaining members. I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to expectations or that it would some how hurt the mythological status I had established in my mind for the members. But this album doesn’t disappoint. When I listen to this I imagine an old Roger Waters, locked away in a cabin in the woods, sitting in a room empty of everything except a television. In a way, this album is like a real world sequel to the wall. Gone are the delusions and hallucinations; the metaphorical wall that Rogers created in his youth. All that remains is the man: sour, wizened, and writing some of the most heartfelt music to come out this year.
Favorite Track: "Broken Bones"
I Tell A Fly
I know, you were waiting with bated breath, well here it is. This is the weirdest album I’ve listened to this year. Clementine dances between croons and spoken word passages, keeping the listener on their ears as they try to predict what will come next. This album is never a dull moment and definitely one to put on if you’re eager for some strange.
Favorite Track: "Quintessence" or "Phantom of Aleppo"
Kendrick Lamar doesn’t release “bad” albums. That being said, this album felt like a response to hip-hop rather than a groundbreaking statement like TPAB or GKMC. Still, this album is what we’ve come to expect from Kendrick: catchy hooks, good storytelling, and excellent rhymes.
Favorite Track: "Element"
Dreaming Of Sleep
This is a smart album. Cohesive and well composed, this album has some instantly catchy-moments which lead the way for multiple listens and deeper appreciations. There are a lot of small things this band does to draw back to themes and motifs, and this album is rewarding in the sense that there is always something new to discover when listening to it. These guys have a bright future ahead of them, and I can’t wait to see what else they accomplish in their career.
Favorite Track: "Sisyphus"
A Black Mile to the Surface
Another album that I was surprised that I liked so much. Soulful and heartbreaking, I love the big music moments on this one. Just a straight up great indie-rock album.
Favorite Track: "The Gold"
Great modern prog. This album has some really quirky moments and some absurd lyrics, but it’s a fun listen and a great break from repetition and predictability. Imagine if Rush, and Mr. Bungle made an album together. If this wasn’t a last minute listen it would probably be higher on my list.
Favorite Track:"Routine Maintenance"
Rap Album Two
It’s a rainy afternoon, droplets pattering gently on the window frame, and a record is spinning lazily on a turntable in the corner of a room. That’s exactly what this album sounds like. Jonwayne sounds tired, and yet somehow revitalized as reflections on his life and surroundings roll from his tongue. This album is incredibly self-aware, and it’s a superb portrait of an artist trapped and uninspired. And while this might sound like an insult, it isn’t. Jonwayne owns up to his frustrations and uses them as inspirations. Pretty smart, when you think about it.
Favorite Track: "They're Afraid of Us"
A nice mix of heaviness and ambiance. Probably the “heaviest album” on this list, but that doesn’t make it a brutal listen from start to finish. The album reminds me of walking alone through autumn woods in the midwest. It’s beautiful, lonely, and chilly. The perfect album for the season.
Favorite Track: "Behind Leaves and Vines"
This album has some interesting/ weird stuff going on during it. Billy’s flow is like if Aesop Rock and Del the Funkee Homosapien had a baby. I dig it. The choruses are infectious and the story-telling is very well done.
Favorite Track: "Police Came to my Show" or "Strawman"
I don’t think the label “prog rock” really defines this album, but it’s the closest thing I could think of. Much like the cover art suggests, this album reminds me of driving at night on an empty road. The headlights illuminate the road and woods in front of you as you plunge forward into the darkness. Above the sky is open and filled with stars, and for all you know you could be the last person on earth.
Favorite Track: "The Optimist"
|25||King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard|
Murder Of The Universe
When you release five albums in a year, there’s bound to be at least one of them on someone’s best of list. While all their efforts were entertaining, this by far was my favorite. The album is as fun as the band’s name suggests it would be. This album zooms into the great beyond as the band members ride forwards on dragons, unicorns, and sabertooth tigers. and yes, this album is about a psychedelic battle between the balrog and the “Lord of Lightning”. This one is a trip. No drugs required.
Favorite Track: Disc One
Voices in the Void
This is not your grandfather's jazz. This is not your father’s jazz. This is some futuristic, robot made jazz. It’s frantic, chaotic, and… some other word that ends in “-otic”.
Favorite Track: "N-Drift"
|27||Make Them Suffer|
The metal scene, in many respects, is over-saturated. Like many other music scenes, there are so many acts, some imitating, some not, some stuck in a cycle of repeating past successes, some blazing ahead and trying new things. “Worlds Apart” is an album that tries something new, adding glittering synth leads and a female vocalist to juxtapose the roars of their lead vocalist. The layers work, and as a result this album has many stand out moments.
Favorite Track: "Uncharted"
|28||Anne Quillier 6tet|
A more traditional jazz release. A lot of interesting things going on here, rhythmically and tonally. Wish I knew more about jazz...
Favorite Track: "Forget and Hope Now"
This is a smart album. Great rhymes and flows. It’s very reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest. A lot of great bangers and catchy hooks. One of the many hip-hop albums that shouldn’t be skipped this year.
Favorite Track: "Rockabye Baby"
A lot of times when bands do a comeback album it falls flat on its face. “Material Control” is not one of those albums. It’s louder, more aggressive, and far less accessible than anything the band has released up until this point. It sounds like a band willing to take risks, which is a bold move considering the bands last LP was fifteen years ago. If this album is a sign of things to come it’s going to be an exciting future for Glassjaw.
Favorite Track: "Shira"
This is the album that King Crimson forgot to make. Like… literally. A huge throwback to 70’s prog. This would be an excellent one to have in your vinyl collection, especially if you just love throwing on a coherent, well executed album.
Favorite Track: "The Tower"
|32||Open Mike Eagle|
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
The narrative that runs through this one is excellent. It’s a wonderful tribute to the projects where so many of our youth grow up. It plays like a daydream (as the title would suggest): sleepy and dreary. I imagine walking city streets on a cold chicago day, trudging past chain link fences and boarded up windows.
Favorite Track: "(How Could Anybody) Feel At Home"
|33||II II II (UK)|
This album is groovy. There are definitely some really weird vocal patterns and rhythms but the crazy thing is is all works. A lot of tongue and cheek lyrics make this fun to return to and dig into.
Favorite Track: "Artificial Idiocy"
This album is meant to be listened to in one who listening session. Although this album does have really heavy moments it’s also very atmospheric. It’s a vast soundscape and it’s worth allowing yourself the opportunity to get lost in it, even if only for a brief moment. Yes, I included two songs, but honestly you need the songs to build off one another.
Favorite Track: "Alpha" into "The White"
I wondered if these guys would make the list somewhere along the line. For a while “Saturation 2” was on the list, but ultimately it fell off. That album had some catchy hooks, but it had nothing that really drew me and made me feel pumped up. This album, however, does. It’s full of the moments that made the previous two (yes, they released three albums this year) eyebrow raising, but there’s a little bit more of an edge to this one. If there was one act on this list that I could predict is going to blow up the scene soon, it’s these guys.
Favorite Track: "Boogie"