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01.16.18 Favorite Albums of 201702.09.17 Favorite Albums of 2016
04.12.16 Favorite Albums of 2015

Favorite Albums of 2017

In a year of underperforming pop albums (I’d say underwhelming, but I didn’t listen to releases from Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, etc.), Lorde’s Melodrama seemed to stand above the rest in terms of critical acclaim. And rightly so. Lorde’s songwriting greatly matured over the 4 years between albums, which is crazy to think because she was already unbelievably mature on Pure Heroine. Yes, Melodrama is produced by Jack Antonoff (who seemingly had his hands on everything this year), but this still feels very much true to Lorde. There’s a pop sensibility to the album with the dark, gloomy twist that made Lorde famous.

FAVORITE TRACKS: Green Light, Liability, Hard Feelings/Loveless, Sober II (Melodrama), Perfect Places
9Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

This album is insane. There’s no other way to put it. Every other song on this thing seems to soar to unimaginable heights, whether it be through a cathartic chorus or a beautifully arranged string piece. It’s a massive, over-the-top arena rock album that would fit comfortably next to Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor, or almost any U2 album. By the time you reach “Say Yes To Life” at the end, you can help but scream in unison with vocalist David Le’aupepe. This album took me completely by surprise with its fervor and energy, which reminds me so much of The Jezabels’s Synthia from last year––so much so that I decided to award Go Farther In Lightness with the inaugural “The Jezabels Honorary Cathartic, Euphoric, Massive, Epic Arena Rock Album That I Didn’t Know I Needed of the Year.”

FAVORITE TRACKS: Fear and Trembling, What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?, Keep Me In The Open, Achilles Come Down, Le symbolique, Let Me Down Easy, Say Yes To Life
8Sound of Ceres
The Twin

Sound of Ceres’s previous release Nostalgia For Infinity was my favorite album from last year, so of course, I was highly anticipating this album. And while The Twin may not be as immediately accessible or beautiful as the previous one, it’s just as rewarding if you take the time to sink into it. On the surface, it seems as though Sound of Ceres’s sound hasn’t changed much between the two records. The icy synths and weightless vocals are still very much present, but The Twin feels more mechanical and colder than Nostalgia. The album feels more vast, more open, which is fitting as the theme of the album is one of planetary exploration. Sound of Ceres doesn’t make music and songs so much as they make different worlds and experiences to immerse yourself in and explore every nook and cranny of.

FAVORITE TRACKS: Gemini Scenic, Outer Century, Solar Mirror 9, Eden V
7Alex Lahey
I Love You Like A Brother

I’ve got a potentially corny but somewhat accurate way to describe this album: Australian surf rock. This album is essentially a surf rock album, but with a bigger bite and more of an edge to it. Also, Alex Lahey is Australian. It works out perfectly. Album highlight “Backpack,” one of the more lavishly produced tracks on the album, has a wonderful build-up including but not limited to glockenspiels, xylophones, pianos, and a horn section, culminates in a soaring and furious guitar solo. The whole album is packed with impossibly catchy hooks and choruses, and it’s easy to find yourself singing along after only a couple of listens.

FAVORITE TRACKS: Everyday’s the Weekend, I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself, Backpack, I Want U, Let’s Call It a Day, There’s No Money
6Lina Tullgren

I had the absolute privilege of seeing Lina perform twice last year, and let me tell you, she’s a treat. She takes the groundwork she laid in her Wishlist EP from last year and completely expands upon it. Won features the same simple song structure and thoughtful lyrics but adds a full backing band to it. The singles “Asktell” and “Fitchburg State” make full use of the new sounds, while “Perfect” and “Get Lost” utilize them to accent Tullgren and her guitar in the choruses. Tullgren’s low-fi sound is still here too, but almost a little too much at points (notably after the 2nd chorus in “Fitchburg State,” where the cymbals peak in the mix briefly). The additional instrumentation is certainly welcome, but I feel as though Tullgren is at her strongest when she’s at her sparsest––”Red Dawn” and “Slow” being prime examples of this. Great stuff all around.

FAVORITE TRACKS: Asktell, Perfect, Face Off, Red Dawn, Fitchburg State, Slow, Summer Sleeper
5Phoebe Bridgers
Stranger In The Alps

I saw Phoebe open for Julien Baker back in 2015, and, at the time, I thought she was pretty good but vastly inferior to Julien. If you had told me then that she’d release a better album than Julien in 2017, I would have thought you were crazy. But it happened. Phoebe Bridgers released a better album than Julien Baker in 2017 (shoutout to Julien for releasing the best Daughter album in 2017, though). Oh man, this album is heartbreaking. A lot of the albums on this list are a lot of fun to listen to but don’t go into this expecting a good time. The entire album is wonderfully and thoughtfully written and arranged, maintaining a quiet tenderness though a specter of death and depression loom overhead. It’s an interesting companion piece with Julien’s Sprained Ankle, as Phoebe’s work doesn’t contain the same hopefulness that Julien’s does (most likely due to Julien’s faith and Phoebe’s seeming lack thereof).

FAVORITE TRACKS: Smoke Signals, Motion Sickness, Funeral, Georgia, Chelsea

Alvvays make a leap on this album, but it wasn’t until I was able to see Alvvays in concert & hearing songs from Alvvays and Antisocialites played back-to-back that I realized how big that leap was. Their self-titled album was fairly fun, if somewhat generic, jangle pop record. Antisocialites takes what was good about the first album, and injects it with a shot of musical steroids. The songs are more upbeat & dancey, the hooks are even tighter, & the production greatly benefits from John Congleton (whose credits include St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky, Baroness, & Manchester Orchestra). The listener knows within the first 10 seconds of the opening track “In Undertow” that this is a much more full & lavish record than the previous. There’s a personality & vibrancy to this album that just wasn’t present on the first one.

FAVORITE TRACKS: In Undertow, Dreams Tonight, Your Type, Not My Baby, Hey, Saved By a Waif, Forget About Life
3Jay Som
Everybody Works

Everybody Works is among the more sonically diverse yet cohesive projects I’ve heard this year. [Melina] Duterte acknowledges and embraces her eclectic songwriting but added in an interview with Pitchfork, “you know it’s me.” Indeed, this is the case on Everybody Works, as there’s something embedded in the midst of the tracks—some jangly, some jazzy, and some fuzzy—that signifies it as a Jay Som track. Perhaps it’s the lushness and layering of the instrumentation; perhaps it’s the emotions and insecurities expressed; perhaps it’s something more—something that defies description. It may be a combination of any one of those three, but whatever it is, it makes for a very good album.

FAVORITE TRACKS: The Bus Song; One More Time, Please; Baybee; (BedHead); Everybody Works; For Light
2Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface

The thing that immediately jumps out at the listener are the vocal harmonies all over the album. It feels as though there’s a choir of Andy Hulls on the chorus of so many tracks, with “The Maze” and “The Alien” being standouts in terms of vocal arrangement. The entirety of side A (“The Maze” through “The Grocery”) is absolutely flawless, but I just want to take a moment to talk about “The Moth.” The song itself is fairly complex, with polyrhythms weaving in and out of one another, but the chorus is something else entirely. This chorus, which sounds like approximately 250 Andy Hulls screaming, drowns out anything else that may be going on around the listener. It commands your attention. It’s an overwhelming, explosive release of pent-up emotion and energy, which is a pretty good description of much of Manchester Orchestra’s discography, I suppose.

FAVORITE TRACKS: The Maze; The Gold; The Moth; Lead, SD; The Alien; The Sunshine; The Grocery; The Silence
1Remo Drive
Greatest Hits

Sometimes, it’s really hard for me to explain why I love an album so much. But the thing about music is that you don’t need a list of specific reasons why you like something. Sometimes all it takes is that it puts a big stupid grin on your face. That’s what Greatest Hits does for me. I know it’s not terribly unique in the realm of emo/punk/garage rock, but man, is the songwriting sharp on this album. The lyrics are clever and humorous, which bleeds into the structure of the songs; bless the Remo boys for putting FIVE false endings at the end of “Hunting For Sport.” Each song is incredibly catchy and addictive––I can’t tell you how many times one of them would come up on shuffle and I would just end up listening to the rest of the album. This album is easily the most fun I had listening to music all year.

FAVORITE TRACKS: Art School, Hunting For Sport, Crash Test Rating, Eat Shit, Trying 2 Fool U, Yer Killin’ Me, I’m My Own Doctor, Name Brand
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