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12.11.18 Sowing's Week 15 Picks12.08.18 Sowing's 10 Best Songs of 2018
12.07.18 Sowing's 2018 EPs12.06.18 Sowing's Top 25 of 2018
12.05.18 Sowing's Bleeps and Bloops12.04.18 Sowing's Week 14 Picks
11.27.18 Sowing's Week 13 Picks11.20.18 Sowing's Week 12 Picks
11.13.18 Sowing's Week 11 Picks11.12.18 Re-Ranking Muse
11.06.18 Sowing's Week 10 Picks10.30.18 Sowing's Week 9 Picks
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10.15.18 [Untitled] Lyrics10.12.18 A mwY Mixtape
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Sowing's Top 25 of 2017

I'm not sure when commenting on the blog will be functional again, so I'm retiring the SMA's (Sowing's Music Awards) that I did in years past in favor of a more humble, straightforward list. This year was harder to rank than any year I can remember, with so many great albums yet only a few clear stand-outs. Read the descriptions and rankings below, and then let me know what reason you picked for this list being terrible (where's the metal, too much pop, U2, etc.) in the comments to follow. Thanks!
25The Districts
Popular Manipulations


The Districts almost slipped off my radar when making this list, which would have been a crime. Their heartwrenching, firmly rock-rooted brand of indie is the stuff that bands like The National are made of. The Districts pour their heart into Popular Manipulations, which ends up feeling like a night of stumbling about the London streets, drunk and just knowing you could win your ex back if only you could find the right words. It's the kind of album that aches with you, and then grows with you as well. // Track to hear: "If Before I Wake"
24Dryjacket
For Posterity


When The World is a Beautiful Place...inevitably gets most of the accolades in the realm of the year's top emo records, Dryjacket will sadly get omitted from many people's lists. For Posterity is a very satisfying blend of emo, math rock, and pop punk. The intricate guitar work gives the album a technical edge, while the vocalist delivers one earworm chorus after another with ease. After this debut, expect to hear Dryjacket's name get dropped a lot more in future emo discussion rings. // Track to hear: "Epi Pen Pals"
23Teen Daze
Themes for a New Earth


The second half of Teen Daze's "Themes for Dying Earth" is more subtle, imaginative, and brilliant. Entirely instrumental, the record glides across beauteous electro-folk soundscapes crafted with the intention of transporting you to the most peaceful and natural of settings. It's one of those albums that you're not going to remember to spin every week, but when you do put it on, you'll instantly be at peace. If you enjoy dream pop or chillwave, don't let this fall off your radar. // Track to hear: "Kilika"
22Peter Silberman
Impermanence


What a grower. Impermanence began as little more than a nice collector's piece, as I'm a huge fan of The Antlers. It doesn't really ensnare your interest, in part because it relies on you to immerse yourself in Silberman's world - this quiet, incredibly painful road to recovery after nearly having lost his hearing. But once you sink into it, it's just as gorgeous as anything he's done with The Antlers - don't let its remarkable subtleness and timidity fool you. // Track to hear: "New York"
21U2
Songs of Experience


Now this was unexpected. Before you get all ruffled and ready to tout your musical superiority, make note of the fact that I'm the most casual of U2 fans. I haven't heard more than half of their discog, haven't exhausted their most popular works, and pretty much just listen to them when they're on. Songs of Experience is chock-full of beautiful melodies with good lyrics, and I'd place about four or five of them in the top 25 U2 songs that I've heard. It's no Joshua Tree, but at this point in their careers it doesn't have to be. // Track to hear: "Get Out Of Your Own Way"
20The Afghan Whigs
In Spades


Candidate for most overlooked album of the year. Since making their comeback in 2014, The Afghan Whigs have released two excellent albums - Do To The Beast and now In Spades. This one carries some extra weight with the sudden passing of guitarist Dave Rosser after his battle with inoperable colon cancer, and the actual content on the album also marks improvement over Beast. It's consistent from start to end, featuring a very enjoyable balance between the band's straightforward rock and more vulnerable moments. // Track to hear: "Toy Automatic"
19Tyler, the Creator
Flower Boy


If you've even so much as lurked on this site over the last several years, you'll know that hip-hop isn't really my genre of choice. That means when one lands in my top albums of the year list, that it's very much deserved. Flower Boy is a brilliant hip-hop album. It possesses extremely clever lyrics, gorgeous and unexpected arrangements, and memorable melodies throughout. I don't have any other experience with Tyler, The Creator in order to provide much more added context, but colour me a major fan of this particular work as well as anything follows. // Track to hear: "See You Again"
18Depeche Mode
Spirit


The 2016 elections mind-fucked a lot of people, and Spirit was an album that immediately capitalized on that sense of disillusionment. Tracks like "Going Backwards" felt like a mockery of Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, while "The Worst Crime" tackled everything from fake news to hate crimes. The political makeup of this album is actually only about 50%, but it's moments like these that hit hardest and allow Spirit to remain entrenched in our minds as we look back at a very divisive year. // Track to hear: "Where's The Revolution"
17Roger Waters
Is This The Life We Really Want?


In keeping with the political mindset that dominated 2017, the year also saw Roger Waters drop one of the most lyrically potent pieces in recent memory. While his voice sounds gruff and weathered, a product of both age and design, his penning here sound less like a musician looking to fit in with trends and more like a founding father rolling in his grave. His cry of "Mistress Liberty, how we abandoned thee!" is particularly chilling. Much of Is This The Life We Really Want feels like 2017's answer to The Wall - bitter, anxious, and chomping at the bit. // Track to hear: "Picture That"
16Broken Social Scene
Hug of Thunder


I can't listen to Hug of Thunder without picturing a waterfall. It just feels like this huge rush of sound; dueling guitars alongside crashing drums with celebratory vocals, it's all here. Broken Social Scene have returned to music with one of the most optimistic and embracing albums, possibly ever, and there's no shortage of stunning indie-rock melodies to position BCS's latest as one of the year's premier releases. // Track to hear: "Halfway Home"
15Grizzly Bear
Painted Ruins


Grizzly Bear has always been the definition of a 3.5 star artist to me, which I realize is blasphemous considering I'm supposed to be all about the indie-rock/folk. They've always been above average, but have never clicked at that next level - that is, until Painted Ruins dropped in 2017. There's a smoothness to the production here, something almost Radiohead-esque that makes everything a little crisper, a little more dynamic, and a little better. Combine it with the fact that these are 11 of the tightest, most immediate tunes of the band's career, and you have a top-15 record. // Track to hear: "Sky Took Hold"
14Circa Survive
The Amulet


Somehow, I managed to avoid the Circa Survive hype my entire life and The Amulet became my introduction to the band. In spite of how backwards that progression is, I'm glad it happened that way because I feel a special attachment to The Amulet that I imagine most CS fans have with Juturna or BSN. The guitar work is incredible here, the production immaculate, and the vocals much improved. The best way I can describe The Amulet is dense but intricate; there's a consistency here that - comparing to their discography now - seems relatively new. Longtime and new fans both need to hear this. // Track to hear: "The Amulet"
13Taylor Swift
Reputation


There's a lot of reasons to dismiss Taylor Swift nowadays - for starters it's pop music, but pile on any number of reasons pertaining to her personality, associated drama, perceived fakeness, etc. However, I feel that the hate train is a bit premature here, because Reputation doesn't really warrant it. Outside of a few questionable singles, it's a very consistently rewarding pop record. It follows on the heels of 1989, but it's darker, more sexual, and more honest - both about Swift's drama as well as her own role in creating it. This is one of the year's best pop albums, just as we'd expect. Don't pre-judge it. // Track to hear: "Getaway Car"
12Paramore
After Laughter


Lose most of your band members? Check. Totally reinvent yourself as a pop artist? Check. Create a borderline top-10 album? You wouldn't think I'm talking about Paramore, yet here we are. After Laughter embraces change, and is better for it - marking the band's strongest offering since Brand New Eyes. The 80s-pop influence is palpable, but the record is anything but predictable - hell, it features mwY's Aaron Weiss in an incoherent 3-minute ramble. The biggest surprise is just how much Hayley Williams has improved vocally though - a fact made inescapable on the stunning "26." // Track to hear: "Pool"
11St. Vincent
MASSEDUCTION


MASSEDUCTION is one of those albums you'd either love or hate. It started out with me being pretty split - the slower balladry was gorgeous, but the upbeat, sexually affirmative and often flat-out weird tracks took some time. However, once everything had time to sort of congeal, the album became my favorite from Annie Clark. It's her most quirky and uncomfortable offering, but that's what makes it so good. If you refuse to let the initial sense of disarray turn you off, MASSEDUCTION will grow on you rapidly. // Track to hear: "Happy Birthday, Johnny"
10Father John Misty
Pure Comedy


Many people seemed to jump ship on Father John Misty with this release. It's overlong, overindulgent, and altogether makes him seem like a total ass - which he is. But there's something rewarding about the way he embraces all these negative traits and proceeds to tell the world how it should be, through his own biased lens. With his trademark cynicism, Pure Comedy is a lyrical goldmine that establishes FJM as one of the most important, politically outspoken musical figureheads of the millennial generation. After all, aren't we all kind of fucking tools? // Track to hear: "Leaving LA"
9Perfume Genius
No Shape


No Shape is one of those albums that you go into thinking you know what to expect, but then you get floored. Such was the case with the opening trio of jaw-dropping, breathtakingly beautiful tracks here. Once they became regulars in my rotation, the layers started revealing themselves quickly: "Wreath" became essential, and the twangy, somehow forlorn guitars of "Sides" became a personal favorite moment. No Shape is indisputably stunning, and easily one of the year's top-10 albums. If anything, it's a crime it's not ranked higher. // Track to hear: "Just Like Love"
8Dirty Projectors
Dirty Projectors


Longstreth's breakup with Amber Coffman was well-documented in the music community, and while Dirty Projector's self-titled album is forsaken and grayscale lyrically, it is as experimentally vibrant as the project has ever been. Collaborating with the likes of Kanye, Solange, and Joanna Newsom while leading up to this album whet his creative appetite, and "Dirty Projectors" delivers on all fronts with blend of the band's indie roots, hip-hop, jazz, and the sort of glitch-pop that made up Bon Iver's 22, A Million. It's a beautiful mess, which may just be an accurate representation of its creator. // Track to hear: "Keep Your Name"
7The National
Sleep Well Beast


While most bands are constantly aiming for grander, louder, and more complex, The National seem content to continue their gradual retreat inwards. Sleep Well Beast is their most subdued and quiet offering to date, a remarkable feat coming from a band that has always been known for their "buzzes like a fridge" sound. What's even more remarkable is that the less they seemingly do and the more subtle their music becomes, the better they get. SWB is a grower for certain, but just like any National record, it's a relationship well worth the time. Dim the lights and pour a glass of red wine. // Track to hear: "I'll Still Destroy You"
6alt-J
Relaxer


Aside from "3WW" being in the running for many's SOTY, Relaxer was largely dismissed as too inconsistent - and short - to be on par with alt-J's prestigious discography. I'd actually argue that it's their best album. "3WW" is truly something otherworldly, but the entire back half of the record ("Deadcrush" and "Last Year" in particular) all qualify as top-20 alt-J tunes. The cover of "House of the Rising Sun" is executed far better than anyone gives them credit for, and "Pleader" feels like it descended from heaven. Guess I'll have to be alone in my celebration of this as a borderline masterpiece. // Track to hear: "3WW"
5Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness


Gang of Youths came out of nowhere to create a potential AOTY. It's their sophomore record, but Go Farther in Lightness will be the album that puts them on everyone's radar. Featuring a blend of good old down-to-earth rock in the same vein as vintage Springteen, the record will shatter you, pick you back up, and then inspire you. It's a motherfucking rollercoaster, featuring 78 minutes of the most beautiful and emotionally significant rock music to come out this year, or maybe even this decade. I can't recall very many albums that have swept me off my feet like this, and it's almost interchangeable with any of the below four. // Track to hear: "Say Yes to Life"
4Fleet Foxes
Crack-Up


Who would have suspected that Fleet Foxes would top Helplessness Blues, let alone on their very next attempt? That's exactly what Crack-Up does, as it tightens the band's sound, introduces some more mature classical elements, and aims for more ambitious and progressive territories. It's amazing how listening to the final couple minutes of "Cassius", for instance, will make you ponder why Fleet Foxes haven't always been this good. The melodies are less immediate and will take some time to unravel, but when they do - look out. Crack-Up elevates this band to a whole new level. // Track to hear: "Third of May"
3Brand New
Science Fiction


I know. How can this only come in at number 3, for me? There's a lot of explanations, only one of which pertains to the sexual misconduct allegations (I'm separating the artist from the art here, anyway). As time has worn on, SF has started to feel less essential with respect to the band's discography - and unlike the other 4 artists in this top 5, it doesn't even represent their best album. Maybe it's gradually wearing off? I don't know. Science Fiction is still brilliant in every facet though, with "Lit Me Up", "Can't Get It Out", "In The Water", and "137" in particular ranking as top-25 BN songs. It's a must hear album for anyone this year regardless of circumstance. // Track to hear: "In The Water"
2Lorde
Melodrama


What is perfect pop? Does it exist...can it exist? Everyone's definition for what constitutes the ideal pop record seems to differ. For me, it needs to be artful in its approach. It needs to make me feel emotions that the genre typically does not elicit. It needs to capture my attention on a constant basis, with both diversity and cohesiveness. It absolutely has to have staying power. It needs to illustrate progression in the artist's technique. Melodrama does, and is, all of these things. I can't really argue for it any more rationally than that...Lorde has created my personal version of a flawless mainstream pop album. // Track to hear: "Hard Feelings/Loveless"
1Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface


When my top 5 albums are all just about interchangeable, the thing that separates it for me is the personal connection I have with each one, and none could possibly be stronger than the bond I have with this. It means more to me than any other record on this list, even Science Fiction. It topped Simple Math, which I always viewed as an unbeatable milestone in Manchester Orchestra's discography. It got me through one of the most devastating personal experiences of my adult life. It doesn't have a single bad song, and it possesses the most profoundly moving lyrics of the band's career. Musically, it is the most well-put together and produced album of their career. It's a triumph in every way, and it is my 2017 AOTY. // Track to hear: "Lead, SD"
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