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Sowing's 2017

I deleted all 125 of my lists and am now archiving my favorite albums from each year of the previous decade. Just my way of trimming my profile and making it a bit leaner/meaner. List is straightforward; these are my 20 favorite releases from 2017
20The Shins

The Shins' lowest average rated album on Sputnik just might be my favorite of theirs. They haven't been innovative in a very long time, if they ever truly were, and this is just one insanely infectious indie-pop tune after another. Very relaxed and fun experience.
19Broken Social Scene
Hug of Thunder

This is a gorgeous record all around. Acoustic and electric guitars dominate the soundscape, with plenty of harmony in the layered choruses. It's warm but ominous at the same time; truly a product of its namesake.
18Tyler, the Creator
Flower Boy

Album caused a brief resurgence in my hip-hop listening, which is a minor achievement in itself. More importantly, this was how I discovered my new favorite hip-hop artist. I do think that Igor is the better record, but this is still excellent. Very diverse, melodic, and atmospheric album.
17Taylor Swift

I get some of the hate for this (the rap inclusions are iffy, her "bad girl" image isn't believable), but the songwriting and hooks are just as memorable as they ever were for Swift. 'I Did Something Bad's bridge is awesome, 'Don't Blame Me' feels like some villainous anthem, 'Delicate' is a danceable electro-ballad, 'Getaway Car' could have been a highlight on 1989, and 'New Year's Day' is one of her prettiest and most heartwarming ballads ever. I could go on but I won't, just give this another chance if you dismissed it for its themes/aesthetic.
16Dirty Projectors
Dirty Projectors

Another one that got at least partially written off, this time because it went in a pop/R&B direction. This is an experimental record even by DP's standards, and while the bitter breakup lyrics are occasionally cringey, the atmospheres and melodies are unforgettably heartwrenching.
15Benjamin Clementine
I Tell A Fly

One of the weirdest albums/artists you'll ever hear. His strange singing style and the crazy experimentation make this difficult to listen to often, but under the right circumstances, this is the work of a musical genius.
14Phoebe Bridgers
Stranger In The Alps

One of the most influential singer/songwriter folk albums of the decade. It seems any woman who writes a solo album now gets compared to Phoebe, but it's only because of how amazing this is. It set the new standard with jaw-dropping vocals, simple-but-beautiful lyrics, and stunning arrangements.
13Father John Misty
Pure Comedy

Not the game changer that Honeybear was, and more than just a bit bloated, but there's enough quality content here to warrant a top-15 inclusion. FJM writes his thesis on the fatal flaws of mankind, and through his sarcasm and twisted narratives, it's difficult not to go along for the ride.
12Peter Silberman

The Antlers' frontman makes his comeback after nearly losing his hearing. This is a very quiet lo-fi offering, but he hasn't lost his touch one bit. In many ways, his struggles make this album all the more emotionally affecting.
11Circa Survive
The Amulet

This was my (very late) intro to this influential post-hardcore band, and although I've come to prefer Blue Sky Noise, this is still a close second. The atmospheres here are actually a little tighter and the tracklist more consistent; it just lacks those incredible moments that blow me away (the closer notwithstanding).
10St. Vincent

This was one of my biggest growers for 2017. I think it's the stunning ballads here that won me over, particularly 'Happy Birthday, Johnny' and 'Slow Disco'. The whole album is a little uneven, with a head-scratcher every 2-3 songs that probably could have been omitted, but most of this hits its target and does so better than any other recent indie/art pop that I've heard.
After Laughter

I expected this to be terrible. The first couple of singles were synth-bound, 80s influenced pop songs which didn't exactly mesh with my idea of what Paramore was supposed to sound like. The singles, while they grew on me, were the worst songs. The album is an amazing transformation from pop-punk to staright-up pop, and it's consistently catchy as all hell. This is my second favorite Paramore record to Brand New Eyes.
8Perfume Genius
No Shape

The bombastic and sleek production make this sound larger than life, when it wants to. The slower moments range from breezy and summery ('Just Like Love') to complex and mysterious ('Sides'). It reminds me of a better (?) version of Sufjan Stevens. Is that blasphemy? I can live with that statement for now, I think.

This is the slowest and most subtle alt-J has ever been, but it's also the best they've ever been. '3WW' is a mesmerizing hearthside ballad, I don't know how anything can be catchier than 'Deadcrush's chorus, 'Adeline' reminds me of Led Zeppelin, 'Last Year' is a tear-jerker, and 'Pleader' is a heavenly curtain call. I'll forever defend the merits of this moody, atmospheric gem. How is this their lowest rated album?
6Gang of Youths
Go Farther in Lightness

Imagine that The National took inspiration from Bruce Springsteen, and then were produced by Jack Antenoff to sound as huge as possible. That's basically Go Farther in Lightness, a hugely emotional album that relies on its silver linings to pull it through. This could have been AOTY if 2017 wasn't stacked.
5The National
Sleep Well Beast

If it weren't for High Violet, this would easily be my favorite National record. It's even more low-key and soft-spoken than this group's trademark brand, and it comes with a sense of boring adult disengagement that I'm increasingly relating to. It's about trying to stay in touch with the things that make you feel, failing at it, and ultimately fading into oblivion. For being so emotionless and cold, SWB makes me feel more than any other National album, and more than 99% of music in general.

This is my pop AOTD. Artful and infectious, Melodrama takes the mundane moments of life and projects them upon the big screen in fluorescent lighting. It dramatizes every first kiss, every breakup, and every night spent reminiscing. It's the highest of youthful highs, celebrating being the life of the party - and the lowest of lows, lamenting coming home to an empty apartment afterwards and going to bed alone. This can go from on top of the world ('Green Light') to devastated and alone on a dime ('Liability'), and that's life. It's melodrama, and isn't that how we all view the events in our lives? They're these imagined Hollywood representations of things that are important to us - things we have to make important because no one else will ever care about it like we do.
3Fleet Foxes

I like to refer to Crack-Up as "Helplessness Blues for people who want more out of life." It sounds condescending, but all I really mean is that this is everything that the band's alleged magnum opus is, only better. It is more experimental. It has borderline progressive song structures. It has an infusion of classical elements. And through all of this, it's still sweeping, gorgeous, and memorable. The best Fleet Foxes album, and one of the best folk records of the decade.
2Brand New
Science Fiction

Brand New dropped this out of thin air after 8 years of inactivity, and somehow still exceeded the massively unrealistic expectations that came as a result of building a near-perfect discography. Combining the riffy, angsty rock of their latter days with the melodies and hooks of their earlier days, Science Fiction is a career resume that holds up as one of the band's strongest works.
1Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface

An emotional magnum opus. Black Mile takes everything sleek and bombastic about Simple Math (their other magnum opus) and improves upon it - the vocals are more intense, the production is better, the layering denser, and the lyrics darker. This is an album that is, in a lot of ways, about the joys and fears of fatherhood - but the meaning of each song could be interpreted and appreciated on any level by any person. I've cried to this album before, which isn't something I can say about...well, any other album. This is art that truly moves and inspires. Best of 2017, best of the decade, and top-5 in my lifetime. If you like poignant indie-rock in any capacity whatsoever, this is 100% essential listening.
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