How I came to this list was I looked back on every album that came out in 2017 and I remembered reviewing positively, which left me with about 50 albums. From there I did some rough ordering until I came up with the 25 albums I knew were my favorites. Once I had that list, I did a preliminary list of where I thought things would end up, and listened to every album again to make any adjustments to the rankings.
If I didn’t get to your favorite albums of the year or there are some notable exceptions on my list, know in your heart that this is a one-man operation and I probably just didn’t care enough to put the work in to find whatever you’re complaining about.
It has also come to my attention in creating this list that I need to work on finding cover art images of a standard size for futures.
So with little ado, here are my favorite albums of 2017.
25. The Mountain Goats, Goths
This album actually disappointed me on the relisten. It’s still a very good album, and I still feel he nailed what my memory of being a high school goth was like, but I expected it to be closer to 15 in the rankings. This isn’t the best The Mountain Goats have to offer, but it’s pretty remarkable that he can keep making consistently rad music something like 10+ albums deep into his career.
24. Miles Donahue, The Bug
Sweet Jazz is like candy.
23. The Contortionist, Clairvoyant
This album surprised me in that I spent a lot of time unsure whether I loved this or hated it. But after listening to the album about 20 times over the year and not cringing once, I had to come to terms with my love for it. It’s not as metal as I usually like, it’s not as TOOL as I want them to be, it’s not as space-agy as I want it to be, but somehow it blends together in a way that keeps me coming back for more.
22. Nine Inch Nails, Add Violence
I don’t always love NIN, but when they work they do some heavy lifting. This album/EP is spectacular from start to finish, and is the first NIN album I’ve sat with since With Teeth. As a former wannabe goth kid, gotta give a significant portion of my love to Trent Reznor.
21. Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Vol. 1
This is just some good country about being rad and smoking weed and loving women. I didn’t know there was a market for a new Willy Nelson, but I’ll be damned if Chris Stapleton doesn’t get my vote to try to fill those shoes.
20. Joey Bada$$, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
Quality rap will out, and this is quality with a capitol K. Some scathing reviews of Trump, which I appreciate, but some solid rapping and production. I didn’t want this album to be in my Top 20, but it’s hard to argue with results.
19. The National, Sleep Well Beast
I’m still dipping my toes into The National, but these guys are a pleasant surprise every time I listen to them. They’re very much a thing unto themselves in terms of the mood I have to be in to give them a spin, but whenever I do I have a good time.
18. Valerie June, The Order of Time
I wanted this album to be higher on my list, and I think if I were more objective about craft and talent Valerie June would be higher up. But because I’m me and this is all filtered through me this only squeeks into the top 20.
17. Sorority Noise, You’re Not as ____ as You Think
I’m so glad fresh Emo exists in 2017. One of my favorite finds of Emo Spring, this album is solid all the way through. A little hard to listen to for me considering the subject matter, but “No Halo” will forever be one of my favorite songs in the genre.
16. Paramore, After Laughter
I don’t want to like this album. I am a pop-punk loyalist and am disappointed that they didn’t stick with the fresh aesthetic they brought to the scene back with their debut album.
15. Run the Jewels, RTJ3
I reviewed this in 2016, but the album was technically released in 2017 (thanks RTJ for the spoilers and the Christmas Miracle!). It wasn’t on my original list, but I saw it on someone else’s Top X list and figured if it counted for them it counts for me. From there it just kept climbing until it settled here.
14. Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me
I actually didn’t re-listen to all of this because the subject matter is way too heavy. The stripped back folk-y approach brings the lyrics to the fore-front in a way that Sorority Noise’s loud energy doesn’t. Still superb from start to back.
13. Lorde, Melodrama
I did not give this enough of a go this year, and I’m sure if I listened to it more it would climb higher on the list. Do not make the same mistakes I made.
12. Iron & Wine, Beast Epic
This would also climb my list if I listened to it more. I was sold from the opening track.
11. HAIM, Something to Tell
HAIM is one of the bands I was most excited about new music from. Their debut album was not only phenomenal but became a real staple of my listening diet. Having not grown up on too much Fleetwood Mac or Blondie their classic-pop-rock-fusion thing really speaks to my sensibilities.
10. Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
This album is like “Whoa” and surprises me every time I listen to it. I’m not sure why I can’t ever remember what Waxahatchee sounds like going in, but I find the end result all the more pleasant for it. Maybe I just need to dig deeper. Decisions, decisions…
9. Remo Drive, Greatest Hits
This album is probably sitting at an inflated spot on my list, but goddamnit do I love this band. Remo Drive is responsible for Emo Spring 2017, they set me on a quest for the freshest of Third Wave Emo, and they do a stellar job of making me feel 16 in a way that includes zero shame or footnotes. Just suburban emo kids doing suburban emo kid things. Also, the music video for “Yer Killin’ Me” is one of my favorites ever.
8. Kesha, Rainbow
I stand by everything I’ve ever said about this album: it’s a loose conglomeration of all kinds of pop that are only held together by Kesha’s incredible performances on this record. But the hits, specifically “Praying” and “Woman” reach such high highs that they carry this album up into the Top 10.
7. St. Vincent, MASSEDUCTION
I don’t understand this album. But I can’t stop listening to this album, either. It’s a bit of a left turn for St. Vincent, but I’m still 100% on board for the ride.
6. Father John Misty, Pure Comedy
Not unlike HAIM, sometimes you just need some neo-X-fusion, where the X in this case is Elton John. But if he sang about VR and drugs and other nonsensical things. I don’t usually find such blatant references to things appealing, but here they just work. Probably because the music and melodies are so distractingly beautiful that I find myself asking “did he just make a Taylor Swift reference?” while getting lost in the sea of serenade.
5. Brand New, Science Fiction
My favorite band released what could be their best album and the only reason this didn’t get my number 1 of the year speaks to the quality of the rest of my top 5.
4. Margot Price, All American Made
If all country music sounded like this I’d buy a stetson and move to Texas. And I fucking hate Texas. Unless it’s immediately followed by “is the Reason”.
3. AJR, The Click
In preparing for this list I was sad to learn that some people think this is among the worst albums of 2017, if not ever. Those people are wrong and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. This album is FUN. This album makes people happy. This album has some pretty great male harmonies, with or without the auto-tune. For all your chair-wigglin’-sing-a-long needs, I recommend AJR.
2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
I really wanted this to be number 1. It’s so good with the hooks and the songs and the guest spots. Kendrick’s B-Sides make better albums than most of your favorite rappers’. Kendrick’s verses are more versatile than the entire range of Leatherman multi-tools. But if I’m being honest with myself, if my listening options are between this and my number 1, I have to give it to…
1. Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
THIS RECORD KEEPS BANGIN’ I FUCK WITH THIS ALBUM. “Tell the President to suck a dick because we own ya” will be tattoo’d across 2017’s chest in my memory, and that’s a late-in-the-album gem. When I think I’m getting sick of this album, Vince Staples turns up all the notches. I was a bit trepidatious when I originally reviewed this album in the interest of trying to stay objective and be honest about the lack of diversity he delivers, but the only thing I think I like more than Vince Staples right now is motherfucking NAILS, who only missed being on this list by nature of their last record being released in 2016.
So in summation, NAILS wins 2017, but if we’re limiting it to albums released in 2017, then see above.
As to where I’ve been lately, well, my mom died. It was a few days before Thanksgiving, which has been distracting, to say the least. Emotional and personal turmoil would be more accurate, but I pretend to not be dramatic. I’ve been too vacant and numb to keep up with this project, but I’ll get back to it soon enough.
The truth of the matter is writing in general terrifies me, because I’m a good boy of Protestant upbringing who would rather stuff pain on top of the pain to make a pain sandwich I can then devour and let sit in my belly, and writing is often akin to emotional vomit. I’m just not ready to see what comes up, I guess.
My plan right now is to take the rest of December off, returning in January. I’ll also be changing up the format: instead of blogging every day, I plan on doing 2-3 posts a week. I’ll still be listening to an album a day, and giving my more glib responses to Twitter (@JasonRomagni).
To hold you over for the next week or so, here are what I thought were the best albums of 2017, with or without explanation.