My Favorite Music of 2017
“Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.”
— Jacques Attali
2017 marks ten years that I’ve been writing about my favorite new music releases. Naturally, milestones are an opportunity to reflect on why you’re doing something and what it means to you.
The hardest part of this exercise each year undoubtedly is what to write about each album. Do you try to describe the sounds as objectively as possible, in the hopes that someone will think it sounds like something he or she would like? Do you share personal anecdotes about how you discovered and connected to the music? Do you go gonzo, offering some strange beat poetry conjured by images the music evokes in your head? More importantly, do you try to thread a narrative through these albums about the year you believe you and/or the world have had and what this combination does (or doesn’t) say about it?
I’ve tried all of these approaches over the years, to varying degrees of self-satisfaction or interest from others. I’ve learned to do what feels right each year. After all, the exercise is for me alone.
Taking that into consideration, I don’t want to do any of those things this year — I’d rather let the the music do the talking. (That’s partly because to dogpile on the state of the world feels like a fruitless exercise and partly because this combination of records painted a surprising picture for me.)
This is my time capsule, and if I can trust what time has proven true again and again, the sounds will remind me what I need to remember about 2017 better than my words ever will.
Taking a page from Sasha Frere-Jones’ playbook, I kept a spreadsheet throughout the year of albums I listened to all the way through at least twice. From there, I narrowed it down to the following 40 that stuck with me between listens. I’ve compiled a choice cut from each album in the Spotify playlist below.
40. Endless Boogie — Vibe Killer (No Quarter)
39. Teleplasmiste — Frequency Is The New Ecstasy (House of Mythology)
38. Vallenfyre — Fear Those Who Fear Him (Century Media)
37. Culture Shock — Culture Shock (Youth Attack)
36. Moonchild — Voyager (Tru Thoughts)
35. Dasher — Sodium (Jagjaguwar)
34. Part Chimp — IV (Rock Action)
33. Ulver — The Assassination of Julius Caesar (House of Mythology)
32. Pissed Jeans — Why Love Now (Sub Pop)
31. Temple of Void — Lords of Death (Shadow Kingdom)
30. Justin Walter — Unseen Forces (Kranky)
29. GNOD — Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (Rocket)
28. Binker & Moses — Journey to the Mountain of Forever (Gearbox)
27. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard & Mild High Club — Sketches of Brunswick East (Flightless / ATO)
26. Impalers — Cellar Dweller (Dark Operative)
25. Here Lies Man — Here Lies Man (RidingEasy)
24. Power Trip — Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
23. Tyler Childers — Purgatory (Hickman Holler)
22. Yazz Ahmed — La Saboteuse (Naim)
21. Buried Feather — Mind of the Swarm (Cobra Snake Necktie)
20. Washed Out — Mister Mellow (Stones Throw)
19. God Mother — Vilseledd (Party Smasher Inc.)
18. Big K.R.I.T. — 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time (Multi Alumni)
17. Toke — Toke (“Orange”) (self-released)
16. Missios — Mellan Människor (Welfare Sounds)
15. Alessandro Cortini — Avanti (Point of Departure)
14. Various Artists — Wayfaring Strangers: Acid Nightmares (Numero Group)
13. Chelsea Wolfe — Hiss Spun (Sargent House)
12. Dauwd — Theory of Colours (Technicolour)
11. Crooked Bangs — II (Nervous Intent)
10. Gucci Mane — Mr. Davis (Atlantic)
09. Converge — The Dusk In Us (Epitaph)
08. Quicksand — Interiors (Epitaph)
07. Queens of the Stone Age — Villains (Matador)
06. Migos — Culture (Quality Control Music)
05. Chuck Johnson — Balsams (VDSQ)
04. Ball — Ball (Horny)
03. Once and Future Band — Once and Future Band (Castle Face)
02. He Is Legend — few (Spinefarm)
01. Run the Jewels — Run the Jewels 3 (Run the Jewels, Inc.)
In addition to the many albums I enjoyed front-to-back, I also dug many a beat, vibe, riff, tone, drone, hook, harmony, melody, or eccentricity, the most memorable of which I’ve captured in the Spotify playlist below. I’ve alphabetized them — it’s the only way to avoid feeling like they’re in rank order — and it’s fun to let ‘er rip in order or on shuffle.
It’s just about the most eclectic collection of songs I’ve ever put together, and it’s a thrill to jump headspace to headspace between tracks, feeling the friction of each distinct vibe as one jumps into another.
Looking back on the last five years, musicians have been on an incredible run. Perhaps it’s the sustained access to new influences. Perhaps it’s these concrete times from which roses must grow. Whatever the reason, I hope it continues.
If you got anything at all out of these songs, please resolve to support music in 2018: go to more shows, buy some merch, and most importantly, find (or start!) an organization in your area that supports independent or aspiring musicians*. Music gives us joy, hope, and connection like nothing else can when we need it the most — it’s a sacred gift worth protecting. As we move into 2018, may we carry with us a mantra Tom Morello recently shared onstage: “Show up. Join up. Read up. Stand up. Rise up.”
*In ATL, for instance, we have the Georgia Music Foundation, Georgia Music Partners, Atlanta Music Project, the Gift of Music Foundation, and more. If there’s a Georgia-focused musicians’ relief fund (like the Musicians Foundation, Sweet Stuff, or Sweet Relief), please let me know and I’ll add it!