I’m not breaking news here when I say 2017 was a shitstorm of a year. All the chaos, political upheaval, catastrophes, tragedy, loss, hate, and appalling leadership amassed a fire in people who felt called to use their voice in protest. Many showed up to protest in person. Some (of course, there’s crossover here) used their art, skills, and reach to pronounce injustice and to unite with those who’ve been impacted the most.
Others simply created art that makes people laugh and smile, which in this environment is a form of protest itself.
Since we’re a music blog, we’ll focus on just that. It would have been easy for artists to hide. To take the “what does it matter anyway?” approach to this year. But fortunately, some of the most talented did not. They’re upset, they’re angry, they’re confused (like us all), and they have a lot to say.
The upside to all of this is that 2017 became a year of incredible new music. Below, the A Song A Day community shares the music released in 2017 that the world really needed to hear. Hope you enjoy! Scroll to the bottom for a Spotify playlist of all 11 albums/songs listed below.
The World, First World Record
curated by: Jesse
“2017 needed The World’s debut LP as a reminder that it’s OK to dance and laugh at the times rather than just sinking under the weight. There’s still all the contempt and mockery for a vapid and shallow culture but it’s dressed up with pop and saxophones. A quick Google and I couldn’t find even a nod to the record on the well-trafficked gatekeeper music websites. But that’s the point of this record.”
LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
curated by: Becky Welch
genre: indie/electronic pop
“As a longtime LCD Soundsystem fan, American Dream is the album I’ve needed for seven years. Their reunion following their massive ‘goodbye’ concert in 2011 was exciting and, thankfully, not a letdown. And anyone who feels a little sick at the general state of things in 2017 will appreciate the lyrics of one of the best tracks, ‘Call the Police.’ It provides interesting commentary on the current political climate, particularly…”
The old guys are frightened and frightening to behold
The kids come out fighting and still doing what they’re told
But you’re waking a monster that will drive you from your hoary holes of gold And your body will get cold
curated by: Mallory Johns
genre: Afro-Cuban inspired pop
“I came across this album pretty late to the game — OK, last month — but I was in a really vulnerable state when I first heard the opening notes of ‘I Carried This for Years,’ and I found myself on the verge of tears. You see, I had just read the news about Matt Lauer, the horrific discovery of slavery in Libya, oh, and it was the morning after North Korea’s latest missile launch. Anyway, I listened to this song — and the whole album — for eight hours straight at work and it became my release.”
“I’ve only recently done some digging into the lives of the twin sisters behind Ibeyi, and boy is it a fascinating one. Do yourself a favor, and listen to everything they’ve ever produced!”
Fever Ray, Plunge
curated by: Danielle Fleischman
genre: freak electronic
“‘That’s not how to love me’ Karin Dreijer croons on the chorus of ‘This Country.’ You want to know how? Provide birth control like you do clean water. Sure, she’s still capable of love, but what’s the point when this country makes it so hard to fuck? What’s the point of anything, really. Better just destroy it now because it’s all boring anyway. It’s a song that’s so raw and oftentimes ugly that it doesn’t really make sense on a year end list. But how does 2017, where we saw an admitted sexual predator sworn into office, make any sense? All politics are personal now, and Dreijer delivers this to us with the awareness that really, it’s been this way all along.”
Shilpa Ray, EMT, Police and the Fire Department
curated by: Julia Maehner
“This song’s lyrics aren’t a political statement, nor is it particularly empowering. It’s simply a story about a night on the Lower East Side in New York City. Yet, Shilpa Ray displays a ferocity and power when delivering the song, making it a furious tale of Manhattan’s nightlife. The world needs this song, because it’s an instant classic. It’s a heartfelt, scathing piece of music in a very musical world, that’s turning more and more tame with pretty melodies and recycled beats. But for me in particular, it’s been an inspiration. As the second single off Shilpa’s latest record Door Girl, which reminded me so much of my time in New York, it set the tone of the album way before its release. Her lyrics, her songs made me think so much about the good, the bad, and the crazy that happened to me in that city. They really bring those memories alive. It makes me want to be a better writer and storyteller.”
The Staves and Y Music, Trouble on My Mind
curated by: Laura Gluhanich
genre: folk, new-classical
“2017 has been a generally terrible year for the force of good in the world. Beautiful, mournful music is necessary. This was an unexpected collaboration across genres that is absolutely gorgeous and transcendent.”
And now a bunch from me… :)
Big Thief, Capacity
genre: folk / indie rock
This album doesn’t make a political statement, but instead is incredibly personal. It touches on love, loss, domestic abuse, and several other “heavy” topics. It’s storytelling at its finest. And although it may not make you feel happy, it will throw you into a state of catharsis and reflection, which really is what I think this terrible/terribly strange year has been all about.
Sylvan Esso, What Now
genre: indie pop
My sentiment about this album is similar to Jesse’s about The World. The lyrics touch on the pressure that Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn put on themselves — and that was put on them by the industry — after the out-of-the-ballpark success of their debut, self-titled album. It’s also about love, life, and persisting through the bullshit. Best part is, most of it is 100% danceable. On a personal level, “Just Dancing” got me through my b.s. this year.
Alex Cameron, Forced Witness
genre: indie rock/pop
Alex Cameron and Roy Malloy are great at a lot of things as musicians and performers (and honestly, as social media marketers). But the thing Cameron excels most at — IMO — is crafting poignant lyrical commentary on the dark side of the internet and how it impacts relationships and society as a whole. Here’s what he said about it on Facebook a while back:
“Al Cam here, and we got a new record.
It’s called Forced Witness and I took on the most financial debt I’ve ever wallowed in so I could bring it to you all.
In that way it’s like a child to me.
If you’re worried about the production quality, please feel free to buy an old sound system. It’ll sound just like Jumping The Shark and you can listen to it all by yourself while your friends grow increasingly concerned about your obsession with an unchanging world.
Because times will change, but there will always be a dull fist full of meatheads wishing it wasn’t that way. I got the skinny:
It is. Why you think I went and wrote a whole album about it?
So whether it’s unsolicited nudes. Unreliable news. Or Uncontrollable blues. I been online for as long as you have. Maybe even longer. Trust me, I got the soundtrack for it. Here’s my collection of ten new songs detailing the forever buffering video that is love in the age of gettin’ online.”
Shannon Lay, Living Water
genre: singer-songwriter/indie folk
This album may not resonate as closely with many people as it did me. When listening to it (all 1,000 times), it felt like Lay had somehow captured almost every feeling and experience I went through this past year. Here’s what she said about it in an interview we conducted with her in October:
“A lot of this record is about not knowing where I belong and feeling lost and unsure and being scared about the future; but then it also addresses accepting those feelings and being ok with living an unconventional life. Learning to appreciate every minute and all the beautiful details of being alive. It’s totally a happy cry and a sad cry situation happening simultaneously.”
Katie Von Schleicher, Shitty Hits
genre: lo-fi indie rock
It’s not easy to talk about depression and I imagine it’s especially not easy to write and sing about it. But Katie Von Schleicher does so in a way that’s raw, vulnerable, and beautiful — all while being approachable.
Kendrick Lamar, Damn
genre: hip hop
I’m not going to even go there. You know why…
I could keep going but won’t. :) For your convenience, here’s a playlist of all the songs listed above. And hey, here’s to a better 2018! ❤