When I started thinking about the music that came out in 2017, my first thought was that this was a particularly weak year. Once I started diving deeper into compiling my list, though, I realized there was plenty of fantastic music that came out in the last 12 months. Not quite the banner year we had in 2016, but what can you do?
For me, the biggest story of the year was that Kendrick Lamar released yet another game-changing masterwork. (Read more of my thoughts on that album here.) Very few artists in the last 25 years have been so consistently captivating while receiving such a high level of mainstream attention. There’s Radiohead, Jay-Z, OutKast, Kanye West … and that might be it, actually. Quite an exclusive club there!
Another big story, at least as far as my personal tastes are concerned, is that female songwriters made an especially huge impact this year. Between (deep breathe) Charly Bliss, Courtney Barnett, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Ratboys, Julien Baker, Waxahatchee, Joan Shelley, Haim, Sheer Mag, Big Thief, SZA, Björk, Downtown Boys, Shannon Lay, Girlpool, Alvvays, Tennis, Fever Ray and many others, I listened to a lot of women sing (and rap) their hearts out in 2017. I’m certainly not complaining; this was a great year to ignore men as much as possible anyway. (Side note: Björk’s new record may very well climb up the ranks of my list, but it came out fairly recently and I just haven’t had time to completely soak it all in yet. I can tell the arrangements and production are incredible as always, but I don’t know the album front to back quite yet.)
You know what else is weird? My single favorite musician, Bob Dylan, released three albums worth of new music this year … and I hardly listened to it. I legitimately enjoyed Dylan’s first batch of covers from the great american songbook, but round 3 barely registered on my radar this year. I’m still obsessed with the guy and listen to his music almost every single day, but Triplicate was not exactly my favorite thing the man has ever done. Two of my other all-time favorites, Willie Nelson and Neil Young, did release stronger efforts this year. Neil’s was still a bit uneven, but Willie once again proved that age isn’t slowing him down a bit with the impressive God’s Problem Child.
One final note: I still really miss Tom Petty. I’m not over his death yet and I don’t know that I ever will be. He didn’t realize any new music this year, but if I’m going to summarize the year in music, Mr. Petty is at least going to get a mention.
Anyway … here’s my list!
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
- Sampha – Process
- (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
- The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
- Charly Bliss – Guppy
- Colter Wall – Colter Wall
- Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett – Lotta Sea Lice
- Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator
- Cunninlynguists – Rose Azura Njano
- Kevin Morby – City Music
- Ratboys – GN
- Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
- Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
- Joan Shelley – Joan Shelley
- Damu the Fudgemunk – Vignettes
- Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want?
- Haim – Something to Tell You
- Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
- Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child
- White Reaper – The World’s Best American Rock Band
Some artists that just barely missed the cut: Big Thief, Jay-Z, Young Thug, Björk, Neil Young and The Power of the Real, Downtown Boys, Shannon Lay