10. Mount Eerie A Crow Looked At Me
There are quite a few sad albums on this top ten list, but none takes the cake quite like A Crow Looked at Me. The album is an almost stream of consciousness telling of the events leading up to, during, and after the death of Phil Elverum’s wife. If that sounds tragic, listening to the album only amplifies it, leaving a pit in your stomach as you listen to him sing and tell tales of finding out she was sick, him doing tasks that remind him of her, and most heart breaking-ly of all, raising his daughter as a single dad. It’s almost too much to handle, but it’s the kind of record we need to help us mourn.
9. Phoebe Bridgers Stranger in the Alps
Bridgers’ debut album is full of contemplative folk songs, catchy, full of heartache, and containing a self deprecating sense of humor, Bridgers’ was one of the best discoveries of the year for me and will likely continue to be a star in the indie folk scene.
8. Young Thug Beautiful Thugger Girls
Young Thug is a continuously evolving artist, changing up his music with every album to playfully rap over. Mumble rap reached a peak this year, but Thug does more than just mumble, he garbles over his songs, making indescribable inflections and noises that come through as a really fun mix of hip-hop, R&B, and reggae. That’s not to say Thugger Girls is chaos, instead, Thug chose to accompany many of the songs with acoustic guitar and the beautiful melodies of singer Millie Go Lightly. The album is ever-surprising, a fun look into the mind of an evasive artist.
7. Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom
Rapsody’s latest album is a fantastic blend of jazz, soul, and Gospel tinged beats and thoughtful lyrics. There’s a complexity to her songs, she joins BJ the Chicago Kid and Anderson.Paak for a couple of lengthier tracks that beautifully throw the gauntlet. She perfectly delivers every verse, riding through complicated rhymes whilst sounding casual. With Laila’s Wisdom Rapsody proves she’s one of the most interesting emcees out there.
6. Nana Grizol Ursa Minor
Seconds into Ursa Minor the sound is obvious, Nana Grizol is bringing 90s indie rock back. It makes sense, the group is filled with members of former indie stalwarts, reformed into a group to speak into 2017. This is more than a legacy act however, Nana Grizol’s songs are as good as any band who hits the nostalgia parts of our brains and were one of the albums I returned to most throughout the year.
5. Cloud Nothings Life Without Sound
This album didn’t get as much buzz as their previous two releases, but I found it just as thrilling as the others. Life Without Sound is a confident rock record, perfectly encapsulating everything the genre can be in the year 2017 when raspy guitar lead jams are about as uninspired as they come.
4. Marika Hackman I’m Not Your Man
Hackman fits somewhere in between the sullen indie folk of Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers and the raucous and raw rock being made by groups like Tacocat and Diet Cig. She’s perhaps most similar to Courtney Barnett, whose rock and folk jams are dripping with irony and a wry wit. Hackman’s songs are subtly beautiful and unexpected even when they seem straightforward. She makes use both of the electric guitar and simple acoustic ones, putting out one of the best records of the year.
3. Julien Baker Turn Out the Lights
Baker’s previous album, Sprained Ankle, became an unexpected indie hit in 2015 when she was just 20, delivering emotionally complex, if simple ballads about depression, faith, and loss. Now 22, with a surprising amount of expectation thrust upon her for her sophomore album, Baker went larger, making use of her voice to contrast the soft piano and acoustic guitar throughout the album. It’s grander without changing the core sound of Sprained Ankle; a beautiful progression that is able to maintain everything we all loved about her first record.
2. Kendrick Lamar Damn.
We will surely reach a point where Kendrick releases something that everyone shrugs off as unnecessary, but across the last five years the discussion has revolved around whether his latest work is amongst the best of all time. Damn. continues this, while not as ambitious as To Pimp a Butterfly, it features the best rapper releasing hit singles where he goes hard (“DNA.”, “Humble.”), allowing Rihanna to throw out some guest verses (“Loyalty.”), getting U2 to partake (“XXX.”) and a seven-minute magnum opus where he spills his guts (“Fear.”). He’s always exciting and it will likely be years before he stops being at the forefront of every single one of these lists.
1. Priests Nothing Feels Natural
Released just one week after Trump was inaugurated, this was the album I needed to both question and riot against the things happening around. It’s an angry combination of forthright punk and more experimental noisy post-punk. It’s academic and anarchic, puncturing our consumeristic society and calling out the bland dreams it creates in us: “But I don’t think you care about anything / Why would you applaud such uninteresting social climbing / Even the emperor’s new clothes made a scene” (“Puff”). I constantly turned to the album throughout the year, allowing it to speak into the angst of the moment. It’s exciting and full of life even if the life it exudes is bitter toward a patriarchal and commercialistic humanity bent on its destruction. Sometimes the anti- movements are just what we need to rise from the ashes toward justice. For 2017, this feels right.