I have a select few friends who just get me, musically. They are always sending me tips about great new music they know I'll freak out over, and I could not be more blessed. This year one of those friends left us, and it's been very hard for me to enjoy the many, many bands and songs we enjoyed together because it's impossible to separate him from the music. And yet... in so many ways he is still with me because the music we loved is still here. Love and miss you Howard.
Below are my favorite albums of 2017.
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 About U by MUNA
I can't remember how I discovered MUNA, but I do remember rushing to iTunes to purchase their album before I had even finished the first track I ever heard (the achingly beautiful Winterbreak which is my favorite song of 2017) (UPDATE: It was Aaron, of course). About U turned out to be one of those rare albums where I love every single song and was aching for more once I got to the end. If you heard of them, it was probably with the catchy I Know a Place which got some traction in early 2017. I'd list my other favorite tracks, but it's all of them, so I'll just post some YouTube videos and shut up now.
#2 What if Nothing by Walk the Moon
There was criticism laid at the feet of Walk the Moon for becoming pop sellouts with their latest album. Well, as somebody who lives for pop music, that just made me love them even more. What's so puzzling is that there are songs like Headphones that are hardly bubblegum pop anthems, so I'm not quite getting the hate. Regardless, there's a lot here to love for fans new and old... including their first single and my favorite track, One Foot which is catchy in a way that never quite leaves your head. And then there's the haunting Surrender which proves the band can craft a haunting love song for the ages.
#3 Wonderful Wonderful by The Killers
If you like The Killers, this album is more of the same. For many bands, that would be a criticism, but it's all I want from a new album from this band. Lead by the sublimely beautiful Some Kind of Love, it's just track after track of The Killers doing what they do.
#4 Silent Science by B•R•A•U•N
The dreamy vocals of Mackintosh Braun have made them one of my favorite bands. So when one-half of the duo drops a solo album, I take notice. Turns out that Ben Braun can churn out a beautiful album all on his own, feeling very much like an extension of his band. Beautiful dreamy pop from beginning to end.
#5 The Punishment of Luxury by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Say what you like about OMD, but they are one of the most consistent pop bands in my arsenal of 80's favorites. Unlike too many others (I'm looking at you Depeche Mode) who tried to change what made them great, then stagnated in a place that nobody wanted, McCluskey and Humphreys (with few exceptions) stick to what their fans want to hear. And that'e exactly what you'll find in The Punishment of Luxury. Yes, there's a few (ahem) "artistic diversions," but the rest is synth pop magic.
#6 Beautiful Trauma by P!nk
P!nk lives and dies by her live performances, and all I really want from a new album are tracks that will work perfectly when she tours. And here's an entire album filled with songs that she's sure to absolutely kill live. The title track is all you could want from new P!nk, but she didn't stop there. Entirely too much material for great videos like these...
#7 Evolve by Imagine Dragons
While I'm not exactly sue I would call this album an "evolution" for the band, it is a darn good album. Perhaps less dark than previous efforts, there's enough here to ensure great sing-along material for their amazing live shows. If you're a fan of Imagine Dragons, Evolve won't disappoint.
#8 A Moment Apart by ODESZA
It's tough to put a pin in what it is I like about ODESZA. They churn out some really good elctro-pop beats, but a lot of bands do that. I think what puts them on another level is that they know just what to do with those beats, pairing them with artists who accompany them so beautifully. Back in 2014 they wowed me with the beautifully-constructed All We Need... and their third album elevates that kind of intricate future sound sensibility to even loftier heights. It's an album that was played on repeat for a good chunk of my Fall music rotation, and doesn't diminish as time goes on.
#9 Zombies on Broadway by Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness
After the hiatus/breakup(?) of Something Corporate, Andrew McMahon went on to form Jack's Mannequin. After the hiatus/breakup(?) of that band, he had some solo stuff... then started releasing music as "Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness" and this is his second album with that "band." I have a tough time getting into it as easily as the first, but it's still a beautiful effort. The video for So Close is probably my favorite video of 2017, and I didn't see it until I was visiting the Hard Rock Cafe in Ushuaia, Argentina!
#10 More Life by Drake
While I loved Drake when he debuted, his subsequent albums felt like an investment of diminishing returns. And now we get More Life which is, in my mind, the best album of his entire career. None of it panders to the pop charts explicitly, but he has a pop sensibility imbued in some of the tracks that's impossible to deny once married to the flawless vocals that make Drake be Drake. While Kendrick Lamar was getting all the accolades in 2017 for DAMN. (and rightfully so, the track DNA is everything you could want in a rap track), this was where my focus was. I've listened to the song Passionfruit entirely too many times this year.
#11 Concrete and Gold by The Foo Fighters
Gotta hand it to Dave Grohl, with each new Foo Fighters album, he seems intent on reviving classic rock anthems from yesteryear. As he abandons the pop-rock beginnings of the band in favor of metal-tinged hard rock, I can never decide if I like his band more or less. Regardless, I listened to Concrete and Gold quite a lot over the Summer of 2017.
#12 Pop 2/Number One Angel by Charli XCX
And now, at the closing of the year, we get Charli XCX going full-on 80's synth pop in an album that would make Missing Persons proud... Pop 2. An effort I enjoyed so much that it made me take another look at her full release from earlier in the year, Number One Angel. While not exactly groundbreaking, it's a darn good pop album with catchy tracks that I found myself listening to on repeat.
We Could Be Beautiful (EP) by Wrabel
This year, thanks to Aaron, I got to see Wrabel in concert which was, as expected, amazing. He has become one of my absolute favorite musical artists, and I'm dying for a complete album of music that I can immerse myself in. But all he seems to do is tease us with EPs and singles. My favorite song of 2016, 11 Blocks can be found on We Could Be Beautiful with four other fantastic tracks. We also got a beautiful and important single The Village in 2017, but still no album. Here's hoping 2018 is the year.
American Dream by LCD Soundsystem
I had thought that James Murphy had called it quits years ago, but apparently the demise of LCD Soundsystem was temporary. While I didn't fall in love with every track on this album, the pure nostalgia of half the songs here were enough to keep me listening. First among them was oh baby, which is so painfully 80's throwback as to feel like a lost track from an abandoned burned down disco...
Wall of Goth (EP) by Rey Pila
Mexican pop rock band Rey Pila may not have the most imaginative lyrics, but their beats are pure 80's joy. This four-song EP is more of the same, and a welcome addition to their discography.
Younger Now by Miley Cyrus
It's no secret that I've loved Miley since her Hanna Montana days and never stopped... even when she went nuts. I just love her voice. So when I got my hands on Younger Now, I found myself listening to it... a lot. Poppy with some country elements (and a duet with Dolly Parton!), so what's not to like? I dunno. It just didn't last for me. Despite liking it well enough over the Summer, I rarely find myself listening to it now.
SONG OF NOTE...
I dearly wish that Jai Wolf would set aside some time for a proper album but, alas, he seems content to keep dropping beautiful tracks on us with no album in sight. This year we got Starlight which only serves to make me want a full album even more. My favorite version of the song is the "Goldroom Remix" which is slower, more purposeful, and ever so dreamy and beautiful.
SONG OF NOTE...
I may not have cared for the album much, but I sure liked the single from Bleachers titled Don't Take the Money...
SONG OF NOTE...
I may not have cared for the album much, but I sure liked the single (and the amazing video) from Katy Perry titled Chained to the Rhythm...
REGRETFULLY LOST ME...
The Valley by Betty Who
Betty Who's EP and debut album was on continuous repeat for months after I found it. To say I was anticipating her return with The Valley is a huge understatement. It all began in Summer 2016 with the amazing I Love You Always Forever cover that had me chomping at the bit. Then I was underwhelmed with the next single, Human Touch, but remained hopeful. The album finally arrived this year (on my birthday, of all days) and I just could not get into it. The best tracks have these weird interludes that completely disrupt the flow of the song and I can't wrap my head around why Betty and her producers felt a need to inject them where they weren't needed. Some Kind of Wonderful? Wonderful. Until there's this misguided plunging rap interlude. Mama Say? Fantastic. Until some heavy breathing is dropped into the song from nowhere for no reason. It goes on and on. It's as if she felt she had to "be different" by crafting these weird hodgepodge tracks, when I Love You Always Forever illustrates so flawlessly why that's just not the case. Oh well.