Personal Top 10 Favourites of 2017

By chrisspurr chrisspurr
updated 17 days ago

An ordered list of my favourite albums from 2017, accompanied by an explanation as to why consisting of content from reviews published by various sources.


  1. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

    Release Date: June 16, 2017
    Genre: Folk
    Favourite Track: Third of May / Ōdaigahara

    After the band’s rustic self-titled debut took off unexpectedly in 2008, eventually earning a Gold record for indie label Sub Pop, frontman and core creative force Robin Pecknold poured himself fully into making its excellent follow-up, 2011’s Helplessness Blues. Then, Fleet Foxes toured the world for a while, a process that seemed to take a toll on the band. Confronted and overwhelmed with anxiety as the result of the band’s Grammy nominations and nonstop critical praise, Pecknold moved to Portland and dropped out of public life. His drummer left the band and became a star in his own right. Other members moved on to their own projects. A couple years later, Pecknold popped back up as a student at Columbia University, then disappeared again. Six years passed and it began to seem like Fleet Foxes were finished for good. The first album in six years from Fleet Foxes is named after a devastating F. Scott Fitzgerald essay that’s about the writer’s mental breakdown following his alcoholism and early success with The Great Gatsby: that specter hangs over Crack-Up, but the album also acknowledges a way forward for Pecknold as he returns to public life. Pecknold is beginning to recognize the futility of self-reliance and learning to once again embrace friendship and Fleet Foxes. Crack-Up is the musings of a person who is unsure about his place in the big picture, about the answers to life’s grand mysteries, but sure of his willingness to open himself up, reconcile, and figure it out.

  2. Brand New - Science Fiction

    Release Date: August 18, 2017
    Genre: Indie Rock/Post-Hardcore
    Favourite Track: No Control

    Never the kind of band to do things by the book, Brand New’s career the last two decades has felt like a series of mazes. The Long Island-bred rockers, a product of the early aughts pop-punk/emo scene, became known for receding into the shadows and shying away from the public eye. The latest, and quite possibly final, chapter of the Brand New saga was revealed late in August when the band, out of the blue, put up a pre-order page for their fifth album. Hours later, physical CDs of the album – formatted as one long 61-minute track – were mailed out to select fans. By week’s end, the new Science Fiction was available for purchase, closing the eight-year gap since their last album. This quiet, confounding uncertainty actually serves Science Fiction well – it is an album about lives in jarring flux. Science Fiction uses what seem to be found recordings of psychiatric evaluations to project the horror of hallucinatory mental illness onto the listener, while Lacey and company dive into song after song about the psychic wear of survival in tumultuous late-teens America. For a band that steers as willfully clear of media as it does, Brand New is surprisingly adept at expressing the ambient terror and mania plaguing the times.

  3. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

    21 For Sale from $19.43

    Release Date: April 7, 2017
    Genre: Indie Rock/Folk
    Favourite Track: Ballad of the Dying Man

    The title of Pure Comedy is one of the album’s very few jokes, a bit of blunt irony for an all-too-persuasive set of songs envisioning global catastrophe as the inevitable result of human nature. Pure Comedy is concerned with how we’re living now; saddled to phones, trying to score meaningless points on social media while strapped into our VR headsets, drifting aimlessly against what made us the dominating force in earth’s history in the first place. Singing with earnest clarity, Father John Misty indicts selfishness, ignorance, distraction, vanity, politics, self-delusion, dogmatism, technocracy, and God. His attempt to objectively critique human lifestyle is helped by his self-criticism; it gives depth to his rantings about the hilarious flaws of our society. He bookends the album with the message that none of this really matters anyway – no matter how good or bad it all may seem. All the irony and the nihilist absurdism on Pure Comedy is to get us to this point: one where we are content with our own meaninglessness.

  4. Run The Jewels - Run the Jewels 3

    Release Date: January 13, 2017
    Genre: Rap
    Favourite Track: Call Ticketron

    Killer Mike was a vocal advocate for Bernie Sanders during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, so it’s not surprising that Run the Jewels 3’s verses cover the social justice themes of the day. It also doesn’t feel like an accident that this oft-political collection drops somewhere between the election and the inauguration of Donald Trump; with a demagogue waiting in the wings to assume the presidency, their particular mix of explosive shit-talking and unfiltered insubordination feels vital. Rap has always been an essentially political genre, founded on the basis of marginalized voices shaping their own narratives, conducting fresh dialogues and speaking truth to power. Run the Jewels 3 thus aims for the sweet spot of showy, fundamentals-focused conservatism; they examine society top down, creating a controversial, radical narrative that is raw and critical of the United States, unpacking the unrest occurring across North America, and showing the true colours of the war-hungry, racist, and hateful society that is ever-vocal.

  5. Kendrick Lamar - Damn

    Release Date: April 14, 2017
    Genre: Rap
    Favourite Track: FEEL.

    On DAMN., Kendrick Lamar is deeply conflicted about his violent past and his position as rap's savior after the rapturous reception following his last album, To Pimp a Butterfly. In many ways DAMN. is a rebuke to that perceived divine status, showing that he's not above rap's competitive shit talking. Violence has always been a preoccupation of Kendrick's work; he's examined it from every angle, looking at the violence he's endured, the violence he's caused, the violence used to oppress his race, and the violence his friends and family visit on themselves. Listening front to back or in reverse, DAMN. is an album with no resolution, driven by what might be the boldest statement Lamar has ever made – the suggestion that he could, in spite of every dollar, every win, and all of his promise, still slip through our fingers and manage to disappear in that violence. It is designed to make the listener wonder how many other young, black men have been looked over, under-appreciated, and ultimately lost the exact same way.

  6. Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors

    Release Date: February 21, 2017
    Genre: Art Rock
    Favourite Track: Up in Hudson

    Like most people going through breakups, Dave Longstreth wants you to believe he’s doing just fine. The nine songs on Dirty Projectors delve into his separation from former bandmate and girlfriend Amber Coffman, whose arresting voice over the past decade was as vital to Dirty Projectors’ sound as Longstreth’s own yelps and howls. Now, nearly half a decade removed from 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan, Longstreth has reclaimed the Dirty Projectors moniker as a beat-driven solo project. Longstreth has described this album as an attempt to make something he could barely recognize. The songs do feel new, untested, sharply divorced from previous iterations of the band. It’s a revealing plunge into their relationship, oscillating between tender mourning and tedious oversharing, enough so that the listener can join Longstreth in the exhilarating highs and laborious lows of modern romance.

  7. Mac Demarco - This Old Dog

    4 For Sale from $22.00

    Release Date: May 5, 2017
    Genre: Indie Rock
    Favourite Track: Still Beating

    Moving from the outskirts of New York to the bustle of L.A. in 2016, DeMarco had his first serious chunk of time off since the whirlwind success and subsequent non-stop tour of his 2012 album 2. This led to a bout of reflection, a chance to take stock of his place in the world and what was happening around him. Two things emerged from the much-needed self-absorption: a deep appreciation of his friends and family, and a realisation that he’d near enough made it, career-wise. On This Old Dog, the focus turns squarely on his relationship with his father, a man who has walked in and out of his life since he was five years old; the opening track lays this relationship directly on Mac’s shoulders, with our narrator looking directly at himself as a reflection of his father. After five straight years of touring, DeMarco cannot seem to shake the fact that he has aged significantly, and the man who he’s barely known is suddenly staring back at him. It’s a haunting image for a man who prides himself on being the man-child, whose youthful exuberance has caused him to be seen as the court jester of indie rock.

  8. Abram Shook - Love At Low Speed

    12 For Sale from $1.95

    Release Date: June 16, 2017
    Genre: Indie Rock
    Favourite Track: Divinity

    When Abram Shook sat down to write his third album, he produced two distinct batches of songs, one very personal collection titled Love at Low Speed, and a darker, more detached collection titled Love in the Age of Excess. Due to time and money constraints, he opted to only record the more personal album, which explores themes of love, loss, and connecting with others, all themes he's been careful to avoid on previous albums, believing there was nothing new to say on the subjects. Shook changed his mind about these topics following the end of an 11 year long relationship. On his new effort, he looks inward, examining the concept of love in the aftermath of a relationship’s end. Able to avoid cliche, Shook plans a road trip through the remote regions of love, mapping its boundaries and documenting its complex features. Love at Low Speed proves that despite his reservations, Shook has plenty to offer on these topics, and that he's at his best when he digs deep, mining his years of experience for confessional tales peppered with hard-wrought wisdom.

  9. John Mayer - The Search For Everything

    Release Date: April 14, 2017
    Genre: Americana
    Favourite Track: Moving On and Getting Over

    As he approaches 40, Mayer leaves the Americana vibe of his past two records behind and is looking at life through a much wiser lens. Doubts seem to plague John Mayer; The Search for Everything is dotted with numerous references to mistakes and powerlessness. You could easily describe this latest set of songs in a single phrase: it’s a breakup album, but that glib shorthand does this probing set a disservice. While nearly every song addresses a lost love, the best ones deal with everything in life you can’t control, from the speed of your emotional evolution to your genetic makeup. Mayer’s mixture of repetitive imagery makes his confusion and isolation painfully clear. The album is a love letter to missed opportunities and unfortunately placed optimism. Mayer may have written and recorded this album to exorcise his demons, but he also managed to show the true depths of his, and by extension, everyone’s humanity.

  10. Joan Shelley - Joan Shelley

    9 For Sale from $8.99

    Release Date: May 5, 2017
    Genre: Folk
    Favourite Track: Where I'll Find You

    Joan Shelley has already proven she can do a lot with a little. The Kentucky folk singer’s third album, Over & Even, was a beacon of quiet minimalism in an ever-increasingly loud and cluttered world. Generally speaking, Over & Even is built from just a handful of elements: Shelley’s graceful melodies, poignant lyrics and stunning voice, plus the sound of the acoustic guitar, expertly plucked by Shelley’s longtime sideman, Nathan Salsburg. That hasn’t changed on Shelley’s self-titled follow-up, even though she has more resources at her fingertips this time. Credit Shelley and Salsburg again, of course, but also producer Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, whose light touch here suggests that he knew it was best to just get out of the way and let the players do their thing. Joan Shelley is the product of a five day stint at Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, with Tweedy’s son Spencer sitting in on drums, and multi-instrumentalist James Elkington playing keys and Dobro. When self-titled albums fall later in an artist’s catalogue, they’re usually perceived as statements of intent; Shelley explained that she was trying to get away with less, an album length exercise in understatement.