Before I talk about my favourite albums of 2017 I wanted to mention a few records that I liked that just barely missed the cut. Whether their faults were a little too overbearing or that there just wasn’t enough space I proudly present to you my honourable mentions of 2017 (in no order).
John Mark McMillan: Mercury and Lightning
This was one of the more artistically minded Christian releases of the year and for that, it deserves a mention. It misses the list because I’m not entirely on board with the production here. “Death In Reverse,” for example, loses any emotional weight it could have had because it’s buried beneath such a thick wall of gloss. I would have loved to hear more of that gritty, stripped back sound of Borderland on this record, but in the end, it left me slightly wanting.
Colony House: Only The Lonely
Here’s another album that left me disappointed from a production standpoint. The songwriting here is strong enough to hold its own so it’s worth a mention but the 70s static that comes through on a few of these tracks (most notably on “Was It Me?”) somewhat ruin the experience. It sounds like too much is going on at once when there’s actually nothing more being played than traditional instruments. Even so, if you liked the band’s previous material give it a spin and see what you think.
Eisely: I’m Only Dreaming
Quite possibly the best album to be mentioned here and misses the list only because I liked the twenty-five other albums a bit more. Admittedly, the record has grown off of me a little since I first heard it, due to it being a little one-note musically, but I still come back to it on quite a regular basis.
The City Harmonic: Benediction Live
Here’s something surprising, a live worship record that is actually worth a listen. How? It’s a genuinely good live album and not a mass-produced product of a megachurch where they repeat a song’s bridge ad-infinitum (And that’s not an exaggeration. I heard a cover of “Great Are You Lord” from Bethel the other day that repeated the bridge at least twenty times.). Yeah, I’m rarely a fan of live worship albums, but The City Harmonic created something truly beautiful here. It’s one of the best worship albums of the year and definitely worth a listen.
Hearts Like Lions: If I Never Speak Again
The rough draft of my year-end list included this album for the longest time but when it came to eventually ranking everything this just missed the cut. The front half of this is fairly straightforward alternative rock but there are some absolute gems on its back half that make this worth a listen.
The Ongoing Concept: Places
While not quite as good as Handmade (I wish it showed off more of the relentless aggression from that album), TOC’s latest is a fun ride to places metal doesn’t touch anywhere else and for that, it deserves a mention and a recommendation.
Have Mercy: Make The Best of It
This is a really solid third record from the boys of Have Mercy. Make The Best…. has a weary, melancholic aesthetic that’s right up my alley. The songwriting can get a little bland at times but as a whole, there is a ton to love here.
68′: Two Parts Viper
Following a successful debut, this sophomore record from 68′ is filled with enough interesting moments to keep one engaged for a long while. However, what makes this record unique can also cause it to stumble at times. It’s almost too random and chaotic for its own good so the highlights become the “less interesting” cuts here, such as “Without Any Words,” “Death Is a Lottery,” and the closing track “What More Can I Say.” Cohesion may not be its strongest asset but don’t let that deter you from hearing this one.
Weezer: Pacific Daydream
So many fans and critics were disappointed with the follow-up to the fantastic White album due to its more poppish nature. This critic, on the other hand, places himself proudly in the minority. Although Pacific Daydream is nothing more than a simple summer pop record it’s wrapped up in such an enjoyable, breezy package that no matter how hard I try I keep coming back to it. And just to throw the fans off that much more, personal highlights include “Beach Boys” and “Feels Like Summer.”
Mercy Me: Lifer
I wanted to put this on the main list because a CCM album this good does not come around often. That it isn’t is more of a testimony to how good this year was for music rather than any fault of the album. Lifer is an incredibly enjoyable pop record through and through and it is hands down the CCM outfit’s best work to date.
At The Wayside: The Breakdown And The Fall
The sophomore full-length from At The Wayside, released through Indie Vision Records, is an infectious, fun, and sometimes heavy pop-punk album. Fans of Mae, early Relient K, and even Switchfoot should be checking this out as soon as possible.
Makthaverskan is a Swedish dream-pop act that I discovered through Run For Cover Records during their Cyber Monday digital sale. The 80s aesthetic and the excellent vocals of Maja Milner caught my attention straight away and it only took a single listen to fall in love. The melodies are catchy, easy to digest, aggressive at times (check “Witness”) and incredibly beautiful at others (“To Say It As It Is” and “Siren”). Do not let this one fall through the cracks.
Krum: Blue Eyed Devil
Krum’s Blue Eyed Devil is a brilliantly inventive rap venture into blues, southern rock, and jazz. You won’t find many traditional beats here but what you will find is a lot of guitar twang and some of the best raps you’ll hear this year.
Beautiful Eulogy: Worthy
Worthy was one of my most anticipated hip/hop albums of the year since the trio’s previous release, Instruments of Mercy, is still my favourite rap record of all time. But alas this is a list of personal enjoyment and the more time I gave this the less engaging it became from a musical perspective. It’s a fairly tame venture that, while pleasant, lacks any real creative punch. Lyrically, on the other hand, it’s a near masterpiece and features some of their most profound and theologically gripping lines yet.
A few additional album I want to note are Mutemath’s Play Dead, Army of Bones’ self-titled debut, and finally, Project 86’s Sheep Among Wolves. Some of these I simply didn’t dedicate enough time to and others are solid releases that I just didn’t return to all that often.
And that concludes the honourable mentions of 2017. I wrote this as a separate post because I know albums placed here are often overlooked so I hope this encourages you to check out a few of these records.