“This has been a really disappointing year for music so far.” Lucas from earlier this year, where were you, friend? Yes, while it’s true that the beginning of the year was rather disappointing, it wasn’t until the mid-year things started picking up (and consequently I started discovering gems that went under my radar before then). Releases from all across the spectrum were released and by August I had found more records I had fallen in love with than I ever had before. As not to bore with an overly long intro I’m sure nobody takes much note of it brings me great pleasure to present to you my twenty-five favourite records from 2017. (And if you want to see a different type of list check out my friend’s list over at It’s Music I Guess.)
25. Bleachers: Gone Now
Jack Antonoff’s solo project, Bleachers, released a solid debut in 2014 with Strange Desire, but I realize I may be going against the grain when I say that I prefer this latest project a little more. Gone Now boasts some of the most instantly singable pop songs of the year. Along with its lovable melodies comes an inventive soul that wants to show the listener that it’s enjoying every minute of itself.
Songs to hear: “Don’t Take The Money,” “Everybody Loves Somebody,” “Let’s Get Married,” “I Miss Those Days.”
24. Alvvays: Antisocialites
Dream pop is a marvellous thing on its own but when it’s paired with an 80s aesthetic so authentic you practically taste it, it’s truly something to behold. Antisocialites sounds like an album from an 80’s cult-classic act. It’s a fun, dreamy, and chill detour that’s not often taken by today’s obsession with the loud and the now. If you feel like cracking open the old photo album make sure you have this playing by your side.
Songs to hear: “In Undertow,” “In My Dreams,” “My Type,” “Forget About Life.”
23. Phoebe Bridgers: Stranger In The Alps
During the latter half of 2017, Californian singer/songwriter, Phoebe Bridgers, released this beautifully tender debut. After supporting Julien Baker on her tour last year, Stranger In The Alps establishes Bridgers as not only a capable songwriter and vocalist but as one of the most promising and exciting artists to come around since Baker herself.
Songs to hear: “Smoke Signals,” “Funeral,” “Scott Street,” “You Missed My Heart.”
22. Third Day: Revival
What do you do when you’ve exhausted nearly all traditional avenues of music? You go and create something you want to create just because you can. Revival is not only Christian music at its finest, it’s songwriting that can stand, and most likely will stand the test of time among acts such as The Rolling Stones and Paul Simon (who Third Day actually covers with the charming “Loves Me Like A Rock”). This is what I wish more Christian music would be, a group of people who desire nothing more than to make the music they love to the God they love.
Songs to hear: “Revival,” “Gonna Be There With Me,” “Gather Round Now,” “Great God Almighty.”
21. The Maine: Lovely Little Lonely
The Maine’s last effort, 2015’s American Candy, was a delightful pop gem that managed to push the band’s sound into the mainstream without sacrificing quality. Thankfully, the same can easily be said for Lovely Little Lonely. This follow-up carries a slightly darker tone than its sugary cousin but it’s still catchy as all and a wonderful addition to The Maine’s rather stellar discography.
Songs to hear: “Don’t Come Down,” “Black Butterflies and Deja-Vu,” “Taxi,” “Sound of Reverie.”
20. Hotel Books: Equivalency
Equivalency may not be as vocally aggressive as some of Hotel Book’s previous efforts but that doesn’t mean it pulls on the heart with any less force. The band places a much heavier emphasis on warmer tones and traditional structures this time around, making this their most accessible record to date. With that said, don’t jump to conclusions too quickly. This isn’t watered down by any means and could very well be Books’ best material yet.
Songs to hear: “Van Nuys,” “Violent Smile,” “Celebration,” “Where I Am?”
19. Creeper: Eternity In Your Arms
With My Chemical Romance calling it quits at the beginning of the decade no one else has really managed to fill their shoes and still retain a sound all their own. That is until horror punk act Creeper came along with stellar debut Eternity In Your Arms. “Black Rain” takes the dark theatrics of songs like “Helena” and “Welcome To The Black Parade” and injects a delectable cheesiness into its veins. This record knows what it wants to be and it chases after its identity with no holds barred.
Songs to hear: “Black Rain,” “Suzanne,” “Misery,” “Winona Forever.”
18. Citizen: As You Please
Citizen’s (not to be confused with the Christian band, Citizens, even though it’s nearly impossible not to) latest record is hands down their most mature and focused release to date. Coming off the heels of the rather mediocre Everybody Is Going To Heaven, I’m still a little shaken by the massive leap of quality they took with this one. As You Please is a masterwork lyrically and an incredibly strong effort musically. If you didn’t find yourself falling in love with their past material this may change that.
Songs to hear: “Jet,” “In The Middle Of It All,” “World,” “Control,” “Discrete Routine.”
17. Propaganda: Crooked
As popular as they are, Christian hip/hop has so much more to offer than Lecrae or NF. Crooked is extraordinarily dark and utterly convicting, exploring the worst of man’s character and history and seeing it in light of redemption. Prop holds nothing back here and that often results in an uncomfortable listen, but as the album tells us, “Bear with me as we wander through the dark,” because believe me, what’s at the end of this black tunnel is something beautiful.
Songs to hear: “Crooked Way,” “It’s Complicated,” “Cynical,” “Darkie,” “It’s Not Working (The Truth).”
16. Porter’s Gate: Work Songs
Remember what I said at the end of my blurb for Third Day’s Revival? I mentioned that they were not trying to write “Christian music,” per se, but the music they loved to the God they loved. If you add people to that list of loves you may get something akin to Porter’s Gate. Work Songs is a wonderful collection of modern hymns written to and for the church. In addition to its brilliant songwriting, these songs are sung by artists such as Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels. If you’re a fan of classic hymns at all make sure to pick this up because it’s gorgeous.
Songs to hear: “Have Mercy On Me,” “Wood And Nails, “Christ Has No Body Now But Yours,” “God The Maker.”
15. Fleshkiller: Awaken
After a blistering return with 2013’s self-titled record, the rebirth of Christian metal legends Extol, unfortunately, felt far too short lived. And then came Fleshkiller to introduce a new legacy, with Ole Borud on cleans and Elisha Mullins (of The Burial and A Hill to Die Upon) to deliver those guttural screams. Awaken is a monster by all accounts. Its technicality is vast and its theological depth is even more so.
Songs to hear: “Parallel Kingdom,” “Salt of the Earth,” “Inherit,” “True Image.”
14: Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mile To The Surface
If there is any indicator as to how good 2017 was for music, A Black Mile…. would have been in the top ten of last year’s list without a second thought. This is easily Manchester Orchestra’s most emotionally gripping and cohesive record since 2011’s Simple Math. The middle run of songs from “The Alien” to “The Grocery” is quite possibly the best string of songs the band has released to date, and that’s before I’ve even mentioned tracks like “The Gold” and “The Parts,” which are simply breathtaking.
Songs to hear: “The Gold,” “The Alien,” “The Grocery,” “The Mistake,” “The Silence.”
13: The Mountain Goats: Goths
Something many people don’t know about me is that I’m utterly fascinated by the goth culture. I love hearing about how and why these people became social outcasts, how they treat each other, and how they see themselves and the world around them. It’s not a wonder then that I fell in love with Goths this year. It took awhile to grow on me musically (there are no guitars here which I now realize only adds to the album’s charm), but lyrically I was enthralled from the beginning. It isn’t a mere documentation of the rise and fall of the goth scene as it also explores themes of isolation and the desire to be set apart. This won’t be for everyone, but as someone who considers himself to be somewhat of a goth on the inside, I love this thing.
Songs to hear: “Rain In Soho,” “Andrew Eltrich Is Moving Back To Leads,” “We Do It Different On The West Coast,” “Paid In Cocaine,” “Shelved.”
12. Iron Chic: You Can’t Stay Here
I’m gonna keep this one succinct. You Can’t Stay Here is anthemic punk at its absolute best. Each and every song is filled with so much life and passion that it’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in it all. Fans of Jeff Rosenstock’s excellent record Worry from last year should check this out immediately.
Songs to hear: “My Best Friend (Is a Nihilist),” “Let’s. Get. Dangerous,” “Thunderbolts!” “Golgotha,” “Invisible Ink.”
11. Paramore: After Laughter
You want the perfect example of how to change the direction of your band’s sound? Paramore has been one of my all-time favourite bands since I heard Brand New Eyes a few years back and to love this as much as I do makes me incredibly happy. The band has managed to switch gears towards the pop of the 80s without sacrificing any of their punk attitude. This is about as good as it gets but for Paramore, I know this is just the beginning.
Songs to hear: “Hard Times,” “Rose- Colored Boy,” “Fake Happy,” “26,” “Grudges.”
10. Death Therapy: The Storm Before The Calm
The Storm Before The Calm is awesome. I know using that word may rub on my professionalism a little but that really is the best word to describe this thing. Jason Wisdom was taking his former band, Becoming The Archetype, into some brilliantly progressive territory with Celestial Completion and when he left that ingenuity fell with him. With Death Therapy Wisdom’s creativity is at the fore once again, resulting in one of the year’s most innovative and addictive releases.
Songs to hear: “The Lie,” “Prodigal,” “Slow Dance (With Death),” “Possessed.”
9. The Menzingers: After The Party
Despite the vast amount of excellent records this year I was admittedly disappointed in the lack of summer releases. Yet, when I consider how good After The Party is, that disappointment doesn’t leave nearly as potent a sting as it normally would. From beginning to (nearly) end this record is a near flawless summer punk jam which proves that, even when age looms over, life can still be exciting.
Songs to hear: “Lookers,” “House On Fire,” “Boy Blue,” “Bad Catholics,” “After The Party.”
8. Flotation Toy Warning: The Machine That Made Us
This was a fun, quirky album I stumbled across by way of a list of some of this year’s sadly underappreciated albums. I fell in love with The Machine…. almost immediately and it has only gotten better with each spin. I won’t say too much about this as I have already written a full review here but if you’re in the mood for something a little different from the norm this has you covered.
Songs to hear: “Controlling the Sea,” “Everything That Is Difficult Will Come To An End,” “A Season Underground,” “I Quite Like It When He Sings,” “The Moongoose Analogue.”
7. Julien Baker: Turn Out The Lights
I fell in love with Baker’s music at the beginning of the year after hearing Sprained Ankle for the first time. That record’s intimacy and gentle heartbreak still leaves me gasping for air by its end and Turn Out The Lights does not throw any fewer punches as it explores themes of depression, isolation, and suicide. The production is cleaner this time around and the music is more expansive and open as opposed to Sprained Ankle’s muted cry. Because of this progression, there is a glimmer of hope behind the record’s eyes in that no matter what we see in ourselves and how we feel, as long as someone cares, we aren’t going to give up.
Songs to hear: “Appointments,” “Turn Out The Lights,” “Happy To Be Here,” “Hurt Less,” “Claws In Your Back.”
6. Lorde: Melodrama
I wasn’t as enthralled with Lorde’s debut, Pure Heroine, as the mainstream community was. I liked the sound and the potential was there in abundance but the end product felt too underdeveloped. Melodrama, on the other hand, is everything I hoped Lorde would be on the second go around. It sees her sound reaching glorious heights as she takes a rather profound look at loneliness and youth. It probes the listener to take a deeper look at themselves to ask where they find their happiness and whether that is something they should be depending on. That it’s all wrapped up in one gorgeous and complete pop package is just another small detail.
Songs to hear: “Green Light,” “The Lourve,” “Writer In The Dark,” “Supercut,” “Perfect Places.”
5. The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
As my introduction to the band, I believe A Deeper Understanding is as close to perfect as an introduction can be. I never got into Lost In The Dream, and although Understanding…. doesn’t take a drastic shift in sound or approach, being on a major label gave them the chance to tighten what they had and take it to new heights. The instrumentation is sublime and incredibly layered. When it hits those guitar notes at just the right times you realize just how meticulously thought out every single second of this thing is. It’s truly an accomplishment.
Songs to hear: “Pain,” “Holding On,” “Nothing To Find,” “Thinking Of a Place,” “In Chains.”
4. Brand New: Science Fiction
I think we all believed we would never get another album from emo legends Brand New again, let alone something that can stand against The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (for the record, that’s one of my all-time favourite albums). It had been eight years since Daisy, and outside of a few experimental singles, everything was silent. Then we were hit with the announcement of Science Fiction only days before its release and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out. It takes everything good about Brand New’s sound (excluding their pop-punk debut) and threads them into this twisted, nightmarish masterpiece.
Songs to hear: “Lit Me Up,” “Can’t Get It Out,” “Waste,” “Out of Mana,” “451,” “Batter Up.”
3. The National: Sleep Well Beast
Only recently did I realize that The National’s 2013 record, Trouble Will Find Me, deserved the rare five-star rating I keep only for records that make a lifelong impact. If Sleep Well Beast keeps growing I wouldn’t be surprised if it joins its predecessor in my short list of masterclass records. The band looks even further inward as they grieve over society’s growing desensitization and emotional disconnect. It’s a bleak listen to be sure but it’s also a beautiful and utterly convicting one that exposes how numb we have become. Yet, despite our obvious imperfection, The National show that we still yearn for that connection we lost and that this yearning provides an open door for hope and change.
Songs to hear: “Nobody Else Will Be There,” “Walk It Back,” “The System Only Dream In Darkness,” “Guilty Party,” “Dark Side of the Gym,” “Sleep Well Beast.”
2. Cigarettes After Sex: Cigarettes After Sex
So before I explain why this, of all things, is sitting in my number two spot I need to explain why albums like Ixora and Riala are among my all-time favourites. We live in a musical age where artists must create sprawling sixteen song concept records in order to be good. There’s no room for ten song albums that stick to one sound anymore, we demand diversity and a grand vision. Although those traits can work brilliantly (as evidenced by my next pick), sometimes a simple ten song venture speaks more for an artist’s talent than a mixed pot of underdeveloped sounds and an untamed ambition could ever do. That is why Cigarettes After Sex’s debut record is so lovely. It consists of ten nocturnal tunes that stick to a single beautiful sound. And because of this, the sound they play with is taken as deep as it could possibly go. The only downside (and the major reason it didn’t hit number one) are the lyrics which can be a little hard to stomach sometimes.
Songs to hear: “K,” “Sunsetz,” “Apocalypse,” “Sweet,” “Opera House,” “John Wayne.”
1. Gang of Youths: Go Farther In Lightness
Yes, if you saw my five-star review for this a few months back you probably aren’t surprised this is here. Go Father In Lightness is a sprawling masterpiece in every way. It’s hopeful, rocking, beautiful, profound, the list just goes on. I haven’t been this deeply touched by an album in years, quite possibly ever. It’s an ode to life after tragedy, joy after sorrow, and perseverance in the face of crippling doubt. This is how you make sense of your faith in the midst of pain. You reach out and love someone, you embrace the immense value and worth human life possesses, and you believe that, despite all odds, everything will be alright. You carry on because you now understand the sting of pain and the weight of love. You carry on because you know how others hurt and you have this one life to grieve with them so you can eventually “Stand in the darkness and laugh with your heel on its throat.”
Songs to hear: “Fear And Trembling,” “Atlas Drowned,” “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane,” “The Heart Is a Muscle,” “The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows.”
Thank you all for reading about my favourites of 2017 and I hope you’ll give a few of these a spin if you haven’t already done so. I’d love to hear your top ten picks in the comments below, or if you listened to as much as I did go ahead and write down twenty-five or more even. Writing this has been amazing and I cannot wait to see what next year has to offer.