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Our Top Picks for the Best Albums of 2017

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A lot went down in the past 12 months, that it’s kind of hard to remember what life sounded like before it. But this year presented a discography from a number of artists that was full of emotion, fury and resistance.

In what might be a major sigh of relief around the world, 2017 is finally wrapping up and one of the better things to come out of this past year was its amazing release of albums each week. After a year of surprising headlines and shock, 2017 saw something for everyone from all music genres. And to be honest, we are super excited for the new year and what 2018 will bring to our playlists!

But before we bid farewell to the past year, our staff shares an eclectic mix of their favorite albums from 2017 that are bound to become classics in the years ahead. Did your favorites make the cut?

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “The Nashville Sound”

Meg Quinn: I’m not sure if I just enjoyed the music of 2016 so much that anything that happened in 2017 was sure to pale in comparison, or if this really wasn’t a good year for music, but I found myself listening to last year’s releases more than this year’s new ones. The Nashville Sound from Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit is one of the few from this year that really attached itself in my brain. I think so highly of Jason Isbell (one of our best living song writers) that between each release I can’t imagine how he could get any better, but then the album comes and I realize “that’s how.” The Nashville Sound is a real front to back listen for me but “If We Were Vampires” in particular is a standout. Not only do I think it’s one of his own best songs, I think it’s one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard.

Mount Eerie, “A Crow Looked at Me”

Nicole Drum: The last few years have held a lot grief for me. I lost my mother two years ago and this year there was wave after wave of medical issues and other close losses. But even for all of the sadness and pain of loss, there is a rawness in the struggle to understand the universe after loss and that strange, beautiful, transformative place is exactly where the music of Mount Eerie’s latest albums strikes. It makes sense when you consider that Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie lost his wife to cancer last year and while “A Crow Looked At Me” deals with death, it doesn’t go after the big questions about finding place in the universe. It tackles the details that are the hardest, such as in the track “Real Death” when he sings about walking into the room where his wife was. It’s just a transcendent and raw and beautiful album like nothing else I’ve ever heard.

Lady Antebellum, “Heartbreak”

Tania Hussain: There have been so many albums that have resonated with me this past year, but Lady Antebellum’s Heartbreak certainly takes the cake. The album is not only a fresh listen from the Tennessee trio exuding those  country vibes, but it’s one that really embodies summertime with confidence and a pop of funk, while recharging Lady Antebellum into a new sound. While the titular track is sweet and honest about the single life, “Somebody Else’s Heart” and “Hurt” are two that really exercise the band’s powerful harmonies with poignant ballads. Additionally, the record has fun, high energy tracks like “You Look Good” and “Good Time to Be Alive,” that equally stretch the three out of their signature sound. (And this album was really fun to experience in concert too!)

Daddy Issues, “Deep Dream”

Desi Rottman: This album couldn’t have been more timely. Exploring themes like trauma and abuse alongside the aches of being a woman, I found myself coming back to it week after week. Their grunge-y sound is also a welcome change from a lot of what my ears have been listening to, and they’re definitely worth a follow on Twitter — if only for the expert gif usage and Star Wars conspiracy theories run amok.  One of the best tracks on the record is “I’m Not.”

Superfruit, “Future Friends”

Andrew Rogers: It was a fantastic year for pop music, but my favorite album of the year is Future Friends by Superfruit. The pop duo consists of Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying from acapella super-group Pentatonix.  The pair have used their undeniable pop sensibilities to write songs that feel fresh and modern and speak to their unique experiences as open, proud gay men. For me, the album helped me feel comfortable in my own skin and it was so refreshing to have music that spoke to my own life experiences instead of trying to superimpose my feelings onto love songs about heterosexual relationships. The album may come across as bubblegum pop, but I think the importance of catchy music that normalizes the experiences of LGBTQ individuals cannot be underestimated. No song on the album does that better than the title track “Future Friends,” which is used as a transition from the first and second half and brings a note of angst to an otherwise playful tracklist. Highly recommended for a good New Year’s Eve party album, as well!

Various Artists, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2”

Katherine Hernandez: The soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is by far my favorite album of 2017. Classic rock soundtracks are my favorite, and this might even be better than Vol. 1. The songs compliment the film perfectly, and are great to listen to on their own as well. Though I love all the songs, my favorite is probably “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens. Listening to it immediately invokes the incredibly touching scene it played during, and aside from that, it’s just a really good song. There isn’t a bad song on the soundtrack, and the original song, “Guardians Inferno” is absolutely hilarious (and so is the music video).

Haley Reinhart, “What’s That Sound?”

Elizabeth The: Since gaining mass recognition and acclaim for her retro-styled renditions of classic rock songs and modern pop hits from the likes of The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Radiohead, it was only a matter of time until the bluesy-jazz singer of American Idol and Postmodern Jukebox fame released a covers album. Though it may seem peculiar to choose an album of cover songs as my top pick of the year among all of the great new music that was released in 2017, Haley Reinhart’s love letter to the music of the 1960s provides a perfect blend of introspection and escapism, which is just the remedy that’s needed during such a topsy-turvy year. My favorite throwback track on the album is Haley’s version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” from which the album title What’s That Sound? derives its namesake, for its stark relevancy to the current social climate.

Ed Sheeran, “Divide”

Alex Keobke: Ed Sheeran wasn’t new to the music scene by the time 2017 rolled around, but had recently taken a hiatus from social media that lasted from December 2015-2016. Despite taking a step back from interacting with his fans, he was still arguably already one of the biggest artists in the world. Which was a claim he more than backed up with his recent album Divide that was released in its entirety, this past March. The album had several outstanding songs, but nothing captured the attention of the general public (and myself) quite like “Perfect” which was both catchy and heartfelt. While the single found on the album is tremendous, Sheeran proceeded to his legacy even more by combining with both Beyonce and Andre Bocelli on two separate renditions of the song.

Taylor Swift, “Reputation”

Jessica Fritz: Not only was this album the one I was most looking forward to in 2017, but it surpassed all expectations! After hearing the first few singles from the album, I was admittedly worried that it wouldn’t live up to her previous work. But after listening to it in full, every song has context and just sounds oh so right. “Dress” is by far the best track on the album, a saucy tune about a secret love affair and a dress she bought with only one intention in mind…

What were some of your favorite albums of 2017? Share with us in the comments below.

 

 

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