Top 20 Albums of 2017 (10-01)

10. Chastity Belt: I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone

I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, the third full-length studio album from Chastity Belt, found the Seattle band handily pairing singer/guitarist Julia Shapiro’s introspective, thoughtful lyrics and often lugubrious tone to the group’s’ specific brand of tension-and-release indie rock. The ten songs that make up IUTSSMTA create an intimate portrait of exclusion, stagnation, hopelessness, and ennui. “I’m not okay,” Shapiro repeats dejectedly during the track “Complain”. With I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt managed to create a timeless, empathetic soundtrack for the alienated, demonstrating that sometimes it’s okay to be not okay. – Andy Mascola

09. Spoon: Hot Thoughts

Spoon’s consistency has been their greatest asset. Only three years since their last critically lauded album, They Want My Soul, it is easy to take Hot Thoughts for granted. But for being another solid Spoon album, Hot Thoughts is filled with gambles. “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” might be one of Spoon’s catchiest tracks in recent memory but the band defies you to like it by giving it a noise rock makeover. Then an exciting track like “I Ain’t the One” features a sparse instrumental, mostly just synths and vocals save for a few moments of cold, angular drums. All these arrangement choices show a band pushing the boundaries of what they can do while still employing great pop songwriting. At every turn, Hot Thoughts thrills without ever seeming boring. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

08. Oh Sees: Orc

From the depths of some mythical fantasy world rises a half-human half-beast guitar lord who shreds as furiously on his axe as he does with his quill, writing song after song filling up album after album worth of material. In all seriousness, for anyone familiar with John Dwyer’s prolific production as a member of Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees, OCS, Damaged Bug, or as founder of Castle Face Records Orc raised hell and then dropped it seven levels deeper than it originated. From the blistering opener Static God to the mind-bending midpoint with “Jettisoned” and to the mathy funk finale in “Raw Optics,” Orc levitates, transports, and returns the listener to a world one listen better than before. For an enhanced human condition listen on repeat, indefinitely. – Greg Scranton

07. Father John Misty: Pure Comedy

Recorded in March of 2016, with the outcome of a hotly contested American presidential election still months away, Pure Comedy miraculously managed to capture the zeitgeist for 2017 in seventy-four minutes of satirical indie folk and sardonic baroque pop. Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) held a cleverly disguised mirror up to the Western world’s narcissism and worship of hypocritical leaders, bogus zealots, and celebrity culture. Pure Comedy will forever be looked back upon as a frighteningly prophetic document ingeniously presented as thirteen beautiful and compelling songs that forced a fractured society to see itself for what it had become. – Andy Mascola

06. Destroyer: ken

No two Destroyer albums sound the same which is saying something for a guy who has put out 11 fairly solid albums. On ken, Daniel Bejar experiments with brasher synths than on his much loved Kaputt but the songs are just as memorable. Lines like “what comes round is going round again” or “I’ve been working on the new Oliver Twist,” standout as some of the best Destroyer-isms in recent records and some of the most memorable lyrics of the year. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

05. Taylor Swift: Reputation

A new era of Taylor Swift has arrived in the form of a supersonic bass blaster. Reputation represents the growth of Swift from corny crooning love songs to full-on window shattering anthems. Swift no longer cares about her reputation and is now making the music she always wanted to make, and boy, she has a lot to say. Each song is packed to the brim with saucy lyrics, coy references to sex and drugs, and oh my word Swift even swears. With challenging yet catchy beats and rhythms, this album isn’t afraid to knock you off-guard with a full departure from her decade old debut album. This is the Taylor Swift we’ve all been waiting for. – Julie Sullivan

04. New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions

New Pornographers‘ seventh studio album, Whiteout Conditions is also their first not to feature Daniel Bejar. In a way, his weirdness often made New Pornographers previous albums sound stronger. Whiteout Conditions succeeds despite his absence, sounding more focused and singular. AC Newman is still the star of the show, delivering beautiful crafted power pop and Neko Case delivers some of the punchiest performances of her career (see album opener, “Play Money). Replacing Bejar as the third personality is Kathryn Calder, who’s strong vocal performance and spot on harmonizing enriches the album at almost every turn. Memorable tracks like “This Is the World of the Theater” and “Avalanche Alley” are better for having her on them – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

03. St. Vincent: Masseduction

St. Vincent described her 2014 self-titled album as “a bit brighter” and “less emotionally fraught.” For those qualities, it was the best reviewed album of her career. Masseduction is literally the opposite of those qualities. The album shows Annie Clark working painstakingly over ideas of sexuality and femininity but in a more personal way. Rockers like “Los Ageless” are offset by gut punching ballads like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” and “New York” to create St. Vincent’s fullest album to date. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

02. Ariel Pink: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, Ariel Pink’s second full-length released solely under his own name, is a stunning collection of hypnogogic pop that ranges from laid-back AM radio grooves and outsider funk to quirky rock and freaky novelty jams. A musical chameleon of sorts, Pink is able to jump from odd vocal takes and retro-inspired chants (“Santa’s In the Closet”, “Time to Live”) to gentle sincerity and dream pop (“Another Weekend”, “Kitchen Witch”). Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is the kind of eclectic album that shouldn’t work but somehow does. Ariel Pink has been recording and releasing music for roughly twenty years under a variety of monikers. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is a testament to his boundless creativity and unique musical brilliance. – Andy Mascola

01. Lorde: Melodrama

Sophomore albums are oftentimes the hardest albums to make. With the expectation, the criticism, the hungry pack of wolves ready to feed on any mistake, it comes as no surprise that Melodrama took nearly four years of tweaking and reworking to debut. Instead of succumbing to pressure and outside forces, Lorde made the album she wished to make: a soulful, aching collection of pure honesty. Each track tugs on the heartstrings, punches you in the gut, but is also strangely uplifting. Melodrama aims to prove that we are not alone in our struggles, that others have felt the same way, too. Therefore, the way we feel is not melodramatic because it is a lived experience of others, as well. It is our own experience of waiting for the green light during a breakup when all we felt like was a liability. Lorde has such a deep connecting force with her audience, able to captivate us with her polished bronze voice woven so tightly with some of Jack Antonoff’s best beats. Melodrama is a stunning success of a second album. Lorde’s success does not depend on critics or executives badgering for another money-making hit like “Royals”. This is an album for loving, for leaving, for that heartache that never goes away. Melodrama is everything we wanted and needed it to be. – Julie Sullivan

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