It’s the end of the year. People make best of the year lists at the end of the year. I need to make up some quality content. Yup, this makes sense. Welcome to Jiggly’s Top 20 Musical Releases of 2017. I say “Musical Releases” because some of these aren’t full albums or even original albums, so I just want to make sure I don’t back myself in a corner on those. This is based entirely off of my own personal taste and honestly, there’s plenty of albums that I should’ve listened to this year that I didn’t. That honorable mention goes to The Bleachers, who just slipped my mind until before I started writing this. The list was already set, except Eminem decided to release his new record yesterday so I guess I had to mix everything up again.
First, I’m just going to mention a release that wasn’t on anyone’s list and doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same article as these amazing works of art. So I won’t mention it. I’ll just link you to it. It’s technically been re-released already due to random technical issues so if you’ve already checked it out, check it out again, there’s a new song.
Now a couple Honorable Mentions before I get started (that do deserve to be mentioned): While only a single song, I thought Dig Down by Muse was absolutely amazing. It is an absolute show-stopper and is just another epic Muse song. Was hoping it meant more Muse this year, but we’ll have to wait I guess. Also getting mentioned is the Bob’s Burgers Music Album, because it’s just a really good show that’s very clever with their songwriting. They’ve also got some pretty cool friends, bringing in The National and St. Vincent in to cover some of their stuff. You’ll see more from them later. Now, onto the list!
20. american dream – LCD Soundsystem
This album goes last on this list mostly because it was kinda boring to me. Maybe it was because I was doing things while listening to it, but I just didn’t enjoy it. LCD Soundsystem usually isn’t my cup of tea, but I wanted to honor them with a spot anyways because this is a band that came out of retirement to make this record. It’s almost all the same disco-ish techno-type stuff that they do, but there is much less of an edge on it and is definitely slower and softer. I’d listen to it again if only to understand it better, but until then I’ll just leave it here at the bottom of this list.
19. Under The Covers, Vol. II – Ninja Sex Party
Yes, a comedy band doing covers of 80’s songs. But to be serious about it, this album is really good. Unfortunately, I only recognized half of the songs and that’s probably due to me being a baby (comparatively). The lead singer, Danny “Sexbang” Avidan, actually has an amazing voice and is constantly striving to be better at what he does and works with vocal coaches to be able to match the tone of these great artists that they cover. On the keys is “Ninja” Brian Wecht who decided to leave his comfortable job as a theoretical physicist to make dick jokes on Twitter for 15 year olds. Oh, and play music.
Standout songs on this album are basically anything you can recognize. Includes covers of Rocket Man, Heat of the Moment, and Africa.
18. Agenda – Kate Nash
Kate Nash has a had a pretty damn decent year. She was on probably the best TV Show of the year in G.L.O.W. starring beside Allison Brie and Marc Maron. But a couple months before she put out a small LP (or EP, I don’t know what you’re supposed to specifically call it). It was only 4 tracks, but I absolutely loved one of them. “Call Me” sounded like an amazing return to the roots of her first record, but with new confidence. I just really hope that this is a show of things to come, because let’s just say that her recent track record isn’t favorable in my opinion (Why yes, I didn’t like Girl Talk).
The other songs on there are pretty good, but none of them are close to “Call Me”.
17. The Con X – Tegan & Sara (& Friends)
Another cover album, but this time it was done by the original artist recruiting other artists. As a 10 year anniversary of their biggest album, the Canadian Duo decided to bring in other artists to cover that album. This brought in some pretty big names like CHVRCHES, Paramore, and even Cyndi Lauper. It also included some extra demo tracks, so that adds some fun new stuff too!
16. Crack Up – Fleet Foxes
It’s another Fleet Foxes album. I don’t know what you’re expecting. They do the same exact thing every time and you know what, it works. But on the other hand, it’s a bit ordinary. That’s why it’s lower on the list. There’s really no single track that stands out, it all blends together. Once again, not a bad thing, especially with their style being the way it is. It’s just that I can’t exactly give a specific recommendation except just listen to the whole thing at once.
15. Tremendous Sea of Love – Passion Pit
This was released much earlier in the year and was actually being given out for free on Twitter by the artist as a part of a way to raise awareness about the need for science and research (which was being threatened and sort of is still being threatened by the current administration). It’s quite a bit of a different sound than what he normally does, but it was done on purpose. He said that he had only just written his songs the night before and recorded them quickly before placing them onto the album. He did this to show that things being imperfect is okay, that honesty is more important than perfection. This is an interesting thing to think about when listening to this album and gives it a deeper meaning than its face value.
14. Going Grey – The Front Bottoms
On the theme of sounding a bit different, I hadn’t listened to much of the Front Bottoms other than Talon of the Hawk. It was one of those things I figured I’d get around to eventually and decided that since I was doing a post on music released in 2017, I’d give their new record a try. Now I feel the need to go back and look for the changes in between because this is completely different from those old acoustic sounds I first heard on that NPR Tiny Desk Concert. It’s interesting and definitely shows growth, but I can feel like this is still a transition and they have yet to reach their final form.
13. Concrete & Gold – Foo Fighters
I’m going to be very honest. Every band needs a break from making good music. This sounds like Dave Grohl decided to take that break. It’s not bad, but it’s not really amazing. I kind of feel let down after the amazing trip that Sonic Highways was. There’s definitely some strong points on the album, but I just felt like it was ordinary for the Foo Fighters. Hopefully this is just them working on some stuff that’s going to get even better. As I said, it’s not bad; It’s just ordinary.
12. I See You – The XX
Here comes another band that took on a really different sound with their newest record. It seems that Jamie XX’s time making beats and remixing other people’s music had a major influence on the sound in this album. There’s some sampling and a lot of twists and turns. It sounds interesting and seems like an interesting new era for them. I’ve always seen The XX’s music as a sort of “desolation soundtrack”, the sort of thing you’d listen to alone. But this record has quite a bit more life in it than previous ones. While I kind of prefer that older sound, this new one is interesting too.
11. If All I Was Was Black – Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples has also had a pretty interesting year. She’s just kind of shown up everywhere. One day she’s on the track for the Gorillaz, the next she’s doing a private show at a micro-brewery in SoCal with Tom Waits. Known as one of the great musical voices of the Civil Rights Era, it’s only fitting that she makes this big of a comeback during this new political era. She makes her statement well and her voice is still keeping on.
10. Smash The Windows – The Tossers
One band that you won’t see on many people’s Top Albums of the Year lists, let alone their Top 10’s is The Tossers. They’re an amazing Gaelic punk band from Chicago and one of my favorites (Think Dropkick Murphy’s or Flogging Molly, but better and from Chicago). They have a fun jumpy sound to start a mosh pit to when they need to in “Erin Go Bragh” and can calm down when they need to for slower, more meaningful songs like “1969”. While not their finest work (I’d say that would be either The Valley of the Shadow of Death or Emerald City), they still pack a massive punch.
9. Wonderful Wonderful – The Killers
Looking back on it, I don’t think The Killers have ever put out a bad record and this album clearly continues that trend. Very well produced, they give the great range that they’ve always had. Really, writing this I feel like I’d have to be more descriptive if I wanted to trash this album because it just does everything it needs to do so well that it’s just natural to say, “Yup, that’s just a good song.”
In conclusion, if you love The Killers, you’ll love this album. I’d say my pick from this one is “Run For Cover”.
8. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
I don’t listen to too much rap, but my Top 10 is going to make you think the opposite, starting with this record. I think everyone heard “HUMBLE.” when it first came out and the subsequent usage of it. It’s actually pretty catchy and pretty damn good. And then I saw it as #1 on NPR’s list (over my #1) and thought, “Maybe I should check this out.” So I did.
It’s actually a very insightful record and makes me want to go back and check out more Kendrick. Not just clever lyrics, but the words have more meaning than just the usual nonsense being thrown about. I mentioned “HUMBLE.”, but my personal pick is going to be “FEAR.”.
7. Revival – Eminem
This is the album that almost didn’t make it on here due to it being released LITERALLY YESTERDAY! But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an amazing record and probably some of Em’s most honest work. Clocking in at a little under an hour and a half, it’s a bit of a marathon, but worth every song. While some of it is about the current political climate, as could be expected from the guy who called out Trump during the BET Awards, a lot of it sort of sounds like a collection of apologies to everyone in his life. If you remember back to the start of his career, everything was about how much he hated his mom or his ex-wife; but now in songs like “Headlights” (from Marshall Mathers LP 2) and “Bad Husband”, he’s working on mending relationships with people. It’s interesting to see an artist grow up and mature in that way and here’s hoping those relationships do mend.
6. Humanz – Gorillaz
Personally this was the most anticipated album of the year. I mean, they’re my favorite band and hadn’t put out anything since 2010 except for a Converse commercial. Of course I was excited! The reason that this album just misses the mark is that, like any Gorillaz album, its best tracks are in the deluxe version. While the regular album only has 11 tracks, there’s a total of 26 in the deluxe version, which includes songs like “Hallelujah Money”, “Let Me Out”, “We Got The Power”, and “Out of Body”. What I’m saying is that while I love this apocalyptic dance party groove that Damon Albarn’s got going here, I’m disappointed by the pay wall to some of the better music from this batch (says the guy who just listened to it for free on Spotify and Youtube).
Another reason why they didn’t crack the Top 5 is that they introduced me to a different artist that beat them out.
5. Stillness In Wonderland – Little Simz
As I said, I’m not much of a rap guy. What I am, however, is a sucker for concept albums. I discovered Simz from the most recent Gorillaz release “Garage Palace” and really liked her flow and style. From there I found an NPR Tiny Desk Concert (really a great source for finding out whether you’ll like an artist. The answer’s usually yes if they did one). I found out from there that she had made a concept album based around the classic Alice in Wonderland. Much like Humanz, it did have more behind it in the deluxe version than the regular version, but the best tracks are actually in the regular version. I’d say that my favorite track would either be “Trust Issues”, “Picture Perfect”, or “King of Hearts”.
4. Sleep Well, Beast – The National
Matt Berninger is my man-crush. His writing is probably the most influential of any artist on my own writing. Or at least that’s how I feel. So there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have his most recent record in my Top 5. This album may sound like the rest, but as someone who listens to their early records on almost a daily basis, it’s pretty dang experimental. There’s definitely some different new sounds in there that help further their own style. I’d definitely admit that there are a couple of songs that I didn’t really mentally notice until their music videos came out, like “Dark Side of the Gym” and “I’ll Still Destroy You“. But I think that is more of a testament of how great this album is that you don’t really notice how amazing these songs are until you pull one out on its own. It’s like if you took a player who kind of just blends in at Arsenal and put them on a team like the Colorado Rapids, they’d definitely show their isolated talent. This record is absolutely amazing not only as an album but as individual songs.
3. Feel Your Feelings, Fool – The Regrettes
If you thought NSP and The Tossers were an upset, check this shit out! Coming in at the most special of places in any of my lists, is a brand new band out of LA that I’ve only just been listening to for the past couple of weeks. This is their debut and I must say, listening to them is like watching Christian Pulisic start for Dortmund for the first time. So much potential and there’s already a scary amount of talent already there. I first listened to this record and I got a fever… literally, I found out that I had a sinus infection later that day. But also metaphorically in the way that I was now motivated to do more with my own writing, since THE FRONT WOMAN IS 16 YEARS OLD! Expect a post coming later going more in-depth on my existential crisis ramblings on that whole idea, but this band is exactly what music needs: New Punk. And they deliver. Please give this band a listen.
My favorite three songs have to be “Hey Now”, “Hot”, and the almost rap-like “Picture Perfect”.
2. Turn Out The Lights – Julien Baker
Now onto something completely different. I could say I discovered Julien Baker from a Tiny Desk, but really I just added it to Watch Later until I saw her cover Death Cab For Cutie’s “Photobooth” for AV Club. I immediately went back and checked out all of her music and she is incredible. In general, her music’s pretty depressing, although in this one she seems to take a bit more of an upbeat tone in terms of her lyrics, seen in “Hurt Less” and “Happy To Be Here”. Her biggest strength is her ability to control emotions through her clean guitar sounds and write great poetry that gives words to that emotion. I’m a bit disappointed that her singles “Funeral Pyre” and “Distant Solar Systems” didn’t make the album, what’s on there is just beautiful emotion. I can’t say enough good things about her music, so please check her out.
This album is one of those where you can’t really pick out your one favorite song or even several. Everything’s good.
1. MASSEDUCTION – St. Vincent
I decided to start listening to St. Vincent some time in late June. I don’t remember how I decided it or where I found the first video, but by mid-September I had memorized every single one of her songs. She was kind of my inspiration to just release some of my music, even if it was as a joke, and it helped me decide to learn guitar. But enough about me, more about the record. Annie Clark’s gone on record saying that this is her most personal album and I believe it. And the reason it works so well is hidden at the top of this post: Jack Antonoff (He’s the leader of Bleachers). The dude’s Musical IQ is so awesome that he needs his own post at some other point, but that IQ helped to bring down St. Vincent’s very heady lyrics from the past to something that reaches the listener a lot more.
While the album starts out with some massive stadium shakers, there’s more to it, there’s a story. And as that story unfolds you see Annie show more and more of herself to the listener. You get whiplash from the massive shift in the middle of the record. And that shift is my own favorite song and might be my favorite St. Vincent song in general: “Happy Birthday, Johnny”. It’s an incredibly stripped down sound right after the chaos that is “Los Ageless”. This song was a poem before it was a song and I would love to hear her just do an a capela version of it. Just vocals. Which is another thing she really improved on in this record, but I feel like I can go on for hours talking about how much I loved this album, so I’ll end it here. Just go listen to it, like, four or five times. You’ll get what I mean.
So that ends my list. Did I miss anything? I know I did. Just tell me if there’s anything you think I should’ve listened to (based on my taste, of course, not asking for suggestions completely out of the blue). I think that it was right to have the two albums I listened to the most as my Top 2 and you should definitely check out any of the artists that I suggested if you think that I’ve got a good read on music. Hopefully I can keep up a weekly schedule and come back next week with some more fun things.