Friday, December 22, 2017

The Best of 2017: The Best New Albums I Heard

If there were any albums released in 2017 bound to be considered classics--at least in a rock vein, with apologies to Kendrick Lamar and Run the Jewels, acclaimed and respected but not to my tastes--I am either unaware or unappreciative.

Certainly, the paucity of my CD purchases has much to do with my preponderant listening via Spotify--for which I have a premium subscription--but I still can be compelled to buy a physical album.

Yet I did so only for the new U2 (Songs of Experience) and Taylor Swift (Reputation) albums, neither of which I cared for nearly as much as hoped.

 Sure, it was nice that some old favorites--Robert Plant, Ray Davies, Blondie, Billy Corgan, Paul Weller--put out some decent material, but it didn't really come close to their best work.

The same can also be said for more contemporary favorites like Arcade Fire and Maximo Park.

And while there certainly were albums I listened to during the year, particularly to prep for concerts I attended--and there were several stellar ones of those, per a list coming soon--for the most part the list below is culled from what I liked best in a barrage of listening over just the past few weeks.

My #1 album was released in January but I only first heard it in December. It's by an artist I've never much cared about before. Yet I found it to be the most exciting and consistent album of the year.

So make of this list what you will.

It's likely I may not much remember, or champion, these albums in years to come. And perhaps I'll discover some works I missed or undervalued that would significantly change the ranked order.

But in a year that once again saw the passing of far too many rock greats--Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, Gregg Allman, Chester Bennington, Walter Becker, Grant Hart, Gord Downie, Malcolm Young, Tommy Keene, Fats Domino, Pat DiNizio--these were:

My Favorite New Rock Albums of 2017

1. Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound (Spotify link)

2. The National - Sleep Well Beast (Spotify link)

3. Robert Plant - Carry Fire (Spotify link)

4. Arcade Fire - Everything Now (Spotify link)

5. Maximo Park - Risk to Exist (Spotify link)

6. Ray Davies - Americana (Spotify link)

7. Lorde - Melodrama (Spotify link)

8. Blondie - Pollinator (Spotify link)

9. Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black (Spotify link)

10. Gorillaz - Humanz (Spotify link) 

11. Billy Corgan - Ogilala (Spotify link)

Honorable Mention

Paul Weller - A Kind Revolution (Spotify link)
War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding (Spotify link)
The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions (Spotify link)
LCD Soundsystem - American Band (Spotify link)
Liam Gallagher - As You Were (Spotify link)
Father John Misty - Pure Comedy (Spotify Link)

Special Mention

As in 2016, the new "albums" I listened to and liked the most this year aren't represented on the above list. I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and while the Boss didn't release any new music in 2017, via he put out official recordings of all of his February concerts in Australia with the E Street Band, as well as several archival live sets.

These are the ones I bought--as downloads, though CDs are also available--and I love them all:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
● Brisbane 2/14/17
● St. Louis 8/23/08
● Helsinki 7/31/12
● Albany 2/7/77
● Rochester 2/8/77
● New York 7/1/00
● Stockholm 7/3/88

If you only want one, I'd recommend St. Louis 8/23/08.

Pearl Jam has also long released official bootlegs of their concerts--which can be found here--and though long-delayed, their two Wrigley Field shows in Chicago (August 20 & 22, 2016) are now available and quite good.

Metallica likewise releases all their shows, and though their setlists in 2017 were pretty static, I enjoy having a recording of the Chicago / Soldier Field concert I attended on June 18. (

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