Top Twenty-Five Albums of 2017: Ghettoblaster Staff

2017 wasn’t 2016, so it had that going for it.

The continual march of bad news aside, it was a good year for music – which is a silly thing to say at this point because with production so readily accessible, every year is going to be a good year for music. You may just have to dig a little deeper some years.

In that spirit, instead of voting on favorites and coming to similar consensuses as other lists already out there, we asked our contributors to give their individual top 10 albums and from those lists we’ve assembled twenty-five of our favorites from 2017.

From hip-hop to indie rock, from old favorites to exciting new acts, in no particular order here are our albums of the year…

 

Human Leather – Lazy Karaoke

In late April, Cercle Social released the full-length debut from Salt Lake City synthwave duo Human Leather. Comprised of vocalists Adam Klopp (Choir Boy) and Chaz Costello (Sculpture Club) the effort reignites the defiant spirit of ‘80s new wave with Klopp’s majestic falsetto warble and Costello’s breathy baritone at its dreamy and danceable core. While Lazy Karaoke winks at paying homage to new wave forerunners like Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears, this isn’t simply a nostalgia piece. It is a lovely, heavy pop record by songwriters with pedigree and talent; sadly, it’s probably the kind of record that will likely get its due long after the duo moves on to other projects. (Cercle Social) by Tim Anderl

 

P.O.S – Chill, Dummy

The musician & Doomtree rapper blew the proverbial doors off this year’s vehicle Chill, Dummy, challenging listeners with an assortment of heavy beats, unrestrained dissonance and clever lyricism. One might say P.O.S is ahead of his time, but Chill, Dummy puts him ahead of decline. (Doomtree) by Eddie Ugarte

 

Wyldlife – Out On Your Block

There’s a fine line where the sweaty arrogance of punk rock meets the manicured catchiness of power-pop, and on their third full-length, Wyldlife straddle it with a compellingly casual swagger. Frontman Dave Feldman tosses off his snotty vocals like the bastard child of Johny Thunders and Phil Lynott, greasy and grooving on the 70’s styled party anthems, Ramonesy punk, and power-pop. (Wicked Cool Records) by Jim Testa

 

Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

The best hip-hop album of 2017 is not really a hip-hop album at all. Vince Staples enlisted well known electronic producers to create a palate of sounds that recalls 90s house music, European electro and nothing else all at the same time. Over these intricate and original tracks Staples raps his heart out and structures the songs in such strange ways that it’s hard to wrap your mind around what you’re listening to. It is definitely an album that takes some investment but is absolutely worth the effort. Hopefully this is what the future of hip-hop sounds like. (Def Jam) by Brian LaBenne

 

Shabazz Palaces – Quazars: Born On A Gangster Star/Quazars vs. The Jealous Machines

What could have been better than a new album being released by Shabazz Palaces this year? The answer is two new albums released by Shabazz Palaces! Shabazz Palaces came back this year and dropped two new albums for the heads looking to keep that elevation moving. Embodying production that sets you on the path towards new horizons in the Shabazz Palaces ethos. Peep it! (Sub Pop Records) by John Arambulo

 

Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

Mike Eagle’s first album was titled Unapologetic Art Rap and that’s what he’s delivered on every album since, and his sixth full length is no exception. This is a concept album about the Robert Taylor projects in Chicago. Mike had family in the building and it was a second home to him, so when it was demolished in a wave of gentrification he was inspired to tell it’s story. The beats on this album switch from bright and warm to dark and driving, and while the content is often powerful and heart-wrenching Mike’s signature “dark comedy” is still present. He cracks wise in the face of his enemies and oppressors, vowing to do his part to make things better. (Mello Music Group) by Luke LaBenne

 

Elder – Reflections of A Floating World

Elder shows no signs of slowing down their incredible growth arc, upping the prog quotient even more and resulting in an album you can get lost in over and over. Meticulously paced, there isn’t a bum note to be had. Outstanding stuff. (Armageddon) by Andrew Lampela

 

Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now

Noisy punk rock at its loudest, angriest, and dirtiest. Seriously, you’ll feel sweaty just listening to it. Lyrically it’s a much needed analysis of toxic bullshit masculinity, but from a more introspective point of view. And Lydia Lunch’s role as producer and on the album makes both aspects of this record even more effective. (Sub Pop) by Andrew Fetter

 

Guided by Voices – August by Cake

Guided by Voices first double album, August by Cake showcases the current lineup as a rock powerhouse. Allowing each member to pen a couple of songs, there’s not a single clunker out of the thirty-two. With Bob at the helm, it’s always a great ride, but here’s hoping for more group efforts. Maybe a triple album in 2018? (GBV Inc) by David C. Obenour

 

Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here

In October, Long Island, New York’s Iron Chic released the follow up to 2013’s The Constant One, their highly anticipated debut for SideOneDummy. Simply, the record is offers a masterclass in emotional punk rock that is honest, self-deprecating, and is at ones staggeringly beautiful, heartbreaking and honest. Written and recorded in guitarist Phil Douglas’ house, the band tackles subjects of grief and depression, likely driven by loss of their longtime bandmate Rob McAllister in 2016. Still, through the pain and carried by the band’s mastery of melody is a rally cry for perseverance and survival. Lucky for fans of both punk rock and earnest, knuckles barred punk, Iron Chic is still standing, and by the sound of this record, are as strong as ever. (SideOneDummy) by Tim Anderl

 

dälek – Endangered Philosophies

Last year we saw the return of dälek with the release of Asphalt For Eden but Endangered Philosophies? It’s as if there was never a missed step. This is Hip-Hop that drinks from the fountains of both P.E. and MBV, never letting go of their politicized ideals. Now certainly is the time. (Ipecac) by Eddie Ugarte

 

Ted Leo – The Hanged Man

Personal tragedy, career setbacks, and then Donald Trump: There are telling moments on “The Hanged Man” when Ted Leo sounds as if it’s all broken his spirit; “Used To Believe” and “Can’t Go Back” bristle with pessimism and discord, while ““The Future (Is Learning to Wait Around for Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Wait For)” laments the stunted, thwarted expectations of his generation. It’s a testament to Leo’s indomitable spirit that no matter how downcast the lyrics, his music retains its vibrancy and ability to lift us up, from the signature Thin Lizzy- stomp of “Used To Believe” to his invocation of heroes like Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello on “Anthems Of None” and “Run To The City,” to his putdown of liberal complacency, “The Smug Little Supper Club.” (SuperEgo Records) by Jim Testa

 

Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now

Life Will See You Now is actually comprised of ten short stories masquerading as some of the catchiest songs you’ll hear all year. Jens Lekman is a master songwriter and his newest collection is definitely his best. These stories will definitely make you smile and probably make you tear up a little. Although the main attraction is always Lekman’s lyricism the music behind the words really holds up well and transforms the songs into fantastic pieces of pop music. (Secretly Canadian) by Brian LaBenne

 

Masta Killa – Loyalty is Royalty

Masta Killa returned this year with his fourth solo album and it is a reminder that he is one of the more prolific lyricists of Wu-Tang. Street parables delivered like a merchant with a side of hard knocking beats make keep this album on repeat! (Nature Sounds) by John Arambulo

 

Perfume Genius – No Shape

Mike Hadreas has often felt betrayed by his body. Whether it’s not feeling attached to his gender or suffering from Crohn’s disease, he’s often felt like he was so much more than his mortal shell. On this album he attempts to “hover with no shape,” as he explores the different shapes we take over composition that can shift from fragile and vulnerable to grand and explosive without warning. (Matador) by Luke LaBenne

 

Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

This ripping little nugget takes me back to my youth while firmly face-planting a boot in the here and now, thrashing through eight tracks that are both politically minded and party ready. Might not be a grand artistic statement, but this one got played a ton this year. (Southern Lord) by Andrew Lampela

 

Moon Duo – Occult Architecture (Vol 1/Vol 2)

An amazing double album that reminds me of Suicide if they were a lot more psychedelic. Volume 1 has a more darker and ominous feel, whereas Volume 2 is more melodic feel. But I don’t see these as two separate albums. Despite the contrast in sound, the two sides compliment each other perfectly. (Sacred Bones) by Andrew Fetter

 

The Mr. T Experience – King Dork Approximately The Album

Pop punk is a young man’s game, both as a listener and as a performer, so it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I put on the Mr. T Experience’s first new album in twelve years. Guess what though? Dr. Frank’s still as clever as ever and the music’s still worthy of all of your fist pumps. (Sounds Rad) by David C. Obenour

 

Brother Ali – All The Beauty In This Whole Life

Where Brother Ali’s heart seemed hardened, showcased with visceral lyricism, All The Beauty In This Whole Life finds him embracing everyone in love with poignant lyrics and Ant’s beautifully composed beats. If someone hates this album, there’s something wrong with that person because it’s simply perfect. (Rhymesayers) by Eddie Ugarte

 

Bonny Doon – self-titled

My favorite new band of the year also comes from the best state in the US! That’s right, good ol’ Detroit boys Bonny Doon released their self-titled debut and totally blew my socks off. It is a great combination of wonderful songwriting over folky/roots rock and great melodies. This album is perfect for fans of Silver Jews and Pavement. (Salinas Records) by Brian LaBenne

 

Ufomammut – 8

You can call Ufomammut stoner doom if you must, but their dense, repetitive and, most importantly, spacey take has always struck me as too good for mere labels. 8 is yet another powerful outing that rewards multiple deep dives. (Neurot) by Andrew Lampela

 

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Spoon is one of very few indie rock bands that actually get better the further down the pop road they go. Even with the guitars being much less prominent than their past records, it’s still unmistakably Spoon, and it’s them at their best yet. Every new record always tops the one before it, which is a rare feat for any band to pull off. (Matador) by Andrew Fetter

 

R. Ring – Ignite the Rest

It used to seem that Kelley Deal’s efforts on R. Ring would be doomed to the obscurity of the 7″. Who wants to get up that much to flip a record? I mean, sure, you could download it and listen on your computer, but who does that? Everyone but me? Oh… anyway, giving us a full full-length’s worth, the creativity of what her and bandmate, Mike Montgomery are up to shines through. Brooding, rocking, spacious and raw. (Sofaburn) by David C. Obenour

 

Downtown Boys – Cost of Living

I like to describe the state of the world in 2017 with one word: WOOF! At times it was easy to feel so sad and overwhelmed by current events and wonder if the small strides towards progress that had been made were all being erased. Thankfully we have a band like Downtown Boys to emulate what is great about America, while at the same time yelling at the top of their lungs what should upset us all. Downtown Boys is a multi-gendered, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual punk rock band and Cost of Living is their excellent sophomore album, which really hones in on their sound and takes it to a new level. If aggressive punk rock with lots of horns and screaming vocals (sometimes in Spanish) sounds good to you then this album is a “can’t miss.” (Sub Pop) by Brian LaBenne

 

Sweet Apple – Sing The Night In Sorrow

When I want to rock, I rock! And I do that with Sweet Apple’s 3rd release here because it gives me what I want in that respect as well as throwing in sweet melodies and harmonies. While some members may call home somewhere else, I guess you can say this is another Ohio-done-good band. (Tee Pee Records) by Eddie Ugarte

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