If you want to know what the current, most “hip” music is that the kids are listening to – be sure to ask a 33-year-old white guy with an IT background and he will kindly point you in the right direction. A lot has changed in music over the years. We went from vinyl records to cassette tapes to cds to mp3s to streaming services and now, for some strange reason, back to vinyl. The genres have changed as well. If you remember, electronica was supposed to be the genre that was gonna take over in the late 1990s, but it never really happened. Sorry, Moby, but we don’t miss you. But, as I reviewed some of the most applauded albums of 2017 – it appears electronica is rearing its ugly head again . I’m not gonna lie, a lot of this music will sound like space music to many.
2017 had a lot of highly anticipated albums that ended in disappointment and barely any groundbreaking new artists. Honorable mentions go to Gorillaz’ Humanz which was unexpectedly bad and the new Foo Fighters album which I didn’t even bother listening to. The Gorrilaz album was bad for many reasons: think of a whole auto-tuned, dance, rap album that took way too long to release. This type of album would’ve worked in 2005, but it just sounds horribly dated and bad in 2017. The album still would’ve sucked in 2005, but that horrible style of music was in back then.
How about that new Killers album, Wonderful Wonderful? Pretty awful. They should rename it Terrible Terrible. “The Man” might be one of the worst songs I’ve heard in a while. It’s like a bad, failed attempt at Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time”. Imagine a bus accident with the Bee Gees and Abba and you have the makings of this song. I envision one of the members of The Bee Gees running out of the bus, impaled by a keytar, screaming “What in the hell happened?!” Every now and then a band that’s been around for a while puts out a horrible album and you can’t help but think “just break up already”.
Bands on my “please, breakup” list consist of Dave Matthews Band and Dave Matthews Band. And no, Dave Matthews Band wasn’t always unbearable, their first two albums were great. It’s the fact that they put out the same album over and over without ever-changing their sound that made them fatigue on everyone. Plus, look at their fanbase. Any band whose fanbase is primarily compromised of pretty young girls – is usually horrible. It’s true.
As for the criteria of our Top 40 album list – we try not to count EPs, compilations or modern country music because it doesn’t qualify as real music – sorry girls in your early twenties.
You can also listen to a 33-year-old man’s interpretation of the best music by listening to Moron Review’s Top Songs of 2017 on Spotify as well as most of the albums listed:
40. Japanese Breakfast – Sounds From Another Planet
I’m not sure what a Japanese Breakfast means, but I damn sure know what a Chinese breakfast means. It’s when you’re hungover from a night of boozing and you wait in your car the next morning (with your shades on), for the local Chinese buffet to open so you can take them for all they’re worth. The asian and dance aesthetics are quite strong on this album. Many musical touches that are reminiscent of the late 70s disco era. It makes me feel like I’m a teenage Japanese girl growing up in the late 1970s who was not allowed to go to discos due to my fathers strict cultural beliefs that discos are corrupt and against our religion.
39. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Ever since Reflektor, Arcade Fire has gone in a more dance inspired direction than the folk/rock sound they originally incorporated. In my opinion, this album is pretty bad, yet, it still made it to the top 40. This could be considered Arcade Fire’s “Abba” album. No kidding, it has many disco elements and in no way do I mean that in a good way. Hard to believe this is the same band that put out Neighborhoods.
Put Your Money On Me
38. Mark Lanegan Band – Gargoyle
If I were to describe Mark Lanegan’s voice to someone not privy to his catalogue, I would say “imagine a vampire who has smoked for an eternity, had his throat replaced with sandpaper, swallowed a tin of skoal and then ate the saltiest bag of popcorn known to man – and you would have Mark Lanegan’s voice.” Truly one of the great baritones of our generation along with Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits.
Mark Lanegan (along with Peter Gabriel) is one of the few artists that actually output superior music with their solo career as opposed to the bands they were in. The Screaming Trees were good, but I think the work Lanegan has put out post Screaming Trees is much more interesting. Blues Funeral is one of Lanegan’s best records. His solo work isn’t more interesting because it’s more experimental, but because it’s better songwriting.
While it doesn’t compare to their debut album, The XX, die-hard fans will still find a decent amount of songs to enjoy on this album.
A Violent Noise
Brave For You
I Dare You
36. Matt Cameron – Cavedweller
The drummer of Soundgarden (and Pearl Jam) finally has put out his own solo album. Full of the weird riffs and the odd time signatures he is known for, Matt Cameron delivers Cavedweller. Coming from the man who wrote “Mailman”, “Limo Wreck” and “Fresh Tendrils” – I had high expectations for this album which it came very close to fulfilling.
Time Wont Wait
I tried to get into this, but I can’t. Sorry, but hip hop music died with Wu Tang Clan and Eminem. And when a rapper teams up with U2… that pretty much tells me all I need to know. While its great to hear rap music of some substance this album lacks musically.
Billboard voted this the #1 album of 2017 – it’s not.
34. Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Ernest Weatherly Greene Jr. is the sole person behind Washed Out, which he began producing music under in 2009. Washed Out was actually discovered by music bloggers through its myspace page which ultimately led to his performing for the Pitchfork Music Festival.
Mr. Mellow is far cry from Within and Without as it lacks memorable tracks that seemed abundant on Within and Without.
Hard To Say Goodbye
Nicole Hummel, professionally known as Zola Jesus, put out her first LP, The Spoils while studying at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The most intriguing aspect of Zola Jesus is the genre-blending aspects that makes the foundation of Okovi. From classical to industrial, Zola Jesus seamlessly intertwines different sounds into a truly unique listening experience.
32. Broken Social Scene Hug of Thunder
Canadian indie rock band, Broken Social Scene returns with their first album in seven years. To call Broken Social Scene a band is a little misleading as there are almost 30 members. Broken Social Scene is more of a collaboration among bands (some well known) such as Metric and Feist to name a few.
Broken Social Scene combines elements of synth pop and electronica in your typical verse/chorus pop single format. Accompanied by overdriven guitars, Hug of Thunder balances many elements that you typically wouldn’t find on one record, quite effortlessly.
31. Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile Deviations
While The Fragile is really an album from 1999, Deviations is a never heard before version (sans vocals) of The Fragile that includes outtakes. While Add Violence didn’t make the list, The Fragile Deviations is pretty good. I think NIN sounds better minus Trent Reznor’s nasally vocals (check out Ghosts I-IV).
The Great Below
Fresh off of her getting the boot from Canadian electronica band, Crystal Castles, Alice delivers her debut album. While writing a sketch for The Second City, I found this genre called witchhouse which I thought was a hilarious type of music for a dad to his disapprove of his son listening to in my sketch. Hard enough to believe this genre exists. Here is the link in wikipedia and no fooling, it uses visuals and themes from The Lost Boys and Twin Peaks. I am not kidding.
I dare you to listen to this album in a dark room alone and tell me you’re not terrified.
If you ever wanted to know what Aaron Neville would sound like reincarnated as a 20-year-old blue-eyed white boy with a Flock of Seagulls haircut – look no further. I’m not gonna get into the details of how I mistakenly ended up at one of their concerts, but lets just say I was surrounded by teenagers that were wearing all the horrible fashions from the early 1990s that you prayed would never return: high-waisted acid washed jeans, scrunchy tube socks and unflattering frumpy fitting sweatshirts. I even saw one kid with a flannel shirt tied around their waist. I guess when you actually lived through a fashion trend firsthand and it comes back – it horrifies you. But, when you’re a young kid that never experienced the trend the first time around (because you weren’t even alive) its “cool” and “new” to you. Whatever, god bless them.
The same can be said for this album. I guess the early 90’s pop like Go West and anything off of the Pretty Woman Soundtrack is back in style and that’s where this album fits.
28. Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
Do you ever notice how jazz is always regarded by musicians as the highest form of music? The best drummers are always of a jazz background because its more complicated and intricate than pop or rock drumming.
I like jazz but I’m not gonna pretend like I love it to give off a certain view of myself. My main turn off about jazz is that it tends to lack melody. I’m not the type of guy who likes watching jam bands noodle around and do improvised soloing for 2o minutes. I rather hear great songwriting structured with melodies, crescendos and interesting chord progressions. But I don’t want formulaic pop music with just hooks either. That being said, Kamasi Washington creates a jazz record that any music fan can appreciate.
27. Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness
Recorded in Buffalo, Contemporary folk artist Julie Byrne releases her second album, Not Even Happiness via Bada Bing Records. Yes, you read that correctly: Bada Bing Records.
Byrne revealed that her sound was inspired by her father’s fingerstyle guitar playing and also was a New York Ranger before her musical career. Isn’t all guitar playing “fingerstyle”?
26. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
This is the type of album Pitchfork probably thinks is absolutely brilliant due to its driving social commentary. It’s decent. Joshua Tillman has a great voice but his songs go nowhere. Excellent production, but the songs don’t really evolve into something that takes you anywhere.
If you put this album on, the first thing you notice is a great voice and a piano which will cause many to automatically dub this record “great” but the songs lack. Weak vocal melodies and disorienting song structure make this album a one time listen.
25. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Formed in 2005, Philly based rock band The War on Drugs delivers their fourth album via Atlantic Records. Nominated for International Album of the Year at the 2018 UK Americana Awards, the album has spawned five singles.
It doesn’t leave the impression that 2014’s Lost In The Dream left (In Reverse, Red Eyes, An Ocean in Between The Waves) A Deeper Understanding does show a progression in The War on Drug’s evolving sound.
24. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
The hipsters love this band. Remember when James Murphy announced that LCD Soundsystem was retiring to sell concert tickets and then two years later he put out another record and was touring? Wow, what a two-year retirement that was. LCD Soundsystem is desperately trying to imitate The Talking Heads on this album, only problem is that The Talking Heads actually had a sense of melody. I’m sure this album is great if you’re on ecstasy, but I wouldn’t know.
I used to
23. The National – Sleep Well Beast
Formed in 1999 in Cincinnati, The National delivers their seventh studio album, Sleep Well Beast. The album’s production is top-notch. Not over produced nor is it low-fi, but right in the middle.
While this band gets a lot of attention, the songwriting still leaves a little to be desired. The vocal melodies are short and fragmented and most songs lack any memorable chorus. The guitar work is excellent with a haunting ambience to it.
Nobody Else Will Be There
Day I Die
22. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
I once missed Grizzly Bear open for Radiohead because my hibachi wouldn’t light while we tailgated in the venue’s parking lot. Long story short, I doused the grill in lighter fluid to get the fire going and then fed hotdogs that may or may not have had some lighter fluid on them to people I called friends.
The hibachi did finally end up lighting, but it was too late. I left it smoking in the parking lot and never looked back.
21. Beach House – BSides & Rarites
Baltimore based Beach House has come a long way since their early days on Sub Pop records. While typically we’d exclude compilations from a new album list, it is composed of mostly unreleased material, hence why we included it.
20. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon
The strangest thing about Who Built The Moon is that one of it’s arguably best songs is a bonus track that technically didn’t make the album. Dead In The Water is a song Gallagher performed live for a radio station only two days after completing it, having never played it for anyone.
Dead In The Water
While Who Built The Moon is worth a listen, you should definitely check out 2015’s Chasing Yesterday as it is Liam’s best work since Oasis. It’s hard to believe that the guy who penned the introspective lyrics of “Wonderwall” sounds like this in real life:
Seattle-based, math-rock playin’ Minus The Bear delivers their fourth album. I saw this band open for Soundgarden at The Vic in Chicago. You actually had to win tickets to the show through a lottery system as it was Soundgarden’s second show after reforming and the fact it was for only 1,600 people made it in even more demand.
Any new band that opens for a more succesful band always gets shit from the crowd. Especially if they aren’t as heavy as the band they are opening for, which was the case. I remember three guys yelling “Get the fuck off the stage! You suck!” and the band just played right through it. They had more energy and technicality than 90% of the bands I’ve seen. Truley a great live band.
“Nothing creepier than a guy in his 30s who listens to Lorde” I thought to myself as I drove to work one morning while listening to Melodrama. Lorde’s long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Pure Heroine arrived this summer after a five-year wait. The problem is that like many sophomore albums – it doesn’t live up to her debut. The saying is “You have your whole life to write your first record and about 8 months to write your second one.” Pretty true. That’s not much time to a craft an album of the same quality. Especially if you’re the soul songwriter.
17. Julien Baker – Turn Off The Lights
Honestly, her last album, Sprained Ankle was much better from a songwriting standpoint. This album is pretty much a duplicate – a single guitar with reverb and a singer. Her style is very minimalist. You will hear the occasional piano on this record but it works, just not as well as the last album.
Turn Out The Lights
16. Beach Fossils – Somersault
While nowhere near the level of their self-titled debut, Somersault is still a worthwhile listen. The main thing Beach Fossils have going for them is their surfer, spring-reverb drenched, 1950s style of beach rock. Many dub them in the same category as Wild Nothing as a “shoegaze” or “dreampop” band. If you’ve never heard them, you’ll probably enjoy this album more than I did. Their best work was definitely on their first two albums that were powered by songs casting a somber yet upbeat vibe such as Youth, Lazy Day and Wide Awake.
Beck does it again. Incorporating more pop and dance than previous albums, he also laces some nice melodic hooks into the majority of the songs. No artist has balanced pop and experimentation so well and as long as Beck.
14. Death From Above 1979 – Outrage is Now!
I guess the rage for the last 15 years has been two-piece garage rock, blues revival bands. It started with the White Stripes in Detroit, who were then copied by The Black Keys in Akron (wow, the name really fooled me from being a White Stripes rip off) then it was Royal Blood from the UK. Many are not aware, but Death From Above 1979! has been around since 2001 when they formed in Canada.
The album is heavy blues rock that almost borders doom metal at certain points such as the heavy Drop-D Black Sabbath-esque riff of Nomad.
13. Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
Someone might think that someone slipped Lana Del Rey a roofie upon first hearing her sedated vocals. While she definitely peaked with 2012’s Born To Die, Lust For Life is actually an improvement from her last album, Honeymoon. Criticized early on in her career for too strongly emulating 1960’s style, slow, female crooning by the likes of Leslie Gore (think “You Don’t Own Me”) and Dusty Springfield think (“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”) – she still seemed more authentic and original then a lot of the other new artists at the time. Supposedly Taylor Swift tries to copy a lot of things from Lana Del Rey. I wouldn’t know because I don’t listen to Taylor Swift.
Lust For Life is one of the better indie-pop records of 2017. Can you really be indie and pop at the same time? Isn’t the whole point of indie that it’s somewhat under the radar and not popular? But now indie has been popular for about 12 years so is it still indie? And all the big record labels are gone anyway other than the giant conglomerate that is Universal. Where am I? What day is it? Did the bus already come?
Lust For Life
Rivers Quomo is that old guy that sits on his front porch and still thinks about summers from high school. He has written 3 songs in the last two years that have the word “Summer” in the chorus. Summer Elaine and Drunk Dorie, MExican Fender and Feels Like Summer. We get it, Rivers. You really like summer. So do we. Only problem is that you put this album out in October, the month that celebrates the death of summer. Jesus Christ, what happened to this band? Someone tell Rivers Quomo that he stole the riff for “Mexican Fender” from ELO’s “Do Ya”. This album is quite different from the typical Weezer album. Pretty dancey and poppy. I’m pretty sure they even sampled the Fresh Prince in Happy Hour.
Rivers Quomo is like that old man who is obsessed with his youth. When a 50 something year old white guy writes songs about summer, chicks, happy hour and the weekend – I can’t help but feel a little bit uneasy.
Bleachers is musician, Jack Antonoff’s side project from his other pop bands: Fun and Steel Train. Heavily crafted as a radio friendly album with melodic hooks and simple 4/4 beats Gone Now is victim to a lot of filler tracks. Still a worthy pop album, it feels largely uneven and somewhat disjointed. Much praise for the albums experimentation and diversity considering its just supposed to be a catchy pop record.
Dont Count The Money
Lets Get Married
Everybody Lost Somebody
10. Halsey – Hopeless Fountain Kingdom
Ok, this is my attempt at acting like I know what the kids are listening to. I’m sure if I read up on Halsey, I’d probably find her annoying. Decent pop album with lots of threatening lyrics that terrify a soon to be middle-aged man such as myself.
9. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper RECOMMENDED
Not many doom metal bands putting out music this year, but Bell Witch is worth a listen. If you’re like me, you love some decent stoner rock or doom metal: Sabbath, Soundgarden, Kyuss, Sleep, Electric Wizard, Sunn O))) and Boris are the best when it comes to heavy detuned riffs. You can now add Bell Witch to that list as this band definitely carries the torch as far as stoner rock goes.
One catch: the whole album is one 83 minute song so if you have ADD – best of luck.
Mirror Reaper (duh)
8. Brand New – Science Fiction RECOMMENDED
Formed in 2000 in New York, Brand New could be considered post grunge alternative rock. Borrow heavily from bands such as Weezer (Tell me the simple bass line and song structure of Can’t Get Out doesn’t remind you of 90s Weezer) but it works.
Brand New utilizes the quiet verse, loud chorus song formula that Nirvana wore out. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up on 1990s Seattle bands but I wish there were more bands out there like this, regardless of what decade it is.
Can’t Get Out
7. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand RECOMMENDED
The first time I heard Mastodon I thought they were a straight 90s grunge revival band. Leaning a little bit more towards the metal side of grunge, they play riffs you could have sworn were written by Jerry Cantrell himself. While their sound isn’t the most original they do write some decent songs. The only downfall is I found the singer sounds too much like late 1980s Ozzy Osbourne (not a good thing).
6. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound RECOMMENDED
When a friend recommended this to me my first though was “Oh, I’m not into todays modern country-pop music…” but it wasn’t like that at all. Pretty straightforward rock with a country/blues tinge to it. Excellent songwriting. The Springsteen influenced Cumberland Gap is the most single worthy track on the album.
If We Were Vampires
5. Wild Cub – Closer RECOMMENDED
Nashville-based indie rock band, Wild Cub delivers the sophomore album, Closer after 2014’s poppy Youth. Many bands endure the sophomore slump which is when their debut is critically acclaimed and almost impossible to live up to. While Youth was a modest hit it still remains superior to Closer. While Closer doesn’t deliver the melodic hooks that were abundant on Youth, it is still worth a listen.
Not With You
4. Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark? RECOMMENDED
Another two-man rock band. Instead of a guitar player and a drummer – it’s a bass player and a drummer. Don’t be fooled, on their albums they overlay additional guitars by using octave pedals such as Eletroharmonix POG 2 which doubles the riffs he is playing on his bass but as a higher pitched octave with distortion that sounds like a rhythm guitar playing along with the bass-line.
How Did We Get So Dark?
Hook, Line & Sinker
Hole In Your Heart
3. Valerie June – The Order of Time RECOMMENDED
If Mazzy Star was from the south and had a gospel background – this is what they would have sounded like. Throw in some Norah Jones vocals and you have Valerie June. Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, the album has a stripped down minimal production that allows the listener to focus on her voice, which is the spectacle of the whole album. She has one of the best new voices I have heard in years. While there are some filler tracks and the album doesn’t venture too far off into different territory, it stays cohesive and does its one style efficiently.
The Front Door
2. Jake Bugg – Hearts That Strain RECOMMENDED
English indie-rocker Jake Bugg delivers his fourth album, Hearts that Strain quickly on the heels of 2016’s On My One. Bugg definitely falls into the singer/songwriter category as much as he does in the indie-rock category. From blue-eyed soul to duets, Hearts That Strain demonstrates more range than you’d find on a typical indie-rock album. Jake Bugg’s true strength is his songwriting, from somber chord progressions to the melancholy storytelling that drives each song.
Hearts That Strain
1. Queens of The Stone Age – Villains RECOMMENDED
Don’t let the almost horrible lead single The Way You Used To fool you – this album is solid. When I first heard the lead single I was extremely disappointed, but thankfully it was not indicative of the rest of the album. While it doesn’t live up to 2013’s “….Like Clockwork”– it’s still the best record of 2017 from a songwriting perspective. Villains Of Circumstance is up there with Into The Hollow, Running Joke, and I Sat By The Ocean as far as vocal melodies go. Josh Homme has come along way since Kyuss where he played simple triad, detuned blues-rock riffs through a bass amp. He’s grown a lot as a songwriter without becoming too poppy.
You can’t help but feel a little screwed when a collection of 9 songs is considered an album, but maybe it’s due to the fact that no one makes money off of albums anymore.
Unfortunately, we made this list before Josh Homme kicked a photographer in the head. We don’t know what the reason was and definitely do not condone this type of behavior, but Villains still earns album of the year from Moron Reviews.
I have an open letter to Josh Homme – I will let you kick me in the face for
$40 K $20 K- that is a hell of deal and surely a fraction of the amount that photographer is going to ask for in her lawsuit. You just let me know.
We won’t “kick” a man when he’s down so we will post an acoustic solo version of “Villains of Circumstance” instead of the video of him kicking a photographer.
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