Top 10 Albums of 2017 / by Julia Walck

2017 has come to a close, and with it comes my yearly roundup of top music! (Can you believe we're already 7 days into 2018?!)

First, here are some musical highlights from my 2017:

  • I went to my first East Coast music festival, Panorama NYC, where I met my favorite band, Spoon!
     
  • I finally made it to Red Rocks and saw Bonobo with Nick Murphy. Obviously it was amazing, and exploring Denver proved to be more fun than I could've imagined.
     
  • Some other "staple" shows of the year were !!! (Chk chk chk) at the Echoplex, The Shins & Spoon at The Greek in Berkeley (road trip!), Beck at the Ford Theatre and El Ten Eleven at the Masonic Lodge in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
     
  • According to Spotify's 2017 Wrapped, I listened to 78,502 minutes of music, 7,926 songs, 2,423 artists and explored 110 genres along the way. If you haven't gotten your stats yet, try it here

2017 PLAYLIST

Listen along with the 2017 playlist as you make your way through my top 10 albums of the year! 

TOP 10 COUNTDOWN

10. IN MIND / REAL ESTATE

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Real Estate has always been the perfect band for a summer drive down the coast. Rolling down those windows and feeling the breeze through your fingertips, the salty sea air tangling into your hair and the sunlight kissing your skin. In Mind is the perfect roadside companion and a good reminder to just take it easy, you know?

Also fun lil' link to click on: there's a cool, interactive music video for "Stained Glass", featuring geometric outlined illustrations that the user can fill with color. Give it a go yourself here!

9. TI AMO / PHOENIX

The album opener J-Boy is synthesized auto-tune bliss. Not a sentence I ever thought I'd say, but seriously they know the formula to mix songs that just work. 

Phoenix is a French band, known to sing in English. Not only are there dashes of French on Ti Amo, there's also Italian, Spanish and French. Each language subtly slips into the songs, blending perfectly with the rest of the lyrics. 

A bit of rock, a lot of pop, perfect for the dancefloor and singing along at concerts... ti amo, Ti Amo.

8. SLEEP WELL BEAST / THE NATIONAL

On Sleep Well Beast, the first track grabs your attention by opening with an Imogen Heap-esque harmony, shifting to quick choppy drums and guitar. According to an interview with Pitchfork, "The System Dreams in Total Darkness" is "an abstract portrait of a weird time we're in."

I saw The National at the Hollywood Bowl this year when I was having a really rough day. A friend sarcastically said, "Oh good, that'll cheer you up". But it was therapeutic listening to the raw sounds of The National when my emotions were a bit raw, too. It's good to tap into your emotions and feel those feelings, even when it's tough. 

Last month, The National announced a hometown music festival called "Homecoming" in Ohio. The lineup releases this Monday, January 8. Crossing my fingers it's a good group! 

7. A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING / THE WAR ON DRUGS

When you listen to A Deeper Understanding, it's like a winding stream of music washing over you. There are unexpected splashes of sound and it always feels like you're floating. 

The 11 minute dream-like haze that is "Thinking of a Place" feels like that completely, and I want to be lost in it forever. Hell, I want to be lost in this album forever. 

6. SILVER EYE / GOLDFRAPP

"Systemagic" may have been my most played song of the year. A good, synthesized beat and soothing repetitiveness are found in this song and throughout Silver Eye as a whole. 

I'll take some good electro-glam any day, and this is close to as good as it gets. 

5. CRY CRY CRY / WOLF PARADE

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Cry Cry Cry was worth the 10 year wait from Wolf Parade. It's indie rock at it's finest. 

Don't get me wrong, I've loved Dan Boeckner's side projects with Operators (shoutout to last years top 10) and Handsome Furs but I'm glad to have Wolf Parade and their raw, gritty sound back. 

These guys are the only band out of my top 10 that I've never seen live. But that's changing this month when they play at The Observatory in Santa Ana!

4. HEARTWORMS / THE SHINS

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Heartworms is a pop-infused album guaranteed to make Zach Braff's character in Garden State smile. 

James Mercer's skill for songwriting and making memorable songs has always been strong, and it's held the test of time judging by the tracks off of Heartworms. The only dispute to that I've ever witnessed was at their El Rey show in March of 2017 where Emily and I witnessed someone Shazam New Slang. Obviously that was a fluke and that person didn't know anything about anything. End of story. 

My front-runners off of the album are: "Name For You", "Painting a Hole", "Dead Alive" and "Half a Million". The music video for "Half a Million" is awesome. It's composed of 500,000 (or half a million, get it?), hand cut stickers filmed in a stop motion fashion. Very clever. 

3. COLORS / BECK

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I'll admit it, when "Wow" initially came out in 2016, I laughed out loud. I had always admired Beck's experimentation with genres and his ever changing musical styles from album to album... but this felt too weird. I thought the weird shift was a predecessor of what to come from his next full length.

Now I look back at that moment and laugh, because I'm kind of into that song. It grew on me a lot. Granted it's not my absolute favorite off of Colors, but I really appreciate it for what it is. And the rest of the album blew me away with it's all around happiness. 

I finally got to see Beck this year for the first time ever in his hometown of Los Angeles. He described the show as more of a "backyard barbecue filled with friends" than a concert because he was surrounded by so many people he knew. It was one of the most intimate shows I've ever been to and he owned that intimacy on stage. 

Most importantly, I really connected with this album. When I was feeling down or not like myself, Colors lifted me back up. 

2. MIGRATION / BONOBO

Bonobo started off strong in 2017 with the release of Migration. It's overflowing downtempo, nostalgic sounds are lifted up even further with the collaborative additions on the album of Rhye, Nicole Miglis, Innov Gnawa and Nick Murphy (previously Chet Faker). 

I saw Bonobo 3 times in 2017: Coachella, The Theatre at the Ace Hotel Los Angeles, and most importantly Red Rocks Colorado. 

During takeoff on the plane ride to Colorado, I listened to Migration. Watching the world shrink smaller out the window as I floated away with the music almost felt like an out-of-body experience. 

1. AMERICAN DREAM / LCD SOUNDSYSTEM

Ah, LCD. The indie-electro rock-n-roller who went out with a bang was reborn this year with a long awaited reunion album.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for the first show at The Hollywood Palladium during their 5 night residency. I had goosebumps, and maybe even shed one single tear when I chanted along to "Tonite" with James Murphy. 

"Tonite" is probably my favorite track off of American Dream. It's a bit reminiscent of "Losing My Edge" from '05, where Murphy talks about the past with that infamous line, "I was there". But instead of talking about the past, he's going on about the present. The world we live in where everybody is 'famous' (*cough, cough* Instagram) and how songs are all recreations of the same thing over and over. A world where technology is blindsiding us, changing who we are and making us question things when comparing ourselves to others. Which is something so accessible at our fingertips every day with the influx of tiny screens that act as windows into other people's lives. It's easy thinking others' lives are better, that they know better than us and are better than us. But they're not. The song closes with, "But that's all lies. That's all lies." 

This album gets... really real about modern life. It makes you feel something. Or at least it does for me, and that's why it's my #1. 


You can find my past top 10 album roundups here: 201620152014