My Top 13 Albums of 2017

If my top 13 albums of 2017 were donuts, they’d have everything from rainbow sprinkles to lab-grade PCP.

These were albums that played like my personal soundtrack for the past year. That’s it. We got a horseshit president. I had a death in the family. I started a new job. I roadtripped across New Mexico, twice. I camped in the north woods of Wisconsin and got sniffed by a bear. I drank whiskey gingers in the humid summer shade on the shores of Lake Michigan near my apartment. I rode the CTA to work, to home, and back again, and back again, and back again. I wrote, a lot. I walked in the rain. Each of these things had beat and a rhythm, or a mind-numbing drone. And sometimes, it all blended together.

The only criteria I’ve used for this list is that the album was released within the past calendar year. The rest is music. And why 13? Because it comes after 12 and before 14. Listen while you read.

An explanation in alphabetical order, by artist:

Black Angels, Death Song (Partisan)
Psych-rock. Some people say the Beatles on DMT, but to me, it’s the sound of driving 100mph on the empty stretch of desert road between the Guadalupe Mountains and El Paso.

Career Suicide, Machine Response (Deranged)
Hardcore, fast as hell. Like a boot kicking in a steel door. Brings me back to my mosh pit days, when I first discovered this band; new album, just like the old ones, but with fewer bruises.

Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins (RCA)
New York art rock? Indie psych? Julliard spin-off? The soundtrack for my summer, a perfect mix of experimentation, play, and the kind of aloof talent you’d expect from a Brooklyn transplant.

Ledge, Cold Hard Concrete (Translation Loss)
Hardcore, heavy as hell. I don’t even know how they’re keeping the strings on the guitars. Sounds like sinking to the bottom of a tar pit with someone dropping napalm bombs overhead.

The Life and Times, The Life and Times (SlimStyle)
Space rock. And a band that has easily become one of my top five all-time favorite bands, and not even on purpose. If you close your eyes, it’s somewhere in the void between Mars and Jupiter.

Pissed Jeans, Why Love Now (Sub Pop)
Noise rock that sounds like a fever dream about middle-management emasculation. Another one of my top five all-time favorite bands, always consistent, always self-loathing, always loud.

Mac DeMarco, This Old Dog (Captured Tracks)
Marijuana rock. If indica were music, it’d sound like Mac DeMarco. Reminds me of hanging out in the desert shade by the Rio Grande river; close to nothing but in the heart of everything.

Slowdive, Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
Shoegaze. Slowdive formed in 1989, went away in 1995, came back in 2014, and released this—their fourth full-length album—in 2017. I listened to this one on repeat.

Shoegaze. Somewhere near the Xanax end of the sonic spectrum. One of my favorite shoegaze bands that most people don’t know, and maybe it’s better that way? Like a secret sound pedal.

Temples, Volcano (Fat Possum)
Psilocybin rock. In the Tame Impala-vein of retro-psychedelia, but perfectly executed. What it sounds like driving to Roswell, New Mexico. Aliens and everything.

Uranium Club, All of Them Naturals (Static Shock)
Punk. Like Devo fell into a dark basement and lost their moral center. This album actually came out in December 2016 but I’m giving it a pass because the Gregorian calendar is for computer nerds.

The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)
Petty meets Springsteen meets Spotify. Plus, all this talk of drugs would make it a faux pas to leave this album out. But seriously, the best music for driving through the fog in the north woods.

Washed Out, Mister Mellow (Stones Throw)
Chillwave. Dream pop. The band with the Portlandia music. And I’m seriously running out of drug analogies at this point, but I swear that at this point in my life, I’m mostly square.

[If you want to listen to this playlist on iTunes, download the mp3 version at Zippyshare.]

By Ben van Loon

Writer, Researcher, Chicagoan

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