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The year in music 2017: Nothing but the best

Clockwise from left: Greg Grease, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde

Clockwise from left: Greg Grease, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde Press photos

You can never have too many lists.

With that in mind, City Pages gathered up a slew of Top 5 picks from our staff and regular contributors. Many of us shared our top albums and tracks, both from local artists and from that great, wide, sporadically relevant world outside of Minnesota. Some other writers suggested their own categories.

There’s some consensus, some idiosyncrasy, and a whole lot of music for you to catch up on as we ease on out of 2017 and slip into another damn year next January.

Gigi Berry

Local albums

  1. Nick Jordan, Dividends
  2. Su Na, Coral Angel
  3. Izell Pyramid, Priestcraft

Non-local albums

  1. Fifth Harmony, Fifth Harmony
  2. Harry Styles, Harry Styles
  3. Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1
  4. Gucci Mane, Mr. Davis
  5. Drake, More Life

Tracks

  1. Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow”
  2. Lizzo, “Truth Hurts”
  3. Childish Gambino, “Redbone”
  4. Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean & Migos, “Slide”
  5. DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller, “Wild Thoughts”
     

Jay Boller

Albums

  1. Lorde, Melodrama 
  2. Every track here could be a single – and a really fucking good one too. I wasn’t even a fan of Lorde's debut, but this sophomore album is a thrilling, emotionally complex masterwork. It’s an endlessly listenable account of growing up from the smartest/coolest person in the room, who also happens to have pop’s most captivating voice.

  1. Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm

Maybe the third best Waxahatchee album, which speaks volumes about Katie Crutchfield’s discography. Sometimes glossy to a fault, her most assertive indie-rock album is always anchored by elite songwriting. Like proto-rapper Bob Dylan, she serves up effortless streams of lyrical gold. Nobody can wrench a heart with a turn of phrase like Crutchfield.

  1. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger in the Alps

Speaking of next-level songwriting chops, meet indie-folk artist Phoebe Bridgers. Two fellas who are decent with a pen – Ryan Adams and Conor Oberst – have championed the 23-year-old, and they’re not wrong. Crushingly sad and achingly beautiful, her debut album hints at immense potential.

  1. Diet Cig, Swear I'm Good At This

Is this pop-punk band annoying? Possibly, but I don’t care: Alex Luciano, with her bloggy songwriting and sticky hooks, is a charmingly dynamic force.

  1. The Replacements, For Sale: Live at Maxwell's 1986

Worth the 31-year wait!
 

Emily Cassel

Albums

  1. Rozwell Kid, Precious Art

Fuzzy, Weezer-y riffs, lyrics that would've worked on a Fountains of Wayne record, songs about boogers and turning into a dog—yes, the name's ironic, but to me, this delightfully un-serious album really is precious.

  1. Pile,A Hairshirt of Purpose

Lived in Boston for eight years; it is therefore actually illegal for me to omit Pile from any year-end best-of roundup—even if they didn't release a record that year. But also, the raging, explosive A Hairshirt of Purpose is damn near perfect, a more ambitious, more cohesive release that's a new high water mark for the band.

  1. Jay Som, Everybody Works

If I had a dollar for every time I've listened to "Bus Song" while literally riding the bus, I could easily refill my Go-To Card with two months’ worth of fares.

  1. Charly Bliss, Guppy

The unabashedly fun, super sugary Guppy is the sonic crystallization of your adolescent years, but a revisionist history version of them in which you were a little less awkward and a little more confident and super hot. Unless you were confident and super hot, in which case, you totally get it. (And also: Fuck you!)

  1. Converge, The Dusk in Us

Nine albums in, Jacob Bannon and co. —metalcore godfathers, at this point—have lost none of their sharp, frenetic urgency or the penchant for poetic self-reflection that's made them standouts of the genre. There's a good chance my next tattoo will be the Bannon howl that kicks off the unrelenting "Under Duress": "Don’t need a helmet if I have my heart."
 

Peter Diamond

Albums

  1. (Sandy) Alex G, Rocket

Alexander Giannoscoli inhabits the headspace of different people when he records songs, usually in transient fragments with a laptop and a microphone whenever inspiration strikes. His latest collection bleeds empathy as he spins emotional tales of destructive devotion, imprisoned brothers, and toxic masculinity.

  1. SZA, Ctrl

An intoxicating album that fluxes between the liberation that comes from letting go, to the wisdom that comes from learning to ride the wave of life when everything is out of your hands.

  1. Sampha, Process

A soulful, meditative R&B debut four years in the making, with a voice sought after by Drake, Kanye West, and Solange in between. Sampha finds patience and time -- to write a song, to grieve, to be the beauty of process.

  1. Waxahatchee, Out in The Storm

Nora Ephron once wrote that everything is copy, words Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield seems emboldened by as her latest work gouges the depths of a break-up and leaves her standing with the last word.

  1. Julie Byrne, Not Even Happiness

The most soothing album of an emotionally overwhelming year is an existential balm that found purpose and sanctity in nature and the open road. "I crossed the country, and I carried no key," Byrne sings, finding peace in questions with no answer.

Tracks

  1. (Sandy) Alex G, “Powerful Man”
  2. Frank Ocean, “Provider”
  3. Julie Byrne, “Melting Grid”
  4. SZA, “The Weekend”
  5. Waxahatchee, “Recite Remorse”
     

Jerard Fagerberg

Local albums

  1. 4th Curtis, I Won the Pageant
  2. Finding Novyon, That's My Dawg
  3. Witch Watch, Wandering and Wondering
  4. Izell Pyramid, Priestcraft
  5. Chvnsv, Lost Cause

Non-local albums

  1. Lorde, Melodrama
  2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  3. Jay-Z, 4:44
  4. The Mountain Goats, Goths
  5. Why?, Moh Lhean

Local songs

  1. Wetter, "Truth Song"
  2. 4th Curtis, "Anjali"
  3. The Happy Children, "All Wrong"
  4. Drelli, "Chiquita"
  5. Izell Pyramid, "Running"
     

Amelia Foster

Local albums

  1. Another Heaven, You Are Loved
  2. DIIE, III
  3. Dreamland Faces, Icebreaker
  4. City Counselor, Public Record
  5. STNNNG, Veterans of Pleasure

Non-local albums

  1. Protomartyr, Relatives in Descent
  2. (Sandy) Alex G, Rocket
  3. Sampha, Process
  4. Feist, Pleasure
  5. Kelela, Take Me Apart
     

Austin Gerth

Albums

  1. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
  2. Priests, Nothing Feels Natural
  3. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  4. Laurel Halo, Dust
  5. Matthew Lee Cothran, Judas Hung Himself in America

Tracks

  1. Alvvays, “Dreams Tonite”
  2. Phoenix, “J-Boy”
  3. Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean and Migos. “Slide”
  4. Charly Bliss, “Percolator”
  5. TOPS, “Dayglow Bimbo”
     

Solomon Gustavo

Local albums

  1. Greg Grease, Down So Long
  2. Nick Jordan, Dividends
  3. Dwynell Roland, The Popular Nobody
  4. Why Khaliq, The Mustard Seed
  5. Nazeem & Spencer Joles, Years of Obscurity

Non-local albums

  1. Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy
  2. Migos, Culture
  3. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  4. Jay-Z: 4:44
  5. SZA: Ctrl


Keith Harris

Local albums 

  1. Dylan Hicks, Ad Out
  2. Parables of Neptune, Parables of Neptune
  3. Mary Bue, The Majesty of Beasts
  4. Brother Ali, All the Beauty In This Whole Life
  5. 4th Curtis, I Won the Pageant
  6. Why Khaliq, The Mustard Seed
  7. Various Artists, Forged Artifacts: The Greatest of All Time, Vol. 2
  8. Allan Kingdom, Lines
  9. Tiny Deaths, Elegies
  10. Stokley: Introducing Stokley

Non-local albums

  1. Jlin: Black Origami
  2. Whitney Rose: Rule 62
  3. Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm
  4. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound
  5. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.
  6. Amber Coffman: City of No Reply
  7. Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now
  8. SZA: Ctrl
  9. Lorde: Melodrama
  10. Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines/ Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star

Singles

  1. Miguel ft. Travis Scott, “Sky Walker”
  2. Future, “Mask Off”
  3. Kesha, “Praying”
  4. Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar”
  5. Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”
  6. Cam, “Diane”
  7. Migos “T-Shirt”
  8. Taylor Swift, “New Year’s Day”
  9. Downtown Boys, “A Wall”
  10. SZA, “Drew Barrymore”

(My full top 40 non-local albums and 20 singles lists are here.) 

Tigger Lunney

If I’m going to be completely honest, 2017 has been a year where my best work, and best thinking, has been looking back. If I’m going to be even more honest, no matter how much music I’ve consumed over the past 12 months, I am—as the parent to 10-year-old Chuck and 7-year-old Li’l Tigger— permanently on a forced march into pop music hell. So here’s a list of 2017 singles that got more play than anything else in my house this year—my making them listen to Joe Strummer and Grant Hart be damned.

Chuck’s list

  1. Taylor Swift, “Ready for It”
  2. Taylor Swift, “Look What You Made Me Do”
  3. Kesha, “Praying”
  4. Sabrina Carpenter, “Why”
  5. Ed Sheeran, “Perfect”

“Chuck are you sure you want to list two Taylor Swift songs?” “Whatever, Daddy. All your songs are like ‘Nanananananana rorror nananana rorror!’ Also, the songs you like all have electric guitar and only mention their names once in the song or don’t have anything to do with the song. It’s super annoying. I mean, some are kinda good.”

L’il Tigger’s list

  1. Weird Al Yankovic, “Captain Underpants Theme Song”
  2. Ed Sheeran, “Shape Of You”
  3. Imagine Dragons, “Believer”
  4. The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Pee, and Barf, “The Poop Song” ”Buddy, that song isn’t a real song.” “Yes it is, Daddy. Listen! Alexa, play ‘The Poop Song!’” “I mean, it’s a fake…look, it’s a joke song.” “If Alexa knows it it’s a real song.”
  5. Bad Lip Reading, “Seagulls” “Kid, this didn’t come out in 2017.” “I DON’T CARE I LOVE IT. ‘Seagulls poke your knees!’” “Whatever. I give up.”

Now I’m going to go back to listening to this year’s round of MNSure hold music.

Michael Madden

Non-local albums

  1. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  2. Jay-Z, 4:44
  3. Kehlani, SweetSexySavage
  4. The xx, I See You
  5. Sheer Mag, Need to Feel Your Love

Local albums

  1. Brother Ali, All the Beauty in This Whole Life
  2. Why Khaliq, The Mustard Seed
  3. Muja Messiah, PyrExpeditioN
  4. Greg Grease, Down So Long
  5. P.O.S, Chill, Dummy

Local tracks

  1. Taylor J, "Five Times"
  2. Brother Ali, "Own Light (What Hearts Are For)"
  3. Vo, "First Day Out (Remix)"
  4. Muja Messiah Ft. Roc Marciano, "You Haven't Lived"
  5. Why Khaliq, "Sun Deprived"
     

Michaelangelo Matos

DJ sets (chronological)

  1. Lone, Feel My Bicep Mixtape 69 (February 9, 2017)
  2. Antenes, The Bunker Podcast 142 (February 22, 2017)
  3. Konx-om-Pax, Blade Runner 2049 x Boiler Room London (September 16, 2017)
  4. Kerri Chandler, RA Live at Brilliant Corners, London (October 17, 2017)
  5. Courtesy, Truancy Volume 195 (November 16, 2017)
     

Marcus Michalik

Albums

  1. Kelela, Take Me Apart
  2. SZA, Ctrl
  3. Perfume Genius, No Shape
  4. Arca, Arca
  5. Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life

Erica Rivera

Local albums

  1. Dead Man Winter, Furnace / Careful I Think It’s Loaded / Lake Superior (tie) Don’t make me choose between Dave Simonett’s pain-steeped divorce album, his eardrum-piercing rock EP, and his extended instrumental soundscapes. I can’t. I won’t.
  2. P.O.S, Chill, Dummy
  3. Chastity Brown, Silhouette of Sirens
  4. Tiny Deaths, Elegies
  5. Human Heat, All Is Too Much

Non-local albums

  1. St. Vincent, Masseduction
  2. The National, Sleep Well Beast
  3. Laura Marling, Semper Femina
  4. Angel Olsen, My Woman
  5. Cherry Glazerr, Apocalipstick

Tracks

  1. The Shivers, “Soulmate”
  2. Deer Tick, “Sea of Clouds”
  3. Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Too Much Terrible”
  4. Beach Fossils, “Down the Line”
  5. Kevin Morby, “Come to Me Now”
     

Danny Sigelman

Albums

  1. Strand of Oaks, Hard Love
  2. Myrkur, Mareridt
  3. Thundercat, Drunk
  4. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand
  5. P!nk, Beautiful Trauma

Jack Spencer

Local albums

  1. Manchita, One
  2. Muja Messiah, Pyrexpedition
  3. Greg Grease, Down So Long
  4. Sunless, Urraca
  5. Andrew Broder, Cousin Mask

Non-local albums

  1. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  2. SZA, CTRL
  3. Kelela, Take Me Apart
  4. Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me
  5. King Woman, Created in the Image of Suffering

Local tracks

  1. Student 1, “Paint”
  2. Knowledge, “Traumatized”
  3. Psymun, “I Need My Boy”
  4. Parables of Neptune, “Better”
  5. Bobby Raps, “Purgatory”

Non-local tracks

  1. Missy Elliott ft. Lamb, "I'm Better"
  2. Lil Uzi Vert, "XO Tour Llif3"
  3. Migos, "T Shirt"
  4. Cardi B, "Bodak Yellow"
  5. Charlie XCX, "Boys"
     

Erik Thompson

Local albums

  1. Strange Relations, Editorial You
  2. P.O.S, Chill, Dummy
  3. Greg Grease, Down So Long
  4. Hippo Campus, Landmark
  5. Chastity Brown, Silhouette of Sirens

Non-local albums

  1. Kelly Lee Owens, Kelly Lee Owens
  2. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger in the Alps
  3. Lorde, Melodrama
  4. Julien Baker, Turn Out the Lights
  5. St. Vincent, Masseduction

Local songs

  1. Now, Now, “SGL”
  2. Jeremy Ylvisaker, “Malibu Hymnal”
  3. Sass, ”Velvet”
  4. Chastity Brown, “Wake Up”
  5. P.O.S, “Faded”

Non-local songs

  1. Lorde, “Green Light”
  2. Zola Jesus, “Soak”
  3. the xx, “I Dare You”
  4. Lana Del Rey ft. the Weeknd, “Lust for Life”
  5. Kelly Lee Owens – Lucid
     

Youa Vang

Local albums

  1. Rachael Kilgour, Rabbit in the Road

An album full of heartbreak and forgiveness; Kilgour knows her way around pain.

  1. Romantica, Shadowlands

It took years for Romantica to release new music, but it was worth the wait.

  1. Marah in the Mainsail, Bone Crown

Truly epic in storytelling and production.

  1. Candid Kid, Blush

A deviation from their original pop sound, their sophomore EP turns up the rock.

  1. Porno Wolves, Renegades

Porno Wolves progressively gets better with each new release.

Non-local albums

  1. Niall Horan, Flicker
  2. Margo Price, All American Made
  3. Feist, Pleasure
  4. Kesha, Rainbow
  5. Dua Lipa, Dua Lipa

Local singles

  1. Eustace the Dragon, "Count Your Trees"
  2. Fiji-13, "Mansplain It To Me BB"
  3. Har-di-Har, "The Wonder"
  4. Nobody Kid, "First Transmission"
  5. Turbo Pastel, "Luck"
     

Ryan Warner

Non-local albums

  1. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
  2. Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me
  3. Lorde, Melodrama
  4. King Krule, The Ooz
  5. Perfume Genius, No Shape

Turkeys of the year

  1. Taylor Swift, “Look What You Made Me Do.”

This year needed an anthem for manufactured bullshit and Swift nails the call. A showcase of voided self-awareness so spectacularly out-of-touch it could give Weird Al writer’s block.

  1. Arcade Fire, “Infinite Content”

The homographic center of Arcade Fire’s Everything Now is, “infinite CONtent, we’re infinitely conTENT.” Get it? If you told me this was ghost-written by an angsty Edina sophomore, I’d believe it.

  1. Prophets of Rage, Prophets of Rage

An impotent and unfocused turkey clawing at the back of 2017 relevancy like it was at an ass-grabbing competition on Lake Wobegon. Sad.

  1. Katy Perry, Witness

How this turkey was released without a Katy Perry single is baffling. If not for American soccer failing to reach the World Cup, this would be our nation’s most embarrassing moment of 2017. (JK – we live in a new hell.)

  1. Jay-Z, 4:44

Jay-Z is responsible for a few incredible records and some indefensible turkeys. This is one of the turkeys. If not for the self-immolating, gossipy bits (easy to advertise, difficult to engage with on repeat listens) the album goes down like overcooked oatmeal. This is the sound of an artist out of ideas, saved by calculated marketing gimmicks, disguising itself as a return to form. It’s an atonement that wants you to switch phone carriers. This is the posturing of a tone-deaf turkey that wants you to believe it belongs on year-end lists. Forget about it.
 

Chad Werner

Local albums

  1. Shredders, Dangerous Jumps

An aggressive throat punch to passive listening. Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak, P.O.S., and Sims are here to kick your ass.

  1. Suburbs, Hey Muse!

Proving that 2013’s Si Sauvage was no fluke, Chan, Hugo, and their band are back like they never left. “When We Were Young” is the tough autobiography you never knew you wanted. Hit repeat.

  1. Thomas Abban, A Sheik’s Legacy

Shockingly interesting, this young musician should be on all the local lists. Robert Plant, Jeff Buckley, and Prince had a baby, and this is him.

  1. Mary Bue, The Majesty of Beasts

From the fierce freedom of “The Shit I Left in Duluth” to the harrowing rage of “Petty Misdemeanor,” Bue released a potent EP this year.

  1. Suicide Commandos, Time Bomb

Did anyone expect a new Suicide Commandos record in 2017? No, and that’s part of what makes it so great. The pure, unrefined rock and roll joy of the tracks should keep your party hopping well into 2047.
 

Non-local albums

  1. Margo Price, All American Made

She’s here to burn the honky-tonk to the ground. Don’t believe it? Shut up and listen to “Pay Gap.”

  1. Alex Lahey, I Love You Like a Brother

Lahey isn’t here to change the course of history, but this buzzy guitar album will make you roll the windows down in the middle of a Minnesota winter.

  1. Matthew Ryan, Hustle Up Starlings

Ryan has always been a singer/songwriter who also knows how to rock, and this album is maybe his most perfect combination yet of wide open rock and introspection.

  1. Algiers, The Underside of Power

Dense, propulsive, and supremely pissed-off, The Underside of Power is not something to put on at your office holiday party. It’s something to put on when you’re looking up “how to make Molotov cocktails” at 2 a.m.

  1. Downtown Boys, Cost of Living

Their name says, “cock-rock from the ‘80s,” but their mixed gender, multiracial, bilingual mutant punk rock says, “Fooled ya, pendejo.”

Songs

  1. Astronomique, “Mimic Forms”

Local mood for late nights/early mornings.

  1. Thea Gilmore, “Sounds Good to Me”

Dramatic, danceable mission statement from the UK singer/songwriter that we could all use today.

  1. Ghostpoet, “Immigrant Boogie”

A brooding wall of emotion that’s almost too powerful and sad for words.

  1. Dead Cross, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Great cover of a great song. Is there anything Mike Patton can’t do?

  1. Living Colour, “Who Shot Ya”

Living Colour covers Biggie Smalls, and ultimately changes the meaning and nature of the original.

Read more about the year in music here, and check out our timeline of the year's highlights here.