Top 10 Albums of 2017 (so far)
2017 is half-way over already! Take a second and let that sink in… We’ve had some really good music come out this year so far. We’ve also had some really bad music released this year so far (looking at you Katy Perry). But, no need to worry readers! I’ve researched the world top to bottom, good to bad, and found the best albums released as of June 30th. The top 10 to be exact. This has been a very fluid list, full of adds, drops, re-adds and complete ranking over hauls. In fact, this list was 100% set in stone and this article was a final draft June 25th, but June 30th just happened to be a Friday this year. As any true music mogul knows, Fridays are for new music. That created the perfect storm for me to find a late add to the Top 10 albums of 2017 (so far). It didn’t matter that I had a top 10 put together, this article written and researched, my editor ready to correct my terrible grammar and punctuation flaws (you know who you are, thank you for not letting me sound dumb). The show must go on as they say, or the article must be reworked as I say…
A few quick thoughts before jumping into the official Top 10 Albums of 2017 (so far) list!
- It’s my goal with this list to hopefully find a few artists that you’ve never heard of. That doesn’t mean I chose them over other more obvious choices because it was “cool.” It just means that I hope you leave here with some new music in your life and yes, I truly believe they belong where they’re ranked.
-That being said: This isn’t a hipster list completely full of artists you’ve never heard of that make half-way decent music. This list does have a couple household names on it. I do believe that those artists are household names because they really do make great music.
-This list and article are not a track by track album review of this year’s music. It’s a compilation of the year’s best albums, in my opinion and a brief description as to why I can’t get them out of my head.
-This list is 100% set in stone and is a 100% accurate interpretation of my brain. In other words, the list is 100% factual and everybody completely agrees with my opinion.
Alright, enough of my rambling, lets do this.
: 10 :
The Storm (June 30, 2017)
ZZ Ward (Zsuzsanna Eva Ward) has been doing this for a while. This whole raspy voice, blues-infused, hip hop rock, folk thing. It’s nothing new to her and her fans, but if it’s new to you, it’s something you’ve gone long enough on this earth without hearing. In fact, I still cannot figure out how ZZ isn’t one of those previously mentioned household names yet. She’s one of music’s best kept secrets and a total badass. It’s been five years since ZZ released her debut album, ‘Til The Casket Drops. The life lessons from then to now seem undeniable on her newest release with songs like If U Stayed and She Ain’t Me. The Storm also gets guest appearances from Fitz & the Tantrums lead singer, Fitz, as well as Fantastic Negrito, and Gary Clark Jr. The Storm was the last addition to this list, and as I mentioned this spot was previously filled. After the first listen however, it was a no brainer. This album is gritty, full of emotion, original and somehow still flying under the radar.
*On repeat: Help Me Mama
: 9 :
From A Room: Volume 1 (May 5, 2017)
This is the Outlaw Country I grew up listening to! It feels so good to be back! Being anything but a country music fan since middle school (the word hate has been thrown around several times), I found myself coming back to this album over and over again. I finally just admitted defeat and accepted its greatness. I can’t think of another country artist with the soulful sound that Chris Stapleton possesses. I’m not even sure it can be considered country music at this point, can it? That’s just my old anti-country core talking, old habits die hard. I do know that I don’t really care how Chris Stapleton is classified, I just care that his voice is godly. I mean seriously, aside from Sam Smith, this guy may have the best vocals in the industry. It’s like Otis Redding meets The Highwaymen. From A Room: Volume 1 is only 9 tracks which gave me pause about putting it in my Top 10 list. But, there’s two things about this album that I need to point out. First, the title itself indicates there will be a Volume 2. Logically (hopefully) there is another 9 track album coming, and that would be one hell of an album release. Second, I would take a 9 track album that has 9 incredible songs over a 15 track album that’s mediocre any day.
*On Repeat: Either Way
: 8 :
Harry Styles (May 12, 2017)
Well this was unexpected. Turns out the guys from One Direction are insanely talented. Maybe Simon Cowell knew what he was doing after all. While Zayn Malik and Liam Payne are making the uninspiring and unsurprising jump into pop music. Harry Styles has done something that has earned my respect. He wants to be a rock star in every sense of the term. I seriously can’t get over how great this album is. Maybe it’s because I’m still in shock of him going Rolling Stones/Beatles/Elton John on us and me not seeing it coming. Hello… my name is Cevan and I like the new Harry Styles album. It feels good to get that off my chest! First step is admitting you have a problem right? Second step is relapsing. Wait, that’s not right… Anyways, enough is enough of me ranting about this new and much improved Harry Styles sound. Harry Styles, the album, is everything we could have hoped for from a debut. A few radio hits (Sign of The Times), a few rock ballads (Only Angel), a couple slow jams (From the Dining Table), and not a single song to skip over. It’s an album that I believe warrants a hard copy purchase, not just a save to your currently trending Spotify playlist, I’m talking about a vinyl/CD purchase, and don’t be ashamed of it when you do. You can also catch Harry act in Christopher Nolan's newest blockbuster, Dunkirk.
*on repeat: Kiwi
: 7 :
Prisoner (February, 17, 2017)
Ryan Adams was brought up a country artist, turned to a life of punk rock, and now in his 40’s somehow finds himself in the middle of both worlds. If you’ve never heard a Ryan Adams song before, his songwriting style is country storytelling backed by a pure rock sound. This is very evident on the first track, Do You Still Love Me? and continues through the last song We Disappear. The songwriting on this album is unmatched by anyone on this list except for one. Aside from his own music, Ryan has produced records for Willie Nelson, Fall Out Boy, and Jenny Lewis. He’s also collaborated with the Counting Crows, Norah Jones, Weezer, Minnie Driver, and let’s not forget the song-for-song cover album he released of Taylor Swift’s 1989 back in 2015. Prisoner seems to be the influence of all of these ideas in one album. It’s so good, it needs to be the first thing you put on after reading this article, wait finish reading this first, share it everywhere, and THEN go ahead and put it on.
*on repeat: To Be Without You
: 6 :
Damn. (April 14, 2017)
Here’s a thought. Instead of continuing the debate on whether Kendrick Lamar might be the best rapper ever, how about we just start saying Kendrick Lamar might be one of the greatest musicians of our generation. End of story. This guy almost won Album of the Year at the 2015 Grammys for To Pimp a Butterfly. Then he releases Damn. this year and put himself right back into consideration for Album of the Year. If history has taught us anything, he probably won’t win because he’s a “hip-hop artist”, but it doesn’t matter how you feel about rap music, because Damn. is a cross-genre built piece of art that almost any music fan will enjoy. This album is full of ridiculous beats, multiple loops, schizophrenic rap verses, and has a story to tell if you listen closely. The album’s last 40 seconds are capped off with a rewind to the beginning of the album and ends the exact same way it started. “So I was taking a walk the other day…” Plus, how many Hip-Hop artists could get someone like Bono to make a guest appearance on their album?
*on repeat: LOVE. Feat. Zacari
: 5 :
libra-scorpio cusp (june 2, 2017)
Let me guess, you’ve never heard of Maxim Ludwig? You’re welcome. Think of him as a mix between Prince, the E-Street Band, Hall & Oats, and a little George Michael. This album is an amazing debut from a guy that tried his hand in a band previously, but it never quite worked out. Sorry Maxim, but I’m pretty glad it didn’t. This album, start to finish, is just plain awesome. Sometimes there’s no other way to put it. The album title, Libra-Scorpio Cusp, is based on the zodiac sign. If you were born between October 19th and October 25th you were born on the Libra-Scorpio Cusp and also born on the “Cusp of Drama and Criticism.” People born during this time make great leaders and have the ability to realize big dreams. They have great intellect, drive, flamboyancy, sexuality and may be too much for other people to handle. All this being said, guess when Maxim’s birthday is? Yep! October 22nd. Making this album rightly named not only because of his own zodiac sign, but also the overall feeling. The smooth yet flamboyant first track, Bad Direction, hooked me right away but could in fact be too much for people to handle. The entire album is this way. It’s full of flamboyancy, intellect, sexuality and drama. All of which make Ludwig’s debut completely unforgettable.
*on repeat: Should Have Been Home By Now
: 4 :
gone now (june 2, 2017)
You’ve heard of that theory; the theory people often refer to as “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.” If you haven’t, it’s based on the six degrees of separation concept. Any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Somehow Kevin Bacon ties in here somewhere, but that’s not the point. The point is the lead singer and songwriter of the band Bleachers is Jack Antonoff, and I’m the creator of this new theory that’s picking up steam called the Six Degrees of Jack Antonoff. You know, the theory that every musician is six or less links away from Jack Antonoff. It’s a thing, everyone is talking about it, so get on board. You may not know exactly who this Jack Antonoff guy is, so consider me your Jack Antonoff guide for a moment. Like I said earlier, Jack is the front man of his band Bleachers, he is also the lead guitarist of the band fun. Remember their biggest songs, Some Nights and We Are Young? He wrote those. He’s also written or co-written a few other chart-topping hits you may have heard of: Sara Bareillas’ Brave, Zayn & Taylor Swift’s I Don’t Wanna Live Forever, Lorde’s Green Light, Troye Sivan’s Heaven, Fifth Harmony’s Dope, and so so many more but I’m going to stop now because I’m not sure how many commas you’re allowed to use in a sentence before it’s frowned upon. He also co-wrote and co-produced all of Lorde’s newest album Melodrama and about half of Taylor Swift’s 1989. He’s also married to HBO’s Lena Dunham. Six Degrees of Jack Antonoff, it’s a thing. On Gone Now, Jack continues his pop music dominance. The album is all over the place stylistically. There’s random saxophone solos, spoken word inserts, catchy-as-hell pop hooks, some backing vocals by Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen, and even Lena Dunham. In short, it’s completely unpredictable and if you’re like me, you’re tired of how predictable songs and albums have gotten lately. Also, if you’re a fan of any of the things I listed above, this album was made for you. Jack Antonoff is a composing genius and this album continues to prove it.
*on repeat: Hate That You Know Me.
: 3 :
Heavy meta (February 3, 2017)
Do you ever find something so unbelievable that you simultaneously want to tell everyone and absolutely no one at the same time? Like a little part of you wants to show the world what they’re missing, but a little part of you wants to keep it all for yourself? I just found that something. Against my selfish desires, I give you Ron Gallo’s Heavy Meta. This album is a mix between the Rock N’ Roll we haven’t heard since Led and the garage punk that died off after The Stooges. If you’ve ever watched the HBO show Vinyl, you can think of Ron Gallo as that hardcore, in your face, don’t give a f*** band the Nasty Bits and we’re the crowd watching them perform their first live gig. Alright I get it, not a lot of people know what I’m talking about with that analogy, but if you are still following me, you know exactly what I mean and you now love this guy. Heavy Meta is full of energy, passion, guitar riffs and the kind of vocals that’ll stop you in your tracks. It’s infectious and addicting. It’s chaotic, but perfectly written and it’s unlike anything I’ve heard in years. I feel like I should say thank you, Ron Gallo, you made an incredible record that makes me believe in Rock music again.
*on repeat: Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me
: 2 :
melodrama (june 16, 2017)
This is the album I’ve wanted from Lana Del Rey for years. If you subscribe to my podcast, The Auideo Show, you would know that I’ve had a love for Lana since the beginning. I now realize that that love is unwarranted. Melodrama is a better album than anything Lana Del Rey has ever released. That’s the truth. This album blew me away. So much so, I almost put it at number one… I’m not kidding. I was a skeptic, and honestly a complete hater of anything Lorde has ever released. But l now realize that hate is also unwarranted. Melodrama somehow makes you feel happy and sad at the same time and that is art. It’s the type of album you can put on when you’re up, but also when you’re down. It's beautifully composed (shout out to the Six Degrees of Jack Antonoff!) and beautifully sung. Let me be clear, I still find Lorde to be completely awkward and she still makes me uncomfortable during guest appearances, but her album is phenomenal. I don’t know how she does both at once, but her new album is something I’m already sure will make my end of year Top 10 list as well.
*on repeat: Writer In The Dark
: 1 :
divide (march 3, 2017)
A lot of you may think this was an obvious selection for the best album of 2017 (so far). To those people I say go take a look at the review Pitchfork.com gave Ed Sheeran’s Divide. Spoilers, this well loved music website gave Ed’s third album a 2.8 (out of 10). Claiming it to posses… “bland wisdom and unimaginative music…” I’m here to tell you that Pitchfork’s Laura Snapes’ opinions contain “bland wisdom and unimaginative writing.” Boom. I win. Too childish? Yeah, maybe a little, but a website that gave Katy Perry’s album a 4.8 and Ed Sheeran’s album a 2.8 loses all credibility in my eyes. Divide is the best album 2017 has seen so far. So I’m here to remind you of its greatness. The album makes you feel something track to track. Sometimes that something is Galway Girl and sometimes that something is Supermarket Flowers, but either way it does. The greatness of this album is the fact that no matter the mood you’re in, Divide seems like it was written specifically for you. Personally, this album has several songs that makes me happy and several songs that makes me feel like complete garbage. But the fact that each listen through does both is all that you need to know. You’ll find a new favorite each time, I promise. Ed is the best song writer on this list and Divide only supports that claim.
*on repeat: Dive
Well that’s it! I hope there’s a couple things you took away from this article. Mostly the whole Six Degrees of Jack thing, but maybe a few others. I also hope you completely disagree with my list, because after all, who am I to tell you what music to like? Whether you agree or disagree let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can share this article, tag me (@famouscevan), and let me know. I will gladly debate you and take suggestions for my end of 2017 Top 10 list!