For the second year in a row, The Young Folks music staff has compiled a list of our Top 50 favorite albums of the year. For the 2017 installment we have expanded the list to include all 16 active music writers, plus the editors of two other sections. Writers were asked to compile a list of their Top 25 favorite albums of the year, which were then compiled into the list you see below. The selections on the list vary widely in genre, from indie rock to R&B to country to a soundtrack for a television show.
Without further ado, our list starts below. We’ve also provided a navigation box for the other four pages
50. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
Phoebe Bridgers knows stuff, or at least, she knows a thing or two about writing from the middle ground, extracting the relevant, the painful, the poignant from the proverbial Grey Area. Whether it’s addressing the kinds of heartaches that have a name (“Scott Street”, “Motion Sickness”), or throwing darts at nothingness, trying to make sense of the intangible (“Funeral”), Stranger in the Alps is a record about intimacy, and about how those small vignettes of memory, those recurring little scenes, are foundational to who we are. – Leonel Manzanares
49. The Mountain Goats – Goths
Goths is a paradox of an album: it’s precise yet universal. The sound and subject matter are inspired by 1980s new wave and post-punk music and yet the album is amazingly accessible to listeners out of that wheelhouse. Goths briefly drops in the references as an explanation and a treat, but thankfully never lingers too long. Darnielle has a gift for crafting scenes in his lyrics, wonderfully wry and detailed to minute precision, and yet somehow applicable to everyday situations. Something like “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds,” my personal 2017 anthem, conjures up a simulacrum of a specific situation that pretty much anyone can relate to. It’s beautifully crafted and, at times, amazingly heartbreaking. – Katie Gill
48. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
Queens of the Stone Age is one of the few bands that stands firm with rock guitars as the main leitmotif of their music and still maintains the interest of audiences and critics worldwide. They show us how important it is to evolve: the trajectory of the band can be read as the exemplary evolution of a group that knows that if you stop, you will be left behind and eventually die. With Villains, the band finally abandoned the heavy rock highway to get the taste of the sound curves. Josh Homme and company have managed to make a different album that, at the same time sounds exactly like themselves. With a little help from Mark Ronson, the California quintet leaves behind for the most part the seriousness of … Like Clockwork and the forcefulness of Songs for the Deaf in favor of something very needed in these times: to have fun. – Cristina Moreano
47. Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
It’s almost fitting that 27-year-old Mac DeMarco has an appearance that makes him look like someone’s dad who just got back from painting a neighbor’s house, since he has more maturity and heart than his cigarettes and duck-bill hats would suggest. This Old Dog is his softest and most tender album to date, about a man with his hands in his pockets trying to have a hand in a world he doesn’t recognize. While known as a guitar virtuoso, DeMarco’s kooky slide guitar is replaced with soft pluckings of an acoustic guitar while quiet organs and low drums fill the background. The star of This Old Dog is not DeMarco the musician, but DeMarco the man contemplating what the years have done to him (“For he can’t be me/Look how old and cold and tired/And lonely he’s become”). Regardless of the loneliness, age, and time that has passed DeMarco, he remains a chain-smoking soft-spoken optimist (“Don’t feel like all the time you put in went to waste/The way your heart was beating all those days/And suddenly it beats another pace”). – Jon WInkler
46. Daniel Caesar – Fruedian
There aren’t many R&B singers on the market that can sing and tell an intimate story quite like Daniel Caesar can. I was incredibly impressed with his knack for keeping a consistent tone throughout his debut album, Freudian. The title fits Caesar’s ability perfectly, as he dives into every sensitive part of a human being’s mind; and unlocks all of the emotions and feelings one may have. The dazzling production on all ten songs is incredible, and Caesar’s peaceful voice glides effortlessly through the gorgeous base and percussion on each track. From the happiness he expresses on “Get You” and “Blessed,” to the realization that the girl he has found is actually not the one on “Loose,” Caesar hits every complexity that has to do with the theme of love and life. He creates his own passionate story; one that probably could be mistaken as a modern-day Shakespeare play.
What sets Caesar apart from his R&B contemporaries is, although he shows weakness, he never makes his listeners want to show pity for him. His optimism at the end of the album makes us believe that we all go through the same bumps in the road that he does, and he strips himself of all of his insecurities to picture that for us. – Ryan Feyre
45. The Cast of Bob’s Burgers – The Bob’s Burgers Music Album
Bob’s Burgers is the best adult animated series since The Simpsons because it has heart, but also because of the music. The cast and crew of the series have crafted perfect song after perfect song, finding the perfect mix of strong music and humor. A soundtrack was inevitable.
Masterpieces like the melodramatic Broadway tune “Electric Love” and “Taffy Butt” (where Cyndi Lauper herself comes on to sing a “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” parody) are the best part of these two CDs, but you can’t underestimate Sarah and Laura Silverman’s punk rock “We Won the Talent Show” (“I’ve done home runs with all my aunts/I’ve never had a menstrual cramp”), Kevin Kline’s tribute to booze “The Spirits of Christmas” (“Oh, bourbon bourbon bourbon bourbon bourbon bourbon bourbon bourbon bourbon”), or the inspirational jock jam “Groping for Glory” (“Crawl up the mountain on hands and knees/It’s stained with the blood of your enemies”). – Matt Rice
44. Brockhampton – Saturation II
Out of the entire Saturation trilogy put out by the Texas hip hop group Brockhampton, the second one released in August, seemed to be their most dynamic. While many will argue that Saturation III was their most inventive and creative production-wise, I felt like I learned a lot about each member’s personal life more on the second one.
Between Kevin Abstract’s battles with his sexuality on the heart-pounding “JUNKY,” Ameer Vann’s longing to erase his past demons on the insightful “TEETH,” and Matt Champion’s desire to find his place in this world on the poignant “QUEER,” each musician brought something compelling to the table. Not to mention, the countless producers on here re-invent the wheel with memorable production and basslines. Abstract incorporates sticky choruses to go along with exceptional verses from everyone else, making for an interesting rollercoaster ride of emotions and perspectives from each member.
Much like the other two Saturations, Brockhampton brings back the little skits that tie their story together. Here, it works nicely by breaking up the different themes into different phases of the album. What’s even more incredible, is the fact that a lot of the mixing and creating was done in a small basement rather than at a large studio (this is the case for every one of their albums). I can only imagine what they could be able to do with even better equipment. – Ryan Feyre
43. Big Thief – Capacity
A violent, dreamlike, intimate album, Capacity cemented the thesis of last year’s Masterpiece. The second album from Brooklyn’s Big Thief packs quite the punch, navigating the channels of desire and loss with the grace and exploration that only a wearied heart could possess. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker unpacks her stumbles and toils over updated variations on the grand folk tradition. Caught somewhere between arena rock and coffee shop acoustics, the album calls to mind the various iterations of Bruce Springsteen. Musical ingenuity coupled with emotional nuance makes for one of the most compelling albums 2017 has to offer. Capacity tackles the warped reimaginings brought on by memory, making for a messy, and yet irresistibly human, endeavor. – Brian Thompson
42. Ed Sheeran – Divide
Ed Sheeran is quite possibly one of the most popular and well-known artists right now. His song “Shape of You” came out unsuspectingly, creeping up the charts until it skyrocketed to number one – and stayed that way for a long time. Before we knew it, the Brit pop megastar had released a new album, ÷ (Divide). Sheeran had garnered attention very quickly before 2017, and here he was again with “Perfect” and “Galway Girl,” professing love and innocence through his songwriting. His thoughts and feelings seemed to spill from his songwriting, and the emotion behind every ballad he writes had continued onto this album. The world fell in love with Sheeran all over again, with more ferocity than before. While the music on the album wasn’t drastically improved, it was certainly the fame that made this album so memorable for the year. – Reagan Harrison
41. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
Very few artists can pick up right where they left off after a six-year hiatus. Fleet Foxes has consistently been one of the most dynamic folk bands of our generation. Lead singer Robin Pecknold continues to use his authentic talents on the group’s third studio album, Crack-Up.
This is by far their most abstract project, whether it be the minimal lyricism, or the dark and wintry production set forth by Pecknold and company. Fleet Foxes hits countless themes whether it be love, lust, loneliness, power and womanhood. Pecknold has a knack for making a political statement without shoving his ideas and beliefs in the listener’s face. The Seattle natives keep an open mind on our world, and leave a lot of themes up for interpretation.
From the cheery opener, “I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar,” to the frigid and desolate, “Kept Woman,” Fleet Foxes have created this fresher version of folk music, and have refined that sound on their third installment. – Ryan Feyre
Up next: 40-31