The contributors assigned for this list, fortunately, all have vastly different music tastes. Each writer was assigned to include two albums, as well as listen to the suggestions by other writers, and contribute accordingly. The result is a shared collective view of ten albums in 2017 that provide the most evocative, genuine, and interesting listening experiences. Due to the nature of the collaborative piece, albums are not ranked numerically. Each record is considered a number one, so to speak, and are presented alphabetically with the respective writer credited for their contribution. Here's to a new year that's louder than the last.
2017 was, in almost every way, a calendar year, that occurred. Things happened, which was cool. Some things did not happen, that was also fine. The things worth mentioning though, the important stuff; that stuff resides on your phones, tablets, and desktops. Because 2017, in addition to being another profound year for music streaming, was a great year for music in general. So many artists are stepping out of their comfort zones, hungrier than ever to produce evocative music often influenced by the sociopolitical struggles we've come to be immersed in these days. We here at Daily Lobo Music are big fans of lists, calenders, and innovative music, so we decided to all band together like a tag-team squad of transatlantic Captain Planet music junkies and document what releases made us laugh, cry, jam, mosh, scream, wonder, and go: "oh dang, yeah I like that" this year. Here is part one of our two part Best of 2017 series: the honorable mentions that didn't make it to the top 10.
The most consistent band working wants to move forward, even at the risk of a misstep or two. That’s not to say they haven’t changed; their past five albums, recorded with their current lineup, have each sustained a coherent, self-contained aesthetic. The incendiary explosiveness of "Jane Doe," the rotted gouging of "You Fail Me," the straight assault of "No Heroes," the knotted melodicism of "Axe to Fall," the chiseled cuts of "All We Love We Leave Behind." There’s not much of a “progression," per se, but that last album was notably the saddest-sounding in the catalog. The lean directness, a sort of plea to get across not only fury but the voice containing it. The rhythm barreled forward as guitars shot downward like an arrow volley, or torrents of stinging rain.
Kelela is, above all, concerned with maintaining dignity within movement. In interviews, and an editorial piece published by Resident Advisor, she has been outspoken about the constraints and compromises of working as a black woman within a music industry controlled in large part by white men under late capitalism. Part of that process has been walking the line between using different influences — “I don't see my sound inherent in one type of beat,” she explained to the Fader — without compromising her blackness, and in turn without being tokenized, marginalized, extracted from.
In 2007 the New Yorker published a controversial piece by Sasha Frere-Jones titled, “A Paler Shade of White,” in which he mourned the lack of miscegenation across racial boundaries and specifically that of black musical influence into white indie rock. The piece opens with an anecdote of a performance by Arcade Fire, a band he liked. “I realized that the drummer and the bassist rarely played syncopated patterns or lingered in the low registers. If there is a trace of soul, blues, reggae or funk in Arcade Fire, it must be philosophical; it certainly isn’t audible. And what I really wanted to hear, after a stretch of raucous sing-alongs, was a bit of swing, some empty space and palpable bass frequencies.” Though he added the caveat that “there’s no point in faulting Arcade Fire for what it doesn’t do,” it was enough to move Will Butler, a composer and core member of the expansive band, to rebut the characterization with an audio file in which snippets from the band’s songs were juxtaposed against music from various black musicians, as well as that of older white artists, like the Beatles and the Clash, who took clear influence from those traditions.
The Mountain Goats, the primary musical project of singer-songwriter John Darnielle, have been plenty of things throughout the years. Working with a cast of collaborators, the most consistent for a time being a Panasonic boombox, they started out in the early 90s as an acoustic lo-fi project, releasing albums and cassettes on various small labels. The songs were as terse as they were tense, compressing moments into little sonic shells, carrying the threat of exploding at any second. At the turn of the century their sound collapsed and expanded, and when the Mountain Goats signed to 4AD they added more elements to solidify themselves as a cohesive project, working through variations on themes new and old. It’s always been Darnielle, and, as any fan will tell you, it’s always been much more.
The two TMG albums released in the middle of the decade, The Sunset Tree and Get Lonely, are as notable, but in a different way. There might be a greater stylistic difference between each of the three previous records—first recording in a studio, then embracing a full band—but the transition between WSABH and The Sunset Tree is perhaps just as jarring. Both center around autobiography, but the first is a character sketchbook cloaked in the language of verisimilitude. The two albums that follow are clear as day, and dark as what comes after clarity. Talking to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Darnielle observed that “in many ways [The Sunset Tree is] the first Mountain Goats album ... it’s like, all this stuff before that, sort of feels like a study for when I was able to tap something.”