25. Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming
Sherri DuPree-Bemis and Garron DuPree are the only remaining members of the once five piece, mostly sibling band. It’s a different sound for Eisley for sure, and they still have some kinks to work out, but they’re off to a great new start.
24. P.O.S – Chill, dummy
P.O.S is back with his first solo album since 2012 and his first since having a kidney transplant. It’s one of his best albums to date. As you might imagine, being sick and almost dying provides a lot of creative energy.
23. HAIM – Something to Tell You
HAIM have over come the sophomore slump with a solid follow up to their breakout debut. They’ve continued to build upon their signature R&B infused pop-rock sound while demonstrating growth as musicians and song writers.
22. Lecrae – All Things Work Together
On his major label debut, Lecrae has stepped confidently out of the “Christian Rapper” box into the mainstream without comprising his faith, values, or artistic integrity. And as always he wears his heart firmly on his sleeve with lyrics as vulnerable as you can get.
21. Aaron Sprinkle – Real Life
Legendary producer Aaron Sprinkle — synonymous with Tooth and Nail Records — likes to get out from behind the board from time to time. On his latest solo album Sprinkle creates some nice synthy pop sounds. Lyrically he opens up about struggles with alcohol addition.
20. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Arcade Fire, which I’ve written about before. Regarding their latest release, Everything Now, I’ll just say this, I really like it. It encompasses everything I love about Arcade Fire and nothing I hate.
19. Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
Cloud Nothings perfectly balance grittiness with just a touch of polish. They are one of the few bands that fit nicely in both the punk an indie scenes. That continues to be the case on Life Without Sound perhaps polishing things up a bit more from their last release. Many an indie band wish they sounded this good.
18. Run the Jewels – 3
I’m finaling getting on the Run the Jewels train and it’s been a fun ride. The production on 3 is fast paced and aggressive and the rapping of El-P and Killer Mike follows suit. The guys have some hard hitting lyrics as well. With an album released just before the current administration took office, I can’t help but anticipate what they’ll say on 4.
17. Comeback Kid – Outsider
For a lot of punk and hardcore bands it can be hard to reinvent themselves without completely changing genres. Often the best they can do is hone their craft and be consistent. Comeback Kid certainly has been consistent in their career and have grown as song writers. On Outsider they take it a step further by adding some unexpected pop inspiration to their very heavy sound, and it works quite nicely.
16. Derek Minor – Up and Away Series
This year Derek Minor released two EPs, Your Soul Must Fly and High Above as part of a series titled Up and Away. I grouped these two EPs together as one “full length” album. The EPs remind of a lot of a mix tape in that Minor seems to have more freedom to be creative and take risks than he maybe would on a true album. This is some of his best work, from the production, rapping, special guests, and lyrical content. I’m excited to see what else comes from this series in the year to come.
15. ’68 – Two Parts Viper
A ’68 album is kind of like a tornado; one, in the chaotic nature of the music and two, the music is a swirling mix of genres. Two Parts Viper is impressive musically, but it’s the lyrics that really set it apart. The track listing when read together forms a poem of sorts, which sets the tone for the album’s theme. Front man Josh Scogin paints a somewhat bleak picture of the plight of mankind, but also offers hope. Hope in what cannot be seen, hope in each other, hope in love.
14. Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed – Magic & Bird
Magic & Bird is a mix tape by Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed and it’s a lot of fun! As I mentioned previously with Derek Minor, the mix tape format really allowed these artists to let their hair down. Thematically Magic & Bird plays homage to, well… the rivalry of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and the glory days of the NBA. The songs are fun and cheeky, while being technically proficient in production and rhyming. The guys have some serious moments as well, rounding out an excellent mix tape.
13. The Brilliance – All is Not Lost
The Brilliance are back with more of their beautiful arrangements and lyrics that find them both worshiping and wrestling. It my sound strange but there’s a distinct early 80s soft rock vibe on All is Not Lost, like maybe they were listening to a lot of Phil Collins while recording… I don’t know, but it somehow works amazingly well.
12. Taelor Gray – In the Way of Me
This may be the best hip-hop album of 2017 that no one has heard of. If you like hip-hop and haven’t heard of Taelor Gray, cue up In the Way of Me immediately. The production is relatively simple, but filled with a sense of urgency. The simplicity also serves to highlight Gray’s rapping and his lyrics in which he tackles issues of faith, justice, politics, and his own personal struggles.
11. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
Julien Baker embodies restraint in her music while at the same time bearing her soul through her lyrics. The arrangements on Turn Out the Lights are minimal, with guitars and piano pretty much being the only instruments. The music sets the tone that starts to pull on the heart strings even before Baker sings and when she does, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. If we didn’t know what “emo” was, then this would be emo. Baker’s vulnerability is unmistakable as she sings about depression, anxiety, self worth, identity, and how those things effect her relationships.