GORILLA VS. BEAR’S ALBUMS OF 2017
As the internet’s collective attention span continues to dwindle away and the clickbait economy slowly ruins everything good, we made a conscious effort this year to spend more time listening to fewer things. Discovering new favorites will always remain a priority around here, but it felt good to devote more quality time to absorbing ambitious, flawed, elaborately nuanced and layered masterpieces like Dust, Quazarz, Party, and The OOZ. And the more immediate records that we fell in love with at first listen — TOPS’ Sugar at the Gate, the super charismatic Carti mixtape, and Kelly Lee Owens’ enveloping debut full-length, to name a few — felt more like all-time favorites with each spin. While anyone in our top 5 could have staked a legit Album of the Year claim depending on the day, we had to put the two EPs that announced the arrival of dance music’s brightest new star in their rightful spot at the top of our list. Here are our favorite records of 2017:
60) RAMZi | Phobiza Noite Vol. 2
59) SUSANNE SUNDFØR | Music For People in Trouble
58) NMESH | Pharma
57) JOHN MAUS | Screen Memories
56) MOLLY NILSSON | Imaginations
55) CARLA DAL FORNO | The Garden
54) CHARLI XCX | Number 1 Angel
53) EXIT SOMEONE | Dry Your Eyes
52) AMBER MARK | 3:33 am
51) DRAB MAJESTY | The Demonstration
50) LANA DEL REY | Lust For Life
49) JOSEPH SHABASON | Aytche
48) JOHNNY JEWEL | Windswept
47) MOLLY BURCH | Please Be Mine
46) CHOPSTARS x BARRY JENKINS | Purple Moonlight
45) ANGEL OLSEN | Phases
44) LUKE REED | Won’t Be There
43) KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH | The Kid
42) KELELA | Take Me Apart
41) GRIZZLY BEAR | Painted Ruins
40) JLIN | Black Origami
39) DJ SPORTS | Modern Species
38) YOU’LL NEVER GET TO HEAVEN | Images
37) KARA-LIS COVERDALE | Grafts
36) SASSY 009 | do you mind
35) KENDRICK LAMAR | DAMN.
34) BIG THIEF | Capacity
33) HAND HABITS | Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)
32) BLUE HAWAII | Tenderness
31) MOUNT KIMBIE | Love What Survives
30) EQUIKNOXX | Colón Man
29) WASHED OUT | Mister Mellow
28) SZA | Ctrl
27) SHE-DEVILS | She-Devils
26) ANNA OF THE NORTH | Lovers
25) JULIE BYRNE | Not Even Happiness
24) ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER | Good Time OST
23) JULIA LUCILLE | Chthonic
22) KEDR LIVANSKIY | Ariadna
21) HOOPS | Routines
20) HATER | You Tried
If you’re into the new Alvvays record, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get familiar with Sweden’s Hater. From our post way back in January 2017: “It takes something very special to get us this psyched about indie-pop these days, and in Hater’s case, that is the raw emotional heft of frontwoman Caroline Landahl‘s gorgeous, achingly bittersweet vocals, perpetually swaying between comforting and devastating. The great Molly Rankin of Alvvays is an obvious but warranted comparison, as Landahl pulls off the rare feat of simultaneously imbuing these wistfully misty melodies with a warm ray of shimmering hope along with an intense longing and melancholy…”
19) MEN I TRUST | Tailwhip EP
This cassette-only release consists of just one new track, which happens to be our song of the year, and 5 intimate + immaculate live recordings from the Montreal group. It’s a perfect use of the cassette medium, and for us, these recordings felt like a proper introduction to a band that is going to be as big as they want to be in 2018.
18) DEMEN | Nektyr
Winter’s coming, time to break this one out again. What we said back in March: “She creates in solitude these beautifully glacial otherworldly elegies — the label calls them “hermetic gothic swan songs” — that haunt and disquiet on a visceral level, ranging in tone from hypnagogic, almost surreal romantic Lynchian horror vibes and hushed, eerie lullabies, to the mournful, chasmic darkness of the album’s tone-setting opening track.”
17) FEVER RAY | Plunge
16) ALVVAYS | Antisocialites
15) ALESSANDRO CORTINI | Avanti
Wintry and at times emotionally overwhelming (check the videos) analog synth nostalgia for fans of Boards of Canada, the Caretaker, or Sigur Ros.
14) YUMI ZOUMA | Willowbank
13) NITE JEWEL | Real High
12) VINCE STAPLES | Big Fish Theory
Vince is right, the Grammys are bullshit if he doesn’t win electronic album of the year.
11) TORO y MOI | Boo Boo
10) MEGA BOG | Happy Together
A dreamy, jazzy opus from Mega Bog that addresses some dark and relevant themes in an elegant and surreal way. Erin Birgy is a genius and Mega Bog could have been the Bang Bang Bar’s house band. The most under-appreciated album of the year.
09) KING KRULE | The Ooz
We never really got into Archy Marshall’s earlier work for whatever reason, but his woozy, atmospheric new LP The OOZ had us captivated and entranced from the moment we surrendered to its grimy charm. It’s a sprawling and uncompromising record that feels loose and messy while remaining entirely cohesive, creating a very specific queasy late-night vibe that’s impossible to shake.
08) FAYE WEBSTER | Faye Webster
Like a millenial’s modern re-imagining of Tapestry — with a lot more slide guitar — as filtered through the lens of a teenage Awful hip-hop photographer from Atlanta.
07) PLAYBOI CARTI | Playboi Carti
Carti’s absurdly charismatic and fun debut mixtape was my most listened to rap record of the year. His ad libs are the most quotable in the game by a wide margin, and there were no beats this year more infectious than “Magnolia” and “wokeuplikethis*”. Pi’erre Bourne for MVP.
06) SHABAZZ PALACES | Quazarz
Ishmael Butler is my favorite rapper of all-time, so I was only slightly concerned when I didn’t immediately connect with Shabazz Palaces’ dense, space-traveling “monozygotic twin” monoliths Born on a Gangster Star + Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines (outside of song-of-the-year contender “Shine A Light“, of course, which was an instant jam). This is deeper than the group has ever delved, and it felt like an overwhelming amount to process. But the Palaceer has never steered us wrong, so it was just a matter of time before the dots connected themselves and the records’ conceptual cosmic odyssey started to take shape. The definition of a grower.
05) LAUREL HALO | Dust
Laurel Halo’s brilliant new record is probably her most experimental and disorienting work yet, but once you sort of find your bearings within Dust‘s vast otherworldly landscape, it reveals itself as the sunniest, most playful, and happiest record she’s ever done. We’d like to move away to the place in “Moontalk” forever if we could.
04) ALDOUS HARDING | Party
Back in March, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding played one of the most spellbinding and emotionally uncomfortable shows I’ve ever seen, in a tiny blackbox theater in Boise, Idaho, just hours after I heard her devastating new record for the first time. There will always be an indelible connection between that haunting performance and these songs for me, making Party feel like an important document of a specific time and place. Find the deluxe edition of the record if you can, as bonus 7″ track “Elation” is as heartbreakingly beautiful as anything else you’ll hear this year.
03) TOPS | Sugar at the Gate
Our favorite band in the world somehow keeps getting better with each record, as they continue to refine their irresistible “raw punk take on AM studio pop” (their own description). We bumped Sugar at the Gate just about every day over the summer, and what we said back then holds true: it’s a “timeless collection of breezy, instantly familiar pop jams” and “intoxicating slow-burners that only reveal their true magic after you’ve earned it with your time and undivided attention”.
02) KELLY LEE OWENS | Kelly Lee Owens
KLO’s stunning debut is a beautifully immersive and enveloping take on all of our favorite things: emotional, floating electronic dream-pop and more propulsive and visceral dance music that pulses like an underwater heartbeat, seamlessly woven into something that feels both familiar and entirely new. And as if it wasn’t good enough already, she just dropped an extended version of the record with three more gorgeous songs to get lost in, all of which are among her best and could have easily made the record.
01) YAEJI | EPs
We knew it was inevitable that Yaeji was going to be massive from the first time we encountered her music in early 2016; the only surprise is that it took this long. Similar to the experience of hearing Grimes for the first time, there’s an obvious special, one-of-a-kind quality that just radiates from everything she does. A perfect, life-affirming union of house, hip-hop, and pop, elevated to AOTY status by Yaeji’s magnetic charm.
01 YAEJI | EPs
02 KELLY LEE OWENS | Kelly Lee Owens
03 TOPS | Sugar at the Gate
04 ALDOUS HARDING | Party
05 LAUREL HALO | Dust
06 SHABAZZ PALACES | Quazarz
07 PLAYBOI CARTI | Playboi Carti
08 FAYE WEBSTER | Faye Webster
09 KING KRULE | The OOZ
10 MEGA BOG | Happy Together
11 TORO Y MOI | Boo Boo
12 VINCE STAPLES | Big Fish Theory
13 NITE JEWEL | Real High
14 YUMI ZOUMA | Willowbank
15 ALESSANDRO CORTINI | Avanti
16 ALVVAYS | Antisocialites
17 FEVER RAY | Plunge
18 DEMEN | Nektyr
19 MEN I TRUST | Tailwhip EP
20 HATER | You Tried
21 HOOPS | Routines
22 KEDR LIVANSKIY | Ariadna
23 JULIA LUCILLE | Chthonic
24 ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER | Good Time OST
25 JULIE BYRNE | Not Even Happiness
26 ANNA OF THE NORTH | Lovers
27 SHE-DEVILS | She-Devils
28 SZA | Ctrl
29 WASHED OUT | Mister Mellow
30 EQUIKNOXX | Colón Man
31 MOUNT KIMBIE | Love What Survives
32 BLUE HAWAII | Tenderness
33 HAND HABITS | Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)
34 BIG THIEF | Capacity
35 KENDRICK LAMAR | DAMN.
36 SASSY 009 | do you mind
37 KARA-LIS COVERDALE | Grafts
38 YOU’LL NEVER GET TO HEAVEN | Images
39 DJ SPORTS | Modern Species
40 JLIN | Black Origami
41 GRIZZLY BEAR | Painted Ruins
42 KELELA | Take Me Apart
43 KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH | The Kid
44 LUKE REED | Won’t Be There
45 ANGEL OLSEN | Phases
46 CHOPSTARS x BARRY JENKINS | Purple Moonlight
47 MOLLY BURCH | Please Be Mine
48 JOHNNY JEWEL | Windswept
49 JOSEPH SHABASON | Aytche
50 LANA DEL REY | Lust For Life
51 DRAB MAJESTY | The Demonstration
52 AMBER MARK | 3:33 am
53 EXIT SOMEONE | Dry Your Eyes
54 CHARLI XCX | Number 1 Angel
55 CARLA DAL FORNO | The Garden
56 MOLLY NILSSON | Imaginations
57 JOHN MAUS | Screen Memories
58 NMESH | Pharma
59 SUSANNE SUNDFØR | Music For People in Trouble
60 RAMZi | Phobiza Noite Vol. 2
Thanks for sticking with us for another year. We have an exciting new endeavor coming in 2018, and you can stay up on all of that by signing up for our newly minted newsletter. We promise to only hit you up when there’s something good.
*A quick note on the prevailing sentiment that it’s way too early to post year-end lists: of course it is. Lists like these are fleeting and constantly evolving. We’re still uncovering gems we missed almost every day, and if we revisited our 2016 list it would be embarrassingly out of order (e.g., Grouper’s “Headache” came out at the end of December last year, so it wasn’t on our list, and it’s now one of my favorite songs ever. It’s not the end of the world.) And if we haven’t heard something yet by December 1st, we probably wouldn’t have enough time with it to include it on a year-end list anyway, unless we pushed it back into 2018. And then no one would care.