The Best Of 2017

2017 was one hell of a year, in all senses of the phrase. It was also one of the strongest years for music that we’ve seen in a long time. Right now, we’ll count down the Top 10 albums of The Year, hand out some honorable mentions, look back at 2016, and revisit some of the best interviews of the year!

Albums of The Year:

Honorable Mentions in Folk: Faye Webster, Faye Webster. The Lone Bellow, Walk Into A Storm. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger In The Alps.

Honorable Mentions in Rock: The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding. Jen Cloher, Jen Cloher. Wolf Alice, Visions Of A Life. John Mayer, The Search For Everything. Tegan And Sara (and Various Artists), The Con X. Morrissey, Low In High School. Mister Heavenly, Boxing The Moonlight. PWR BTTM, Pageant. Jay Som, Everybody Works. alt-J, Relaxer.

Honorable Mentions In Pop: Taylor Swift, Reputation. Lorde, Melodrama. HAIM, Something To Tell You. Eisley, I’m Only Dreaming. Alvvays, Antisocialites.

The Countdown

10. Torres — Three Futures
Three Futures is Torres’ third album and her most ambitious yet. Mackenzie Scott, who performs as Torres, says that the album is a concept album about having a body. The sensual and carnal undertone to this album makes it one of the most intriguing to listen to. As talented as a lyricist as she is, this album proves that Scott’s best, and most versatile instrument is her voice.

9. Big Thief — Capacity
Writing and recording a follow-up to Big Thief’s stunning debut, Masterpiece (Backstage’s #2 album of 2016), was going to be a daunting task. Yet less than a year later, Adrianne Lenker’s Rock outfit did just that. Capacity, in my opinion, is not as strong as Masterpiece on the whole. That being said, individual track on Capacity soar above any song Masterpiece. Take the album’s opening three songs (“Pretty Things”, “Shark Smile” and “Capacity”) and the penultimate, song of the year contender, “Mary”, for example.

8. Father John Misty — Pure Comedy
2017 was a year begging for social commentary, and if anyone could deliver it, it was going to be Father John Misty. Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, strikes the right balance between looking inward and looking outward on an incredibly sonically diverse album. It’s a record that is worthy of its GRAMMY Nomination for Best Alternative Album, and the release is certainly Tillman’s strongest to date.

7. Julien Baker — Turn Out The Lights
When you meet Julien Baker, the bubbly 22-year-old from Memphis, its it tough to believe that she makes such dark music. Baker is able to create music that does not feel overly dramatic, which is an impressive feat. It’s Baker’s first album with Matador Records, and her first major release since her 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle. Now that Baker is with Matador, one of Indie Rock’s best kept secrets (at least originally) might be out.

6. Declan McKenna — What Do You Think About The Car? 
Most teenager’s don’t get compared to David Bowie, but most teenagers also don’t have the talent and vision that Declan McKenna has. His long anticipated debut record came out in 2017, and was largely a collection of previously released singles and tracks from his popular EP’s. Still, previously unheard songs like “Make Me Your Queen”, show that McKenna’s artistry has developed since he first burst on to the scene in 2015.

5.MUNA — About U
MUNA is a band that absolutely shocked me in 2017. After the 2016 Loudspeaker EP, I thought that the band would be one that I would listen to for a few months and then forget. Boy was I wrong. MUNA has been my favorite American discovery of 2017. About U is a record that is pure pop magic that finds ways to be human at every turn. Shredding guitars, backing vocals that wow and lyrics that are as intense as the beat make About U one of the best albums of the year, and MUNA one of the best club bands preforming now. In 2017 alone they opened for both Bleachers and Harry Styles. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for this band

4. The National — Sleep Well Beast
For me, The National’s Sleep Well Beast, was the album I was most excited to hear. The five piece band did an incredible job of balancing the personal and the political, with lyricist Matt Berninger’s lyrics shining through on every song. Sleep Well Beast may not have been the record The National set out to make, but it was the album The National needed to make in 2017.

3. St. Vincent — MASSEDUCTION
When St. Vincent (the recording project of Annie Clark) released “New York” as a single, I remember the large uproar—WHAT? How could St. Vincent release a song without her signature guitar?! The commotion shocked everyone, including Clark herself. I loved the song and found it to be an exciting new direction for one of our generation’s finest artists. MASSEDUCTION continues to see Clark, along with Jack Antonoff, explore uncharted territory, with her trusty guitar by her side for (most of) the album. It’s Clark’s most personal work yet, and my favorite release from her catalogue.

2. Bleachers — Gone Now
Jack Antonoff has had a master year. He’s produced some of the most successful albums of the year (think Lorde, Taylor Swift, P!NK, and St. Vincent) while still making a record of his own. Gone Now is probably the best pop record I have heard in this decade. Starting with “Dream Of Mickey Mantle” and ending with “Foreign Girls”, Gone Now takes you through one cohesive, 38 minute story. Though the album really works as a unit, individual songs (“Don’t Take The Money”, “Everybody Lost Somebody”, “All My Heroes”, etc.) stand out on their own as well. This release was well worth the three-year wait, and I am interested to see how Antonoff tops this.

1. The Wild Reeds — The World We Built
The World We Built is the album I never saw coming from the band I hadn’t heard of this time last year. The album reads like a study guide for your 20s, as primary lyricists and singers Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva navigate love, loss and an unfamiliar world. The harmonies that three singers produce is unlike any other group in music, even edging out The Staves and Joseph in some respect.There is not a single throw-away song on The World We Built, with each song building off the other, ending in “Fruition”, a 7 minute epic that ties together every lyrical theme on the album, with every stylistic choice , like soaring harmonies and long instrumental interludes, that makes you love The Reeds. If you listen to one album this year, make it The World We Built By The Wild Reeds.

Best Songs Of 2017

This is a collection, in no particular order, of my 50 Top Songs of 2017. The only rule: only one song per artist//per album.

Best Interviews of 2017 

Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings

Blind Pilot

Hamilton Leithauser

Weyes Blood

Of Montreal

Dr. Dog

Pinegrove

Marlon Williams

The Wild Reeds

Wolf Alice

Strand Of Oaks

Brandi Carlile

Hurray For The Riff Raff

MUNA

Frankie Cosmos

What We Missed: 2016

2017 was an amazing year for music. But so was 2016! So much great stuff came out in ’16, that we were bound to miss some of it. Here is the best of what we at Backstage missed in 2016.

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