2017 was a shit show. Donald Trump, endless mass shootings, the rise of white nationalism, natural disaster after natural disaster, #MeToo, the deaths of Gord Downie, Tom Petty, and Chris Cornell… turning on the news or logging onto Facebook or Twitter these past 12 months have made it pretty damn hard to put on a happy face. Needless to say, the world just needs a great big hug. Thankfully, Broken Social Scene brought a Hug of Thunder. In a time when sadness, despair, and anger are the easy default emotions, Kevin Drew and his extended Broken Social Scene family had their hands in many of the year’s best albums, spreading much needed love, joy, and positivity.
Broken Social Scene came back after a long hiatus with the triumphant Hug of Thunder, featuring prominent contributions from Emily Haines of Metric and Feist. Kevin Drew produced Gord Downie’s beautiful epitaph Introduce Yourself. Feist released her first album in a few years, the spare and haunting Pleasure, while Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton unveiled the stunning Choir of the Mind. Along with Stars’ There is No Love in Flourescent Light, it’s safe to say that the Broken Social Scene collective weren’t slacking in 2017.
Speaking of indie Canadian collectives, The New Pornographers released one of their finest albums to date with Whiteout Conditions. Carl Newman had to do the heavy lifting for songwriting since Dan Bejar was focusing on Destroyer and he more than rose to the occasion. This album is a power pop masterpiece.
Ryan Adams continues to be the busiest man in the music biz. Not only did he release the flawless Prisoner, but he released a full album of b-sides that most artists would be proud to release as a proper album. That, and he’s produced the upcoming Liz Phair and Jenny Lewis albums. I guess if you get divorced you have to keep busy.
The biggest pleasant surprise for me this year was the latest Rancid album. I was expecting a fun listen, but I still listen to Trouble Maker nonstop. It’s inspiring to see a band, especially a punk band, at this stage of their career release music that stands toe to toe with their best work. This album is perfect from start to finish. Joe Strummer would be proud.
Other highlights include Wolf Alice creating the perfect blend of grunge, shoegaze, and pop with Visions of a Life, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit releasing an instant alt-country classic with The Nashville Sound, and Matthew Ryan channeling his best Springsteen with Hustle Up Starlings.
Locally, 2017 was an unbelievable year for bands in Regina and the rest of Saskatchewan. Colter Wall proved once again that he’s the real deal with his self-titled album. If Steve Earle says that you’re one of the best songwriters around then you’re doing something right. Blake Berglund delivered the stunning concept album Realms. This is an album that needs to be listened to front to back, and then repeat. It’s that good. As well, Megan Nash, Johnny 2 Fingers & the Deformities, the Snake Oil Salesmen, Brodie Moniker, Lunar Lander Dance Commander, Joe O’Connor, Jeffery Straker, Grim, Justin Sheppard, Val Halla, Wanda Gronhovd, and Chris Real are just a few of the artists who released stellar albums or EPs.
With all the incredible music that came out this year, one album has been on my mind the entire time. Keeping in the spirit of giving the world a hug, Japandroids released hands down my favourite record of the year, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. This album just bursts with positive, life-affirming energy. It boggles my mind that two Canadian guys can make a sound this big and far reaching. In a perfect world they’d be one of the biggest bands on the planet. But in a time when the world seems to be going down the shitter it’s important to remember that there is still lots of beauty in it. Japandroids, Broken Social Scene, and every other artist or band on this list are pleasant reminders of that.
Without further ado, here are 50 albums that made 2017 worthwhile. If you want to dip your toe into each album I created a playlist on Spotify. Enjoy!
1. Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
2. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
3. Rancid – Trouble Maker
4. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
5. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
6. Gord Downie – Introduce Yerself
7. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
8. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
9. Colter Wall – Colter Wall
10. Matthew Ryan – Hustle Up Starlings
11. Headstones – Little Army
12. The Pack a.d. – Dollhouse
13. Steve Earle – So You Wanna Be an Outlaw
14. U2 – Songs of Experience
15. Micah Schnabel – Your New Norman Rockwell
16. Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Choir of the Mind
17. Blake Berglund – Realms
18. Feist – Pleasure
19. Alvvays – Antisocialites
20. Jade Jackson – Gilded
21. The National – Sleep Well Beast
22. Lorde – Melodrama
23. Chris Stapleton – From a Room Volume 1
24. Chris Stapleton – From a Room Volume 2
25. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
26. Greg Graffin – Millport
27. Death From Above – Outrage! Is Now
28. JJ Shiplett – Something to Believe In
29. Filthy Friends – Invitation
30. Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
31. Future Islands – The Far Field
32. Megan Nash – Seeker
33. LCD Soundsystem – american dream
34. Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen
35. Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?
36. Johnny 2 Fingers & the Deformities – Built to Rock ‘N Roll
37. The Snake Oil Salesmen – Dead and Breathing
38. Phoenix – Ti Amo
39. Stars – There is No Love in Fluorescent Light
40. Lunar Lander Dance Commander – Liquid Smooth EP
41. Cherry Glazerr – Apocalipstick
42. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
43. Brodie Moniker – Nowhere Left To Ghost
44. Whitehorse – Panther In The Dollhouse
45. Laura Marling – Semper Femina
46. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
47. Whitney Rose – Rule 62
48. Joe O’Connor – No Turning Back Now
49. Sarah Slean – Metaphysics
50. Spoon – Hot Thoughts