In early 2015 I published a list of my favorite albums of the previous year. In my story, I chastised writers who had rushed to get their lists out early and in doing so missed the December 15, 2014 release of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah album. It was my favorite album of the year and I was smugly self-satisfied that I had waited for it before publishing my list. The year I very nearly became what I beheld. I was all set to publish my list earlier this week. In fact, it was about 30 minutes away from going live on Popdose. Then I heard that the new Eminem album, Revival, would be released on Friday, December 15. Of course, there had been at least two earlier release dates publicized and the album had failed to appear. But I had a good feeling about the December 15 date since it was the same date that saw the release of the D’Angelo album. So I decided to wait until I could hear Revival, confident that it had a very good chance to be on my list. My confidence has been rewarded. What follows is the original, pre-Revival text of my story but adjusted to accommodate Eminem’s sprawling, scathing, and altogether majestic album.
It’s that time again. Time to proclaim my favorite albums of the year. It’s nice to know that people are still interested in my opinion in this regard but frankly, it’s a lot of pressure. Obviously, there’s no way to listen to every album that is released in a given year so all I can really do is listen to as many as possible and choose the ones I liked best. I remind you once again this year that I am not saying that these are the best albums of the year, only that they were my favorites.
2017 was a pretty good year for music with hip-hop again ruling the roost. In a sign of changing times last year, I included a mixtape on my list. This year it’s Drake’s playlist at the top and both Eminem’s Revival and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. in the Top 5. But there was also some good old guitar rock this year as espoused by bands like the War on Drugs Bash & Pop, and the Dream Syndicate. The singer/songwriters had another good year with fine albums from Nicole Atkins, Ryan Adams, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Jason Isbell, John Moreland, and others.
A brilliant new star arose in the heavens in the form of Rhiannon Giddens, and there was a passionate tribute to Joni Mitchell from Kevin Jenkins. Shelby Lynne and her sister Allison Moorer finally got together to release the poignant Not Dark Yet, and the unjustly ridiculed Michael McDonald proved just how wrong his critics are with his first album of new material in many years.
Glen Campbell said goodbye with the stirring Adios, and perennial underdogs Pugwash and the Waterboys proved that they can’t be counted out just yet. Speaking of not being counted out, U2 returned with their finest album in years simply by not trying so hard. Other veterans made powerful statements too. Neil Finn, Cat Stevens, Peter Perrett, Randy Newman, and Chris Hillman all released strong albums.
Here’s my list of my favorite albums of 2017. The Top 10 are in order, the rest are not.
The Top 10:
1. Drake – More Life
2. Nicole Atkins – Goodnight Rhonda Lee
3. Eminem – Revival
4. Cindy Lee Berryhill – The Adventurist
5. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
6. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
7. Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway
8. Ian Felice – In the Kingdom of Dreams
9. Ryan Adams – Prisoner/Prisoner B Sides
10. Kevin Jenkins – She: A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (EP)
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me
Vic Mensa – The Autobiography
Michael McDonald – Wide Open
Robert Cray – Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm
John Moreland – Big Bad Luv
Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen
Matthew Ryan – Hustle Up Starlings
Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer – Not Dark Yet
Zeshan B – Vetted
Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black
U2 – Songs of Experience
Yusuf/Cat Stevens – The Laughing Apple
Randy Newman – Dark Matter
Pugwash – Silverlake
Chris Hillman – Bidin’ My Time
Neil Finn – Out of Silence
Craig Finn – We All Want the Same Thing
The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here?
The Waterboys – Out of All This Blue
John Calvin Abney – Far Cries and Close Calls
Glen Campbell – Adios
Benjamin Booker – Witness
Peter Perrett – How the West Was Won
The Front Bottoms – Going Grey
Gucci Mane – Mr. Davis