2017 is done. Gone. Buh-bye. We may be kissing another tumultuous year farewell, but the music it brought will stick with us for a long time. Amazing albums arrived for every taste and the Gauntlet’s Editorial Board enjoys a range of tunes. We may not agree on everything, but we all had something we loved to listen to over the past year. Here’s our favourite albums of 2017.
Fleet Foxes — Crack-Up — June 16, 2017 (Nonesuch Records)
A central theme of Crack-Up, the exceptional third album from Seattle folk band Fleet Foxes, is how coincidences can compound to an extreme — where it’s difficult to justify them as anything other than design. At the album’s climax, lead singer Robin Pecknold strains as he sings, “I’m reminded of the time it all fell in line on the third of May.” The point he makes rings true with my relationship with Crack-Up, an album that came into my life at what was an implausibly perfect time. Pecknold delivers his reflections on protest, marriage, inertia and the futility of anger through a smokescreen of historical references and tempo changes. The fact that it works — and is still an immensely personal, interpretable piece of art — feels like an act of divine intervention in its own right.
Jason Herring, Editor-In-Chief
Harry Styles — Harry Styles — May 12, 2017 (Colombia Records)
The self-titled debut album of former One Direction member Harry Styles is the best thing to happen in 2017. The luscious-haired former boyband member reimagines himself with an album that could be the soundtrack to an Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind-esque indie flick. Boy meets girl in “Only Angel,” “Sweet Creature” and “Carolina” and there’s a steamy exposed-brick-wall-Brooklyn-apartment sex scene in “Meet Me in the Hallway.”
While songs like “Sign of the Times” and “Kiwi” are the album’s most commercially successful tracks, slower songs like “Ever Since New York” and “Two Ghosts” are where Styles’ artistic talent shines. The album is sure to remain popular and if you feel bad about liking it, just remember that belittling teenage girls’ taste in art is rooted in
Tina Shaygan, News Editor
Gorillaz — Humanz — April 28, 2017 (Warner Bros. Records)
After a mind-boggling seven-year wait, Gorillaz gave fans everything they were hoping for, and more, with the release of Humanz. Though completely different from 2010’s Plastic Beach, it’s instantly recognizable as a Gorillaz production.
The new album offers a gloomy, ethereal and enjoyable ride from start to finish. Humanz also boasts a few excellently executed guest appearances, such as “Ascension,” featuring Vince Staples, and “Submission,” featuring Danny Brown and Kelela.
Along with the new album comes new music videos that further the story of the four animated band members who have become so central to the group’s identity.
Justin Shellenburg, News Assistant
Barns Courtney — The Attractions of Youth — September 29, 2017 (EMI)
While some of the songs on the album were released as singles before 2017, English blues-rock singer Barns Courtney’s debut album, The Attractions of Youth, didn’t come into full fruition until September. Courtney’s songs are backed by a pounding bass drum that drives his rugged voice forward. The album takes on the sound of a live show with guitar reverb and his echoing voice.
My favourite song from the album is “Fire,” the record’s biggest hit, but other great tracks include the upbeat “Hands,” the deeper-toned “Glitter and Gold” with lyrics reminiscent of a fantasy world and “Golden Dandelions,” where Courtney’s unique rogue voice is highlighted.
Nikayla Goddard, Digital Editor
Chris Stapleton — From a Room (1 & 2) — December 1, 2017 (Mercury Nashville)
Lately in country music there’s been an onslaught of garbage churned out by big labels. Luckily, a few gems are still being released for those who have managed to fight through the bro-country.
Chris Stapleton’s back-to-back 2017 albums featured storytelling lyrics that touch on important topics such as addiction, grief, mental illness and love. His poetry locks you into the accompanying bluegrass melodies and his smouldering, whiskey-drenched voice will leave you thinking about the songs long after you stop listening. The heavy themes are softened with rocking blues-country tunes like “Them Stems” and “Midnight Train to Memphis.” Though the second volume wasn’t released until December, the two albums are easily 2017’s best country releases.
Jesse Stilwell, Opinions Editor
BA Johnston — Grmlnz, Vol. 3 — February 28, 2017 (Self-released)
BA Johnston — Hamilton, Ontario’s beloved folk hero — blessed the world with 20 new jams in Grmlnz, Vol. 3: Donairs After Midnight. The album is a smorgasbord of delicious Canadiana and relatable comedy, celebrating skipping ‘90s night at the club in lieu of chowing down on Hawkins Cheezies and playing SEGA Genesis, sucking nitrous out of whipped cream cans because your supermarket job is bullshit or moving to the gorgeous green pastures of Saskatchewan and contemplating what came first — the asshole or the pickup-truck?
Go find this CD or cassette and buy the hell out of it. This genuinely nostalgic reflection of growing-up and living in Canada is 39 minutes of laughter and sing-alongs. We don’t deserve this wonderful man, but he deserves our appreciation.
Matt Hume, Arts & Culture Editor
The National — Sleep Well Beast — September 8, 2017 (4AD Records)
The capital-b Best album of the year is Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. It just is.
But the album I found myself wrapped in the most was Sleep Well Beast by The National. Music was supposed to get better during the Trump era, but did it actually? I don’t know — it certainly got faster, more dissociative and maybe a little more hopeless. Sleep Well Beast is slow, tender, angsty and even kinda whiny at times. It focuses on the micro because the macro is straight fucked. To me, it was proof people can still care enough to be hurt, fight inertia and fall in love. Sleep well, beast.
Thomas Johnson, Arts Assistant
Stephen Flaherty — Anastasia — June 9, 2017 (Broadway Records)
In March 2017, a broadway adaptation of the ‘90s animated musical Anastasia — a highly romanticized version of events during and after the Russian Revolution in 1917 — captured the attention of New York as well as millennials around the globe. The accompanying album, Anastasia: Journey to the Past, was released shortly after.
The broadway album includes 16 new tracks, like “Everything to Win” and “Quartet at the Ballet,” which add extra flavour to the story and will definitely get stuck in your head. Overall, Anastasia: Journey to the Past is both nostalgic and refreshing. Its visuals and depth give it road-trip album status or could help wake you up on the way to your early morning classes.
Christie Melhorn, Sports Editor
Allie X — COLLXTION II — June 9, 2017 (Twin Music)
Friendship ended with Carly Rae. Now Allie X is my best friend.
I’m a sucker for good pop music. The genre was blessed when Canadian singer-songwriter Allie X released her debut studio album COLLXTION II last summer. The songs of the album are filled with strong baselines highlighted by the singer’s powerful and theatrical voice. Tracks like “Casanova” and “Lifted” are undoubtedly the biggest bops to come out of 2017 and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Additionally, the song “Paper Love,” which recently began to receive radio play, is a rare song that doesn’t make me want to change stations. COLLXTION II is a true diamond in the rough that’s the current state of pop music.
Derek Baker, Humour Editor
Justin Hurwitz — La La Land — December 9, 2016 (Interscope Records)
While it came out at the tail end of 2016, I associate the soundtrack for La La Land with the beginning of 2017, when I overplayed it the most. It’s a fusion of genres, combining jazz and pop music to create a playful tone throughout the soundtrack. Justin Hurwitz infuses the music with beautiful sweeping melodies and reminds listeners of the grandeur of old Hollywood’s classical musicals.
What really makes La La Land special is the emotion invoked through its grounded lyrics. My favourite song is “Epilogue,” telling the story of Mia and Sebastian, the film’s romantic leads. It begins with a soft piano that crescendos into a swelling orchestra, then travels towards an upbeat jazz number that evokes a sense of wonder and magnificence, eventually ending on a sombre note of what could have been.
Mariah Wilson, Photographer
MIA — AIM — September 9, 2017 (Interscope Records)
Although she’s best known for her 2000s hits like “Paper Planes,” MIA proves that she can still pack a punch with AIM. Supposedly her last album, AIM pairs strong political and social critique with music unfitting of any one genre — typical of MIA’s style.
Her masterpiece is lead-off track “Borders,” which questions the politics, values and privilege we hold dear. The rest of the album tackles issues of immigration and the refugee crisis, ever relevant in a tumultuous year where thousands around the world are still fleeing from violence and poverty.
Asher Memon, News Assistant