The most alarming development in the world of music in 2017 (beside the lack of protest music in a time of uncertainty) is the rise of the playlist. In the past few months, publications like The Ringer, LongReads.com, Pitchfork, and The Guardian have posted articles that explored the popularity of pre-made playlists by streaming services and the impact they may have on indie artists and the album as an art form. Sadly, many listeners today would rather go to the one stop shop of a vanilla playlist that rarely strays outside the lines, and as a result, many may never experience the fulfilling experience of hearing a well-crafted album from start to finish.
Fortunately, there are artists still striving to release great albums that require focus and reflection to truly appreciate. On this year’s list you will find many albums that were overlooked by major music websites, and you will also see many of the most prominent names absent. If you’re looking for a list that ignores hype and focuses solely on innovation and art within the form of an album, then this compilation of the best that 2017 had to offer might be just what you’re looking for.
As I did last month, I’m playing a little catch-up here on BDWPS and wanted to share some of my favorite albums of the past few months. With the year end lists coming, it also helps me to have some of these write-ups in the tank, so here’s an early glimpse at some of the albums that may make the cut on my year end, top 40 albums list.
Also, be on the lookout for the best album covers of the year list next week!
This year didn’t quite live up to the high expectations I had back in January. Artists like Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Jai Paul, Kanye West, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, and The Wrens didn’t make good on their promise for a new full-length album in 2015. Fortunately, others were there to pick up the slack and provide us with some great albums. Below you will find this year’s edition of what I consider the top 40 albums of the year. You’ll find albums from varying genres and possibly a few albums that are new to you. In a time where you can look up any song on a streaming service and hear it instantaneously, I hold on tightly to a love for the album as a whole, a collection of songs that work off each other, building toward one major theme or mood. As you will see in the list below, I’m a bit obsessed with new music and the art form that is the album. I take great pride in this list and hope that you find something worth checking out by the end.
The Agent Intellect
Hardly Art; 2015
In the past few years the once crumbling city of Detroit has seen a resurgence. In the wake of the automotive industry’s near collapse, companies like Quicken Loans and Shinola have made the corpse of the motor city their home. In 2010, Detroit became the fastest growing region for technology jobs with names like Google, IBM, and ProQuest seeing the bedraggled city as a great place to make their mark (tax breaks don’t hurt, either). As a result of this resurgence, many in the area fear that this gentrification of the city is wiping away the remnants of the city’s rugged history.
Protomartyr, a band of Detroit natives, execute this narrative perfectly in their latest release, The Agent Intellect. On the surface, Agent Intellect explores frontman Joe Casey’s struggle with the recent death of his father, but this discussion of mortality also doubles as an omen for the state of the band’s hometown. This isn’t Dan Gilbert’s squeaky clean, renovated Detroit; this is the seedy underbelly, filled with songs of arson, auto theft, drug abuse, and violence.