I can think of no better way to sail into the year than reading Talkhouse Music’s contributors on their favorite releases and other rad discoveries of 2017. These lists from 10 musicians who write for the site are long and short and styled as best fits their contents and their authors, Ross Farrar (Ceremony), Katie Alice Greer (Priests), Victoria Ruiz (Downtown Boys), Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz, Sad13), JG Thirlwell, Jen Goma (Showtime Goma, A Sunny Day in Glasgow), Chris Farren, Anthony Obiawunaotu (Fat Tony), Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), and Katie Harkin (Harkin, Sleater-Kinney). Some of these contributions rank albums, some think about the year track by track, and more than one includes downright odes to Playboi Carti, which is how you can tell they’re 100 percent accurate in a broader sense. Collected as a whole, the 2017 Talkies are sweet and funny and loopy and smart and tender, all of which I hope will also be true of each of us, alone and together, throughout this next year.
—Amy Rose Spiegel
Editor-in-Chief, Talkhouse Music
Ross Farrar (Ceremony)
Best Short Album: Uranium Club, All of Them Naturals
This record came to me while driving down an icy thoroughfare in Madison, Wisconsin. It was around 10 degrees outside, and Ceremony was en route to the High Noon Saloon on January 13 for FRZN Fest. Andy was working in the front seat, playing “The Clown’s Gotta Gun,” and I said, “Hell yeah, this is it.” Later in the year, my homegirl Shauna Roloff and I listened to it quite a bit. Uranium Club has its own pencils. I think Shauna has one. They even talk about them in the intro. I don’t know. Shauna is in a band called the Nudes. Check them out. “Who made the man? Nobody can.”
Best Full-Length Album: Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti
I don’t remember the exact moment I heard this one. It might have been a slow burn. Towards the end of the year, I peeked at my most-played music list, and there it stood. Earlier in 2017, I asked DJ Shabazz to send me some tracks for a house party I was throwing in Syracuse. A few Carti songs were on it, so I started listening in full after that. “Magnolia” sounds authentic. The production brings me back to something Timberland would do, like the baby sounds or the crickets—left-field. That sub, and the flute and those interruptions…it’s cool like an ice cube. Carti’s delivery is interesting, too. Lots of repetition, so it gets in your head tough, and there’s funny little sounds running throughout: cartoonish, animated. Towards the end of December, it really blew my hair back and I’m still playing it now. Dynamite. “In New York, I Milly Rock…”
Best Short Fiction: “A Love Story” by Samantha Hunt
I had the New Yorker sporadically throughout the year. My mother purchased me a subscription for my birthday in 2016, and since then, we’ve had to call them numerous times because they keep losing our subscription or messing something up. I get a little notice every few months that says I owe them money. Not true. We had the dude on the phone telling us we were clear until June—free of charge—but no, it’s been jury-rigged. But I was lucky enough to catch this one. This story appeared in the May 22 issue, and it read close to life, so I enjoyed it for that.
I’m interested in the form of this story. It’s presented in short, fragmented bursts of insight—almost epistolary. In the past few years, I’ve seen this form pop up quite a bit in books like Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and Bluets, and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation. Being a poet, I love it because of how laconic it feels. You get a cool, little piece of information, then you’re on to the next and the next. It feels true to mind: constant info coming in and out. “It’s a cylinder of peace moving through the world swiftly enough to blur it.”
Best Poetry Collection: Magdalene by Marie Howe
Marie Howe has been a long-standing inspiration ever since my friend and mentor, Richard Speakes, introduced me to What the Living Do, a collection worth eternal praise. The title poem from that collection makes me cry every time. Shout out to Danica Von Hartwig for being on my side about this.
Marie was set to read from this collection at the downtown YMCA in Syracuse on October 13, a Friday, and my entire cohort was in a tizzy, especially me—well. My good friend Nicolas Vicaro was passing through town with his band Public Eye, en route to Not Dead Yet Fest in Toronto. We’d made plans in the weeks prior, and I only get to see him so often, so I vied for chicken wings and burgers at Blarney Stone (the best burger in town) instead of witnessing the graceful, the fantastic, Marie Howe.
Now, from various people who lived through the reading, came stories of tears, laughter, elation. My friend and colleague Stephanie Parker bought the book and lent it to me, so I stuck with it in bed for a few days and learned to love it. Later, Bruce Smith had each person in my cohort memorize a poem for our last workshop, and Bridget O’Bernstein recited “The Seven Devils,” one of Howe’s longer hits of the collection, putting the final crown on the book for me.
Best Novel: Goodbye,Vitamin by Rachel Khong
With all the academic stuff I took in this year, this was the one new book I read for fun. The writing is witty and straightforward—there’s not a lot of hocus-pocus or sappy, histrionic language. The form reads a bit like the Samantha Hunt’s story above: sort of journal-like, colloquial. There’s a closeness that’s achieved with this kind of narration. You feel like the narrator is a neighbor, or someone you’ve known for life.
Best Live Band: The Blind Shake
Ceremony played with the Blind Shake at FRZN Fest in Madison, that same day I got into the Uranium Club record. Very tight, powerful band. Dudes who really know where they’re pointing, and they’re pointing up. To be honest, It was hard to play after them. Everyone in the crowd was stunned, including myself. If you get the chance, see this band.
Best Poet Lost to the Ages: John Ashbery
One of my old workshop professors from Cal, John Shoptaw, studied at Harvard with Ashbery. I remember him telling me a story about a time when Seamus Heaney was visiting. This was towards the end of his life when his body wasn’t doing so well, so he walked around with a cane. They left a pub early one evening, and out on those uneven streets in Cambridge, Seamus was wobbling a bit. He looked over at Shoptaw and said, “Look, I’m moving like an Ashbery poem.”
I took a prose poetry class with Chris Kennedy earlier in the year, and in the first session Chris handed out a packet of poems with Ashbery’s “The Lonedale Operator” on the first page, and no one liked it besides me. But I really loved it. I loved it. Some people wouldn’t even call it a poem. It feels like a weird fugue or scism of memory. “…but the true terror is in the swiftness of changing, forward or backward, slipping just beyond our control.”
Best Past Musician Made Present: Kevin Ayers
I think Sam Velde put me on to this, or maybe I had heard a song in passing and asked him what he thought, and he pointed me to the title song “Whatevershebringswesing.” From there, I went into the entire discography. Kevin Ayers was in the Soft Machine. I was first put onto them years ago when I heard the Urinals’ cover of “Why Are We Sleeping?” but never got into Ayers solo stuff until this year and let me tell you, hallelujah. “So let’s drink some wine and have a good time, but if you really want to come through…”
Best Restaurant: Gangnam Style Korean Kitchen
Amazing Korean food in Syracuse—family-owned, warm, small, welcoming. To start, you have to get the Ojingeo-twigim (deep-fried squid in butter), oh my lord. For main dishes, everything is good: Galbi-deopbap (rice topped with pan-fried beef short ribs); Budae-jjigae (spicy stew with soft kimchi, tofu, spam, sausage, and noodles). The wings are crazed, and they have all kinds of veg/vegan options. People tend to hit lunch because everything is half-priced, but really, the cost is worth it at any time. You only have this one life (maybe), so why not fill yourself with beauty? Honorable mention goes to Trois Familia in Los Angeles, CA. If you’re ever in Silverlake, you have to go there. It’s out of sight.
Best New Friend: Vt Hung / Chris Freedman
Vt is a 2016 Syracuse University MFA (fiction) candidate. He was one of the six chosen that year, and we’ve been buds pretty much since the first time we linked. I haven’t read any of his writing yet, but that doesn’t matter, ’cause he’s a stand up dude, and a legend by nature. We’ve attended the YMCA boxing class, caroused many nights, and talked through love, relationships, the problem of America, and many other paradoxical dilemas.
Chris slid through the DM, admitting he liked the band and wanted to get a beer, but upon first meet, we decided to drop acid and tour the rock quarries and various landmarks of the University and witnessed a Syracuse football game in the carrier dome. Needless to say, we’ve been friends ever since. We have a radio show called “Freak Out the Squares” that you can listen to on Mondays from 7-8 PM. “Checks out.”
Best Demo Tape (That I Participated In): Crisis Man, Crisis Man
I was asked to be a part of an amazing project, Crisis Man, during Christmas break 2015. We recorded five jams at Zone Recording Studio in Cotati, CA, and released a tape on Melters Music on April 17 of this year. Unfortunately, there are no more tapes, but you can visit Melters’ website for a stream or hit the YouTube channel. We played our first show on December 29 and will be recording new music in the next couple weeks, so be aware. “I’m a dog in reverse.”
Best Song: King Krule, “The Ooz”
The title song from the highly crowned record. This song makes me feel alone, but in a strong way. I saw a crimson-blood sunset at the New York State Fair this year, and it seemed like nobody was doubling over, and it made me break apart more. This song reminds me of that moment. It has the sound of nostalgia or saudade, or some kind of yearning. I came into this track late in the year as well, but once it came, it stuck. Most things I wish didn’t stick, but this was well-needed. “Lucifer cries.”
Katie Alice Greer (Priests)
-no music made by friends
-not sza or bodak yellow bc duh they are already on the list I listened to ctrl 100s of times this year
Top 11 (I hate numbering so all 11 are 1s ?) EPs/LPs
1 Girl Ray – earl grey
1 Lyzza – powerplay
1 Palehound – a place I’ll always go
1 La Sabotage – Rabengasse/Mad
1 umfang – symbolic use of light
1 juana molina – halo
1 dai burger – soft serve
1 palberta – bye bye berta
1 molly nilsson – imaginations
1 boy harsher – country girl
1 welcome to paradise – italian dream house ’89-93
Top 2 pop songs:
1 “wild thoughts” – dj khaled and rihanna
LOL I KNOW THIS SONG KIND OF SUCKS BUT drop Khaled, drop Bryson Tiller, who cares about them Rihanna deserves a damn trophy for spinning this absurdly milquetoast straw into gold. She’s so amazing that she heard this godawful track, it’s literally just Khaled bragging over recycled Santana riffs and lawnmover fart noises, but Rihanna heard it and like a powerful magician summoned a perfect fantasy-life pop hook
1 “dirty sexy money” – afrojack, charli xcx, david guetta and french montana
because of lil mo, vita and ja rule i am a sucker for any pop song that includes the lyric “put it on me” so I have listened to this song multiple times a day since it came out last month
Garrett, “Angel Reflections”
Hands down the most angelically soothing song I heard in 2017. This is the absolute highlight of Garrett’s Private Life album and is rumored to be a side project by Dâm-Funk. It’s 12 minutes of gorgeous synth best enjoyed on a long stretch of highway or in bed. I finished my last show of 2017 telling the audience we should end each year with reflection instead of contempt as this song played. I want the hashtag “Fuck 20__” trend to die.
Playboi Carti, “Yah Mean”
The most leisurely, soothing song I heard in 2017. Carti sounds like a swaggy yawn, and I pleasantly zone out every time I hear him. The song feels like the “Do Not Disturb” option on my phone. Pierre Bourne is easily the best producer of the year. His beats sound like being fresh out of high school and ready to get it. Playboi Carti’s album is my favorite of the year, too.
Standing on the Corner, “Girl”
I love the Shuggie Otis–slash–Sly Stone lo-fi home studio vibe this record has. Drum machines are cooler than drummers, in any genre. Standing on the Corner is my favorite of all the bands I discovered this year. I fell in love this year and hear the 4:05-4:57 section of this song roll around in my head every time I think about her. The outro sounds like something DJ Screw would do—tape hiss and all.
SahBabii, “Marsupial Superstars (feat. T3)”
Verse one is T3, and it’s my favorite. This man said, “I’m vegan, throw that apple back,” and said it in a slick flow with cute melodies. SahBabii sounds like a more eccentric direct descendent of golden-era Young Thug. This song feels like a good nap.
Lil B, “Berkeley”
My favorite artists of all time are Prince, B L A C K I E, and Lil B. All three of them make me feel closer to myself, especially the Based God. He’s the most bugged out and best thing to happen in hip hop in my lifetime, and I’m proud to say I’ve been a fan since The Pack. From MySpace to now, he’s ruled the internet and blessed us with his “based” experimental music, humor, social commentary, and extreme originality. He is the true outsider artist.
“Berkeley” is my favorite from his self-produced 2017 album Black Ken. I love his throwback flow and the beat is foolish (read: very good). When he said, “I don’t wanna be alone when the world end,” and “I’m looking for a girl with a mind and a heart / It’s not about sex, that’s the lamest part,” I felt that.
Quelle Chris, “Buddies”
“I fuck with myself / I fucks with myself / Might bring myself some flowers / I’m in love with myself / I look in the mirror like, “Who is that nigga?” / I’m cool with that nigga / I’m through with these niggas / “Might go on vacation, just me and my niggas / My niggas is me, myself and I.” Quelle Chris made the most interesting and enjoyable rap album of 2017. Being You is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often is dense enough to find something new each time you listen, much like Common’s Resurrection or De La Soul’s Buhloone Mindstate. “My favorite MC? Ain’t even an argument / You ask him, he say ‘me.’” This song made me love myself more.
Chief Keef, “Call’n”
No artist’s voice and sense of melody makes me happier than Chief Keef’s. This is my favorite song of his this year, but not the only one I played dozens of times. When he says, “Remember growing up like, ‘I gotta be something,’” I feel the sentiment tremendously. Chief Keef is the godfather of flexing pop punk–esque melodies in rap music. Lil Uzi Vert is the Blink 182 of his stylistic influence.
Prodigy passed away very unexpectedly in 2017 and it fucked everyone’s heads up. I recorded one of my very first songs over Mobb Deep and Alchemist’s “Win or Lose” beat and rapped it at my high school talent show. In 2014, I shared an agent with Prodigy and was lucky enough to tour Texas with him and perform in New York with Mobb Deep at their first Brooklyn show ever. I’ll never forget his kindness when I inquired about vegetarianism and sobriety influencing his songwriting and went on and on about how his autobiography inspired me to think twice about meat and drug use.
“All we go through is the hell / What the fuck is a heaven? / We live fast and stall death long as possible.” The somber tone of this song gives me chills every time the chorus comes around. I can feel the passion in his voice as he says, “When I was 13 I had dreams / and now I’m all grown up and living out my dreams / And my pops ain’t here now, that nigga deceased / And with that being said, how you gon’ son me?”
HTRK, “Chinatown Style”
HTRK’s Psychic 9-5 Club is my favorite album of the past five years and the album I’ve listened to the most every year since its release in late 2014. I will never get tired of it. I worked at the record store Cactus Music in Houston for a couple years and a coworker recommended this to me early 2015. “You know I got mood swings that you and I can’t dream of.” This album is the cure for my moodiness. Each song brings me deep into my insecurities and fears, then pushes me out into the light feeling like my best self again.
Kodak Black, “Save You”
My favorite love song of the year. I know Kodak as a human being is very problematic, but I really do love his music. Like every musician I listen to, I do my best to separate their actions in the real world and the work they create that I enjoy. Many people do cruel, hateful things that I despise, but I shouldn’t be punished by removing their music from my rotation, they should be punished for the cruel, disgusting things they do.
Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Times OST (Warp)
Claude Speeed, Infinity Ultra LP / Sun Czar Temple EP (Planet MU)
Pan & Me, Paal (Denovali)
Lee Gamble, Mnestic Pressure (Hyperdub)
Kelly Moran, Bloodroot (Telegraph Harp)
Konrad Sprenger, Stack Music (Pan)
Queens Of The Stone Age, Villains (Matador)
Lawrence English, Cruel Optimism (Room 40)
Ellen Arkbro, For Organ And Brass (Subtext)
Sote, Sacred Horror In Design (Opal Tapes)
Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt)
Girlpool are angels, and their voices make me want to cry.
Jay Som, Everybody Works
Melina is also an angel and a genius! So many hits. I love “The Bus Song.”
Protomartyr, A Private Understanding
This album rips! Every band member has something great to offer. Such emotional guitar lines, and Joe Casey is a poet. Love these dudes!!
Big Thief, Capacity
I played “Mythological Beauty” on repeat when it came out. The whole album is really beautiful and calming.
Love this band. So moody!
Dead Sullivan, Imbecile
Similar vibe to Hovvdy. My friend recently introduced me to them.
Who Is She?, Seattle Gossip
Doing a little self-promotion here. It’s okay, ’cause I’m just the drummer. This is my friendship band with Lisa Prank and Bree from Tacocat.
Hoop, Super Genuine
Another Seattle musician. This whole album is really beautiful. My favorite track is “To Know Your Tone.”
Strange Ranger, Daymoon
These guys are from Portland. We’ve played a few shows with them, they’re always great live. Such a ’90s vibe.
Happy Diving, Electric Soul Unity
My buddy Matt’s band. They broke up, sadly, but this album is great, especially the song “Head Spell.
Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz, Sad13)
I tried so hard to rank these, but I loved way too many albums this year, so here are 50 alphabetically listed (I’m sure I’m forgetting some favorites, and I’m mad at my brain for that). If I’m forced to pick a top 10 of today, those are the ones I’ve asterisked, but at some point this year, all of these records have been faves. 2017, you were garbage!!! But at least you ushered in some really sweet music.
Alex G, Rocket
Alvvays, Antisocialites *
Amy O, Elastic
Art School Jocks, Art School Jocks
Aye Nako, Silver Haze
BOAT SHOW, Groundbreaking Masterpiece
Jessica Boudreaux, No Fury
Charly Bliss, Guppy
Cherry Glazerr, Apocalipstick
Stef Chura, Messes
Jen Cloher, Jen Cloher
Cloud Nothings, Life Without Sound
Allison Crutchfield, Tourist in This Town
Deerhoof, Mountain Moves *
Downtown Boys, Cost of Living
Great Grandpa, Plastic Cough
Nelly Furtado, The Ride *
Marika Hackman, I’m Not Your Man *
Jesca Hoop, Memories Are Now
Hooray for the Riff Raff, The Navigator
Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds From Another Planet
Jay Som, Everybody Works
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
Laser Background, Dark Nuclear Bogs
Leikeli47, Wash & Set *
Lomelda, Thx *
Ted Leo, The Hanged Man
Maneka, Is You Is
Aimee Mann, Mental Illness *
Julia Michaels, Nervous System (EP)
Juana Molina, Halo *
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, DROOL *
Palberta, Bye Bye Berta
Palehound, A Place I’ll Always Go *
Paramore, After Laughter
Pile, A Hairshirt of Purpose
Priests, Nothing Feels Natural
Princess Nokia, 1992 Deluxe
Sudan Archives, Sudan Archives
Tera Melos, Trash Generator
Tyler the Creator, Flower Boy
Two Inch Astronaut, Can You Please Not Help
Vagabon, Infinite Worlds
Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
Weaves, Wide Open
Victoria Ruiz (Downtown Boys)
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
This became our ten-point program for timespace.
Sheer Mag, Need to Feel Your Love
Sheer Mag finally gave us a full-length album and mentioned a bayonet…who can do that with so much grace and talent?!
Shamir opened up about mental health, loss, mind and heart dimensions—so many things that has been so hard to carve space for because of the storm that was this year. Of course, Shamir did with grace and love.
Keith Secola, Circle (reissue)
The legendary native folk and blues singer gave us a highly underappreciated rerelease that finds us waiting for the future’s embrace—one that will be much warmer than anything we could have had this past year.
This album is the sound of the toxins coming out of your sweat when you’ve had to run through rain over and over again.
N.E.R.D., No_One Ever Really Dies
Of course an album that features Kendrick Lamar and M.I.A. was dropped after everyone has turned in their top-ten lists. It’s a post-punk take on a ageless soulful feeling.
10. St. Vincent, MASSEDUCATION
9. Klyne, Klyne
8. Alvvays, Antisocialites
7. Jay Som, Everybody Works
6. The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Always Foreign
5. Coma Cinema, Loss Memory
The instant Loss Memory began, I knew I was on board. The fifth (and final) album from Coma Cinema begins with soft electric guitar drenched in delay and laid over a subdued electronic drum beat. The record evolves throughout: drum machines turn into full kits and soft guitar lines turn into dirty overdriven leads, but it never loses the somber mood it sets from the start.
4. Adult Mom, Soft Spots
Soft Spots is an incredible indie-rock record that hits me the same way Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things first did. Truly masterful pop songwriting with confessional lyrics that evoke true “WOW, they said that. They really said it!!” reactions at LEAST five times within the 25 minutes of the album. I don’t really know what ASMR is, but I think I get that sensation from these songs.
3. Rozwell Kid, Precious Art
Esteemed winners of the Chris Farren 2017 Rock Act of the Year Award Rozwell Kid live up to the title in spades. THE ACE OF SPADES, even, which is probably a song they like, on account of how hard they rock. Precious Art is a fun, fuzzed-out riff party, with classic rock guitar à la AC/DC backed by impeccable pop songwriting in the same alley as the Shins, all shocked to life with hilarious, disgusting, and thoughtful lyrics. (There’s a song about boogers, and it’s honestly the most romantic song I heard this year.)
2. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger in the Alps
Everybody likes this record, and I do, too! It’s so good! Phoebe Bridgers excels throughout at making you feel like you are exactly where she is, geographically and emotionally. Her lyrics paint vivid images of visiting home and strained relationships with companions and death. The often eerie, flourishing production lays under her guitar and voice, supporting but never overpowering the simple beauty of the songs.
1. Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now
Jens Lekman has consistently proven himself to be one of Earth’s (YEAH, EARTH’S) best and most compelling pop storytellers. Life Will See You Now elevates his catalogue beyond kitschy orchestral pop to true modern-pop masterpieces, all the while telling stories no one but Jens Lekman could dream up: There’s a song about breaking into a closed amusement park and hot-wiring the ferris wheel. It’s called “Hotwire The Ferris Wheel,” duh.
Katie Harkin (Harkin, Sleater-Kinney, Sky Larkin)
Aaron Roche’s Haha Huhu is a deeply generous record. Immediate and expansive, its soothing shred looks harm in the eye and coos at it. This beautiful record is as sneaky as it is shimmering, with Aaron’s production prowess and musicianship deftly delivering the fracture and tumult at its heart with pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise.
Jen Goma (Showtime Goma, A Sunny Day in Glasgow)
10. Nicholas Krgovich, In an Open Field
Nicholas Krgovich is such a good songwriter. There are so many good Nick Krgovich songs. Just keep them coming, Nick!
9. Nick Hakim, Green Twins
I really liked the two 2014 Where Will We Go EPs. If you’ve ever heard them, I mean, who wouldn’t want more of that?
8. Kamaiyah, Before I Wake
I love Kamaiyah’s voice, especially the production of it. This is a great record to drive around to.
7. Princess Nokia, 1992 Deluxe
Princess Nokia is like a three-screen experience. For me, it’s the combination of the music, Smart Girl Club Radio, and her overall aesthetics that make up the whole experience. If you’re not interacting wither her on multiple levels, I think you might be missing out on part of the fun
6. Drake, More Life
Drake, the great unifier. This record just came out at the right time for me. Sorry. Playlist. I’m always down for a melancholy Drake jam, but I was especially down in March of this year.
5. King Krule, The Ooz
4. SZA, Ctrl
Six months on, and I’m still listening to this record pretty often. I can’t get enough of voice and vulnerability. This really was the sound of 2017.
3. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
Over the summer every car/boom box on a bike/ apartment window in New York had Damn coming out of it. And then I would put on my headphones and listen to it more. It’s an injection of understanding! It feels as personal as something that is also personal to millions and millions of people can be. A populous feat of personal strength.
Alice Coltrane, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane
This is technically a re-release, but the first release was something like tapes she made herself and handed out in the ’80s. So, does this count? I hope so! Because I really fucking love this record.
1. Moses Sumney, Aromanticism
What an inspiring record. It’s like architecture, like stepping into a room full of meaning.