…according to me only.
2017 was a shocking year in so many respects, but music was not one of them. As we suffered through Trump, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters, our dampened hearts were somewhat toasted by the incredible albums that were released over the course of the year. Albums that told us we were not alone in our pain and albums that made us forget about the pain altogether. 2017 gave us a song for every mood, and reflecting on that has had me launching myself into 2018 with more positivity than I ever imagined possible. It was also the year of badass women and I am living for it.
These are the 13 records that made the year a little less dark for me.
13. Lovely Little Lonely: The Maine
I’ve always felt as though The Maine have been a little too experimental with their sound, going from genre to genre without a word of warning, making it somewhat difficult to get into at times. Yet as I reflect on that, I know that without the albums that don’t resonate quite so much, we wouldn’t have been gifted with those that seem to sum our entire lives in just 40 minutes. Lovely Little Lonely makes me sad but it also makes me feel less alone, it reminds me of some of the best and most spontaneous nights of my life, and I feel so lucky that The Maine are still making music.
12. Rainbow: Kesha
She’s back, baby! I have always loved Kesha, but to know that she has finally been granted the freedom to release an album that is so unapologetically her is truly magical. Rainbow is vulnerable and delicate, and yet at the same time, strong, powerful and assertive. We were all waiting for one hell of a comeback album, and not a single one of the 14 tracks felt like a disappointment in that respect. I am so proud of Kesha and of this album and I feel blessed that we finally get to hear the full effect of what this woman is made of.
11. Last Young Renegade: All Time Low
This album was surrounded by scepticism from the moment All Time Low released its leading single Dirty Laundry. The band went full force into a new sound, and while the pop-punk basis around which the band formed their career was still somewhat still there, the addition of synths caused nervous smiles among the fandom – particularly those that had been with ATL since the start. As it is, this new sound took the band full force towards peak maturity, and for me, Last Young Renegade is the best album All Time Low have ever released. Call me controversial, but I love that they are finally taking themselves seriously in terms of the music they are created, without changing who they are as people.
10. Sleep Well Beast: The National
In 2017, there was nothing more soothing than closing my eyes, turning on Sleep Well Beast, and letting Matt Berninger’s deep and soothing vocals take me away from my current reality. The band’s 7th studio album was everything I’d come to expect from such an incredible and talented group of musicians, continuing to make up the soundtrack to a period of time in my life. With every new album that The National releases, it feels as though they may have hit their peak, but they continue to surpass expectations and create yet another masterpiece.
9. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom: Halsey
Halsey had a lot to live up to following her incredible debut album Badlands, and she was smart in ensuring that her follow up was almost entirely different to the record that made her famous. In Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, Halsey proudly embraces her African American roots and her bisexuality, offering exposure and representation for a number of her fans that identify with minority groups. The album is catchy and yet doesn’t lose the lyrical depth and female empowerment that we came to adore with Badlands. For me, this album offers motivation and inspiration to any woman who needed to feel strong and important at a low point in her life. It offers reassurance that it’s okay to be a total mess and – most importantly – despite its title, it offers just a little bit of hope.
8. Safe In Sound: Lower Than Atlantis
I remember listening to Safe In Sound for the first time and absolutely losing my mind at how much LTA had progressed since their previous, self-titled record. I don’t remember ever having such a strong feeling that a band has finally created something that will resonate deeply with its listeners, and that will bring in an influx of brand new fans as well as delighting their existing ones. I sat in a chair in my family’s office and cried (and continue to cry as I think about it in my bed half a world away) as I made my way through I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore for the first time, and while I have always liked Lower Than Atlantis, it was this record that helped me to understand their depth and to really love them.
7. Tell Me You Love Me: Demi Lovato
Finally Demi has released an album that I can truly get into. Over the past few years, she has brought out some incredible tracks, and yet appeared to struggle to find an overall sound that felt genuine to many of her fans. Up until now, no single album has felt as sincere as Tell Me You Love Me, and following her recent YouTube documentary Simply Complicated it’s clear as to why. In 2017, Demi finally allowed herself to embrace her sexuality, her independence, and her strength, and she put it all into the tracks that make up her best album to date. Her vocals are the best they have ever been and I love her more than ever before.
6. Melodrama: Lorde
There are few that will disagree that Melodrama isn’t one of the very best records of the year – if not the absolute best – and I’m sure many will be fuming that I have placed it outside of my top 5 but such is life. It’s hard as a new-ish artist to top such an incredible debut album, and I genuinely doubted that Lorde (aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor) would manage it, but Melodrama far surpasses Pure Heroine in so many ways. Ella has aged 4 years since her first record was released, and while she is still young, her maturity and life experiences shine through in each and every track. Melodrama is insightful and introspective in a way that most can relate to but very few can convey. New Zealand is lucky to be able to claim her as our own.
5. You Are Not As ___ As You Think: Sorority Noise
I have forever admired Sorority Noise, and this admiration only increased as they moved away from the bitter break-ups and moved towards addressing mental health in an extremely personal manner. It isn’t easy to talk about feeling hopeless, or what it’s like to lose friends to suicide when you’re finally on the mend, and yet Sorority Noise approach these issues with the delicate grace that they deserve. You Are Not As ___ As You Think is not an easy album to digest, and it isn’t one you’d go to if you needed cheering up, but if you need something real and if you need reassurance that you are not alone, or even a spark of hope that you can get through unimaginable pain, then it is worth the investment of your time.
4. Night People: You Me At Six
Oh my God are my boys back and killin’ it. It took them way too long, but You Me At Six re-emerged in 2017 with a suaveness we’ve never seen in them before. Cavalier Youth took the band away from that angsty adolescence that pulled us towards them in the first place, and Night People has catapulted them straight into adulthood. You Me At Six have finally solidified themselves as a band that should be taken seriously. This is the album that led them to headline the second stage at Reading and Leeds Festival, and will only continue to serve as a stepping stone towards even greater things in their career. Frontman Josh continues to find his voice, and yet the rest of the band are by no means supporting him. Each member adds their own spin to each track, and I simply love the way the 5 of them continue to get tighter and more in sync as the years and the albums go by.
3. Reputation: Taylor Swift
Just when everyone was convinced Taylor had turned all bitter and cynical, she came back with an album that proved all the shit-talkers wrong. To anyone that didn’t listen to Reputation in full and based their opinion of the 2 lead singles, it may feel like she’s holding a grudge and letting the high-profile events of the last couple of years take over her life. Yet to anyone who trusted her enough to give each of the 15 tracks the attention they deserved, it’s abundantly clear that the Taylor Swift we fell in love with 10 years ago is still alive and kicking. She just has a little more gumption now. Reputation is filled with positivity, brushing off rumours with all of the wit in the world, and – most importantly – true love. Taylor has and will always be my #1, and Reputation only further cemented my love for her.
2. More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me: The Smith Street Band
There is little I love more than a) bands that address mental health – particularly among men – and b) overly bogan Aussie accents. TSSB fit both of these criteria and I am proud to call them one of my very favourite bands. They have never taken songwriting lightly, with frontman Wil Wagner always having dived straight in to writing about the issues that affect him most, as a result touching the lives of countless young people going through the same kind of crap as he has done for the past 15 or so years. More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is slightly different to their previous albums, however, in that there is a light at the end of the tunnel here, and I think that conveying the existence of hope is so incredibly important when discussing mental health, because we need to know that this isn’t it for us. We are not destined to feel like this every day for the rest of our lives. We can get better – even if it’s a life long battle. The Smithies‘ latest album is so incredibly fun as well as having extraordinary depth, and while yes, the strong Australian accent is a little hard to overcome, once you do get past it, all you will ever gain from this album is positivity, hope and love.
1. After Laughter: Paramore
I couldn’t even begin to estimate how many times I have listened to After Laughter, and yet I’ve still not made it through the entire album without spontaneously ugly crying at least once. To most, that might seem like a bad thing, but since I rate an album based on how much it can make me cry, Paramore have really, really knocked it out of the park with this one. I yearn for more bands to address the topics that Hayley so fearlessly touches upon throughout this record, and yet I’m unsure as to whether anyone else could do justice to the pain that so many young people endure without making it sound overly dramatic and self-pitying. I am still obsessed with the juxtaposition of the sombre lyrics and the upbeat music that could only arise out of the incredible bond between Taylor and Hayley, and the re-addition of Zac has only added to the perfection. It was a close call, but After Laughter is 100% my favourite album of 2017.