Here is the Official Andy Derer Show “Greatest Albums” list for 2017, a tradition dating back to 1995. This is by no means scientific, just my most-played most-enjoyed full-length albums of the year.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
Run the Jewels, Inc
El-P and Killer Mike come from two very different hip hop circles (New York City and Atlanta) but when they came together a few years ago, nothing felt more natural. El-P’s verbal buckshots became more palpable to the mainstream and Killer Mike’s down south bravado became more cerebral. This is a political party record with enough one-liners to keep the heavy fog hanging over the proceedings seem light.
Beck – Colors
Fonograf / Capitol
Beck follows up his dreary/dull yet Grammy-winning Morning Phase album with the absolute polar opposite: stadium rock anthems rub shoulders with bass-driven dance pop complete with immediate melodies and snappy productions courtesy of producer of the year Greg Kurstin (Foo Fighters, Liam Gallagher, Adele, etc).
WPC – Ogilala
Martha’s Music, LLC
Your favorite, nee.. the ONLY tea house owner / wrestling league proprietor and erstwhile Smashing Pumpkins frontman turns 50, shortens his moniker to WPC, hooks up with Rick Rubin to create his sparest, most intimate collection of drumless, acoustic recordings and it’s a complete winner.
LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
James Murphy reignites his LCD Soundsystem project but after seven years little has changed. He’s still kneeling at the alter of David Byrne, still yearning for the heady post-punk days when rock music rarely rocked and he’s still barking out vaguely political slogans on top of it all. However, this record perfectly continues his totally charming trajectory.
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
A new Kurt and Courtney for rock critics to fawn over, this pairing of two of indie rock’s golden children was a shambolic, wistful, oddly poetic collection. Utterly taking a tweezer and removing the ego-fed rock posturing that often plagues album-length rock duets, Lotta Sea Lice couldn’t be more likable.
Afghan Whigs – In Spades
Sub Pop Records
Greg Dulli’s second record with the reunited Afghan Whigs knocked it out the park with this loud, dark, powerful record which unfortunately was released during the sickness and eventual passing of member Dave Rosser. A certain turbulence is palpable throughout the album.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon? / Liam Gallagher – As You Were
Sour Mash Records, Ltd / Warner Brothers
The Gallagher brothers, with the dual solo album releases and public social media tangles, had the most spotlight on them possibly since their 1997 album of bloat-pop Be Here Now. Noel hired beatsmith David Holmes to lend his songs a dubby undercurrent and he turns in a great collection of compositions (the best being the acoustic closer “Dead In the Water”). Liam gets producer of the year Greg Kurstin as well a small army of songwriters to create a sometimes patchy, sometimes powerful solo debut salvo. The irony being that both brothers could use a little bit of help from each other.
Gorillaz – Humanz
Parlophone / Warner Brothers
Damon Albarn’s world-famous “cartoon” band released its first album in seven years and its a multi-cultural dance party for the end of the world (I now realize that phrase could apply to half the albums on this list). Albarn himself lurks in the shadows while a huge cast of rapper and singers (and most notably his old arch-nemesis Noel Gallagher) do their thing to rapturous effect.
U2 – Songs Of Experience
Island / Universal
U2 follows up their 2014 album Songs of Innocence, an album mostly known for it’s inclusion on everyone’s iPhone, with this collection of polished, adult pop. Bono and company still sound vital over 40 years since their creation, while the lyrics (vague as they can be) find the band attempting the put their stamp on the new world order. The songwriting and production remains consistent, varied and often gorgeous.
Guided By Voices – August By Cake / How Do You Spell Heaven
Guided By Voices, Inc
Dayton’s finest, Guided By Voices released two stellar records in 2017: One was a double album with contributions from different members (a la White Album) and one was a compact, power-pop record. Both featured GBV mastermind Robert Pollard’s best songwriting in years as well as yet another new lineup (with GBV newbie Bobby Bare Jr as well as GBV veteran Doug Gillard).
Jay-Z – 4:44
Rocnation / Universal
Arguably the most successful rap tycoon of the past twenty years, Jay-Z, is currently more known for his business ventures than for his music. With this new album (originally exclusively released on his Tidal music streaming platform) he takes a victory lap with a concise, humor-filled album. Where Beyonce needed about 150 people in her team to create Lemonade, Jay creates the entirety of 4:44 solely with producer No ID. He brings his art back to it’s essence.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Sub Pop Records
While once only known as the drummer of indie-folkers Fleet Foxes, Josh Tillman came out as an international superstar with Pure Comedy. Sub Pop’s most popular export since Nirvana created a super lush, Laurel Canyon vibe where he waxed poetic like a millennial version of Elton John or Jackson Browne taking us back to a time when lyric sheets mattered.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Aftermath / Interscope
Besides Chance the Rapper, nobody has taken the rap world by storm like Los Angeles’ Kendrick Lamar. While appealing to both fans of jazz and fans of gangsta west-coast rap, Kendrick has found his wild original voice as both a lyricist and simply an intense vocal sound. Unfortunately, Lamar tapers the incredible jazz rap of his previous release (To Pimp A Butterfly) to create a more streamlined pop rap sound on Damn.
Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want?
With Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and Beck drummer Joey Waronker in tow, Roger Waters came back after nearly two decades with this angry, political collection of diatribes that both sounded fresh and resembled some of Pink Floyd’s greatest moments.
Black Grape – Pop Voodoo
Britain’s Black Grape originally started as a hip hop side project for the soccer-hooligan dance-rock group Happy Mondays. As the years moved on, both projects feel like the baby of the shamanistic lead yelper Shaun Ryder. The first Black Grape full-length in nearly 20 years found Shaun in great shape as a songwriter and the production from Youth feels utterly timeless.
Sun Kil Moon – Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
Caldo Verde Records
With his 90’s-era slowcore outfit Red House Painters, Mark Kozelek set himself apart from the grunge pack with his dreamy, slow-motion impressionistic recordings. Ever since he rechristened his band as Sun Kil Moon, he has become increasingly verbose, using literally thousands of words per song. This double album (one of four releases he put out this year) finds Mark with a bottomless font of inspiration, often speak-singing his instant reactions to major news stories and detailing his life with a self-depricating wit.
Gucci Mane – Droptopwop
While the enigma known as Gucci Mane has released multiple major label albums since his release from prison, this mini-album or mixtape, pairs the hallucinatory verbal onslaught of Gucci Mane with the detail-orientated classy trap of Metro Boomin’s production and it’s one of the year’s most captivation rap releases.
Weezer – Pacific Daydream
Weezer’s 11th album finds Rivers Cuomo absolutely obsessed with modern pop music and the ten compositions found here court a certain vibe found in the popular music of the past 18 months. Producer Butch Walker brings the band ten completely different feels while jacking up the commercial potential. If you love Weezer for past moments like Pinkerton you won’t find much to like here while others with fall in love with Rivers Cuomo the pop singer.
The National – Sleep Well Beast
The National has quite been one of indie rock’s most reliable quality factory for nearly a decade and this latest finds them in a dark, contemplative mood albeit with a driving rhythm section and truckloads of production quirks.
Linkin Park – One More Light
This album was released to an underwhelmed fanbase, with it’s dubstep pop sparkle. After the suicide of singer Chester Bennington, many read into the super-dark lyrics (even though only three songs were co-written by Bennington), however the overall tone is somewhat akin to seeing the light at the end of a tunnel. With its pop-power and snappy trap-hop productions, this is the most ‘now’ Linkin Park has sounded since their debut.