Audiohammock's Favorite Albums of 2017

2017 was a great year for music of all genres. Here you will find our staff picks for our favorite releases of the year. Unordered and unadulterated, just a list of albums for your enjoyment. Check out AudioHammock podcast #81 for our first installment of our top albums and iTunes for subsequent episodes.

AudioHammock releases podcasts to keep you up to date on the latest music, albums, and festivals concerning music you like. We also feature a ton of new music, primarily from the Pacific Northwest. Android users can can subscribe via Stitcher, BeyondPod, or any other RSS feed podcast device. You can also find us on iTunes.Take AudioHammock on the go!

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In this first episode of four, the AudioHammock staff looks back at some of the disappointing albums this year (cough cough Arcade Fire), before moving on to a round-table discussion on their favorite albums of 2017. Episodes two-four will be available on iTunes and any Android Podcast app. #AudioHammock

Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Genre: Hip hop
Released: June 23rd

Paving the way is "Yea Right" the collaboration that features Staples and Kendrick Lamar, one that we've all been waiting for and that doesn't disappoint. "Yea Right" is a scathing look at the way hip hop has produced an ecosystem which relies on artists flaunting material wealth and questions it entirely. It is an appropriate conversation and a take that is refreshing since it is led by the genres two most talented artists at this time (yes Vince is really that good). Vince's nihilstic outlook is still present at times but it continues to be welcome in a continuous vacuum of hip hop's self-centered ego boosting and plays off the disjointed twists and turns of the album's breakbeats and electropop road flares. Nothing has sounded this dystopian and futeristic since Deltron 3030 (Damon Albarn has had a hand in both of these masterpieces), and if this collaboration continues we're all the wiser. Vince Staples still isn't for the mainsteam top 40 hip hop fan but a century from now his work will be cited, sourced, imitated, and remembered fondly. -Russ Bashaw

Enigmatic rapper and Long Beach musician Vince Staples takes a divisive turn into U.K. garage and grime with his second studio album Big Fish Theory. Staples concentrates on beats, not vocals, and he interweaves K-pop with Detroit techno and all the avant-garde features of modern-day rap. A rare and bracing listen, and one of 2017’s best.-Bryan Hamaker

Discussed on Podcast #73

The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

Genre: Rock
Released: August 25th

A Deeper Understanding takes everything from 2014's Lost in the Dream and expands on it in every shape and form. The songs on unrequited love and missed and lost connections are in abundance and with it come the drum machines and heartland reverb drenched guitars. The nods to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Dire Straits are clearly noticed yet Adam Granduciel puts enough modern touch on the album to keep it compelling all the way through. -Russ Bashaw

Discussed on Podcast #76

Sampha - Process

Genre: Elecronic, R&B
Released: February 3rd

Sampha Sisay has an impressive resume outside of this album having worked with the likes of Drake, Kanye West, SBTRKT, Solange, and others with production and writing credits. This soft spoken English gentleman has finally taken the plunge out on his own path and struck gold. The trepidation that Sampha felt stepping out into the limelight is captured beautifully in Process, an album that offers slick and sophisticated R&B beats, piano compositions (Sampha has played since a little boy), and electronic stylings that fit moods morning, noon, and night. -Russ Bashaw

Very much recommended for all those neo-soul / R&B fans. In some ways, Sampha carries some of the same James Blake vocoder effects in his music. Themes of love and relationships are all over the record. That said, I don't think I've heard someone play the piano quite like Sampha does. Hauntingly beautiful record. -Anthony Saia

Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights

Genre: Alternative, Indie rock, singer/songwriter
Released: October 27th

This record is very depressing but in the best way possible. There are so many lyrics here that can allow any listener struggling with health (both physical and mental), relationships (interpersonal or dogmatic), adulthood, etc. Sonically, each song is lush - even when there are moments of spareness. A sad, but warm record that paints a very real picture of anxiety and depression. -Anthony Saia

Slowdive - Slowdive

Genre: Shoegaze
Released: May 5th

Twenty-two years between their last record and this nacreous, shoegaze gem meant many of us got to discover, for the first time, a sound that warmed cockles of our hearts we though died in our teenage years. To the teenagers of today, listen to Slowdive and never stop gazing at your shoes. -Dylan Bar

Listen to "Star Roving" and thank the stars (literally), that this band has returned. -Russ Bashaw

Joey Pecoraro - Tired Boy

Genre: Chillwave
Released: February 22nd

I know nothing of Joey Pecoraro save the fact that he hails from Detroit and takes lush samples and turns them into vibrant offerings of respite. For less than a coffee ($1 on Bandcamp), you can enjoy this album in its entirety. -Russ Bashaw


Genre: Neo Soul
Released: June 17th

SZA is refreshing. She's raw, she's vulnerable, she's not perfect and she'll tell you that. She comes from an honest place and gives a different perspective to what it is like to be a 20-something year-old female in 2017. It's not always pretty but goddamn is it real. The interludes with her mom give the music compassion that is sometimes lacking with female R&B artists at this time. Heartbreakingly honest about her failures and her values, I love her for this. Shit isn't black and white, it's gray, and CTRL provides excellent perspectives on sex, infidelities, and companionship. The layers are here and I feel compassion for her doubts as well as my own. CTRL breathes life into embracing flaws and moving forward however one can. -Marissa Cheshier

Lorde - Melodrama

Genre: Pop
Released: June 16th

Less upbeat and a bit more reflective than Pure Heroine, Melodrama nonetheless showcases why Lorde is arguably the greatest thing in pop music and when you realize that Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor is only 21 years old you'll quickly discover sky continues to be the limit. Lorde has slowly morphed from guilty pleasure to must-see artist. -Russ Bashaw

Eastern Souvenirs - Green Valleys

Genre: Indie pop, Electro pop, Loop based
Released: February 24th

Eastern Souvenirs is the mastermind project of Brian Fisher. Seattle based, Brian has a knack for exotic percussion, atmospheric synthesizer playing, and decisively eastern influenced guitar picking. All of this comes together adeptly in Green Valleys, a 40 minute album that features the aforementioned instruments vibing with one another in what sounds like a natural ecosystem. Brian's vocals, relative to the season and easy on the ears, will have you daydreaming about laying next to rivers, walking through forests, and facing the sun. -Russ Bashaw

Discussed on Podcast #71

Hippo Campus - Landmark

Genre: Indie rock, Pop rock
Released: February 24th

When does a guilty pleasure become a good album? There's nothing mind blowing or life altering about Landmark yet the fact remains: here lies a very fun album for everyday life and the passing of time. You'll dance to "Tuesday", you'll cry during "Monsoon" and everything in between is just as good. -Russ Bashaw

Jay Som - Everybody Works

Genre: Indie
Released: March 10th

California-based songwriter Melina Duterte is the brains behind the dreamy indie pop her musical project Jay Som so effortlessly puts together. Her aim: craft vibrant and instantly replayable bedroom rock. Inspired by the freedoms and failures of young adulthood, Everybody Works is a ‘90s and funk-inspired mixtape of dizzy-headed vivacity. -Bryan Hamaker

Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

Genre: Punk, Post-punk
Released: January 27th

Fiery guitar riffs and a powerhouse drum section converge on the sophomore album by post-punk quartet Priests. With the help of lead singer Katie Alice Greer’s vocal onslaught, Nothing Feels Natural reinvigorates the white-hot political punk albums of the ‘70s and ‘80s with a slice of post-punk gloom. -Bryan Hamaker

Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins

Genre: Indie rock
Released: August 18th

A deeply contemplative album, Painted Ruins is a complex work of sonic unpredictableness that will turn off many and resonate with a chosen few. Come for "Four Cypresses" and stay for songs like "Cut-Out", "Three Rings, and "Sky Took Hold". -Russ Bashaw

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
Released: January 13th

Not Even Happiness is an introspective look into the depths of the human condition. With an acoustic guitar and a rhetorical disposition that manages to simultaneously question and idolize the wanderlust style of life, love, and all that goes with it, Not Even Happiness is a legitimate contender for album of the year let alone just the first quarter. -Russ Bashaw

Discussed on Podcast #66

Teen Daze - Themes For A Dying Earth

Genre: Electronic, Ambient,
Released: February 10th

A very personal album that explores the solace of nature in an intimate and soulful way that only electronic can achieve, Teen Daze's first album of 2017 can sound desolate and despondent but only as the atmospheric nature of the search for tranquilty weaves through a canvas of sonic textures that can be downright heartbreaking. Once through these initial textures you'll somehow find yourself returning to them, exploring the depths of the self with renewed feelings of purpose in a way that only the best albums of the genre can emote. -Russ Bashaw

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Sketches Of Brunswick East

Genre: Psychedelic rock, jazz fusion
Released: August 18th

Without a doubt this band gets the "most impressive" award of 2017. The third of five planned releases from the band this year (five albums in one year, this has to be some kind of record), Sketches of Brunswick East features our favorite Australian rockers (sorry Tame Impala), pairing with Melbourne's the Wildmen and the result is an insane amalgamation of psychedelic rock, jazz, pastoral folk, and everything you've come to know from the diversity of King Gizzard. Everything this band has put out this year has been top tier but Sketches of Brunswick takes the top spot of a top shelf that is quickly becoming all of the same brand... -Russ Bashaw

Happyness - Write-In

Genre: Indie rock
Released: April 7th

Relentlessly clever, fuzzy rock that noodles in one minute before meandering off again. An easy-going guitar and muffled narration reminiscent of Wilco leave a permanently slack smile for 10 tracks. -Dylan Brown

AH Interview with Happyness

Thundercat - Drunk

Genre: Jazz Fusion
Released: February 24th

Stephen Bruner is in the peak of his powers here, even pulling Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins into the mix. There are some fantastic moments on this record that really push the envelope of what a neo-soul / R&B record might sound like. Come for the arrangements and experimentation, stay for the schmaltz. -Anthony Saia

White Poppy - The Pink Haze of Love

Genre: Indie Pop
Released: July 14th

With a whisper and trance-like voice, Crystal Dorval's indie pop tendencies give way to moments of beautiful and hazy psychedelia laced guitar and synth in a perfect storm of 8 tracks on heartache and love. This is the best album you've never heard of this year. -Russ Bashaw

Spoon - Hot Thoughts

Genre: Indie rock
Released: March 17th

Initially in my top 5, Hot Thoughts was spun so many times on my record player that I wore it out and that's no slight against the band. A pillar of consistency, Spoon forges ahead here with familiar Bret Daniel's vocals and toe-tapping guitar before an abrupt change in the album closer "US" that is nothing just short of jazz-fusion. A shot across the bow of what is to come? One can only hope. -Russ Bashaw

Quicksand - Interiors

Genre: Post-hardcore
Released: November 10

Their first album from the band in 22 years; infectious grooves are all over. As the founding fathers of post-hardcore, the band really take it back to the early '90s while using atmospherics to give a quality push-pull in their music. It's thought that some of this material might have been used from a recording session in the late '90s but no one knows for sure. Nonetheless, this is a forerunner for my favorite rock record this year. -Anthony Saia

Ealdor Bealu - Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Released: June 9th

Ealdor Bealu is a four-piece psychedelic rock band from Boise, Idaho. Dark Water At the Foot of the Mountain is everything you want from the genre: deserty guitars, haunting ethereal vocals, compelling bass lines, and tight and tribal drumming when called upon. Featuring dual vocalists Carson Russell (guitar, vocals), and Rylie Collingwood (bass, vocals) therein lies an interesting dynamic between the soothing trance of Rylie's spectral lines and Carson's abstract and sagely foreboding tones. -Russ Bashaw

Ealdor Bealu Podcast Interview

Kevin Morby - City Music

Genre: Indie rock, Folk, Singer/Songwriter
Released: June 16th

As a musician and lyricist, Kevin Morby has an endearing campfire charm. He sings of lost love, the nomadic life, and for many, a inclusion with nature or a modern country experience. While 2016's Singing Saw captured this gentle way of life nicely, City Music sees Morby taking off the worn duster, putting out the fire, and heading towards the city. We've all been there, in a big city, perhaps on vacation or visiting a lover, and something in the middle of the night catches your eye: perhaps city architechture, the way the moonlight bounces off a city block, the low hum of a diner jukebox as you walk inside, a vista from a staircase that offers a panoramic view into the heart of the city. Whatever it is, the moment is fleeting and the rush it generates within you can leave a lasting impression. Whatever you call that feeling (beautiful at the least), it is exactly what Kevin Morby is aiming for with City Music and he delivers. -Russ Bashaw

Discussed on Podcast #73

Big Thief - Capacity

Genre: Indie folk
Released: June 9th

This Brooklyn-based indie rock band brings us a startling, personal work of art that sees them shed their skin as freaky folksters and become auspicious wunderlings. The band sets a rich, textured, and spacious backdrop against beautifully-spun lyrical phrases by lead singer Adrianne Lenker as she recalls her traumatic childhood in intimate detail. Capacity is essential in an exhausting year. -Bryan Hamaker

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Genre: Hip hop
Released: April 14th

Kendrick showcases yet again that he is a powerful, complex, capital-A artist. The Best Rapper Alive kept it simple. DAMN. is full of bangers. That’s it. This album reminds you why you listen to rap music in the first place. -Bryan Hamaker

Be humble. -Russ Bashaw

The Midnight - Nocturnal

Genre: Retrowave, Synthwave
Released: October 14th

If you've been enjoying the soundtrack to Stranger Things and the atmosphere of Blade Runner 2049 then do we have an album for you. The Midnight are the personification of future dystopian days and nights. With sexy synth, saxophone, reverberating back beats, and bass and vocals that transcend decade and genre, the Midnight will hit you right in the feels in a genre that already oozes nostalgia. -Russ Bashaw

Featured Artist on Podcast #80

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me

Genre: Minimal Folk, Singer/Songwriter
Released: March 24th

Goddamn this is the most painstakingly difficult album you will listen to this year. This is the living testimony of the death of Phil Elerum's wife Genevieve Castree in musical form. The wound Phil feels is innately fresh and the stories and analogies he shares are so heartbreaking that I can honestly say I've listened to this less than five times but it's an album that will stay with you whether you want it to or not. Powerful, vivid, and deceptively real. -Russ Bashaw

Discussed on Podcast #66

Oh Sees - Orc

Genre: Rock, Psychedelic, Garage
Released: August 25th

It wouldn't be a year of rock music without Jonathan Dwyer releasing at least one new album. Once again changing the band name (this time omitting "Thee") fans are left scratching their heads but one thing that isn't as debatable is how this band seems to be firing on all the right cylinders. Taking the best psychedelic elements from 2015's Mutilator Defeated at Last and mixing it with more of the digital tones and tempest that was last years An Odd Entrance, Orc is a vibrant mix of guitar, drums, and well, Orcs and Goblins. -Russ Bashaw

Discussed on Podcast #76

Anti-Lilly & Phonkiks - It's Nice Outside

Genre: Hip hop
Released: August 21st

At initial glance it seems like an unlikely pairing; Phoniks, a 23-year old producer from Portland, Maine, and AntiLilly, a rapper who resides in Houston, Texas. The album, which features jazz samples under AntiLilly's slick rhymes, evokes a feeling of sunshine immediately to the mind and therefore It's Nice Outside becomes appropriately named. Although the relaxing beats and instrumentation carry the album on initial listen it's AntiLilly's lyricism that make this album an instant classic. AntiLilly has struggled and underneath the piano, the brass, the guitar, underneath the sorrow of the jazz and the blues, is an artist who reflects deeply on what has transpired in his life. From the betrayal of a close friend and a woman to the monotony of the 9 to 5 lifestyle and temptations of the streets, AntiLilly tells it how it is. The lens of vulnerability is surprisingly real and transcends the music. It's here in these depths of potential sorrow that AntiLilly's soars as this woe-is-me attitude is overidden by the rapper's drive to move forward in life with genuine hope and optimism. -Russ Bashaw

Full Review

Curtis Harding - Face Your Fear

Genre: Soul, R&B
Released: October 27th

This record calls back to prime Al Green / Curtis Mayfield vibes. Add in a touch of 'late 60s Motown and you've got Harding. This is his second full-length that contains some killer psychedelic elements paired with with the essence of soul. The record gives me hope for where pop music could ultimately end up in 2018. -Anthony Saia

The National - Sleep Well Beast

Genre: Indie rock
Released September 8th

The titanic iceberg of indie rock: one you hit the National, you will sink into the somber piano, guitar and keyboards only to find more and more in the lyrics beneath the surface of the illustrious baritone. -Dylan Brown

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound

Genre: Americana
Released: June 16th

Country music is littered with schmaltzy love letters to a good-ole-boy way of life. Isbell and Co., with unflinching guitars and honesty, write songs where the good comes with the bad—something worth loving. -Dylan Brown

Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

Genre: Doom Metal
Released: October 20th

Seattle doom metal duo Bell Witch have created a monolith with their third full-length record Mirror Reaper. The album consists of a single work – one continuous 83-minute movement that unfolds, shifts, surprises at every twist and turn. Engineered and mixed by legendary producer Billy Anderson, the pair of Dylan Desmond (bass & vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals, and Hammond B3), have created what might call the answer to Sleep’s Dopesmoker in doom form. -Anthony Saia

Mount Kimbie - Love What Survives

Genre: Art-pop, Electro
Released: September 8th

The best electronica reaches out of the synthesizer to touch something real. The dense jungle of the English duet's 2013 "Cold Spring Fault Less Youth" gives way to a more urban yet no less tangible world, with King Krule once again providing the grime. -Dylan Brown

Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy

Genre: Hip hop
Released: July 21st

Tyler's finest entry to date with slick features (Frank Ocean, ASAP Rocky, and Kali Uchis), a plethora of bangers ("Who Dat Boy, I Ain't Got Time") and R&B stylings ("Where This Flower Blooms", 911/Mr. Lonely), making this his most diverse and rewarding offering to date. Questioning his entire creative process on tracks like "November" and mentioning that he's been "kissing whiteboys since 2004" on "I Ain't Got Time", Tyler reaveals a more vulnerable side of himself that mirrors that of his running mate Frank Ocean while still managing to maintain a high production watermark that reaches new peaks. This is my hip hop album of the year. -Russ Bashaw

Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

Genre: Indie rock
Released: June 16th

Crack-Up fits into the pantheon of the Fleet Foxes discogrphy amazingly well. Fleet Foxes continue to be at the forefront of a progressive and expansive folk/indie movement and there is so much instrumentally speaking on Crack-Up that it requires repeat listens for even the most dedicated of music fans to decipher. From Robin's vocal layers perhaps talking to a younger version of himself to the inclusion of high school choirs, Moroccan percussion ("Mearcstapa"), 12-string guitars, harpsichords, digital samples of blue noise, guitar tunings influenced by Mailian artists, and more, we easily run out of breath trying to breach the intricacy of the compositions. -Russ Bashaw

Wilsen - I Go Missing In My Sleep

Genre: Indie rock
Released: April 28th

Another Brooklyn band worth every second of your time, I Go Missing In My Sleep creates atmosphereic work with very layered and often ambient guitar textures. Lead singer Tamsin Wilson's vocals are as aurally pleasing as a morning sparrow in a season of full bloom and there's a subtle mix of folk and psychelic dream rock here that is hard to pinpoint and it's for these reasons that you'll continually return to this under the radar album. -Russ Bashaw

Kelela - Take Me Apart

Genre: Electronic, alternative R&B
Released: October 6th

After a handful of groundbreaking R&B hits, in 2013 L.A. singer-songwriter Kelela became fascinated with the neverending complexities that complicated people bring to relationships. Four years in the making, the result is her Afro-futurist, avant-garde experiment. On Take Me Apart, lush soundscapes incorporate trap beats, synths, and heavy beats, accompanied by 14 peerless vocal performances. -Bryan Hamaker -Dylan Brown

Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

Genre: Electronic R&B
Released: September 22nd

Sumney sings of the aromantic person as not one of hedonistic tendencies but one with trying to find one's self through cracks in a mirror in a refreshing take on a viewpoint usually associated with selfishness. There's more than meets the eye here and Sumney's production and guitar take the genre to new heights. -Russ Bashaw

Maggie Rogers - Now That The Light Is Fading

Genre: Electro Pop
Released: February 16th

It was a big year for Maggie Rogers as this EP seemed to take the indie scene by storm. A bit played out towards the end of the calendar, it's with warm affection that you remember the first time you heard this album in it's entirety and we all await for her first full length LP. Sky is the limit for Maggie. -Russ Bashaw

Featured Artist on Podcast #71

LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

Genre: Electro Pop
Released: September 1st

One last ride with with the group that puts out the best dance music for adults. American Drea, sums up the ever changing landscape of aging in conjuction with friendships, relationships, and the unknowing of what happened to yesterday and trepidation for tomorrow's responsibilities. -Russ Bashaw

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