I cooooooould compile the eleventy-millionth Top 10 Albums of 2017 list (aaaaaand be almost the eleventy-millionth person to tell you that, yes, Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” is, indeed, the album of the year).
We can go in a slightly different direction, maybe give you something a bit more rarefied. Like, say, albums that were overlooked and/or underrated? The top 10 albums of 2017 that you may not know, but definitely should, perhaps?
Executive decision: Let’s do that.
Math aside, “supergroup” is practically a four-letter word in some circles, and it is, in fact, a bit silly as a descriptor for a four-person band in which three members originate from the same place. Whatever. Labels aside, the combination of No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young with AFI singer Davey Havok worked. Havok’s bombastic stylings, paired with the non-Gwen trio’s tightly crafted alt-pop hooks, proved a serving of delectable ear candy.
First off, no — it’s not Judas Priest, just Priest. This electronica trio from Linköping, Sweden, is an offshoot of the faux-Satanic rock band Ghost, but share none of its progenitors’ musical leanings. Rather, these guys are more like the illegitimate offspring of Depeche Mode, thanks to their pristine welding of dramatic vocals, heavy synth and propulsive beats. Singles “The Pit,” “History in Black” and “The Cross” are all exquisite, but “Private Eye” may be the unheralded standout of the bunch.
A bit of a cheat, as the alter ego of Annie Clark is certainly already a well-known quantity to many indie-rock fans, and the album has received near-universal acclaim (including top overall billing from The Guardian). I’ll justify its inclusion, though, thanks to the sheer volume of people responding “Who?” at any mention of her. The polar opposites represented in the sparse, gorgeous lament of “New York” and bouncy-yet-withering critique of “Los Ageless” are, by themselves, worth the price of admission.
The Canadian rock and roll band’s only miscue is that … well, it’s a rock and roll band … in an era when many people’s love for rock and roll roughly mirrors their affection for skin rashes. So, bad timing there. But, on the off chance you appreciate the rock music, you ought to enjoy the follies of youth and apologetically debauched tales channeled through singer Brett Emmons’ gritty, pack-a-day growl. Meanwhile, the band continues to grow more sonically adventurous.
Should you wish to dabble with the dark side, Denmark’s Amalie Bruun, a classically trained multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, can ably lead you deep into the shadows. Her second album’s title translates to “Nightmare,” which proves an apt assessment of Myrkur’s haunting whirlwind of Nordic folk and black metal set against a backdrop of mesmerizing classical strings. That only a few songs venture from various Scandinavian languages into English hardly matters — the hypnotic, melodic doom, dread and foreboding she conveys don’t exactly get lost in translation.
Upon deciding that most of the rap she was hearing back in ’03 was “simplistic, misogynistic and formulaic,” Kristine Flaherty resolved that she could and would do better. While much of her subsequent career has been dedicated to bolstering hip-hop, her latest album is, in her own words, “genre-defying,” with elements of electro-pop, EDM and indie rock also present. Indeed, the track “Blood in the Cut” earned K.Flay a Grammy nod for Best Rock Song.
The Swedish dark-popstress’ sequel to 2016’s “Lady Wood” is unabashedly, unapologetically libidinous and lewd, explicit and erotic, raw and raunchy — and all the more fun for it. Be forewarned, though, ye prudish and/or faint of heart — if luridly detailed explorations of (generally) female sexual liberation and (specifically) the disintegration of a tumultuous love affair and a subsequent downward spiral filled with graphic depictions of bisexual one-night stands — all soundtracked by shimmering, booming ’70s-style dancepop — isn’t quite your thing, then avert your ears and move along.
Texas teen Khalid Robinson’s debut effort is earnest and buoyant R&B. Soulful and heartfelt depictions of such lighthearted fare as young love and true friendship abound, but they are deftly countered by melancholic ruminations on relationships gone wrong and substance-aided weekend ragers. Backed frequently by lilting ’80s synths and percussive dance beats, Khalid’s vocal breeziness rightly remains front and center. No less than alt-pop superstar Lorde labeled Khalid’s track “Young Dumb & Broke” as “[expletive] gorgeous” — and she’s quite correct.
Long a songwriter for myriad pop stars such as Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Cher, Laura Pergolizzi didn’t make it as a performing artist herself until she was on her seventh record deal, when some actual effort in pushing her resulted in the album’s title track becoming an international sensation and leadoff song “Muddy Waters” hitting big as well. LP’s songwriting acumen extends beyond that pair of tunes, though, permeating the other 11 present here. And when she interrupts her usually nasal delivery with some big-pipes gusto, it’s a goosebumps moment.
The London- and Seattle-based alt-rocker has — to paraphrase a line from the original “Jurassic Park” movie — “a deplorable excess of personality,” which in his case, is a compliment. Beyond the charisma, Courtney is possessed of an alarmingly easy penchant for crafting anthemic, arena-ready hooks and delivering catchy and clever witticisms, all of which would make “The Attractions of Youth” littered with surefire radio hits if only — again — rock and roll were still, you know, a big thing on the radio.