Diffuser’s Top 25 Albums of 2017
Well, 2017 was a year. Not one for the hall of fame, most would probably agree.
But if the headlines often presented political turmoil, sinister overtures, death, destruction and behavior that was maddeningly inhuman, the best alternative rock albums of the year offered respite, rebuttal, empathy and catharsis – hot thoughts and American dreams.
As with everything else, the tumultuous political climate infected the music industry in 2017, with artists from Alabama-born singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and Austin, Texas’ veteran rockers Spoon to New York City’s LCD Soundsystem and the kaleidoscopic collaborators of Gorillaz shaking their heads at current events and hoping for a more beautiful tomorrow. Meanwhile, Fleet Foxes used political events as signposts in their songs and Björk conjured an audio Utopia in response to the failings of the real world.
The National wove political malfeasance and personal heartbreak into one moody quilt, while others focused more squarely on doomed relationships. There seemed to be a preponderance of breakup records in 2017, including Lorde’s frenetic Melodrama and Grandaddy’s resigned Last Place, as well as albums which were repeatedly anguished over love, including many of the tracks on St. Vincent’s Masseduction and the Magnetic Fields’ 50 Song Memoir.
Miraculously, Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum managed to locate some sense of beauty in the miasma of world-shattering heartache, as he chronicled his quiet grief over the passing of his wife on A Crow Looked at Me. He wasn’t the only one to dwell in death, as Ariel Pink made a garage rocking tribute to late pop star Bobby Jameson and the Flaming Lips built a psychedelic castle in effigy of a departed friend.
Meanwhile, many other bands were resurrected as recording outfits. This year saw the first albums from the reunited LCD Soundsystem (seven years since the last studio album), a reassembled Broken Social Scene (also seven years), a reinvigorated Grandaddy (11 years) and – perhaps most amazingly – the resurrected shoegazers Slowdive (22 years). A comeback is one thing. To do work on par with your best is another.
If Slowdive can make their best album while being deep into a career, maybe there’s hope for all of us. Here are the best alternative rock albums from 2017.