Own It or Disown It: #288: The Tops and Bottoms of 2017


(kazoo sounds)

Hey, we did it. We all did it. We all made it to 2018 with enough of our senses left that I’m able to type this up and you’re able to read it. Congratulations. Let’s see if we can keep ourselves together for another year. Music was, again, good this year, lacking a proper masterpiece around which we bow but with the bad stuff not being as bad as it’s been in past years, until you fall down a cliff of quality that’ll have you longing for the simple pleasures of Limp Bizkit and The Killers. On that note, same sort of parameters of eligibility apply for the best albums list (everything from December 1, 2016 through November 30, 2017), but for the worst albums list, I’m singling out from December 2016 through December 2017. Why? You’ll know why by the end.

My pick for the fifth-best album of 2017 is sort of an obvious pick, but sue me, the only pick in this top five that isn’t going to be obvious is the number two pick: Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy. Nick wrote this wonderful piece going over its merits and why Josh Tillman’s compositions and lyrics connect with us so well, but the short version is that if we’re blessed enough to know when the end of the world is coming, we’re going to be bumping this in the whip instead of “Nearer, My God, to Thee”. Y’all know God doesn’t listen to gospel, right?

The fifth-worst album of 2017 is a work some of our staff actually really like, and I guess I can see an argument for its merits, but I gotta go with my heart here: Dirty Projectors by Dirty Projectors. I already laid into this one pretty hard last year, and giving it another listen this past week did not soften my stance on it. About the nicest thing I can say about it is that it is better than the albums I slotted in this spot for the past few years, and that an album that’s just really bad instead of volcanically, colossally atrocious can make a list like this speaks for how good music was in 2017. That being said, this album sucks and you shouldn’t listen to it.

Meanwhile, back on the positive side of life, V by The Horrors is my fourth-favorite album of 2017. Some critics weren’t all into this, but I’m a sucker for weird rock as well as music that makes me move my ass, so this English outfit’s brand of weird rock that makes me move my ass was the medicine I didn’t know I needed. It’s certainly better weird rock than the latest Prurient album, an album so average that even I didn’t touch it.

I already apologized for the incidental but important role I played in the making of the fourth-worst album of 2017, but I feel it needs to be propped up as an example of how not to make a pop album: Taylor Swift’s reputation. Its few good tracks can be counted on one hand while Swift, who I’ve argued is smarter and more cognizant of her image than most are willing to give her credit, posits herself as being just as vapid and stupid as the media makes her out to be while making the worst music she’s ever touched. One more album like this and you’re cancelled, Ms. Swift, and we’re putting either Charli XCX or Carly Rae Jepsen in your spot. That’s right, we outsourcing you. Welcome to 2018.

I swear that Vince Staples’s Big Fish Theory is my third-favorite album of 2017 for reasons besides slotting in another hyperlinked article explaining why I like it so much, but speaking of, hey, here’s my review where I explain why I like Staples’s takedown of club culture that indulges in the thrills of the scene. Nope, not explaining it further. You want more, click that link. I’ll wait. I’m tapping my foot over here, which really translates well to print. Okay, you done? Man, wasn’t that a great review I wrote? You’re welcome.

Hey, remember a few paragraphs ago when I said that the bad music this year wasn’t so bad until you fell down a cliff of quality? Well, here’s the cliff: Culture by Migos, the third-worst album of 2017. Migos are one of the most celebrated acts in music today, as was Lil Wayne right up until the blogosphere got their heads out of the syrup and realized the overwhelming majority of the shit he made was fucking awful. I sure do hope Migos eventually justify their popularity, but I’ve the feeling y’all who raised their eyebrow at this pick will see the light in a few years.

As we near the top of this list, I feel it’s worth reminding that getting on this list involves making incredible music but getting at or near the top of the list means making incredible music that represents the sign of the times, a reminder of what it was like to live in that year. These are the best albums of 2017, after all, not the best albums that came out in 2017, and that distinction ensured there were only two albums I could put near the top of this list. I say all that to justify why my second-favorite album of 2017 was Wake In Fright by Uniform, a brutal, politically-charged punk rock (by way of industrial metal) album that might not be everyone’s jam but was exactly what I needed to hear in 2017, an awful year of awful awfulness. Here’s hoping sugary pop is in this place for the 2018 list.

We haven’t talked much about XXXTentacion here at Earbuddy, so let’s break the silence now: holy God, is 17 bad. The second-worst album of 2017 sees the guy who beat up his pregnant girlfriend lazily complain about women while trying to ride the R&B boat to critical acclaim. Do I need to expand? Fine: it’s boring, it’s dumb, it’s too short to amount to anything, and it comes across as a shitty version of Big Fish Theory. Listening to paint dry might actually be better for you than listening to this.

My favorite album of 2016 was a J-Pop record that I’m sure was pressed onto actual sugar discs somewhere, so, me being me, of course my favorite album of 2017 was A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum’s album-length attempt at coming to terms with the passing of his wife. It’s a devastatingly-intimate listen and among the best works of Elverum’s career, more easily compared to the waking Hell of the second half of In the Bedroom than to the similarly tragic tales relayed in Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell and Sun Kil Moon’s Benji. It’s the best album I never want to listen to ever again.

And now, the worst album I’ll definitely have to listen to again in order to write a proper review for it: Revival by Eminem, the worst album of 2017. I’ve been told that writing about music is easy, it’s just about relaying one’s thoughts having listened to an album, and goodness, how hard can it be to get through even a bad album? Revival is difficult to write about because it’s hard to get through because it might be the worst album ever made by someone who has already made one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard and there’s more than an hour of it and it starts with a song about hoping to be perceived as being humble (“Rap God” says hi) and the song about a relationship that ended with an abortion gracelessly follows the bumbling attempt at tackling racism and hate in America (this, from the guy who introduced himself to the world with “God sent me to piss the world off”) and one of the beats jacks, of all things, Joan Jett’s version of “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” and that’s not even the worst sample on here because a later track uses “Zombie” by The Cranberries and God, listening to this thing is work and that’s the opposite of what music should be. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Eminem needs to stop making music.


Stay safe. Eat Arby's.

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