These are the best albums of 2017

Lorde

Whether you’re looking for suggested listening or want to compare notes, check out these Top 10 Albums lists, as well as favourite concerts and biggest disappointments of the year, by six music writers at Cult MTL.

Donovan Burtan

Best Albums:

1. Lorde, Melodrama (Republic)
2. Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy (Columbia)
3. SZA, Ctrl (Top Dawg)
4. Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem)
5. Moses Sumney, Aromanticism (Jagjaguwar)
6. Mich Cota, Kijà/Care (Egg Paper)
7. Kelly Lee Owens, Kelly Lee Owens (Smalltown Supersound)
8. Bibio, Phantom Brickworks (Warp)
9. Jessica Moss, Pools of Light (Constellation)
10. Tim Berne, Incidentals (Deutsche Grammophon)

Biggest Disappointment of the Year: Thundercat, Drunk (Brainfeeder)

Best Show: Austra and Jessy Lanza, Rialto, Sept. 14

Maybe I’m a bit needy, but the nights I remember most fondly come year-end tend to be those that feature a slew of different acts, with no worries about how late the night will go. Enter POP Montreal. With Austra’s bright yet catastrophic electronica headlining the Rialto and Lanza’s smoldering late-night mix to follow right next door, my POP Thursday night couldn’t have been better planned. Throw in some kick-ass, SOPHIE-produced rap tracks from Quay Dash and the night even managed to surprise me. We get showered with festivals around here, but POP’s mastery of the uncanny is hard to match.

Johnson Cummins

Best Albums:

1. Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven (Artemisia)
2. Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (Sargent House)
3. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (Profound Lore)
4. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
5. Ty Segall, Ty Segall (Drag City)
6. Enslaved, E (Nuclear Blast)
7. Pallbearer, Heartless (Profound Lore)
8. Ramones, Rocket to Russia Deluxe Reissue (Sire)
9. Ramones, Leave Home Deluxe Reissue (Sire)
10. Biblical, The City That Always Sleeps (New Damage)

Biggest Disappointment: Today Is the Day/Kayo Dot, l’Escogriffe, July 30

Best Show: The Descendents, Metropolis, Sept. 7

My two favourite shows this year ended up being bands I had worshipped in my teens: Redd Kross and the Descendents. As good as Redd Kross was at le Ritz, the Descendents got the edge as they have finally received the justice they so richly deserved after getting ripped off by every single post-grunge pop-punk band — ever. Old punks, young brats and everything else in between converged to hear how pop-punk is supposed to be done. Glimmering with perfection, the hour and a half show had every note springing directly from the heart with nary a duff moment. With a discography that spans decades, these aging nerds actually overshadowed their “classics” with newer songs, proving there is no expiration date on perfectly crafted pop that rings with punk rock authority.

Erik Leijon

Best Albums:

1. Sheer Mag, Need to Feel Your Love (Wilsun EC)
2. Pierre Kwenders, MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time (Bonsound)
3. Land of Talk, Life After Youth (Dine Alone)
4. Sinjin Hawke, First Opus (Fractal Fantasy)
5. Mura Masa, Mura Masa (Anchor Point/Polydor/Universal)
6. Jlin, Black Origami (Planet Mu)
7. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. (Aftermath/Interscope)
8. Chet Doxas, Rich in Symbols (eOne)
9. Tei Shi, Crawl Space (Arts & Crafts/Interscope)
10. SZA, Ctrl (Top Dawg/RCA)

Best Show: MHD, Metropolis, June 15

Biggest Disappointment: The United States of America

Sure, I put a Philly rock ‘n’ roll band at the top of my albums list, but year one of Trump’s America made me want to expand my listening horizons far beyond our neighbours to the south. Le declin de l’empire in real-time produced some astonishingly dreary results on the pop side, with country-rehabbers Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, normally reliable hitmakers, kowtowing to their garbage alt-right bases for a quick buck. One can only hope they tossed their careers in the shitter with their cowardly middle-of-the-roadness. And what about Katy Perry’s implosion? Your guess is as good as mine.

DARCY MACDONALD

Best Albums:

1. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. (Top Dawg)
2. Brother Ali, All the Beauty in This Whole Life (Rhymesayers)
3. Jay-Z, 4:44 (ROC Nation)
4. Gord Downie, Introduce Yerself (Arts & Crafts)
5. Husser, Geto Rock for the Youth (Cult Nation)
6. Joey Bada$$, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (Cinematic)
7. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream (DFA/Columbia)
8. Sampha, Process (Young Turks)
9. SZA, Ctrl (Top Dawg)
10. Big K.R.I.T., 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (BMG)

Best Show: Kendrick Lamar, Bell Centre, Aug. 24

Biggest Disappointment: Show cancellations, especially De La Soul at Osheaga

This is always a tough one. Aesop Rock gave one of the best small-venue rap performances I’ve ever witnessed in late January, setting a bar that contemporaries Run the Jewels wouldn’t quite meet at their Metropolis debut mere weeks later. This year saw three hip hop heavyweights take the Bell Centre: breakthrough artist Chance the Rapper, rap king Kendrick Lamar and genre demi-god and pop mogul Jay-Z. While Chance gave an entertaining set, his catalogue is not quite arena ready, despite a fanbase that demands it. Hov is a master showman and as such is expected to deliver the calibre of performance he executed last November. But with loyalty and royalty in his DNA, the title goes to Lamar, whose August concert spared no sound, sight, energy or decibel. In a city spoiled by quality hip hop concerts this year, Lamar’s was the crown jewel.

Owen Maxwell

Best Albums:

1. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream (DFA/Columbia)
2. Tei Shi, Crawl Space (Arts & Crafts/Interscope)
3. Alvvays, Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
4. Casper Skulls, Mercy Works (Buzz)
5. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Soul of a Woman (Daptone)
6. Alex Cameron, Forced Witness (Secretly Canadian)
7. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice (Matador)
8. Gorillaz, Humanz (Warner)
9. Baxter Dury, Prince of Tears (Heavenly)
10. She-Devils, She-Devils (Secretly Canadian)

Best Show: LCD Soundsystem, Place Bell, Dec. 2

Biggest Disappointment: Solange, Angel Olsen, De La Soul and Noname all cancelling on Osheaga

Out of the few amazing bands I was lucky enough to see twice this year, LCD Soundsystem was the only one to exceed my expectations both times. I had written off ever getting to see them live after their (temporary) break-up, but their live energy was a religious experience well worth the wait. Between James’s goofy antics and self-aware humour, it was easy to fall right back in love with the band. Hearing their new album live along with the crowd swell to “Dance Yrself Clean” is an experience that I recommend to anyone.

Mr. Wavvy

Best Albums:

1. Rex Orange County, Apricot Princess (independent)
2. Sampha, Process (Young Turks)
3. Lorde, Melodrama (Republic)
4. Jay-Z, 4:44 (Roc Nation)
5. Daniel Caesar, Freudian (Golden Child)
6. Steve Lacy, Demo (Three Quarter)
7. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. (Interscope)
8. Thundercat, Drunk (Brainfeeder)
9. Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti (Interscope)
10. Khalid, American Teen (RCA)

Best Show: Sampha, Corona Theatre, Feb. 11

Biggest Disappointment: Gorillaz, Humanz (Warner)

What could be better than an R&B concert on Valentine’s weekend? Fresh off the heels of his critically acclaimed debut, the London crooner took to the city’s second favourite live venue (according to the Best of MTL readers poll) to perform some tear-jerking tunes. Minimalism is crucial to Sampha’s success, the evening held tight the unbeatable one-two punch of his piano and falsetto.

Unfortunately, lightning did not strike twice for the singer during his second Montreal outing of the year. It seems as if the intimate setting of Corona offered a certain magic that could not quite be recaptured during his dismal, mid-day Osheaga performance.

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