My Top Albums of 2017

It's that time of year again, folks—the final weekend of the year when I get back to music blogging to reveal the past year's albums I listened to over and over again. It gets tougher every year to narrow down my favourites. This politically infused 2017 proved to yield a ton of incredible music. My list from year to year continues to expand. For my eighth annual list, I hope you don't mind a sparkling top 25. So get ready to scroll and let's jump right in. Enjoy...

25. Geoffroy ► Coastline

Geoffroy gives you exactly what the artwork suggests: a relaxing drive—you're grooving down the sunny coast.

24. Brand New ► Science Fiction

With their first LP since 2009, the ever so contemplative Brand New is back with another introspective rock album.

Harmonious and emotionally heavy—just the way I like it.

23. Dan Croll ► Emerging Adulthood

Dan Croll's been at it for years now, and at only 27 years of age, he has a couple killer albums under his belt. He knows how to find a catchy melody and warmly expand his music around it. Road-trippin' music for sure.

Sidenote: he's based in Liverpool (a city I love).

22. Tow'rs ► Grey Fidelity

Cellos, cellos, cellos. Need I say more? A pure mix of Paper Kites and Lumineers, if you will.

If there was one instrument I'd love to know how to play, it'd be the cello.

21. Washed Out ► Mister Mellow

I imagine a slow-motion dream of a distant memory. Waves crash the shore. Don't worry, you'll snap out of it in half an hour.

20. The National ► Sleep Well Beast

As a mega fan of this bars-to-stadiums Brooklyn group, this album didn't grasp my attention like I wanted it to at first. It continues to grow on me. Let it grow on you too.

19. The xx ► I See You

The third time was indeed a charm for The xx and Jamie xx's driven beats. Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim play moody vocal tag back and forth effortlessly. It's just a winning mixture.

18. Elliot Moss ► Boomerang

Perhaps the best seven-track album I've ever listened to. You'll go on a short and sweet figurative electronic stroll with this one.

17. Jenn Grant ► Paradise

Jenn Grant focuses on dispersing her soft but demanding vocals throughout a "galactic realm" in this album. The way she emphasizes and bends her vocals is entrancing.

16. Jonah Blacksmith ► Jonah Blacksmith

This Danish septet—spearheaded by two brothers armed with a guitar and banjo—has come out of nowhere in 2017. I'm glad I had the chance to see them rock the folk out of the Winnipeg Folk Festival this summer.

15. Low Roar ► Once in a Long, Long While...

As an American who relocated to Iceland, it feels like Low Roar aka Ryan Karajiza has captured his new country's physical isolation and maybe his own solitude perfectly in this album. He's conjured up an eerie yet beautiful essence that's easy on the ears.

14. Phoenix ► Ti Amo

Phoenix's Parisian electro-pop rock never fails to enlighten me. Just when I thought they were done, they were only stowing away and staying true to their craft. They surfaced with this energetic treat.

13. SOHN ► Rennen

Imagine a conveyor belt carrying prisms with their mesmerizing light of infinite colours flickering in your eyes. You can't look away.

OK, that was a bit dramatic, but this album is pretty fantastic. SOHN is one of my many influences for my music.

12. Fyfe ► The Space Between

Positively charged electro-pop. Fyfe aka Paul Dixon can build it up and break it down with the best of them.

Fyfe is an artist I've admired for a while now. He owns the indie-music game and churns out meaningful groovy tracks and alternative stripped-down versions of his work (More Space Between) on the regular. He deserves all the attention he gets and probably more.

11. Slow Leaves ► Enough About Me

Local Winnipeg lad Grant Davidson shows us his savvy songwriting chops with his most personal album yet. Enough About Me explains ordinary life in an extraordinary way. A folk masterpiece.

10. The War On Drugs ► A Deeper Understanding

The title alone gives you the lense necessary to soak in the music.

All but one track are > 5:30 long—prepare to drift in and out of clouds across a musical skyline.

9. The Barr Brothers ► Queens of the Breakers

An enthralling alternative folk experience. It consistently gets better every time I listen to it. Its builds, melodies, and guitars' vocal-melody accompaniments get me every time.

8. Teen Daze ► Themes for Dying Earth

Jamison Isaak, who goes by Teen Daze, draws his musical inspiration from nature. In this album, the themes on audial display are quite soothing and calm for an Earth that's dying—a slow graceful decline rings true.

Last month, Teen Daze complemented this album nicely with his swaying instrumental follow-up album: Themes for a New Earth.

7. Manchester Orchestra ► A Black Mile To The Surface

Andy Hull & Co. have soundtrack fever ever since their adventurous a cappella project of Swiss Army Man. It's a beautiful thing and has shaped their evolution as alternative rockers.

This album is measured, unified and connects from start to finish. It draws its inspiration from Andy's newborn daughter, Mayzie, with the subject of fatherhood and family appearing throughout. It also thematically stems from the neutrino experiment project in Lead, SD, which is a mile underground. I guess the nature of matter and the evolution of our universe is inspirational.*

*where's the sarcasm font already

6. San Fermin ► Belong

Belong is emphatic and grand but also intimate and of a yearning conviction.

Ever since this group of amazing musicians and genuinely kind human beings played the small Folk Fest stage I volunteer on, I've followed their every step. They see the joy in music and it comes out in their performances.

5. The Wilderness of Manitoba ► Across the Dark

This alternative-folk album may still be an undiscovered treasure waiting to be fully unveiled to the world. Across the Dark gently takes you by storm and carries you over a soaring spectrum void of time.

Last year, I heard Will Whitwham and his new tourmates play at The Park Theatre for the first show of their small Western Canada tour. Whitwham's songwriting definitely shone through, but there was still some chemistry needing to be fused. It's safe to say they've pulled themselves together in the studio and produced a mighty fine record.

4. Kendrick Lamar ► DAMN.

There's something very compelling about Kendrick Lamar's ability to express and convey his inner demons and feelings. The man is a dichotomy and it's evident in his music: a God-fearing rap god. He doesn't shy away from tackling the pain points he sees in his own life and the world we live in.

DAMN.'s instrumentation caught me off guard and I was strangely hooked. It's a laidback (yet sometimes ferocious) backdrop that counterbalances Lamar's intense vocals and lyrics. The combo is lethal (in a good way).

3. Bonobo ► Migration

Migration is a masterful electronic soundscape. It's diverse without a shred of disconnect from track to track.

Producer and DJ Bonobo (Simon Green) has a knack for inciting emotions of plasticity, awe, and wonder. Talking about this album, he states, "Life has highs, lows, loud and quiet moments, beautiful ones and ugly ones." I'd say it's a broad statement that strangely works for the dynamics and narrative of this album.

2. Broken Social Scene ► Hug Of Thunder

With horns, synths, guitars, and moody rockin' melodies, Hug Of Thunder is a sonic outburst of homegrown Canadian exuberance.

I had the pleasure of seeing the 15-member indie super-group in action this summer. Feist didn't appear for "Hug Of Thunder," but the show didn't need her at all. Broken Social Scene's performance fulfilled my expectations in every way. Stars' married duo Amy Millan and Evan Cranley contributed nicely as well.

And finally, my #1 favourite of 2017:

1. Leif Vollebekk ► Twin Solitude

Twin Solitude is a Polaris Prize short-list finalist (winner in my heart) and overall gem. Every track exudes a heartfelt response to Leif's life accounts and observations. He sings without worrying about song structure and doesn't hold back. His honest vocals, steady piano, stripped drum kit, and full bass guitar with a sprinkling of strings is all he needs. Powerful stuff.

I heard him at the West End Cultural Centre here in Winnipeg this past fall. I was slightly disappointed that he didn't have any support performing with him, but even with his solo performance, he harnessed the room's energy wisely and wore his heart on his sleeve.


Honourable Mentions:

Mappe Of ► A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone Julien Baker ► Turn Out the Lights The New Pornographers ► Whiteout Conditions Perfume Genius ► No Shape Grizzly Bear ► Painted Ruins St. Vincent ► MASSEDUCTION ODESZA ► A Moment Apart Petit Biscuit ► Presence Foster The People ► Sacred Hearts Club Portugal. The Man ► Woodstock Novo Amor & Ed Tullett  Heiress Ashleigh Ball ► Gold in You LCD Soundsystem ► american dream Oh Wonder ► Ultralife Sampha  Process Daniel Caesar ► Freudian Stars ► There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light Sylvan Esso ► What Now Serena Ryder ► Utopia Close Talker  Lens Mac Demarco  This Old Dog London Grammar ► Truth Is a Beautiful Thing Ásgeir ► Afterglow Henry Jamison ► The Wilds Daniel Hart ► Music from S-Town The Brilliance ► All Is Not Lost Feist ► Pleasure Overcoats ► Young Thundercat ► Drunk Said The Whale ► As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide

This year was very special to me. I released my debut album, Idea of Love, into the digital music-sphere. It came to fruition throughout the last couple of years when I was searching for my purpose and a new path in life. In its creation, I've realized we should always be looking for purpose in everything we do—no matter where we find ourselves. Check out Idea of Love on your preferred music service.

I very much appreciate the love and support I've received over the now six months Idea of Love's been out. By the way, expect new music from me early in the New Year. I'm wrapping up a five-song EP and I can't wait to share it with you (I'll have a release show this time around too *party emojis*).

As always, let me know which albums were your favourite in 2017. Let me know which gems I missed too. I can't cover them all and would love to give 'em a listen!

I wish you happy listening and all the best in 2018. I'll leave you with my full Spotify playlist of my favourite tracks from this year.

Cheers! – MG

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