Best of 2017: 20-11

-20: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers

With this release, GY!BE now have as many albums in the modern era as they did before their 10 year hiatus, and they continue to be laser-focused, tight as a drum and as powerful as ever. This one is built around two three-part cycles, the first being the inspirational (aspirational?) "Bosses Hang", a beautiful, building beast reminiscent of the first part of Storm from Lift Your Skinny Fists, and the second being the western showdown of "Anthem For No State". I can't speak for everyone, but I need these guys now more than ever.

-19: Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

I'll admit it took me a few years to fully come around to Mac's vibe. As per usual, the songs are simple and a little washed out, but they are surprisingly smooth this time around, and a little more earnest. There were times this summer when I would put this on as background music and I just let it play through a second time. It still all feels a little ironic to me, but I think that's more my fault than his, these are just some nice songs he wrote.

-18: Gun Outfit - Out of Range

This is a wide open country groove, an escape out of your life into a psychedelic western road trip with the sun beating down. If that doesn’t sound enticing, give it a try anyway.

-17: Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

Protomartyr offers a very specific, bleak brand of post-punk that makes them stand apart in a genre that I've traditionally always had a hard time engaging with. I don't know if it's the nonchalant, depressed barking of Joe Casey, or the roaming frenetic guitar patterns that transfix me, but they've created something very powerful and representative of the darkness of the modern era.

-16: Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett - Lotta Sea Lice

A delightful duets album between slacker rock royalty. Something whose existence was not mandatory but can’t imagine a satisfactory answer to “why not”.

-15: Chuck Johnson - Balsams

Carve some time out in your schedule to sit quietly and bask in these atmospheric steel guitar universes. Pleasant as background music, restorative when fully immersed, this album is a meditative masterpiece.

-14: Milo - who told you to think??!!?!?!?!

Milo steps out of the art rap shadows into his own fully realized sound. As philosophical and referential as ever, but with more purpose and confidence.

-13: Big Thief - Capacity

Immediately following last year's (aptly-titled) Masterpiece, this is a slightly more somber, quieter affair that manages to mellow out without pulling any punches. "Mary" is one of the songs of the year.

-12: Sylvan Esso - What Now

This walks a perfect tightrope, elaborating on the sound established by their 2014 debut without sacrificing what made it great. A beautiful mix of digital and organic sounds, like a warm blanket that makes you dance.

-11: Leif Vollebekk - Twin Solitude

He ditches the rambling Dylan schtick for something much more soulful, sparse, and meaningful. And don't get me wrong, I really liked the Dylan schtick, but this is airier, more daring, and more in tune with his songwriting style. For the first quarter of 2017, this was my favorite album of the year. I still listen to "Rest" frequently when I need to relax.