As another year approaches its end, I find myself both thrilled and saddened at the thought of making my personal “Albums of the Year” list. It’s a time of contemplation and discourse, with myself and my peers. It’s a time to hash out our guilty pleasures and undying loves that blossomed throughout the past 365 days. Music has an intrinsic connection to time, history and memory, and regardless of how great a track or album might be, every individual who gives them a listen will naturally tie the emotional experience to their explicit memory at the time.
Every year, I create a new note on my phone where I jot down every album I at least enjoyed listening to, and I can always tell which ones most greatly affected me by the power of the memory tied to it. Lorde’s masterful Melodrama, an obvious entry, calls to mind the night I literally ran back to my apartment at midnight to rendezvous with my friends and listen to it for the first time; my jaw hit the floor during the sonic transition in “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” and “Supercut” brought tears to my eyes due to its pop perfection. Brand New’s Science Fiction knocked me on my ass as the longtime fan in me devoured every nook and cranny of the album, only to have my heart shattered by sexual misconduct allegations against the band’s frontman. As the new year approaches, this rollercoaster of emotions has become an occurrence as natural as the changing of the seasons.
The worst part of it all is finding out which releases were heinously overlooked by major music publications (Rolling Stone, Consequence of Sound, Pitchfork, etc.) whose lists can range from frustratingly comical to almost perfect. Beautiful albums that were destined for major attention include Paramore’s After Laughter and St. Vincent’s Masseduction — they’re artists who have deservingly made a name for themselves to wide audiences — but my heart can’t help but break for The Menzingers’s After The Party, a damn near perfect reflection on adulthood and aging. I ached alongside the humanism of Mt. Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me and Phoebe Bridgers’s Stranger in the Alps, albums whose lyrical content is as intimate as their compositions are astoundingly unique. The Maine’s Lovely Little Lonely and Oso Oso’s The Yunahon Mixtape were two of the best rock albums I’ve heard in recent memory, only to be overlooked in lieu of bigger names.
Despite their lack of critical attention, these are albums I’ll cherish for years to come, affecting me in different ways throughout the course of this year. As I write this, I fondly reflect on the music that made 2017 special for me: screaming along with my friends to “Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu” at The Maine’s headlining show in Pontiac; watching Oso Oso play to 50 kids in a basement; moshing to “Tellin’ Lies” during The Menzingers’s set at Riot Fest. Without regard to their media attention, this music will indelibly mark the way I experienced the past year.
Every year has its highs and lows regardless of the music released, and 2017 has undeniably been a tumultuous year politically and socially. But it’s also a blessing to be saturated with such incredible music over such a short period of time. Music that keeps us grounded and nostalgic, comforted and thoughtful — music that ranges from powerfully political to emotionally groundbreaking. So every December I’ll continue my ritual of reflection and growth, staying thankful for all the new releases, both good and bad, that carried me through another year.