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2017 happened, whether we liked it or not. We’ve had a week or so to open our eyes again after the Christmas hibernation period, and it would appear that we have to do it all over again in 2018. Donald Trump is still the president of the United States, sexual assault is still rampant in the entertainment industry, abortion is still illegal in Ireland, and there’s still a refugee crisis. Happy New Year.
The hopeless politics of the past year has understandably left most of us feeling fragile and confused. The end of year list flurry lacked coherence across the board as music journalists attempted to pin down the defining sound of the year. There was no Lemonade or Life of Pablo to sum the year up socially or politically, and the albums that eventually topped lists varied widely from one publication to the next. This lack of clarity makes sense given the state of the political cultural landscape – how on earth are musicians supposed to sum up a dark year that was all but impossible to predict?
The year will always be defined by Donald Trump’s presidency, and its impact upon the cultural landscape is heavily felt. From Eminem’s relatively awkward anti-Trump freestyle, to commentary from Fiona Apple, Pussy Riot, Green Day, and even Death Cab For Cutie, there is a distinct mood among musicians that we do need to comment on this situation, but nobody seemed to be able to hit the mark. Father John Misty’s biting Pure Comedy was written and recorded before Trump’s election, as was Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., two of the most overtly political records of the year. Opting out of the conversation was Taylor Swift who returned with one of the most disappointing pop records of her contemporaries. Somehow, personal beefs with fellow rich white celebrities didn’t capture the hearts and mind of the public, nor was the music catchy enough to distract. It seemed, in 2017, that if artists weren’t commenting on the state of the world, they were doing their best to soothe, distract, and use nostalgia to help you remember when the world wasn’t literally on fire.
Nonetheless, HeadStuff’s music writers compiled their lists of the year’s best releases. The inclusion of albums from Vince Staples and Stormzy will come as no surprise to those with their eye on the industry this year, while welcome returns from The War On Drugs and The National solidified their respective positions as guitar-band giants. St. Vincent’s subversive alt-pop stormer Masseduction was as divisive as Lorde’s Melodrama, both of which explore introspective self-analysis in a world that doesn’t make much sense.
And so we take a final look back at 2017 in music. HeadStuff’s top ten albums of the year is a diverse and by no means exhaustive list of some of the good that came from such a tremulous year. Here’s to a brighter 2018.