While I didn’t have near as much time to listen to music in 2017 as I normally do, there were a ton of releases this year that caught my attention. These 20 were the cream of the crop for me and, if you’d like to hear for yourself, check out the Spotify playlist that’s at the bottom of this article. Also, I included some honorable mentions, which will be placed on a different playlist. Let me know your thoughts, as well as what albums blew you away this year! 2018 is shaping up to be an incredible one, so let us know what you’re most excited for in that regard, also!
#20 Hotel Books – Equivalency
Until this year, I haven’t been into much spoken word/melodic hardcore music, outside of my good friend Great Counselor. This year, I decided to dive a bit more into it and I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing Hotel Books is! This is the band’s first offering as a full band and Cam Smith’s most vulnerable writing to date. If you’ve been a fan before this, you need to check this one out.
Kesha had a tumultuous few years before her triumphant return to music this year. The result is a much more matured, serious sound for the electronic pop icon, lyrics in relation to overcoming her struggles and just a hint of the sassy Ke$ha that she once was. Make no mistake about it, this marks a turning point in her career and I only see it going up from here.
Tragic Hero Records newcomers, Northern Ghost, released their debut album and it’s one of the most emotionally-driven releases I’ve heard this year. WARNING: Don’t listen to this if you don’t want to get hit in the feels, hard.
When it was announced that Story of the Year was going to be releasing a new album this year, fans gathered their excitement and took it to new heights. While their last offering, The Constant, was more tame compared to their previous material, Wolves promises a taste of nostalgia, along with a newfound energy that will get you singing/dancing/headbanging along the entire way.
#16 Evanescence – Synthesis
Evanescence has had an incredibly impressive music career and, when it was announced that they would be reimagining some fan favorites, there were (understandably) some skeptics. However, upon the unleashing of Synthesis, most were silenced and we were brought to a whole new side of the band that, hopefully, remains present through future albums. The addition of an orchestra brings these tracks to life in such a beautiful way and you would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking it out.
#15 Alazka – Phoenix
Alazka (formerly Burning Down Alaska) released their debut offering, under a new name and new line-up this year and the result is an undeniably catchy, explosive album that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The title Phoenix lends itself well, as they’ve rose from the ashes with spectacular form.
“Zac Farro returns to Paramore for a new album!” We all saw the headline, we all got excited and we all hoped that it would bring back his brother, Josh Farro, as well. While we didn’t get the latter of the two, the result of Hayley, Zac, Jeremy and Taylor’s blood, sweat and tears are exemplified in this tremendous album. While there is a very somber overtone to the lyrics, the upbeat nature of the music and the playful air that it gives creates a phenomenal listening experience. 80s synthpop Paramore, don’t leave us anytime soon! The sound suits the band well and shows another side of their songwriting.
I started hearing about this band, thanks to my friend Lee Jennings (vocalist for The Funeral Portrait) when I asked who impressed him most on The Incubus Tour. Suffice it to say, they did not disappoint. One of two of the most musically interesting bands on the Revival Recordings roster, their debut offering leaves you wanting more. Will we see a Shatterproof full-length in 2018? Only time will tell! For now, don’t miss out on this phenomenal EP!
Metalcore at its finest, August Burns Red returns to their roots with Phantom Anthem. Aside from Architects, there are few who know this niche genre better and they prove it with every note, lyric and beat on this album. It’s no wonder they were considered for a Grammy this year!
#11 Versus – The Cardinal
The Cardinal is more than an album, it’s the start of a movement. Directed toward those who struggle with addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts, it’s a heartfelt album that features some of the most angst-ridden vocal passages I’ve ever heard. To say that vocalist Joe Taylor poured his heart in these songs doesn’t even begin to give credit to his bravery in penning this album. Luckily, we’ve got an equally amazing band of musicians behind him to back those up. If you don’t find yourself crying at some point while listening to this album, you simply have no heart.
#10 Charlatan – Remarkable
I’m so glad that I discovered these guys. Beyond that, I’m able to call them my friends. Remarkable, hands down, is one of the oddest listens you’ll have all year. From gritty, death metal influences, to catchy pop anthems, emo vibes and a vocalist who, at times, seems to draw inspiration from Gerard Way… there simply isn’t a more interesting album to have been released this decade.
#9 Trivium – The Sin and the Sentence
Fans wanted a return to the heavier side of Trivium and, in a sense, they received that with The Sin and the Sentence. With a new drummer, the band set out to record their most compelling work to date and the result is 11 tracks that take Matthew Heafy’s soaring melodies to even greater heights, and some of the best low-end work of the year. Paolo Gregoletto began to truly find himself as a musician with Silence in the Snow but with this album, he’s truly a shining star. It’s not hard to see why this album is the first, in a long time, that fans seem to agree on!
Fronted by Mark Pfromm (Chris Fronzak’s little brother), there are a lot of similarities between their vocal styles, each displaying an incredible amount of talent. New Obsession takes you on a dark ride through a mind of the faithless, the lost and the outcasts. A dark offering that takes you for a ride with every track, unrelenting until the very end.
I’m going to get a lot of hate here and, honestly, I’m perfectly fine with that. The band’s self-titled album is far from the heavy, metalcore-fueled return that fans were hoping for with the return of Danny Worsnop to vocal duties. However, I can honestly say that naming this their self-titled release, being confident enough to say that this is “their” album makes complete sense after multiple listens. This is AA at their best, boldest and brightest. An arena-ready, explosive offering that will keep fans guessing and does its best to show just how far the band is willing to go, to maintain a sound that is a cut above the rest.
Dayseeker hasn’t released a bad album yet but Dreaming is Sinking//Waking is Rising might just be the breakthrough album that they have needed. Vocalist Rory Rodriguez’s talents shine like never before and the rest of the band has never sounded better. A must-have for any fan of great, emotional ‘core music.
#5 Wage War – Deadweight
This is the metalcore album to beat this year, hands down. Wage War comes out swinging and connects with every punch, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Younger bands, take note, the bar has been raised high and the metalcore torch has been passed.
#4 LIGHTS – Skin & Earth
Everything about the release of Skin & Earth excited me from the beginning. An immersive, conceptual story with a comic book series to accompany it? Sign me up! It wasn’t until I got my first taste of this world that I truly fell in love with just how remarkable an artist Valerie Poxleitner-Bokan is! Not only is the story captivating, the music matches the tone of each plot twist and she really brings it to life with her comic series.
Return to the Bummerdome: Internet band Introvert, fronted by our own Connor Welsh and rounded out by Eric Fletcher, seeks to bring light to some incredibly heavy topics in an equally heavy musical environment. Not once have they NOT been on my album of the year list and it’s because of the mass amount of talent that they possess. Not only is the music heavy, you find yourself immersed in every screamed, yelled or spoken lyric that Welsh throws at you.
Initially, this album was fairly high on my list but I got to see these guys live and that brought a new light to how amazing these songs truly are. Wrapped in Vines, Covered in Thorns is the band’s debut, full-length offering and it does its utmost to show just how much talent these guys possess. Not to mention, there are some incredibly relatable topics and lyrics here… and a message that needs to be heard. Watch out for these guys in 2018!
#1 Inertia – The Process
These guys created something truly special with their debut offering. A hard rock core with death metal influences and unique vocals, coupled with lyrics on a variety of important topics (dealing with domestic abuse, for one) and thrown together by some of the most talented artists that CA has to offer. This album was at the top of my list to begin with, when I first heard it in mid-January and hasn’t budged once. I’m proud of these guys, what they’re accomplishing with their music and what 2018 will hold for them. Keep an eye out, NT will have all the dirty details when they are announced.
She Pulled the Trigger – Now or Never
In Loving Memory – Introspective
Drop the Act – The Art of Thinking
Stories Through Storms – What Keeps Me Up At Night
Volumes – Different Animal
Palisades – Palisades
I, The Oracle – Shattered Memories
The Bunny The Bear – The Way We Rust
Oceans Ate Alaska – Hikari
Taylor Swift – Reputation
Backwordz – Veracity
Veil of Maya – False Idol
Shadow of Intent – Reclaimer
In Hearts Wake – ARK
NF – Perception
Whitney Peyton – Firecracker (Pyro Edition)
Kelly Clarkson – Meaning of Life