I think 2017 might be the year in which I finally met my inevitable sad girl indie fate. It’s been a wild year, punctuated by two new jobs, one new house, a milestone birthday, becoming a ~published author~ and speaking to a sold-out crowd at Cheltenham Literature Festival. I did a lot of writing and got to interview some incredible artists. The singer of my all-time favourite band said one of my essays was beautiful. I swam the length of the channel over ten weeks for charity.
Whilst a truly extraordinary year, it hasn’t necessarily been an easy one, and I am fucking sleepy. As a result, I feel like my imagination was caught by music that is quietly angry and soft and forgiving in its sadness: anthems for a 30-year-old woman.
I can’t remember the last time I listened to a new hardcore record, and I’m sad about that. I’ve become reliant on my old favourites, keeping them close to my chest like old friends because I don’t need new ones. I hope that will change. If anyone wants to make me a mixtape or playlist, I’m here for it. Anyway, here’s what I did listen to this year, in no uniform order.
Paramore – After Laughter
A truth: the short moment in which Hayley Williams sings “uh” in ‘Rose Colored Boy’ – “and I have taken – uh – my glasses off” – is better than most of your faves’ entire output this year. That sharp drumbeat and Williams’ flawless melody has produced my song of 2017. The whole record served as an exploration of both crushing defeat (‘Fake Happy’) and dogged optimism (‘Caught In The Middle’, ‘26’), and I’m thankful for being able to sing along to it in my kitchen on tired nights.
The Menzingers – After The Party
I wasn’t necessarily expecting to like this record as much as I did – The Menzingers were always a band I liked rather than loved – but After The Party came out as I was waving my twenties goodbye, so it was probably a matter of good timing and better songs. In particular, the title track which captured my mood so perfectly with “Everybody wants to get famous / but you just want to dance in a basement.”
Strange Ranger – Daymoon
There really is nothing I love more than a warm, discordant emo record that nods to a bygone era without being uninventive as shit. Okay, real talk, I like a lot of the uninventive stuff too, but ‘Daymoon’ is absolutely not that. ‘House Show’ is a total emo anthem that reminds me of Rainer Maria’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ and I do not throw that around lightly, my friends. This is everything I’ve wanted from ‘the revival’.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
The sheer purposefulness of every bit of this record blows my mind. Using the Fox News sample, which criticises Lamar for speaking out against police brutality at the end of opener ‘BLOOD.’ into ‘DNA.’ is an absolute takedown drenched in self-belief. After 2015’s experimental ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, this record returns to a more accessible sound, with ‘LOYALTY.’ and ‘HUMBLE.’, but loses none of its potency.
Lorde – Melodrama
2017 was the year I discovered Lorde, and I am a better person for it. Melodrama is a masterful pop record; as it suggests, full of drama, but also insight. Lyrically, the highlights are the little quips, the side notes, intentional moments constructed to sound like afterthoughts, like “awesome, right” in ‘Homemade Dynamite’ or “who cares, still the Louvre”.
Adult Mom – Soft Spots
‘Soft Spots’ made me feel calm and grounded when I listened to it, with the melodic lull of opener ‘Ephemeralness’ and its cutting comedic moments such as in ‘Full Screen’. It’s an incredibly smart and considered record and felt like a balm during the chaos of this year.
Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
Turn Out The Lights is everything you would have expected from Baker: devastating and musically faultless. I got to interview her just before it was released, and it was probably my best piece of writing this year, so you could go and read that.
Tigers Jaw – spin
I feel like this record didn’t get the full recognition it deserved this year. That could be my perception, but ‘spin’ is one of the most impressive returns to form I can currently think of. It is everything to love about Tigers Jaw condensed. Take ‘Guardian’ or ‘Escape Plan’ for example, which stand up as the most sharply written indie-emo this year.
Princess Nokia – 1992
Princess Nokia was something we heavily needed in 2017. Her politics keen and vital, her activism extending from the stage to the subway. A new and young voice in rap standing tall, embracing identity and self-love (‘Tomboy’, ‘Kitana’) and a statement of intent from someone whose work is going to get so much better from here and they know it.
oso oso – the yunahon mixtape
I was late to the party on this, by about 11 months because that is the kind of person I am, but decided to sneak it in as a last minute addition because it is ~that~ good. It’s that kind of crisp, clean indie emo; like listening to peak Death Cab and re-watching The O.C. (a thing I did this year). I’ve listened to little else this month.
Some special mentions
Jeff Rosenstock’s ‘Worry’, which came out in autumn 2016 but was a year-defining record for me. I listened to a lot of Alex Lahey, particularly ‘Wes Anderson’ (also 2016) which made me feel the full range of human emotion in four minutes and has some of the finest “woah-ohs” going. In a similar vein (not a pun I swear) “Oh George” by Peaness was one of the catchiest tracks I danced to by myself, and the lyric “All your friends are just as bad / all your faces make me mad” is some straight-up righteous pop genius. Cardi B had the best rap single of the year with ‘Bodak Yellow’. TWIABP continue to make some of the most gorgeous and affecting music with ‘Always Foreign’ and Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Stranger in the Alps’ is a record I plan to spend a lot more time with, when I’m feeling up to it, y’know.