Best of 2017 - Nick Poyner's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2017

Nick Poyner's Picks (2017)

Staff picks

“This year has been a year.”
- Someone

It’s been a big year for me, personally. All my possessions boarded a truck and travelled across the country, while, I myself boarded an airplane and did the same. Welcome to Los Angeles, me.

The last show I saw in New York was Big Thief. During their last song, Adrianne Lenker’s amp wasn’t working. She ditched her guitar and sang it anyway. Very punk rock. Then I cried with a big group of friends. Also very punk rock.

Anyway, these are albums I enjoyed this year.

Top 20 of 2017

20. Paramore: After Laughter

Fueled By Ramen Records

While Paramore dabbled with the an 80s sound on their self-titled album, this is Hayley Williams at full 80s pop glory. They’ve ditched the dark atmosphere and internal band politics for even catchier hooks. “Hard Times” was all over the place this year, and the band deserves the reinvigorated success.

19. Gorillaz: Humanz

Universal Music Group

Damon Albarn took a large step back from voicing lead cartoon 2-D here. Humanz is one giant experiment like only an album theoretically by cartoons can be. With a guest list that includes Grace Jones, Vince Staples Jehnny Beth, and De La Soul—to only name a select few—it is a unique listening experience that somehow stays cohesive.

18. Lil Uzi Vert: Luv is Rage 2


Something about the 23-year old rapper’s flow and colorful persona clicked this year. He’s one from the new crop of young rappers embracing their emo fandom and he did it best. “Neon Guts” with Pharrell is an obvious highlight.

17. St. Vincent: MASSEDUCTION

Loma Vista

MASSEDUCTION is the furthest we’ve gotten from Annie Clark and the closest she's gotten to performance art. But the album remains personal and heartbreaking. “New York” tells the story of her past life and “Los Ageless” finds her asking, “How could anybody have you and lose you and not lose their mind too?” Her voice remains as stunning as ever.

16. Rancid: Trouble Maker

Hellcat Records

For my money, this is Rancid’s best release since Life Won’t Wait. With Tim and Matt now in their 50’s and Lars not far behind, it’s amazing Rancid can make an album this compelling, managing to blow their younger peers out of the water.

15. Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound


Cloud Nothings are three for three on their last albums. Dylan Baldi’s songwriting gets better with every release, even if that means ditching some of the immediacy. I would be remiss to not bring up Jason Gerycz’s drumming, the best in indie rock right now.

14. Rozwell Kid: Precious Art

Side One Dummy Records

Each song on Precious Art is delivered with total earnest even if the subject matter is ridiculous. “Wish Man,” for example, is 56 seconds of pure joy. But whether they are at Wendy’s, watching UHF on DVD or shoving their fingers up their noses, Rozwell Kid take early Weezer and update it for 2017.

13. The National: Sleep Well Beast

4AD Records

The National are another band ditching their guitars for more electronic elements. Admittedly Bryan Devendorf’s drumming is sometimes missed, but the Dessner brothers prove themselves experts with any instrument they get their hands on. Plus Matt Berninger’s always-reliable baritone finds a new, heavy topic to make you sad about. This time it’s the hardships of marriage.

12. Craig Finn: We All Want the Same Things

Partisan Records

”God in Chicago” itself, especially with the music video, would put this album on the list. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking narrative, told only the way Craig Finn can. Here he’s made a solo album of losers who have no idea they’ve already lost. Sometimes it can be a hard listen but even a sad story is mesmerizing when told by the right narrator.

11. Marika Hackman: I'm Not Your Man

Sub Pop Records

The 25-year old British singer/songwriter’s sophomore album is full of well-defined personal anecdotes. She has a confidence even in her softest moments that show a woman presenting herself in full control. The Big Moon as her backing band help fill out the sound.

10. Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mile to the Surface


Having a baby really changes things, huh? Andy Hull has always been an excellent songwriter, but on A Black Mile to the Surface, he has a vulnerability missed on the past couple albums. Hull has created a complicated, brilliant album that few in his genre are able to pull off by going both quieter and bigger. For proof, look no further than back-to-back “The Maze” and “The Gold.”

9. Protomartyr: Relatives in Descent


Relatives in Descent is very much a product of the year 2017. It’s dark and complex. While Joe Casey is never at a loss for words, few are used to express any sort of positivity. The music only proves Casey’s point. Greg Ahee (guitar), Scott Davidson (bass) and Alex Leonard (drums) all find their own ways to make this album even more harrowing.

8. Sorority Noise: You're Not As ___ You Think You Are

Triple Crown Records

Sorority Noise’s You're Not As ___ You Think You Are is reminiscent of the last Wonder Years’ record. Cameron Boucher is seeing a lot of negative things happen to his friends as he gets older. It’s hard to deal with. The band has been underappreciated for years now, but this is an elegantly written 30 minutes.

7. Julien Baker: Turn Out The Lights

Matador Records

Very few people can do the same thing twice and have it resonate even louder. Baker’s debut was filled with stories of depression and hope. The same goes for Turn Out the Lights. Baker has a few more tricks up her sleeve instrumentally this time, but her songwriting will always take the spotlight. She makes depression beautiful and relatable and her voice remains remarkable.

6. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.


DAMN. will end up as one of the most heralded albums of the year and rightfully so. Always one to zig when you expect him to zag, Kendrick followed up his magnum opus with a verbal attack. He didn’t have to prove he’s the best lyricist out there, but he did it anyway. And then he hardly used a U2 feature. Because he’s Kendrick.

5. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3

Run the Jewels, Inc.

Technically this came out Christmas Day 2016, but the official release date was in 2017. Either way, El-P and Killer Mike have another perfect record under their belts. The lyrics, political or personal, only resonate harder as we come to the close of a turbulent year. These guys are leading politically charged rap.

4. Single Mothers: Our Pleasure

Dine Alone Records

Single Mothers may have lost some of their rougher edges (and a few members), but they have returned more viscous than ever. All of Our Pleasure rocks, but it’s the back half that defines this album. From “Bile” to “Bolt Cutters,” the band attacks with a confident low-life level that many attempt but few get correct. You can hear Andrew Thompson’s legitimate swagger through the speakers.

3. The Flatliners: Inviting Light

Rise Records

Chris Cresswell is one of the best frontmen in punk. His voice should make any singer jealous. His songwriting is impeccable. On Inviting Light, the Flatties took some noticeable chances (“Chameleon Skin”) to mixed critical results. But the whole album is plastered with giant hooks and loud guitars. The songs are about discomfort, the band’s bread and butter. Without a doubt the record I listened to most this year.

2. The Menzingers: After The Party

Epitaph Records

This album, a noticeable step up from their last, finds The Menzingers uneasily transitioning into their thirties. “Lookers,” possibly the best song from 2016, has the band reminiscing on the good old days while “Midwestern States” finds them running from home. The title track is one of their all time bests. After the Party proves The Menzingers are one of the greatest, most hardworking bands in punk rock.

1. Big Thief: Capacity

Saddle Creek Records

Every intricate bit of Capacity is stunning. Masterpiece was an emotion tell-all from Adrianne Lenker but here she goes even deeper. Her stories are so personal that they are sometimes uncomfortable. Every song evokes so many feelings. But it’s the nursery rhyme chorus of “Mary” that proves very few songwriters are capable of crafting anything as delicate as Lenker.