The best albums of 2017

Cardinal Sessions choose their top 30 records of the year

After a very busy 2017 in every possible way, let’s take the time to look back. We love music. We love more than 30 records. But we can’t write about every single one of them.
So here’s our TOP 30 best albums of the year. Let us know about yours.


30. Fazerdaze – Morningside

Fazerdaze played our festival in may of 2017 and their record is spinning on our players ever since: The New-Zealand Dreampop-Shoegaze band delivered a beautiful album that features lots and lots of wonderful songs.
Best songs: Little Uneasy, Bedroom Talks


29. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet

If we had a category “Best album title”, Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast would be a lock. “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” is not only a beautiful titel, but also a pretty accurate description of the sound. The dreamy indie-pop is wonderful to listen to.
Best songs: Driving Woman, Road Head


28. WOMAN – Happy Freedom

WOMAN is a band from Cologne, consisting of three guys in their twenties who finally released their debut album. They’ve been around in local clubs for quite some time and always been somehow the perfect example for NOT sounding german – which is quite an accomplishment for a german band. They’ve also played our festival, a sold-out show in Cologne the day they got their debut on vinyl in the mail.
Best songs: Marvelous City, NYD


27. Moses Sumney – Aromanticism

Moses Sumney from California doesn’t really sound like anyone else. The soulful music meets fragile lyrics, sung by a beautiful voice that hits you right in the heart.
Best songs: Quarrel, Don’t Bother Calling


26. All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War

All Them Witches is a rock band from Nashville, Tennessee. The pure sound of “Sleeping Through The War” is what hits you in the first seconds – interesting, heavy riffs, played kind of slowly, drags you in more and more. A wonderful, moody record, that will be a miracle if you play it at the right time.
Best songs: Bruce Lee, Am I Going Up


25. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

James Blake and King Krule are featured guests on this album and drew out attention, too, to be honest. “Love What Survives” might be the biggest surprise of the year for us. Definitely feels way bigger than anything Mount Kimbie has done before.

Best songs: Blue Train Lines, Delta


24. Langhorne Slim – Lost at Last, Vol. 1

Langhorne Slim is an old favourite at Cardinal Sessions ever since we saw him opening up for The Lumineers and being a million times more exciting that evening. He knows how to write heartbreaking songs as well as happy songs, his voice always sounds honest and raw. Really, it’s a treat. The new record might be our favourite of his.

Best songs: Life is Confusing, Lost This Time


23. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

We just love how Laura Marling is doing her own thing. She seems to be in her own sphere, writing music she loves. “Semper Femina” features more instruments than her early records, it almost feels orchestrated.

Best songs: The Valley, Next Time


22. Future Islands – The Far Field

The live shows are always just breathtaking. Still. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. “The Far Field” is everything you’d expect from this band. It’s not as hard as some of the early songs, though, but still an exciting record that drags you in with beautiful melodies and heavy synths.

Best songs: Time On Her Side, Ran


21. King Krule – The Ooz

“The Ooz” is King Krule’s third studio record (under this name) and it might be his best yet. We don’t even know what genre this would be, King Krule feels home everywhere. It’s as much a rock record as it is a blues record as it is kind of a Hip-Hop record. Made to be listened to in the loudest way possible.

Best songs: Dum Surfer, The Ooz

20. Marika Hackman – I’m Not Your Man

Marika Hackman is a singer-songwriter from London. Her second album “I’m Not Your Man” is a perfect, quiet, intelligent little piece of music. There will be so much more to come, we’re sure. Check out all of her videos, as they are really well-done and beautiful.

Best songs: Boyfriend, Violet


19. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

Courtney Barnett’s “Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit” was one of our favourite records of 2015, right next to Kurt Vile’s “b’lieve I’m going down…”. Both recording an album together is a match made in heaven. It sounds suprisingly happy, we love the lightness, the videos and everything else.

Best songs: Over Everything, Fear is like a forest


18. Benjamin Booker – Witness

“Witness” is not as heavy as the self-titled 2014 record, but Benjamin Booker’s voice is as touching as ever. His songwriting is amazingly strong, a modern record that has its own style in between rock, gospel, soul and the blues, of course. Years ago, we shot a session that shows everything we love about him: A voice that melts your heart, a moving song and wonderful lyrics.

Best songs: Off The Ground, Believe


17. IDLES – Brutalism

IDLES might be the most exciting live rock band in a long time. Be sure to catch them if you can. “Brutalism” is in the tradition of all the great english rock bands: A heavy, political album that should be on every list this year.

Best songs: Mother, Well Done


16. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me

Certainly the most tragic and honest record on this list. A meditation about Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum loss of his wife and an example of how music can make you deal with something as tragic as this. Feels a little bit like Elliott Smith.

Best songs: Real Death, Emptiness Pt. 2


15. Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm

Waxahatchee’s “Ivy Tripp” was 2015’s best kept secret, a record that showed how Katie Cruchfield’s abilities as a songwriter were getting stronger and stronger. “Out in the Storm” is great, sharp and witty, and still she delivers melodies that stay in your ears for weeks.

Best songs: Never Been Wrong, A Little More


14. Angel Olsen – Phases

Angel Olsen’s songs always feel very special, from a different time, reaching us in the most desperate states of mind. “Phases” is a collection of B-Sides, Demos and Covers. We love every single song on the record. Olsen said that the album feels a little bit like her diary being taken to public, and really, it has an even more intimate feeling than her usual studio records.

Best songs: Special, Tougher Than The Rest


13. Conor Oberst – Salutations

After 2016’s “Ruminations”, recorded solo in the winter, now “Salutations”: The same songs (plus some extra), full-band (The Felice Brothers! And Jim Keltner!), and it feels completely different. We love both takes. Oberst’s songwriting is so good that it doesn’t seem to allow him to write one bad song, the full-band-versions (the way the songs were originally intended) sound brillant.

Best songs: A Little Uncanny, Too Late To Fixate


12. Baxter Dury – Prince Of Tears

Baxter Dury is Ian Dury’s son, an influence is definitely something you can figure out. Baxter’s “Miami” is a brillant song, an 80’s New-Wave hit that could well be on the Soundtrack of “Drive”.

Best songs: Miami, Prince Of Tears


11. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Don’t Get Lost

“Don’t Get Lost” is another example of how interesting BJM’s work still is, not weaker than in the mid-90’s – but different. Experimental, bold music that is too good to be played on the radio. Also, we love the songtitles: “Acid 2 Me Is No Worse Than War” or “Dropping Bombs On The Sun”? Count us in.

Best songs: Open Minds Now Close, Throbbing Gistle


10. Kevin Morby – City Music

Kevin Morby, an american singer-songwriter, loves Lou Reed. And Bob Dylan. And clearly you can hear both of them influencing Morby’s songwriting on “City Music”. The record is a real treasure, a classic american songwriting album with its own flair. Beautiful.
Best songs: City Music, Dry Your Eyes


9. Infinite Bisous – W/ Love

Listen to “Teen Sex” by Infinite Bisous and try not to love it, we dare you! The most chilled album of the year, a guy that offers all you want from a Lo-Fi-record.
Best songs: Teen Sex, (Terminally) Lovesick


8. Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

There is nobody out there like Mac – every song he writes feels so easy, yet deep, funny… the whole catalogue. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice in 2017, and both sessions were amazing. “This Old Dog” is a very good record that is just what you’d expect: A Mac DeMarco album. In the best possible way.
Best songs: This Old Dog, Still Beating


7. Faber – Sei ein Faber im Wind

Something is happening in Switzerland, and it must be good. Faber writes songs that are better than any other german-language-song has been in a very long time. His lyrics are very captivating, interesting, intelligent, the live shows are AMAZING, really, and we think there’s a lot more to come.
Best songs: Lass mich nicht los, Alles Gute


6. Ryan Adams – Prisoner

He’s still the man. “Prisoner” marks Ryan Adams’ sixteenth solo studio album, and, of course, it is great. What else would you expect? There still is no one who can write melodies that beautiful so easy. There is nothing between Adams and the song, it just seems to happen. It might not be a miracle like “Love is Hell” or “Heartbreaker”, but it’s a damn good record.

Best songs: Do You Still Love Me?, Doomsday


5. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights

Julien Baker’s “Rejoice” was one of our songs of 2016. Her second album “Turn Out The Lights” shows, that “Sprained Ankle” was no coincidence – the emotions and thoughts are still all in the lyrics, there are not too many outbursts – it doesn’t feel like a record a Then-21-year-old has written. “Turn Out The Lights” is a very impressive album, every song as strong as the one before – and it feels so very real and raw.
Best songs: Appointments, Claws in your Back


4. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Protomartyr’s “A Private Understanding” could just be the best rock song we’ve heard all year. The Detroit band is around since 2008 and delivered a remarkable record with “Relatives in Descent”. In a good world, they would headline all those festivals you’re going to.
Best songs: A Private Understanding, Half Sister


3. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps

We first met Phoebe Bridgers backstage at Conor Oberst’s concert early 2017. She opened the show and sang on three songs with Oberst, who told us to keep an eye on her – “an amazing singer and gifted songwriter”. Turns out, she really is. Her debut “Stranger in the Alps” has everything a good record should have. Her voice is a treat, her songwriting is even more astonishing. The whole record – even if the lyrics tend to be really dark – feels light. No wonder she’s around Ryan Adams, The War on Drugs and Conor Oberst (who also sings some lines on the album).
Best songs: Killer, Would You Rather


2. Perfume Genius – No Shape

The best concert of the year was easily the one we saw Perfume Genius playing – in a church in Cologne. The record SOUNDS amazing, it gets you close to tears, full of emotions and fragile. It’s a great achievement: Everything in artwork, clothing, videos in Perfume Genius’ work seems to be kind of a show – but it is as real as it gets these days.
Best songs: Slip Away, Run Me Through


1. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

“A Deeper Understanding” is our record of the year, even though it doesn’t take many risks – “Lost in the Dream” had a similar sound. But there’s no need to change much: The band has absolutely found their own sound, their own way of writing songs. The War On Drugs’ live shows can be absolutely mesmerizing, the songs – we still like to think of them as Bob Dylan meets the E-Street-Band – are beautiful, poetic and sharp. Also, there are not many guys around who can write lyrics like Adam Granduciel.
Best songs: Thinking Of A Place, You Don’t Have To Go


Photo of this post is ©The War On Drugs.


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