This fall offered plenty of interesting album releases, so narrowing this list down to 12 was not easy. I’ve chosen to focus on well-known artists from a variety of genres in an attempt to highlight the best albums released this fall.
Songs of Experience – U2
A little band called U2 released an album this year. Need I say more? Give it a listen, and no, nothing will ever be more iconic than “Joshua Tree,” but this one’s still worth your time. As a companion to “Songs of Innocence,” this album carries notes of the inevitable sadness that comes from living in the world.
Carry Fire – Robert Plant
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin’s frontman) continues his proliferate solo career with an album full of the best he has to offer: a voice like seductive mountain fields full of wildflowers, subtle percussion, experimental melodies, and poetry about social justice, romance, and the natural world. It’s impossible to fit Plant’s album into any single genre, (but categorizing by genre is overrated anyway), which is yet more evidence of Plant’s versatility. If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan, you’ll certainly find a few new favorites on this album. If you ain’t a fan yet, listen to “Raising Sand” — Plant’s collab with Alison Krauss — and then listen to all nine studio albums by Led Zeppelin.
If All I Was Was Black – Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples, gospel and R&B singer known for her family group, The Staples Singers, brings her soulful funk to a new generation with her sixteenth solo studio album. Mavis ain’t afraid to speak the truth to black people and white people and everyone in between. You can’t sit still when you’re listening to Mavis’ music, and she wouldn’t want you to. Her joyful soul songs are not only an expression of her musical talent, but also a subtle call to action to a broken nation.
Syre – Jaden Smith
In one of the most interesting releases this year, Jaden Smith forges into rap and hip-hop with his debut album “Syre.” The first song on the album features his sister Willow’s otherworldly voice and the entire album exhibits a restless, ethereal quality. For a young artist who has spent most of his life in the limelight, Smith is surprisingly contemplative as he wrestles with racism, identity, and personal pain. Smith pays homage to his predecessors, like Kanye, but he unabashedly makes his own statement in the world of rap.
Beast Epic – Iron & Wine
The perfect winter album, “Beast Epic” is a testament to Iron & Wine’s poetic gifting and musical talent. It’s great for studying, travelling, or staring out the window at slow raindrops and swaying pine trees. “Beast Epic” could possible be one of the best acoustic albums (hat tip to Chase Waller) of 2017.
Sleep Well Beast – The National
If you’re looking for a chill indie/alternative/electro/rock album, this is the one for you. I can’t say that The National breaks new ground with their seventh studio album, but this addition to their repertoire features pensive songs that are simultaneously upbeat and relaxing.
Wonderful Wonderful – The Killers
Most of y’all are probably already aware of this one, and nothing will ever be better than “Hot Fuss” (that’s a fact), but this article would be incomplete without at least a mention of The Killers. “Wonderful Wonderful” contains plenty of The Killers’ characteristically uplifting melancholic themes paired with drifting melodies.
Villains – Queens of the Stone Age
This album’s really for the rock and roll punks born a couple decades too late to appreciate Led Zeppelin. I’m including it on this list for it’s unapologetically rock essence. This doesn’t mean you have to love rock and roll to appreciate this album; Queens of the Stone Age crafted an album that fits just as well in 2017 as it would in 2007 or 1997.
Concrete and Gold – Foo Fighters
I’ve gotta admit, I was surprised that both Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age released quality albums this year. The Foo Fighters combine classic elements of rock and roll, upbeat hardcore riffs, and hints of blues resulting in this gem of an album.
Shapeshifter – Knuckle Puck
Every time I think pop punk is truly dead, I return to Knuckle Puck, and they give me hope. Since the band’s inception in 2011, Knuckle Puck hasn’t changed their sound drastically. However, they refrain from repeating the same old pop punk tropes. (Okay, this isn’t entirely true; the lyrics capture adolescent angst, love, and wanderlust, but it’s pop punk so deal with it.) When the classics from the early 2000s pop punk scene just aren’t enough, give Knuckle Puck a try.
Phantom Anthem – August Burns Red
While probably worthy of the coolest cover art award, “Phantom Anthem” can only be recommended to those who already appreciate metalcore/hardcore. That being said, the rock/alternative/punk scenes all have something to learn from August Burns Red. This album is cohesive tonally and thematically. For August Burns Red fans, “Phantom Anthem” may disappoint only because it treads old territory, but for those just beginning to listen to August Burns Red, this album is a treat.
Beautiful Trauma – P!nk
The sheer power of P!nk’s voice is reason enough to listen to this album; the lady’s got pipes. Even as she fades into mainstream pop, P!nk stands out from the rest of the divas because of her natural talent and open honesty. She deals with her usual themes of broken relationships, love, loss, and pain in her latest album, but each song tells a small piece of a larger story.
This list is just a small taste of the music of 2017, but there’s plenty more out there. Here’s my challenge to you: step outside your comfort zone and give a new artist or band or genre a listen.