The year was 2017 and to be honest, any way you cut it, the year proved to be a truly mixed bag. For all the great music released this year, tragically, the world of rock remains heartbroken with the shocking, untimely losses of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, and Tom Petty. Words can’t do justice to express the magnitude of these losses. Stalwarts of alternative rock such as the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age reaffirmed why they are truly the kings of rock.
Leaders of classic bands brought down the house with great new solo albums while supergroups and side projects rose to prominence out of the shadows of their former bands. With the calendar about to close out another year, the time has arrived to take stock of the surplus of new musical offerings the year has afforded us. 2017 will no doubt be remembered for years to come as one of the most prolific, yet heartbreaking years in rock music.
On the verge of 2018, let’s celebrate the universal language of music and recognize the great music we were lucky to receive. Here are Alternative Nation’s Top Ten Albums of 2017, chosen by me!
- Roger Waters- Is This the Life We Really Want?
The Pink Floyd mad genius may not scream alternative rock star but that’s okay. The man possesses an innate ability to speak for the people. Twenty-five long years passed since Waters last released a solo album and to be honest, what resulted from that gap should provide Tool fans with an optimistic eye that sometimes, end result is worth the wait. Waters biting social commentary and uncanny knack for crafting timeless rock songs is on full display. One listen to “Smell the Roses” and you’ll swear Waters gets off on saying what everyone is thinking.
- Prophets of Rage –Prophets of Rage
Let’s face it. In a world where Rage Against the Machine would so perfectly provide the political backdrop to the insanity that is currently America, we can all agree that Prophets of Rage at least carry the torch. B-Real and Chuck D more than hold their own over the musical madness that is the instrumentalists of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Tom Morello shines as only he can with his hybrid of hard rock riffing and hip hop inspired lead guitar shredding. Prophets of Rage didn’t reinvent the wheel; but they kept the wheels rolling.
- Stone Sour- Hydrograd
To the uninitiated, Stone Sour are known merely as the side project of Slipknot front man Corey Taylor. Worse yet, in some circles they’re often thought of only in terms of “Bother” and “Through Glass”; two serviceable, but not truly representative singles from more than a decade ago. However, Stone Sour are much, much more and it’d serve you well to check out their 2017 album Hydrograd. Fierce, in your face riffing echoing late 80’s rock intermixed with brash, brooding metal, Corey Taylor and company proved that Stone Sour deserve, and demand, your attention. Taylor shines when given the wide musical canvas to play with. Without the darkness of Slipknot hanging over him, Taylor sounds like a man on a mission; rejuvenated and bursting with vibrancy and enthusiasm not heard in his voice since Slipknot’s Iowa nearly fifteen years ago.
- Linkin Park- One More Light
Linkin Park never truly seemed comfortable resting on their laurels. Even their sophomore album, Meteora helped push their musical bounds further than the typical rap-rock they instantly became known for. One More Light saw the band driving with an ambition and clear intention to not only stretch their musical comfort zone, but to destroy it all together. The album will go down as the last album Linkin Park released during the lifetime of their charismatic leader, Chester Bennington’s life. While the band and their fans continue to come to grips with his tragic passing, One More Light serves as an exclamation point onto the band’s thoroughly consistent discography.
- Primus- The Desaturating Seven
Primus Sucks! That may be what legions of diehard fans of the funk rock alternative giants chant whole heartedly, but anyone familiar with Les Claypool and the band’s infectious, self-deprecating sense of humor know the band wear that slogan as a badge of honor. Make no mistake, The Desaturating Seven proves Primus are masters of the bizarre. To play anything straight up just wouldn’t be the Primus way. With The Rainbow Goblins, an Italian children’s novel as the inspiration, Primus fire on all cylinders. It’s strange. It’s dark. The musicianship is so unbelievably legit you barely get a chance to catch your breath when immersed in this beautiful bizarre masterpiece.
- Mastodon- Emperor of Sand
For their seventh album, Atlanta heavy metal maniacs Mastodon took the progressive hints of their previous two albums and turned them up to ten. Longtime fans of the band may not agree, but when Mastodon flex their creative muscle, the proof is in the pudding. Retaining the brutality of their earlier albums but delving deeper into Pink Floyd and King Crimson territory, the band refuses to paint themselves into a strictly brutal metal corner. With a three-headed vocal attack, break-neck time changes and one of the most intimate, deeply personal metaphors for one of the horrors of life, Emperor of Sand may long prove to be Mastodon’s undoubted masterpiece.
- 311- Mosiac
Few bands have built a following like 311; they are a band of the people, for the people. The Excitable Ones, much like Deadheads of years past don’t only listen to 311, they live 311. When it comes to the twelfth album of a band’s career, often times, there’s a fair amount of rehashing going on. 311 averted this crisis in a big way on Mosiac. Not since the early aughts’ has 311 delivered a record so rich, so powerful that you swear they’re right in the midst of their prime. But honestly, 311 aren’t your average band. It’s quite possible, as crazy as it may seem, that twelve albums in, 311 are truly just getting started.
- Foo Fighters- Concrete and Gold
The Foo Fighters are quite possibly the biggest band in rock right now. Hell, they probably have been for the past decade or so. Coming off the super ambitious album/mini documentary Sonic Highways, the Foo Fighters found themselves back on track with Concrete and Gold. For all its glory, Sonic Highways the album left a resounding sigh musically. Concrete and Gold works better as the proper follow-up to 2011’s fantastic Wasting Light. Dave Grohl is a man of many talents. But where he excels above the rest is as a song-writer. Concrete and Gold is jam packed with super catchy riffs, explosive choruses and no shortage of surprises. “The Sky is a Neighborhood” harkens back to the Fighters’ mid-90’s immergence while raising the stakes melodically, helping them reach greater levels of rock immortality.
- Queens of the Stone Age- Villians
2017 may be ending on a bit of a sour note for Queens of the Stone Age main man Josh Homme but in terms of pure musical terms, Villains is, in a word, exhilarating. Following up 2013’s …Like Clockwork with such a colossal assault of musical mastery is an achievement nothing short of magnificent. From the pulsating, hip-swinging opener “Feet Don’t Fail Me” all the way through the melancholic closer “Villains of Circumstance”, Homme and the boys deliver an array of sonic pleasures. The band are masters of simultaneously rocking your face off and demanding you lose yourself in their attack. Most times when a band releases a new album, it’s easy to say its their best. Queens is the one band who just may actually have mastered the art of topping themselves time and time again.
- Billy Corgan- Ogilala
Billy Corgan found himself in an interesting spot in 2017. While the Smashing Pumpkins continue to rock their unique blend of alternative and classic rock, Corgan went the way of a solo album for the first time since his debut twelve years ago. Enlisting famed producer Rick Rubin, Corgan crafted an intimate, largely acoustic selection of songs that work perfectly as a quasi-soundtrack to the year that was 2017. Corgan’s instantly recognizable voice lays softly on top of patient, vulnerable passages of music while retaining the intensity and edge he has built his career on. Rather than take the safe route and deliver ten hard-rocking cuts, Corgan took a risk by stripping it down. The fact that it works so well is a testament to the fact that Corgan is a master at his craft. One can’t help but wonder though if this subtle, softer approach serves as a calm-before-the-storm approach before a possible, glorious reunion of the original Smashing Pumpkins.