SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2017


photo cred Chelsea Lauren/Rex

Welcome, welcome. Another year, another late set of year-end lists from ya boi FeedTheDog. At least it isn’t February.

This year, my lists are being published following the 2017 Grammys, a pointless, forever-shitty circle jerk so trivial I immediately regret even invoking it by name — so I thought I’d center my lil preamble here around some reflections on inconsequential accolades and the idiots who award them. This may be a little longer than my usual intros, so if you’re only here for the inconsequential accolades themselves, scroll right past all these angry word boxes to the nice big picture squares below.

If you are one of the ~eleven special people who ever actually read these lists, you know what I typically write in this space – lamenting the insane amount of time I devote to putting these lists together and openly pondering why I dedicate myself to such a meaningless enterprise. You could argue that everyone who publishes these kinds of best-of lists are wasting their time, but at least when Pitchfork and Rolling Stone share their best albums of the year, people read them.

Most of the reasons I continue putting these lists together, despite the above, probably have to do with personal issues of fear (e.g. what if one day I forget all of this) or mental dysfunction (e.g. I don’t know how to stop doing things once I start doing them)…. but here’s an interesting one: in my heart of hearts and mind of minds, I know everyone else is wrong. Really wrong. Surely other people who look at year-end lists also recognize that everyone is wrong, but are still looking for a list that may be right to help them identify great music they’ve missed. Here, then, is such a list.

But let’s pause for a minute and talk about who is wrong, and why.

If you are a publication that writes about music, even only occasionally, then you publish year-end best-of lists. You can find a fairly complete list of those publications in places like Metacritic and AlbumoftheYear.org, and they tend to fall into one of a few sub-categories:

  • The Old Guard (e.g. Rolling Stone, Spin, NME) — household names who have been writing about music since the premise of Almost Famous seemed realistic
  • The New Guard (e.g. Pitchfork, Stereogum, The AV Club) — publications that established themselves as tastemakers in the Internet Age
  • Genre-Leaning Pubs (e.g. Complex, Decibel, American Songwriter) – magazines and blogs that openly skew towards a particular genre or style
  • News Orgs (e.g. NPR, USA Today, Interview Magazine) — publications that have no business sharing their opinions on music

It should go without saying why The Old Guard is going to be wrong when ranking music — they are out-of-touch writers and editors, writing for an out-of-touch audience, whose legitimacy rests solely in the legacy built by people who no longer work there operating within a music universe that no longer exists. Genre-leaning outlets are similarly unhelpful, as their known genre bias tends to present itself quite visibly. Also, many if not most of these types of publications are similarly old and out-of-touch. Dedicating yourself to a singular genre is itself an outdated way of listening to music. News sites – man, I have no idea why places like Time Magazine and ABC News feel the need to publish lists at all. They don’t even pretend to have music credibility.  If you’re turning to a place like this for music suggestions, you’re so lost I can’t help you.

There’s nothing new in what I describe above, so if you’re like me, you tend to rely on the last category of The New Guard for your music recommendations, year-end lists or otherwise. I look at everyone’s lists every year as part of my process. And interestingly (or not), despite identifying a few as my most trusted sources, their lists never look similar to mine. Not even close. And after my seventh (!!) year doing this, I’m ready to say it’s not me, it’s them. And I’ve concluded that there is one reason why no one publishes decent year-end lists, and that reason is white supremacy.

* * *

When I say white supremacy, what I mean is this – even among The New Guard, rock and folk music are considered precious and capable of more significant degrees of excellence than pop, hip hop, r&b, and electronic music. And before I get too far here — yes, black people are responsible for basically every genre of American music coming into existence, and race is in no way a limitation for what kind of music an artist can create. I’m also not claiming that music publications fail to give credit to black artists, either – I’m well aware of Kendrick’s domination this year, and Solange’s the year before that. What I’m saying is that, as in so many areas of society, we expect “black” music to work harder to achieve the same recognition afforded to lesser “white” music.

The simplest way to recognize that is in simple genre representation, rock vs hip hop. I don’t feel like pulling a bunch of stats to back this up, but if you’ve been paying any attention to popular music, you know that hip hop has been taking over rock for years, in every important category. And why not? Growth in art has always and will always come from what is exciting and accessible to young people. In the modern era, if you’re a young person who wants to start making music, you can download free software and start making beats in seconds. No bandmates, no physical instruments, no lessons required. The freedom of modern recording is subsequently giving us some of the most inventive hip hop as scenes pop up around the world and then find each other online. Popular music now reflects and reinforces this as well – better hip hop on the radio means more people are inspired to make that sort of music themselves. Iron sharpens iron, and all that.

Music publications, however, have some strange resistance to acknowledging this shift. I’m old enough to remember the days (around 10 years ago) when Pitchfork was considered bold for writing about pop and hip hop to begin with. Writing a review for a Beyonce album was a statement. And despite the fact that we now identify Kanye West as a “Pitchfork artist”, we shouldn’t forget that The New Guard claimed their original legitimacy on the cult of “indie” and a certain breed of snobbery that turned its nose towards any music considered mainstream, instead heralding a collection of emerging scenes of independent music. Those scenes of music, it turned out, were primarily collectives of white rock musicians. Not to say that underground, predominantly black and brown music scenes weren’t thriving concurrently – there just wasn’t the same push being made by music publications to highlight them.

Despite the change of culture since, particularly the rise of the “poptimist” (i.e. snobs intellectualizing pop music), these lists haven’t changed much. While a wider range of genres may be represented, they simply are not being treated equally. Looking at Album of the Year’s aggregated 2017 lists — which grades albums based on the spots they claim on critic lists — 9 of the top 50 albums are hip hop by my count. Genres can be a little blurry, but I’d count 21 rock albums in the same top 50. After digging through all of this year’s releases to compile these lists, this ratio isn’t just off, it’s absurd.

Notably, some of the hip hop records that top my list — Young Thug, GoldLink, Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, Mura Masa – were unanimously lauded in reviews by the same critics declining to recognize them at the end of the year. This frequently leads me to ask the question, what makes a record worthy of “Best New Music” type accolades, but not worthy of a year-end list? To me, calling a record one of the best of the year isn’t all that different from calling it a 9 or a 10 – if there’s any additional criteria for best-ofs, I’d say it’s the record carrying some kind of cultural significance or breaking new ground. But looking at the typical year end list, that clearly is not the differentiator for music publications, unless someone wants to explains the cultural significance of another boring Julien Baker album to me. If anything, it seems like the unfortunate differentiator for other publications is something like “meaning”, the legitimacy of which ultimately being tied to arbitrary moralizing and again, white supremacy. White people singing about being lonely will always be given more credit than black people singing about fucking.

Let’s look at what is actually happening in rock and in hip hop in 2017. Hip hop for starters…. has never been better. Artists like Young Thug, Migos, Playboi Carti, and Lil Yachty are inventing new subgenres, making music that sounds like nothing that has ever existed before while building legions of followers and copycats. Competing creative forces in hip hop are pushing artists to take greater risks and elevating everyone’s game. Even freaking Jay Z just dropped an art album, his best in like fifteen years, as his latest Sprint-Tidal content product. Jay hasn’t made interesting music since Kanye West was best known as a producer, he’s designed a business model that guarantees any album he “releases” will “sell” no matter the quality, and somehow we still got The Story of O.J. in 2017. The Culture made him do it.

Rock music? Like the rest of the world, I’ve been listening to more and more pop and hip hop and less and less rock, but this year is something else. The well has gone dry. Even if you think I’m missing something, look at the rock records topping critics lists this year – LCD Soundsystem, The War on Drugs, The National, St. Vincent. None of these artists are breaking compelling new creative ground, even within the context of their own work. None of which represent a sound that is exciting or new. None of which represent a thriving, young music scene. All of which are boring.

* * *

There’s something I can’t relate to among many people my age (late 20s/early 30s) where they seem to settle into a listening rotation of music that is only nostalgic, and while they may continue to pick up the latest releases of their favorite artists, they aren’t interested in any new music beyond that. In time, they begin to hold the music of their youth as precious, and somehow more meaningful than anything that could come after it. And they do crazy things like spend money to see Weezer live in 2018 (oh wait). I remember the moment in my childhood where I realized that’s all Rolling Stone and Spin were ever doing – aging out of relating to new music, while exhaustively cherishing the glory days of rock and roll. They were more interested in making sure I, a young audiophile, understood how important Elvis and B.B. King were, and how useless I would be as a music fan without this education. Otherwise, why would I give a shit about who the 100 greatest guitarists of all time were?

I’m realizing now that the publications I trusted most growing up – Pitchfork, Stereogum – have reached the same age in 2017. And as soon as it becomes more important to tell your audience that, hey, LCD Soundsystem is really important!, as opposed to introducing them to new directions in music that are changing the world, your year-end lists are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, you’re not highlighting the best of the best and you aren’t sharing what is exciting about new music. You might as well be USA Today.

End rant. And with that, I give you the (actual) best albums of 2017. It was a great fucking year and I’ve never been more excited to be a music fan. As always, you can find all my top albums and my top songs on Spotify.

1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

2. Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti

3. Migos – Culture

4. Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls

5. GoldLink – At What Cost



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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2017


Whew! I’m goin’ in! 2017 let’s go!

This was a tough year for ranking songs. More good music exists than ever before and it’s gotten harder for me to stay on top of it, even as I get better at finding things.

Along with the typical smattering of American, Canadian, and English artists, this list includes bangers from all over the world — Jamaica, Cuba, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Korea, China, and Japan. This was a year where I was perpetually discovering and rediscovering dance music scenes around the world. I fell in love with the Afro Beat sound, which has evolved into this beautiful melancholy of moody chords, minimal beats, and autotune. I caught the return of the dance movements of my college days in Brazilian baile funk and U.K. bassline. I checked in on the big year K-PoP is having and discovered some insane stuff coming out of China and Japan. Oh, and one Justin Bieber co-sign later, and we have ourselves a veritable raggaeton revival.

On top of that, rap continues to dominate – more on this in my Top Albums intro. There is nothing more exciting than Atlanta hip hop right now and I am terrified for the end of this bubble. Kids, please give us something better than Lil Pump to inherit the future.

Here goes — as always, you can find the complete list on Spotify as well.

1. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO TOUR Llif3”

2. Starrah & Diplo – “You Know It”

3. Migos – “T-Shirt”

4. SZA feat. Travis Scott – “Love Galore”

5. Demi Lovato – “Sorry Not Sorry”

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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2016

Well, here we are. Publishing these lists very late every year, as I always do, sucks for a lot of reasons. People care less about this stuff in January. It puts me in the position of, in the case of this year for example, having that shitty feeling of missing a deadline drag  on for 25 DAYS. HOWEVER! I always get about an extra month of hindsight that the major music publishers don’t get.

Case in point: isn’t it cute that every 2016 wrap-up list you read in December tried to contextualize itself around the universally-agreed-upon prognosis that 2016 was the “worst ever”? Only about a week into Trump’s administration, I feel pretty confident the the future’s historians will agree it got a lot worse from there.

On the other hand, the prevailing themes that A) 2016 was an incredible year for music and B) great art is born from dark times couldn’t be more accurate. A few years ago on this blog, I made a big deal about pop artists like Britney Spears making great albums that weren’t just a handful of radio hits plus filler, which for most of my lifetime was the only expectation. In 2016, every pop star is an album artist, and we saw some of the most artistically ambitious projects from the biggest names in the game, from Beyonce to Rihanna to Chance the Rapper. In a campaign year, we got brilliant, politically-charged efforts from the most unlikely candidates (Ty Dolla $ign, YG) to the most woke (A Tribe Called Quest, Run the Jewels). Groundbreaking, innovative music has become the status quo in hip hop, with weirdos like Lil Yachty and Young Thug operating as household names.

There’s a lot about the future of our country and our planet that fills me with fear and dread, but if I can pull a silver lining here, it’s that we have some phenomenal artists who will continue to lift us and inspire us as we’re gearing up to fight the biggest fights of our lives. Look no further than the phenomenal output of black artists in 2016 – it is clear to me that in the light of police killings, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and false narratives being pushed by conservative media to villianize that community, we are seeing artists inspired to communicate their cultural experiences and their truth through their art. This is the most valuable art, that which seeks to express and preserve culture and our shared humanity. The more we see politicians attempt to challenge the humanity of various marginalized groups of people, the more I expect we will see art being created to reaffirm it.

On that note, in the words of the poet YG, FUCK DONALD TRUMP. When he is dead and nothing more than brittle bones and decaying Cheeto dust, these records will live on. Let’s keep making art, let’s keep reaffirming our humanity, and let there be a new generation of fight songs to soundtrack the takedown of fascism in America. BOOM BAP.

As always, this entire list can be streamed from Spotify here. Two amazing records from Beyonce and LIZ are the only exceptions, as they are not on Spotify. You can find Beyonce on iTunes and Tidal, and LIZ’s mixtape can be streamed here.

RIP Phife Dawg, this one’s for you.

1. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

2. Solange – A Seat at the Table

3. Rihanna – ANTI

4. Beyonce – Lemonade

5. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

6. Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo

7. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive

8. Hinds – Leave Me Alone

9. Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

10. Young Thug – I’m Up / Slime Season 3

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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2016


I’ll save most of my thoughts for the albums post – but it’s been a pretty great year for songs. Pop, hip hop and dance music are all peaking right now. My top two songs this year are top songs of the decade as far as I’m concerned.

My rules: one song per release (not artist). You can stream the whole list on Spotify here. Typically, this is where I’d mention that there are a number of songs that aren’t on Spotify and therefore not on the list, but I haven’t really been keeping up with my soundcloud artists this year, and all my favorite rappers released real albums this year (even though mixtapes all end up on Spotify now anyway)… so only two tracks on the top list are left out (Beyonce and LIZ).


1. Young Thug & Travis Scott feat. Quavo – pick up the phone

2. Rihanna feat. Drake – Work

3. Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

4. AlunaGeorge – I Remember

5. Post Malone feat. Justin Bieber – Deja Vu

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SPECIAL: What I Missed in 2015


Hi everyone! Happy late list release moment. I hope you’re all as excited as I am to be finished with 2016. 2017 is already off to a terrible start. Let’s get started.

For the uninitiated, every year I attempt to rank my top albums and songs, a process that I put an extremely unreasonable amount of effort into for unfathomable motivations, with the final product serving as little more than a slowly-growing time capsule of my personal taste. Nobody likes time capsules. Nobody reads these lists, either, this blog isn’t real, for years these have been the only types of posts I made. I don’t even write blurbs for the songs and albums any more because I’m tired and I’m finished.

So why do I do it? A sick compulsion, perhaps. But for better or for worse, this is how I digest music now, and I rely on my yearly review to confirm I’m digging through all the garbage and pulling out the greatest songs and albums of the year. As much as it can feel like an endless timesuck, I always end up falling in love with a handful of records I likely wouldn’t have ever listened to, and this year is no different.

Before we get to all that great stuff though, I like to acknowledge what I missed in 2015. Here are the notable 2015 releases that I didn’t discover until this year.

Basenji – Trackpad EP

I got pretty obsessed with this EP this year. Minimalist, bouncy, & extremely catchy “future bass”.








George Clanton – 100% Electronica

Image result for george clanton 100 electronica

Weird, goth dance pop from a Skylar Spence contemporary. The kids call it “vaporwave”.








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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2015


So these lists are always late, but this is the latest they’ve ever been posted. I have my share of excuses – major life events (good and bad) occurred one after the other during the months of November-January when I am usually focused on getting these ready. I debated taking a page from Matthew Berry and writing several paragraphs about those life events before getting to anything music-related – and while that may have even been a good idea, as usual, I find myself completely exhausted at the end of this thing, so I can only half ass it. I’ll just say that if I took the time to explain it, you’d say something like, “Oh, well, no, of course you couldn’t possibly have completed your lists sooner if you were dealing with all of that.”

The very few people who read these posts know what I go through to create these lists each year, but I’m not sure I’ve ever written it out on the actual blog, so here goes: the first time I ever attempted to name my own Top Ten albums of the year, I quickly realized how stupid it was. When I would compare the list to those on popular music sites, I would realize how little of the music being lauded I had even heard. My list could never be presented as the best albums of the year, it could only be the handful of albums one person listened to the most, partially because those albums were great, maybe, but also partially because those happened to be the records that found their way into that person’s life. A few months later, I’d find five albums I forgot to put on my list, and five more that I was only just discovering halfway through the following year, and my original list was at once meaningless.

In my own twisted mind, this meant if I wanted to make a list, any list at all, it would have to be as back-breakingly thorough as humanly possible. I would have to listen to everything. All releases, big and small, across all genres. And over the course of the next several years, I honed in on a process that now has me listening to playlists of every single new release of every week of every year and putting them into other playlists that slowly get whittled down into a list of about 200-300 albums that I will sit down and go through, track by track, and drop into a ranking, one by one. At the end of the year, I’ll also add from other people’s top lists, and I’ll sort through all the music outside of Spotify that I’ve been putting off putting on. Repeat all of this for songs, too. And I still miss stuff, and it still makes me upset, but all I can do is tell myself that I’m covering as much ground as I can reasonably expect from myself.

This, of course, is insane. It takes literal months to complete. I will refuse invitations to go out and spend much of the holiday season ignoring my girlfriend, my friends and family, to work on this list. When I’m done, I post them on a blog that was never widely-read and at this point exists for no point beyond containing these lists. I’ll get something like 30 views per article. Less than 10 Facebook friends will actually be interested in the result, and some of them won’t even catch it appearing in their feeds. Sometimes it elicits a handful of five-minute conversations with a few of these friends. I get some sense of relief that it’s done, but then I have to immediately start getting into gear for the following year. I mean, it’s 2016, I have a new Kanye record to listen to.

Consider also what this means for my listening habits. I never listen to music more than a year old. Keeping on top of all new music means never getting nostalgic, never diving into a moment in music history decades past, never even continuing to enjoy an album that came out only a couple years ago. Once an album is posted on this list, I may never listen to it again.

The problem is… when I debated not going through this exhaustive process this year, I realized I was trapped. My whole way of listening to music now revolves around this process. I was letting records by some of my favorite artists pile up without playing them because I knew I would eventually listen to them when I did my rankings. I’ve gotten addicted to being up on everything, so I know if I take a break or say, listen to music more casually, I’ll be back to missing things. That shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it scares me. I know deep down this somehow has something to do with my fear of death – that I know there’s more hours of music to listen to than I have hours left to live, and every day there’s even more being released, and for some reason, even though I know it’s actually impossible to ever keep up, I believe that if I don’t try as hard as possible to hear it all anyway, I might as well be dead.

At least 2015 was a pretty great year for music. In all honesty, it was one of the best years for music ever, especially if you were me. I don’t know that hip hop has ever been braver, more creative, more diversely talented (hip hop makes up more than 1/3 of this list, including eight in the top 20). My favorite rapper released the best record of his career, three times. My favorite DJ released the two best albums of his career within a span of a few months. I’m once again overjoyed and excited by the direction of dance music, propelled by nightcore and future bass. Pop music’s golden era of the 10s is plowing forever forward. The genre-singularity is practically upon us. Grimes. Psychedelic rock. So many amazing records.

My number 1 is bound to be met with some eye-rolls, but unquestionably, my most controversial ranking this year is putting Kendrick Lamar at #51. And allow me to say this – yes, Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented, creative, intelligent rappers making music today. Yes, To Pimp a Butterfly is an ambitious masterpiece of art and black culture. It is thoughtfully conceived and a true accomplishment of purpose, a powerful, cohesive statement, in ways few albums ever are. But here’s the other thing – this album is chock full of a few of the worst traditions of American music of all time, namely slam poetry, spoken word, and free jazz. In the contextual web that Kendrick weaves, their inclusion makes sense – they are signifiers to black musical history and culture and are part of the story he tells. So as much as I can admire the decision to put these elements onto his record, I do. But I still have to listen to it. I can’t rank an album in my Top 10 if I can’t resist skipping through large sections of it.

If I were a real music critic, maybe I’d feel like it would be “important” for me to recognize the brilliant work of art that To Pimp a Butterfly is. But as a regular old music listener, wanting to actually listen to your record comes first. None of these critics riding Kendrick’s jock would ever even think about putting on an album of any of these styles of music Butterfly pays tribute to. Nobody fucking likes slam poetry, and nobody likes free jazz. They are entire genres of garbage music, and I can’t stand for it.

Onto the list. As always, you can stream (almost) the whole thing on Spotify. Not included on Spotify are a few great records from Young Thug, Migos, Towkio, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Tory Lanez, and iLoveMakonnen.


1. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

2. Young Thug – Barter 6

3. Grimes – Art Angels

4. Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo present Jack Ü

5. Major Lazer – Peace Is The Mission

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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2015


I’m saving my wrap-up thoughts on 2015 in the albums post, so I’ll keep it brief here.

List is limited to one-song-per-release, but I cheated in a few places where I let two songs tie for a spot. You can find (almost) the whole thing on Spotify right here. As we mention every year, there are a number of great tracks in this year’s rankings that you can’t find on Spotify, including awesome songs from Young Thug, Migos, Towkio, ABSRDST, Lil Wayne, Tory Lanez, and some lovely K-Pop.

1. Young Thug, Birdman – “Constantly Hating”

2. Jack Ü, Justin Bieber – “Where Are Ü Now”

3. Tory Lanez – “Say It”

4. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”

5. ABSRDST, Diveo – “We’re Beautiful”

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