Roy Trakin’s Pazz & Jop Poll 2017




  1. The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic) The kind of album to restore your faith in the rudiments of rock ‘n’ roll, Adam Granduciel’s crystalline vision is equal parts Bruce Springsteen (vocally) and Mark Knopfler (musically), and if that makes it dad rock, well so be it. Deceptively calm on the surface, it rewards the kind of immersion that produced the album’s title.
  2. Kendrick Lamar, Damn (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): The world’s reigning rap champion and critical consensus album of the year digs deep, exploring the roots of his insecurity in the shadow of all that success and recognition. The final track, “Duckworth,” offers a real-life story as improbably as any fairy tale, and places Lamar’s rise firmly in the vagaries of reality that plays out like fiction. 13
  3. Randy Newman, Dark Matter (Nonesuch): Between the metaphysics of the opening “The Great Debate,” which unfurls like Preston Sturges meets Samuel Beckett, and the deadpan hilarious “Putin,” the political album of the year comes from the fertile mind of this still spry 74-year-old, whose eleven-album catalog comprises some of the most idiosyncratic and savvy lyrics in pop songwriting history. 12
  4. Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life (Interscope): The sad-eyed chanteuse of the L.A. basin returns with more of her little-girl-lost musings, but this time she’s grown into a character in her own carefully constructed cosmos. She lulls you into her confidence, then somehow makes you feel guilty for having done so. Her shamelessness continues to mesmerize, I can’t explain. 11
  5. Father John Misty, Pure Comedy (Sub Pop): The man’s irony knows no bounds, and on a certain level, you know he’s taking the piss and nudge-nudge-wink-winking his way to the bank. Only the great Randy Newman could pinpoint the instant satisfaction of today’s ADD culture like the artist formerly known as Josh Tillman, as he contemplates “bedding Taylor Swift’/Every night inside the Oculus Rift.” Oh, sure he thinks he’s smarter than he is, but he’s definitely smarter than most everybody else in pop. 10
  6. U2, Songs of Experience (Interscope): An album that doesn’t so much recycle their past greatest hits, as update them for a new, more sober and treacherous time. Still offering their own bromides, the idea that love can lead the way to light isn’t new, but Bono, The Edge, Mullen and Clayton finally find what they’ve been looking for just as they’ve stopped looking so hard. 10
  7. St. Vincent, Masseduction (Loma Vista/Concord): Annie Clark has an ambivalent view towards modern technology, at once wide-eyed innocence and sly sarcasm, that straddles alternative, EDM and art-rock, with loving, yet knowing, nods to both her adopted hometown “New York” and the left-coast tyranny of staving off growing old in “Los Ageless.” 9
  8. SZA, Ctrl (Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA): Like Insecure’s Issa Rae, SZA balances the vagaries of love and sexual bravado with a hard-earned independence, forging a new take at the intersection of R&B, hip-hop and prog. Overcoming her fears, SZA fuses quiet rage and sensual longing into music that defies easy categorization, melding all those disparate elements into an alluring whole. 8
  9. Chicano Batman, Freedom is Free (ATO); Los Angeles’ best-kept secret is a KCRW mainstay, but their third album, a brilliant hybrid of the Farfisa-laced East Side Latino soul/R&B a la Thee Midniters and War, finally hit the sweet spot. 7
  10. The Replacements, For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino/Warner Music Group): Like John Ford once said, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That’s what this album is all about. 5

RUNNERS-UP: Arcade Fire, Everything Now (Sonovox/Columbia); Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Arts + Crafts/ANTI-); Haim, Something to Tell You (Columbia); Damian Marley, Stony Hill (Republic Records); Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)


  1. Logic, “1-800-273-8255” f/Alessia Cara, Khalid (Def Jam): A pop song that actually had real-world reverberations.
  2. Migos f/Lil Uzi Vett, “Bad and Boujee” (Quality Control/300/Atlantic): Instant meme.
  3. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still” (Atlantic): A left-field hit to a Motown bass beat for an alternative band that had no expectations.
  4. Arcade Fire, “Everything Now” (Sonofox/Columbia): A mock-serious anthem for the Internet age, with just the requisite amount of snark.
  5. Khalid, “Young, Dumb & Broke” (RCA): Speaking for millennials everywhere.
  6. Pink, “What About Us” (RCA): An old-fashioned rock radio anthem that you reflexively turn up everytime it comes on.
  7. Haim, “Want You Back” (Columbia): The Valley girls’ ode to Ventura Blvd. is a celebration of the 818 in all its unhip glory.
  8. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” (Arts + Crafts/ANTI-): A diamond-hard post-punk gem that lives up to its name.
  9. Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar” (Interscope): A welcome 2017 sighting of Tina Weymouth and one of the world’s great bass riffs.
  10. Lorde, “Green Light” (Lava/Republic): Exhilarating rush of pure adrenaline.
Roy Trakin

Roy Trakin is a pop culture critic, pop and rock music aficionado, published author and online talk show host, not to mention diehard Mets/Knicks/Jets fan. Since 1992, this Brooklyn-born, L.I.-raised Jewish American prince has been exiled in the depths of the San Fernando Valley (south of the Boulevard, natch), paying off the SBA loan on the earthquake-damaged, still-hasn’t-recovered-its-full-value house he shares with his indispensable wife of 32 years, Jill Merrill, and two auteurist theory offspring, Taylor, 27, and Tara, 23. He has written for most every rock publication that ever mattered (and no longer exists), as well as serving as Sr. Editor for HITS magazine and Hollywood Reporter/Billboard.

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