1997 doesn’t seem all that long ago. Y2K was fast approaching and we were freaking out about machines cancelling progress and taking us back to the dark ages. Was it the fear and paranoia that gave rise to some of the best music in recent(ish) memory or was it something else? Whatever it was, when we got digging into the best albums of 1997, we were spoilt for choice when choosing favorites. While many at the time were apprehensive about what technology might have in store for us over the next few years, many bands and artists embraced it and made career – and genre – defining albums. 20 years later, these albums from 1997 are still on heavy rotation on our stereos and still sound just as good as they did back then.
So here it is, the Discogs’ take on the best albums of 1997:
This is perhaps the last in a series of essential RL Burnside releases on Fat Possum Records. This LP and its predecessors are the perfect blend of houserockin’ blues, classic gritty garage-rock, punk, + late 90s “indie” rock. Much like the folk-blues scene of the early 1960s, the punk-blues scene of the late 1990s successfully attracted a new generation into the world of “the blues” by breathing new life into a genre that had been largely abandoned by modern audiences, and it gave a second wind to the careers of old blues journeymen like Burnside. Additionally, this movement also helped to pave the way for the indie-rock/punk/soul/blues/garage scene on the late 90s/early 2000s from which would be born bands like the White Stripes & The Gossip.
– Shannon, Community Success Coordinator
I was hesitant between The Prodigy – The Fat Of The Land and Godspeed You Black Emperor – F♯ A♯ ∞ But I can’t ignore all the hits The Prodigy left us on this album. Countless times I’ve danced to Smack My Bitch Up, Breathe, Mindfields and Firestarter, I mean! Come on! Play it now and I’ll get all crazy! These tunes remind me my first festival in 2007 and the crazy parties in my hometown, so I’ll gladly say this one is the best from that year.
– Esther, Community Success Coordinator
Some say this is the worst of the U2 catalog, but I admire it for the risks they took in trying to pull it off. There are some stinkers on this LP, though… namely “Miami,” but had they had another 6-months and not be pressed for deadline to kick-off the Pop Mart Tour… who knows if it would have even made it on the record. Pop is ultimately a moment in time… evidence that your heroes can have flaws, but you’ll still love them that much more. Also, Lil got to do OK Computer… so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
– Jeffrey, Public Relations and Strategic Partnerships
I don’t even know where to start trying to explain how essential, beloved and formative Yo La Tengo has been for me over the years. While most of their albums are absolutely ace, ‘I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One’ includes such a long string of indie anthems and it feels so fresh and relevant 20 years after it was released. Yo La Tengo are like that friend you can always turn to when everything else isn’t working, that’s the level to which they always restore my faith in humanity.
– Javi, Community Success Coordinator
Elliott Smith’s third studio album, Either/Or is probably my favorite release from 1997 that I’m still listening to. As for what crap I was actually listening to in 1997… I’m not telling. Either/Or was just remastered and re-released by Kill Rock Stars earlier this month.
– Kirsten, Product Owner
I always talk about how ’97 is one of the best years in music. It was tough to choose, but as far as one album that I keep coming back to and one that keeps influencing me is Photek’s seminal LP Modus Operandi. The intricate drum programming and impeccable fusion of jazz with drum and bass sets this album apart. There was, and still is nothing really like this album to this day.
– Wes, Director of Engineering
1997 was a transitional year for me. As a dedicated Hip-Hop head since the beginning of the decade, I was becoming disillusioned with rap music. As far as major labels and the bigger media outlets were concerned: exit creativity and originality, enter the Shiny Suit Era. Even KRS-One had a Puffy remix; so corny. Even though my listening habits were pretty much completely outside the mainstream (might seem weird, but Hip-Hop was still not really mainstreamed before ’97), I had to start digging even deeper to get what I needed. Although I don’t personally consider ’97 a great year for music, I did make some nice discoveries that year; Company Flow, Jurassic 5, Abstract Tribe Unique, Latyrx – even some electronic artists like Amon Tobin, Roni Size, Daft Punk, Luke Vibert. Looking back at releases in my collection from ’97, MiLight by far stands as the one I’ve returned to the most over the past 20 years. This album also had the distinction as one of the abstract, beat-based releases that held me down until the indie Hip-Hop explosion in the late 90’s/early 00’s.
– Aaron, Community Engagement Specialist
The late 90s hip hop scene contained a certain celebratory vibe that I doubt we’ll see again anytime soon. From the certified classic Still Not a Player to the No Limit glory days of Make Em Say Uhh. However, the peak of this Y2K crescendo was Ma$e’s Harlem World, complete with amazing music videos of puffy, metallic space suits and fish-eye lenses. The style of this album was so unique and perfectly timed, the next decade of popular hip hop would be poor rip-offs of Ma$e and Bad Boy Ent. Make no mistake, this album will never go down as in the hip hop hall of fame, but we all know damn well when a song from Harlem World comes on at the club, the dance floor will light up within seconds.
– Rodney, Developer
The heart of this live album is Badu’s amazing rendition of “Tyrone,” the best and one of the earliest of a spate of songs by black women excoriating loser boyfriends. Later examples include TLC’s No Scrubs (1999) and Destiny’s Child’s Bills Bills Bills (1998). Neither of those later songs captures the sheer exasperation of “Tyrone” and the sublime hilarity of the end of the song, “You better call Tyrone / and tell him come on, help you get your shit. / You better call Tyrone / Hold up / But you can’t use my phone.” The rest of the album is no less incredible, with Badu’s jazzy powerful vocals harmonizing with some great backup singers and a slow jam feeling to the whole thing. This was my first introduction to Erykah Badu and continues to be one of my favorite albums.
– Stephanie, Controller
Yes something of a different pace
Fresh into ’97 make haste
Exclaims Dynamite MC on Railing the opening track of this 1997 classic. It was indeed very fresh and different, at least to my teenage ears. One of many classics from that year (Modus Operandi, Torque, Colours, Balance of the Force…) that kickstarted my decades long obsession with drum & bass. The Bristolian crew ended up snatching the Mercury Prize with this album, garnering mainstream recognition for the fledgling outsider genre. Live instrumentation, rap, vocals, dizzying rhythmic gymnastics and growling basslines are all incorporated in an album that flows better than most in this dj/club oriented genre.
– Karl, Developer
I was looking through my collection and although there are quite a few contenders from 1997, it feels wrong to pick anything else than “OK Computer”. I turned 21 in 1997, had just finished college and was working as a decorator in a garden centre, in their Christmas section -which meant working in a darkened hall for 4 months, telling people those baubles really were glass, not plastic, after which they would squeeze them and break them, trying to prove they were right (“but they looked like plastic!”)- I must have spent part of my first pay check on buying a ticket for Radiohead’s show in Ahoy Rotterdam and went there with my college friend Ramona. The sound, the setlist and Thom’s voice: It was magical. That performance still is one of the best concerts by any band I have ever seen in my life.
– Lilian, Content Marketing Specialist
I’m sure we can all agree we can live perfectly rich and full lives without ever hearing Song 2 again. Hell, at this point you’re probably better off without it. But I feel like many are quick to write Blur off on the back of that overplayed track and miss some killer stuff. Their eponymous album signalled a new direction for Blur, moving away from Albarn’s mockney suburban tales and giving guitarist, Graham Coxon greater creative license. Coxon’s guitar work gets a much more central role on this album and Albarn’s songwriting had evolved to be more personal, deeper and darker. As an album, It’s so varied. I thought I didn’t really like ‘Movin’ On’ and then someone pointed out the effects-laden guitar solo with Coxon’s guitar yelping like a dolphin (do dolphins yelp?). So yeah, turns out I really dig every track on this album. Even kinda Song 2.
– Jess, Search Engine Marketer
Long before their optimistic Top 40 longshot “Float On“, Modest Mouse created an album that captured the essence of the American West. The romanticized West of innumerable cowboy films and the modern-day West full of ghost towns and abandoned shopping malls. Rife with disillusionment at the continued commoditization of the “American Dream” “The Lonesome Crowded West” manages to be a meandering and imprecise snapshot of the follies of young adulthood, working class intellectualism, and a simultaneously outsider and insider perspective on a disappearing America. These concepts are all wrapped up in the most ramshackle indie rock imaginable stretched comfortably over two LPs.
– Mark, Developer
Radiohead – OK Computer
Don’t even have to think twice. OK Computer is one of my favorite albums of all time. Hell, it may even be my absolute favorite ever. The sonic landscape is completely engrossing; every time I listen I feel like I uncover some new detail, lurking in the background, that I’d never noticed before. The songs are tight and claustrophobic where appropriate (“Exit Music,” “Electioneering”), but you also get these great big vistas like “Lucky” and “Subterranean Homesick Alien” where everything opens up and you’d swear that you can hear all the way out to infinity. I won’t even start in on the awesome collection of guitar noise they stuffed in here. Okay, I’ll start, but I’d better leave it there
– Tom, Database Specialist
I will undoubtedly deal with a heckle or two for this one, but this album has a sentimental place in my heart. It was one of the first albums I liked solely because I liked it and not anyone else. It ignited my interest in making music of my own and has most likely led to my working at Discogs in an indirect and circuitous way. On top of all that it’s still a pretty solid and in your face rock album with a lot of melodic undertones and solid drums. Grohl’s voice is unrepentant and swings from soft crooning to intense wailing. Takes me back to simpler and more angsty days.
– Jeremy, Lead Developer
Oh this is a hard one as 1997 was probably my favorite year in music. I’m depending on my colleagues to cover some of my favorites like OK Computer, Lonesome Crowded West, and Dummy. I would even add Homogenic, Heart and Soul (Joy Division Box Set), Brighten the Corners, and The Boatman’s Call. My top 2 choices would be Blur and Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. I first discovered Discogs trying to track down Graham Coxon vinyl years ago, but since Jess is giving the shout out for Blur and Graham, let’s go with LAGWAFIS.
– Jon, Product Owner
This album’s got it all, two long spacey tracks, driving rhythms, lots of trippy effects and awesome bird noises that drive my cats crazy. This is everything I like about both artists condensed into a single listen. Perfect soundtrack for a long bike ride on a sunny day.
– Andy, Developer
As much as I’d like to pick something as impactful as OK Computer, support my hometown with a vote for Guster, or jump on that alt-metal bandwagon with Deftones, 97 was unequivocally the year of Bad Boy. That’s why I gotta go with No Way Out by Puff Daddy and the (Bad Boy) Family. I originally “borrowed” the album from a friend and a week later had all the lyrics memorized and refused to give it back. This _bad boy_ was pumping out of my 88 GMC Jimmy for months to follow.
– Ron, Director of Marketing
Spiritualized and Photek were already taken, so I’m going to name a few solid alternatives. If I’m going by how many plays a record has gotten over the years, Cornershop would be right there near the top for me. This album effortlessly employs so many elements with such amazing skill; you have rock, hip hop, folk, country, house, and a few more besides. With so many influences at work it’s a wonder it sounds so perfect. Honorable mention goes to GusGus “Polydistortion”. It’s a strange little album loaded with mood and odd songwriting, and not many records sound anything like it.
– Matt F, Database Success Coordinator