One More Chapter
A twenty two year-old's view on life, death,
and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories
and Taylor Swift conspiracy theories
Last year around this time, I created a post called "Album of the Year 2016." It was one of the best years the music industry had seen in a long time, and it still is. It was the year of "Lemonade," "Life of Pablo," "Joanne," and so much more. Exploring all those albums was amazing and overwhelming, in the best way. Over the past two months I've been exploring as much of the music that came out this year as possible, hoping to have a similar experience to last year. This year some of my favorite artists put out new music (The Staves, Passenger, Sufjan Stevens, Sam Smith, The Oh Hellos - the list goes on) but not much really blew me away. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed most of it and added many new songs to playlists, but there were only a few that really blew me away, felt special, or left an impact - and those made the top ten list. So if you're looking for something to distract you from the horrible news headlines for a little while, here are my choices for the best albums to come out in 2017.
~ T h e t o p T e n ~
(in no particular order)
"RESIDENTE" BY RESIDENTE
Residente graced the world this year with, perhaps, one of the most conceptually unique albums I've ever come across. In an effort to explore his own genealogy, the Puerto Rican rapper, known for the group Calle 13, traveled the world following the results of his ancestry test making both an album and a documentary, which premiered at the SXSW film festival.
Opening with the song "ADN/DNA" by the global phenomenon, Lin-Manuel Miranda (who turned out to be Residente, né René Pérez Joglar's, cousin). A song partially in English and partially in Spanish, it bears a classic Miranda sound that will hook any listener right off the bat and only gets better from there. Each track bears cultural traditions of music from all over the world, in places where Joglar shares distant roots, and involve collaborations with ten different artists from these regions.
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Star Tracks: "Una Leyenda China," "Dagombas en Tamale," and "Somos Anormales"
"damn." by kendrick lamar
It should be no surprise that Lamar's 2017 release makes it to the top of this list. After Lamar's album, To Pimp a Butterfly, quickly became one of the holy grail albums of this generation, his March release, DAMN., required almost no marketing in order to skyrocket to the top of the charts.
DAMN. is in album full of socially conscious and intellectual reflections on the black experience in America, featuring collaborations with Rihanna, U2 (who's new album he also features on), and Zacari, these 14 tracks somehow move beyond anything he has done before. Rolling Stone's Christopher R. Weingarten says of the album: "Producers like Mike Will Made It and Soundwave make Damn. feel state of the art – an album full of beat changes, tempo switches, back masking, needle bounces and broken melodies – but Lamar's rapping is timeless enough to step into Ice Cube's Death Certificate Timberlands."
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Star Tracks: "XXX," "HUMBLE," and "DNA"
"revival" by vancouver sleep clinic
Vancouver Sleep Clinic is Australian music producer, Tim Bettinson's, solo project which released its first full-length album this year with the miraculous "Revival." An ambient album filled with ghostly, heartbreaking vocals over-top bass tracks that feel eerily familiar. Choosing my top three tracks was the most difficult for this album. Each song unique, yet still contributing to the album's overall aesthetic, come together to create a smooth ebb and flow of emotions that will leave you wanting more and more.
A perfect album to fall asleep to, drive at night to, do homework to, or just close your eyes and let it take over the moment. Clear influences of Sigur Ros, Bon Iver, James Blake, and Gregory Alan Isakov are reworked with strong percussion in this new-age work of art.
Release Date: April 7, 2017
Star Tracks: "Living Water," "Sleeping World," and "Someone To Stay"
"melodrama" by lorde
This is Lorde's second album, releasing a whopping FOUR YEARS after her debut album, Pure Heroine in 2013. That's a long time for someone her age who came to the level of fame she had with the singles "Tennis Court," "Team," and "Royals." Soon after her massive success, though, Lorde fell away from the lights. She experienced her first heartbreak, moved into her own house, and worked on some much-needed introspection before taking the 18 months to create this coming-of-age release. And it was so worth the wait.
Melodrama, was listed in over 56 top album lists this year. This new Lorde is sad and weighed down yet, somehow, care-free and exciting. She makes you want to cry and dance at the same time. She is young but sophisticated. Her lyrics are clever and biting. She is brilliant. Slant said of the album, "it’s cathartic, dramatic, and everything else you could want an album titled Melodrama to be."
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Star Tracks: "Liability," "Perfect Places," "Writer in the Dark"
"Now That the light is fading" by maggie rogers
I'm not even sure where to start with this album. Technically most of the songs on this EP were released over a year ago but, because a complete EP featuring some new tracks came out this year, I think she gets herself in the running. This record features the songs "Alaska" and "Dog Years" which put Rogers on the map. "Alaska" had been presented to Pharrell Williams in one of her classes at NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recording Music and the video of the presentation went viral, with Williams applauding the young musician's unique sound.
The sound, as Rogers dedcribes it, is a mix of the classic folk sound she grew up with and the clubbing/dance music she experienced while traveling Europe. The result is a synthesized soul not far from a female Justin Vernon that has taken the indie music scene by force and definitely deserves a top ten ranking.
Released on: February 17, 2017
Star Tracks: "Alaska," "On+Off," and "Dog Years"
"Murder of the universe" by King gizzard & the lizard wizard
A friend of mine turned me on to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard about this time last year. I liked their sound, but they quickly faded off my radar until about November of this year when I read an article about the band's radical plan to release five albums in one year. What came out of this remarkable endeavor was a surprisingly successful series of releases, receiving widespread praise and favorable reviews.
One of these releases, Murder of the Universe, has crept its way to the top ten. The album is split in to three discs, or "chapters," that come together to create one of the most unique, yet enjoyable albums I've heard in a while. In a review by AllMusic, it was described as, "pummeling guitar riffs pitched between garage punk and heavy metal, Stu MacKenzie's yowling yelps at the mike, and the rhythm section's unstoppable drive combining to make exhilarating music that flashes like lightning trapped in a bottle and hits harder than Thor's hammer."
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Star Tracks: I've opted not to choose tracks for this as it flows too well to separate one from the other. Be sure to listen to these songs in the order they were established.
"relaxer" by alt-j
I couldn't make a list of the top ten without including the long-awaited release from Alt-J. Their first album since 2014's, Relaxer, bears a completely different sound than anything previous. Some tracks, like "In Cold Blood," pay homage to what gained the band their fan base with a nasal-like voice describing a morbid scene alongside an upbeat melody that you can't help but bounce your head to. Others, like "3WW" are a slow, eerie and reminiscent of another time with a Radiohead-esque feel to them. Plus, no one does a cover like this band with their poetic reincarnation of "House of the Rising Sun" that provides the perfect backdrop to a long drive at night. "Deadcrush" reminds us of the band's wit, describing lead singer Joe Newman's long-time crushes on Anne Boleyn and Lee Miller and the pain of loving someone who is long deceased.
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Star Tracks: "Deadcrush," "In Cold Blood," and "Hit Me Like That Snare"
"What now" by sylvan esso
The duo, Sylvan Esso, graced the music scene with their first single, "Hey Mami," in 2013. This year they released their sophomore album and for those who enjoyed their first, self-titled album, What Now is sure to be a hit. With more synthesized sounds, but the same witty lyrics. Sylvan Esso has presented the world with an indie-music-lover's wet dream.
With lyrics so melodramatic you might think they're satirical, the duo proves that the hyperbolic may not actually be so far-fetched when it comes to love and our pop-culture-obsessed world. The album provides a meta-like view of the world that will catch you off guard and keep you coming back for more.
Release Date: Feb 27, 2017
Star Tracks: "Radio," "Die Young," and "Sound"
"a black mile to the surface" by manchester orchestra
Manchester Orchestra, made up of Andy Hull (a.k.a. "Right Away, Great Captain!") and Robert McDowell (a.k.a. "Gobotron") who also worked together to score the film Swiss Army Man. Each album the life-long friends have released prove repeatedly how diverse the duo can be. A Black Mile to the Surface is no exception, and just might be their best release to date.
The album's stripped-down sound has allowed for more ebbs and flows and created a hyper-focus on Hull's lyrics rather than a heavy guitar section, like in previous albums such as Cope. Pulling some aspects from "Right Away, Great Captain!" we find a more intimate experience between artist and listener that takes us on an emotional journey through the mind of Hull. And, of course, Hull's voice pairs perfectly with the skilled musicality of McDowell, who mans the keyboard, guitar, works as the sound engineer, and is the producer.
Release Date: July 29, 2017
Star Tracks: "The Grocery," "The Maze," and "The Moth"
"HARRY STYLES" BY HARRY STYLES
Had you asked me a year ago if I thought a member of One Direction would ever make it onto this list, I would have called you crazy, and yet, here we are. With his first solo release this year and his first appearance on the silver screen (Dunkirk), it's become painfully clear that Styles' managers and producers have been holding back a tidal wave of talent. After his first single, "Sign of the Times," gave music critics whiplash with it's Bowie-esque sound, I should have suspected what would follow, but who could have expected the genius of this album?
With its echoes of soft-rock legends combined with a sort of modern angst, Harry Styles proves that this pop star is not to be ignored. Pitchfork wrote of the album, "Harry Styles wants to be a rock star—your father’s rock star, or maybe even your grandparents’ rock star. And so this sounds like the work of a musician whose desert island discs include Revolver, Tattoo You, and Vinyl: Music From the HBO Original Series - Vol. .1"
Release Date: May 12, 2017
Star Tracks: "From the Dining Table," "Carolina," and "Sweet Creature"
~ h o n o r a b l e m e n t i o n s ~
Not everyone could make the top ten, but here are some more awesome albums that I think deserve a nod:
Silhouettes // Aquilo - This album was actually in a top ten spot until it was bumped by Sylvan Esso, but it is damn good. After SIX (I repeat, SIX) EP's, the band released their first LP this year and I think Clash was spot on when they described the album as "a work of art sewn together with a mesmerizing voice, a vocal that stops you in your tracks and forces you to listen, especially on dramatic opener ‘Silhouettes’."
% // Ed Sheeran - An album that broke as many records as this had to make the cut, especially considering the fact that I've listened to "Shape of You" more times than I can count and still enjoy listening to it.
Masseducation // St. Vincent - Probably the best pop album to come out this year, and it spent a long time in my top ten until being bumped by Harry Styles. This album proves that pop music can be deeper than the cookie-cutter stereotype often associated with the genre.
Cigarettes After Sex // Cigarettes After Sex - A haunting and smooth Smiths-esque band that transports you to a different time and place. This slow-paced debut is a masterpiece of intimacy and heartache.
Triplicate // Bob Dylan - This year Dylan put out a three-disc collection called Triplicate which presented a side of the 60's legend we've never seen before. With an old blues and soul feel, this is the most personal side of Dylan we've ever seen.
Pure Comedy // Father John Misty - This is, by far, the most tame version of the indie-music-legend we've seen to date. A stylistic choice that works to add an ironic tone when juxtaposed with FJM's witty and satirical song writing.
Doves & Ravens (EP) // Dermot Kennedy - This young man ceases to amaze with his deep, raspy voice and slow-growing ballads. If you thought you loved his first singles, "After Rain" and "An Evening I Will Not Forget," you will surely fall for Kennedy's first EP with gems like "All My Friends" that feel simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic.
Younger Now // Miley Cyrus - This was the biggest surprise. I've never been one to enjoy Miley's music (aside from my Hannah Montanna days). I also have mixed feelings about her recent persona change, but there's no denying that Younger Now is a damn good album.
Sunday Night Sessions // Passenger - It was hard not putting Passenger's 2017 releases in the top ten purely because he is my end-all-be-all, but the two mini albums he released this year weren't the best I've seen from him. Sunday Night Sessions, however, did make it into the honorable mentions because of his unique covers of rock n' roll classics like "Loosing My Religion," "Ain't No Sunshine," and "Space Odyssey."
The Far Field // Future Islands - Future Islands have one of the most unique sounds I've ever heard. Their latest release keeps their scratchy, old school, indie-rock feel but calls forth a more romantic ideology than previous albums, reminiscent of broken-hearted rainy days.
Flower Boy // Tyler, The Creator - The Guardian put it well when they wrote, "...it feels like a statement, even a concept, an impression enhanced by reports that Flower Boy marks Tyler’s coming out."
Afterlove // James Blunt - Blunt reminds me of Train, in that he's now decades older than his original fanbase, but can still put out contemporary albums that will draw in younger and younger generations. Afterlove is Blunt's first album in four years and possibly his best yet.
Rennen // SOHN - I've been listening to "Hard Liquor" and "Conrad" from this album non-stop lately. SOHN's sound reminds me vaguely of Glass Animals, but more simplistic and a bit darker.
Songs of Experience // U2 - They had to make this release great after the upset over Songs of Innocence in 2014 being forced into everyone's iTunes account...and they more than succeeded. It feels like U2 is back, even if they never really went anywhere. This album feels fresh, current, and has something for everyone.
Love Yourself: 'Her' // BTS - BTS feels like the band of the year right now. The K-pop stars have a fanbase as enormous and crazed as The Beatles, and for good reason. Never have I enjoyed running on a treadmill more than while listening to this seven-piece boy band.
Hitchhiker // Neil Young - This year Neil Young released an archival album that had never before been heard by the public. Hitchhiker, recorded in 1976, is a vibrant reminder of why we first fell in love with Young. The politically charged album draws eerie parallels to our nations current political climate.
Pacific Daydream // Weezer - All I can say is that I can't wait for the summer to come so I can roll down my windows, feel the warm summer air and blast this album at full volume.
Revival // Eminem - Obviously, there is no way Eminem wouldn't make cut. With an album filled with more features than a Macklemore album, Revival is the conflicted, self-aware Marshall Mathers that we have all come to love. However, at times it can feel a bit stale, which is why it didn't make the top ten.
Turn Out The Lights // Julien Baker - Everyone needs a good cry every now and then, and Julien Baker has gifted the world with the best late-night cry album I've heard since Keaton Henson's Kindly Now.
Everybody // Logic - Logic is a master of his craft and his 2017 release only reaffirms this belief. With features wide they include Ansel Enlgort, Lucy Rose, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Everybody reminds us what it means to be human.
~ t h e r e s t ~
Here are the other albums I've listened to this year that, for a wide variety of reasons, did not make the cut. Many of these albums I adore and listen to frequently. This is not necessarily a list of bad albums, however, it's not necessarily a list with no bad albums...
(I starred the ones I especially enjoyed):
Here's to 2018 and all the music that we will discover in the coming year!
Thank you for reading,
About This Blog:
I started this blog as a way to challenge myself to write more over the 2014 year, but it has blossomed into so much more than that. I use it to let people in on what's happening in my life, talk about things I find important and to spread the news about amazing people, places and art.