Crazy to think that we’re more than halfway through 2017 already. There has been so much great music released over the course of the year so far and I wanted to highlight some of my favorites, in no particular order. Keep in mind that some of these I albums I’ll be listing have reviewed on this blog and others I have not. Naturally, I couldn’t review everything that was released, but I still want to bring attention to them! So without further delay, let’s get into these albums.
Arca – Arca
One of the most disturbing, yet beautiful records I’ve heard this year. Arca’s self-titled third album is his most mature release yet, stripping back almost all of the flashy, experimental electronic music to make an album centered around the human body and its many intricacies. The theme of sex is pervasive on this album and Arca explores it in a mature way. It’s such a captivating listen and it has a way of just leaving you mesmerized.
Visible Cloaks – Reassemblage
The latest album from Portland’s Visible Cloaks is one that blends ambient with textured electronic music. The best comparison that I can make is to Oneohtrix Point Never’s 2011 masterpiece Replica. Like Replica, the ambience on this album is dense and weighty. Above all else, this is textured and I mean TEXTURED. I’ve never really seen an ambient album have this much going on underneath the surface. There’s always something going on with this record. On tracks like “Bloodstream” and “Wintergreen”, there are all of these little sonic tricks that you may miss on your first few listens. The production quality on this album is simply immaculate with each sonic tingle sounding so lush. Definitely one of the best electronic albums of the year.
Somi – Petite Afrique
I have to thank Oliver from the deep cuts Youtube channel for recommending me this one. Somi is a jazz musician hailing from New York whose latest album is a beautiful look at the life of an African woman living in Harlem. Somi’s voice is consistently stunning across this album and lyrically she relays her experiences and thoughts in a fresh new way. It’s an absolutely essential record for any jazz head.
Radiohead – OKNOTOK 1997 – 2017
Yes, I’m well aware that this is technically a remaster of OK Computer. The remastered tracks are great, but I wanted to highlight the second disk for this album. Now, a little backstory about me and OK Computer. My personal favorite Radiohead album is In Rainbows and then OK Computer after. After hearing the remastered tracks and Man of War and I Promise, I think that may need to change.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN
Kung Fu Kenny really delivered with this new album. Memes aside, I think that DAMN is one of, if not, the best albums of the year. What makes this album so great, among the obvious reasons, is how Kendrick is still able to impress me. Even after all of these years, Kendrick is consistently putting out some of the best rap albums and it’s nothing short of incredible. I find myself revisiting this album constantly and it gets better after every subsequent listen. From bangers like “HUMBLE” and “DNA” to reflective tracks like “FEAR” and “DUCKWORTH”, DAMN remains one of Kendrick’s most tightly knit albums to date.
Future Islands – The Far Field
This album grew on me a lot following it’s release in April. When I initially reviewed this album, I liked it, but wasn’t feeling a couple of the slower tracks like “Time on Her Side” and “Beauty of the Road. THe mixing was also a bit of an issue. Since my initial listen though I’ve been playing this thing NON-STOP. “Aladdin” still remains my favorite opener from any Future Islands album even beating out “Seasons”. Sam Herring is an absolute beast on vocals and he does little inflection changes that just give these songs a distinct feel and personality.
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
A Crow Looked At Me is an album that I haven’t revisited at all since my initial few listens, but even after months, it still sticks with me. The overwhelming sense of dread and grief that looms over this album is agonizing. I would hesitate to even call this music. Lyrically, Phil tackles death in a way that is so… new. It’s hard to not cry when you listen to this album. It’s a record that explores the death of a loved one in such a raw and personal way. I would say it does this better than any other album I’ve ever heard.
Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
After the band’s long hiatus, Fleet Foxes returned with an album that was as challenging as it was rewarding. The band maintains their signature harmonies and melodies while keeping the song structures very simple and sometimes repetitive. While this may be a turnoff to some, I really appreciate Fleet Foxes’ trying to experiment on this album. It’s not as catchy as their first two albums, but that doesn’t take away from how masterful the band sounds on Crack-Up. They sound just as heavenly as they did on their debut and on Helplessness Blues. “Fools Errand” still remains one of my favorite songs of the year and is currently the soundtrack to all of my long drives.
Paramore – After Laughter
Talk about surprises. Paramore’s latest album is easily one of their best as it fuses elements of 80’s synth pop while lyrically, sticking to the band’s emo roots. For such a bright and poppy album, this thing is a dark project. Perhaps that was the point. Hayley described the title of the album being “about the look on people’s faces when they’re done laughing. If you watch somebody long enough, there’s always this look that comes across their face when they’re done smiling, and I always find it really fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality. ” I think Paramore displayed this feeling to the nine’s.
Remo Drive – Greatest Hits
I actually had the pleasure of seeing these guys live about a month ago and the same amount of energy and spunk that they showed on their debut, was shown live. Greatest Hits is easily one of the best emo albums of the year. The album’s DIY production style might be off putting to some, but I think it complements the record over all. Lyrically is where the band shines. They are able to avoid a lot of the usual traps that a lot of emo bands tend to fall into. The band avoids becoming melodramatic all the while keeping the self-deprecation flowing throughout. The fact that this is their debut and it’s THIS good, just makes me excited for whatever they make next.
The xx – I See You
For a group that has been around for as long as the xx, they have unflinchingly stuck to their guns sonically. The band’s first two albums were very barebones pop albums that while I liked, I felt like could have used a bit more expression and personality. With I See You, the group finally does this in spades. Jamie xx’s use of sampling on this album adds life to the production this album, making the songs seem so lush and bright compared to the sometimes drab songs on the group’s earlier work. Tracks like “On Hold”, Say Something Loving”, and “Replica” are all shining examples of how Jamie xx is easily one of the best working right now. The sampling is also complemented by Romy and Oliver’s vocals. The two sound absolutely great on this album and they sound right at home over these beats.
Idles – Brutalism
The Bristol quartet Idles released an album that is easily the best punk album of the year. It’s name, Brutalism, is a perfect summation of how the album is. The album is brutal, visceral, and dirty. Brutalism is very reminiscent of punk music coming out of the UK in the 60s and 70s. Tracks like “Mother”, “Date Night”, and “1049 Gotho” are absolutely stellar. Smartly written and consistently hilarious, this album is a must listen for anybody who is into punk music.
Joey Bada$$ – ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
The New York emcee’s sophomore album is a definite left field one that no doubt was conflicting for a lot of fans of Joey’s 1999 mixtape and subsequent debut. I definitely was unsure about this album when I heard the singles “DEVASTATED” and “LAND OF THE FREE”. After hearing the album in full, I can say that this album is absolutely incredible. This thing is chalked full of some of Joey’s best tracks and the political message of this album is not only thought-provoking, but very welcoming. In truth, this kind of feels like a companion piece to Kendrick’s 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Joey examines race and police brutality from the perspective from a young black man who doesn’t have the answers. He wants to find the solution, but doesn’t know how to.
Lorde – Melodrama
Easily the pop album of the year so far, Lorde takes all of the elements that made Pure Heroine great and just amped them up to 11. Her voice is just so commanding on these tracks that it immediately grabs you and enthralls you. Lorde looks at adulthood in a way that I think so many people can relate to. Tracks like “Liability” and “Hard Feelings/Loveless” are beyond stunning and truly capture the feeling of adult life and how it is, well, melodramatic.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Josh Tillman’s nihilistic Pure Comedy is a record that honestly will never get old. I feel like this album is a soundtrack for the past few years that we’ve had as a society. Tillman just flows with cynicism throughout this album and he’s able to really get you thinking about your own life and the experiences you’ve had where life just seemed to not make any discernable sense. Lyrically, Tillman is on point with this album and that moment when he sings about that experience as a child on “Leaving LA” still remains fresh in my mind.
Mac Demarco – This Old Dog
Mac’s new mature approach to songwriting really helps to show his progression, not only as an artist, but as a person. His goofy persona is actually kind of hidden on this album for a ton that is way darker. Now, that’s not to say this album doesn’t have light-hearted moments on it because it does. Those moments, on songs like “Baby You’re Out” and “One Another” contrasted with the slower moments like “Sister” and “My Old Man” really give the album an interesting flow to it. Lyrically, the album sees Mac in a very reflective mood. He talks about lost love, his parents, and the overall woes of life. As Mac gets older, he sees things in a different light and I think that he does a fantastic job of showing that.