Top 20 Albums of 20(17)
What does music mean to me in 2017?
2017 has been a weird year for me personally. It has been filled with finding beauty in unconventional locations and sadness in those we know too well.
I think it's important to note that I have been listening to music differently now. It has been a year of commuter music. I now have access to a car which creates a box of sound that feels like the experience you always wish headphones could provide. Your own world of music surrounding you. And the music surrounding me was exclusively from 2017 as I deleted everything pre 2017 from my library.
Meaning behind music has also helped me cope with the death of two important family members and personal anxiety associated to the VOID a state of being I have brought myself to in recent months living at home. The void was something I used to joke about but discovered in its fullness in the fall. A lost sense of purpose as well as a failure to make decisions due to a strong sense of weight attached to any and all decisions as if they set you on a path of no turning back. It is a state of crisis, my first real life/identity one. and friends, family and music remain important remedies for me.
I, like many of us do not have regrets and in these darker moments have learned a lot about myself that I would not have, had things all gone according to plan. For this entire year there has been no plan.
However things have not been all down, 2017 has been a fantastic year in so many ways. I have done so many things I could never have imagined and have gained more and more respect for sound and it's ability to impact us at very personal levels and as a great tool for communication whether that be learning how to communicate in another language, being moved by native instruments in more tribal settings or sitting in silence for 10 days.
It’s always difficult to fully appreciate a piece of artwork in your first interaction with it. Often art grows on us the more we digest and interpret it within our own personal experiences. These expereices which tend to create nostalgia can be shaped through associations with feelings or places, times in our lives, people, moods and so much more. As I experience and listen to more and more music it only strengthens the relationships I have with my own defining songs and albums. Last year I was not impressed with the music that was released and looking back I was wrong to do so. This year has been great in that I believe many new artists are being discovered like never before. But I do believe you only really get to know how important a year in music is to you much later when you find yourself either going back to music from that year or not.
2017 was a big year for rap. We have Jay-Z and Kendrick two old reputable names neck to neck for best album of the year but we have seen a renaissance of young rappers from Lil Pump to Lil Uzi Vert to Lil Yatchy to 21 Savage to Offset to Playboy Carti to Cardi B and many other new rappers emerge and being recognized for their music that stands out.
I want to end by taking note of how I felt writing this end of year article. I have always loved writing my top 20 albums and being able to share with the world my meaningless preferences when it comes to the world of music and pay my respect to the artists that moved me in the last year. However, I don't think I will be doing this much longer. Music is one art from that has been very relevant in my own life over the last 5 years but I see this relationship weakening in large part because I am no longer surrounded by avid music listeners. Since graduating from university almost 2 years ago my relationship to music has become very indiviudal.
I listen to new albums on my own once and often never go back. I listen for the novelty, the mood, that feeling thats generated when you listen to something unlike anything you've heard before that is beautiful in a distorted unique way. This year I have listened to approximately an album a day and to be honest a lot of them were junk, a lot were mediocre and some were good. But I don’t know if I will continue to listen to new albums on blank slates. I'm curious to see where 2018 will take me.
TOP 20 Albums
20. Mura Masa // Mura Masa
The much anticipated first LP by Mura Masa is exactly what you want from Alex Crossan. He has the ability to make every song feel like a single. With a production influenced by Zaytoven, Hud Mo and Diplo this album felt like a more predictable version of Cashmere Cat's 9 with features from indie Pop/RnB artists.
19. Alvvays // Antisocialites
I'm not compelled that Antisocialistes provides the same enjoyable sadness or should I say debauchery felt in Alvvays however their mellow indie sound is still vibrant. Molly Rankin's voice still has one rocking in their chair thinking of that sappy romantic fling you had last summer. Similar to their first album, Antisocialites has 4–5 songs on the album that will bring you to that special place as if they were scents transporting you back to the exact moment of encounter.
And yes their ability to provide an album artwork that adds so much to the music is still a reality.
18. Mac Demarco // This Old Dog
How many dicks do you spot? I see 8. Mac Demarco hasn't really changed. Teaching an old dog new tricks is not easy but on "This Old Dog" we get to experience more from our young buck Mac. This album is like every other Mac Demarco album except different. Both This Old Dog and Salad days embrace a soft base line with melodic synths creating songs like Passing Out the Pieces or For the First Time.
17. Vince Staples // Big Fish Theory
Big Fish Theory is HYPE. Listen to Big Fish, Party People, Yeah Right or Hommage. The Opening track wich is co produced by Justin Vernon feels like a windy day at the port which transitions the beautiful sprinkling noises of water collecting on Big Fish. This album has boombastic production from a nobody Sekoff and SOPHIE. However it is the careful attention to the littlest details that makes this album so memorable.
16. JMSN // Whatever Makes U Happy
For all the JMSN fans out there this is no Blue album but you already knew that. On Cruel Intentions his previous album it felt as he was forcing himself to embody the soul of the 90’s. Whatever Makes U Happy is JMSNs antithesis of being himself which he proclaims in the opening track "What do you know about what's right for me… I'm going to keep drinking… WOO!
15. Dirty Projectors // Dirty Projectors
Indie Rock, Electronica, Alternative RnB this band is all genres and no genres.
They had fun producing this album.
14. JAY Z // 4:44
This album is the pinnacle of Jay Zs career. Although Jay Z is known for his early work: American Gangster, The Blueprint and The Black Album, when he collaborated with Kanye West on Watch The Throne a new Jay Z was born. His track Otis was the beginning of the current era we have seen that led to works like Magna Carta Holy Grail and now 4:44. Jay Z has always been known for his lirycism and sampling but since Otis he has rebranded himself as an older rapper paying homage to the greats. Although 4:44 is driven by racial inequality and a desire for equality we can feel his curated sampling and ecclictic transformation on tracks like moonlight, 4:44 and others.
13. Lorde // Melodrama
There is no bad track on this album. Although shorter than her previous Pure Heroine. Melodrama is a fantastic successor. I don't know what more I could have asked for but her piano/vocal/pop can only seduce me so much.
12. Arca // Arca
Although self-titled this is not Arca's first album. This Venezuelan create cutting edge experimental music that have intrigued others like Kanye West, Frank Ocean FKA Twigs and others to sample or collaborate with. Alejandro Ghersi produces tracks that use tone and amplitude not lyrics to generate feeling and emotion. This album is not for eveyone but definitely is his most accessible project yet. It remains dark in production and angelic in vocals which are perfect for a sad and lonely night.
11. Kelela // Take me Apart
I did not enjoy Kelela's first critically acclaimed EP Hallucinogen and orignially did not like this project either. The more I listened the more I could feel the beauty of the craft. Kelela swings from one rythm to another layering her voice on top of itself with songs like Waitin or Take me Apart that feel like 3 different tracks in one. The first 10 seconds of her songs are maybe the most groovy and distinct of any album this year.
10. Rostam // Half-Light
After permanently seperating from Vampire Weekend on good terms Rostam is taking the sound he provided them for 3 great albums to his own project. My unpopular hunch is that I believe Rostam was more instrumental to Vampire Weekends success than Ezra Koeing. This music is just as indie as the album artwork so if that’s for you take a listen.
9. Cashmere Cat // 9
Cashmere Cat is a scientist of beat production he has always been known for his playful bells and trinkets dazzled all over. This album brings out some creative sequences of deep base, little twinkles and poppy bubbles coupled with some of the smoothest Pop and RnB. The features bring his musical experiements to the mainstream to be digested by the masses.
8. Taylor Swift // Reputation
"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now… Why?… Oh! Cuz she's DEAD. "Look What You Made Me Do" sounds like the natural human instinct of shifting the blame onto others when in a vulnerable situation. Taylor saw and realized the intensity, anger and passion (surrounding many of her recent miss stepts) to craft a new identity, one that is known for being bad and agressive and honest to her current emotional place. For those who loved the country angel that wrote songs like "Love Story" this album might not be your desired next step. However, as someone who never paid much attention to Taylor and didn't respect her at all after her recent scandal with Kanye (not the Beyonce thing), this was a beautiful surprise. Songs like End Game, Did Something Bad, Call it What You Want show that her voice can be used in different ways to bring intonations and cadence to her music like never before.
7. Sylvan Esso // What Now
Many artists tend to transition their sound to one that is more radio accessible on their second LP, from their original more experiemental natured upbringings.
This is that, but done right.
What Now is an upbeat fun album that integrates catchy hooks into well timed transitions creating some of the best alternative pop electronica music.
6. Roy Wood$ // Say Less
Although I didn’t get to listen to Say Less as much as I would have liked to due to it’s late release in the year, the first 5 tracks on this project alone deem it worthy of making it onto a top 20 of any RnB, Hip Hop lover. Roy Woods continues to deliver an iconic Toronto sound.
5. War on Drugs // A Deeper Understanding
Again I vivedly remembered listening to "Lost In The Dream", WODs first album and not understanding the magic behind their craft. Here I am 2 years later loving almost all the tracks on a "A Deeper Understanding". This album is a great listen all the way through and sets the mood well for a chill evening.
4. Ty Dolla Sign // Beach House 3
Ty has been around for the last half decade dropping many tapes but this his the 3rd edition to the Beach House saga and the 3rd time is the charm. Ty Dolla is sticking to what he does best, bringing his cheeky lyrics and empowering voice to the front lines of RnB Pop. On the last song of this 20 track album Ty leaves with us the crashing waves we heard for the first 30 seconds on “My Cabana” Ty’s first break out hit on the Beach house mixtape. Must listen to in a Drop Top in the Rain.
3. C. Tangana // ÍDOLO
C. Tangana is just one of many names us listeneres can attribute to Spanish singer Antón Álvarez. Idolo is Tangana's dream come true of modernizing diverse pop music from all parts of the world into the spanish tongue. Songs like No Te Pegas feature American rapper Travis Scott's Goosebumps while others like Pop Ur Pussy Iggy Azelea's Pu$$y song. However, I think you might enjoy his intense interpretation of Idolo better than mine:
2. Corbin // Mourn
Formerly known as Spooky Black or Vaseline shirt guy, Corbin Smidzik has rebranded as himself and brings a dark intense feel to an even darker depressing project. He is full of rage, anger and sadness and yells at us from inside his own biggest fears. I was very surprised to see such a coehisze album come from someone who was pitted with the likings of Yung Lean and Sad Boys 2001. I am continusously reminded of Shlohmo's Dark Rose.
1. Perfume Genius // No Shape
This album is emotionally vibrant and full of surprises. On the opening track Mike Hadreas is playing soft keys with a wavery fragile voice which reaches an unexpected climax of silence, then more keys, then… NIRVANA. His ability to keep you pleasantly surprised throughout this coehiseze album is creativily stimulating. But his voice feels honest, genuine, sad and true. This year had a lot of great music but this was truly the album that stood out for me. I would contiuously come back to it. Everytime moulding a new experience around it. One of the more memorable experiences was leaving the club in Quito which was situated in a mall and roaming around the dark, naked mall alone until the wee hours of the night.
3 Worthy EPs
Gus Dapperton // Yellow and Such
This young up and coming artist from Manhattan is potentially the closest thing to a metrosexual:
"a young, urban, heterosexual male with liberal political views, an interest in fashion, and a refined sense of taste"
His strange music is incredibly accessible even though he uses various instruments such as his beloved cowbell and an addictive rasp to his voice while singing words with absolutely no correlation.
Hundred Waters // Currency
A playful twist on Purity Ring, this American electronic group balance beautiful soft female vocals with electronic production with distorted voice layovers only Skrillex could mould.
Alice Glass // Alice Glass
After having split from Crystal Castles this is Alices first solo project and you can definitely feel the angsty / chaotic energy felt in Crystal Castles still very much present. This album is just as raw as the album cover as you feel her childlike pitch juxtaposed with agressive passion that one would never think to put together over up-beat electronic music.
My favourite compilation album which is the perfect playlist for a classy evening is BADBADNOTGOOD's // Late Night Tales which features many greats from Erasmo Carlos to the Beach Boys while remaining current with Daniel Ceasar and Thundercat also making appearances. I highly reccomend to check it out: