My Favorite Albums of 2017

I listen to a lot of music, but I never really talk about. From this year out, I'm fixing that, I guess. Here are some albums I dug this year.

Gorillaz - Humanz 

People complaining about this not sounding like the "old" Gorillaz cracked me up, honestly. None of their albums sound the same. Like, literally none of them. That's kind of the point. Each album is a radically different concept telling a radically different story. Anyway. Humanz was a really great, surprisingly political album that had a ton of excellent guests (Grace Jones! Pusha T! Vince Staples!) lending their hands to craft a sonically complex and lyrically nuanced album.

Choice Tracks: "Charger," "Busted and Blue," "Ascension"

Ai Otsuka - Love Honey

I've been listening to Ai Otsuka for a while now, since like 2008 or 2009. And while I've always dug her, I've also always kind of thought she was just the cream of the crop of same-y sounding J-Pop. In Love Honey, I feel like she really came into her own. It's a bold, chilled, experimental album that blends different forms of pop music into a varied, pumping, steady sledgehammer of an album, while never losing the signature sweetness that permeates the rest of her catalog.

Choice Tracks: "Honey," "Heart Break"

Billie Eilish - Don't Smile At Me

Y'know all those teenage Disney singers? With songs about kissing and PG parties and ice cream? Billie Eilish is the opposite of them. She's fifteen and sings detached, dejected, creepy songs about depression, abusive relationships, sex, and weird violence. Most of them are also kind of chill, like in an almost Akira Yamaoka fused with classic soul kind of way? She's fantastic, and Don't Smile At Me is a perfect encapsulation of why I think she's one of the most interesting new singers to strike it big in the past few years.

Choice Tracks: "ocean eyes," "idontwannabeyouanymore," "copycat"

Blondie - Pollinator 

Most classic rock artists that try to put out new stuff just come across as sad, really. Like, I admire that Rolling Stones and Chicago are still going, but hot damn, change your sound. Say something relevant. Something. Anyway, that's what the perpetually wonderful Deborah Harry and her merry band of miscellaneous dudes did this year, together with some thoroughly hip and modern collaborators. This ended up producing an album that holds its own against more modern acts, while never sacrificing the playfully sardonic tone that the band's always had. As an album, taken in its entirety, it's probably my favorite since Parallel Lines.

Choice Tracks: "Doom or Destiny," "Fun," "My Monster"

SZA - Ctrl 

Honestly, I just want to hang out with SZA. She seems cool, if Ctrl is anything to go by. It's an album that blends elements of neo-soul and hip-hop together seamlessly, with lyrics that cover topics ranging from men being shitty to men being shittier to the way society pits women against each other over superficial bullshit. Plus, there's a whole indie rock sensibility to the whole thing. Honestly, putting Ctrl in one genre feels pretty limiting. It's just good. Go listen to it.

Choice Tracks: "Drew Barrymore," "Broken Clocks," "Go Gina"

The Killers - Wonderful Wonderful 

That last Killers album was fucking terrible, honestly. Yeah, "Flesh and Bone" and "Here With You" were great, but the rest was just Springsteen-lite done poorly. After Sam's Town, which I think a case for "best of its decade" could be raised, I felt like one of my fave bands was slipping. Thank Christ, then, for the aptly named Wonderful Wonderful. From start to finish, it's both a recapitulation and evolution of that sound they crafted in 2006, executed even better with a more mature Brandon Flowers - whose world-weariness shows and speaks volumes on this album. I hope this is the start of a trend, because lord, I don't want to wait another decade-plus-one for another great Killers album.

Choice Tracks: "Wonderful Wonderful," "Run For Cover," "Tyson vs Douglas"

ESPRIT 空想/ George Clanton - 200% Electronica

Outside of 80's J-Pop and 90's grunge, I've come to discover one of my favorite genres is probably vaporwave. Something about its washed-out, haunting, cynical, chill vibe appeals to me on a very deep level, and a lot of it consists of recontextualization and syntheses of things I already like, just in a subversive sort of way. While my personal favorite artist of this genre is probably 18 Carat Affair, a close second (if not a tie) is ESPRIT 空想, a pseudonym that George Clanton performs under. With 200%, Clanton fused both his main style of music with the stuff he puts out under the ESPRIT name. The result is what's (probably?) my favorite album above all this year. It's a gorgeous collection of soundscapes that's unlike anything I've listened to, and it pushes the genre of vaporwave in an interesting direction.

Choice Tracks: "Secret," "You're In Love," "It's A Fast Driving Rave Up With ESPRIT," "Flounder 202," "Purity 202"

This is far from a comprehensive list. I stumbled into Jamila Woods' debut album this year, and it's fucking incredible, but as it turns out that actually came out last. Same deal with Bruno Mars' new album, although that whole thing kinda runs together even if I do like it. And Eminem's new album has some good songs, but the rest of it is actual garbage.

Anyway. What've you guys liked? I'm always up for recommendations.


Popular Posts