CTRL was an album delivered to us in a diary-esque form that read like an emotionally vulnerable and honest discussion with a close friend. Imperfections, unrequited love, stereotype and gender bending behavior filled the lyricism and aura of the album. It was rooted in observing the prismatic within the female identity. Women can cheat and be cheated on; be happy and sad; confident and self conscious. It both examined and celebrated the multifaceted identities that many lived female experiences encounter but can get highly romanticized in mainstream music. SZA was not here for that and turned everyones world upside down playing the music game by her own rules. Overall, it provided salvation through its unifying theme throughout the tracks, that of ultimate CTRL. The album reminded us all, that through the emotions, heartbreak and chaos life provides being emotionally reflective, vulnerable and honest provides us all our own ultimate CTRL.
Your favorite boy band has captured the hearts of America with 2017’s Saturation series, consisting of Saturation I, Saturation II, and, you guessed it, Saturation III. It’s a cumulative project as funky and multifaceted as the group itself — thoughtful on “SWIM”, heartbreaking on “SUMMER”, and WILD on “BOOGIE”. And they’re fast too: all three albums dropped between June and December of this year. Despite rumors of a breakup following Sat 3 — their “last” album — BROCKHAMPTON is still going strong. I can’t wait to see what next year brings for the talented young artists.
Each of Feel Your Feelings Fool’s! tracks is cut and dry and brutally honest. Filled with a slew of teenage emotions, the record runs the gamut from broken friendships, new crushes, and taking ownership of and pride in your body and your emotions. Each Regrettes member is a teenager or early twenty-something; their energy is youthful without being naive and punk without being pretentious. From the empowering “A Living Human Girl” and “Seashore” to the raw and somber “Pale Skin” and “Bronze”, the record traverses every teenage emotion that seems to linger on into adulthood.
Freudian is more than an album; it is a work of art. Daniel Caesar, in my opinion, is long overdue for the praise he deserves for his upmost ethereal melodies and vocals he has continuously produced. Freudian was the long awaited full length album from the R&B singer and it was positively worth every second of the wait. I was honored enough to see his first US performance after its release and I have never seen or felt an audience in such emotional engagement and awe with a performance. Complete calm, soft sing alongs and even tears came over many, the closest experience I can recall to a spiritual happening outside of an established church. But thats exactly what Daniel Caesars music feels like. It is an album that feels, sounds and just is, love. Just ask all the couples getting engaged at all his live shows, the count is up there.By far, one of the best albums i’ve come across from beginning to end in recent years; every track provides a calming emotional refuge, the album provides an ultimate serenity. Which is just what we needed in 2017.
Valerie June’s The Order of Time is a work of profoundness. I go as far as to say the work of a genius. You are instantly transported to America’s roots music with track 1’s, “Long Lonely Road”. Tones of gospel, blues, folk and soul fused with June’s wise and sharp lyrics and her distinctive country twang engages you, mesmerizes you and inspires you. By the time you get to track 7, “Astral Plane,” you are “floating through the stratosphere, Blind, but yet you can see so clear”. June takes you through a spellbinding journey filled with emotions. You lose tack of time. She is one gifted singer and songwriter who has the ability to hypnotize. Her send off, “Get Soul,” will leave you wanting more. If you re anything like me, you’ll play it everyday.
A beautiful, glossy album written by front-man Brandon Flowers during an extremely difficult point in his life. Introducing themes of electronica, disco, and of course, rock, the Killers prove that even 5 albums in, they’re still musical heavyweights.
J.I.D.’s freshman masterpiece explores every end of the emotional spectrum. From the brooding “8701” to the more contemplative “All Bad”, the Dreamville rapper serves up a comprehensive, carefully-produced album that you’ve got to love. He has the feel of a backpack rapper but the sound of an R&B crossover artist, a unique combo that makes this album one for the books.
K-Dot. Kung Fu Kenny. King Kendrick. Emphasis on the king. Kendrick Lamar laid on the musical genius thick with the release of DAMN. this year. An album which could probably produce thesis papers individual track to individual track rocked the hip hop world in a way only the LA native can. Not shying away from any hot topics in 2017; this album is just as personal as it is political; and Kung Fu Kenny reminds us all of that as he does what he does best and skillfully and seamlessly spits flawless bars throughout the 14 track album.
Generacion Suicida’s 2017 release, Reflejos, is rightfully entitled reflections/reflexes as it captures what life for a person of color is in 2017. This album begins with a song about insecurity in a relationship. It then continues with songs about: the reality of living in neighborhoods riddled with gun shots; the onslaught of fascism and the effects of unescapable capitalism; how silence won’t save us- therefore we must be vocal; how control mechanisms skew perceptions and impact mental health; and finally, how somedays things are just daunting and you don’t know how to proceed. While the subject of the opening song initially seems a little misplaced with the political message of the rest of the album, it indicates how our lives cannot neatly distinguish issues with intimate relationships from those in society, making this an important album for 2017. Messaging aside, this album had me both tapping my foot and pumping my fists, leaving me with the desire to dance and pit- how many bands can do that?
I can confidently say that Smino has created a new genre with this album, which also happens to be his first. The St. Louis native is at once a rapper and soul singer, gifting a jubilant glow to everything he touches. I’m a big fan of “Amphetamine”, “Anita”, and “Innamission” in particular though few, if any, seconds on Blkswn are throwaways. SoundCloud wizard Monte Booker lent his hand in producing this rich, churchy project; a cast of other artists, including Noname, are featured throughout the record.
Rogers’ music is an amalgamation of folk and pop, ideal for a night under a tree-lined, star-studded sky or a house party. Her vocals are reminiscent of those of Joni Mitchell’s, folky and laid-back yet controlled. With just five tracks, Rogers leaves listeners hungry for more of her silver-spun honesty and melodies.
Potentially one of he most currently prolific shoegaze bands, made their way into the music scene with a previous EP and release of singles but have solidified their place with release of their self-titled full length album. A collection of noir dream-pop tracks that are emotionally ridden; carry a distinctively unique sound without ever sounding stagnant or overtly repetitive. Its emotive, simplistic and euphoric from start to finish. Every track plays like a recollection of faded memories with the overall album essentially developing into a narrative of stories to be told in subdued ambience.
Frankly I was completely taken aback by this new record, which shows a less goofy side of the Tyler we all know. Syd, Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy, and Pharrell all helped produce this piece of music that makes a good case for album of the year. When you listen you hear a bitterness and angst atypical of the joker we’ve all grown used to. A couple of personal favorites are “See You Again” and “Glitter” but honestly any track will do the trick.
This is an album of a young man finally being able to express himself in the way he chooses. Styles has shown his musical and vocal depths and it’s a brilliant showcase of what he’s capable of, drawing inspirations from his own musical heros such as The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. ‘Sign of the Times’ is beautiful and euphoric, ‘Carolina’ is soulful, ‘Ever Since New York’ is soft and haunting whilst ‘Kiwi’ is heavier, rocky and slick. Something for everyone.
Los Angeles hometown heroes Chicano Batman released a more than timely album titled Freedom is Free that blessed us with a musical soundtrack to make it through a tumultuous year with hope. Their sound, a fusion encompassing a mixture of tropicalia melodies, lowrider chicano tunes, soul infused funk and modern psychedelia wrapped up in a latin grupos aesthetic. Their essentially vintage sound is met with lyricism that revels in social commentaries of present day with such charisma it has you moving and grooving to the sounds of a modern day revolution in a heartbeat.
Agenda’s content ranges from politics to pups. The EP’s opener, “Call Me”, is inviting and friendship-centric as is “My Little Alien”, dedicated to Nash’s dog. There is always a place for politics in art, and Nash nails it by combining kindness and compassion with honesty and outspokenness, reminding us it’s cool to give a damn.
As Toronto makes its presence felt in the rap game, NAV has been catapulted to international stardom. Nav, the MC’s first project, tells the tales of his drug-fueled exploits and newfound clout. Though technically not an album, this 11-track mixtape was complete enough in my mind to earn a spot on Highlark’s end-of-year list. The gliding synth instrumentals mesh perfectly with NAV’s faded autotune vocals, emulating the dissociation he raps about while frequently high. Don’t miss songs like “Myself” and “NAV”, which you’ve probably heard a million times by now.
‘As You Were’ is the former Oasis front-man at his best. Shaking off the pressures most bands face to be experimental and create different music, he brings it back to good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll with guitars and his signature sneering vocals at the centre. Good to have ya back, Liam.
Baker’s previous album, Sprained Ankle, introduced us to the makings of her psyche: crushing relationships, substance abuse, and God, to name a few elements. If Sprained Ankle is somber, Turn Out the Lights is downright devastatingly stunning. Baker hones in on her previous subject matter and never fails to dive deep. Each time I hear Baker, I can’t help but think: what a voice; what a storyteller. Her music is undeniably heavy and Turn Out the Lights does not fall short of her total capacity to break a heart with a single note or verse.
This album, in its simplest form, its anthem after anthem after anthem. From ‘You’re in Love With a Psycho’ to ‘Comeback Kid’ to ‘Ill Ray (The King)’, not one song on this alternative rock album is a filler. ‘For Crying Out Loud’ is so great because its so unapologetically Kasabian, with their big-band production style fit for any stadium and feel good vibes throughout – they haven’t tried to change their style because they just do not need to, and nor should they.