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The top 50 releases of 2017

by Calvin Cashen January 16, 2018 0 comment
The top 50 releases of 2017

The Concordian music staff counts down the best the year had to offer

In a year marked by an increasingly diffuse modern culture and seismic political unrest, the year’s best albums promoted hope in the face of grave circumstances, continuously redefining the frontiers of genre and notions of musicality. Here are our picks for the best albums of 2017.

1. DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar

DAMN. keeps intact the cinematic rap Kendrick Lamar has spent the last half-decade perfecting, melding the glossly beat mastery of Good Kid, M.A.A.D city with To Pimp a Butterfly’s headstrong bravado. The package is delivered through the kind of complex storytelling you hear when all hope seems lost.

– Calvin Cashen

 

2. Everybody Works — Jay Som

Everybody Works is an intelligent dream pop album that feels overwhelming in its intimacy. Jay Som confronts moods that age like fine wine; timeless, bold in taste, with each dig more gratifying than the last.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

3. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson — Ariel Pink

Ariel Pink’s gonzo pop takes on a new form in his ode to the titular Bobby Jameson. The album is chock-full of laid-back, life-affirming melodies that culminate in 2017’s most surprising collection of hits.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

4. Ctrl — SZA

Solána Rowe’s debut studio album resonates heavily with listeners in its exploration of themes of abandonment, love and control in the present dating era. The smooth R&B and lush neo-soul production, along with Rowe’s fusion of gentle intimacy and ethereal confidence, makes Ctrl one of the most empowering albums of the year.

– Erin Walker, Staff Writer

 

 

5. Powerplant — Girlpool

On their excellent sophomore album, Girlpool On their excellent sophomore album, Girlpool took the wispy and vulnerable chords of their sound and expanded the template to life-size proportions, capturing peerless sensitivity through songs that ruminate on the fears and anxieties of modern adulthood.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

6. Playboi Carti — Playboi Carti

Playboi Carti’s self-titled mixtape saw the SoundCloud rapper stretch his already sharp ear for ethereal beats into songs brimming with charisma, resulting in an astonishingly coherent sound that will no doubt soundtrack millennial house parties of for decades to come.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

7. Reassemblage — Visible Cloaks

Visible Cloaks’s gorgeous Reassemblage sounds exceptionally fulfilled. The album locks into a pristine quality all its own, tapping into dichotomies marked by abrasive textures and disarming beauty.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

8. 4:44 — JAY-Z

JAY-Z’s most self-deprecating album is somehow his most heartwarming. He lays down his faults and shortcomings with an uncommon resilience that can only be admired.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Stack Music — Konrad Sprenger

With a particular emphasis on auteurship, the musicality at play on Stack Music was rendered by an intricate rhetoric where the interplay between space and time act as a playing field for sonic arrangement. Konrad Sprenger shifts through patterns of sounds to forge a commonality between the physical and artificial. The end result is an elusive series of tracks that are hard to pin-down, but sound all the more compelling in execution.

 

 

10. Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida — Nidia Minaj

After flexing her muscles with brilliant production work on Fever Ray’s “IDK About You,” Nidia Minaj focuses her salient talents into a collection of mind-bending club beats imbued with fearless kinetic energy.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

11. Big Fish Theory — Vince Staples

Enlisting the warped production stylings of SOPHIE, Jimmy Edgar and Flume, Vince Staples expresses a vision of oily-slick futuristic-pop that further serves to sharpen his acutely observational style of rap.

– Calvin Cashen

 

12. Modern Species — DJ Sports

DJ Sports’s invigorating dance music invites you into a world where hope is the only guiding beacon on the dancefloor. In a year defined by its social issues, Modern Species serves as an album steeped in consciousness contradicted by an incessant need to rave your troubles away.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

13. Plunge — Fever Ray

Plunge sees Karin Elisabeth Dreijer stretching the contours of her elastic voice in unpredictable ways. More than in her past efforts with The Knife duo, there is something aggressively experimental, perplexing and equally thrilling that bubbles underneath these electro-pop tunes.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

14. Utopia — Björk

Björk’s latest album is sublime, a collection of musically adventurous songs that ponder the apathy and joy of discovering love again. Utopia showcases Björk’s incredible breadth as a singer and an auteur of sound. Its production shines, with elements of birdsong gently meandering throughout the celestial “Arisen My Senses,” to the gorgeously enchanting title-track, “Utopia.” Tracks like these allow Björk to flourish her experimental leanings, while sharpening a newfound proclivity for ambient soundscape.

– Calvin Cashen

 

15. American dream — LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy is back, with what arguably sounds like at his most cynical. For a project that essentially started as an ironic caricature of the indie-rock iconoclast LCD Soundsystem sound as unassured as ever. Their core sound sounds rejuvinated remains unaltered, combining an affinity for synths with the potent dance-punk sounds of the 70s and 80s.

– Calvin Cashen

 

16. Take Me Apart — Kelela

Within the space of these tracks, Kelela’s artistic vision flourishes, showcasing a precise knack for songwriting and musicality. Ultimately, what makes Take Me Apart such a fruitful listen is its extraordinary instrumental breadth and structural variation. Just as the album reveals strong dynamics the first time around, it unearths a whole universe of possibilities with every other listen.

– Calvin Cashen

 

17. Nightmare Logic — Power Trip

Power Trip’s invigorating sophomore album embodies an escapist reality where metal and hardcore genres coexist. Emphasizing spirit as much as they do detail, the Dallas-based quintet balance a charming admiration for vintage sounds through a modern lens that pummels with unforgiving force.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

18. Without Warning — 21 Savage / Offset / Metro Boomin’

On Without Warning, 21 Savage and Offset combine their slasher-flick personas with the production savvy of Metro Boomin’. This trio strikes a balance that feels both sinister and essential. Here, the supernatural is replaced by fears of incarceration, where gang violence and guns is just part of the everyday hustle.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

19. Superlative Fatigue — Errorsmith

After two years of relative silence from Errorsmith, his PAN-released LP, Superlative Fatigue, was ecstatically received by the IDM community. Laced with broken beats and unconventionally warped vocals, the LP strikes a perfect balance between abstraction and functionality. Weird, yet undeniably danceable.

– Lucas Thow, Staff Writer

 

 

20. The World’s Best American Band — White Reaper

White Reaper sells bubblegum power-pop to a T, harkening back to an era of guitar rock when the FM radio dial was a definitive youth culture movement.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

21. #SantanaWorld — Tay-K

The now-incarcerated rapper’s debut mixtape is a rush of adolescent aggression, maximizing the reputation of its notorious MC with irresistible, deadpan, straight-up ignorant lyricism. Though Tay-K’s legal standing is up in air, the streetwise trap displayed on #SantanaWorld is hard to deny.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

22. Kelly Lee Owens ­— Kelly Lee Owens

On her droning debut, Kelly Lee Owens makes a statement of aesthetic and artistic conviction. The Welsh producer plucks her way through minimalist techno pop that resonates with the rudiments of raw emotion.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

23. Young Martha — Young Thug / Carnage

On Young Martha, Young Thug and producer Carnage bring out the best in each other, embracing their respective idiosyncrasies with dynamic performances and lean-soaked instrumentals. Young Martha largely serves to expand Thug’s extensive range. In it, he stretches the reaches of his prolific palette, while at the same time testing some new sonic ground.

– Calvin Cashen

 

24. Culture — Migos

Culture is the record which sees Migos go pop, and unapologetically so. While it lacks the abrasive edge and kitchen-trap feel of their previous projects, the trio use the heightened production value to their advantage to create a collection of quasi radio-friendly trap bangers gleaming with personality and endearing immediacy. It’s no coincidence that “Bad and Boujee,” the album’s marquee single, went quadruple platinum.

– Charles Fretier-Gauvin

 

25. Black Origami — Jlin

Jlin’s excellent Black Origami is a patchwork of Chicago footwork that only serves to blur the lines between genres. It’s an invigorating epic of sonic architecture that’s hard to pin down but easy to get lost in.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

26. War & Leisure — Miguel

Like the numerous Prince iconoclasts before him, Miguel extols sophisticated songwriting with the sultry eroticism that defined his early outings. But on War & Leisure, the singer sounds revived by years of sexual meditation, letting the music flow naturally above his romantic ideals of lust and love.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

27. A Deeper Understanding — The War On Drugs

Meticulously crafted instrumental layers give the album a dense and dreamlike vibe, complemented by Adam Granduciel’s gravelly singing. The lyrics are striking and emotionally charged, such as this line from “Pain”: “I met a man with a broken back / He had a fear in his eyes that I could understand.” With each new song, the album puts you in a constant state of awe.

– Hussain Almahr, Assistant Music Editor

 

28. Love What Survives — Mount Kimbie

Each year, an up-and-coming band attempts to revitalize the archaic post-punk sounds that echoed across U.K. clubs in the 70s and 80s. In 2017, Mount Kimbie’s thumping Love What Survives took on that roll, counterbalancing deceptively harsh pop sensibilities with nuanced electronica.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

29. Saturation / Saturation II / Saturation III — Brockhampton

The idea of a boy band is redefined by the members of Brockhampton. Composed of rappers, designers and producers, their creative energy comes from creating music together as a unit. The first Saturation album introduces the group’s identity, while the second album delivers a crunchy rendition of today’s youth. Songs like “FIGHT” and “CHICK” bring out the edgy rawness of rapper Ameer Vann and deliver a strong versatility with his lyrics.

– Kirubel Mehari, Photo Assistant

 

30. World Eater — Blanck Mass

Blanck Mass’s third full-length album, World Eater, is what pop music sounds like when it’s been experimented with in all the right ways. Sounds range from the noisy “Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked” to the calming “Hive Mind,” all the while presenting an approach to modern club music that is familiar yet distinctive.

– Lucas Thow

 

 

31. II — The Courtneys

On their second LP, the Vancouver trio succeed in doing what so few other indie-pop acts accomplish—put out a record which is wistful enough to tend to the naive romanticism of the genre’s faithful followers. The record bears a commanding presence, proving The Courtneys are to be taken seriously. If any contemporary record can help break the stereotype of indie-pop being exceedingly shallow or twee, it’s II.

– Charles Fretier-Gauvin, Staff Writer

 

32. When You Have Won, You Have Lost — Haram

The great irony in Haram’s blistering When You Have Won, You Have Lost is a matter of culture. Who would’ve thought an Arabic-speaking group could redefine U.S. punk and blow their contemporaries completely out of the water.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

33. The Dusk in Us — Converge

The ninth album from the metalcore pioneers is their most halting and claustrophobic record in years. The band’s knack for sharp hooks comes through as they reject internal conflict to challenge an unknown entity larger and more muscular than the scale of their songs. They’ve consistently altered their blueprint into something more expansive and evocative—an artful mix of hardcore punk kinetics and screeching, distortion-ridden excursions.

– Calvin Cashen

 

34. Flying Microtonal Banana / Murder of the Universe / Sketches of Brunswick East / Polygondwanaland / Gumboot Soup — King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

An invaluable token of Australia’s booming psychedelic rock scene, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have been on a tear the past few years; a tear which had seemingly reached its climax in 2017 as they released five records in the calendar year. Stylistically ranging from the nervy krautrock of Flying Microtonal Banana, to the jazzy psychedelia of the Mild High Club-aided Sketches of Brunswick East, to the unhinged proggy metal of Murder of the Universe, the albums are all a reminder of the potential of quantity over quality. Although, there’s plenty quality to be found.

— Charles Fretier Gauvin

 

35. Gang Signs & Prayer — Stormzy

Interloping elements of gospel and R&B with his signature harsh grime sound, Wiley’s Godfather proves to be one of the most nuanced records to come out of the U.K. in recent years. Juggling overt themes of depression, tender romanticism and roadman boisterousness in, this record challenges common ideas of what a grime record should be, and is sure to remain influential for years to come.

– Charles Fretier-Gauvin

 

36. Crack-Up — Fleet Foxes

As the Fleet Foxes canon continues to grow into other wordly boundaries, their music grows increasingly more complex. Crack-Up’s trajectory orbits around a continuously profuse modern culture, where instead of facing the storm ahead, we retreat into ourselves only to emerge anew.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

37. A Crow Looked at Me — Mount Eerie

Coping with grief is oftentimes a personal undertaking, and no musical subject has been exploited quite as much as death. Phil Elverum tackles the still-felt passing of his wife with a kind of disturbing clarity that is both relatable and unobtainable.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

38. Exile In The Outer Ring — EMA

EMA’s third solo album is a storytelling masterwork defined by political uncertainty, driven by tenets of noise and straight-forward 90s romp.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

39. No Shape — Perfume Genius

Inaccessible and instantaneous all at the same time, Perfume Genius’s warped pop stylings are pushed to even weirder limits in No Shape. Yet his beautifully precise staccato is really what takes centre stage.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

40. Uyai — Ibibio Sound Machine

World music hasn’t sounded this fun in years. Ibibio Sound Machine improved the limits of their sound tenfold, delivering the most instantaneously catchy music that draws from nearly every corner of the world.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

41. Reflections of a Floating World — Elder

Stoner rock has experienced a downfall in recent years. Elder brought it back to life with their ambitiously stacked Reflections of a Floating World, an album that’s most striking in its slathered guitar orchestration.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

42. Diego & Friends — Diego Money

Dallas rapper Diego Money capitalized on his trap leanings on Diego & Friends, an album that pins him and his friends against a world full of detractors.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

43. Black Ken — Lil B

The 27 song long Black Ken is a culmination of prolonged hype.

Following several years in limbo, Lil B’s natural talent and endless appeal ensured an album boundless in its stylistic reaches.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

44. RINA — Rina Sawayama

The Japanese-British songstress operates in a world of MySpace escapism, melding 90s guitar pop with a wistful brand of nostalgia for 2000s club music.

– Calvin Cashen

45. …Because I’m Young Arrogant and Hate Everything You Stand For —  Machine Girl

Part screamo, part breakbeat dance music, Machine Girl’s terrifyingly grating album is a high-octane experience that grabs you in a chokehold of harsh sonics that rarely lets up.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

46. Feel Infinite — Jacques Greene

The Canadian DJ offers an answer to the trying political climate the world faces on a daily basis: just dance your troubles away, and all will become clear.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

47. EL Slimelord — Slimesito

Slimesito is trap music exemplified, swapping between drug references and late-night trapping on the turn of a dime.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

48. Lil Llari Galaxy — Pollari

Pollari is basically a carbon copy of Lil Uzi Vert’s brand of emo-rap, but the sticky melodies on his sophomore outing provide a unique edge that sets the rapper apart from his contemporaries.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

49. Drunk — Thundercat

Silly, funny and funky all at the same time, Thundercat’s breakout album, Drunk, confronts daily challenges with a hopeful optimism that’s as infectious as his skills on the bass guitar.

– Calvin Cashen

 

 

 

50. Nothing Feels Natural — Priests

Priests criticize the current political climate in America and sneer at consumerism, while also delving into the existentialism one feels living in such an over-stimulating and regressive world. Incorporating the temporal push and pulls of jazz and the peppiness of indie pop, this album is still refreshingly punk at its core, through its political messages and overriding energy in the age of Trump.

– Erin Walker

 

Staff Picks –  Top 5 of 2017

Erin Walker

  1. CTRL – SZA
  2. Nothing Feels Natural – Priests
  3. Jay Som – Everybody Works
  4. Love What Survives – Mount Kimbie
  5. Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens

Charles Fretier-Gauvin

  1. Alvvays – Antisocialites – Alvvays
    2. A. Savage – Thawing Dawn – A. Savage
    3. HNDRXX – Future
    4. City Music – Kevin Morby
    5. Oh Sees – Orc

Lucas Thow

  1. World of the Waking State – Steffi
  2. Bitter Music – Perc
  3. A Decade Ilian Ta pe – Various Artists
  4. Arca – Arca
  5. Melodrama – Lorde

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