Top 10 Albums of 2017…so far
After we spent seven years speculating on whether there would be a follow up to 2009’s Daisy, the band gave us Science Fiction, seemingly their last record. The opening track, “Lit Me Up,” talks of the literal desire to burst into flames, while the introduction of “Out of Mana” recalls the tone of The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Well-known for generating or emphasizing your inner-emo self, Brand New does a killer job at keeping the intensity up while frontman Jesse Lacey howls quotable lyrics. If this is the final chapter for Brand New, it is a hell of a way to go out.
I See You
The xx hasn’t detached from the moody and emotional approach they exuded when I saw them live in 2013, and I dig that. Jamie xx dominates as beat maker, allowing for Sim’s and Croft’s voices to serenade us without overwhelming us. “Replica” is a straight up daydream, while “On Hold” mirrors the sounds heard from Jamie’s solo project, In Colour. That being said, Sim and Croft complete this album. They give Jamie’s production meaning through infectious back-and-forth lyrics, which makes the album alluring as a whole.
I could ask why the breakup and why all of a sudden a reunion, but truth be told, I don’t care. What I do care about is how American Dream is an amazing reconciliation album that everyone needs to be bumping. “call the police” sounds like it should be playing in an ‘80s Molly Ringwald movie like Pretty in Pink or Sixteen Candles. Full of alluring grooves, LCD has a lot to say this time around and sounds darker than ever.
Tyler, The Creator
For sure Tyler’s best work to date, Flower Boy exposes his softer side while also highlighting his maturity as an artist. His flow is consistent and tight from beginning to end, allowing listeners to pick up the narratives that complicate the narrator. It’s the first Tyler album that I can play while in the same room as my mother, and it’s throwback let’s-take-a-joy-ride vibe makes it an instant classic to be praised amongst all genres. My favorite off the album? “Glitter,” for sure.
The opening track, “Supermodel,” is a revenge jam to an adulterous ex that sets the attitude: a genuine collection of songs about SZA’s love life. “The Weekend” is the ultimate side-chick anthem; SZA delivers it with confidence while soberly depicting what it’s like to share a man with another woman. It’s not made strictly for the girls or the boys, but for anyone wrestling with love and insecurity. We only waited what felt like a lifetime for this debut album, but it’s graceful, sexy, and authentic. So, good chance I’d wait again.
Jay-Z’s 13th album is a family affair and offers a side of him we rarely get to see. Jigga attacks himself in the intro track, “Kill Jay Z,” while opening up about his regrets and answering any questions you’ve had since Beyoncé’s Lemonade on track 4:44. He even goes as far as to reveal that his mother is gay on the track “Smile,” where Gloria Carter herself makes a cameo. This is the most intimate and sophisticated work from the legend thus far. He allows himself to be vulnerable, peeling back the parts of his legacy while delivering sick verses and clever wordplay.
Take Me Apart
The album starts off with “Frontline,” a breakup banger in which Kelela exposes her shitty relationship and her empowering realization that once it’s over, it’s over. “Waitin” gives off Janet Jackson vibes, a bouncy, danceable track that talks tying up loose ends with an ex-lover. Just when you think it’s all slow jams from there, “LMK” hits like a truck. So sexy, so raw, Kelela is putting herself on display and making it known that she can have a good time with no strings attached (“No one’s trying to settle down, / all you gotta do is let me know”). A futuristic take on R&B, Kelela’s soft, compelling voice and ability to be vulnerable allow us to see why this album was long overdue.
Big Fish Theory
Staples’s second album is all about that bass. Inspired by house music and centered on Afro-futurism, it doesn’t fall into that typical rap sound. “Yeah Right” is a track you aren’t prepared for, so when that beat drops, when that KUCKA bridge begins, and especially when Kendrick Lamar’s impressive verse comes over that psychoactive beat, you pretty much stroke out. “BagBak,” the ultimate diss to the government, calls for black unity. Big Fish Theory is ideal for dancing and an avant-garde approach to modern day hip-hop.
Archie Marshall’s second album under the name King Krule is undeniably a major step forward. I can’t stop listening to it. Thanks to Marshall’s creepy, demonic voice and post-punk, jazz-trip-infused sound, The OOZ is hypnotic as hell. “The Locomotive” speaks of deep isolation and acceptance (“I wish I was equal, if only that simple”...“the train it now arrives, I plead just take me home”). “Dum Surfer” feels deadly and druggy (“The stir fry didn’t absorb it, / I need another slash”), with Marshall describing his brain to be “potato mash.” On the minimal, dreamy “Czech one,” he talks of heartache from an ex-lover he can’t bring himself to name. Let’s be real, The OOZ is dark and uninviting, but it’s timeless and some of the most innovative work I’ve heard in a while.
Two years post the masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, DAMN. abandons the softer jazz- and funk-infused sound for a more hyped, hard-hitting, overtly badass one. It’s all good though, because he remains consistent with his overall “Black Lives Matter” message. “BLOOD.” is a chilling two-minute prologue in which Kendrick depicts being shot by a blind woman he attempts to help. On tracks such as “DNA.,” “HUMBLE.,” and “XXX.,” Kung Fu Kenny spits gospel, and it’s absolute fire. He digs deep into social injustice, and his efficient storytelling skills leave all his listeners like, “damn...”