Friday, December 22, 2017
2017 Favorite Albums (Numbers 10-1)
And finally, without further ado, my Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2017:
10. Lorde - Melodrama
Lorde's second album Melodrama is a perfect encapsulation on what it is like to be a young woman and all that it entails in this age of social media. Not to make it sound like some dry liberal arts course, however, it is teeming with euphoric anthems, intensely personal ballads, and is full of the mess of growing up and figuring out who you are.
9. Fever Ray - Plunge
Plunge is like the flip side to Melodrama; youth is cast aside for more carnal pursuits. Karin Dreijer is not afraid of such pursuits and, from there, like the Mad Hatter, she leads you down the rabbit hole, with a curious smile on her face.
8. Zola Blood - Infinite Games
You don't so much listen to the songs on Infinite Games as you do inhabit them. The London band crafts beautifully evocative worlds of muted electronics and hushed vocals, with only a few stray rays of light shining through. These songs detail lives lived differently, striving for something out of the ordinary and mundane.
7. Clock Opera - Venn
Clock Opera's Venn is not going to be a record you listen to for comfort, it is a record you listen to for emotional catharsis. These songs make your heart hurt, the search for meaning in life and love, and what it means to be human. "In Memory" starts with the existential question "Do you want me as I am?/Do you want me as I was/Do I still do things that made you fall in love?" and from there these songs never scale back, ending with the haunted closer "When We Disappear," wondering if "will there be no witness/no ripples on the surface/when we disappear."
6. Sampha - Process
Whether he is singing over densely layered electronics, or simply over a plaintive piano line, Sampha's voice is always clearly in focus. And what a voice. Process is a record that keeps revealing more of itself with each spin, and just when you think you have it figured out, another door opens into his soul. Breathtakingly good.
5. The xx - I See You
The xx seemed to flounder a bit on Coexist, the follow up to their brilliant self-titled debut album, leaning more towards stark, guitar-led minimalism, and forsaking their dancier efforts. The thrill of their debut was the constant push and pull between those warring sides, which made for some exquisite tension. With I See You, you get that tension back, and with Jamie xx's recent solo success, you can feel the other members stepping up their game. it all culminates in a fascinating, sonically challenging record.
4. Kelela - Take Me Apart
Future foward pop/R&B, that always had heart. Kelela's debut album Take Me Apart is a stunning tour de force that gets better and better with each listen. Even with a bevy of different producers, Kelela knows how to craft a singular vision. Her sultry voice is never overtaken, even when working with heavy experimental titans like Arca and Jam City.
3. H.E.R. - H.E.R.
Twenty year-old singer Gabi Wilson, better known by her stage name H.E.R. (acronym for "Having Everything Revealed"), has slowly been releasing music, teasing and tantalizing us with her creamy vocals, and dreamy, fluttering R&B. H.E.R. is not a traditional album release, as it combines her Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 EPs and a couple non-EP tracks. Whatever you want to call it, H.E.R. is just flat-out stunning; an emotional power house, that is the perfect lonely night soundtrack.
2. Julien Baker - Turn the Lights Out
Julien Baker's debut album Sprained Ankle was obviously just the tiny top of a massive creative iceberg. Showing massive leaps in power and strength, Baker makes no missteps on this sublime collection of tracks dealing with loneliness, feelings of self-doubt, and loss of faith. Though it may sound depressive, and at times you will surely need a box of tissues, Baker always uses these songs to give hope.
1. Slowdive - Slowdive
When I heard the first few stark guitar chords of "Slomo" echoing underneath a rising cloud of synth washes, I knew I had nothing to worry about. After lying dormant for over 22 years, Slowdive returned as if there was no hiatus. What could have been a shameless retread of past albums or, even worse, some misguided attempt at being "current," instead, is an organic transition for the band from the past to the present. Slowdive is everything I wanted it to be, everything it could be, and even more. Only one album made me cry literal tears of joy, and it was this record. It is my Favorite Album of 2017.