Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Favorite Albums (Numbers 20-11)

Continuing my countdown, and getting close to the top:

20.  Cymbals - Light In Your Mind

Downsizing from a quartet to now a duo, Cymbals' third record Light In Your Mind is a record that dwells on breakups, betrayals, grief, and decay.  Needless to say, it is much more muted affair than the dance-floor ready tracks on their last LP The Age of Fracture.  While these songs won't readily make you grab your dancing shoes, they will certainly linger long in gorgeous contemplation.

19.  Bjork - Utopia

Bjork self-described this album as her "Tinder record," and while the thought of her on a dating app is rather hysterical, it does lend some insight into what to expect.  Far removed from the dark, introspection of Vulnicura, Utopia finds Bjork, if not necessarily in love, in love with the idea of love.  And this translates into some amazingly intricate, hopeful love songs.

18.  Tove Lo - BLUE LIPS (lady wood phase II)

Tove Lo is the undisputed queen of debaucherous pop songs.  This collection finds her deep in the throes of excess and self-gratification, and making no apology for it.

17.  Everything Everything - A Fever Dream

The world gets crazier and crazier, and Manchester quartet Everything Everything's albums follow suit, with their latest A Fever Dream no exception.  Hyper-manic, paranoid, surreal songscapes punctuate this album, putting one at edge, but never to the point of collapse.  I want to say there is a bright light at the end of this album, that there is hope, but in these times, that might be a luxury we are not privy to.

16.  The Horrors - V

Hard to believe this band started out as an almost schlocky retro-60s garage rock act that has since transformed into a post-rock, krautrock, shoegazing powerhouse.   V, their fifth record, doesn't leap out at you at first, as The Horrors' days of constant reinvention has slowed down.  instead, it is like the perfect distillation of their past strengths into something unifying and brilliant.

15.  Spoon - Hot Thoughts

Spoon is at that stage in their career where they don't really have anything left to prove.  They could continue to release versions of Kill the Moonlight or Gimme Fiction, and no one would mind.  Of course, the band minds, and they continue to stray outside the lines of what makes them "Spoon."  Hot Thoughts finds the band funkier and groovier, with lots of chugging riffs and slinky bass lines.  There is also more reliance on electronics, which add to the allure of these songs rather than detract.

14.  Run the Jewels - Run The Jewels 3

I will never make a claim that I get or understand hip-hop and what makes someone's flow better than another's.  I just like to be engaged and usually form my opinion off of the beats themselves.  The beats here are impressively dense and mind-blowing.  And Killer Mike and El-P effortless flow over them, feeling more focused, energetic, and pissed off than ever before.

13.  Sylvan Esso - What Now

If it's not broken don't fix it.  Sylvan Esso heed that warning on their fun, sparkling sophomore album.  More catchy, folktronica tracks that engage the mind and shake the booty.

12.  Drake - More Love

Drake's "playlist" More Life shows more guts and talent than anything off his last commercial release VIEWS, which was a tone-deaf, glutted mess.  The various songs on this release are loose, engaging, and teeming with creativity.    "Passionfruit" is so off the cuff, it sounds like he just started singing over some Garageband presets; and it sounds fantastic.   More of this please, Drake!

11.  SZA - ctrl

2017 was the year for amazing R&B albums from female artists.  But even saying just R&B is too limiting with the artists who appear on my list this year.  SZA certainly makes some lovely R&B tracks, but that neglects her forays into confessional singer-songwriter territory, hip-hop, alt-rock, pop, and electronica.  And throughout it all, ctrl never sounds like a mish-mash.  Her vision is singular, and awe inspiring.

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