I spent the summer of 2007 sitting in my listening to the radio on the old CD player in my basement. Countless of hours of my time were dedicated to the pursuit of new songs for my 1 gigabyte mp3 player, as my passion as a music fan took shape. After 10 years of music exploration, 2017 served as a full embodiment of my fandom evolution, as my tastes were was as curious as ever. For a record to stick out, it had to have a new sense of staying power, and luckily this year has been filled with enough tracks to fulfill my excitement. Even with all the ways that 2017 may have challenged or disappointed us, it was a year filled with music that sought to replenish us as best we could, and I found myself fully engaged with the records below, and so many more, in the past year.
Few albums have hooked me as aggressively as SZA’s Ctrl did when I first heard it. Firmly rooted in R&B, SZA embraces hip-hop, pop, and even indie rock, in creating a record that tackles modern femininity in as effective of a manner as any of her contemporaries have in the past few years. Her hooks speaking to issues of self-esteem, sexuality, and relationships capture and amaze, with a level of emotion and candidness that empower the stellar production and magnetic flow of the record.
As far as elite rappers go, Kendrick Lamar has managed to solidify his legacy as a canonical hip-hop star while proving his ability to guide the mainstream consciousness. While the scope of Damn. is more radio-friendly and less outwardly eccentric than To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar’s abilities to hit the intersections of social consciousness, emotional exploration and solid instrumental prowess shine through on this record, strengthening his legacy as an all-time great.
After developing a reputation for his skillful composite of contemporary and nostalgic west coast vibes, Vince Staples looks to the future on his tight and gritty Big Fish Theory. Taking full grip of strong electronic, techno and house influences, Staples fills his record with 36 minutes of bops, grade A lyricism and sonic cohesion that flows with skill and intention. Between the radio-ready romps and frantic political critiques, this record sees an elite rapper at his finest.
While her debut, Pure Heroine, was filled with sophisticated and effective takes at being a youth in the 2010s, the way that her follow-up record, Melodrama, explores the distress of lost love is as fitting as its title implies. Like the loss of emotional foresight that comes with a breakup, Lorde is brash, clever, and yes, melodramatic, in her uniquely Lordian pop sphere, exuding her own strengths as a performer and lovelorn artist throughout the record in a top notch manner.
“While a further departure from her original, guitar-oriented sound, MASSEDUCTION is a sophisticated romp of a record that combines pop melodies with a great emotional vulnerability, high levels of energy, and a strong sense of self. In one of Jack Antonoff’s crowning production achievements, Clark’s range as a songwriter takes center stage, as her ability to effectively navigate across a wide emotional range in a dynamic way is bar none.
11. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
12. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Always Foreign
13. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely
14. Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm
15. Sorority Noise – You’re Not As _____ As You Think
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites
17. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
18. Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
19. Sampha – Process
20. Paramore – After Laughter
Most-Anticipated for 2018: Frank Ocean