This year has seen some incredible releases. I have heard some of my friends say that they were “born in the wrong generation.” They love music released between the ’50s and the ’80s, and wish they could have been alive for the release of their favorite albums. You might hear some people say that modern music sucks. I disagree. There is great music being released today, but there may be more difficulty in finding it. These are some of my favorite releases so far this year from a few different genres!
I know that country music annoys a lot of people these days. Bo Burnham did an amazing summary of why people get annoyed by stadium country music.
But there are great country releases that do not get the publicity that stadium country music albums receive. Here are a few from 2017.
Beginning of Things ~ Charlie Worsham
This is a record that really showcases Charlie’s musicianship. With its playful opening, its homage to a signature country sound with Lawn Chair Don’t Care and Cut Your Groove, as well as my favorite song Call You Up which incorporates elements of rock and jazz, this will probably end up as my favorite country release in 2017. It is an engaging listen both musically and lyrically, I highly recommend it.
Brett Young ~ Brett Young
This is the best “popular” country music I’ve heard so far this year. There are an abundance (even in 2017) of country albums that use buzzwords and repetitive chord structures to appeal to radio while sacrificing the message of their work. This album does have some similar progressions, but there is a unifying idea within the album that makes it feel like a collective whole, not just a collection of songs intended to appeal to a common denominator. It is an easy, catchy listen with some memorable moments in-between.
The Breaker ~ Little Big Town
The harmonies on this record are captivating. For those who haven’t heard of Little Big Town, The Breaker is their eighth studio album that, in my opinion, is among their best work to date. The instrumentation and the harmonies on their record may remind some modern listeners of the Zac Brown Band. Little Big Town is a group that deserves much more recognition than it currently holds. I’d recommend just about every song on this album, but I’d start with Happy People and When Someone Stops Loving You.
Flying Microtonal Banana ~ King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
This is the first rock album I would hand someone if they wanted to hear the best rock of album of 2017 (so far). King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is a band well known for their intoxicating live performances, and this entire record feels like a live first set. Each song feels connected to one another, each track flowing beautifully into the next. There are a handful of experimental sounds on this record while still maintaining a classic psychedelic rock sound, some examples including Doom City and Flying Microtonal Banana. This is an album that deserves to be, and appears to be intended as, an album that is listened as a whole, and as of this writing is my favorite rock album of the year (though they are set to release Vol. 2 of the Exploration Into Microtonal Tuning with their next album Murder of the Universe on the 23rd of June).
Hot Thoughts ~ Spoon
This is an album that I enjoyed that may not be for everyone, although some songs may appeal to a number of you! Spoon is an indie/experimental art rock group with an impressive discography (Transference, A Series of Sneaks to name a few). This album as a whole has a sound that resonated with me; some of the catchiest tracks that I would recommend for you all would be Hot Thoughts and Can I Sit Next To You.
Pop, synthop, electronica, EDM: music that many dislike for its dominance of popular music. You will hear the same songs over and over again on the radio, and wonder what has happened to the good music that used to play. Well here are a few records so far this year that sound great!
The Far Field ~ Future Islands
This is a record by Future Islands, a synthpop group based in Baltimore whose music has always touched upon the emotions we feel in our lives. This record touches continues this trend both sonically and lyrically, I’d recommend the tracks Ran and Cave. I’d recommend several albums in their discography if you’re interested in some synthpop from a local area that strays away from trends in other popular music, including In Evening Air (2009) and On the Water (2010).
Uyai ~ Ibibio Sound Machine
I LOVE this album. If you’re looking for an album that just makes you want to dance, this is one of the strongest contenders for 2017. There are too many influences on this album to count, and the instrumentation is as varied as it is cohesive. I first listened to this album on a pair of Apple earbuds, but the difference was night and day when I played it on a better pair of speakers. If you’re looking for an album that tries it hand at multiple different styles while making you want to move around, this is absolutely the album for you. Check out The Pot Is On Fire and Give Me A Reason for just a taste of what this album has to offer.
DROGAS Light ~ Lupe Fiasco
This record is less experimental than his last release Tetsuo & Youth, but still hits a good stride between reflecting on his earlier sound and moving in a different direction. Promise, for instance, is a foray into mumble rap that’s pretty popular these days, even though there are plenty of examples of artists who don’t do it well. Lupe sounds at home trying several different types of songs, some favorites being Jump and Wild Child.
All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ ~ Joey Bada$$
This is an album that, sonically, is cohesive and has quite a few melodies that will grab your attention. If you are a fan of meaningful hip-hop from the 1990s, this is an album you really will enjoy. It is among my favorites from the year so far. Tracks like For My People and Land of the Free sound fantastic and have a message that will inspire some personal reflection.
DAMN. ~ Kendrick Lamar
This is the fourth studio release from Kendrick Lamar, my favorite musical artist from the last ten years. This record has received rave reviews in the press and acclaim from contemporaries and retired rappers alike. This is a great album that will likely be considered one of the best hip-hop albums of the year, and is worth a listen if you enjoy rap music in general.
Kendrick Lamar’s lyrical approach is distinctive, one that some people may not enjoy as much as others. I think it’s brilliant, and will offer more insight into it in an upcoming article. I enjoy many of the songs on this album, I would recommend his singles HUMBLE. and DNA. as an introduction to the record.
Are there any albums that you have enjoyed this year? Feel free to share them in the comments below!