It’s a cliché to say that as you get older, the years start passing by faster — but man, is it ever true. I can’t believe 2017 is over already, especially considering how much there was to …
It’s a cliché to say that as you get older, the years start passing by faster — but man, is it ever true. I can’t believe 2017 is over already, especially considering how much there was to take in on a daily basis.
Most years I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping up with all the releases coming out, but last year I felt like I was drowning in new music. So many artists, both established and up-and-coming, put out vital, searching music that challenged, comforted, and inspired listeners.
There has been so much great music this year, that you’d be forgiven for having missed more than a few albums. So, I’m here to help with my list of 10 best albums you might’ve missed in the second half of 2017.
Here’s to a better, more invigorating 2018.
To see my full top music-of-the-year list, check out my blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com.
Aminé — “Good for You”
Time and time again, rap has proved itself to be the best genre for political and social awareness, but it’s important to remember the music can also be just loads and loads of fun.
Luckily, Portland, Oregon-based rapper Aminé’s debut album is here to remind you of how much joy can come from listening to rap.
The album brims with infectious hooks and melodies, and Aminé proves himself a nimble MC with a sly sense of humor and a romantic streak that adds some heart to “Good for You.”
And it’s the heart that really makes the album stand out. So many rap records from last year tackled heavy subjects, from current affairs to personal loss and anxiety, and every now and then, it’s important to remember laughter. At the beginning of another year, that’s a reminder we could all use.
Gang of Youths — “Go Farther in Lightness”
Rock records like “Go Farther in Lightness” are so rarely made anymore, it’s important to celebrate them when they come around.
The second album from Australia indie rockers Gang of Youths is the kind of shaggy, overstuffed, and ambitious release groups like Led Zeppelin, The Who and Bruce Springsteen have turned into classics in previous decades.
“Go Farther” is an album about ideas, and lead singer David Le’aupepe is as likely to drop lyrics about Greek heroes and the existence of God as he is to write about love and families. But don’t worry — I’m not assigning you some dour, heavy-handed lecture to listen to. The album rocks, from front to back, and makes one for one of the year’s most engrossing listens.
Gang of Youths are a big deal in their native Australia, and if there’s any justice in the world, they’ll start breaking big in America following “Go Farther.” Get on the train early — you won’t want to miss it.
Majid Jordan — “The Space Between”
Canadian R&B duo Majid Jordan, made up of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman, have provided plenty of backing vocals for more well-known artists like Drake, but this sophomore album shows how talented a pair they are.
“The Space Between” is easily one of the year’s sexiest albums, but it explores all aspects of romantic relationships, including moving on from old loves to the fickleness of contemporary relationships. “One I Want” is one of the best singles of the year, and “Gave Your Love Away” shows the pair’s vocal range.
While Majid Jordan is obviously heavily influenced by modern soul artists like Frank Ocean and Miguel, they add flourishes of electronic music that are all their own. Which means listeners are treated with an album that sounds both familiar and new. Otherwise known as the perfect combination.
Van Morrison — “Versatile”
Van Morrison has been so good for so long, it’s easy to take him for granted, especially as he’s in his 70s now.
Obviously, anything he releases now isn’t going to match early masterpieces like “Astral Weeks” or Moondance,” but it’d be a shame to miss an album as reliably enjoyable as “Versatile.” The album is a blend of classics from jazz legends like Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole, and six newly written numbers by Morrison himself. While his take on classics like “A Foggy Day” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” are just as lovely as you would expect, it’s in Morrison’s compositions that the album really comes to life.
“Start All Over Again” and “Only A Dream” are two of the year’s loveliest songs and show that even after seven decades, Van remains the man.
Carly Pearce — “Every Little Thing”
If you don’t know that the best music in modern country is almost entirely courtesy of women, you haven’t been paying attention to talents like Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Cam, Caitlin Rose, Brandy Clark, Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.
Into this crowded field, Carly Pearce released her debut album, “Every Little Thing,” in October, and immediately established herself as one of the most exciting voices of the genre. Songs like “If My Name Was Whiskey” show a sharp wit and even sharper knack for writing hooks, and “Honeysuckle” is one of the year’s best love songs.
If you’re searching for an album that sounds great driving up and down Colorado’s roads during the summer and autumn, and also has lyrical chops, Pearce is the country gal for you.
Rostam — “Half-Light”
When multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer Rostam Batmanglij announced he was leaving Vampire Weekend at the beginning of 2016, I was more than a little concerned — not just because he was a key component of one of my favorite modern bands, but because it seemed like the music world was losing a unique and vital voice.
Luckily, his debut solo album put my fears to rest, not only because it was a chance to hear from Batmanglij again, but it shows an artist in full command of his powers.
Batmanglij has produced for a diverse range of artists over the year, from Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX to Frank Ocean and Solange, and he brings that same all-encompassing vision to “Half-Light.” Listeners are going to find pop sounds intermingled with electronica and eastern influences, and the result is almost always gorgeous.
The result is one of the year’s most beguiling and enchanting pop albums.
Turnover — “Good Nature”
Virginia-based band Turnover’s third album, “Good Nature,” exists at a strange nexus of influences — there’s pop punk and emo, as well as bossa nova, West Coast jazz and sprinkles of soft rock.
What this amalgamation sounds like is a quintessential summer album — almost a dream pop version of “Getz/Gilberto.” The guitar lines shimmer and glisten, and the smoothness of the singing and rhythm section sends the listener floating into the atmosphere.
But all the prettiness doesn’t mean “Good Nature” is all surface and no substance. There are a couple beautiful love songs, but they explore more than infatuation — tracks like “Breeze,” with the closing line, “Let you keep eating my heart out with your silver spoon,” are after bigger, and deeper game.
That something this pretty can have this much to say is why the album is in my top 10.
Tyler, The Creator — “Flower Boy”
When Tyler, The Creator first appeared on the hip-hop scene, he was rapping lyrics almost purely for shock value over hard, minimalist tones that sometimes barely qualified as beats. All of that is to say, if you told me he’d make the straight-up prettiest rap album of 2017 back then, I’d have laughed in your face.
On “Flower Boy,” the beats are lush, soulful creations that could stand on their own if Tyler wanted them to. But fortunately, he uses the tracks as soundscapes to tell some of his most personal and love-drunk stories. “Garden Shed,” where Tyler explores sexual identity, is a particular standout, but the lyrics that hit me hardest come from “911/Mr. Lonely,” where he raps, “I’m the loneliest man alive/But I keep on dancing to throw ‘em off/I’m gon’ run out of moves ‘cause I can’t groove to the blues.”
Waxahatchee — “Out in the Storm”
Last year, I wrote glowingly about Allison Crutchfield’s debut solo album, while mentioning that her twin sister Kate has been making some of the best indie rock of the decade under the name Waxahatchee. And just a few months later, she went and proved me correct with the release of her fourth album, “Out in the Storm.”
The album certainly reads like a break-up record, but Kate imbues a tired conceit with a layer of insight and forthrightness that brings the listener in as close as a whisper. The resulting intimacy on tracks like “Recite Remorse,” and “Silver,” are breathtaking, and the catharsis of “Sparks Fly” is like a breath of fresh air. That goes for the album as a whole.
God bless the Crutchfield sisters.
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die — “Always Foreign”
Outside of punk, rock hasn’t really contributed to much to the political activism scene in the first half of the decade. But following the 2016 election, it became clear that people were going to have to make their voices heard.
The members of The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die have never been afraid of using their music to give a voice to marginalized and misunderstood, and their take on alternative rock and emo is the perfect match for these fractious times. The group examines the stresses of fear and anxiety, the military-industrial complex, and the demonization of immigrants. Tracks like “Fuzz Minor” and “Marine Tigers” are vital, anger-filled stories.
We could all do with a little righteous indignation heading into a new year, and “Always Foreign” provides it in spades.
Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he is ready for a happier, more positive year in 2018. Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share your favorite music of 2017 at email@example.com.