This time last year, I felt inspired to start a blog writing about music. In fact, I made it my New Year’s resolution to upkeep throughout 2017. Music– performing, listening, and writing– has always been the object of my fascination, and I felt like a blog could be an outlet that allowed me to engage with music in a way that was new to me. But, like most folks, I’ve never been great at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. Through the unfortunate combination of the craziness of finishing my last semester of undergrad, the stress of trying to find a job, and my own plain laziness, the inspiration to write and maintain a blog never developed into anything real or tangible in 2017. Now, however, I have a big-boy job and the rhythm of my life essentially consists of going to work and doing whatever I want when I come home. So I’ve decided that I’d like to commit some of that “whatever I want” time to giving my 2017 resolution another shot in 2018. I’m going to write about the music that resonates with me as it is released in the coming year. I’m somewhat nervous about it, but I hope that by writing publicly, those of you who keep up with me here will join me in a conversation that tries to make sense of what is happening in music as it happens.
In December of 2016, I reflected upon all of the music that had been released over the course of the year and (boldly?) proclaimed that 2016 would go down as one of the best years for pop music in recent history. Beyonce, Kanye, Chance, Childish Gambino, Solange, Whitney, Anderson .Paak, Bon Iver, and Frank Ocean all released albums that quickly found special places in my heart. These artists’ music played on repeat in my headphones for weeks at time during the year, and I found myself revisiting many of them months after my first love affair with them. While these albums in particular captivated me, they only represent a fraction of the fantastic music that was released in 2016. Other artists like Car Seat Headrest, David Bowie, Angel Olsen, Drake, J Cole, Travis Scott, and even Bruno Mars had strong releases as well that merited plenty of praise. With so much incredible music made in 2016, I mentally prepared myself for disappointment over the course of the the next few years while the music community took a small break from churning out masterpieces at what I considered to be an unsustainable rate.
And while there’s been a slight drop off in the number of absolute bangers produced this year from last year, 2017 has not failed to provide ample opportunities for grooving and/or getting all in my feelings through music. The year has left me with a handful of albums to add to my ever-growing mental best-albums-of-all-time list. I think 2016 provided a lot of momentum for music-makers in 2017 to run with, and I’m straight up giddy to be alive to observe how music is evolving in this moment. Maybe it has always been this way– maybe I’m simply too young to have been particularly conscious of the trends in popular music before now– but I think there’s truth to the idea that we are currently witnessing a historical moment in which music is developing into a genreless art form. Artists are creating music that dialogues with other artists’ music, and a there’s a current sense of openness to collaboration and a willingness to apply lessons learned from other musicians in one’s own music that drives constant innovation in the industry. I’m excited to see how long we can keep up the creativity.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching (less than 12 hours, whoa), it’d be impossible for me to write about every album that I thought was great in 2017. Several albums deserve shout outs for being important, solid, and enjoyable contributions to music this year, but they did not stick with me in the same way some other releases did this year. My best albums of 2017 list includes those albums that spoke to me on a personal level and kept me listening to them beyond the honeymoon periods that followed their release. I hope you enjoy my take on them, and I encourage you to start a dialogue about them with me in the comments here, on The Listening Party’s social media, and in person. I’m committed to continuing to write about music in the coming year, and I’d like as much as outside input as possible to create something that you all want to engage with regularly.
For items 10-6, we’ll keep it short and sweet. I’ll really be digging into the my top 5 in subsequent individual posts. Without further ado, here are my personal top 10 albums of 2017:
10. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music by 2 Chainz
Pretty Girls earned its spot in my top 10 simply for the plain fun I had listening to it. 2 Chainz and an allstar cast of featured artists delivered an album that had me dancing this year. He has a special penchant for writing bars that continue to play on repeat in my mind for days.
9. Apricot Princess by Rex Orange County
Rex Orange County initially caught my attention due to his contributions to Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy. His debut LP, Apricot Princess, has flashes of hip-hop influences, but its appeal comes primarily from Rex’s impressive talent as a singer and songwriter. At only 19 years old, I’m expecting big things from Rex in the years to come.
8. Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples
With Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples blessed us with one of the most unique releases of the year. Elements of EDM blended with more traditional hip-hop influences define the chaotic production style of the record and provide a contrasting backdrop for Staples’ lucid delivery. Staples handles changes of flow with ease in addition to simple, catchy hooks as the album speeds by, scarcely allowing his audience to pause for a breath. Big Fish Theory’s bold presentation demands my full attention upon each listen, and I don’t mind one bit.
7. Painted Ruins by Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear was one of the first indie rock bands I truly dug. As a young freshman in high school, I had never heard anything like the band, and I still don’t think I could provide you with a comparison to any other artist that sound quite like them now. I needed more Grizzly Bear in my diet after waiting five years after Shields for another album, and Painted Ruins is another fantastic addition to the band’s already stellar discography.
6. The Ooz by King Krule
The Ooz is one of several releases in 2017 that made me give the artist’s earlier work a second chance. I didn’t quite understand the appeal of King Krule’s indie-punk-jazz at the time he released 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, but after spending some quality time with The Ooz, I’ve developed an appreciation for Archy Marshall’s debut LP upon further inspection. The Ooz–and King Krule in general–was something of an acquired taste for me, but broadening my horizons has payed off. The Ooz barely missed the top 5.