Below are a few albums the staff believed to be some of the best albums of last year. There are a few albums left out, Lorde’s “Melodrama,” Vince Staple’s “Big Fish Theory,” Drake’s “More Life” and Snoh Aalegra’s “FEELS” but nevertheless, these albums were 2017’s cream of the crop.
“SATURATION” – BROCKHAMPTON
Let 2017 be marked as the year BROCKHAMPTON exploded onto the music scene. And I mean literally exploded. With the release of a trilogy of albums totalling 48 songs and 2 and half hours of content, the “SATURATION” project solidified BROCKHAMPTON’s place as America’s favorite boyband by quite literally saturating us with their sound.
Thanks to the group’s popularity, it’s pretty unlikely you haven’t heard of the 17 member collective. But to give some context, a common parallel to BROCKHAMPTON is the early 2000’s rap collective Odd Future (see: a group of young artists with a heavy social media presence riding waves of untapped talent and a slew of lovable, honest personalities). The band also pulls heavy inspiration from artists like One Direction, Wu Tang Clan, Frank Ocean, Tyler, the Creator and Kanye West.
The Texas-born BROCKHAMPTON blurs the lines between collective and boyband, hip-hop and pop, sincerity and irony, delivering a tastefully balanced mix of quality content, innovative beats and soul-baring honesty track by track by track.
Seriously, it’s nearly impossible to pick any one song from the project that is objectively “bad.” If you’re in the mood for the best feel-good living-room dance party of your life, start with “BOOGIE” from “SATURATION III” and if you’re feeling down or just in the mood to cry with all your best friends, start with the “LAMB” music video.
All in all, “SATURATION” is a tribute to friendship and the power of believed-in youth. The group’s approach of allowing each individual artist to maintain his own quirky character while coming together to blend into something spectacular proves that no one member is as great as the whole.
“Flower Boy” – Tyler, The Creator
Wew, where to start with “Flower Boy.” Tyler posted an hour-long conversation with Jerrod Carmichael about the project on his YouTube channel (really, just watch that) in which he says, “For ‘Cherry Bomb’ I purposely was like I don’t want to get personal at all … but with this one I was like alright let me write down, every feeling.”
Not that Tyler hasn’t been personal before; see “Rusty,” see “Goblin,” see “Answer,” etc., but this is just a different Tyler. He’s not sparse with those earnest feelings or heartfelt fears anymore; he doesn’t use them like a secret weapon to lace in through stunner verses, on “Flower Boy.” It’s literally all there is.
Tyler dropped “Bastard” almost ten years ago. It’s a great debut tape. It introduced an artist people knew they were gonna have to get used to being around. But like, he was 17 years old.
The ninth track is titled “AssMilk.” He thought casual homophobia was funny if used ironically.
He was adolescent rage, confusion, talent and everything else exploding in a studio. It was fun, but he was a kid; he had to grow up. And somehow, under an equally adolescent cult-like following, millions of dollars and world-wide stardom, he did.
It seems like he’s got it figured out now. Not life or anything dramatic like that, but maybe he’s got himself figured out.
“Flower Boy” shows that Tyler has that next level drive to be great that’s just impossible not to cheer for. He’s still confused about everything, still real scared, still real lonely, but he’s focused, proactive, and an a damn good example of how to grow up.
In Other ✈️ news…
“DAMN.” – Kendrick Lamar
The album can be played backwards. Backwards people. Ku Fu Kenny put out two albums in one.
Do I even need to dissect the impeccable production that infused old school DJ narration with on-point sampling?
Or, the mix of ’90s rap scheme and attack with the bass and kicks that allows these tracks to be played at the club?
Should I even spend time analyzing the unconcealed self-examination of a prominent rap star?
And how he lays out his fears, his humility and sheds his reticence through his stories? I should — and I could — but that would take too much time and a ton of space.
In short, in his fourth studio album, Kendrick Lamar once again pushes the envelope through a retro hip-hop approach that still manages to incorporate the sonic direction of the future.
What happens on Earth stays on Earth. And thankfully this LP is one of the sounds we get to bless our ears with.
“Lust for Life” – Lana Del Rey
Although “Born to Die” will likely never be dethroned as my personal favorite work of she Lana Del Rey, 2017’s “Lust for Life” takes a stab at that title, albeit with a far darker, but equally sensual prescription of melancholic tones sprinkled with just enough profanity to keep the kids away.
It all begins with Lana’s nostalgic poem of “Love,” the driving force behind the entire album and the state to which she clearly wishes to return for the remainder of the tracks. “Love” is “just enough to make [her] go crazy,” and it’s enough to whet our appetite for what comes next.
What begins with love soon devolves into lust as The Weeknd — the first of the many featured artists in this album — joins Lana for the overtly carnal title track, which feels like a trip through a strobing west coast club with enough drugs to make everything move in agonizingly slow motion.
Through the next few tunes, Lana’s lyrics and melodies seem to indicate her love life has fallen apart, causing her to drift into a complete longing mode for the fleeting experiences that once were.
By now, in a completely altered mindset from some emotional high, Lana transports us back to mid-century Americana, invoking Woodstock and at least one of the World Wars, sandwiched around the optimistic tune, “God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It,” which is less patriotic and more a reminder of Lana’s true priorities in her “Lust for Life.”
And then all of a sudden we begin wondering (if we haven’t fallen asleep to Lana’s soothing voice) if we’re in the 60s because John Lennon chimes into “Tomorrow Never Came.”
But wait, it’s not John. It’s Yoko and his offspring — Sean Ono Lennon! And suddenly I’m wondering less what year it is and more why I’m 21 and had never known that the Beatles could be so easily reincarnated in the 21st Century.
Lana’s seemingly inexplicable blast to the past finally becomes worth it, and that’s the true genius of the album. Because by the time the final track “Get Free” plays, you don’t want to get free. You want to stay wrapped up in the soft tenderness of her dreams and relive the music, and the life, that has inspired Lana Del Rey.
“Ctrl” – SZA
On its surface, Ctrl is a reflection of love, sex and complication.
Listeners may at first be turned off by SZA’s honesty with the album’s opening, “Let me tell you a secret, I been secretly banging your homeboy.” Without the care of a deeper listen, it would be easy to write this album off as another scandalous anthem of 2017. However, through these deeply personal allegories of rejection, pain and being the side-chick, SZA embraces her experiences in an unapologetic way.
She’s not laying out women’s empowerment tracks without letting you know where she’s been and how its made her feel. The album boasts women as sexual beings, but also as human beings, making them relatable and rejuvenating all in one listen. Tracks like “Garden” reveal issues with body image, whereas “20 Something” gives a taste of what it feels like to not be enough for someone in a relationship.
For an album inspired by the realization that none of us have control, SZA was able to take hold of her story and feed it to us exactly the way she way she wanted it to be heard: raw and real and unfiltered.
Photos taken from genius.com