BY LAUREN CHAMBERS & CHRISTIAN BALDWIN
2017 is coming to a close and it’s the time of the year to look back at the music that dominated our headphones over the past 12 months.
This year in music was characterized by artists searching to make sense of what many would agree to be a strange year. On this trend, the best music sprang from the turmoil and resulted in things we would never expect – Harry Styles releasing a classic rock album, Jay-Z dropping a surprise album with politically charged undertones, rap group Brockhampton coming up from absolutely nowhere.
On that note, here are 10 albums we think are absolute requirements for your music libraries to remember an incredible year for music.
Freudian – Daniel Caesar
Somewhere between gospel and R&B, Daniel Caesar releases his debut album to wanting fans. A Toronto native, Caesar explores heavy topics in his work such as love and the sacred elements of life. His beautiful soprano voice floats melodically across tracks, while he croons on the guitar. From firsthand experience, if you have the opportunity to see Caesar play live, take it.
Favourite tracks: “Get You”, “Hold Me Down”, “We Find Love”
Pleasure – Feist
This is an album that embraces the silence between notes. The album is recorded to sound very lofi with a gentle fuzz in the background of the entire album making it a very intimate experience. The songs can range from quiet emotional ballads to epic singalongs about leaving a party to see your significant other.
Favourite Tracks: “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You”, “Any Party”, “A Man Is Not His Song”
4:44 – Jay-Z
Jay-Z is back and better than ever. Its very easy to hear that Shawn Carter has more direction and more to say on this album. The title track refers to the time in the morning he woke up to write the song, which responds to Beyonce’s claims of his infidelity on Lemonade. Beyond addressing his infidelity, Jay-Z conquers topics of politics, family, and his own legacy. All 10 beats on this album are immaculately produced by No I.D. who brings a ton of classy soul samples like Nina Simone’s “Four Women” on the amazing “The Story of OJ”.
Favourite Tracks: “The Story of OJ”, “4:44”, “Family Feud”
The Search for Everything – John Mayer
On theme of things you wouldn’t expect, John Mayer has put out an album that is surprisingly heartfelt and deep. While The Search for Everything does include Mayer’s classic love and breakup songs, in-between melodies there’s a real exploration into themes of fate and personal development. Songs such as “In The Blood” and “Changing” reflect Mayer’s curiosity towards where his future will lead him towards, and how much he can truly control. The rest of the album is rounded out by some John Mayer classic love ballads such as “Emoji of a Wave” and “Rosie”
Favourite Tracks: “Emoji of a Wave”, “In The Blood”, “Changing”
I See You – The xx
Everyone can agree that The xx’s first album was hugely influential to indie pop music. Their third album, I See You, breaks their set mold and tries something a little different. The trio’s music is simple, naked, and unafraid.
Favourite Tracks: “On Hold”, “Brave For You”, “I Dare You”
Steve Lacy’s Demo – Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy has had a huge year with prominent producing roles on both Tyler the Creator and Kendrick Lamar’s albums. This EP is just another great piece of music Steve has worked on this year. Steve Lacy is not like other producers in what he calls the “Bare Maximum” the album was recorded entirely on an iPhone. Steve challenged himself to try to make the most amazing collection of music recorded solely on his phone and it definitely payed off.
Favourite Tracks: “Looks”, “Dark Red”, “Some”
Flower Boy – Tyler the Creator
Flower Boy is a great album for two reasons: Tyler’s much improved lyrics and his amazing choice for collaborators. Finally, a Tyler album that invites me to listen and doesn’t push me away with obnoxious beats that aren’t enjoyable. This is a creative album, yet slightly more mainstream than past music making it more relatable to a wider audience.
Favourite tracks: “Who Dat Boy”, “Pothole”, “911/ Mr. Lonely”
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
I think everyone on earth was surprised when Harry Styles came out of One Direction to release a rock & roll album. Harry’s debut and self-titled album reminds me of a 70s soft rock album on a lazy afternoon. While most songs sound like they would relate most to the end of a relationship, he dabbles quickly in some harder rock on the song “Kiwi”. For anyone that originally rolled their eyes at this album, I suggest you give it a try and be pleasantly surprised.
Fun Fact: The original title of the album was Pink because according to Styles it’s, “the only true rock and roll colour”. The more you know.
Favourite Tracks: “Carolina”, “Sweet Creature”, “Woman”
Saturation 3 – Brockhampton
This year Brockhampton did the unthinkable with the Saturation trilogy. A virtually unknown rap group dominated the scene by saturating the rap game. The group has a very contemporary origin story in which they all met through a Kanye West fan website. Their love for West spills into their music with weird, eccentric production and hooks that have mainstream pop appeal. While any of the three Saturations could have been on this list 3 stands out because it truly feels like Brockhampton at the top of their game. Songs like “BOOGIE” have members trading aggressive verses back and forth and songs like “SISTER/ NATION” boast some of the groups most innovative production.
Favourite tracks: “BOOGIE”, “JOHNNY”, “SISTER/ NATION”
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
“Dropped one classic came right back, another classic right back, next album the whole industry on an icepack” Kendrick rapped these words on the surprise single “The Heat Part 4”. After two incredible albums, Good Kid Madd City and To Pimp a Butterfly, it seems no matter what Kendrick Lamar does, he produces straight classics and DAMN. is no exception. Kendrick cements his place as King of Rap with perfected storytelling skills, and unique plot twists. This album reminds me of Kanye’s Graduation, the third album with a more mainstream appeal.
Favourite tracks: “DNA”, “Element”, “Fear”, “XXX”