With a year full of face-palm political headlines, unbelievable violence and hundreds of sexual assault accusations coming to light, there’s no doubt that most of us are looking forward to putting 2017 behind us. But luckily, 2017 did bring some good to the world – a few iconic albums, that is. While there are many notable albums, I decided to rate my top five of the year. Four of which made Pitchfork’s “The 50 Best Albums of 2017.” I also was fortunate enough to see four of my five favorite albums performed live, which may or may not have an influence on my liking to the selected few. Music seems to be in a good place right now, and I’m definitely looking forward to what 2018 brings.
5. Sylvan Esso “What Now”
The second studio album from the electro-pop duo brought a refreshing taste to pop music when they released their new album back in April. So much so that Sylvan Esso sold out two shows in Portland (one of which I almost scouted tickets for) and just announced another for July 2018. And it even landed them a Grammy nomination for “Best Dance/Electronic Album.” Which makes sense because I couldn’t stop dancing to the likes of “Just Dancing” and “Radio.” The duo’s single, “Radio,” is a pretty ironic song, which caused me to like it that much more. Lead singer Amelia Meath wrote it after feeling the pressure of having to write songs that would be considered “hits” for “What Now,” but then being rejected by radio stations because they already had a “female vocal” on their playlists. Oddly enough, “Radio” made it on the radio and brought Sylan Esso to be a well-known name in the music industry.
4. Fleet Foxes “Crack-Up”
The long-awaited album from Fleet Foxes finally arrived this year after not having released an album since 2011. Fleet Foxes fans, including myself, had high expectations for “Crack-Up” after twiddling our thumbs for new material. And they did not disappoint. With the most complex songwriting to date, it was easy to get lost in the soft melodies of each four-minute-plus song. Pitchfork summed it up well in its album review when it said, “Crack-Up contains his [Robin Pecknold] most compelling writing to date because it’s so damn relatable in 2017 – reacting and retreating inwards as people and institutions fail to meet the standard’s set in one’s mind.” This depressing statement coincides well with Fleet Foxes’ melancholy sound for my fourth-favorite album of the year. As soon as Fleet Foxes released its tour dates I snagged two tickets for Edgefield because who knows, it might be another six years until the band is back around.
3. King Krule “The Ooz”
Another much-anticipated album came from the dark, soulful London singer, King Krule. As one of my favorite artists for a while now, I’ve been hanging on to his previous studio album from 2013, when I discovered him. Although he has released material under his other monikers since then, King Krule is my favorite type of music from the young singer. Moody, heart-breaking and somewhat depressing, it provides a hauntingly beautiful sound. The Ooz was no different. From angsty songs like “Dum Surfer” to strung-out notes of “Czech One” and “La Lune,” The Ooz represents the darker side of the human mind that we can all relate to. King Krule released his album just three weeks before I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert for the first time. His emotion translated well from album to stage. However, he oddly played songs mostly from his previous album, “6 Feet Beneath the Moon” and only a few from his newest project. Considering “The Ooz” has many songs that are at a slower pace and even a few songs that could be considered interludes. Although I was pleased to hear my favorite songs that have become somewhat nostalgic by now, I hope to see King Krule again soon and more “The Ooz” songs live.
2. Kendrick Lamar “DAMN.”
My love for hip-hop has sadly dwindled over the past couple of years because of the lack of meaningful material. It seems every rapper on the radio is spitting about all of their money, strippers and swag. That’s when our hip-hop savior Kendrick Lamar came in. Kendrick Lamar has released countless albums and EPs that have caught my attention with his honest lyrics of growing up in Compton and working his way into the music industry. But “DAMN.” seems to be his most honest yet, diving into his opinions on America’s political agenda and racial tension – something we can all relate to on some level. What especially impressed me about his album is its theme of the seven deadly sins. I find a lot of rappers that title a song one thing, but then its lyrics take a random turn just to “flow well.” But on Lamar’s recent work, he tells a story from beginning to end – not just in each song, but throughout the entire album. K-Dot even told “MTV” that he created the album in order with the idea that it could also be played backwards and tell a very different story. Plus, he released a collector’s edition with the album in reverse. When you reach the final song on the album (as originally stated), “Duckworth” ends with a quick remixed-wrap-up of the rest of the previous songs. “Duckworth” tells the story of how his father and Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith met unknowingly years ago. I have seen Lamar live two times prior to his DAMN. tour, but I still couldn’t miss the chance to see him again. I’m glad I did too, this year was the largest production he has ever done so far.
1. LCD Soundsystem “american dream”
Considering I didn’t even know who LCD Soundsystem really was prior to 2017, it is ironic that their album was my favorite this year. Or maybe not so ironic, considering the mastery that is LCD Soundsystem. The band came into my life due to a whim of destiny. Frank Ocean dropped out of the Sasquatch! Music Festival lineup just weeks before I was headed out to the Gorge Ampitheatre. LCD Soundsystem replaced him, so I figured I should give them a listen. I heard one of their more popular songs, “Dance Yrself Clean” and instantly loved it. That’s when the man that would later become my boyfriend turned me onto more of their music and insisted that they were one of the best bands he had ever seen life. He wasn’t wrong. Their show was my favorite of the entire festival and it proved that I needed to get into them even more. Sasquatch! was in May and “american dream” didn’t release until September, though. As soon as “american dream” was out, my boyfriend excitedly shared it with me. As much as I love music, I have to say it is a rarity that I find an album that I can listen to front to back and be pleasantly excited about each song that plays. “american dream” did just that for me, and I think that is why I love it so much. James Murphy’s lyrics tell stories of romantic heartbreak, business heartbreak, and the pain of losing his good friend David Bowie. And he does it so well that it makes you want to cry. I’ll admit, I’ve shed a few tears to “black screen.” But on the other side of things, the band still makes you want to dance with songs like “call the police” and “how do you sleep?” “american dream” is so much of an emotional rollercoaster that it makes you feel like you just lived a lifetime, but in the best way possible.