2017 has been an interesting year for music. We saw plenty of new releases from big names like Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and Jay-Z. Even the animated band Gorillaz finally came out of their seven-year hiatus. But as usual, certain releases manage to fly under our radar and won’t make many “Best Albums 2017” lists. So join me as I recount my top 11 albums of 2017 that you probably haven’t heard yet. Why 11 you ask? Well, to quote the Nostalgia Critic, “Because I like to go one step beyond.”
- “Offering” – Cults
Cults is an indie rock band that I listened to when I was in middle school, so I’m familiar their style of music. I was really excited to hear a new album after a five-year hiatus. “Offering” is a great album with a balance of emotion and self-awareness.
Although I felt certain songs were underwhelming, I never felt like it was disappointing, just a continuation of what was started back in 2010.
Favorite Tracks: “Nothing Is Written,” “Good Religion,” “I Took Your Picture”
Genre: Indie Rock
- “The Iceberg” – Oddisee
Rap artist Oddisee offers his insight on the current political climate and other important issues like gentrification, mental illness, systemic racism, and consumerism. He’s a skilled rapper so this album never feels boring and has tons of replay value. An added bonus is that “The Iceberg” is clean, so if you’re like me, you’ll finally be able to play rap music around your parents.
Favorite Tracks: “Built By Pictures,” “You Grew Up,” “NNGE,” “Rain Dance”
- “Saturn Over Sunset” – Midnight Sister
This is the first release from “Midnight Sister,” a Los Angeles-based indie pop duo that I literally know nothing about, not because I’m lazy, but because they’re so new that I can’t find anything about them other than their Bandcamp page. This project blends genres so well that I don’t know what to call it, (somewhere between baroque pop and indie pop). On top of this, a wide variety of instruments and sound effects are used on every track, so no song sounds alike. Of course all of the songs are connected by the thematic string of the album, but they all set themselves apart in unique ways.
Favorite tracks: “Canary,” “Blue Cigar,” “Showgirl,” “Daddy Long Legs,” “Hitman,” “Their Eyes”
Genre: Indie Pop
- “Yours Conditionally” – Tennis
Married couple and Denver based indie pop duo Tennis wastes no time grabbing the listener by the collar and dragging them into the wonderful world that is “Yours Conditionally.” Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley continue to outshine the competition with tracks like “In the Morning I’ll Be Better,” one of the best album openers I’ve heard in awhile. Whereas many albums have a great opener followed by mediocre songs, Tennis just keeps pumping out bangers the entire time. There isn’t a single track that I didn’t like. Alaina Moore’s voice really does make each song stand out from the rest of the cluttered indie pop genre, making this one of the best albums of 2017.
Favorite tracks: “In the Morning I’ll Be Better,” “My Emotions Are Blinding,” “Fields Of Blue,” “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar”
Genre: Indie Pop/Rock
- “Fresh Air” – HOMESHAKE
“Fresh Air” the most recent release from Peter Sagar — better known by his stage-name Homeshake, succeeds in maintaining a sense of coherence — an area where his past projects have failed. This album, feels like a breath of fresh air. So, the title really fits. This album starts off with the appropriately titled track “Hello Welcome” and transitions into “Call Me Up,” a track that is equal parts smooth and catchy. “Smooth and catchy” seems to be the goal of this albumAlmost every song is memorable and has a certain infectious earworm quality about every song.
Favorite tracks: “Call Me Up,” “Every Single Thing,” “Khmlwugh,” “Serious,” “So She,” “This Way”
- “Being You Is Great! I Wish I Could Be You More Often” – Quelle Chris
Detroit’s very own Quelle Chris has blessed my ears with the weirdest rap album that I’ve ever heard, each track is kooky, imaginative and comical all at the same time. Instrument sounds are thrown together seemingly haphazardly creating intricate beats that are bananas. One of my favorite tracks, “The Prestige” literally sounds like someone mashing on a keyboard, this weirdness is what makes this album so great, and the instrumentals aren’t even the main selling point here. The rapping on this project is also unique, and it’s something that I wish we got more of in mainstream music. This album is way too underrated and I wish that more people knew about this type of crazy, abstract hip-hop.
Favorite Tracks: “Buddies,” “Popeye,” “Calm Before,” “The Prestige,” “I’m That Ni#%a,” “Pendulum Swing”
- “HUMANZ” – Gorillaz
Arguably my most anticipated album of all time, “Humanz” was a godsend in my bleak junior year. Unlike other Gorillaz albums, “Humanz” is more of a compilation album with a large amount of features, rather than a tonally consistent project with only four or five features. I don’t have time to delve into the 26-plus features, but just know that I really enjoyed this in order for it to be number five on the list. It’s a fun album with the best production on any Gorillaz album to date.
Favorite Tracks: “Ascension,” “Strobelite,” “Submission,” “She’s My Collar,” “Hallelujah Money,” “We Got The Power,” “Out of Body”
- “Flower Boy” – Tyler, The Creator
Another album that caught me off guard, “Flower Boy,” is the most personal album from Tyler, The Creator, which is really surprising to say about the guy who made “Goblin.” Tyler makes a departure from grimy synth rap and creates an album that fuses neo-soul and hip-hop. Listening to “Flower Boy” feels like a completed character arc, and I’m happy that we’ve gotten to see Tyler grow into a mature person. Rapping takes a backseat here, and Tyler’s production skills are front and center, as opposed to the production style that we’ve grown accustomed to, we get beautiful tracks that heavily feature singing. “Flower Boy” is the much needed step for Tyler, The Creator as his music transitions into adulthood.
Favorite Tracks: “Where This Flower Blooms,” “See You Again,” “Pothole,” “Boredom,” “I Ain’t Got Time!,” “Droppin’ Seeds,” “Glitter”
- “Across The Multiverse” – Dent May
Another project that came out of nowhere, “Across The Multiverse” by Mississippi native Dent May, immediately caught my attention with its sci-fi themed title and brightly-colored cover. Luckily, the music was great too, the opener, “Hello Cruel World,” perfectly sets the tone for the album, evoking feelings of love and existential dread. Listening to “Across The Multiverse” feels like an interstellar cruise, and it’s this raw emotion that makes this project so great because the music envelops you in its world.Dent May did a wonderful job keeping a consistent sound that helps the listener fall into each and every track.
Favorite Tracks: “Hello Cruel World,” “90210,” “Take Me Heaven,” “A Little Bit Goes A Long Way,” “Across The Multiverse,” “Distance To The Moon”
- Saturation I & II – BROCKHAMPTON
Brockhampton had a pretty busy year with three albums, a TV show, and a tour. All of that and they haven’t slowed down yet. Their first two albums, “Saturation” and “Saturation II” share the second slot because of how similar they feel. Either way, both albums push the rap genre forward in new and exciting ways on almost every level. Production is tight, the lyrics hit hard, and each song is relatable, even though each artist is talking about different things. Brockhampton is the boy band of the century.
Favorite tracks: “STAR,” “BOYS,” “TRIP,” “GUMMY,” “SWAMP,” “QUEER,” “TOKYO”
- Saturation III – BROCKHAMPTON
The most recent release on this list, “Saturation III” is a damn masterpiece. This is by far the coldest Brockhampton release by far, it feels like each member has improved drastically from the first “Saturation” album, and that only came out seven months ago. But somehow they’ve managed to come back bigger and better every single time, never disappointing the listener. Every track on this project bangs, the beats are crafted with care and each track is capable of standing on its own. This doesn’t feel anything like the last two albums from the “Saturation” trilogy. It feels like a group of friends hanging out in someone’s basement, passing around a mic and making music. 2017 was hands down, the year of Brockhampton.
Favorite track: All of it.
Hopefully you enjoy these albums as much as I did, if not, that’s OK too. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. Have a happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.
“Best Albums 2017 “Honorable Mentions
- “Good Look For You” – Gavin Turek
- “Drive It Like It’s Stolen” – Injury Reserve
- “Little World” – Zack Villere
- “Mr. Finish Line” – Vulfpeck
- “We Can Die Happy” – Tennis
- “Big Fish Theory” – Vince Staples