2017 felt like the end of civilization as we know it; politically, socially, and in a wider sense, artistically. Widespread racism, misogyny, the Alt-Right Movement, and an egomaniacal President signifying the worst of humanity continued to dominate as musicians used the fear, paranoia, and outright rage at the state of things as a means of expression. There was also a sense of music as a coping mechanism, but overall, even this felt overpowered by larger evils present in our world. Nevertheless, this list of 15 favorites runs the gambit; from churning power chords, retro 60's pop, deceased legends hollering into the void, and unorthodox hip-hop voicing the kind of sentiments we all wanted to express but couldn't find the right words. Above all else, every single record represented here provided a small measure of relief from the absurdity of being alive in 2017. Long live the music. May it never die.
Bassist, singer, and producer extraordinaire Thundercat's third album, Drunk, is a Flying Lotus-backed foray into jazz/R & B/synth-funk that pokes its finger into the ribs of racism and keeps on chuckling.
Introduction to Escape-sim
As former frontman for Nation Of Ulysses, The Make-Up, The Scene Creamers, Weird War, Chain & The Gang, among other projects, Ian Svenonius is nothing if not prolific. On his latest solo venture, he crafts a lo-fi anti-pop album full of yelping vocals, analog drum machines, and chintzy melodies.
Saturn Over Sunset
It's Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground meets hipster cool with Midnight Sister's breathless debut, Saturn Over Sunset; a toe-tappin' pop noir record for Tinseltown dreamers. Catchy and warped in equal measure.
Harmony of Difference
Saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington follows up 2015's appropriately titled The Epic with a shorter EP that nonetheless feels grand in scope and dense in execution. Combining ’60s/70's jazz with R & B touches and calypso rhythms, Washington crafts arrangements which feel both meticulous and improvised.
Created in the Image of Suffering
Bay area doom doesn't get much heavier than the debut LP from King Woman; a beautiful and punishing mix of shoegazey guitar chords, ghostly vocals, and astral post-rock instrumentation. A doomsday prophecy for our turbulent times.
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Pop provocateur Ariel Pink goes back to his early 2000's cassette days for a riff on the pitfalls of fame; conjuring pastiche, sleazy glam poses, and long-forgotten modes of production in order to comment on our need for self-reflection. Goofy and introspective, as only Pink can.
A Los Angeles rap crew bent on dominating the scene, Brockhampton released three albums in 2017, but their second was the best of the lot; a swaggering, politically-minded, and humorous collection of 16 cuts backed by funky/synth-laden production.
Atlanta trio Omni follow up their excellent 2016 debut Deluxe with the less abrasive, but still vintage-sounding Multi Task, which traffics in late 1970's Wire/ Talking Heads influences. Simple, jaunty, no fuss post-punk performed with care and efficiency.
Experiencing the Deposit of Faith
Yves Tumor's latest self-released compilation meshes ambient music with pop-oriented sounds by using repetitive loops and glistening soundscapes to enter the realm of the spiritual. Intimate, vast, and hypnotic.
Brooklyn-based noise makers Guerilla Toss distill elements of new wave, post-punk, squawking jazz, and experimental music on their latest dance-acid trip GT Ultra; embracing melody and sonic texture without completely abandoning their freak flag.
After 2015's breakup album, Vulnicura, Bjork heads into the stratosphere of romantic infatuation with Utopia; a flute-laden, bird-chirping collection of love songs that get at the swooning feeling of new beginnings. Four decades-plus into her extraordinary career, Bjork continues to both dazzle and confound.
Tyler, The Creator
While everyone was busy kneeling at the feet of Kendrick Lamar, 26-year-old rapper/producer Tyler, The Creator quietly dropped the best hip-hop album of 2017. Beautifully arranged, surprisingly meditative, while also boasting typical bangers, Flower Boy is Neptunes-inspired, funky, sultry, and unpredictable.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Kid is the electronic musician's most ambitious effort yet; a sprawling, four-part chronicle of life's stages performed like a futurist pop manifesto. Emotional, experiential, challenging, and gorgeously attuned to the human condition.
Suicide's Alan Vega may have passed away in 2016, but his last recorded work, simply tilted IT, is the sound of a man wailing into the void. Vega's relationship to New York is represented here as fear and confusion over the tides of change; backed by droning industrial electronics and cacophonous vocals. Like Bowie's Blackstar, IT is an influential genius's haunting final will and testament writ large.
Relatives in Descent
The first great post-Trump election record comes from Detroit rabble rousers Protomartyr's Relatives in Descent; a series of tightly dirges expressing fear, paranoia, doubt, and even some much-needed wit, in the face of destruction. Throughout, frontman Joe Casey stammers, slurs, and waxes poetic amidst crunchy power chords and atonal dissonance, making this the sound of an entire generation watching the world burn, one non sequitur at a time.