Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 | Favorite Albums

This is perhaps a strange way to introduce my favorite albums of 2017, but I spent a lot of time driving by myself this year. Between continuing to commute to Durham several times a week this spring, working in D.C. over the summer, and making numerous trips to vacation destinations 4-5 hours away, I had plenty of time to dig into new music this year. Roadtrips are especially great for indulging in concept albums, where all the songs lead into the next to form a cohesive, album-long story. I had a fair few favorites from last year carry over into this one, but below I've highlighted six (couldn't narrow it down further) of my favorite 2017 releases.

Image via DIY Magazine
Melodrama by Lorde
Favorite tracks // quite honestly all of them
Lorde's much anticipated follow-up to her debut Pure Heroine was not the album I was expecting, but nevertheless ended up being by far my favorite record of the year. Melodrama is one of the afore-mentioned concept albums, exploring themes of solitude within the framework of a house party. It's a particularly vulnerable release, with heartbreaking and haunting tracks like "Liability" and "Writer in the Dark" intercutting electropop tracks reveling in the good and the bad parts of being alone. Come for the danceability, stay for the emotional gut punches.

Image via The XX
I See You by The XX
Favorite tracks // Dangerous, Replica, On Hold
Prior to this album, I primarily saw The XX as a good band to listen to whilst studying; their style was almost more about what wasn't there than what was, and their subtle approach kept me from devoting more than half a brain to it. With the band's third release I See You, however, The XX dives deeper into alternative, R&B influenced dance pop. The ethereal elements are still present, but with more of a shimmer on them this time around. I See You makes for a more accessible release than the XX's precious work, and I've certainly had my share of small dance moments to the tracks.

Image via Idol Magazine
Favorite tracks // Prodigal Son, Something for Nothing, Reciprocate
I've been a day one fan of Rationale since he restarted his career in 2015 with the release of "Fast Lane," and I'm happy to still be here for the release of his Vessels EP and self-titled debut album this year. His music is a beautiful combination of R&B and synth-tinged pop pulled together with soaring, smooth vocals. It's been a surprising but well deserved rise to stardom for this up-and-coming British artist on a small label, and I'm excited to see where Rationale goes in the future.

Image via Billboard
Gone Now by Bleachers
Favorite tracks // Everybody Lost Somebody, Foreign Girls
Bleachers' first album Strange Desire was one of my favorite albums back in 2014, so it's no surprise that I've been waiting for this release for a while now. Gone Now is another of the year's concept albums -- though a concept of what is harder to categorise. The album is set up like a pop masterpiece (whether it is or not is up to the listener), with refrains that weave in and out, bombastic hooks, samples of spoken word recordings, and cameo background vocals from Lorde and Carly Rae Jepsen. Though unevenly paced, Gone Now is nevertheless a bold work that's ambitious in scale and honest in execution.

Snow by Angus & Julia Stone
Favorite tracks // Snow, Chateau, Who Do You Think You Are
Prior to this release, I'd only seen Angus & Julia Stone as boring folk artists that were largely to be avoided. After watching the beautiful music video for "Chateau," however, I quickly realised I'd misjudged the musical sibling duo. Their call-and-response lyrics play their vocals against each other to create stronger emotion, and the dreamy feel of their music feels like the haze of a summer's twilight in a way that makes you feel nostalgic for days gone by. 

Made Simple - EP by Childcare
Favorite tracks // they're all good, but Kiss? is a tune
My love for Childcare has not gone unnoted on this space, and indeed has only increased this year with the official release of their first real EP (though search the internet for the first EP release Flush and you may find older songs). What sets Childcare apart from the standard indie rock scene is their sheer cleverness; each song tells a story not usually told via music -- going to the cinema to watch films to impress a girl, kissing a mom on a playground, and facing the end of the world via nuclear strike, to name a few. On top of their lyrics, Childcare manages to balance male and female vocals well and keep their songs from sounding like cliche filler noise, and I'm looking forward to many more releases in the future.

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