Best of 17: My Favorite Albums of 2017

CC_FEATURE_Melody_As_Truth_0720. Jonny Nash & Suzanne Kraft
“Passive Aggressive”
Melody As Truth
Both fascinating, hard-to-categorize artists in their own right, Jonny Nash and Suzanne Kraft’s tranquil, oceanic collaboration was one of the finest collections of ambient music put out this year. The duo brilliantly combine acoustic instrumentation (mostly, piano and guitar) with expansive synths and drum programming to craft astral landscapes that are also brimming with life.

Start With: “Photo With Grey Sky, White Clouds” / “Small Town” 

slowdive319. Slowdive
Dead Oceans
22 years is a helluva lay-off, but when you were one of the key architects of shoegaze and dream pop, you get to take your time. Their patient fans were rewarded with a warm, swirling LP that hits the same heights as their legendary back catalogue. From the celestial, aptly titled lead track, “Slomo,” to gorgeous closer “Falling Ashes” (one of the best songs of the year), the Reading quartet take you on an immersive, soothing journey full of stunning peaks and breathtaking vistas.

Start With: “Falling Ashes” / “Star Roving”

18. 21 Savage
“Issa Album”
Slaughter Gang
The Atlanta innovator’s most sonically diverse album, “Issa Album” shows that there’s no limit for how far the 25 year-old can go. Alongside the street tales, 21 lets us in on his romantic side (“FaceTime,” “Special”), delivers cutting social commentary (“Nothin New), and even channels his inner pop-star (“Bank Account”). Best of all, his growth feels completely organic and unforced.

Start With: “Nothin New” / “Numb”

17. Kommode
“Analog Dance Music”
Random Two Syllable Word
Long-term Kings of Convenience dorks have been waiting for the debut from Eirik Glambek Bøe’s other band for more than five years. Luckily for them (er, us), the disc was exactly the velvet groovefest that we’d hoped it would be. Driven by Bøe’s silky, 400-thread count vocal, “Analog Dance Music” features ten languid, superbly-played disco jams that are better suited for a dinner party than an afterparty.

Start With: “Fight or Flight or Dance All Night” / “Lady-Logic”

16. MoStack
“High Street Kid”
The most striking thing about the Londoner’s debut is its consistency. After a pair of successful singles (“Let it Ring” and “Ussy Ussy”) “High Street Kid” proved that MoStack was no flash in the pan. Already being compared to J Hus, the disc features the same kind of hooky, grime-meets-afrobeats tracks that helped Hus take over the world this year. Equal parts R&B singer and roadman, expect this guy to blow up in 2018.

Start With: “Ussy Ussy” / “The Friend”

Bedouine_AntoniaBarrowman315. Bedouine
Though its first track is called “Nice and Quiet,” don’t get it twisted, LA-based singer/songwriter Azniv Korkejian’s debut album has a hell of a lot to say. Korkejian’s pastoral, fingerpicked songwriting and warm blanket of a voice form one of the most impressive debut folk LP’s of recent years. The disc feels like a relic discovered in an old record exec’s attic in Laurel Canyon, crafted by artist who got a flat on the way to her set at Woodstock. It may not blow you over at first listen, but Korkejian’s songwriting is subtle and sublime.

Start With: “Nice and Quiet” / “Back To You”

14. Vince Staples
“Big Fish Theory”
Def Jam
I’m always going to be a fan of an artist who takes their biggest risks when the stakes are highest. Coming off a pair of well-loved projects (Summertime ‘06 and Prima Donna), the Long Beach rapper zagged hard and traded his hometown sound for something you might hear at a UK rave. It’s one of the most sonically adventurous major label rap albums I’ve heard in a long time and further cements Vince as one of the most talented young artists on the planet.

Start With: “Big Fish” / “745”

13. Julien Baker
“Turn Out The Lights”
The Memphis native’s music always feels like a secret she’s sharing only with you. She spends most of her gorgeous second LP pulling you close and letting you into her hopes, struggles, and even those scatterbrained thoughts we have late at night. And though her lyrics and vocals will get most of the credit, the delicate guitar arrangements on this record are also astonishing.

Start With: “Appointments” / “Turn Out The Lights”

12. Future
Fresh off one of the greatest 3-year runs in music history (@ me, motherfucker), the fact that the prolific Atlanta rapper only put out one project in 2016 felt strange. The truth is, by the end of Future’s inimitable run — especially on 2016’s uneven “EVOL” — he sounded burned out and low on ideas. However, the year away did him well, and he came out swinging with two excellent back-to-back LPs: the R&B leaning “HNDRXX” and the hard-edged “Future.” Though the latter yielded the biggest single of his career, the former is the superior project, injected with the hyper-melodic, emotional musical crack that only he can supply.

Start With: “Incredible” / “Fresh Air”

11. J Hus
“Common Sense”
Black Butter
Everything about the East Londoner’s triumphant debut (plz, don’t sleep on The 15th Day) feels like a coronation. Over the last two years, Hus (né Momodou Jallow) has gone from a weird kinda rapper/kinda singer to the posterboy for the Afrobeats-influenced sound that has taken over the UK and has its eyes on the States. “Common Sense” is an extra helping of the sticky verses and even stickier melodies that made so many fall in love with in the first place. Just a joy to listen to.

Start With: “Bouff Daddy” / “Did You See”

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