The Round-Up: The Best Albums of October 2017

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.34.52 PMKelela
Take Me Apart
Warp Records
The album I was most excited to hear this year, the 34 year-old’s Warp debut simultaneously delivered the goods and left me a little lukewarm. The more time I’ve spent with it, the more I realize that any disappointment I had was my fault, not hers.

“Take Me Apart” is unarguably excellent — a futuristic R&B odyssey that deftly amps up her pop ambitions without alienating the alternative club sound that made her so exciting in the first place. That said, after her stunning debut “Cut 4 Me” (my favorite mixtape of 2013) and TMA’s incredible first single, “LMK,” I was definitely guilty of overstanning and saddling the disc with unrealistic expectations. That said, the further I get away from the hype, the more I fall in love with this record. Get back to me in December.

Hottest Jams: “LMK” “Frontline”

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 2.28.31 PMGrizzle
Consort
Liminal Sounds
The most exciting instrumental grime debut since MssingNo’s classic 2013 EP, “Consort” is a delirious, 20 minute funhouse ride, dripping with adhesive melodies and pounding, nimble rhythms. Each track undulates gracefully in between movements, deftly building to monstrous crescendos that creep up behind you. Rising Tottenham MC ShaqyDread also comes through with a couple of tasty verses on “Sermon,” which proves that the Manchester producer’s stellar sound is just as potent with a vocalist in the mix.

Hottest Jams: “Consort” “Eleusis”


kelsea-ballerini-smile-press-2016-billboard-1548Kelsea Ballerini

Unapologetically
Black River
To my ears, the 24 year-old is the biggest young talent in country music. Preaching a bold, uncompromising message in a genre dogged by the Nashville scene’s misogynistic roots, “Unapologetically” gleefully shits on lame dudes (“Get Over Yourself,” “Miss Me More”) without letting them sabotage her joy (“Roses”) or stop her from telling her own, unique story (“In Between”). Easily one of the best country records of the year.

Hottest Jams: “Roses” “In Between”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.45.59 PMJulien Baker
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
The 22 year-old’s long-awaited second LP lived up to every ounce of the hype. It is a gorgeous, heartbreaking collection of carefully-crafted, subtle indie folk. She sings about mental illness, heartbreak, and loss with a clarity and incisiveness that is truly rare. And though darkness is around every corner, she always manages to let just enough light in, often in the form of stunning, late-song climaxes. Just an incredible talent.

Hottest Jams: “Appointments” “Sour Breath”

offset-21-savage-metro-boomin21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin
Without Warning

Slaughter Gang
Instead of sitting back and riding the waves of their brilliant recent LPs, the Atlanta MCs got back at it and dropped a surprise project, guided by the steady hand of Metro Boomin. The 24 year-old’s skeletal style is the ideal canvas for the pair, and Offset’s nimble, loquacious flow is the perfect foil for 21’s minimalist raps.

Hottest Jams: “Ghostface Killers” (f/ Travis Scott) “Darth Vader”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.52.37 PMThe Weather Station
The Weather Station

Paradise of Bachelors
When you think about folk music, what adjectives come to mind? Calming, windswept, pastoral, therapeutic. Tamara Lindeman brand of folk has traces of all those things, but it’s also much different. It’s fierce, rugged, and powerful — more Ani DiFranco than Cat Stevens. The Toronto native’s fantastic fourth album is the most impressive of her career, outfitting her gorgeous, warm vocals with an arsenal of sticky melodies, fingerpicked guitars, swelling strings, and thought provoking lyrics.

Hottest Jams: “Thirty” “Power”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.54.03 PMSlaughter Beach, Dog
Birdie

Lame-O
Jake Ewald’s main band, Modern Baseball, has had a tumultuous 18 months, and you can hear it on his pleasant, soft solo album. An intoxicating brew of sweetness, sadness, and safety (think: coming home for summer from college), “Birdie” is built around Ewald’s kind, warm vocals and considerate songwriting. It’s the kind of record that is so relatable that it’s almost guaranteed to transport you back to some specific moment of your young life.

Hottest Jams: “Phoenix” “Acolyte”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.58.39 PMKing Krule
The OOZ

True Panther
King Krule played two nights in Brooklyn last week, and secondary market tickets were going for about $400. That’s an insane price for a guy who is making legitimately fucking weird, genre-less music. The OOZ is easily his strangest project yet, pairing behind-the-beat jazz chords and lonely synths with howling vocals and lyrics so opaque it’s hard to tell whether they’re poetry or pure gibberish. Somehow, it all works, and the more time you spend with it, the easier it is to see what all the fuss is about.

Hottest Jams: “Logos” “Lonely Blue”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.03.30 PMColleen
A flame my love, a frequency

Thrill Jockey
The specter of death looms large over the shapeshifting French composer’s excellent sixth album. She was in Paris on the night of the horrifying 2015 terror attacks and worked on much of this album while a loved one was battling a crippling illness. Her deep lyrical examinations are balanced by her soothing vocals and fields of oceanic, ambient synths, which swell to capture the fear that envelops our modern times and recede to highlight the isolation.

Hottest Jams: “Winter Dawn” “Separating”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.02.07 PMFuture x Young Thug
Super Slimey
Epic
Though it disappointingly didn’t make much of a dent in today’s uber-saturated market, Thugger and Future’s collaborative LP is far from a throwaway (get it? get iiiit?). Thug, especially, sounds rejuvenated here (Future’s been pretty consistent recently), which isn’t surprising considering that both artists tend to bring out the best in each other (think: 2014’s classic “Chanel Vintage”). Standout track “Three” is the best example of this, as they both snap on their verses with Thug recapturing some of the unpredictable magic that made his early work so compelling.

Hottest Jams: “Three” “Cruise Ship”



Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.04.44 PMCircuit Des Yeux
Reaching For Indigo
Drag City
Nobody, I mean nobody, sings like Haley Fohr. Her expressive baritone toes the line between emotive and performative — constantly flirting with community theater melodrama without ever falling into it. “Reaching for Indigo” is arguably her most direct effort yet, pairing experimental folk instrumentation with legitimately catchy hooks (see: lead single, “Black Fly”) and overwhelming crescendos. A true one-off.

Hottest Jams: “Black Fly” “Paper Bag”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.10.36 PMLil Durk
Signed To The Streets 2.5
Only The Family
Admittedly, this isn’t Durk’s most vital project of the this year, but this tape is worth writing about because it underlines what an incredible 2017 the Chicago MC is having. Along with a handful of excellent loosies, STTS2.5 is his third quality project of the year and is a reminder that very few artists are making better melodic street rap in 2017 than the 25 year-old.

Hottest Jams: “Make it Out” “India”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.12.58 PMJessie Ware
Glasshouse

PMR
A welcome bounce back from 2014’s uninspiring, “Tough Love,” “Glasshouse” recaptures much of the magical quiet storm of her glorious early work. Now 33 with a family of her own, Ware writes about the joy and melancholy of growing into a real-life adult with insight and emotion. Her voice is still a rare instrument, especially when it’s given room to operate. And thankfully, “Glasshouse” is gleefully short of the overcooked arrangements that bogged down her last record.

Hottest Jams: “First Time” “Midnight”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.16.57 PMCitizen
As You Please
Run For Cover
Though they tend to get lumped into the fourth-wave emo crowd, to my ears, the Ohio group’s excellent third LP sounds a lot more like the 90’s radio-rock that I grew up on than Mineral or Rites of Spring or something. I mean, its pre-release singles lifted melodies from Nirvana and the Primitive Radio Gods; it doesn’t get much more mid-90’s MTV than that. Label it however you want, but the record is an impressive collection of rock-solid, guitar-driven songwriting, elevated by Mat Kerekes’ muscular vocals.

Hottest Jams: “In The Middle of It All” “World”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.19.35 PMTy Dolla Sign
“Beach House 3”

Atlantic
Though he still hasn’t really found the mega-smash single to elevate him to the very top level as a solo artist, the 32 year-old is still one of the most consistent R&B singers around. I like Ty best as a mid-tempo balladeer, as his slightly raspy voice adds a nice touch of edge to ultra-smooth production. Tracks like “Droptop in the Rain” and “All The Time” scratch that itch and provide a nice balance to the rest of the club-friendly setlist.

Hottest Jams: “Droptop in the Rain” (f/ Tory Lanez) “All The Time”

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