As far as dumpster fires go, 2017 is definitely up there. Headlines reverberated through our collective consciousness at a breakneck pace, almost ubiquitously negative in nature. We endured a seemingly endless deluge of hurricanes, flirted with nuclear war, and came to a collective reckoning that power can and will be abused if we let it.
Years like 2017 can really make you realize how important the little daily escapes can be. The thirty minutes every morning when you’re getting ready. The twenty minute subway ride home. Those sweet, lush oases when it’s just you and the music.
For so many people, music is a vital escape. A way for them to come together with other people when it feels as if the world is trying to tear everyone apart. These are the albums that helped bring us together in 2017. These are the albums that have us ready for whatever 2018 has in store.
Mura Masa – Mura Masa
Alex Crossan’s debut album landed him the distinguished honor of being the first artist to ever receive Grammy nominations as both a creative director and musician for the same album. Huge features from the likes of A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX helped propel the album to a solid debut on the U.K. charts. The ode to London’s lifestyle and culture incorporates a huge sonic variety and is as detailed as it is diverse.
Sampha – Process
The U.K.-based singer and songwriter has been making a name for himself for years now featuring on standout tracks from Kanye, Drake, and SBTRKT. This year saw the long-awaited release of his debut solo project, and it certainly was worth the wait. The album is meditative, intimate, and vulnerable. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is one of the most beautiful songs we’ve heard all year.
The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful
The Killers’ eclectic blend of pop, rock, and electronic elements need no introduction. Fans of their early work will find plenty to love about Wonderful Wonderful, as it represents a true return to the band’s roots. Poignant lines like “You got the faith of a child before the world gets in,” remind us why we fell in love with this band in the first place.
Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
Katie Crutchfield’s fourth album is likely her best yet. On Out in the Storm, she conveys the emotions that arise from failed relationships with vivid, almost unsettling, detail. A cathartic body of work with expertly crafted songs.
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Lorde – Melodrama
The level of craftsmanship that goes into every single song on this album is truly astounding for someone of Lorde’s age. An excellent follow-up to the smash success that was Pure Heroine, this project is luminous. Melodrama presents a truly nuanced take on some of the shittier parts of growing up and is as heartbreaking as it is triumphant.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Kendrick somehow yet again manages to deftly maneuver the tightrope of making music that is deeply textured, lyrically affecting, and commercially accessible. He managed to make the most popular album of the year without compromising his profoundly complex vision. We’re lucky enough to be watching one of the greatest rappers of all time firing on all cylinders and it’s damn exciting.
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Chastity Belt – I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone
A very 2017-appropriate album, the Seattle band’s third project is an exploration of the darker corners of the mind. The blend of shoegaze and post-punk is captivating and presents a unique take of topics of despair. A great rainy day listen.
Perfume Genius – No Shape
Mike Hadreas’ fourth LP is perhaps his most emotionally potent record to date. While No Shape is likely his brightest album yet, the undertones of struggle that have shaped his career are always present. The album is simultaneously a triumphant realization of how far Mike has come and an acknowledgement of how difficult it was to get there.
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Ibeyi – Ash
On Ash, the French-Cuban twins present a soulful amalgam of art-pop and R&B. Filled with minimalist production, the duo’s haunting vocal harmonies effortlessly float from track to track. The only thing as beautiful as their singing is their thoughtful lyrics. A record of feminine empowerment that feels particularly important in 2017.
TOKiMONSTA – Lune Rouge
Electronic musician Jennifer Lee endured quite the transformative life experience in between her second and third albums. But, as evidenced by Lune Rouge, undergoing two brain surgeries and temporarily losing her hearing and speech capabilities has not slowed her a bit. The album is a shimmering take on the lighter side of EDM music with absolutely top-notch production.
SZA – CTRL
For a hot second, it looked like CTRL was never going to drop. Amidst seemingly never-ending delays and some label drama, SZA claimed she was bowing out of music. Mercifully, she reversed course and blessed us with this gem which is rightfully topping numerous other year-end lists. On the album, SZA presents an incredibly honest portrait of her whole self. Her swagger. Her embarrassments and insecurities. Her desires. CTRL plays out in a similar space as label-mate Kendrick’s music where candid lyricism is matched with excellent songwriting.
Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
This year, the NYC-native rapper expanded upon her already excellent 1992 EP from 2016 by adding nine new tracks. The deluxe version cements her as one of the most interesting voices in underground hip-hop today. Ninety percent of today’s rappers can’t touch the vocal gymnastics she pulls off consistently throughout the album. We are certifiably stoked for what Princess Nokia brings to us in 2018 and beyond.
Greta Van Fleet – From the Fires
Somehow embodying the past, present, and future of rock music, Greta Van Fleet had a banner year in 2017. The band has deftly managed to incorporate a large swath of classic rock influence without becoming a mere worship group. Many have even claimed that they’re going to be the saviors of the declining rock genre. We’re not entirely sure that rock music is really in need of saving yet, but From the Fires proves that we’ll be in good hands just in case.
The Bloody Beetroots – The Great Electronic Swindle
Electronic producer Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo’s third LP is a pulsing good time of an album. The combination of dance rock, EDM, and nu-metal influences creates an adrenaline pumping wall of sound. Think: Skrillex meets Slipknot on acid.
BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation I/II/III
Fresh off of their first nationwide tour and a mini-series on Viceland, BROCKHAMPTON exploded onto the rap scene this year. Not only did the California-based “boy band” release three full-length albums in 2017, they managed to release three excellent albums. Redefining what a rap collective can sound like, BROCKHAMPTON’s members range from melodic crooners to aggressive rappers. Everything from production to art design is handled in-house resulting in a cohesive sonic palette that didn’t really sound like anything else from 2017.
Converge – The Dusk in Us
While album sales are almost irrelevant in today’s age, it’s hard not to take notice when a band has their best opening sales week nearly 30 years into their career. Illustrious metalcore pioneers Converge are still pulling in big numbers in 2017 because each new addition to their now extensive catalogue still feels like a necessary and vital contribution to the genre. The Dusk in Us is no different. The groups’ songwriting skills enables them to create tracks that are supremely catchy (“A Single Tear”), which is no easy feat when the music is this heavy. True legends of their craft.
Cheers to 2018 from the Jukely family to yours!
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