Photo: Roberto Panucci – Corbis (Getty Images)
For many reasons (okay, one big orange one) 2017 seems like the longest year of my life. The bad news… well, you can find that on your social media timelines.
The good news is that it’s been a pretty good year for music and we’ve still got time, unless the world blows up. Here are the Best Albums of 2017… as of today.
JAY-Z – 4:44
JAY-Z’s 13th studio album has been divisive with critical acclaim (hey, Monica Lewinsky gave it props) to 50 Cent calling it a “golf course album”, but everyone can agree that it shows a mature, more personal side to the hip hop icon that reveals the man more than the myth. Why is it so bad for a hip hop dad to rap about marriage, infidelity and parenthood? The way I see it, the only thing sadder than being the old guy at da club is rapping about it.
The XX – I See You
The achingly lovestruck London trio trade in dour for danceable with a “pivot” album that lets their dark and stormy electro-R&B breathe a bit. The XX still make songs that are the definition of an “it’s complicated” relationship status, but I See You add some texture to their trademark, monochromatic sound, by shining a spotlight on each member’s intimate talents, allowing them to grow, which reflects in these more nuanced songs.
Joe Goddard – Electric Lines
Why is no one taking about Joe Goddard? Fine. I’m going to talk about Joe Goddard. He’s no ordinary Joe, but one of the founding members of Hot Chip. He’s also produced countless remixes (earning a Grammy nomination last year for reworking the Chemical Brothers’ “Wide Open”). Electric Lines is his first official solo full-length and its music geek porn — the audio equivalent of Ernest Cline’s game-changing book “Ready Player One” (and soon to be Steven Spielberg movie), taking the listener back on a raucous ride through the history of dance music.
Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, is the Kelly Slater of the chill wave moment, setting the standard for the synth pop meets dream pop sound, while getting better with age. Mister Mellow is like your stoner neighbor who invites you over for a cold beer and a fine smoke over some ping pong games and guitar jams. He’s not going to say or do anything profound that changes your life, but he will put a smile on your face.
Kendrick Lamar – Damn.
Kendrick Lamar’s music is the only thing that changes the internet’s conversation from President Trump. And, that’s no coincidence as the Compton rapper’s album serves as the counterpoint to the MAGA movement. Lamar has brought the message back to hip hop, while taking over the throne. Sorry, Kanye.
Drake – More Life
If Kendrick Lamar is our conscious, Drake is our ID, seizing on our innate impulses (dancing, drinking, obsession over Rhianna) that manifest in insatiable beats, seductive raps and whatever accents Drizzy takes on. The real-life King of the North has referred to More Life as a mixtape and it sounds exactly like the kind of playlist you would make for that jet-set, models and bottles life that you dream of, but can only live vicariously through on Instagram.
Mura Masa – Mura Masa
The 21-year-old DJ/producer (real name Alex Crossan) has been labeled as the “next big thing” and the release of his self-titled debut proves that he can deliver the goods with a genre-less, global sound that is very much the voice of the burgeoning multi-cultural world of today. This is a party playlist that you can put on to look cool with the kids.
Jamiroquai – Automaton
I can respect artists who don’t change their tune as long as they’re one of the best to master that particular sound (see the Rolling Stones, U2, JAY-Z). It surely helps if your music was ahead of its time so that when you do release your first new album in nearly a decade you’re regarded as forebears rather than carpetbaggers simply trying to cash in. Jay Kay got the British dance-funk, acid-jazz band back together for this return to form that includes one of my favorite singles of the year in the title track, “Automaton”.