Home ALBUM REVIEWS Top 10 Non Hip-Hop Albums of 2017

Top 10 Non Hip-Hop Albums of 2017

SHARE

Every night when I get home from work or the gym, I try to dedicate at least 2 hours to creative projects—editing, writing, drawing, I like to accomplish something creative before bed.

I’m not as good at it as I used to be.

Even this list, which I love to do every year, was a struggle. I often find myself staring at blank pages, browsing Etsy (I bought a shirt that says “Me Farted”), or watching Eric Andre videos instead of writing.

A lot of things don’t come to me like they used to.

Sometimes I think my best days are behind me. I look in the mirror and feel fat and old, and then I go stare at a blank page on my computer screen and feel like I can’t write anymore either. The other day a friend of mine, trying to help with my writer’s block, said “Do you feel like you’ve said all you have to say?” And I replied “No! I feel like I haven’t said anything!” I feel like all my good ideas are inside and I don’t know how to get them out. I watch old videos of myself and get jealous, thinking “I used to be great.”

A few months back my brother came to visit me in Los Angeles for the first time. I scrambled to clean my apartment and get ready for him. So I’m in my bathroom cleaning up and I notice the tile in my shower is a bit dirty, so I spray it with 409 (or whatever they call the knock off at the 99c store) and wipe it down, but the shower doesn’t improve at all. So I thought, “I guess the shower is just fucked”, it’s too old to fix, and it’s just gonna look like this forever now.

One day I wake up (at noon), and my brother tells me while I was sleeping, he got me some presents for my apartment. One of which was a brush that I could use to scrub the grout in the shower. My first thought was “OH THANKS WHAT A GREAT PRESENT, ASSHOLE”, but then a few weeks later, things changed.

I’m taking a shower before work (and I reach for the shampoo and knock over that stupid brush my brother got me. I thought”eh I’m in here, why not try it”, and I began to scrub the shower. I scrubbed long and hard with that brush, and it shocked me.

It worked.

The shower was cleaner, the dirt and stuff on the grout was actually coming up, and that”s when it hit me: This shower isn’t fucked. Nothing in life is fucked. Things just aren’t as easy as they used to be, they take more work.

I’m older now, I have to really sit down and focus on my writing, I can’t get drunk and half ass it. I have to exercise more and take vitamins and use shampoo that has fucking biotin in it.

I also have to TAKE IT EASY on myself. We gain nothing from trying to relive the past or stress about the future. Neither exist. All we have is now. We all stumble sometimes, we all get depressed, we all feel lost, but we are still US.

Don’t stress, just take things one day at a time, set little goals for yourself and accomplish them one by one. You know how a shark eats a whale?

One bite at a time.

I have to mediate more, I have to worry about what I can control and not what I can’t, but I also have to push myself more than I used to. I need to take more risks and experience more things, and I have to take better care of myself, but I’m not fucked. I’m still me. Nothing is fucked.

You can take this as a political statement if you want, but this isn’t NME—I’m not gonna tell you every album this year is “just the resistance music we need in these dark times.” Give me a fucking break, NME.

Now let’s get on to some music reviews shall we!?

WORST SONGS OF THE YEAR

I know I was just trying to be positive like a minute ago, but bare with me.

Every year I do a new segment so why break that tradition!? Every year I try to do a Facebook or Twitter post about the TOP 5 SONGS I NEVER EVER WANT TO HEAR AGAIN! So I thought I’d incorporate that into my list this year. The following are 5 songs that were either overplayed to the point of exhaustion, or are just terrible pieces of crap. ENJOY!

5) The Chainsmokers – “Something Just Like This”

This is a tough one for me, because as a white person I LOVE Chris Martin, but I am so damn tired of this band. This song isn’t as bad as “Don’t Let Me Down”, but all of The Chainsmokers songs are so annoying, lyrically bland, and full of lazy Zedd-style hooks that make me want to kill myself.

4) Imagine Dragons – “Believer”

What is the appeal of this band? I’ll never understand. Why are they so popular? The singer sucks, the music is so unappealing, it’s not fun or beautiful or sad or interesting. It’s like this dude sings over the transformers original score. And what is with the lyrics of all their songs? They’re like vague statements about shit being bad. It’s always like a lame “whoa, oh, the world is ending, things are dark, I feel bad, whoa, oh, something is breaking, everything is bad”. Seriously FUCK this band.

3) Twenty One Pilots – “Ride”

I think this song technically came out in 2016 or 2015 maybe, but I’ve heard it on the radio a ton this year, and I have to say it should almost be number one, but that spot was locked up months ago. This song stunned me with it’s 600 million views on YouTube. Every single thing about this song is so bad. It’s like this absolutely garbage shitty pop/rock song that then transitions into this weird God-awful Reggae, maybe?

2) Clean Bandit “Rockabye”

I tried to listen to this song again to make sure I wasn’t insane, and I paused it after 4 seconds. It’s THAT annoying THAT quickly. Every time this comes on at the gym I audibly yell “OH MY GOD I HATE THIS SONG” from my treadmill at the no judgement zone (although I’m judging this song harshly). I actually enjoy this band and a lot of their other songs, but this is one huge steaming pile of annoying garbage.

1) Ed Sheeran – “The Shape Of You”

God damn I hate Ed Sheeran so much. He somehow perfects looking like a complete douche and a complete nerd, so I want to punch him in the face twice as hard. His music is so unbelievably shallow and lame and horrible. His lyrics suck, his music sucks, and he looks like a leprechaun wandered into forever 21. Ed Sheeran probably keeps all his empty beer bottles above his bed for decoration. Ed Sheeran is probably the shirtless douche playing guitar on the quad.

ON TO THE TOP 10!!!

Honorable Mention:

Moon Boots – First Landing

Whoa! Look at me with my cool underground Indie shout outs this year! Whose even HEARD of Moon Boots!? Well I’ll keep it real, it came up on my Spotify discover weekly and I really liked it. Y’alll know I’m a sucker for music in that Disclosure, KAYTRANADA, etc. kind of style, and Moon Boots continues the trend. I was really impressed by this debut, especially for such an Indie artist. Each track takes traditional house music and puts this neat outer space-like feel on it. I had never heard of any of the guest singers on this album either and they are all fantastic, and I hope to hear more from them in the future. The vocals on the track below from King Kona have such an interesting pace, hitting a stride that seems between singing and rapping. Look forward to more releases from this artist.

Favorite Tracks:
Fortune teller, Keep The Faith, Never Get To You, I Want Your Attention

10) Thundercat – Drunk

Thundercat is a really interesting artist, because of the way he combines 70’s funk/soul with stoner life experiences. The music is smooth and expansive, meanwhile he talks about leaving his wallet at clubs, playing Mortal Kombat, and getting stuck in the friend zone. It’s great because it feels like he’s just a friend of yours, but he makes bomb ass music. “Show You The Way” is the album highlight as he lays down a smooth AF track with Kenny Loggins and Michael Mcdonald and makes me wish Michael Mcdonald would release a cool album like this. Like I would be SO DOWN for a Thundercat-produced Michael Mcdonald album, PLEASE MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Favorite Tracks:
Show You The Way, Walk On By, Them Changes Friend Zone

9) Phoenix – Ti Amo

I’m just as surprised as you that this album ended up on here, but I like to be honest when I make these. I’m always tempted to put albums with higher critic reviews on my list instead of the albums I genuinely enjoyed and listened to the most.

A lot of people are gonna be like, “where the hell is Father John Misty? Phoenix? Are you kidding me? And to that I say… I LOVE PHOENIX. I know this album isn’t like super critically acclaimed, but it’s really fun. It has this amazing summer in France/Italy feel, mixed with a Wes Anderson film and is this nice sugary treat amongst a world full of bleak and negative music. Don’t get me wrong, I like those albums too, but sometimes you have to change it up and listen to a bright, colorful album that’s all about babes and eating delicious fucking Gelato.

This album is meticulously crafted and layered and feels so smooth and effortless like all Phoenix albums do, and you can’t help but get songs like “Tuttifrutti” stuck in your head. Now the problem with this album is it’s a tale of two albums. The first half is really great, and then the second half is full of a lot of lazy songs that seem like they were written just to be played in a big stadium and never seem to really come together.

Also, the Father John Misty album was boring. Deal with it. You can write all the funny/clever lyrics you want, but without interesting music it doesn’t work. Every song on that album sounds exactly the same. GIVE ME PHOENIX INSTEAD! GIVE ME COOL SUNGLASSES AND GELATO AND ITALIAN BEACHES.

Also Pitchfork gave it a 7.0 so suck it.

Favorite Tracks:
J Boy, Ti Amo, Tutti Frutti, Goodbye Soleil

 

8) The Weather Station – The Weather Station

Reminiscent of First Aid Kit or the Alison Krauss & Robert Plant album Raising Sand, The Weather Station is a very emotional and sparse folk/country album. It’s a big step forward for the band, as the album is filled with far more instruments, hooks, and swagger than previous albums, and it pays off in a big way.

Favorite Tracks:
Thirty, You And I, Kept It All To Myself, Impossible

7) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville sound

After first starting with the band Drive By Truckers and then moving into his own solo work, Jason Isbell is back with his band the 400 unit on what is easily his best work to date. While Jason’s solo albums show of his talent for songwriting and wonderful voice, his work with the 400 Unit showcases a full fledged band with a warm and powerful sound. I personally enjoyed his solo work but found it a little too melancholy and I have always enjoyed the Drive by Truckers, but wish they had a little more soul. This album to me is the perfect combination, it is filled with beauty, thought, and sadness, but is backed by such a fun, rollicking musical scape that is so warm and rich. Truly a triumph.

Favorite Tracks:
White Man’s World, Anxiety, Chaos and Clothes, Hope and The High Road

6) Future Islands – The Far Field

Whenever I do these lists I like to face my mistakes head-on. This is something I NEVER do at my job or in relationships, but that’s a different story. Two years ago I messed up and left Future Islands Singles off my list. IT WAS DUMB! I KNOW! But I’m here to make up for it with The Far Field. The album plays like an absolute sequel to the successful Singles, but lyrically and musically it seems to dig a little deeper, and get more personal. The production may not be as slick, and the vocals are not as prioritized as they should be, but this is still a really good album from a band that continues to craft an unmistakable signature sound.

Favorite Tracks:
Time On Her Side, Ran, North Star, Shadows

5) Nite Jewel – Real High

Seeming to mine heavily from the new jack swing era of music, specifically Janet Jackson, Nite Jewel releases her most focused and fun album to date. Throwbacks and reboots and nostalgia seem to be all the rage lately, but Nite Jewel makes it work so well. The channeling of early 90’s R&B and New Jack is so deep that it doesn’t feel like a nod to that era, it feels like it WAS that era. Someone who just heard this album casually would think it came out in 1993. Very much in the vein of artists like Jessy Lanza and Banks, Nite Jewel is a rising star to keep an eye on.

Favorite Tracks:
Had To Let Me Go, 2 Good 2 Be True, Part Of Me

4) The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

2014’s Lost In Dreams was a huge breakthrough for The War On Drugs and continued to expand the surf rock/folk sound into more traditional rock or folk like you might hear from Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan. But don’t be misled. Although those sounds heavily influence the band, their sound is truly unique, which they prove on the incredibly gorgeous 11-minute ballad “Thinking Of A Place”-which is probably the absolute best track to listen to on a long mountain drive. Things feel more focused and a bit warmer on A Deeper Understanding, this is best exemplified on the foot-stomping anthem “Holding on.”

Favorite Tracks:
Up All Night, Holding On, Thinking Of A Place, Nothing To Find

3) Wolf Alice – Visions of a life

Wolf Alice is such a surprising band. They came out of absolute nowhere, and have quickly released two fantastic albums that not only channel inspiration from 90’s grunge rock, but fuse it with new ideas and create a signature sound.

What’s also astounding about Wolf Alice is how diverse the songs they write are. One track sounds like The Shins, then Wavves, then The Cranberries, and then Arctic Monkeys with the band’s impeccable ability to write lyrics based on wry observations around the bar on a rowdy night.

They also don’t seem to be content churning out pop/rock hits like they did with their previous album, as this one plunges further into darker and more challenging terriotry.

Favorite Tracks:
Beautiful Unconvential, Don’t Delete The Kisses, Planet Hunter, Formidable Cool

2) The xx – I See You

Well this album making the number 2 spot is no surprise, as it was my most listened to album on Spotify, and I wrote a glowing review of it earlier in the year.

Much like the next album on this, list I See You is a more focused, more colorful, and more mature album for a band whose previous album seemed to dwell too much on space and darkness.

Their singing is better, their lyrics are better, and their music is better thanks to the diverse beats that Jamie xx is able to introduce into their signature sound.

Like almost every album on this list, this is a band who draws on nostalgia and old sounds, but doesn’t recreate them. Instead, they use them to create a new and unique sound, better than a throwback.

Favorite Tracks:
Dangerous, Say Something Loving, Lips, I Dare You

1) Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now

One day I’m in my car listening to a playlist that had some Jens Lekman songs on it and I’m enjoying it so much I decide to just listen to Jens Lekman. Now anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to text and drive, or tweet and drive etc. Well anyway, I’m not paying attention and I see there is a red light so I slam on the brakes. My phone then goes flying onto the floor, and I can’t go reaching for it until the next red light. Suddenly a Jens Lekman song I hadn’t heard before comes on and I’m like “OH SHIT! Does he have a new album?” And the rest is history.

I love little surprises like that, the way life intervenes.

Life Will See You Now is an absolutely gorgeous album, it’s so vibrant and colorful. He jumps from bossanova, to disco, to tropical funk, all accompanying raw and humorous lyrics. His funny and tender stories range from a guy who makes a 3-D print of his tumor, friends hot-wiring a broken Ferris wheel, two bros who can’t open up to each other, and smelling a perfume that reminds you of an ex. Jens is the most unique songwriter out there, and this is his best album BY FAR, and such a great treat after his rather dark and gloomy 2012 album, I Know What Love Isn’t.

Favorite Tracks: Evening Prayer, Hotwire The Ferris wheel, What’s That Perfume That You Wear?, Wedding in Finistere.