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Spin or Bin Music Writers' Picks: Top 10 Albums of 2017

By  December 11, 2017

2017 has been a draining slow burn of a year. There was virtually no moment when looking at the news didn't make for a depressing experience.

At the same time, it solidified the role of music as a refuge more than ever.

We've browsed through the pool of releases in pop, R&B, rock and hip-hop, to put together a list of the best albums of the year. Here's some music for some rough times.

 

10. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Branded as 'Afro-futurism' by the 24-year-old rapper, Big Fish Theory's vision extends past the trends of the today, into the sounds of tomorrow- glacial, metallic beats seemingly fed through a wormhole from a dystopian future. Lethargy pervades his lyrics and delivery, occasionally sinking him beneath the cacophony of it all, as the bass grinds on like the machinery of circumstance. However, when his simmering anger finally emerges, he wields the relentless sonics like a weapon on tracks such as BagBak- delivering results that are raw and cutting.

 

9. Alex Cameron - Forced Witness

Glistening synthpop coupled with lyrics detailing douchebaggery of the lowest kind makes for an unsettling listening experience- while you find yourself grooving to the hook-laden music, it feels strange to do so over such misogynistic ramblings of a disempowered but delusional man (not going to quote the lyrics here, for the sake of decency, but feel free to look them up). Alex Cameron effectively highlights the ugly ridiculousness of his alter-ego’s worldview through contrastingly bright production and self-aware jabs, serving one of the more interesting releases of 2017. Also, Studmuffin96 for song title of the year.

 

8. Red Velvet - Perfect Velvet

Stylized with sticky hooks and harmonies more exquisite than anything on Western radio, while recalling a kaleidoscopic sea of influences ranging from warped future bass to throwback disco, Perfect Velvet showcases refined pop songcraft that is captivating and experimental. It’s releases like this that continue to position Red Velvet on the forefront of one of the more rewardingly daring pop music scenes out there. Our full review here.   

 

7. Paramore - After Laughter

Sadness feels truer when it is situated in the backdrop of taxing attempts to appear happy. Paramore, recalling their tumultuous history, present an evolved 80s-inspired sound that embodies this very feeling- arpeggiated guitar lines, animated synths, and their cleverest lyrics to date conjure color and mania in passionate bursts. Hayley Williams further evokes a sense of volatility through her performance- sharp inflections, spoken outbursts and varied vocal rhythms. Devastating and infectious, in equal parts. Our full review here.

 

6. The Shins - Heartworms

As our writer Donwei notes- “The Shins are always a good fall-back whenever you're in need of a dose of indie music. Having consistently put out solid albums throughout their career, Heartworms is no exception. With gems scattered across the album, the band (thankfully) retains their signature sound and heart-wrenching lyrics under the disguise of feel-good vibes.” An introspective and organic record, it is something you can always come home to.

 

5. The xx - I See You

The xx are known for recreating intimacy that emits warmth and ambiguity, akin to the substance of a shadow. They continue to advance their art form on their third album, with smarter sampling, less meekness and more curious production choices. Dangerous, the album opener, announces their renewed ambition with a brassy, garage-influenced production that is unlike anything they have put out previously. We finally see light spilling through the cracks of the monochromatic universe they've built since debut, onto new grounds. 

 

4. Phoenix - Ti Amo

Writer Teejay wrote, “If you’re looking for some fresh yet timeless synth-pop, Phoenix will never disappoint. It’s the paradox you never knew you needed. For a band that’s been part of the music scene for almost 20 years, Phoenix never lost their ability to keep up with the times while still incorporating their signature head-bob inducing songs.” Sleek, romantic, summer-kissed music that provides a respite from the chaos.

 

3. Kelela - Take Me Apart

A synthesis of the corporeal and surreal, Kelela delves in the physical- the throbbing ache of love and desire- amidst the hazy atmospherics courtesy of experimental electronic producers like Jam City and Arca. On her previous effort Cut 4 Me, she came off as more of a decorative edge to the main body of her producers’ works, but on this album, she takes over the spacey, off-kilter beats, imbuing her vulnerability into their alien quality. Emotional yet forward-thinking, Take Me Apart is the best R&B release of 2017.

 

2. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Kendrick continues to show the world why he is the among, if not the top of the rap royalty of this generation. Top tier flow, delivery, punchlines, storytelling and beats. Through arrestingly personal narratives, he seeks optimism and humanity in the bleakness of the world, delivering a masterpiece of a rap album.

 

1. Lorde- Melodrama

I was slightly hesitant about ranking this as number one, albeit it seemed like a predictable pick- but upon another spin of the record, I can't imagine another album in its place. It's no wonder why Melodrama resonates deeply with so many- as writer Solihin pertinently puts it, "Rather than wallow in the depths of pubescent grief, the New Zealander wrestles with it, comes out on top and wears its skin as her own for all to see. Expanding her minimalist sound to accommodate the emotionally chaotic narrative, Lorde's sophomore outing vividly and poetically captures the maddening ebbs and flows of late teenage-hood, lending listeners glimpses into her synesthesia-hued world."


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