2017 was a great year for music, check out these picks for albums of the year from the music department at KXSC!
Sean (Music Director):
- Shamana – Outdamud
If you were anything like me growing up, a disturbingly large portion of your early teenage years was spent listening to YouTube videos with titles like “WARNING! POWERFUL TRIP REPLICATION SIMULATION - Binaural Beats + Isochronic Tones [REALLY WORKS] [100% LEGIT] <92% WILL HALLUCINATE LISTENING TO THIS>”. This album is basically that but in Soundcloud beat tape format. Included in this album are slurred rants about MapleStory, post-ASMR subliminal programming, speaker bass test beats, and incredible flips of Key!, A$AP Mob and 50 Cent. This album’ll strap a spoiler and purple underglow to your 1999 Subaru Impreza, buy a $200 12 Oz. Mouse box set on eBay, speed run Animal Crossing %All Debts%, leave your TV blasting old episodes of Scared Straight at full volume and message all your Tinder dates grainy cell phone pics of Bigfoot in GTA San Andreas.
- Varg – Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3: Gore-Tex City.
If moody techno is your thing you’ll really love this. It’s a lot of Blade Runner-esque techno, reminiscent of futuristic metro lines and the high pitched drone of fluorescent lights. Representative of his broader label, Northern Electronics, his style of techno is isolative and the sort of pensive that induces nail-biting. It’s coupled with droning ambience and a few features, one of which is Yung Lean (surprise to me, as well). Listen for a flavor of the current state of cold Swedish techno.
- Ryuichi Sakamoto – async
I mentioned many of the reasons I loved this album in my review published earlier this year, but suffice it to say Ryuichi Sakamoto’s contribution to music this year has been par excellence. He envisioned it as a turbulent swansong, and an outsider’s perception of the world. The music is removed from the studio and re-constructed asynchronously, as life often is. It's a breathtaking and incredibly gut-wrenching. Please listen.
- Lil Uzi Vert – Luv Is Rage 2
Uzi’s major debut has lauded him much critical acclaim, and he has an honest shot at being the biggest rap sensation of 2017. Some may view this album as a vehicle for “XO TOUR Llif3”’s sale, but it’s a breakup album, through and through. I find myself re-listening to it a lot more than I normally anticipated, and it marks an interesting point in pop culture – that the non-stop partying and dissociation of the early 10’s had to end in as dramatic a fashion as it began. I don't really care if you cry...
- John Maus – Screen Memories
We haven’t heard from Maus since 2011, and he embraces us with similar forms of stark synth jams as before. His songs have always put focus on accessibility through lyricism, and Screen Memories is no exception. Though singularly-focused, songs like “The Combine” and “Edge of Forever” spark an apocalyptic feeling that emanates throughout the album. A good soundtrack for 2017, let’s hope 2018 is better.
Cameron (Assistant Music Director):
- Kelela - Take Me Apart
Honestly, this was the only album I needed this year, and it's pretty much the only I've been listening to since it came out. It was new Kelela in all the ways that we needed but didn't expect. Most of the rest of my top 5 were also producers on Take Me Apart, so all around stunning year for this lot.
- Arca - Arca
I think everyone was a bit surprise when Arca decided to make his eponymous album a Björkification of himself, but it turned out very well in the end. While he's definitely not a vocal prodigy, his raw voice found its home amid his heavy granular sounds.
- Leonce - Heatwave 2
- araabMUZIK - One of One EP
- Asmara - Let Ting Go
Seeing Asmara go off and do more solo production away from nguzunguzu was one of the more exciting parts of 2017. Apart from producing several tracks on Take Me Apart, she also had time to release a whole four track of her own club tracks. Give it a listen if you missed it.
Lani (R & B Music Director):
- Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa
Dua was that bitch this year and none of us can deny that she served pop real ness.
- Mac Ayers - Drive Slow
- SZA - Ctrl
I shouldn’t have to write why this album is on my and everyone else’s top 5. Hands down an amazing album from production, lyrics to visual.
- Charlie XCX - Pop 2
- Harry Styles - Harry Styles
Natasha (Hip Hop Director):
- Tyler the Creator - Flower Boy
Listen up everybody, because Tyler the Creator runs the whole world now. Our little boy from Ladera Heights is all grown up and has created the most delicate, soulful, self-reflective, and downright incredible soundtrack to young adulthood and personal development. I don’t know how he did it, but Tyler has encapsulated the raw feelings of love and anxiety and fear that many of us experience all at once and sometimes not at all in just 46 minutes. Flower Boy is comforting; now more than ever, there is tremendous pressure to feel in control of your emotions and know exactly who you are and what you are doing, but this album says otherwise. The past year was pretty horrendous, on a personal and global scale, so it’s only natural to feel worried about the year to come. Take a minute and relax my babes, listen to this album and all will be ok.
- Kendrick Lamar - DAMN
I don’t think I need to spell this one out for you guys—this album is flat out remarkable. Holistically my favorite Kendrick Lamar album, from the mixing and production quality to his poetic lyrics. Let’s not forget that this album contains one of the only songs that can make me forget where the hell I am, “Pride,” a melody that brutally stabs me in the heart and guts me to my core. The visuals for this album are equally beautiful, with some of the best music videos I’ve seen in the last decade with “DNA”, “Loyalty”,”Element”, and the newly released video for “Love.”
- A$AP Ferg - Still Striving
Hands down the best thing that happened to me this year. Still Striving is the HARDEST album of 2017, and reminds the hip hop world that trap will never die. Trust me, this album will make you want to be angry at someone for no clear reason and then go out with your day one’s to blow off more than just steam. Shoutout to the most iconic song of the semester, “Mattress Remix.”
- Playboi Carti - Playboi Carti
Playboi Carti has a unique talent for translating happiness into musical sound. His debut, self-titled album is just short of genius, the perfect soundtrack for any turn up, joy ride, study sesh, doodling sesh, chill sesh, pre-coital jitters, post-coital euphoria, you name it. Young Carti is a master ad-libber, and can milly rock his way through any situation. I hope to hear more from this young man soon!
- Lil B, Black Ken
Oh man I would be remiss not to name this album as one of the best of 2017. Black Ken slid into my life without warning during the excruciating heat wave we experienced this summer. It was the funky revival, the audio electrolytes I needed while I took advantage of the few days I had before the academic year began, filled with blazing beats and scorching riffs that Mr. Brandon McCarthy created entirely by himself. This tape is a true homage to the stylings of Mac Dre, Keek da Sneak, G-Eazy and other Bay Area rappers who propelled the hyphy movement. As we round out the year, I surely hope that one of everyone’s New Years resolutions is to be more like Lil B. We love you Based God.
Jatin (Jazz Director):
- Photay - Onism
It's rare to find an album that so accurately captures an emotion that you're feeling while you listen to it. This album hit me in a mad personal way, and while I could talk for days about the technical aspects that make this album great, I don't think that would do it justice. Discovering this album has been a beautiful emotional journey for me, and I hope it has been/will be for you as well.
- Remo Drive - Greatest Hits
You have to be some special sort of assholes to name your debut LP "Greatest Hits," but I honestly can't hate them for it, since I really dig this album. I can't quite say why I like this album so much, but I've been listening to it a lot in the month or so since I discovered it, to the point that I thought it warranted this spot on my list. "Yer Killing Me," especially the last two-thirds of the track, is freaking brilliant.
- DJ Harrison - Hazymoods
Richmond, VA tape wizard, multi-instrumentalist and beatsmith Devonne Harris aka DJ Harrison comes through with one of the best instrumental hip-hop albums of the decade, comparable only to Knxwledge's "Hud Dreems."
- Gabriel Garzon-Montano - Jardin
Of all the albums that I had sky high expectations for in 2017, from Fever Ray to Father John Misty, Kendrick Lamar to Kelela, Gabriel Garzon-Montano's debut full-length project was the only one that matched and exceeded my expectations. That said, it's hard to describe his music to the unfamiliar. It's definitely R&B-ish, it funks and it grooves, but there's some unique quality to his music sonically, rhythmically, and melodically that I just can't put my finger on. I guess you'll just have to listen to it. P.S: "Crawl" is a fucking JAM.
- Floating Points - Reflections: Mojave Desert
As someone who's spent many hours listening to the music of Floating Points, and many hours hiking through the peaks, canyons, and dunes of the Mojave Desert, it never really crossed my mind that I might not like this record. Even still, props to Dr. Sam Sheperd and the band for truly showcasing the sonic beauty of the desert landscape as an instrument very much its own.
Virginia (Soft Rock Director):
- Kendrick Lamar - DAMN
wanna know something embarrassing? This was the album that introduced me to Kendrick in a real way. Yeah I know gross, but I had never given him a true, strong listen before DAMN. came out, so this changed my life on a very basic level. I then worked backwards through his discography after freaking out over FEAR and LOVE. I’m a better woman because of it! Obvi!
- SZA- Cntrl
I was a SZA stan since Z so when Cntrl came out it was like the second coming of Jesus for me. I can listen to this album infinitely. Never forget the time Doves in the Wind came on shuffle over the aux with my dad in the car heh. Anyway! At last SZA gets the love and attention she so totally deserves.
- Childish Gambino - Awaken My Love!
haha who knew! I feel like I’m offending everyone’s intelligence at this point/parroting the Grammys but whatever! Obviously this album blew everyone’s mind and demonstrated an insane evolution of Gambino as an artist... I still can’t believe he can sing like that it’s absolutely unreal. Ha.
- Cosmo Pyke - Just Cosmo
so Cosmo dropped the single Social Sites earlier this year and I was like “huh” and “who is this hot British guy with dreads” but then quickly moved on. But then Just Cosmo came out and it altered me. There’s so much to say about him and these 5 tracks but I’ll leave it at this... he is so much more than a guy that sounds like a slightly peppier King Krule! I promise.
- Mac Demarco - This Old Dog
I had a hard time choosing this last one, I was torn between Tyler and this but... I just had to go with my gut and my gut always gets a gooier, more visceral reaction when I hear Mac crooning at me. When I first heard this album I had a hard time distinguishing it from anything else he’s done. Actually, I still do, but I kind of like it that way.