Anna of the North- Lovers
I had Anna of the North on my radar since her early single “Us”, but my attention to her shifted even more so after her release of “Oslo”. There was something different about that track. I remember listening to it multiple times trying to connect it with anything else out there and I could not. With an album announcement, I found myself listening to the released tracks “Lovers”, “Someone”, “Money”, and “Fire”. This is a complete album deserved to be listened in whole.
Marc E. Bassy- Gossip Columns
This was my surprise love of the year. I have heard of Marc for a while, but this album has been on in my car at so many points. “Black Jeep” is one hell of an intro song, while “Let Me Rock”, “New Ting”, and “Til I Get Found” display the variety and range that Marc has. I think this is the tipping point in his career.
The Maine- Lovely Little Lonely
2017 seemed to be year of reunions and anniversary tours. The Maine did one better, putting out one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time, not just 2017. 2015’s American Candy saw the band take a new direction and I was anxious about this new album. Whatever these guys are doing, I hope other bands take notice. They realized that their fan base has shifted; they have grown up, and made two solid albums highlighting their new vision. The Maine are here to stay.
Portugal. The Man -Woodstock
I don’t have to explain the magnitude of this album, do I? Well I’m going to anyways, because I’m in love with it and the dudes who wrote it. Woodstock marks an important turning point in the career of a band that’s been going strong for twelve years now. While finally making the leap into mainstream, PTM still manages to keep influences of their old sound with tracks like “Mr. Lonely” and “Noise Pollution.” An ethereal ten track experience, Woodstock takes you on a ride from past to present in a flow only this band can achieve. Their number one single, “Feel it still,” is now a record breaking chart-topper, and I can personally attest that the other nine tracks are just as strong. This isn’t my favorite PTM album of all time because I liked them before they sold out (inside fan joke,) but it’s definitely their cleanest; the quality of production is fabulous and I can’t commend their producers enough. The best part? The guys have remained humble throughout the entire journey of starting out as being referred to as “Who?” to a multi-platinum, record-breaking, Grammy nominated band named Portugal. The freaking Man. If you like great music, or you’re bored, give this album a listen.
Foster the People - Sacred Hearts Club
SHC really stands out as more than just another pop album. Amidst political unrest and social division, Foster the People has a message to carry out across the airwaves: “Love is stronger than politics.” Vastly different from their previous two albums in terms of message, body, and flow, the band made the decision to completely change their sound when they realized with all the socioeconomic discomfort that people just really needed to love and be loved. Thus, Sacred Hearts Club was born. This album came to me at the exact moment I needed it in my life. I can remember the feelings of gratitude and joy I truly experienced when I first listened to “Sit Next to Me,” and the urge to rage every time I hear “Loyal like Sid and Nancy.” SHC triggers ecstasy, dread, indignation, a newfound zest for life, and a whole rainbow of other emotions I can’t begin to describe. If you haven’t listened to it, or you still have some long-held resentment against FTP for “Pumped up Kicks,” just know you’re only hurting yourself.
Aminé - Good for You
I’m not sure that the world understands this precious gift that has been given to it in the form of Aminé. Think early Childish Gambino, mixed with Tribe Called Quest, mixed with the uncharted waters of Portland hip-hop. With the chart-topping hit “Caroline”, it was hard for me to not think that there was more to this kid who calls himself “Banana Boy”. Aminé is the prodigy of Andre3000 and with that kind of street cred, of course you get features from Offset of Migos, Ty Dolla $ign, Kehlani, and angelically soulful riffs from Leon Bridges and Charlie Wilson. This guy also gives a hell of a show so if you missed the North American leg of his tour cunningly titled “Tour For You” this year, you missed out. Give a listen to “Heebiejeebies” featuring Kehlani, “Veggies” and “Turf”. While you’re at it, listen to the whole damn album. Overall, if you need something that is thoughtful, fun and still has that underground sound, Good for You will be, well, good for you.
Bruno Mars - 24k Magic
Who wasn’t listening to Bruno Mars at all this year? Raise you hands. YOU ARE ONLY HURTING YOURSELF. STOP IT. There is nothing on this album that doesn’t make you want to dance and groove. It’s beyond evident that Bruno found that the 60s soul big band sound that made Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” a big hit, works for him way past one song on the Billboard Hot 100. But it’s not just big band sound, it’s like he took inspiration from every decade and made it his own. This album says Tony!Toni! Toné! Jackson 5 and James Brown all rolled up with a big glass of Bruno Mars. But with a name like that, what could you expect?* For a good dance around the house, turn on “Perm”. This song is guaranteed to make the day upbeat. Then, crank it up a notch and play “Finesse”. The only negative comment I can make about this album is that it is only nine songs. So naturally, I’m waiting for a deluxe edition to hit streaming sites that has previously unreleased music on it because there is no way that Bruno Mars didn’t have over 100 songs that didn’t make the cut.
*If any of these artists/groups doesn’t ring a bell with you, tell your parents that they weren’t cool back in the day.
SZA - Ctrl
I played this album on repeat, fell in love with it and realized that my mood became melancholy almost like I had seasonal affect disorder. SZA is the female Drake. She puts you in feelings you don’t even have and you just accept it. “20 Something” resonated with me and I was even at a good place in life. That’s how she gets you and that’s what makes this album so good. You feel her emotion, you understand her despair and you desire her brand of badass. It’s hard to believe that she herself didn’t believe in this album. She’s said on multiple occasions that she had no faith in her work and begged her label not to release it. They had to steal her hard drive to do so because she was so adamant about not putting it out. Crazy right? I’m not big on stealing, unless it’s for a good cause so thank you Top Dawg Entertainment because we wouldn’t have this beautiful masterpiece. With your best interest in mind, I can’t recommend just one song, but I can recommend this to you: listen at your own risk.
LANY - LANY
There aren’t enough words that I can say to brag about this debut album. LANY is the epitome of pop music and after four EP’s this complete was worth the wait. Paul, Jake, and Les worked ridiculously hard on this and it shows. The album takes you through the entire process of a relationship. We open with “Dumb Stuff” and it sets the stage for the beginning - kind of like the honeymoon phase. You go through the different stages as it the album goes into “The Breakup,” which is about a breakup and “Good Girls,” that takes you into the stage where you want so badly to get your significant other back. “Pancakes” was probably the track that caught me off guard, but it’s so cute in the “blissfully-head-over-heels in love” kind of way. I can’t reiterate enough to you how catchy “Super Far” is. Unrelated, but also very related, Paul Klein and Dua Lipa’s relationship is the very best and I am sure she inspired some of these songs.
Taylor Swift -reputation
Okay, I really didn’t think Taylor could top 1989. Since her transition into pop music, 1989 gave me everything I was looking for in a Taylor album. I think with this album it’s very different, yes, but more importantly, she’s happy. The album starts off with “Ready For It” and if we’re being honest, I was not ready for this new era. “Look What You Made Me Do” might have been her first single, but it doesn’t do the album justice. “Delicate” is the most beautiful song and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” pays a nod to the old (dead) Taylor. She isn’t the sweet, innocent girl anymore. She’s past the era of bubblegum pop and it’s really refreshing to see how far she’s come. “End Game” is in my top 3 favorite tracks from the album (right after Delicate and Dress) and it features Ed Sheeran and Future. After listening to this track, you can’t tell me she didn’t write this after watching season 7B of Pretty Little Liars.
Demi Lovato - Tell Me You Love Me
In a world full of pop queens, Demi is severely underrated to me. I know she’s successful, but often, I feel like her success is shadowed by others in the spotlight. This album really nailed it for me and I’m glad the world sees what I’ve seen all along in Lovato’s career. Her sensual title track “Tell Me You Love Me” hits modern dating on the head and the video is equally as hot. When she debuted “Sorry Not Sorry” you knew this album was going to be IT for her. She tackles all the issues of modern dating with her tracks “Daddy Issues” and “Games.” “Sexy Dirty Love” makes you wonder how a disco-inspired track could sound so seductive. The track “Ruin The Friendship” has you wondering who she’s hinting at, and is the most relatable song. While this song doesn’t have that many ballads, both “Hitchhiker” and “Concentrate” showcase her powerhouse of a voice and proves she’s a diva the pop world doesn’t deserve.
Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights
I've been a Julien fan for a long time, but when her album Turn Out The Lights came out I had just gone through a pretty rough breakup and I wasn't in the mood to listen because I knew what was in store for me. I restlessly paced my room at 3 a.m. one night and I turned it on because I couldn't turn off my brain. "I'm staying in tonight, I won't stop you from leaving, I know that I'm not what you wanted am, I?" and I immediately burst into deep sobbing. Her strength is being relatable, relatable to the point where it hurts. The song "Appointments" is about a relationship breaking down due to mental health issues and drug addiction and it was too accurate. She has these expansive metaphors that go so deep and unparalleled lyricism. From Happy To Be Here: A diagram of faulty circuitry, explains how I was made, and now the engineer is listening, as I voice all my complaints, from an orchestra of shaking metal, keeping me awake, I was just wondering if there's any way that you made a mistake.
Lorde - Melodrama
In "Liability" Lorde sings, "We slow dance in the living room, but all that a stranger would see, is one girl swaying alone, stroking her cheek" and it's such a creepy and heartbreaking line. Which is exactly what this album is. That's not to say there isn't moments of pure joy, but what I love about Lorde is her ability to intertwine those with this dark melancholy. It's obscure and different and yet it snuck it's way into mainstream pop. Lorde sings about her teen angst in a way that makes her both relatable and far too wise for her age.
LP - Lost on You
I'm just over here waiting for LP to take off in America like she has in literally every other country. She has the best voice in the game. Watch that live version of "Lost on You" seriously? Those are some insane vocals, it gives me chills. The title track is one of the best breakup songs I've heard and her impressive lyricism over that distinctive bass line is perfect. Even going on to songs like the sultry "When We're High" the inspiring "Tightrope" and the personal "Other People." She covers so many different genres in one album and her incredibly personal lyrics make it emotional and inspiring.
Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
DAMN. is Mr. Lamar’s fourth studio album in which he showed us his growth, diversity and talent with new beats, new lyrics and a bit of new side of himself. One common thread in all of Kendrick Lamar’s albums, which took centerstage in DAMN., is his ability to tell good stories, with no lack on flow or beat. Not only that, but he continues to appeal to a mass audience with his message of struggling in America. DAMN. has something for everyone and every situation. I cruise down A1A on the Florida coast at sunset listening to “YAH.” but go ham in the gym with “DNA.” Listen to the album’s final song “DUCKWORTH.” to get a taste of those storytelling abilities I was telling y’all about.
Cold War Kids - LA DIVINE
I remember the moment I fell in love with Cold War Kids. It was at Riot Fest in Denver a few years back. I was tantalized by their powerful lead vocalist and piano-stomping ballads. I was stoked to welcome a new album in 2017. Lead vocalist Nathan Willett has an incredibly unique and strong voice that once again was front and center on LA DIVINE. They’ve also changed out original members with artists from bands like The Lumineers and Modest Mouse, which has helped to develop and diversify their sound. The album has a few slower, “lay on your bed” jams like “Restless” and “Part of the Night,” but also features songs with their piano/vocal power house sound like “Love is Mystical” and “Can We Hang On?” I am seeing some new sound in the album closer, “Free to Breathe” which is raw and stripped down which is new for them, but I can certainly appreciate. They’re one of my favorite bands so they make the list here, but I look forward to some growth and clarity for the band in 2018.
Kesha - Rainbow
WELCOME BACK SIS! This album gave me life and made me proud to be a WOMAN. I wasn’t sure what to expect noting some of Kesha’s past poppy, glittery top hits didn’t exactly find their way onto my playlists, but I was pleased to see her blossom into a strong female songwriter. Kesha was silenced and repressed for five years due to a gruesome legal case with her former producer, and somewhere in that time, she turned her shitty situation into a golden comeback album. The album is carried by “Praying” which is a nod to Kesha’s struggle the past few years and features her hauntingly beautiful and feminine vocals. I’m a fan of “Woman” which does feature some of the poppy, glittery vibes I previously avoided but sends a strong message to the ladies which I can appreciate from any artist. Kesha brought some featured artists to the album like Eagles of Death Metal and Dolly Parton which sound SO WEIRD but my god make some good songs. Don’t think of Kesha five years ago – just check it out.
Harry Styles - Harry Styles
The Harry Styles album was a highly anticipated album for me in 2017, but it was also one that opened my eyes to a new “style” (ha ha) of music. While One Direction was largely pop-y, Harry’s debut album came out with a completely different feel and a route I was proud of him for taking. Pulling from influences across several decades, Harry Styles by Harry Styles is an honest, authentic and rowdy collection of songs that I have a feeling I, and many others, will be listening to for years to come. And don’t even get me started on the Grammy snub.
Ed Sheeran - Divide
This guy. If there’s anyone in the pop world today who seems to always put out an album that people love, it’s Ed Sheeran. Soulful and emotional with lyrics that, for me, are next to none, Divide did not disappoint – this album made me dance, cry and shout all within an hour of time and is one that becomes even more impressive when performed live. Divide also brought more upbeat songs than I’m used to for Ed, which makes the album even more enjoyable to listen to and gives listeners a range of emotions to resonate with, tapping into the sweet spot that helps people of all kinds relate to his music. Ed is the definition of talent, and Divide continued to reinforce that.
Niall Horan - Flicker
2017 brought another debut album from one of my favorite guys and, depending on the day, I might say I enjoyed Niall’s Flicker more than I did Harry’s. Flicker was instantly likable, relatable and sweet – timed in October, this album came in the perfect season. From broken hearts and intense love to drinking with friends and enjoying your independence, Niall hit on everything his listeners could connect with and did it impeccably well. Add in sexy pop bop Slow Hands (arguably my favorite song of the year) and a fun duet with Maren Morris and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how this album turned out. For me, Niall has been the most surprising success from One Direction and is now someone I’m incredibly excited to hear more from in years to come.
Beck is one of the rare chameleons in the industry. Every single album he puts out is totally distinct from what he's done in the past, yet it always feels like a collection. His grammy winning 2014 album Morning Phase was a whisper of indie ennui so I wasn't sure what to expect with his newest LP. Colors is fun and danceable with infectious ear worms that places this album firmly in Beck's pop repertoire. Songs like "I'm So Free" blend his famous free-association lyrics with killer hooks that are best paired with driving through the city with a hand out the car window.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard-- Murder of the Universe
In case you couldn't tell from that amazing title Murder of the Universe is a tight concept album that explores three major themes. It's sure to make die hard classic psych and prog nerds want to put it in surround sound for the full body fuzz. There's a masterful build up of tension that lays the foundation of the story with the "Altered State" suite, but ultimately it was the second section that pulled me under with the epic battle between the "Lord of Lightning" and "The Balrog". Led Zeppelin fans will probably be divided on the Lord of the Rings reference, but truthfully in this album they feel more like an Aussie Black Sabbath. If you've been itching for something on the heavier side to dig into, enjoy your new obsession.
I was lucky enough to snag Hang on vinyl, which I highly suggest anyone else with a working turn table to do as well. Seeing the gorgeous cover art in 12 x 12 inches and holding the transparent green LP really adds to how much thought Foxygen put into what I consider their best album. It's totally devoid of the concept of time. You could play "Follow the Leader" to your grandparents and they would say "Oh this sounds familiar!" One moment you'll think a riff sounds like something Queen, the next you'll swear it sounds like ABBA ("Avalon" I'm looking at you). The addition of orchestral funk to the mix of Sam France's Jagger-esque croon is magic as Foxygen is somehow able to distill multiple genres from sixties and seventies transform it into something totally unique.