2017: More Years More Music

by Ken DiTomaso



10. Lorde – Melodrama

I liked Lorde’s debut album a fair bit, but things could have gone either way with this follow-up. Either she could have repeated the same style with weaker songs and fizzled out, or she could have built on her strengths and grown into an even better pop artist than she already was. Thankfully, she picked the second option. The album is a bit inconsistent, but the best songs (especially the ballads) show Lorde developing into a legitimately great songwriter, and I look forward to continuing to follow her career.


9. Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods

Our good buddy Neil has been getting up to his old tricks again this year. This is yet another wonderful album of pop-culture mash-ups that manages to be more fun and entertaining than most of the mashed-up songs were in the first place. It’s his best effort to date in this department with nary a dud to be found, Just one hilarious mish-mash after another. Somehow it still manages to be just as endlessly entertaining the 20th time as it was the first time.


8. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

King Gizzard has promised to deliver a whopping FIVE albums of material this year, and as of this writing, they’ve put out four of them. This is my favorite of the bunch. Opening epic “Crumbling Castle” is one of the best psych-prog songs the band has ever laid to tape, and the rest of the record moves along at a brisk pace, dropping one cool trippy riff after another.


7. Radiohead – OKNOTOK

This is a total cheat of an inclusion, but it’s my list and I can do what I want. OKNOTOK is a compilation of B-sides and outtakes from the sessions for Radiohead’s classic album OK Computer. And as a result, it basically sounds like a lost Radiohead album that bridges the gap between that release and The Bends. The band was at such a peak during this period that pretty much everything they laid their hands on was gold. As such, what could have been a dull compilation ends up sounding every bit as vital and worthwhile as Radiohead’s regular records.


6. The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir

This is one of the most ambitious projects Stephin Merritt has ever attempted: writing an autobiographical song for each year of his life. It has proven quite effective for him. With 50 songs to choose from, it’s easy to keep discovering great new details every time you play this huge collection of songs.


5. Rina Sawayama – RINA

“Ordinary Superstar” is among the most perfect pop songs I’ve heard all year. Sawayama’s fantastic voice is paired with detailed and intricate production from art-pop savant Clarence Clarity. The biggest flaw with this album is that at barely over 20 minutes, it’s just too dang short. But they’re 20 damn near flawless minutes all the same. I hope she comes out with a full-length record soon.


4. Original Soundtrack – Made In Abyss

I’m not normally the kind of person who listens to a lot of soundtracks. But this one, by Kevin Penkin, really struck me in a profound way. Made In Abyss is an anime series that aired this summer, and among its many great qualities (seriously the show is fantastic, go check it out), the music was a particular standout. It's both moody, and pastoral. It's relaxing yet also eerie. Depending on your level of focus, these pieces can be either quite engaging or they can also make for wonderful background listening. This soundtrack helped me get through some really difficult times this year, too, and that’s also really helped me grow quite attached to it.


3. St. Vincent – Masseduction

My favorite St. Vincent album so far, Masseduction is diverse, passionate, and packed with highlights. It showcases all of her best sides and even reveals some great new dimensions to her sound.


2. Alex Cameron – Forced Witness

Perhaps the best ‘80s revivalist album I’ve heard in a long while. The lyrics on this record are dripping with biting sarcasm and satire. And if I’m in the right mindset for that, they totally crack me up with how hilarious they are at times. But I can just as easily ignore them and get lost in some of the most gorgeously addictive pop I’ve heard in years. Cameron’s voice is soulful and passionate, and the arrangements are full of open space and instantly addictive melodies. It’s a super danceable record too. Also, it’s got awesome ‘80s saxophone solos, so it’s perfect for late nights out cruising. What more could you possibly ask for?


1. Brockhampton – Saturation (Volumes 1 And 2)

Brockhampton is a group that seemingly blew up out of nowhere this year. They're also quite prolific, with their Saturation project being spread out over three full-length albums. Brockhampton hits all the buttons for me. Every member of the group has a distinctly recognizable voice and personality, but none of them are limited just to their strengths. I’m always happy to hear every member of the group get their time in the spotlight. They bounce off one another with tremendous chemistry. Each subsequent verse in their best songs builds logically from where the last one left off and takes every track into new directions. They pack their songs full of great hooks, whether they're rapped, sung, or contained within the infectious beats they create. They’ve developed a really positive attitude towards their fans and their art, and they’re also only in their early twenties, so they’re just getting started. Brockhampton pretty much gathers everything I like about hip-hop in one place, and this will easily go down as one of my personal favorite hip-hop projects of the decade. As of this writing, Volume 3 has yet to be released, but it should be out by the time you’re reading this. Regardless of how Volume 3 turns out, however, Volumes 1 and 2 are both great enough on their own merits to land this project at the top of my list.

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