Dear music lovers of the Board,
Annual music question! What should we have listened to this year?
What a year!
Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
Kendrick is the best rapper in the game right now and it's not remotely close. This is the first non-classical, non-jazz album to ever win a freaking Pulitzer Prize. Listen to "DNA." [Editor's note: Language.]
The Menzingers - After the Party
This is the record I felt more than any other this year. A series of heartfelt songs about everything that goes into hitting your thirties--economic struggles, relationship struggles, getting to know your true self. It's the band's most melodic record so far and it sounds terrific. Listen to "Lookers."
Jason Isbell - The Nashville Sound
I've been a fan of Drive-By Truckers for several years now, but despite all the critical praise for Jason Isbell's solo work, I slept on him for far too long. He's a brilliant songwriter and storyteller (and even pretty funny sometimes) and last year's record with his band The 400 Unit was incredible. "White Man's World" (the final verse gives me chills) and "Hope the High Road" are terrific standout tracks, but the best song on the record is the heartbreaking love song "If We Were Vampires." Especially in the weeks following my father's unexpected death two months ago, it's been an incredibly powerful and moving ode for me to the impermanence of life and value of time and love.
Paramore - After Laughter
I hadn't heard their material since their mid-00s pop-punk era (woah-ohhhh!) so this album really caught me off guard. It's some really hooky, really terrific 80s-influenced pop. The grooves are smooth as heck. Listen to "Hard Times."
The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
This band has been doing almost unclassifiable psychedelic rock with sweet hooks for years, and last year's record is their best. Check out "Pain."
LCD Soundsystem - american dream
When LCD Soundsystem broke up it was a big blow to the Indie music scene. They came back last year with a polarizing record that some fans loved and some hated. I loved it. It's a huge love letter to '80s post-punk, with sonic references to Talking Heads, New Order, The Cure, Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, and others. My favorite song was "how do you sleep?" which is a slow burn, let me tell you. Just let it wash over you as it builds. By 7:30, you'll thank me, I promise.
Propagandhi - Victory Lap
Propagandhi started out as a very political, but mostly straightforward punk band in the '90s. They've evolved over the course of their careers into a very very political hardcore band with exceptional technical chops, melodic hooks, and incisive lyrics. Check out "Comply/Resist," a critique of Christopher Hitchens' patriarchal pro-colonialist views that extends to modern white privilege as well.
Kesha - Rainbow
What an incredible comeback. We don't deserve Kesha. Her vocal performance on "Praying" was the best thing in pop music last year. Sorry T-Swift, you were a huge disappointment.
Iron Chic - You Can't Stay Here
A rousing punk album full of singalong choruses. If you like Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, or Beach Slang, I think you'll appreciate them. Try "My Best Friend (Is a Nihilist)."
Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps
This is a recent discovery and I've been obsessed with it since I found it. She's an indie/alt singer-songwriter in the vein of Elliott Smith or Conor Oberst, and writes some incredibly evocative songs. Check out "Motion Sickness," a blistering kiss-off song about her brief fling with Ryan Adams, who produced her first EP.
Until next year!
I listened to 35 albums released in 2017 and I've listened to about 10 from this year, so I have a lot of albums I want to talk about, but I will restrict myself to my two favorites from 2017 and my two favorites from this year so far:
1) Ctrl, SZA (clean version recommended)
Ctrl is a great album because it strikes that sweet spot where an album is deeply personal but still resonates with a wide array of people who listen to it, regardless of their experiences. For instance, in "Supermodel," SZA sings about how she slept with her boyfriend's best friend to get back at him for cheating on her. This is just one of many experiences SZA shares that I can't relate to, but it doesn't matter because I still relate to the themes of the album: insecurity, lack of control, trying to determine your identity both as a single person and as someone in a relationship, learning how to love and cope with life in your 20s. Plus the music in this album is straight-fire dope. The album was received with phenomenal reviews and was placed in the top 5 of a lot of year-end lists in 2017. For me, this was the best album of the year.
- Top Tracks: Supermodel, Drew Barrymore, Prom
2) Aromanticism, Moses Sumney
This album is beauuutttiiffuuulll. It interweaves a lot of different styles of music and it does so in a way that is not only not-jarring, but incredibly soothing. It's an album about loneliness and the feeling of not quite getting enough out of life and the frustration that accompanies that and it is beautiful.
- Top Tracks: Lonely World, Plastic, Doomed
3) Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
This is an album that every person who has ever said, "I like every style of music except for country" should listen to. Pitchfork has called Kacey Musgraces the Kendrick Lamar of country music and I think that's actually a pretty apt comparison. Kendrick has been hugely influential in rap music, in part because his rapping, rather than glorifying the gang violence of inner cities, has called attention to the problems with inner city life. Musgraves does the same thing with small-town southern life. She's not just like, "life on the farm is perfect with my pickup truck and a cold beer." Instead, her music brings to light many of the cultural problems with southern life. Also, her music is beautifully crafted and this album, particularly, brings in many musical elements not typical of country music. Please listen to this album!
- Top Tracks: Slow Burn, Butterflies, High Horse
4) Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe (clean version recommended)
If you're not comfortable with listening to an album that is centered on the topic of female sexuality, this is not the album for you. But if you're cool with that, give it a listen. The more I listen to it, the more I think this album might not be quite as good as her previous two, but it's still GREAT. (For the record, her first two albums are two of my favorite albums EVER so this album has some pretty stiff competition.) I think where this album really shines is in some stand-out tracks. (See the list below.) But I add this to my list, in part, because it's a very bold album in terms of its themes and I think it will long be remembered for that.
- Top Tracks: Pynk, Make Me Feel, I Like That
The most disappointing album of 2017 was Everything Now by Arcade Fire.
I cannot TELL you how excited I was for this album. I mean, come on, Arcade Fire is arguably the BEST indie rock band to get their start in the last 15 years. All of their discography up to this point has been fantastic. Funeral and The Suburbs are two of the best albums of all time, in my opinion. But Everything Now was terrible and by far their worst reviewed album ever. When I listened to it for the first time, I was like, "What the heck is this?" It was the first album of theirs to NOT be universally acclaimed, really, as the rest have been so good. Just a huge disappointment and I am still really sad about it so I felt like writing about it here.
Anyway, still tons of amazing music out there to learn about and listen to. And if you haven't ever listened to Arcade Fire's first four albums you absolutely should. They are fantastic.
P.S. I also second A Deeper Understanding, After Laughter, Rainbow and Sleep Well Beast. And I would add Capacity by Big Thief and Dedicated to Bobby Jameson by Ariel Pink as great 2017 albums.
I'll just stick with saying you should listen to "Dear Me" by Nicole Nordeman.
I've listened to a ton of albums for the first time this year, but most of them aren't exactly new. Of those that are, here are the ones I liked:
- The Goo Goo Dolls, You Should Be Happy EP (May 12, 2017). I heard most of these songs at a live show before listening to the EP. "Tattered Edge" was the first song of the concert, and I'm convinced it's the best new thing the band has put out in at least a decade.
- Rise Against, Wolves (June 9, 2017). It's not their best album, but it's got a few good tracks and it's an enjoyable listen. If you like Rise Against, you'll probably like it. Be warned, it contains swears.
- Kesha, Rainbow (August 11, 2017). This album absolutely destroyed me, in the best possible way. It's one of the most intensely vulnerable and emotional works I've ever listened to, an incredibly powerful exploration of trauma, pain, healing, and self-empowerment. I can't possibly recommend it highly enough. Be warned, it contains swears.
- Greta Van Fleet, From the Fires (November 10, 2017). Imagine a really good Led Zeppelin cover band that decided they were tired of doing covers, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what you're in for here. For a first album, it's good. I hope they develop a bit more of a sound of their own as their career progresses.
And one older album, new to me, that never got the attention it deserved:
- Jimmy Eat World, Damage (2013). Yes, Jimmy Eat World is still around, and thank goodness they are because Damage is amazing. It's a breakup album for adults - a divorce album, really - and even if it doesn't have the sheer musical brilliance of the band's golden years (which I define as everything from Clarity to Stay On My Side Tonight), there's a maturity to its sadness that really showcases their growth as lyricists.
I like this question. Ask me again next year.
Since I pretty much only listen to albums, here are some of my favorites from the last year:
- Everything Now, Arcade Fire
- The Hamilton Mixtape, Various Artists
- The Click, AJR
- Just The Beginning, Grace VanderWaal
- Signs of Light, The Head and the Heart
- Jumpstarted, Jukebox the Ghost
- Wonderful Wonderful, The Killers
- Melodrama, Lorde
- Sleep Well Beast, The National
- Waitress the Musical, Various Artists
- Dear Evan Hansen, Various Artists
And those are just the albums I love that have come out in the last year or so. I highly recommend everything by the above artists.
One More Light (Linkin Park) - I really really like pretty much everything that Linkin Park has put out, but this latest album took me a little longer to warm up to than some others did. My only complaint now with it is that it isn't long enough.
Post Traumatic (Mike Shinoda) - This album hasn't released fully yet (it comes out next month), but I really like that first five songs that came out, and the sixth is okay too.
Bobby Tarantino II (Logic) - This isn't my favorite Logic album/mixtape (I prefer the original Bobby Tarantino and his concept albums), but I still like at least half of the tracks on it.
MANIA (Fall Out Boy) - Fall Out Boy had already changed their sound significantly with Save Rock And Roll, but they changed again with this album. Again, not my favorite album by them, but still good.
Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired By (Kendrick Lamar) - Black Panther was great, and so was this album.
Pipes (Pipes) - Shameless plug for my friend's band, who just released an album last year. It's folk music and it's really good. They might even play at the Velour again some time soon, who knows. They're very good live.
I also agree that After Laughter was pretty good, while Evolve was Imagine Dragons' worst album yet.
Waldorf & Sauron
Dear George ~
Hawker Roam. New band, you've probably never heard of it. Not my style of music, if I'm being honest. But I have an in with the lead singer, and I pre-ordered it to be supportive, and at least the first two songs that came out ("The Beggar" and "The Wanderer") I surprised myself by actually really liking.
Support local musicians. Give it a try.
~ Dragon Lady
There are a ton of great suggestions already—I second After Laughter, Dirty Computer, Rainbow, and Wolves—but here are some other albums that I love.
- The Spongebob Squarepants Musical Soundtrack
- Dua Lipa, Dua Lipa
- George Ezra, Staying at Tamara's
- Betty Who, The Valley
2017 gave us Beck's Colors and that was basically my entire fitness programme and life for Fall semester.
Also Bruno Major released A Song for Every Moon. That's a bit more basic but I've been vibing it hard.
I haven't paid as much attention here in 2018 but these have been sampled and are not dissappointing.
Free Yourself Up by Lake Street Dive
Tell Me How You Feel by Courtney Barnett
I know I'm basic, and you can judge me if you want, but "This Is Why We Can't Nice Things" by Taylor Swift is so. dang. good. This is an actual playlist I have on my phone:
Maybe this is why we can't have nice things...
That is all,