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Top Ten Essential Albums of 2017 So Far

2017 has already been a huge year for music, with massive acts such as Radiohead and Ed Sheeran releasing new albums and headlining Glastonbury. But, these albums are not necessarily the albums you should have on repeat for the remainder of the year. The summer festival season has come to a close, and it is time to single out the albums that may have fell under the radar for some, or simply, albums that are just really worth the time and attention. There has been a vast amount of talented musicians releasing albums, so below the top ten there will be honorable mentions; many albums this year have been of a high standard, and hopefully this countdown will inspire you to listen to some of them, if only a select few that seem as though they may resonate with your own acquired tastes.

10. Young Thug - Beautiful Thugger Girls

A satisfying pop album is rare, but it can be achievable. Beautiful Thugger Girls' blending of RnB, Trap and Country guitar styles makes for a diverse and satisfying listening experience. There are a handful of notable producers involved, superstar Drake’s involvement is evident in the smooth and mellow beats, and Post Malone’s influence is clear on the acoustic guitar work on tracks such as ‘Family Don’t Matter (Feat. Millie Go Lightly)’ and ‘You Said (Feat. Quavo). Young Thug has called this 2017 release his “singing album”, and it is obvious as to why; the rapper sings joyously with infectious feel good tracks ‘She Wanna Party (Feat. Millie Go lightly)’ and ‘Do U Love Me’, with these providing the most diverse vocal highlights. It is a much more focused, thematic and structured collection of work than the rapper’s previous efforts. It is at times raw and extremely honest, boasting some rather crude but brave, fearless lyricism - especially given the sing-along nature of most of the tracks. Lyrics like “I’m the black Christian Grey, I’ve got fifty shades of bae’s with me” provide some playful fun, and along with the impressive production, the album is a pretty hard to resist seminar on love and lust.

9. Sampha - Process

Sampha is nothing short of a total pleasure to listen to. His vocals are soothing, affecting, and quite honestly, stunning. His debut album, Process, is a beautiful piece of work that tackles understanding and coming to terms with one’s self and the past. Those unaware of Sampha may recognise his voice from the many tracks he lent his talents to on SBTRKT’’s 2011 self-titled album. Process combines haunting, powerful lyricism, vocals and piano melodies with electronic pulses perfectly. The songs are blissful, with the tracks ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’ and ‘Incomplete Kisses’ offering such joy, sorrow and, well, feeling, pure emotion. Terrific stuff.

8. Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

Cigarettes After Sex are aptly named. Their sound is smooth, relaxed and listening to them can cause a surreal, sheltered feeling from the outside world. With hits such as ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ and ‘Affection’, there was a lot for the band to live up to with the release of their debut album - disappointment was not an option. Frontman Greg Gonzalez’s vocals are atmospheric and lilting, perfectly complimenting the mood crafted through idyllic instrumentation. This is an album to fall head over heels with, try not to fight it, it is inevitable.

7. The XX - I See You

Returning this year with their long awaited third album, The XX, a band that many devotees thought they had pinned down, gave something listeners thought they would not get - something different. The XX have broken the mould, and although their signature sound is still very much present, this is a much more upbeat and experimental sound than previous albums. The mellow beats and sampling seem to have stemmed from Jamie XX’s solo-career, and his band-mates are clearly very passionate about this new direction. With songs like ‘On Hold’ and ‘Say Something Loving’ there is no shortage of songs to belt out with glee, quickly knowing every word. Commencing with the opening track, ‘Dangerous’, I See You will have you dancing around with a beaming smile on your face - honestly, who would have thought.

6. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

American rapper Vince Staples' second album is as exciting as fans had hoped. With this, a stand-out feature on Gorillaz new album, Humanz, and appearing as a special guest at this years Reading & Leeds Festival, it has been a good year so far for this stellar artist. With Big Fish Theory, Staples wastes no time, opening with ‘Crabs in the Bucket’ a creative and rhythmic track which gradually escalates and leads into the huge, confident sounds of ‘Big Fish’, one of the album’s many highlights. There is a perfect mix of great flows, developmental production, and dance anthems like ‘Love Can Be…’ that possess the ability to turn the club into an absolute frenzy of erratic movement. It’s an album you can kick back to one minute and rave to the next - seek this one out, it has been a truly great year for Rap so far.

5. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN

Kendrick Lamar. 2015. To Pimp a Butterfly. The game changed. The album, although only released two years ago, is regarded by many as one of the greatest achievements in Hip-Hop. How can you follow that up? Well, Lamar is a superhuman, and although it would be impossible to please everyone after just previously releasing one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time, he has done extremely well in showing there are no signs of slowing down. The rapper gets personal, as he always does, and it is still as compelling as it has been since his career took off. Singles ‘DNA’ and ‘HUMBLE’ are absolute behemoths, they are huge, monstrous anthems that will be treasured for decades. Releasing tracks that feel instantly timeless is a skill of Kendrick Lamar’s, perhaps because he knows exactly how to incorporate such a wide range of sounds; Soul, RnB, Rap, Jazz. Although much of this experimentation was on his previous album, DAMN feels to be a much more straight up serving of his individual talent as a rapper. There are also some great features, for example ‘LOYALTY (Feat. Rihanna)’, and the superbly unlikely ‘XXX (Feat. U2)’, that showcase Lamar’s willingness and ability to work with a variety of different artists. Arguably, no one in the game does it better. Hail Kung-Fu Kenny.

4. Haim - Something To Tell You

The Haim girls have done it again. This second studio album by the California trio is a pure delight from start to finish, and poses the question, why can’t all bands provide this much joy? Big bands like Kasabian and Arcade Fire have disappointed with their 2017 releases, but Haim have shown a resilience, and have triumphed with one of the years finest albums. Something To Tell You is infectious, cheerful and upbeat, even when singing about doomed romance and love lost. Not that the album is narrowed down to this sound. The sisters display their versatility and yearning to go deeper on tracks like ‘Right Now’. Overall, the album is a whirlwind of emotion that despite some reflective highlights, leaves you grinning and wanting more; that is, until you play it again, which will be straight away.

3. Ho99o9 - United States of Horror

Aggresiive, Post-Hardcore and Punk fuelled Hip-Hop. Ho99o9 are one of the most exciting bands working today, and after hearing their mixtapes, listeners craved more. This year the California clan released their debut album, and it is as noisy, energetic and chaotic as their previous work had promised. They show clear influence from noise-hop artists and share some similar sounds to artists like Death Grips and Clipping, but take a much more Thrash-inspired approach to their sound to make it their own; unique and fascinating. United States of Horror is so charged with adrenaline that by its end you feel a little exhausted, because it is so packed with volume and power. For those that were not aware of this band until now, this album may be your most surprising discovery of 2017, try not to lose yourself in its ferocity.

2. Loyle Carner - Yesterday’s Gone

Loyle Carner is the man of 2017, of that there is no doubt. Besides the release of this incredible new album, relentless festival appearances and touring, the South London rapper has been nominated for the Mercury Prize - and he will win. No one deserves it more. Every now and again a new talent swings around that reminds you how exciting moving forward with a new sound can be. Past the grime, and the generic, there is Loyle Carner. Gospel choir samples and a gripping flow introduce the album with opening track ‘The Isle of Arran’, and if this track fails to impress, it only gets better and better herein. Tracks like ‘Damselfly’ boast a laid-back guitar style that perfectly compliments Coyle-Larner’s intimate and cordial stylings. ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ is an anthem for the skint, unsatisfied and the genuine, which will resonate with a mass audience who recognise the honesty and slick delivery of his bare-faced truths. Then, there are songs like ‘Stars & Shards’ and ‘NO CD’, which will remain bouncing around in your head constantly. Yesterday’s Gone is the real deal, British Hip-hop has a new face.

1. (Sandy) Alex G - Rocket

The most beautiful, dreamy and musically complex album of the year - and it is (Sandy) Alex G’s most accessible. Rocket is a warming, emotionally enriched piece of work that stands head and shoulders above anything else released this year. Tracks like ‘Bobby’, ‘Witch’ and ‘Guilty’ are lifeaffirmingly wonderful, but together with the rest of the album, make up a collective work that is as close to musical perfection as it is possible to reach. There is such a range of mystifying sounds on the album - ‘Bobby’ plays out like a cynically romantic duet, whereas ‘Witch’ has such a surreal and alluring aesthetic, it is gorgeously trippy and helps to lead you further into the confines that the album creates. It is at times comforting, then horrifying with troublesome indie-bastard riffs, and the band manages to blend these moods together to make something wholly memorable. ‘Horse’ feels as though a folk band have taken LSD and collaborated with 90s era Aphex Twin. Yes, this album really is something special, and it will take something extraordinary to knock it off the top spot as the best album of 2017.


Honourable Mentions

Mansionz - Mansionz

Tyler the Creator - Flower Boy

Japandoids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Sun Kil Moon - Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

Laura Marling - Semper Femina

Paramore - After Laughter

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