2017 was another year that allowed us to experience growth as people as we learned our experiences. Our favorite artists did so as well, as this was a standout year for music. The best albums cut straight to the point and were filled with wall to wall meaningful and masterful works. They all touched us in one way or another, and in some way helped us experience growth. Here are our favorite albums of 2017.
“AWAKEN, MY LOVE!” – CHILDISH GAMBINO
If someone was to look up the term “Renaissance man” on Google, it’s quite possible that one of the top 5 results would be Donald Glover. The artist known as Childish Gambino took 2017 by storm, releasing an Emmy winning show in Atlanta, landing a role in the highly anticipated Han Solo movie, and most importantly, releasing his third studio album “Awaken, My Love!” This project was a stark departure from Glover’s previous works, where he mainly focused on rap. He brings back an older, less mainstream style of music with psychedelic soul. The album is a sprawling, ambitious funk album that showcases his ability to create a piece of art unlike any heard in a long time. He found a way to pay homage to one of the greatest bands of all time, Funkadelic, by creating a Funkadelic album in 2017, combining funk, soul, and R&B with heavy rock influences. This welcomed exhibition of versatility from the rapper opens up a lane that was previously unseen. It’s never clear what Donald Glover will do with his talents in the future, but if it’s anything like the masterpiece that he put out with “Awaken, My Love!”, we’ll be all ears. – Matthew Ritchie
GOOD FOR YOU – AMINÉ
When Aminé dropped one of the most electric singles in recent history, “Caroline”, in 2016, it skyrocketed to the top of the charts. Many people not familiar with the artist believed that he had found a one-hit wonder and thought he wouldn’t be able to follow it up with anything tangible. But when he came back early in 2017 with Good For You, the Portland-based superstar made it quickly apparent that he plans to be a force in hip hop. Aminé utilizes superb wordplay and clever quips to display his lyrical ability, while avoiding falling into corniness. He showcases melodic range by rapping over slower, more somber beats, as well as the prototypical faster, trap beats. On this album, the avid banana bread lover deals with newfound fame, how money can change those around you, and even the late night “come through” text. He delivers a wholesome and sincere album that never tires. – Matthew Ritchie
PURE COMEDY – FATHER JOHN MISTY
In a musical era dominated by catchy beats and meaningless hooks, Father John Misty a.k.a. J. Tillman presents Pure Comedy where he poetically observes and criticizes the world around him. The style ranges from the up-tempo and catchy “Total Entertainment Forever” to the gentle, yet vast “Leaving LA.” Clocking in at a jam-packed 74 minutes, the album is easily one of the most intriguing and entertaining of its kind in recent years. It falls under the indie/contemporary folk genre, with the likes of Fleet Foxes and The Tallest Man on Earth, but tells a far different story with its dark undertones and jabs at society in every line. Despite there being some broad and generic takes on human natures, there is also a lot of personality in every song. As Tillman’s beautiful voice floats over the lazy drums and guitar, you’ll feel like you’re receiving a little piece of his soul with each cut. – Nate Martinez
MURA MASA – MURA MASA
Mura Masa has been on the rise for the last couple years with mega-hits “Love$ick” and “What If I Go?,” but this is the first full-length project we’ve seen from the London-based British producer. Mura Masa’s self-titled work blurs the lines between hip-hop, house, pop, and R&B, resulting in an album as diverse as the city that he draws inspiration from. It takes a special producer to pull off a 13-track album as we’ve really only seen it done with Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1. Incorporating sounds and styles that have previously been unknown to the electronic genre, the 21-year-old’s popularity may be largely driven by a few popular songs, but everything on this album shows potential for a long and successful career.
BLKSWN – SMINO
If you’re looking for a modern combination of flow and soul, look no further than Smino’s 2017 release Blkswn. The uber-talented St. Louis dropped the 18 track debut studio album back in March, and it served to put the industry on notice that Smino was here to stay. Even with the abundance of tracks, it never feels like there is a wasted moment on the album. There is no filler: each beat, each lyric is high quality. He seamlessly blended the genres of soul, funk, hip hop, and R&B together so immaculately that they’re almost indistinguishable. The blend isn’t forced, with each track flowing smoothly into each other, the album never feels disjointed. Smino’s unique voice lends itself to give the project a genuine feeling that is unlike any other one that was released last year. – Matthew Ritchie
THIS OLD DOG – MAC DEMARCO
Mac Demarco returns for his third studio-album and he does not skip a beat. This Old Dog expands on Demarco’s classic guitar riffs and synth melodies with a few more tracks to add to his quintessential collection of easy listening cuts. Bringing the intimate feel that defined Another One, Demarco keeps it as mellow as it could possibly get. His gentle lyrics seems to float over the down-tempo beats and relaxed melodies that provide the backbone to the work. If you didn’t like Mac Demarco in the past, this isn’t going to do anything new for you, but you should probably re-evaluate your opinion in the first place.
CULTURE – MIGOS
The Atlanta trio Migos is a microcosm for the genre of trap rap. Early in the group’s career, they were able to produce singular hits, but when it came their full albums, they were unable to achieve consistent mainstream success, much like the genre itself. Their albums barely achieved cult success. But with their 2017 release of Culture, the trio of Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset finally broke into the mainstream. With pounding beats produced by the likes of Nard & B and Zaytoven, and their consistently repetitive lyrics and ad-libs, Migos found their niche in the music world and should continue to milk that formula until its dry. There never seemed dull moment in this album. You could pick a song and listen to it at any time. Culture basically handed Migos the keys to 2017. -Matthew Ritchie