2017 has got off to a slow, but steady start albums-wise. January is traditionally a quiet time for albums, with most artists saving their releases for later in the year. However, there have been a few early birds this time around, I guess wanting to capitalize on the success of 2016 and precious market space when not much is happening.
Here are the six albums that have appealed to me so far in 2017.
Foxygen – Hang
Bombastic, quirky contemporary baroque pop is how I would describe this latest offering from Californian indie duo Foxygen. “Hang” is their fourth studio album and is a bit of a stylistic departure from their previous work. There’s more of a glam rock influence on this record, while the 60s baroque pop is bigger and better than ever. It’s a short album, only eight tracks, but it is a solid effort, with catchy numbers such as “Avalon” and “Follow the Leader” the standouts.
Fav Tracks: Follow the Leader, Avalon, America, On Lankershim
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
Loyle Carner is a very talented up and coming hip-hop artist from South London. “Yesterday’s Gone” is his debut album and it is a stunner. Here, Carner does well in combining elements of grime, jazz, and R&B in coming up with songs that are more laid-back than traditional UK grime, while the lyrics are quite confessional and no doubt personal. In a UK hip hop scene that is quite established sound-wise, Carner has done a great job in going down his own path on this record and in doing so carving out for himself a unique niche within that scene.
Fav Tracks: The Isle of Arran, Mean it in the Morning, Damselfly, Ain’t Nothing Changed, Stars & Shards
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Released at the back end of 2016 (after the end of year lists had been published), Run the Jewel’s “RTJ3” took everyone by surprise. Not only did it arrive earlier than expected dropping out of the blue on Christmas Eve, but the quality of the record was so amazing that in my opinion, it is the best album the Atlanta duo have released yet. This is the politically charged rap album we so desperately need right now, with its call to arms revolutionary lyrics and aggressive beat-driven production the perfect antidote to Trump’s America and the rise of the alt-right. The album was so good, had it have been released slightly earlier in 2016, for me, it would not only have been the hip-hop album of the year but in contention for album of the year. As it stands now, “RTJ3” sits atop as the best album I have heard so far in 2017, and with that, it will certainly be hard to beat as the best hip-hop release to come out during the next twelve months.
Fav Tracks: Down, Thieves!, 2100, Oh Mama, Thursday In the Danger Room, A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters
Sampha – Process
The debut album by British R&B singer Sampha had been one of the most anticipated albums to drop in 2017. The singer had developed a strong reputation over the last few years thanks to his silky smooth voice and experimental take on R&B which he first developed with SBTRKT, before landing him feature spots on albums by Solange, Frank Ocean, Drake and Kanye West. Given his high profile CV, fans would be expecting him to continue this successful formula on “Process”, and with the album now out, it is fair to say they would not be disappointed. The album is a glorious first up effort, with beautiful moody vocals that pull on the heartstrings combined with experimental beats that play with the idea of what is possible within the confines of the R&B genre. Although it is early on in the music year, already “Process” has the potential to turn into the “Blonde” of 2017, it is that good.
Fav Tracks: Plastic 100*C, Blood on Me, (Know One Knows Me) Like the Piano, Incomplete Kisses
Syd – Fin
Given her success with R&B group the Internet, it was only a matter of time before Syd went solo. Now, with her first record out “Finn”, was it worth the wait? The answer, most definitely yes. “Fin” is a classic old-school R&B record with a nice mix of soulful vocals and hip-hop beats. It is not earth-shattering in terms of pushing the genre forward, or in new directions, but it doesn’t need to be because what it delivers does the job perfectly well enough. This record served a dual purpose in that it showed Syd could go it alone successfully as a solo artist, while it also demonstrated that there is indeed still a place for straightforward no qualms R&B in 2017, even when boundary pushers such as Solange and Frank Ocean are taking the genre in a new direction.
Fav Tracks: Know, Smile More, Dollar Bills, Insecurities
Ty Segall – Ty Segall
The latest release by American multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall is his ninth record in nine years, while it is also unusually his second album to be called Ty Segall. In an age of music where hip-hop, pop, and R&B dominates, good quality guitar-based albums are often few and far between as rock acts gravitate towards what can only be described as horrible soft pop rock, designed to appeal to pop and R&B fans. However, on this record, Ty generates a nice balance between softer Kinks-like balladry and an all-out guitar attack that suggests rock is not done as a genre just quite yet. Although most of what can be done within rock has already been done, if you can write good songs and mix it up sound-wise, there is no doubt this great genre of music still has plenty to offer as Ty proves on this record.
Spotify: Unavailable on Spotify
Fav Tracks: Break a Guitar, Talkin’, Orange Color Queen, Take Care