Mark down February as the month the 2017 music year officially kicked off, and in particular February 24 where we saw at least six highly anticipated albums drop. After a slow start in January, February has come to the party with some stunning releases.
Here are my top six of February’s batch.
Karriem Riggins – The Headnot Suite
Karriem Riggins is a jazz drummer and hip-hop producer on the legendary Stones Throw Records, a label that seldom releases dud albums. “The Headnot Suite” is his second studio album and stays true to the Stones Throw legacy throughout with great variety in the beats and loops. This record has the invention and experimentation of Madlib and at 29 tracks is closer in comparison to Dilla’s “Donuts” than you might expect.
Fav Tracks: Other Side of the Track, Sista Misses, Culture, Suite Outro
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana
The Australian psych-rock wizards have kicked off their 2017 marathon run of albums with what I would argue is their best album yet. “Flying Microtonal Banana” seems more musically varied than some of their other albums, with a wider range of sounds and instrumentation on display. The tempo of the songs change throughout and the repetitive drive of their previous album is absent. Based on what has been offered up here with what is an excellent psychedelic rave record, the signs can only be good for the rest of the year.
Fav Tracks: Melting, Open Water, Sleep Drifter, Billabong Valley
Oddisee – The Iceberg
Early contender for hip-hop album of the year. After an inconsistent instrumental record last year, Washington DC rapper and producer Oddisee returned with a stunning album full of absolute hip hop bangers. Although the early singles sounded promising, I was blown away by the quality of this record and the depth he displays here both lyrically and production-wise. After a slow start to the year for hip-hop, this record might just be the album that kick starts 2017 for a genre that is always pushing boundaries. Here is hoping anyway.
Fav Tracks: Digging Deep, NNGE, Want to Be, Rights & Wrongs
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Although not having followed his career closely, I have always been aware of the high standing Ryan Adams has in the rock and alt communities. Therefore, with his latest release “Prisoner” garnering great reviews “his best in years”, I decided to check it out, and I was not let down. Full of heartland rock anthems that sound more like Born in the USA-era Bruce Springsteen, you could make a case that this style of rock has been done to death and is best left in the decade it came from. However, Adams successfully manages to put a 21st-century twist on tales of love and heartbreak. Rock isn’t dead yet folks.
Fav Tracks: Do You Still Love Me?, To Be Without You, Breakdown, Tightrope
Steve Lacy – Steve Lacy’s Demo
What can I say, this guy is freaky talented for someone so young, he is only 18. Steve Lacy, of course, is the guitarist for famed R&B group the Internet, and although this is his first solo release, he shows the maturity here of an artist who has been releasing albums for years. This is the sort of laid-back old-school R&B that is perfect to chill out to during the summer months, and at only 13 minutes my only criticism is that it is too short. One can only hope that Lacy is only getting started and that this little teaser is a positive sign for what is sure to come.
Fav Tracks: Looks, Ryd, Dark Red, Some
Thundercat – Drunk
The hype was so big for this album, it just couldn’t fail, could it? Yes, from the announcement that one of music’s coolest cats was dropping an album the countdown began for what quickly became one of the most anticipated albums of 2017 so far. Conjuring up influences as diverse as Stevie Wonder and 70s prog-rock, “Drunk” is a wild journey that forces the listener to peel back all of its heavy layers and vast soundscapes. At first, it can be a challenging listen as many of the tracks feel like half-finished musical ideas more than anything, and by the end, it seems to lag, maybe 23 tracks is just too long. However, if you view the album as one whole component and not as individual tracks its magnificence rises to the surface strongly. Definitely an early album of the year contender.
Fav Tracks: Show You the Way, Walk On By, Tokyo, Friend Zone