Top 10 Albums of 2017; vol. 2
By: Nikki Claine
2017 was an incredible year for music, writing, and growth within the music industry. Check out my favorite releases of the year below! Listed are debut release studio albums, "come backs", as well as follow-up releases.
10. So Good - Zara Larsson (Epic Records/Sony) [LISTEN HERE]
I don’t remember how exactly I came across Swedish pop singer, Zara Larsson, but once I gave her a listen, she quickly became a guilty pleasure of mine. I followed the release of a couple of her singles off of her EP before her full length album came out, Zara is a total pop princess, and So Good will bring you back to the days you were singing into your hairbrush to Britney and Christina. But miss Larsson has some powerhouse vocals on her, too, as well as some electrifying collaborations on So Good that surely won’t disappoint you. The seventh track on the album showcases a more sophisticated side - "Never Forget You" features the incredibly talented MNEK, a British native notable for his incredible songwriting that he has done for artists such as: Beyonce, Madonna, JoJo, Little Mix, and Bastille, amongst many others. Other collaborations on the album feature Ty Dolla $ign, WizKid, and Clean Bandit. Not bad for her first full length album!
9. Night People - You Me at Six (Virgin Records/UMG) [LISTEN HERE]
I’ve been a fan of You Me at Six for years, and Night People is a release that stays true to them, but also showcases the maturing of their music. With more complex time signatures and lyrics, You Me at Six proves that growth is inevitable with hard work. Night People is a lot darker and features heavier riffs than their past album, Cavalier Youth, released in 2014. Although the album received much more success across the seas in the band’s native UK, the hard work poured into this album cannot be overlooked.
8. Last Young Renegade - All Time Low (Fueled by Ramen) [LISTEN HERE]
All Time Low is another band that I have been a fan of for years. There is nothing quite like experiencing an All Time Low show. And although I myself am not a huge fan of the album artwork on this latest release, the music is what we’re talkin’ here. This album reminded me a lot more of older, classic, All Time Low, which is what I have been ultimately craving with the band. Alex Gaskarth, the band’s lead singer and writer of the majority of their tunes, said that this album is a lot darker than past releases. "Our friends are getting married, having kids, passing away, which added another level of gravitas to things."
7. DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar (Interscope Records/UMG) [LISTEN HERE]
I dabble in listening to rap, but wouldn’t call myself a frequenter. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar ultimately was THE album of 2017 that made me gravitate back toward rap. With a lot of rap and hip-hop in the early 2000s mostly featuring autotune and derogatory lyrics, I wasn’t the biggest fan. This album makes me reminisce of rap and hip-hop in the 90s. Kendrick Lamar is the voice of this generation for rap fanatics- he writes about his struggles and ultimately takes his audience along for a story. Leonie Cooper of British magazine New Musical Express (NME) said, "DAMN. is by far his shortest release to date – but the ideas, thoughts and feelings it contains are massive, weighty things- from sexual tension to deep, dark depression." Everybody can find a track they can relate to on Kendrick’s album. And it seems I am not the only massive fan- the album has already won the title of Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album of the Year at the 2017 American Music Awards, and Album of the Year at the 2017 BET Music Awards. In addition, the album was recently nominated for the 2018 Grammy Awards for the title of Album of the Year and Best Rap Album. With diverse collaborations like Rihanna, Zacari, and U2, there truly is something for everyone to fall in love with off of this album.
6. Lovely, Little, Lonely - The Maine (8123 Recordings) [LISTEN HERE]
The Maine’s growth as a band is something I find especially incredible. Every single album they release sounds so completely different and has such a different concept from the last. The debut single off of the album, "Bad Behavior," features upbeat and catchy beats about an unhealthy relationship, which is definitely a unique approach to the subject. The Maine is one of those bands that is constantly evolving, growing, and learning, and I would recommend this album to anyone looking for some new tunes to delve into!
5. Flicker - Niall Horan (Capitol Records/UMG) [LISTEN HERE]
I’ve been following the men of One Direction ever since their formation on the UK version of The X Factor. And the number one thing always on my mind was “how in the world are they going to make this work?” It’s as clear as day how different each member is from the next, and so, looking back at their success and really thinking about it, it makes it that much more incredible. With the passing of time since the breakup, we have releases from each of the boys as soloists. Flicker by Niall Horan really impressed me. This album really showcases the type of music Niall excels in, singer/songwriter music, with folky undertones. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Horan stated that his upcoming new album was inspired by classic rock acts. He got his inspiration from bands such as Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. "Whenever I would pick up a guitar, I would always naturally play chords like that, and finger pick a lot and play that folky kind of style." You can certainly hear mixes of his inspirations within his tunes. I cannot wait to see what he comes out with next!
4. ÷ - Ed Sheeran (Asylum Records/WMG) [LISTEN HERE]
Ed Sheeran is basically the God of our generation. Seriously- this guy is untouchable. I remember right before he blew up, right after he was releasing EP after EP, before his first studio album ever came out. I KNEW this guy would blow up soon, and with good reason. I am so glad he is one of those artists that truly gets the recognition he deserves. He is a one man show whenever he performs, and it never gets old. That says a lot, am I right? Divide is universal, and it truly has something for everyone. Songs like track number six, "Galway Girl," gives you the feel of propelling through Ireland. The unique combination of instruments used on Divide is something you will rarely come across with in today’s modern music.
3. All These Countless Nights - Deaf Havana (SO Recordings) [LISTEN HERE]
Who is the most underrated band in the history of ever, you ask? Deaf Havana. Deaf Havana is James Veck-Gilodi, Lee Wilson, Tom Ogden, Matthew Veck-Gilodi, and Max Britton. All These Countless Nights is their fourth studio album, and their first on SO Recordings. After having the misfortune of being dropped from their last label, they didn’t let it stop them from releasing an amazing new studio album. With melodic chords and meaningful lyrics, these guys will rope you right in. Their lyrics talk about struggling to find your self worth, dealing with addiction and alcoholism, and depression. Track number six, "Like a Ghost," talks about how real and draining it is simply living and trying to excel day to day. “I used to be so filled with fire / But over the years I see, they've beaten it out of me / Now all I seem to be is tired / 'Cause living is killing me, I'm not who I used to be.” You’re going to get brutal honesty about life experiences with this band, who would want more?
2. Rainbow - Kesha (RCA Records/Sony) [LISTEN HERE]
Kesha fans have been anxiously anticipating her third studio album release for a long, long time. With the derailment being postponed for quite some time following her sexual abuse lawsuit against music producer Dr. Luke, fans were finally blessed in 2017 with Kesha’s follow-up. Rainbow tells the story of Kesha’s past, being strong enough to find forgiveness and to let go of the past. It also expresses messages of self-love and female empowerment. The album is a huge step forward for Kesha in the maturing of her sound and really showing the world what she’s got, we last saw her serving us strictly electro-pop on Deconstructed in 2013. Rainbow features eclectic collaborations by Eagles of Death Metal, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and Dolly Parton. Kesha credits Rainbow with “quite literally saving her life” and sites that she got influenced for the album from artists such as: Iggy Pop, T. Rex, Dolly Parton, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, James Brown, and Sweet.
1. Harry Styles (self-titled) - Harry Styles (Columbia Records/Sony) [LISTEN HERE]
Like previously stated, I was always curious how difficult it must be for the creative directors behind One Direction to combine all of the interests of the boys in the band. Being so vastly different, it truly must have been a challenge. Harry's self-titled debut album accurately depicts him and his interests to a T. Music publications have described the album as soft rock, Britpop, rock, and pop. Critics noted influences by of British classic rock as well as singer-songwriter folk. Harry also showcases his love for uniquely directed music videos, with the debut video for Sign of the Times, showcasing the singer levitating around a beautiful field. I am excited to continue to see Harry and his music evolve- but this debut was incredible enough to give him the number one spot on my list!