This year has been a blessed year… at least when it comes to music — let’s leave the catastrophes and politics in the rearview — with a lot of options to choose from for the best albums, 2017. While albums like More Life by Drake, Damn by Kendrick Lamar,and Harry Styles’ self-titled album will probably top most “Best of 2017” lists, that’s just scratching the surface. 2017 saw the return of such legends as Bob Dylan, Rodger Waters and Willie Nelson, as well as great work from familiar artists like Future, Paramour, Migos, Feist and Fleet Fox. With all these big releases, it’s been an easy year to lose track of the best albums of 2017.
Debuts by Sza, Goldlink and Sampha have been unfortunately overlooked, while weird, psychedelic works of art like Drunk don’t have enough commercial appeal to fall on most of our radars. So, before we go into 2018, let’s take the time to appreciate all the music that you won’t always hear on the radio, but are still top notch.
Sza — Ctrl
Originally titled “A”, as a follow up to 2012 release “S” and 2014 release “Z”, the long-awaited debut from this Jersey singer was originally meant to complete the trilogy of self-titled releases. The release date was originally for 2016, but as revealed in an Entertainment Weekly interview, the year that the album sat in the wings, the singer’s motivations changed. The album evolved into a frank view of her romantic life, with all its blemishes in full view. She’s talking about the real stuff — from playing the side piece to the pleasures of knocking boots. The album tests the confines R&B as a raw, deeply personal work that’s bluntly honest. A classic new lens on the modern romance, that for nothing else, will make you look “in touch with your emotions” to any girl you’re dating.
Thundercat — Drunk
If for nothing else, Drunk is worth a spin. It doesn’t have much in the way of commercial appeal, but there’s something so invigorating about how transgressional this album actually is. It’s the type of work only a large dose of acid could unfold to you. Through it’s fusing of funk, soul, hip-hop and soft rock, it’s able to bring you into a hallucinogenic wonderland that is unapologetic. With features from Kendrick Lamar — who Thundercat worked with heavily on To Pimp a Butterfly — Pharrell and Wiz Khalifa, the album does have it’s mainstream moments. It a surreal, out-of-body work.
Goldlink — At What Costs
This is the type of album that makes you want to drop the top off your convertible and drive through the streets to. Goldlink has truly developed his own sound, one he’s appropriately labeled “future bounce.” There’s something so vibrant about his At What Costs, and Goldlink certainly has created an aesthetic that is equal parts indebted to house music as it is to hip-hop. He’s able to sift through florescent kinetic landscape he’s developed while keeping his finger on the pulse. His sound is certainly refined by producers such as Kaytranada, Matt Martians, Syk Sense and Steve Lacy.
Sampha — Process
It feels like Sampha’s been around forever, doesn’t it? For years, some of the biggest names in the business — Kanye, Beyonce, SBTKT, Solange, Drake — have utilized his tender soprano in their songs. And you can’t blame them, he’s got the voice of a F’in angel! It’s as remarkable of a work as it is meditative. He’s able to process grief, despair and melancholy into self-discovery. Following him work through his mother’s diagnosis with cancer feels invasive, like reading someone’s journal, but you get the same rush of captivation. His album, Process, is one of the best works of the year that hasn’t been given its fair share of the spotlight.
It’s not easy to keep up with all the low-key best albums, 2017, but, in between all the mind numbing Christmas music that’s taken over this month, try to squeeze in a listen to each of these albums. There’s something serious to take away from all these works, and for nothing else, knowing these albums will help you hold your own in any musical conversation come 2018.
Lead image via Getty.