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Here Are Much’s Favourite Albums Of 2017

Tue, December, 19 by MUCH STAFF

 

As the year comes to a close, we’ve been in a constant state of reflection—rounding up the best videos of the year, best commercials,  best pop culture giftsbiggest movies, best memes and so much more. Now we’ve come together—the people who live and breathe music, talk about it constantly and work to make sure the best new sounds make it your way—to each pick which 2017 album we think deserves the highest kudos.

 

Phoenix — Ti Amo

Immersed in a France shaken with terror and political unrest, Versailles-born Phoenix responded with their sixth studio album, Ti Amo. Equal parts joyful and melancholy, nostalgic and fantastical, the band’s latest effort spends 10 tracks spanning every emotion between “kamikaze in a hopeless world” and “say ‘ti amo’ til we get along.” From party-ready anthems like “J-Boy” to the sultry “Fior Di Latte,” the album paints immaculate images of sunny Italian summers filled with gelato and romance, where the only problem you have to deal with is deciding between champagne or prosecco. (For the record, the obvious choice is prosecco—champagne is way too much commitment.) While real life isn’t as easy as choosing between two bubbly drinks, especially amidst a world seemingly engulfed by darkness, Ti Amo remains a sliver of an endless summer we can retreat to forever. – Celina Torrijos, Producer

 

Perfume Genius — No Shape

2017 was one big, inescapable wave of bad news and unpretty things—and, while some of the year’s albums remedied the affliction felt by logging onto the internet each day, overall, the music wasn’t enough to make this year at least an artistically memorable one. Albums like Perfume Genius’ fourth, however, burned the good parts of this year into my memory. Unlike Mike Hadreas’ 2014 masterpiece Too Bright, when the queer prince sashayed in the face of bigotry and took no prisoners, No Shape is a starry-eyed follow-up that tells stories of a man in love, acknowledging simple beauty via optimistic anthems like “Wreath” and “Slip Away.” Eclecticism is the name of Hadreas’ game here; starting cinematic with the grand album opener “Otherside,” before moving towards sugary, island-tinged romance on “Just Like Love,” and capping it all off with “Alan”—the gut-punch ode to Hadreas’ partner, where he comes to the realization, “I’m here/ How weird.” The standout piece, though—one that made many dark 2017 days more doable—is the galloping ballad “Valley,” which leaves us with the most stunning observation of the lot: “How long must we live right/ Before we don’t even have to try?”  Jess Huddleston, Producer

 

Harry Styles — Harry Styles

The transition from boy bander to well-respected solo musician is one that only a very small handful of artists have successfully navigated. There’s Robbie Williams, Justin Timberlake and now Harry Styles. While Styles could’ve easily been dismissed as a manufactured member of the boy band machine, his debut album proved once and for all that the twenty-something singer who spent the first half of his career singing other people’s words now has a lot to say for himself. His 1970s folk rock influences can be heard throughout the self-titled record, with Styles love of Fleetwood Mac no secret. But for every booming, hip-shaking pop rock track (like “Kiwi” and “Carolina”), there are the stunningly quiet and introspective 3 AM songs like “Meet Me In The Hallway” and “From The Dining Table” that reveal what could be a crushing blow to Directioners—after years of Styles being in the spotlight with his former band, we really didn’t know the man behind the mic. With his debut album, we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of the many layers of Styles both as a musician and a person and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.  Allison Bowsher, Writer

 

Beck — Colors

Sure, hardcore Beck fans may not like the fact that his newest album, Colors, is poppier than what they’ve learned to expect from him. Me? I appreciate the fact that Beck produced an album I can listen to before Harry Styles and after Niall Horan without missing a beat. Don’t get me wrong—most other Beck fans are still way cooler than I’ll ever hope to be. But now I can talk about the merits of the deliriously catchy, piano-laden “Dear Life,” the hypnotic strangeness of “Wow” or why “Dreams” is my new jam without seeming like a (total) imposter. Colors is certainly brighter, bubblier, and more cautiously optimistic than much of Beck’s previous work, particularly the Grammy-winning Morning Phase. But considering our current sociopolitical climate, we probably need as much optimism as we can get. Thank you, Beck—not just for making a great album, but for helping me come to terms with the fact that even dorky pop apologists like me can listen to and enjoy your music.  Sara Cristiano, Writer

 

LCD Soundsystem — American Dream

If I was to imagine what a 2017 John Hughes film would be like, I’d pretend to be the kinda cool and oddly fashionable Molly Ringwald character and Khal Drogo would be my Duckie. And LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream would be the soundtrack to my totally fictional movie life. The band made their victory lap at Madison Square garden in 2011 without any desire to reunite until one day, David Bowie told James Murphy to make another LCD  album. (Thank you, David Bowie.) James Murphy’s love for post-punk art-rock come in loud and clear with the bubbling synths on American Dream, which he uses to pay tribute to his heroes: Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and, of course, David Bowie. Like a John Hughes film, American Dream is full of dramatic life lessons, while Murphy is completely obsessed with endings. The end of friendships (“how do you sleep”), of love (“oh baby”), of heroes (“black screen”), of geeky fandom (“change yr mind”) and of the American Dream itself (“tonite”).  This record is a danceable epitaph to a rocker who’s grown up, and is both sad and elated at the change. So, go listen to ‘oh baby’ and pretend you’re Molly Ringwald standing in a high school parking lot in Sheerer, Illinois giving John Bender your damn earring.  Jen McLarty, Line Producer/Editor

 

Oliver — Full Circle

Since I first heard Oliver’s “Night Is On The Mind” in 2013, I’ve been following them closely. Oliver have drawn comparisons to legendary electro-disco artists like Daft Punk and Justice, but to me, they’re in a league of their own. Sure, you can hear the similarities and influences, but the magic lies in the technical genius of Oliver’s production (particularly their chord progressions, arrangement and mixing—nerd alert!). The first track released from the album was ‘Electrify’, which is an absolute monster (with an equally great video).  I knew something special was coming with the full-length, but when they dropped the second single ‘Heart Attack’ featuring one of my all-time favourite hip hop groups, De La Soul, I was sold. The album features a number of different vocalists, most of which I wasn’t aware of before hearing these songs, but they’ve all delivered and contributed something unique and memorable. Overall, the production is what really puts this album at #1 for me. If you like nu-disco and electronic with a pinch of pop, this one’s for you, too.  Rob Bakker, Program Manager

 

Gord Downie — Introduce Yerself

October 27th, 2017 (a mere 10 days after his passing) saw the final release of new music from my favourite singer-songwriter, poet and frontman of all time—Gord Downie.  Gord’s swansong (one of many) is the wonderful album ‘Introduce Yerself’.  It appears to be a parting gift and thank-you to those in his life—his band, his children and his close friends. It breaks my heart to picture him reminiscing about each and every one of these events he’s singing about; the innocent reminders of how precious life is. This is what has always put his songwriting head and shoulders above the rest for me. Unlike Bowie’s final album, Gord’s is (I think) meant to be a happy body of music.  Although I was in tears as the album hit “Bedtime,” the album truly made me smile. It’s so simple, yet super complex, the way his work has always been.  He’s got layers and much like any episode of The Simpsons – you will need to watch / listen a few times to get the humor or deeper meaning intended.  The stand out tracks on this album for me are “Bedtime,” which I relate to as a father, ‘Spoon’, ‘My First Girlfriend’,  ‘The Lake’ and ‘‘Introduce Yerself’ (whoever the title track is about is one very special person indeed).  Tuesday, October 17th 2017 sucked. Gord Downie was, and will always be, one of the most important people to come out of this country, and his musical legacy will live on forever—hopefully continuing to bring people the happiness that it’s brought me throughout the years. Thank you for the music, Gord.  You will be missed.”  Gregg Stewart, Associate Director, Music Marketing Strategy

 

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana, Murder of the Universe, Sketches of Brunswick East, Polygondwanaland

Already one of the most prolific bands kicking around (a dozen LPs in five years is nothing to sneeze at), when psych-rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard boldly announced they would be putting out five albums in 2017, no one actually believed them. Well, here we are in December, and they’ve got four albums in the can. While the seven-piece Australian outfit has yet to deliver album number five, at this rate it’s probably going to happen. By the time this blurb gets blogged, there will be some kind of mind-blowing Christmas album unveiled, with a psychedelic candy cane wax pressing in the works. For a band that gets a kick out of subjecting their fans to head-scratching time loops and mind-melting repetition (to wit, 2016’s Nonagon Infinity can literally be played as an infinite loop), these four albums are as wonderfully weird and diverse as their wigged-out album titles. Freaky folk melodies, geeky fantastical songwriting, and some of the sludgiest guitar licks in the galaxy are abound in Flying Microtonal Banana and Murder of the Universe, while Sketches of Brunswick East (in collaboration with Mild High Club) and Polygondwanaland gently float you back down to Earth with soothing jazz, funky flute solos, and other breezy soundscapes. Like 2017 as a whole, this has been one hell of an acid trip.  Neila Karassik, Senior Producer

 

Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls

The mixture of Young Thug’s musicality, explicit lyrics and catchy bass-heavy beats make this my pick for album of the year.  Labelled early on by Thug as “a singing album,” he’s brimming with lyrical creativity throughout this passion-filled project.  Originally titled “E.B.B.T.G.” or Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls, this collection of songs is a more accessible reflection on the life of the enigmatic rapper, who always keeps his fans well-fed with a steady outpouring of music. Matt Flanagan, Producer

 

Lorde — Melodrama

I was absolutely addicted to Pure Heroine in 2013, but, legally—because it was Lorde’s debut album. So when it was revealed that her second album Melodrama was set to be released in 2017, you can bet I was itching with excitement. I couldn’t plug my headphones in fast enough on its release date, and as the songs flowed through me, verse after poetic verse, I knew I was hooked once again. Ella’s writing skills are what make her songs so relatable (and beautiful); Melodrama tells a story of growing up, breaking up, lashing out and breaking down, and although I’m a ~tad~ older than the songstress, she perfectly embodies the emotions of my younger self during those vulnerable, lesson-teaching years. Play this album when: riding public transit, driving out of town on a solo trip, home alone surfing the internet by candlelight.  Hilary Allan, Producer

 

Kendrick Lamar — DAMN.

DAMN is both a personal and political album for Kendrick Lamar. “HUMBLE” puts listeners in their place, while “LOVE” feat. Zacari offers us a new kind of love song. The album is relatable for some, and educational for so many others. Kendrick’s lyrics are authentic and experimental—there’s no denying the man is a poet. His fearless attitude towards sharing his truth makes DAMN a timeless album for generations to come.  Cherylann Nesbitt, Producer

 

Other staff faves:

Liz Trinnear — Host, Much and eTalk:  SZA, Ctrl
Tyson Parker — Head of Music:  Big Thief, Capacity
Katrina Thorn — Web Producer, iHeartRadio: Sampha, Process
Tyrone Edwards — Host, Much and E!: Chronixx, Chronology
Glenn Macaulay — Producer: Deerhoof, Mountain Moves