Run The Jewels 3
This one actually came out in 2016, but it was on Christmas day so we're just gonna consider it a 2017 album. Rap legends Killer Mike and El-P gave everyone an extra Merry Christmas when they dropped their album early via a Portlandia sketch. I was so excited when this came out and I'm still listening to it. This album reminded me that Killer Mike is one of the best rappers alive, and El-P is right behind him. This album comments on the political situation in America and references Mike's involvement, fearlessly harassing those who are most deserving of harassment. Full of fun wordplay and quirky comedy balanced out by dropping serious wisdom and worrying what the future holds. Featuring the likes of Trina, Danny Brown, Kamasi Washington, TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, and their old buddy Zach de la Rocha. This album is non-stop hip hop gold, I've listened to it a million times already... actually make that a million and one.
Hodgy The Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide
Since it's the beginning of the year every music journalist is classifying songs and albums and "the first best ___ of 2017." For me that was this album, I love Friday's because albums are released so it's like Christmas morning for me. This was the first album I listened to this week and so it is the first great album of 2017. Formerly, Hodgy Beats this Odd Future alum breaks out on his own, following the break-up of the beloved rap collective. He certainly isn't the first member to go solo, he follows Tyler, Earl, Frank, Syd, Matt, Casey and Vince, but on this album he manages to make a lane for himself apart from the band. Hodgy's skills are undeniable, his writing and flow are impressive and engaging and he's backed by some stellar production from some of the industry's best. The features are few but they come from Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne so what else do you need. Hodgy shares his philosophy, showcases his skills, and gives some explanation as to the breakup of the band. This album helped give me a great musical start to 2017 and it established one of hip hop's new heavy hitters.
David Bowie No Plan EP
The final recordings of David Bowie continue in the airy, experimental jazz style that worked so well on his final album. These Blackstar B-sides feel especially mysterious and cosmic, not just in the musical style and lyrical content but also because they're delivered from beyond the grave. They sound fantastic, especially for B-sides, with rich instrumentals and Bowie's one-of-a-kind voice still on point. I remember the first record release Friday of 2016 saw the release of Bowie's Blackstar. I loved the album and was very excited about it, and days later saw that he had died and was shocked. Now a year later we get this ep of extra songs, luckily I know he won't die after this one (happy January 6th Bowie can't die again). The Bowie tributes are still happening, in fact there's one on this playlist, and it's a testament to how powerful his music is and it's legacy will continue for years and years to come.
Sundara Karma Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect
The debut full length from the UK rock band is full of effervescent pop rock akin to Kings of Leon, with super catchy pop melodies and big arena rock instrumentals. This album is almost too catchy, as in every song is so accessible and poppy that they can blend together. However, this album has merit beyond it's pop sensibility, as the title implies this album is filled with stories of love and youth, creating a coming of age vibe that taps into the need for nostalgia. I thought these guys were gonna be like any other pop rock band, but something about them feels different. They walk the thin line of being poppy and still feeling like a genuine expression, rather than a mass produced cash cow.
Kid Cudi Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin'
Straight Outta Rehab! Crazy motherfucker named Cudi (crazy in a good way, like Ice Cube, I'm not on some Drake shit). Yes Scott Mescudi is back and it's good to know that he's doing better. I loved Cudi's first two albums as well as his stint as the bandleader on Comedy Bang Bang, but he suffered from severe depression which recently caused him to seek help at a mental health facility. Like most Cudi fans, I've been underwhelmed by his last 3 albums. Since Man on the Moon II, Cudi's musical aim and his fans expectations have struggled to align. With every new album I think this is gonna be the one where he totally makes a comeback, but i think it's a more gradual process. This new album shows that he's definitely on his way but not quite there. This album is reminiscent of his early work at times, but there are songs that go on too long in a dark and droning manner that gets boring. However, these songs are complimented with some great tracks, with features that are no joke like Andre Benjamin and Pharrell Williams. Cudi's not quite a singer and or a rapper, and there are times when his singing is seriously lacking, but other moments he kills it. Who knows if Cudi and his fans will ever get on the same level, but this album is his most promising effort yet.
Zooey The Drifters
Self-described as "cuddly, suicidal noise pop" Zooey's debut has danceable jams and electronic experimentation. The single, "Time To Get Alone" is a smooth groovy ode to solitude akin to Chairlft. Some songs are instrumental with sweet little hooks and riffs to grab onto. There are long stretches without lyrics and when lyrics do appear they are often quite repetitive. This album is bright and soft, but with a melancholy overtone. As the title implies, this album drifts into many directions, with dreamy instrumentals, this is a sweet smooth listen.
Cabbage Young, Dumb and Full Of...
This Manchester based punk band is, in their own words, "serving up idosyncratic, satirical attack in the form of discordant neo post-punk." That's a fancy way of saying they're a goofy band who gives their clever, satirical take on the world's problems. Tackling issues like politics and religion with crunchy punk riffs and biting lyrics. My personal favorite is the country style "Free Steven Avery (Wrong America)" where they take on the American justice system and Donald Trump, pointing out, "Everything that's wrong with America" C'mon guys these Brits get it more than we do. This is the debut full length of the band, and they've got me as a fan. I hope to see more albums in the next four (possibly 8 oh god) years, we're gonna need em.
Dropkick Murphys 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory
Veteran Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphy's drop(kick)ed their first album in 4 years. I use to love this band back in the day, they had a song on the soundtrack for The Departed and they were a cool niche, novelty type of band with such a specific style that it made them very unique. I've kinda waivered in my fandom of Dropkick, although they'll always have a place in my heart. This album isn't anything groundbreaking or amazing, it's exactly what you'd expect from a new Dropkick album, lots of bagpipes and choral chants, but it's a fun style to listen to and they have some nice melodies. These guys are consistent if nothing else, they've got the Celtic punk market pretty much cornered. I can just imagine some Irish pub sing-a-longs with every chorus on this album.
The Shins Name For You
This the the second single The Shins have dropped from their upcoming fifth album Heartworms out March 10th on Columbia Records. Much like Animal Collective's "Golden Gal" or of Montreal's "It's Different for Girls" this song examines the way our society treats women, questioning, "what's in a name?". Shins frontman James Mercer says that it is a hopeful ode of empowerment for his daughters. In 2012 The Shins made a comeback with Port of Morrow which recieved mixed reviews, I enjoyed it but compared to the groups early work, and considering the lineup changed, there seemed to be something missing. I'm excited for Heartworms, The Shins are one of my most beloved bands and now they don't have the pressure of the comeback to weigh the album down. The artwork for the album is fantastic and though the 3 songs that have been released aren't totally show-stopping they are some solid tunes, I trust James Mercer to make it worth our while.
Dirty Projectors Little Bubble
The next chapter in Dave Longstreth's decent into depression. On this track he loses the voice effect that we saw on "Keep Your Name" and instead ventures into R&B as he laments the departure of his band members, and his lover Amber Coffman. This song feels floaty and fragile, just like a little bubble, as Dave reminisces about the time when, "we had our own little bubble." His experimenting with electronic elements appear as well as acoustic guitar and gorgeous swelling strings in the chorus. The melancholy tone of the verse is countered with the glorious chorus, which is need following Dave wishing he was dead. Dave's old tricks of harmonies and interesting rhythm changes are still present. This new album from DP is gonna be beautiful but it will be pretty sad given the changes that Dave is going through. I respect his honesty and bravery to fully express his grief through song. No word on when the new album will be out but hopefully we'll get info on that soon.
Jens Lekman What's That Perfume That You Wear?
On Thursday January 5th The Shins, Dirty Projectors, and Jens Lekman all released new songs. This was such a fantastic day for these titans of indie-rock to all drop new songs and news of upcoming albums. This one is perhaps the one that I've listened to the most because the chorus is insanely catchy and the instrumentals are astounding. Jens is a veteran songwriter and I've heard of him for years but never got into him, but this song is impossible to ignore. What starts with dark guitar strums busts into an Indian-influenced chorus, as Jens remembers a long lost lover after smelling the perfume she would wear. This is kinda a sad little love song as Jens states, "I guess I still love her, and shes gone forever // but at least it was real if it can hurt like that." these heartbreaking lyrics are sung with swagger and backed by a super catchy beat. In the bridge some audio clips and strings change the feel of the song before busting back into the infectious chorus. His new album Life Will See You Now is out February 17th on Secretly Canadian and I'm super excited to finally become a fan of this indie legend.
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya let gO Of my egO
My cousin and co-host Brian played this song on our podcast Ghettoblaster Magazine's Best Song Ever Podcast and if you listen to the episode I was blown away when I heard this song. Ogbonnaya has been in a multitude of bands of varying styles and he's coming out with a rap album called Drool out March 3rd on Father/Daughter Records. This is rap unlike you've ever heard it's like rap/singing but insanely catchy for how technically impressive it is too. With only his voice Nnamdi creates an unstoppable and ever changing rhythm supported by a melody as sweet as the popsicle he's drooling over on the cover. This is such a fun and original style I'm so excited to get more music from this guy as soon as possible.
Japandroids No Known Drink or Drug
The celebration rockers are back with their long awaited third album, their first in 5 years. This is everything you would expect and hope for in a new Japandroids song: a bright and fuzzy guitar part, driving drums, gang vocals in the background and chant-able lyrics, "No known drink, no know drug could ever hold a candle to you love." This is a straight(edge) up love song, talking about how he's cutting back on his partying ever since this lover came into his life. I saw these guys at Bonarroo back in 2013 and I hadn't previously been a fan, but I left the show a fan that night. These guys' music is just so full of life and energy, but often with a shade of punk cynicism, striking a very unique balance. This is the first single released for their forthcoming album Near to the Wild Heart of Life out January 27th on Anti-and I can tell you it is gonna be fantastic. These guys always fill the speakers with punk fun and I can't wait for more music from them.