The Beat Blog: Top Five Albums/Mixtapes of 2017 (So Far)


Photo courtesy of Western Sands via Wikimedia

Father John Misty performing at øyafestivalen.

Steven Le, Staff Writer

2017 has been a very productive year for music so far. The singer songwriter and ambient electronic music field has been killing it recently. However, I feel hip hop and R&B has stumbled and put out way too many mediocre albums, except for a few projects. Some modern legends like Kendrick Lamar and 90’s legends like Slowdive and David Bowie (kind of) have also returned. So we’re about halfway through the year, what are the top works of music that have released so far? Let’s get right into the honorable mentions first.


Honorable Mentions:

Migos – Culture (Explicit)

This album proved that the Migos are more than just a meme. Probably their most definitive and consistent project to date. They come through with cold bars, minimalistic trap beats and hard hitting flows. Their ad lib game is on point, and their technical rap skills are way above average when it comes to trap artists. The features are kind of lackluster on this project though, but it’s good that the Migos are incredibly strong by themselves. With this album, they managed to cut out a stylistic niche in hip hop that not many artists can replicate. This album is just so fun to listen to that it’s impossible to hate on it. Favorite tracks: “Culture”, “T-Shirt”, “Bad and Boujee”, “Get Right Witcha”, and “Slippery”.


Slowdive – Slowdive

Legendary shoegaze band Slowdive has returned with their first album in over 20 years. They show the music industry that they still got it, executing songs in the same style that made their music great in the 90’s. The songs are still a cohesive, dreamy experience, full of lush instrumental layers. The airy, atmospheric singing still remains as just another instrument in the artsy mix, an element I love about shoegaze music. Is it another Souvlaki? No, the wall of sound Slowdive was known for is a little dumbed down on this record, but it’s very refreshing to hear a dream pop album of this quality in 2017. Favorite tracks: “Star Roving”, “Don’t Know Why”, “Sugar for the Pill”, and “Falling Ashes”


Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel

Charli XCX followed up last year’s Vroom Vroom Ep with a concise mixtape that manages to balance out the incredibly futuristic and experimental sounds she and PC Music’s SOPHIE toyed with on Vroom Vroom with melodious mainstream pop. She’s continuing to work with PC Music’s best producers to make pop conform to her style. The production is sleek, futuristic, sometimes abrasive, and really makes the album, along with the fact that Charli can sing well. If you can keep an open mind while listening, this does stand out from most radio hits these days. There is a bit more to be desired lyrically though. Favorite tracks: “Dreamer”, “Roll With Me”, “Emotional”, “ILY2”, and “Babygirl”.


Now, onto my favorite records 2017 has offered us.

  1. Sampha – Process

UK neo-soul singer Sampha’s debut album was very much worth the wait. Ever since I’ve heard his feature on Drake’s “Too Much”, I’ve been dying for Sampha to quit releasing EPs/mixtapes and come through with a fleshed out album. And it was well worth the wait. This album blends funky with moody, dancy with artsy, synthetic with natural in such a beautiful way. Sampha’s voice is also the perfect cherry on top to the great melodies and emotions. It’s so distinct and cuts deep into the soul, along with his lyrics. Listening to this is like swimming through an olympic pool of moods, and I’m so glad that there are still artists like Sampha that have real passion for alternative R&B, unlike all the Trilogy-era-Weeknd copycats floating around the internet. Favorite tracks: “Plastic 100°C”, “Blood on Me”, “Kora Sings”, “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”, “Take Me Inside”, and “Incomplete Kisses”.


  1. Joey Bada$$ – ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (Explicit)

The young Brooklyn MC released a wonderful “conscious” hip hop album recently. His last album, B4.DA.$$, which I also enjoyed, took a nostalgic route with the boom-bap, jazzy, 90’s inspired beats. This new record though, shows Joey’s growth as he takes on a more modern sound that still takes inspiration from the 90’s. He absolutely bodies these instrumentals as he takes on incredibly pressing social and political issues, especially racism towards African Americans, which is obvious from the album title. His flow is there, his rhymes are there, even his occasional singing is pretty good. The features list is full of great MCs that contribute a lot to this album as well. If I were to tell Joey to do anything different, it’s to also give solutions to problems rather than just exposing all these problems with great detail. Other than that, this is one of the best hip hop albums with political commentary that I’ve heard recently, and it’s incredibly slept on by hip hop fans. Favorite tracks: “FOR MY PEOPLE”, “TEMPTATION”, “LAND OF THE FREE”, “DEVASTATED”, “ROCKABYE BABY”, “RING THE ALARM”, and “AMERIKKKAN IDOL”.


  1. Feist – Pleasure

Folk singer Leslie Feist came through with a follow-up to 2011’s Metals, an album I found awkwardly depressing because her record before that, The Reminder was such a bright, emotional, lush, sometimes stripped-back, sonic experience, and still one of my favorite records of the 2000’s. With Pleasure, Feist finds a strong middle point between sad and happy, and it goes over well for me. The songs are very progressive, usually starting with a simple, raw guitar and sometimes exploding somewhere towards the middle of the track. Feist’s guitar playing is consistently appropriate for each song’s tone, and uses many great chord progressions. She strays away from the bright, poppier tones she was known for, but brings a lot of creative ideas to this album, with some of the most interesting parts being Jarvis Cocker’s spoken word verse, and a Mastodon sample. Feist’s vocals, still as beautiful as ever, have almost a lo-fi characteristic that doesn’t ending up hurting the sound of the album at all. It’s a rough yet beautiful emotional treat, with the happy songs hitting me just as hard as the sad ones. The mixes are great on about all the tracks, and I’m just happy one of my favorite Indie-rock artists didn’t disappoint. Favorite tracks: “Pleasure”, “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You”, “Any Party”, “A Man is Not His Song”, “The Wind”, “Century”, and “Baby Be Simple”.


  1. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me

First off, I would like to say this album is not entertainment. It’s still music, great music, but is not meant to be enjoyed. Mount Eerie is singer-songwriter Phil Elverum’s current solo project. I’ve loved Elverum’s work in the past, especially his work with his old band, The Microphones, who released one of my favorite albums ever, The Glow, Pt. 2. Elverum’s always had a knack for depressing music, but this album is on a whole different emotional level than any of his past work. This album is completely centered around the incredibly heartbreaking and unfortunate passing of his wife last year. This trauma has caused Elverum to create incredibly gut-wrenching, depressing illustrations of his recent experiences with this void in his life. Every song is an emotional blow after blow to the stomach, which creates an absolutely insane, dark listening experience that would make the toughest of people feel pain on the inside. All these stories are told over minimal guitar instrumentals, with the occasional piano, which only creates more of a focus towards Elverum’s boyish, pained vocals. This is a quality I’ve always loved about his music, but this time, it fits in way too well with the heavy theme. Overall, This album is a landmark for albums that communicate themes of death through beautiful music. I am not picking favorite tracks, because that would be finding enjoyment in Elverum’s pain, which would be utterly disrespectful.


  1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Josh Tillman, everyone’s favorite Fleet Foxes drummer, made a grand return with his third album. His last album, I Love You, Honeybear was such a great record that had me eagerly awaiting this album. Like his past material as Father John Misty, this record has great singer-songwriter instrumental fundamentals. This time however, the lush instrumentation Tillman is known for takes an epic grand twist with wonderful piano rock tunes that have a lot of passion and character. Even though this aspect of Pure Comedy is great, the real show stopper is Tillman’s lyrics. Last LP, his themes were on love, emotion, and commitment, and I loved the undying lyrical focus on these topics. On this album however, he takes on the world and its problems, while keeping his signature comedic lyricism. This album creates very vivid storytelling through the great combination of lyricism, passionate singing, and fitting instrumentals. Every song is completely fleshed out, there are no filler songs on this LP. Tilman takes off all his chill and tackles the joke that is the human race, while being completely self aware that he has become what he hates. The best part is, he sounds fantastic while doing it. The worse thing about listening to this album was deciding whether this or I Love You, Honeybear was better. Favorite tracks: “Total Entertainment Forever”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, “Birdie”, “Leaving L.A.”, “Two Wildly Different Perspectives”, “The Memo”, “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain”, and “In Twenty Years or So”.