So far, 2017 has been no comparison to the music releases we received to this point in 2016. By this time last year, there was a massive amount of new releases around. In May alone, Kaytranada, Radiohead and Flume albums were launched. If these records were put out this year, it’s likely they’d slot straight into this list.
Nevertheless, the year has still provided some great records, and this list highlights the best of them. The rest of the year is set to be an explosive period for album releases, with LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire and JAY-Z having announced new records recently.
Firstly, some honourable mentions:
- Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
- Orion – Orion
- Future Islands – The Far Field
- Nick Hakim – Green Twins
- Lorde – Melodrama
Now, to the top five…
5. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana
Earlier in the year, Melbourne septet King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released their first of five proposed albums for 2017, Flying Microtonal Banana. It’s the band’s ninth album in five years, and undoubtedly one of their best records. For the album, King Gizz members modified all their instruments to be microtonal, in order to create a complex listen for our Western-tuned ear. Although it appears complex at first, once you’re acquainted with the new dynamic, there’s no going back.
4. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar delivered his fourth studio album in April with DAMN. While the album consists of the heavy-banging hip-hop production on tracks like ‘HUMBLE.’, ‘DNA.’ and ‘XXX.’, it’s Kendrick’s safest record yet. This is exemplified by the drafting of Rihanna and Zacari to create out-and-out pop songs with ‘LOYALTY.’ and ‘LOVE.’ respectively. Kendrick shied away from doing the unexpected as he did with the neo-soul influenced To Pimp A Butterfly. Although DAMN. isn’t a trailblazing album from the rap genius, it’s still an amazing record. It wouldn’t be right leaving Kendrick off this list.
3. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
(Sandy) Alex G is the stage name of Alex Giannascoli, a 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist from the US, who already has seven albums to his name. His latest, Rocket, is his most accessible and most polished album in his discography. Of the four singles released prior to its release, I had no initial interest in Rocket. But, after a few rotations of the record, I was hooked. I still haven’t totally identified what I love about the album. It just comes together extremely well. The unique tinges of country influence throughout these indie-rock songs, paired with Giannoscoli’s skilful songwriting are the key to Rocket’s success.
2. Pond – The Weather
Psych-rockers Pond are another prolific Aussie band to make the list, dropping their seventh album from eight years in May, The Weather. The album is produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, and sees Pond continue their cosmic exploration following 2015’s Man It Feels Like Space Again. The Weather combines desolate lyrics, powerful drum patterns and of course bold, booming synth beats. Previously, Pond have operated within the shadow of their Perth counterpart Tame Impala, but The Weather confirms Pond are as good, just weirder. It’s definitely the most underrated release of 2017 so far.
1. Sampha – Process
Sampha’s debut album, Process, has been my favourite album of 2017 so far. The British singer/songwriter/producer has featured on Kanye, Drake and Solange records in the past, but Process is by far his most complete project of his career. The debut has been a long time coming – his last solo effort was the 2013 EP Dual. In saying that, Process has been well worth the wait. Although the electronic influenced production is a key aspect of the success of Process, Sampha’s amazing flawless vocals are the main element of the record.