Written by Andrew Younker
10. Birdie – Slaughter Beach, Dog
Modern Baseball’s co-frontman Jake Ewald surprised us all when he put out Birdie, one of the best emo-folk albums of the year. Flexing his storytelling ability, Ewald expands upon Slaughter Beach, the little world he created as his main band took a hiatus in early 2017. Each song on the ten-track album feels like home, especially for us Midwesterners who spend our days toiling away in irrelevance and escapism. There’s a reason they call it emo after all!
9. Somersault – Beach Fossils
Beach Fossils, the New York jangle-pop outfit started as a stripped-back solo effort by frontman Dustin Payseur before fleshing out into the three-piece band responsible for their latest release, Somersault. The album captures modern beauty through glimmering production and a varied catalog of influences. “Saint Ivy” is the best song the Beatles never wrote, “Down the Line” is a callback to the band’s original spark of life, and “Social Jetlag” is a beautiful piano ballad that puts Payseur’s youthful voice on display. Somersault takes a lot of things that make Beach Fossils great and tilts them slightly, creating a full, cohesive album that shies away from boredom or repetition. If this album is at all indicative of their future together, the NYC band should find a ton of success ahead of them.
8. Mura Masa – Mura Masa
While the name might be unfamiliar at first glance, it’s not unlikely you’ve heard this UK producer’s hazy, tropical beats paired with a few of pop and hip-hop’s household names this past year. After blowing up, prodigy style, at the age of 17, Mura Masa released a producer album featuring big names like A$AP Rocky, Charlie XCX, Desiigner, Damon Albarn and more. His rhythms beat around the bush during the verse, blow up during the hook, and fly into space during the outro. Each track contains Impossibly catchy choruses, worldly synth lines and steel drums, all of which dominate this debut album, which is both impressive for its shiny clean beats and genre jumping abilities. Overall, the album shows a lot of promise for this young producer’s future. It’s only a matter of time before one of his tracks dominates the Billboards for weeks on end.
7. Rocket – (Sandy) Alex G
Alex G is one of Bandcamp’s original success stories. After his rapid output of albums and songs, his latest release, Rocket, is one his strongest yet in terms of experimentation and lyrical ingenuity. Though he’s not often touted as an incredible singer in the traditional sense, Alex’s voice really shines through it’s endearing flaws, blending aspects of country with modern indie to provide a refreshing take on the tired genre. His Honky-tonk rhythms are infinitely listenable, with violin lines that pierce through the guitars and tiny moments of noise rock that peek through on the album. “Sportstar,” a heavily voice modulated track, takes the traditional piano ballad through a nightmare rollercoaster and comes out the other side as a Song of the Year contender. Rocket is Alex’s best work yet, earning him a spot in the Impact’s top ten albums of 2017
6. Melodrama – Lorde
Lorde couldn’t seem to evade rash criticism earlier in her career. Pegged as a one-hit wonder and industry plant, among other things, it seems as though the New Zealand-born artist took it all personally. Melodrama, Lorde’s second studio release, displays wisdom much beyond her years, topped off with a neon glow and more endearingly bizarre rhyme schemes than we could ever dream of. Calling upon the talents of pop music mastermind Max Martin, Lorde’s newest album does what Pure Heroine did in terms of vast accessibility, crossing over with artistic merit, ballads, anthems and even a few party tracks. It’s time to stop doubting, the proof is in the pudding.
5. Process – Sampha
Sampha is a UK musician, songwriter, singer, producer, former member of SBTRKT, and overall master of all trades who somehow seemed to avoid the public eye until his release with Process. The album is a work of art, which can be understood at a moment’s notice, yet the nuances that make it great are striking when noticed carefully and fully. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” showcases Sampha’s ability to craft a simple ballad of sorts, as he sings lovingly to the instrument that gives him reason to live. The opening track takes many sonic forms depending on the listener. The beats seem so foreign and otherworldly and his voice teeters on the verge of alien-like cadence. His voice is breathtakingly pure and ranged. The instruments are UK dubstep-inspired, Burial style, but they don’t feel so much forced as they are just a natural extension of Sampha’s own mind.
4. The OOZ – King Krule
English phenom and recording artist, King Krule, broke into punk rock’s mainstream with his debut full-length album in 2013, only to vanish from the public eye until his latest release in 2017. The OOZ isn’t quite the trajectory most expected after 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, especially after the doomy punk single, “Dum Surfer” started circulating the internet. His music is still considerably dark, but it’s also considerably less straightforward. The OOZ is a slow burner, demanding repeat listens before it becomes truly rewarding and understandable; strangely appropriate for an album with such a ‘cigar smoking’ atmosphere and nuanced style. The tracklist is filled to the brim with easter eggs as well as little glimmers of humor and intrigue from Krule, solidifying his stance as an incredible romantic and songwriter at only 23 years old.
3. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
King Kendrick might just be the most consistent artist of the past 10 years. After being announced about a month in advance, Damn takes everything good about Good Kid, Maad City and TPAB and blends them to create a hip-hop monolith that absolutely dominated the 2017 charts. However, one distinct change made is Damn carries a little less political weight than Kendrick’s TPAB album, opting instead for a more personal and mental health driven narrative. K-Dot wears his own struggles on his sleeve, yet he leaves the interpretations open enough for us all to find that one verse we really sympathize with. The track titles even name his own demons and idealizations in a single word, such as “PRIDE” a beautiful oath reminiscent of Lamar’s “Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst.” Kung-Fu Kenny is here to stay, ladies and gentlemen. There’s no doubt about it.
2. Saturation (I, II, III) – BROCKHAMPTON
BROCKHAMPTON, Kevin Abstract’s brainchild, released their first full-length album this summer. And then released another. And another. The group, which features seven vocalists, a couple photographers, a few more artwork designers, and one website technician, Bears a striking resemblance to another famous L.A. rap group, albeit with their own soulful style. The super group has been described as an Odd Future where Frank Ocean is the ringleader, rather than Tyler, and each addition to the Saturation trilogy switches up the formula just enough to keep listeners coming back. “BLEACH” may be their most promising track to date, a timelessly catchy beat showcasing their quirky individualism as well as respect for Hip-Hop’s roots. BROCKHAMPTON are the lovable weirdos hip-hop so desperately needs right now, which is why all three of their albums take the second spot on our list.
1. Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator
If you had told any of us in 2011 that Tyler, the Creator would go on to make one of the most honest, genre-bending, expansive works of our time, a lot of hip-hop fans and music lovers would probably disagree. Tyler always displayed potential but his immaturity and generally niche,explicit music kept him from any sort of mainstream success — save for “Yonkers,” which blew up on Youtube thanks to its shock value. Flower Boy takes the best of Tyler’s previous album, Cherry Bomb, strips away all filler and crap, and makes it better.It goes more in depth on his personal trauma and insatiable boredom, how the luxury cars and Youtube clicks just don’t do it for him, and most of all, it sounds like the beautiful lovechild of every musician and artist Tyler idolizes, from Pharell to Broadcast, while maintaining the sound we all know and love him for, making Flower Boy our number one album of 2017.