The Skinny's Albums of 2017 so far
As we pass the midpoint of 2017, our music team select their favourite albums of the year to date, from the efforts of returning indie icons to dark and powerful collections from the brightest voices in modern rap
10) Sylvan Esso – What Now?
The North Carolina folk-meets-electro duo return with a bigger, bolder take on their sound with What Now? While the instrumentals are as euphoric as ever, the album also reflects the troubled and anxious environment in which it was created.
What they said: "I think we definitely write music about exactly how we’re feeling at any given moment. When I listen to it, I hear how anxious we were and I also hear how joyous we were. I hear the claustrophobia in the production of what we were working with, and even lyrically, I think I hear us looking around for meaning..." – Nick Sanborn on the origins of the album's title, selected in the wake of Donald Trump's election.
Listen to: The Glow, Signal
9) Grandaddy – Last Place
Eleven years ago, Jason Lytle pulled the plug on Grandaddy after four albums of intriguing and often wonderful indie rock music. Their new album is sentimental, it’s oddball and it’s beautiful. In other words, it’s Grandaddy at their finest.
What they said: "It was kind of cool, I went back to ‘Grandaddy school’ to make another Grandaddy record. In my mind, it’s a pure place. It’s not much of a stretch, it’s kind of what I have been doing for a while and a lot of it draws on influences that I was growing up with, it’s kind of a natural process to me.” – Lytle on resurrecting the band after over a decade away.
Listen to: Way We Won't, Evermore, A Lost Machine
8) Lorde – Melodrama
The long-awaited second album from Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, following the smash hit of Pure Heroine with an impressive set of songs that chart the rise and fall of restless youth.
What we said: "Melodrama is far more than a career milestone or a savvy collaboration. Over eleven tracks, the narrative weaves, loosely, through the rooms of one house party, one brilliant, bruising night sacrificed to over-indulgence and its aftermath."
Listen to: Green Light, Liability
7) Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator
Arguably the most overtly political act on the folk-rock scene right now, we suspected this new album from Alynda Lee Segarra and co would be a bit of a call to arms. Indeed, it is, and it delivers.
What we said: "The question of identity is touched upon throughout the songs here (national, political, gender), but in terms of musical identity, Hurray for the Riff Raff know exactly who they are."
Listen to: Pa'lante, Living In the City
6) Feist – Pleasure
Leslie Feist's return to the studio after six years is a tough record to infiltrate, knotted with wild turns and unexpected tangents. Stick with it though, and you'll find a defiant album packed with invention and intrigue.
What we said: "Pleasure is easily Feist’s most difficult album, far from the immediate accessibility of The Reminder, but she's a captivating performer and it may well be her richest statement."
Listen to: Any Party, The Wind
5) Thundercat – Drunk
A lengthy trip into the mind of the man otherwise known as Stephen Bruner, Thundercat's new album is a rabbit hole of comedy, apathy, farce, funk and surrealism. It's odd, it's charming, and it's the perfect reflection of its idiosyncratic creator.
What we said: "The morbid sense of humour Bruner shares with frequent collaborator Flying Lotus permeates the album – if Thundercat lingers on existentialism a few seconds too long, fret not because a fart joke or anime reference will quickly follow."
Listen to: A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II), Jameel’s Space Ride, Show You The Way
4) Sampha – Process
Sampha darts between between R'n'B, soul and melancholic pop with ease, and the entirety of his debut full-length album is dripping with sincerity and emotion in a way that few records can match.
What we said: "An exercise in catharsis, a deep breath that lays Sampha’s soul bare through gorgeous vignettes of his life. He worries, he regrets, he aches. He’s human."
Listen to: (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano, Plastic 100°C, What Shouldn’t I Be?
3) Perfume Genius – No Shape
No Shape documents deep lows and the most glittering of highs. Harsh and lush in equal brush strokes, Mike Hadreas’ fourth album celebrates the raw strength it can take to break free and find a new normality.
What they said: “I find it really easy to write something really disturbing. Even the happier moments have a dissonant thread underneath but there is something vulnerable about it because you're just admitting that you have no idea what's going on." – Hadreas on mining some of the darker moments in his life for inspiration for No Shape.
Listen to: Slip Away, Wreath, Alan
2) Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
After surprising fans with their blockbusting third album on Christmas Day, Killer Mike and El-P's latest officially dropped on 13 January, hence its appearance on this list. This emphatic, empathetic and intense collection of tracks is a further refinement of the RTJ formula – fire in one hand, ice-cold truth in the other.
What we said: "Whether it’s El-P stating 'I've got a fragrance I'm wearing called ‘I will shit on you basics’', or Mike claiming that 'RT & J is the new PB & J', the duo’s knack for high five-worthy boasts and massive one-liners remains undiluted. However, RTJ3 truly excels in some of its darkest moments."
Listen to: Don't Get Captured, Panther Like a Panther, Thursday in the Danger Room
1) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Less than two years on from the mercurial To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar has done it again. However, where Butterfly was a free-wheeling jazz odyssey, DAMN. takes a much more direct and internalised approach. The beats are heavy, spare, and hard, and Lamar's verses are both critical and fearless.
What we said: "While TPaB unleashed a host of voices, characters, and ciphers over Compton, the White House, and the political landscape of 2015, Lamar here is … mostly Lamar. Lauded as a prophet, a positive influence, a new lyricist, jazz-soul messiah, yam-bringer, Lamar now has to retire into a personal desert to ask questions that belong only here."
Listen to: DNA., HUMBLE., YAH.
Listen to tracks from each of the top 10 in our Spotify playlist below; let us know your album of the year so far in the comments below. The Skinny's full Albums of 2017 round-up will feature in our December issue and online in December 2017.