This is Part 2 of the New Years’ Listening Post – If you missed out on the last segment, you catch up here. This week we’ll delve through the latter half of the year, looking at a variety of genres from Metalcore to Soul, from Wonky to Psych-Rock, from Electronica to Hip-Hop. Let’s get going.
June’s Track: BROCKHAMPTON – GOLD
Genre: Funk-Inspired Rap
2017, as far as I’m concerned, is the year of BROCKHAMPTON. From seeming nothingness the 14-man boyband rose to prominence, dropping three fantastic albums despite having no commercial backing. Whilst there’s a case to be argued for every BROCKHAMPTON song, it’s GOLD that’s become synonymous with the group. From Kevin Abstract’s slick hook to Q3’s bouncy production, GOLD is consistently lively, colourful and fun. That’s not to dismiss its lyrical content however – Matt Champion’s “Rock the boat like a one-eyed pirate” is a fantastic one liner, Merlyn Wood’s “that’s so Merlyn” lines are hilarious, and Dom McLennon’s “I feel like Ratatouille when I’m whippin’ the cheddar” is utterly iconic. Oh, and there’s a great music video too (check it out here). There’s a good case for GOLD as the song of 2017 – give it a shot.
July’s Track: Tyler, the Creator – Where This Flower Blooms (feat. Frank Ocean)
Genre: Summery, smooth Rap/R&B
Let’s make this clear: this is my album of the year, without question. Whilst the ever-familiar tones of Despacito and Wild Thoughts dominated the radio, in July my mind was elsewhere. That somewhere was in the enchanting, blissful world of Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy. The album’s cover – a painting of Tyler amidst sunflowers on an orange skyline – sums it up perfectly: Flower Boy is the musical equivalent of a summer. Picking just one song to represent the record is near-impossible, but for the sake of this article I’ll have to go for Where This Flower Blooms. The track begins with a beautiful violin ensemble, quick taken over by Tyler’s rapping and piano skills. If this wasn’t enough, 4 bars later the king of modern R&B enters the scene – Frank brings a glorious bridge into the steady, relaxed chorus. This is to say nothing of Tyler’s message. Bringing a more mature approach to the record, Tyler addresses black masculinity (“Tell these black kids they can be who they are / Dye your hair blue, s*** I’ll do it too”), racism (“Went from statistic to millionaire / CNN doubted ‘cause my skin is dark”) and poverty (“Rent-A-Center calling everyday… toys I only dreamed I could afford). This track is majestic, and a strong contender for song of the year – give it a blast, I know it’ll be worth your time.
August’s Track: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Mild High Club – The Book
Genre: Jazz-Inspired Psych-Rock
Quite a mouthful, isn’t it. King Gizzard are one of rock’s most forward thinking bands, and their LP with Mild High Club delivered. The third release of their ‘5-album 2017’ (yep, you’re hearing that right), Sketches of Brunswick East marks a departure from the microtonal and narrative-based earlier efforts, focusing on a jazzier, more relaxed sound. The Book is a fantastic religious satire, detailing the life of a devout worshipper whose “book” tells him to commit violent deeds on non-
believers. The uneasy lyrics are given a comical edge by the off-kilter instrumentation, which blends traditional rock with cosmic swooshes, jazz-infused ‘soft’ hi-hats, and a series of strange drum-like sequences towards the track’s end. King Gizzard are truly pushing what it means to be a rock band.
September A: Moses Sumney – Quarrel
Much like April in the previous part of this list, September was a fantastic time for albums – I’ve split this section in two to highlight some of the month’s phenomenal tracks.
Having “plastic” in the title seems to be a guarantor of genius for soul music. Alongside Sampha’s aforementioned Plastic 100, Moses Sumney’s Plastic is an absolute masterwork of a track. Despite this, for this section I’ve decided to focus on the track’s follow-up, Quarrel. Beginning with a deep, resonant pluck, the track is immediately deeply soothing. Sumney’s voice is gloriously blissful, setting the ethereal tone from the song’s first melody. Quarrel is thoroughly beautiful – the string accompaniments sound as if they’ve been plucked from heaven itself. This aural Garden of Eden is soon replaced, however, powering into a series of jazzy and acoustic segments that are equally masterful. Truly a masterpiece of a track.
September B: ODESZA – La Ciudad
Genre: Electronica / Indie Dance
Whilst ODESZA’s 2017 LP wasn’t as consistent as 2014’s In Return, its highs are soaring and majestic. One such high is La Ciudad, a clap-tastic odyssey through the fading sound of summer nights. It’s the kind of track that inspires a great reverence – reminiscent of Kid Cudi’s greatest works, the track allows you to drift into another world while listening. From this stillness comes a journey, too – the track shifts between fragmented beauty and pounding rhythm.
October’s Track: Big K.R.I.T – Miss Georgia Fornia
Genre: Southern Hip-Hop
Much like September, October of 2017 was full of fantastic albums: we had Kelela’s Take Me Apart, St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION and King Krule’s The OOZ just to name three. This month’s record has to go to one of the year’s most severely underrated releases, however – Big K.R.I.T’s 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time. Anyone familiar with K.R.I.T. will be equally familiar with his frustrations – despite releasing some phenomenal mixtapes, his talent was wasted under Def Jam, where he failed to drop a definitive project. Well, K.R.I.T.’s Def Jam days are well-over, and with them this streak of wasted potential – K.R.I.T.’s double album is one of the greatest Southern Hip-Hop albums of recent memory. Whilst there are an insane number of highlights across the double album, October’s pick goes to Miss Georgia Fornia. Invoking the same magical formula of Outkast’s Miss Jackson, it’s the perfect blend of K.R.I.T.’s Southern roots with an undeniably catchy pop-rap style. The song uses a long-distance relationship as an incredible metaphor for K.R.I.T.’s relationship to his homeland – “I’m sorry that I left you but I had to / You can be sour all you want but we’ll have you.” The rest of the album is full of that magic (featuring fellow Southern powerhouses T.I., Cee Lo Green, Bun B, Pimp C, Sleepy Brown and Joi) – give it a listen if you’re a fan of Outkast, you won’t b disappointed.
November’s Track: Converge – Under Duress
November was a fairly uninspired month. Whilst Mavis Staples’ LP caught my attention, it was overwhelmed by a series of mediocrity. Amidst Sam Smith’s dreary The Thrill of It All, Taylor Swift’s godawful attempts at rapping and Tove Lo’s cringeworthy Blue Lips came an unlikely saviour, however – Converge. The Massachusetts metalcore pioneers delivered some of the genre’s most compelling work in their November LP, The Dusk In Us. Third track Under Duress sees the band poised at our troubling times, delivering powerful statements such as “Wouldn’t need a gun if you didn’t have one / Don’t need you to serve or protect” over sludgy, yet powerful guitars. I must admit, it took me some time to get into this one as a non-metalhead, but the delay was well-worth the payoff.
December’s Track: Lil Wayne – Bank Account Remix
If you’re familiar with Lil Wayne’s No Ceilings, you’ll know that he has an unnatural ability to demolish other rappers’ beats. Such is the case on surprise mixtape Dedication 6, which sees Wayne glide over some of 2017’s hottest tracks, from Uzi’s XO Tour Llif3 to Post Malone’s Rockstar. But it’s Wayne’s remix of 21 Savage’s smash hit Bank Account that truly shines. This remix is almost objectively better – whilst 21 had much radio play for his trap banger, Wayne elevates the beat to a new level. Whilst it begins with a slow build-up, 50 seconds into the track Wayne blasts off, bringing out a dynamic flow alongside his historically-celebrated puns and wordplay. If you love hip-hop, this is unmissable.
Aaaand that about sums it up. I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed reading this list as much as I’ve enjoyed making it, and hope you find something new to listen to, maybe even push yourself into new genres. Wishing you all a much-belated ‘Happy New Years’, let’s hope 2018 brings us some equally fantastic records.