“CTRL” – SZA
Hands down the baby making album of the year. True fans of baby making jamz have been feening since Frank Ocean’s “Blonde.” SZA had already garnered acclaim through a plethora of features on her TDE cohorts’ music. On her official solo debut, her voice hypnotizes over wistfully woozy production. SZA digs into the frustrating nuances of what makes being in love so exquisite and so grotesque. This album will make you feel all of the feelings. My only criticism is that I find it difficult to believe that SZA has experienced unrequited love. Anyone who has seen her or heard her would be head over heals.
“Crack-Up” – Fleet Foxes
Genre: Indie Folk
Fleet Foxes stood out in the folk renaissance through innovative melodies, chord progressions, and production techniques. They returned after a six-year hiatus with the epically sprawling “Third of May / Odaigahara” clocking in at nearly nine minutes. Fleet Foxes aren’t trying to impress anyone; the record has no flash. “Crack-Up” boasts their strangest and densest material to date. Whether the bombast of “Fleet Foxes” or the cryptic hush of “Kept Woman” it’s nearly impossible to not be affected by the music. It may not be a typical summer album, but it is quite possibly the best album summer 2017 had to offer. Plus, the band will perform at the Grand Sierra Resort in September. I’m not missing it, neither should you.
“Flower Boy” – Tyler, the Creator
Is Tyler coming out as gay? Is he just trolling the world? How could it possibly matter with jams this smooth?! Regardless of his sexuality and all of the hype surrounding it, Tyler finally sounds comfortable in his own skin. Before this album, I never paid much attention to Tyler’s music. I thought of him as a personality who relied on shock value. On “Flower Boy,” he bares his soul, perfecting the sound he has been searching for on his three previous studio albums. The term “accessible” seems to have a negative connotation, but the album really enamors quickly. Tyler finally relaxes and so does the listener. With help from R&B masterminds Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy and lots of breezy chords, the melodic music mesmerizes.
“Melodrama” – Lorde
While most pop music has 30 somethings pandering to emotional teenagers, Lorde maintains a unique point of view. At 20 years old, the confusing, sensational passion of adolescence still lingers in her heart. However, despite her age, she hones the wisdom, subtlety and songwriting expertise of a seasoned veteran. Righteous anthems like “Green Light” and “Perfect Places” empower masses, while ballads like “Liability” and “Hard Feelings” break hearts. “Melodrama” is the “Hounds of Love” of our generation.
“SATURATION” – BROCKHAMPTON
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. Well, “SATURATION” by BROCKHAMPTON was recorded in three weeks, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me. So many forces are at war on this album: gritty trap bangers vs. emo suburban angst vs. industrial acid house vs. a deranged ideology of a boy band. Somehow it all makes sense. Indie rap sweetheart Kevin Abstract leads this collective of roughly 15 misfits. His direct vision survives the mayhem. While Tyler, the Creator dips his toes into sexual ambiguity, Kevin loudly and proudly expresses his homosexuality. “Heath Ledger with some dreads/I just gave my n—a head,” he announces on “STAR.” If “SATURATION” indicates the bizarre and eclectic direction the world is heading, I’m on board.
“It Comes at Night”
Genre: Psychological Horror
“It Comes at Night” shows Joel Edgerton fighting for his family’s survival in a post-apocalyptic landscape which never gets succinctly defined. Why do they need to burn the bodies? What comes at night? I digress. The film undoubtedly polarized audiences. Perhaps we can blame the studio advertising it as a straight-up horror movie when really it is more of an art film. With no concrete answers and many loose ends left untied, it exists in an ambiguous delirium. Juxtaposing between dreams and reality leaves the viewer dazed and questioning reality. The use of minimalistic light through of lanterns is truly chilling. It’s the type of movie that scares much more after leaving the theatre, rotting in your brain for weeks to come. At its core, “It Comes at Night” is about paranoia, trust and truth.
“The Big Sick”
This rom-com/dramedy is based on the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani (of “Silicon Valley” fame) met his wife. Nanjiani provides a too-rare insight of a Pakistani man trying to adapt in America while remaining close to his traditional family. Cultures clash as he falls in love with a white woman. Things grow even more problematic when she goes into a coma. A quintessential Apatow flick, it undercuts solemn situations with hilarious dialogue and runs about forty minutes too long. Still, the amount of heart poured into it is irresistible. The main actors, including Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, as well as the cheeky supporting roles of Adeel Akhtar, Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant are all fantastic.
“Baby Driver” is Edgar Wright’s love letter to music. Not only does it have the best soundtrack of the year, the entire movie is built around the songs. The chase scenes are orchestrated to sync up to every beat. If this doesn’t win the Oscar for best editing, I might just jump off of the Knowledge Center. Past the music, “Baby Driver” has a riveting story and vibrant characters. Ansel Elgort moves past YA heartthrob into damaged heist-getaway driver. As the acts of the movie progress so do the villains: first Kevin Spacey, then Jamie Foxx, then Jon Hamm, each more brilliantly sinister than the previous. Any shortcomings this movie may have are compensated by its pure-adrenaline entertainment.
Genre: Crime Drama
Kathryn Bigelow moved on from her previous focus on the war in the middle east to something lighter: police brutality. Sadly, the 1960s setting and its racial injustice are still relevant today. It took a little while to introduce the entire ensemble cast, but even this exposition captivates. Amidst all of the expansive chaos of the 12th Street Riot, Bigelow focused on the Algiers Motel incident, in which three young African Americans were shot in cold blood by police officers, while several others were beaten and tortured. Will Poulter nails the villain role of a racist white cop. He has one of those stupid faces you just want to punch. Other performances worth mentioning include John Boyega, Jason Mitchell and Anthony Mackie. Warning: this film is not for the faint of heart. The violence is graphic and visceral.
“A Ghost Story”
This is the best movie I never want to see again. It is pretentious in all the best ways. Similar to “It Comes at Night,” “A Ghost Story” is a horror film subversion from the studio A24. Essentially, the story follows a husband and wife (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara). Affleck dies in a car accident then comes back as a ghost to haunt their home. However, it is not some sort of terrifying apparition. Affleck wears a simple white sheet with eyes cut out of it. Yes, exactly like Charlie Brown. It’s sort of funny in an awkward way; it’s also very poignant. Affleck is very emotive for someone whose face is covered and doesn’t speak. Director David Lowery likes to test his audience’s patience. There are long sequences of deafening silence. There is a scene which lasts roughly five minutes of nothing but Rooney Mara eating an entire pie until she vomits. But ultimately, it’s worth experiencing. It will force you to think about loss in a whole new way. A feel good summer romp.