RYAN SUPPE: INDIE/ROCK
5.) Hot Thoughts by Spoon
“Get the stars out your eyes/Come and sit next to me/Under Tennessee skies/Down on South Front Street” – Can I Sit Next to You
I have yet to hear a bad song from Spoon. Not even a “meh, it’s alright” sort of reaction. It’s more like “that’s not my favorite song, but it rocks and I’ll listen to it any day of my goddamn life and be into it.” All the way through it’s another solid record from the indie rockers from Texas, singing about being indie rockers from Texas. They can do no wrong.
4.) Hang by Foxygen
“Here I am/In this Hollywood bar/Press my face against the glass/Can’t you see I’m making reservations?/Ah, for her birthday/Hey, Mrs. Adams/what you doing now with your gun in your mouth?” – Mrs. Adams
This album sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a dark yet hopeful Pixar movie set in Los Angeles about a “lady of the night” turning his/her life around after meeting a welcoming group of singing and dancing vagabonds. I played the song “Mrs. Adams” for my dad once and he asked, “Is this Billy Joel?” No, it’s Foxygen, and they rock even harder than Billy Joel.
3.) The OOZ by King Krule
“I wish I was equal, if only that simple/I wish I was people” – The Locomotive
When was the last time something that sounds so gross felt so good? Singer-songwriter wunderkind extraordinaire had such high expectations for this album, and he blew them all out of the water. The OOZ has some of the darkest, densest, jazziest most deranged music you will ever hear. Check out this album is you want to feel lonely, cold and insane.
2.) american dream by LCD Soundsystem
“Everybody’s singing the same song/It goes ‘tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight’/I never realized these artists thought so much about dying” – tonite
A feast for thine ears. “American Dream” is a pop record from a disco/house music group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t blow the speakers in your car getting krunk to it like I did. A few of the songs sound a lot like Talking Heads which I’m sure frontman James Murphy would gladly admit. He bares his soul on this album. He talks about getting old, complains about current pop music, he sends a sonic middle finger to his critics and he sings a lot about drugs.
1.) Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes
“When the world insists/That the false is so/With a philippic as Cicero/‘The tighter the fist/The looser the sand’” – Crack-up
Fleet Foxes is a group of the most talented musicians in rock music today. “Crack-Up” is stronger and more refined than their previous albums. It hits you and apologizes sweetly, then hits you again even harder. They take “tension and release” to a whole new level on “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar” and “Third of may / ōdaigahara.” They got snubbed and disrespected at the upcoming Grammys and replaced by the artist formerly known as J. Tillman. Yuck.
JOEY THYNE: HIP-HOP/POP
5.) Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels
“If I die today and it’s hell I should pay/Tell the Lord Mikey said, F— it was fun.” – Legend Has It
Yes, I know this technically came out last year, but it was after I published my best-of for 2016, and I’m A&E editor, so just deal with it. One silver lining in having an ignorant, xenophobic megalomaniac as leader of the free world is that it inspires great art. The mixture of Killer Mike’s political fury and El-P’s Big-Brother paranoia is perfect for the Trump era. Killer Mike is one of the most underrated lyricists of his generation and El-P is one of the most underrated producers of his generation, so Run the Jewels is a hip-hop nerd’s match made in heaven. In a world full of too-cool-to-care hipsters, Run the Jewels’ fearlessness to just go for it is so refreshing. It’s no surprise that Zack De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine works with them so often; Run the Jewels brings the energy of the craziest metal band you can think of.
4.) Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator
“You exist behind my eyelids, my eyelids/I don’t wanna wake up” – See You Again
On “Flower Boy,” Tyler undermined the toxic masculinity so detrimental to hip-hop, perpetuated by so many (including himself). This album unfolds like a summer afternoon daydream. It’s that warm feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re crushing on someone but you don’t want to tell the person because your imagination is so much more lovely than reality could ever be. Tyler really, pardon the pun, flourished on “Flower Boy.” The album has everything: whimsical pop tunes like “See You Again” and absolute slappers like “Who Dat Boy.” He dropped the abrasive act while keeping his unique idiosyncrasies to release one of the most vulnerable, and best, albums of the year.
3.) Melodrama by Lorde
“I know that it’s exciting/Running through the night, but/Every perfect summer’s/Eating me alive until you’re gone.” – Liability
Is there any other medium that relies on pandering to trends more than pop music? Instead of taking cues from mainstream radio, Lorde consumed real-life experience and a whole lot of Kate Bush in order to make one of the most inspired albums of the year. “Melodrama” is a concept album revolving around one house party. It’s celebration of youth: every petty, gross, devastating and exquisite detail. Big singles like “Green Light” and “Homemade Dynamite” get the most attention, but the album really thrives on understated tunes like “The Louvre” and “Supercut,” as well as soul-bearing ballads like “Liability,” “Hard Feelings” and “Writer in the Dark.”
2.) CTRL by SZA
“Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?” – Drew Barrymore
SZA is a hopeless romantic in a world of where Tinder hookups get ghosted daily. She sings with so much emotion it’s difficult to not get swept up. This album is not just for fans of R&B; she combines elements of pop, rock, indie and psychedelia. It’s also an album for anyone who has ever felt lonely or lost or used or unappreciated or worthless. She recruits A-list features from Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Isaiah Rashad, but they couldn’t matter less. Her narrative and point of view are so direct and so heart wrenching they can’t be ignored. I could find a lot of fancy words to describe the technical aspects of the album, but it wouldn’t do it justice. There is something so effortlessly enchanting about it. I just like it a lot.
1.) DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
“It was always me vs. the world/Until I realized it was me vs. me” – DUCKWORTH.
After “To Pimp a Butterfly” came out in 2015, many critics and fans wrote off Lamar as a “conscious rapper.” However, in 2017 Kendrick, now Kungfu Kenny, came back to prove he can make current-sounding music and do it better than anyone else. With the low-fi cover, the brief song titles, the raw mixtape aesthetic, this is his most personal album to date. Just because there are trap beats and an appearance by Rihanna doesn’t mean the music is any less challenging. No, the lyrics are dense with themes of religion, fame and so much more. Flurries of theories have stormed the web. Lamar himself released a special collector’s with the tracklist backwards. Is he trying to tell us something? Is he messing with us? Is he just trying to get paid? Regardless, it all contributes to the mythology of King Kendrick. With DAMN., I dare say, Kendrick has proved himself as the greatest rapper of all time.