50 Best Albums of 2017

2017 was easily the most definitive year of my entire life. This year, I became a father. I got married. Everything changed, including the way I appreciated music.

It wasn’t my tastes; I didn’t suddenly drop my love for techno and weird jazz to become a dad rock connoisseur, despite in fact making a dad rock mixtape. No, it was a subtle shift in weight, a slight refocusing on what aspects most affect what I love about music. I’m still largely into the same genres and artists as before, but I now feel drawn to facets of sound and meaning that I shied away from before. I’m more interested in peeling back the meaning behind what I’m loving, searching for a thread to pull, an arc to follow. Slowly but surely, I recognized the colors emerging from the stories that built these pieces of art.

It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the behind-the-scenes or the history before becoming a dad; it’s simply that I now find myself automatically working recursively when I’m emotionally struck by something, running down the fibers of time that brought it to my attention, trying to work out a map for my own journey forward in this new life role. I’m living for more than myself finally, and although it feels vulnerable to have my heart living outside my body, it’s incredibly rewarding. I’ve felt more energized, more creative than I have in years. I made five new mixtapes between winters. I began running for the first time. I started writing fiction again. Oh and, along with my wife, I’ve been raising a child pretty successfully for half a year so far. Even more than ever before, I can’t wait to experience what happens next.

Speaking of my wife, that’s her in the header picture above. I thought the image of her, pregnant, hiking in the late winter sunset, encapsulated the way I felt about 2017. All that nervous possibility and raw beauty surrounding the long shadow down the path ahead, feeling real warmth after too many frozen months.

This year, like every year, was bursting full of new, exciting, brilliant music. It only takes some effort and desire to find it all. In another first, I barely read any music journalism, kept up with no major release schedules, and missed out on most of the hype 2017 had to offer. I have only the faintest ideas about what other people hold up as the best music of the year. To me, these 50 albums mattered more than anything else I heard all year, give or take a few. For a more comprehensive picture of the year, be sure to check out 50 more must-hear albums of 2017.

Let’s begin the countdown. These are the 50 best albums of 2017.

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MF Doom + Sade – Sadevillain

I’m not the biggest fan of mashups. Most of the time, they’re shallow gimmicks, the kind of party trick that’s more fun to make than to experience. Sure, it’s impressive when someone links two disparate artists in a catchy dance, but there’s usually nothing profound in the experience, no new light cast on the original pieces.

But sometimes, a mashup just lands in the fertile ground between illusion and revelation. Sometimes the sense of surprise gives way to genuine appreciation.

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What I’m Into This Week (8/21 – 8/27)

frank ocean helmet

This week brought some genuine surprise to the music world. Frank Ocean finally crashed the hype train into public view, dropping his long-awaited sophomore album on a weekend night. After four years, nobody expected it to appear so randomly, but here we are.

This is the state of music in 2016. The pendulum of control is truly swinging back in favor of the artists. Everything else I discovered this week was courtesy of the artists themselves, broadcasting personally on Twitter, Bandcamp, and other open platforms.

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Frank Ocean – Nikes

frank-ocean-nikes

So this just happened on a Saturday night because Frank Ocean wanted to surprise us all. It worked.

It’s new Frank Ocean music. It’s fantastic.

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Luminous Path [mixtape]

Luminous Path2

This mixtape is about that warm glowing feeling you get when you dream about the right path in life. You see it materializing before you, and although it isn’t real yet, you’re filled with the light of understanding.

After this kind of dream, you wake with a newfound sense of purpose and optimism.

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Sade – Promise

Sade - Promise

I’m writing about the most soulful, beautiful album I’ve heard this year. It just happens to have been recorded over thirty years ago.

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Frank Ocean – Super Rich Kids

Frank Ocean cameras

Frank Ocean is about to return with a followup to his landmark debut channel ORANGE, and I felt like I needed a reminder of why we’re all so excited. After all, it’s been four years. That’s an eternity in pop years, and even longer on the internet.

So I turned to the my favorite old song and looped it. There’s nothing like this type of tune.

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