Among the massive hoard of amazing albums that came out this year, more than a few stood out as noteworthy mentions. In a year packed with releases from industry veterans and up-and-comers alike, below is a handful of Coma’s top picks for 2017 releases (in no particular order that has anything to do with rank).
Jaden Smith – Syre
As far as debut albums go, this one is definitely in the upper echelon. Admittedly with the helpful head start of having access to the parental promotional power of an A-list power couple, Smith’s album still holds the prowess to stand on its own. Although scattered and frantic at times, Syre exhibits creative musical dynamics along with a lyrical voice and cadence that presents itself with more maturity and dexterity than many would’ve expected from the 19 year old’s musical debut.
Thundercat – Drunk
On his third studio album, speed-fingering master (on the bass, duh) Thundercat takes us on a wild ride through funkedelia with psychedelic party anthems, sway-worthy funk ballads, and addictingly spastic, technical instrumentals. At a total of 51 minutes, most of the 23 tracks mingle back and forth between moods, combining stylistic agility and creatively dynamic beat structures to illustrate Thundercat’s exceptional ability to bend genres (only Thundercat could feature both Kendrick Lamar and Kenny Loggins on the same album). Woven in between all of these are references to perfectly relatable topics like getting stuck in the friendzone, mind-clearing meat beating, and wishing you were a cat. Despite an energetically playful and even adolescent feel at times, Drunk also presents a sincere and personal side on tracks like “Them Changes” and “Drunk”. If this description of Drunk sounds at the same time sporadic, intriguing, exciting, a bit confusing, and relentlessly captivating, then I’ve adequately depicted how it feels to listen to the album.
The National – Sleep Well Beast
This heavily anticipated release came in to save the day at a time of much needed self reflection as the world unfurled around it. Sleep Well Beast is an introspective look at getting older and coping with the stresses of loved ones and society, while also serving as a perfectly cathartic palette cleanser for it all. Reaching strong and energetic highs countered by powerful and emotional lows, The National’s seventh studio album reaffirms and expands upon their reigning title as Coma’s pick for ‘Best and Most Exciting Boring Band Ever.’
Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
Tyler, The Creator has never been one to shy away or bite his tongue, except as made apparent by his confessions on Flower Boy. In probably the most mature, direct, and heartfelt work of his odd and goofy career, he takes a head-on approach to addressing his deepest insecurities. Through expressing loneliness, anger, heart-throbbed longing and more, Tyler paints a sincere picture of who he really is as a human, maybe for the first time. The floaty instrumentation and whimsical sing-song-y melodies also aid in presenting this persona. He’s not all daisies though, as he proves on tracks like “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time!” that showcase his proven ability to diss the haters and profess his lyrical acumen and confidence. This confidence is taken a step further as he admits on “I Ain’t Got Time”: “Next line, I’ll have em’ like woah / I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.” Flower Boy’s newly honest and dynamically bolstered image of Tyler, The Creator demonstrates a notable evolution of an artist growing into a new prestige.
Kesha – Rainbow
Kesha sings these first words on the record: “I’ve got too many people still left to prove wrong. All those motherfuckers ‘been too mean for too long.” This is ultimately the motivation not just behind this album, her first in five years, but seemingly in everything Kesha’s been fighting through during that period. Rainbow is an inspiration. A powerful yearning to fight against those who abuse power and to rebuild what’s been damaged. Not only is it earnest and emotional on tracks like “Praying”and “Rainbow” (made more profound given the history of her business relationship with Dr. Luke), but it’s also energetic and confident. It’s evidence that not only has Kesha overcome great adversity, but also learned to move on, to forget about it, to have FUN again. Tracks like “Let ‘Em Talk” and “Boogie,” among others, help Rainbow prove that Kesha is back on top of her game.
Liam Gallagher – As You Were
Well, here’s this miserable prick again. Good songs though. Expressive review by yours truly found here.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
DAMN. can be found at the number one spot on several major album ranking list this year, and that’s no small coincidence. While touching personal subjects like reflecting on success and his love life, DAMN. also hits notes on major social issues ranging from religion, to politics and civil rights. “Don’t call be black no more. That word is only a color, it ain’t fact no more,” (From “YAH.”) After solidifying himself as an already-established veteran since his breakout album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, this is yet another profound and exceptional piece that lives up to every standard we’ve come to expect from Kendrick Lamar. He’s made it clear that his DNA ain’t for imitation.
Jay Z – 4:44
4:44 details the pains and trials of a man who wronged the love of his life. Basically existing as an apology album to Beyoncé, Hova’s 13th LP doesn’t hold back in admitting guilt and praising Queen Bey in an effort to seek forgiveness. He also expresses his struggles and frustrations with what it means to be a business man, a father, a husband, and a black man in this mine field of a social climate. This heartfelt profession is of course presented by one of the greatest rappers still alive today, so there’s no shortage of compelling hooks and profound, witty, flowing lyrics.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Pure Comedy is another existential, satirical, and almost constantly critical excerpt from the former Fleet Foxes singer, depicting his judgments of modern capitalism and consumerism. It’s every bit as condemning, accusatory, and accurate as his previous two albums, and maybe even more so. On Pure Comedy, Father John Misty acts as a history pirate, divulging the secrets of corruption and blind loyalty by the masses that most world leaders would probably prefer to have wiped from the records. Although at times the album takes on a somewhat preachy tone as it enters into a soft close through the final few songs, it never loses its feeling of poignancy and importance. All this with the help of Father John’s pristine and controlled vocals, engaging elongated melodies, and traditional indie rock song dynamics presented with a new-modern feeling, Pure Comedy sounds the call to overthrow patriotism, capitalism, fascism, and any other ism that gets in its way.