Top 10 Albums of 2017: Mason’s Picks

The 10 albums I jammed out to most in 2017.

Most people thought that by the 2010s the album format would be dead. They thought that most people would buy singles through a digital medium. They thought that concept albums and creative album packaging would be a thing of the past. Fortunately, they were wrong. With 2017 in the past and 2018 just starting, it’s time to reveal my top 10 albums of 2017.

10. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
Villains album cover
Source: Matador Records

With the new emphasis placed on groove, Queens of the Stone Age finally made an album I thoroughly enjoyed. The haunting atmosphere combined with the driving rhythm section led by Jon Theodore (former drummer of The Mars Volta) pushes this album into my top 10 of 2017. The brightness of the production is a bit overwhelming at times; but with tracks like “Feet Don’t Fail Me”, “Un-Reborn Again”, “The Evil Has Landed”, and “Villains of Circumstance”, I can’t help but love this album.

9. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN
DAMN album cover
Source: Top Dog Entertainment

This is arguably Kendrick Lamar’s weakest non-mixtape full length album. That being said, it still made my top 10 list for 2017. DAMN is Kendrick’s most personal album. Kendrick exposes his innermost thoughts and feelings about everything from his principles to modern race relations in this album. Due to the nature of this album, I felt it wasn’t as focused as the rest of his catalog. There were subjects on this album I wished Kendrick spent a little more time exploring; thus, by the end of the album I was left expecting and wanting more. I guess we’ll see if Kendrick drops another untitled unmastered. for this album. Despite all this, Kendrick gives us some of the best tracks in his discography with “DNA”, “ELEMENT”, “LOYALTY”, “PRIDE”, “HUMBLE”, “LUST”, “XXX”, and “DUCKWORTH”.

8. Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy
Flower Boy album cover
Source: Columbia Records

I’ve always considered myself a fan of Tyler the Creator, but I’ve always thought Tyler has never made a consistently great album. There has always been some good tracks on his previous albums, but not enough to make the album great. That trend changed with Flower Boy. Tyler the Creator always injected a bit of his personal journey into his albums, but never on the scale of Flower Boy. This is the album where we see Tyler at his most vulnerable state. He takes the listener through the mind of a man struggling with loneliness and his sexuality. Every track is integral to enjoying the story; however, some stand-out performances are found on “See You Again”, “Garden Shed”, “Boredom”, and “November”. I have a great feeling that when Tyler’s career is finally over, this will be one of the albums we remember him by.

7. Thundercat – Drunk
Drunk album cover
Source: Brainfeeder

This entire album is properly summed up by Thundercat in the track “Captain Stupido”. It seems more like an excuse for Thundercat to play funky jazz on bass and sing about wanting to be his cat and Dragon Ball Z than wanting to express a deep social commentary; but sometimes that’s all you need to make a great album. Tracks like “Uh Uh”, “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II)”, “Lava Lamp”, “Show You the Way”, “Walk on By”, “Tokyo”, “Them Changes”, and “Inferno” are particular highlights off this album. If you haven’t listened to jazz before, this might not be the most accessible album to start with; but if you do enjoy jazz, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out this album.

6. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
All Amerikkkan Bada$$ album cover
Source: Pro Era Records and Cinematic Music Group

There are few albums better at expressing the anger and frustration caused by the current political climate than this album. The first half of the album seems to be Joey getting increasingly frustrated with the socio-political atmosphere. This seems to reach a breaking point with “Y U Don’t Love Me? (MISS AMERIKKKA)“. From “ROCKABYE BABY” through “AMERIKKKAN IDOL”, Joey Bada$$ lets out all that frustration in the form of anger. This is a must-listen for any fan of hip-hop. Even if you disagree with the politics expressed by this album, the beats, the new accessible style, and Joey’s technical ability as a rapper make this a top 10 album of 2017.

5. The National – Sleep Well Beast
Sleep Well Beast Album Cover
Source: 4AD

There are very few albums that attempt to take on an intimately bleak view of the modern era; and there are fewer that successfully convey that bleakness and intimacy. The National’s Sleep Well Beast is one of those successes. It doesn’t have the defining individual tracks that made it stand out from the other releases in 2017, like most of the other albums on this list; however, taken in as a whole, this album is an emotional roller coaster that will remind us we are human in this digital world. That being said, “Nobody Else Will Be There”, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”, “Turtleneck”, “Guilty Party”, “Carin at the Liquor Store”, and “Dark Side of the Gym” are particular highlights from this album.

4. Brockhampton – Saturation III
Saturation III album cover
Source: Question Everything, Inc.

I originally wanted to put all three of Brockhampton’s Saturation albums on this list, but I then decided not to over-saturate the list. Thus I decided to stick with my favorite and the most unique of the Saturation albums, Saturation III. Right from the beginning of this album, Brockhampton hits you with their uniquely quirky brand of hip-hop. With tracks like “BOOGIE”, “ZIPPER”, “JOHNNY”, “SISTER/NATION”, and “TEAM”, its hard to argue they aren’t the “best boy band since One Direction”.

3.  Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Source: 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time album cover
Source: Multi Alumni and BMG Rights Management

23 years ago, Andre 3000 said the famous words, “The South got something to say! That’s all I’m gonna say.” A little more than 22 years later, Big K.R.I.T. drops quite possibly the ultimate accumulation of the last 22 years of southern hip-hop with the double album 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time. The first half of the double album (aptly named Big K.R.I.T) is defined by the bombastic sound of southern hip-hop that defined much of the 2000s. With songs like “Big Bank”, “Subenstein (My Sub IV)”, “1999”, “Ride Wit Me”, “Get Up 2 Come Down”, and “Get Away”, coupled with guest verses from TI and UGK, the Big K.R.I.T. side will make every southern hip-hop fan’s heart swell.

While the first half of the album is full of bangers, the second half of the double album contains the personal musings of Justin Scott. With songs like “Mixed Messages”, “Keep The devil Off”, “Price of Fame”, “The Light”, and “Bury Me In Gold”, Big K.R.I.T. challenges our obsession over material things and fame, questions the impact of his songs, and his perspective on race relations in America. I picked up this album for Big K.R.I.T’s bangers in the first half, but I continue listening to it for Justin Scott in the second half.

2. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Pure Comedy Album Cover
Source: Sub Pop Records

While The National’s Sleep Well Beast conveyed the bleakness of the modern era through an intimate perspective, Father John Misty does it through a more macro lens. The heavy existential themes can at times overwhelm the listener with the feeling of insignificance or disappointment in humanity; however, Father John Misty doesn’t seem to care. This album is unapologetic in its every critique of the modern human experience. The only silver-lining to human existence, according to Father John Misty, is to be alive. Everything about this album, from the instrumentation and lyrics to the production, is nearly perfect.

While every track on this album needs to be heard at least once, the shortlist is “Pure Comedy”, “Total Entertainment Forever”, “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, “When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay”, “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain”, and “In Twenty Years or So”. In twenty years, I hope we can all look back and appreciate the masterpiece that Father John Misty crafted.

1. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
Run The Jewels 3 album cover
Source: Run The Jewels, Inc and RED Distribution

Kendrick Lamar once said, “Critics want to mention that they miss when hip-hop was rappin’… if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum.” Its a shame that Run The Jewels don’t get the respect they deserve; especially after they dropped a certified classic in Run The Jewels 3. Just like the previous two albums in their catalog, this album hits you with an adrenaline rush that doesn’t stop until hours after you finished the final track. The angry politically charged lyrics coupled with the smooth delivery of both MCs and the masterful production of El-P make this a MUST listen for any hip-hop fan.

Every song on this album is immaculate, but if I had to pick, my favorite tracks are “Talk to Me”, “Legend Has It”, “Hey Kids (Bumaye)“, “2100”, “Panther Like a Panther”, “Oh Mama”, “Thursday in the Danger Room”, and “A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters”. There are very few albums I would consider to be perfect, this is one of them.

Mason Cheng

Music Intern

I like music. Sometimes I write about it.

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