Drunk by Thundercat
Many of us may know Thundercat from his work with Kung-Fu Kenny himself on To Pimp a Butterfly, where he was an essential part of it’s sound and aesthetic. With Drunk, Thundercat proves himself to be a stand out act. While the sound of the ’80s is alive and well in songs like Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York,” Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” and Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion,” it’s rare that you hear love letters to the ’70s. You don’t see the tributes to Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Bee Gees, or The Doobie Brothers. And that’s a shame because I feel like there is a lot of unexplored territory for the neo-funk/disco genre.
Luckily this album covers at least some of it. With its artwork and sound, the LP presents itself as this love letter to the gritty visual aesthetics of ’70s blaxploitation cinema, and the lavender induced ear candies we know as disco, R&B and soul. It’s a roller coaster of emotion, shifting from sensual ballads about love, drugs, and life, to humorous tracks about weeaboos, tourists, and forgetting your wallet at the club. Drunk is a sincere tribute to pop-culture’s Soul Train era. A perfect album for a night of sex by the fireplace. -Louis Marrone
Greyland by Tiny Hazard
Brooklyn’s Tiny Hazard released their second record, Greyland, earlier last summer. The record carries forth elements from their past, in that there’s still a dynamic energy that can shift from tenderness to abrasiveness in an instant. But on Greyland they’re elevated tenfold in everything from production to pure density of the music. From start to finish – Greyland is a shifting landscape of various emotions, textures and genres. It feels both wispy and ephemeral as it does grounded and rooted in reality. It challenges the listener melodically and emotionally, if you let it. While the group has been on an “indefinite hiatus” since September, their talent and songwriting capabilities seem to last even if they won’t.-Conor Rooney
The Never Story by J.I.D.
Despite 2017 being another noteworthy year filled to the brim with soon-to-be classics, there were still a few great albums out there that never got their proper due. The Never Story by Atlanta native and Dreamville signee J.I.D. was one of them. At first listen it’s clear the 27-year old M.C. has the technical skill to match those years ahead of him and the charisma to match.
On “General” he showcases his lyrical prowess on a track with a level of enthusiasm that never ceases to lift your spirits up. “Hereditary” is one of those tracks that adds a little bit of something for everyone. With the way he easily trades in his effortless flows for crafty crooning, it’s a surprise he hasn’t received radioplay over this one.
What made me dead set on mentioning him in the first place is just the level of potential he has. The Never Story is just a debut; its the kickoff of what hopefully will be an admirable career in the game. This is his launchpad and he’s already starting off at a higher elevation. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, but it’s miles ahead of what most would start off with. If this is the bait he’s using, then shit, he’s got me hooked.-Dalvin Aboagye
A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie
“Written and recorded August 31st to Dec. 6th, 2016 in the same room where Geneviève died, using mostly her instruments, her guitar, her bass, her pick, her amp, her old family accordion, writing the words on her paper, looking out the same window.” — Phil Elverum, in the album description.
In 2015, Phil Elverum wife, Geneviève Castrée Elverum, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, not long after the birth of their only daughter. She subcame to her ailment in the summer of 2016. There’s a real self awareness in A Crow Looked At Me. Phil Elverlum is channeling his emotions and intense grief into this project. Yet, in the opening track, “Real Death”, he mentions that death is a very real thing; something that’s not meant to be made into art. “When death enters the house, all poetry is dumb”, he says. Another point on the album asks the audience if they really want to hear about his dead wife.
It’s gut wrenchingly tragic takes like that that make this easily the most emotional, in depth album you will hear in 2017– maybe even 2018. With this LP, you can tell that the lyrics, which take the form of these simple, yet abstract poems, came first. Elverum describes the immense and brutal pain he’s enduring, right own to proclaiming the exact amount of weeks, days, and hours that it’s been since he’s lost the love of his life– the mother of his child. Elverum’s vocals deliver this sense of Macgyvered emotions; a man collecting himself, putting himself back together to the best of his abilities. Production wise, the album is very stripped down and skeletal– mostly confined to simple acoustic riffs.
A Crow Looked At Me forces the listener to mourn along with him. If forces you to take a emotional and psychological journey into the cruel and unfair reality that he’s living. It’s the album of hopelessness. You’re not just engaging in a piece of art, and a triumphant journey. All you can do listening to this is pray that Elverum will recover. You experience empathy rather than escapism. And that’s ultimately what makes this album amazing, as horrifically tragic as it is. It’s a beautiful album that shouldn’t have to have been made. -Louis Marrone
1992 Deluxe by Princess Nokia
The roll out and monster success of Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” broke an interesting barrier in that, while it didn’t introduce women into hip-hop, it made them much more of a normality. Which is a good thing, of course. These days, more than ever, the music industry needs as much diverse perspective as possible. Princess Nokia continues that progress with this album. With 1992 Deluxe, it’s made clear that she doesn’t like traditional gender norms, nor does she seem to care for traditional beauty standards. The album is the ultimate representation of individuality and progressive cultural change.
This LP is a grab bag of different aesthetics and subgenres; sometimes it’s a love to the hip-hop culture of the 90s, and other times you’re bombarded with trap-infused beats and energetic, fast-moving flows. She talks about a lack of femininity, she talks about fighting, she talks about not giving a fuck and flying a freak flag. At the same time, however, she talks about anime, video games, movies. Sometimes it’s a glowing example of conscious rap at some of it’s finest, other songs are more so just looking to have a good time. It’s hard to pull something like this off without it feeling inconsistent and unfocused, but this album pulls it off seemingly effortlessly. It’s a must listen for any true hip-hop fan.-Louis Marrone