Top 10 Albums of 2017 (So Far)

We’ve already given our rundown of the best tracks this mess of a year has provided us with so far and while songs are significant, the art form of the album is one that makes music such a beautiful thing to so many. From emo-folk to hip-hop to glitzy indie rock, the blinkclyro team has put our heads together to come up with the ten best records 2017 has gave us so far. This could have so easily became a top twenty with the sheer amount of quality albums that have been released so far but we had to show a bit of self restraint – we’ll leave the gushing till the Top 25 at the end of the year. So let’s stop beating around the bush and jump right into the main event: don’t get too angry. 

– Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

10. The Menzingers – After the Party

According to Greg Barnett of the punk-rock act The Menzingers, there’s a song that was originally meant to appear on a split before all of a sudden “everyone just started falling in love with it”. While it would be easy to point this song out, After the Party contains a lot of tracks that you’ll find yourself adoring due to the band’s integrity being intact while pursuing a more fun sound – though this doesn’t mean that the album avoids touching on any topics that are the antonym of it.

Much like The Dream is Over last year, The Menzingers‘ sublime use of imagery, rock n roll vocals and easy going, fun instrumentals mixed with some smart narratives makes this a must listen to any rock fan.

BEST TRACK: Bad Catholics

9. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

The first of five albums they are planning on releasing this year, and their ninth altogether since their debut ’12 Bar Bruise’ in 2012, Flying Microtonal Banana could be considered a bigger, better and more artistically thought-out version of King Gizzard‘s previous release, Nonagon Infinity.

Unlike Nonagon Infinity, the tracks on Banana are all based on different riffs. In true King Gizzard style, they all blend into one another without a break, but you can easily tell when one song finishes and another begins. If Flying Microtonal Banana isn’t to your taste, don’t worry- they’ll probably have released another album by the time you have finished reading this.

Full review by Nicola Roy here

BEST TRACK: Rattlesnake

8. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Pure Comedy is the third album our Holy Father has released, which packs in just as much punchy realism and sheer gorgeousness as predecessors Fear Fun and I Love You, Honeybear, respectively released in 2012 and 2015. Pure Comedy is a beautiful and sometimes harrowing critique of 21st-century life, almost taking the piss out of the internet and the culture surrounding it.

It’s also a grandiose message about the state of current society, especially with lyrics such as ‘I’ve got the world by the balls, am I supposed to behave?’ which could easily be a reference to the leaders of our world who have no clue what they are doing. They’re in it so they can have their white, wrinkly hands on our incredible diverse world by the balls. Our collective balls. Once again we are left contemplating our own existence. Very on brand.

Full review by Becky Little here

BEST TRACK: Total Entertainment Forever

7. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory 

Staples’ sophomore album sees him at his most confident he has ever been with impressive features but no need for help stealing the show, Vince isn’t once outshined by his featured co-stars on Big Fish Theory, capturing the attention span of the listener throughout the entire album.

With the sound hip-hop has been embracing lately, Big Fish Theory comes as a refreshing, fun listen that can be dove deep into or enjoyed on the surface either way. It’s the young rapper’s best work thus far and brings a wild amount of excitement for his next move.

Full review by Ryan Martin here

BEST TRACK: Crabs In A Bucket

6. The XX – I See You

While there are many changes that are apparent on I See You, what’s utterly remarkable and something that should be commended is the fact that The XX are simultaneously pushing themselves out of their comfort zone while staying true to their humble roots. The sampling on display and subsequent alterations to the sound make it feel like an R&B album more than an alt rock one but the emotional voices that manage to project both passion and insecurities feel so quintessentially XX. There are tracks that feel like they could have been ripped straight off of their debut like ‘Performance’ while others like ‘Dangerous’ and ‘On Hold’ feel like they’ve landed from a parallel universe where the band are far less timid.

I See You shows reminiscing, acceptance and strength, feeling like the most solid chapter in The XX arc but leaving room for the inevitable follow-up to build upon the now strengthened foundations.

Full review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: Dangerous

5. Paramore – After Laughter

After Laughter is the riskiest album Paramore have ever put out. 2013’s self-titled effort, while great in its own right, felt like the beginning of a metamorphosis for the band. They were gradually becoming a different beast entirely: with songs like Ain’t It Fun and Still Into You, they were starting to shed the “punk” from their “pop-punk” label, opting for an edgier pop vibe, and it worked with those singles being massive successes. 

So, now comes the most important question about After Laughter: did Hayley, Zac and Taylor make the right decision in not listening to the angsty side of their Parafans? (Note: we’re not sure if they’re called Parafans but as far as Jake is concerned, they are now). In short, they absolutely made the right choice. After Laughter is the sound of a band finally making the kind of music they’ve been threatening to for years now.

Full Review by Jake Cordiner here

BEST TRACK: Hard Times

4. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me

Whilst A Crow Looked At Me is full to the brim with sombre and heartbreaking imagery, one line that manages to evoke the realness of Phil Elverum‘s ordeal comes on the record’s third song. As Ravens concludes its second verse, Elverum’s sulky and trauma-ridden voice project the words “now I can only see you on the fridge in lifeless pictures“. Without context, the lyricism of Mount Eerie still manages to strikes an emotional chord with even the sternest of listeners though being a concept album, A Crow… becomes a different beast when you dig beneath the surface.

While the sound, lyrics, and themes that fuel A Crow…help to make it the magnificent record that is, it’s hard to shake off that what it represents it what helps to make it such a vital listen. That’s not to say that the record is only good because it is about losing a loved one and deserves sympathy points for it, no, not at all. Instead, A Crow… manages to rise above some limitations of music much like last year’s Blackstar: it explores death both depressingly and beautifully, making the issue far more 3D and lifelike despite being solely audio, while also acting as a Memorium to someone special.

Full review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: Toothbrush / Trash

3. Run The Jewels – RTJ3

“We’re in sync so much now, after two records and several tours – and this new one felt like we hit that point in the Rocky training montage when he’s just killing shit,” said El-P in an interview with The Guardian and RTJ3 very much feels like the point where both him and Killer Mike have managed to catch the chicken. Showing sincerity, awareness, and aggression all at once, RTJ are the epitome of every liberal’s worst nightmare: they’re an answer to the intolerance that has infected America since its birth and do not give a fuck who disagrees. Their music is sure to be the soundtrack to the revolution and what a fucking soundtrack that is.

Full Review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: Legend Has It

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

It seemed like Kendrick Lamar‘s ambitious feats in the world of music may become his own undoing. After the success of To Pimp A Butterfly, expectations were high but somehow, Lamar managed not to falter under the pressure. Exploring an abundance of themes and emotions (pride, heritage, paranoia, love, lust etc.) with interesting instrumentals and engaging sounds, DAMN does a fantastic job of cementing Lamar’s legacy.

DAMN and Kendrick asks you this: will fear drive you down a wicked path, falling victim to the fate that has faced many? Will you find yourself weak, surrounded by the sins our world has? With the last track looping the album into itself, the questioning is eternal and Kendrick has made a record that will be sure to be as timeless.

Full Review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: DNA

1. Lorde – Melodrama

When Lorde first released Pure Heroine at 17, she instantly gained notoriety for her cutting art pop. Rightfully so, her debut was exceptional, and after a long four year wait we finally have a follow up LP. Coming in the form of “Melodrama” the new album is big, bold and devastating. More realised and confident, it is a fitting follow on to everything Lorde embodies.

Melodrama is nigh on perfect. It’s joyous and celebratory of the singer’s successes but maintains everything she became known for. It’s nice to see that writing songs for the Hunger Games series hasn’t swayed Lorde towards more commercial ventures. Especially when trips down a more avant-garde route produce such high quality output.

Full Review by Patrick Dalziel 

BEST TRACK: Hard Feelings/ Loveless


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Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3 ALBUM REVIEW

And the crowd goes…

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

The Los Angeles riots in 1992, fueled by the beating of African-American taxi driver Rodney King and the subsequent acquittal of the four police officers who took part in the despicable crime, is an event that more than 20 years after it occurred hits too close to home for some. With police killing at least 100 unarmed black people in 2015 alone, more than five times the rate of unarmed whites, it’s no surprise that music has taken its place in the frontlines alongside other protesters to vent their rage and provoke change.

It’s hard to recall a hip-hop act that has reacted angrier than Run The Jewels who haven’t so much been at the forefront of this protest rather than orchestrate it all with a non-literal Molotov in hand. While protest music is nothing new, members Killer Mike and El-P have been pissed off well before RTJ1 dropped back in 2013 to critical acclaim, releasing That’s Life and Run The Numbers respectively which both displayed  the artist’s quick wit and knack of butchering authoritative figures and corrupted individuals with one flick of their fiery tongues.

Not only that but Run The Jewel’s involvement wasn’t limited to just the music scene with Killer Mike advocating for the election of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Primaries and El-P making a decision to stop wearing red hats due to a certain spray tanned devil with a bad toupee. Fast forward to 2016 and it seemed somewhat inevitable that an RTJ album was needed in what had to be the most politically charged year of the century, seeing the rise of Trump along with further divisions in America. It’s probably no surprise then that Killer Mike and El-P decided to drop RTJ3 ahead of its 2017 launch date, following the album’s message of doing whatever the fuck they want to do, summed up beautifully by El-P in an interview with Billboard when he said “Suck my dick, I’m going to say everything I want to say”.

The fact that Run The Jewels 3 had a surprise drop does not mean that the project was rushed by any means. “There are more songs and there’s more of an arc. Like he said, we really just took our time, and it really was just because we could. We had the time to do it. And there’s an arc in the record because you’re getting a year’s worth of our mind and our hearts” said El-P and he isn’t lying. While it’s easy enough to point out that RTJ3 is the biggest project the duo have hit out with, running at 14 tracks and clocking in at just under an hour, the aforementioned arc makes the record a far more interesting listen than anything the band has previously released.

The first part, in what I’m gonna call RTJ’s three act structure, focusses more on the duo themselves and fuck, it’s an experience. Legend Has It is by far the most braggadocious song that Killer Mike and EL-P have ever crafted with the former aptly rapping about the two being the murderous pair, even going so far as to say they “went to Hell and discovered the devil, delivered some hurt and despair” as well as featuring what could arguably be El-P’s best dick reference since Oh My Darling, Don’t Cry.

The track that flows in seamlessly next, nicely titled Call Tickerton after the automated concert ticketing purchase system, follows this theme of vanity with a constant mention of Run The Jewels live at the garden, an obvious nod to Madison Square Garden which seems more realistic than a fallacy at this point in the boys’ career. These two songs help display Mike and El-P’s well-documented skill at dropping killer verses with the fifth one on Call Tickerton by Killer Mike featuring some of the best lines to appear on RTJ3.

It’s not until we reach the seventh track Don’t Get Captured that things start to get noticeably darker, heavier and harder in not only lines and themes but sounds as well. Starting off with some ominous children laughter, we get some expert storytelling from RTJ, all kicked off by Mike as he greets us with a “hello from the little shop of horrors”, swiftly followed up by another pop culture reference, before spiraling into a telling of the gun violence epidemic in Chicago, something that he believes no one really cares about until they’re faced with it which harks back to another collaborative track Murder With Excellence by Jay-Z and Kanye West.

Unlike Hov and Ye however, Mike and El bounce off one another and intertwine these narratives throughout this track as well as the rest of RTJ3 with El stepping into the driver’s seat to talk from the perspective of a police officer with some rather suitable references to horror films to introduce the listener. It’s at this point on the record that it becomes clear that RTJ3 isn’t just a way for the duo to collaborate, rather it works as the culmination of everything they’ve worked on over the past few years to act as their platform and manifesto. Even when their views are seen as the anti status quo, especially Mike’s in regards to his words on Hilary Clinton which is referenced on this record, the duo manage to make a compelling argument in addition to abiding by their “responsibility to make dope-ass music to help push through this bullshit every day”.

Image result for run the jewels 2017

As the record starts to reach its end, things start to slow down but don’t lack the punch RTJ3’s second act displayed as shown by Thursday In The Danger Room. As Mike put it:

I never would have done a record like “Thursday in the Danger Room” [solo]. You wouldn’t have heard a record where I was forgiving someone that murdered someone that I loved. I had probably carried that in my heart since I was a teenager, and it’s just not easy.

Death is the focus on this penultimate track and hearing two perspectives, one about watching a friend die of something you can’t prevent and the other related to gang violence, is a true testament to not only the variety Run The Jewels provide but also the power they possess with some truly saddening lines about “you never left cause I never let myself forget” backed up by a beautiful saxaphone provided by Kamasi Washington, known for his contribution to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. From the topic of death follows A Report To The Shareholders / Kill Your Masters, a song that masterfully encompasses all of what makes this record and Run The Jewels themselves amazing.

Bringing in Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha helps to further push all of these political messages much like Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) did on RTJ2 with a vilification of society. Discussing the actions of obeying in the first half, the song breaks into anarchy when Kill Your Masters kicks off into full overthrowing mode with Mike’s lines about being Jack Johnson and Tiger Flowers managing to summarize the racial politics behind his anger but his ability both on and off the mic. The song is essentially a fuck you to corrupt and war hungry officials and authority who “twerk on graves” and can’t wait to load up the silos and make your babies glow.

“We’re in sync so much now, after two records and several tours – and this new one felt like we hit that point in the Rocky training montage when he’s just killing shit,” said El-P in an interview with The Guardian and RTJ3 very much feels like the point where both him and Killer Mike have managed to catch the chicken. Showing sincerity, awareness, and aggression all at once, RTJ are the epitome of every liberal’s worst nightmare: they’re an answer to the intolerance that has infected America since its birth and do not give a fuck who disagrees. Their music is sure to be the soundtrack to the revolution

Their music is sure to be the soundtrack to the revolution and what a fucking soundtrack that is.

10/10


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