Spinning Platters’ Top 10 Albums of 2017

by Dakin Hardwick on December 28, 2017

A look back at the records that got us through the dumpster fire that was 2017…

By The Spinning Platters Staff

2017 may go down as one of the worst years in recorded history. In fact, I’m almost 100% certain of that. However, the best art is created out of strife, and 2017 yielded an especially passionate crop of records. So, without further adieu, here is Spinning Platters’ Top 10 records of 2017, as selected and voted on by our entire team:

10) Ctrl / SZA

I always thought of Homer Simpson’s first encounter with Ctrl, but this record has nothing to do with that. It’s indie R&B with clever lyrics that sneak up on you. That this record went gold gives me hope for this country. “Love Galore” has Travis Scott along for the ride, and it exemplifies how the whole record is at its best with headphones. In fact, every time I see someone listening to music on the train, I’m going to assume they’re listening to Ctrl. (Joel Edelman)

9) Colors / Beck

Beck has succeeded at sounding like everything and nothing at the same time. Beck’s Colors is audio cotton candy, evaporating as soon as it touches the ear, already gone on the tongue. A consequence-less romp. A pure product. With Colors, Beck is playing a video game that the listener can’t help but win. A hook from somewhere, a shimmering tambourine, and an “I’m so free” pushed through the air. What was that? It’s already gone. (Chris Rogers)

8.) Near to the Wild Heart of Life / Japandroids

Near to the Wild Heart of Life is another masterpiece from the biggest rock band in the world, Japandroids. What? They’re not? Well, don’t tell them, because on this record they sound like the arena band of a Jersey girl’s dreams – singing about getting out of their hometown, taking the highway home to see their girl, and traveling the world to chase their muse. It’s music made to be sung by thousands, yet feels like it was written just for you. They’re not the biggest rock band in the world, but they’re definitely the best. (Gordon Elgart)

7) Pleasure / Feist

Oh, that unmistakable velvet blanket of a voice that you feel like you’ve known your entire life is there. The ubiquitous wonder and charm is there. The singular comfort that only she can bring is there. But the pleasure Feist is bringing us this time seems to be coming from a whole different direction than any of us expected. While previous albums showed their magic instantly with insatiably crafted perfect songs, Pleasure starts silent as if hiding, and slowly brings us on the road, showing us all of the bumps and bruises that come along with it. Any road trip has its ups and downs, but with some biting guitars, and heartfelt exploration of single feelings, we’re reminded that a beautiful destination of pleasure may be reached, sometimes, by sticking with the adventure (or album in this case), and receiving that delayed gratification. (Raffi Youssoufian)

6) Apocalipstick / Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr have hit a delicious sweet spot on their second full length record. Bringing a nicely polished, organ-driven assault over their bouncy, garage-punk roots, it makes for a near perfect reintroduction of this band. It feels like Cherry Glazerr have finally hit that perfect point when they have developed their own sound, and all of humanity is benefitting from one of the most unique rock records in a very long time. (Dakin Hardwick)

5) DAMN. / Kendrick Lamar

2017 was a tough year. At one point this year, it seemed as though the US climate was a nightmare borne of a never-approved Twilight Zone episode, streamed from the Upside Down on Opposite Day. Music was a great escape and a soulful inspiration in 2017, and in April, Kendrick Lamar delivered an unbelievable masterpiece that weaves a story so powerful and strong that it speaks to all of us regardless of our backgrounds and, hopefully, our beliefs.

Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” and “HUMBLE” performance at the 2017 MTV VMA’s was nothing short of jaw-dropping -rivaled only by his performance with Beyonce at last year’s BET Awards- and was definitely one of the best things I saw on TV this year. It was the kind of performance that steals your breath and leaves you so awe-inspired that you have to sit back, think about it, and watch it again. I learned quite a bit about Lamar by watching his excellent episode on Vice’s Noisey, intrigued by his childhood friendships, his work ethic, and his skill. And I remain equal parts impressed by his commendable charity work giving back to his city of Compton, putting him in a class all his own, and earning recognition from the California State Senate. Lamar’s latest album DAMN is an extraordinarily sharp and streamlined accomplishment to add to his discography and his socially conscious life’s work. Kendrick Lamar in song and performance has long been a favorite of Spinning Platters, and we are excited to have him in the Top 10 this year. Collectively I will speak for the group and say that we find him remarkable in his lyrical ability and his charismatic nature, which definitely inspires all who encounter him. With all that we’ve seen and heard this year, sometimes you want to set the bridge on fire and start anew, which only conflicts with your feeling of wanting to walk across that bridge in harmony. This album felt right for 2017, and there is no doubt that Kendrick Lamar continues his reign as “The New King of the West Coast.” (Michelle Viray)

4) City of No Reply / Amber Coffman

The lyrics can trap you like an agoraphobic if you pay too much attention. Musically, “Dark Night” is straight out of the early ’90s, with subtle hints of Le Tigre’s “Gone B4 Yr Home” underneath. It is one of my favorite songs of the year. My absolute favorite song of the year? The tear-inducing title track. It’s a modern pop song that fits right in with the rest of the soundtrack at the hot pilates studio I frequent. This was personally my No. 6 record of the year, and I already regret how low on the list it ended up. (Joel Edelman)

3) MASSEDUCTION / St Vincent

St Vincent is on her 5th (6th if you count her fantastic record with David Byrne) release. And, with each release, St Vincent, aka Annie Clark, has completely redone her sound. With MASSEDUCTION, she takes this biggest risk of all: releasing an incredibly sexy, yet also accessible pop record. And she succeeds in such a glorious way… Bringing in elements of Blackout-era Britney Spears and Peaches, yet adding that sound that is undeniably St Vincent- it’s the perfect pop album. This record has hooks at every corner, too. And you still get a taste of that ridiculous guitar playing that Clark is known for. Also, extra points for naming the record something that isn’t ASSEDUCATION, but really does read that way. (Dakin Hardwick)

2) Hot Thoughts / Spoon

It’s hard to believe that Spoon frontman Britt Daniel is 46, and hard to believe that after so many years, the band can make an album like Hot Thoughts that sounds as good as it does. Spoon’s formula of deceptively simple rock songs powers forward like a rechargeable battery. The album follows They Want Your Soul in giving us some hard rockers and some more introspective keyboard-heavy songs. While there’s nothing on Hot Thoughts as supercharged as “Rent I Pay” or the stunning “Inside Out,” Daniel’s hot and bothered soul does burn through album opener “Hot Thoughts.” And on “Pink Out,” Alex Fischel knows to back off his keys enough to allow Daniel to softly remind us of the past like a boomerang, and then to let Jim Eno’s drums slowly build, then fade away. It’s doubtful the band will ever again give the world anything like “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” or so effortlessly scoop up huge dollops of Motown and spread them all over the extraordinary “The Underdog”, but we could do much worse than to bop and bounce to a lesser Spoon album every few years. (Chris Piper)

1) Rainbow / Kesha

Kesha’s latest album release is beautiful. There’s exploration across genres and textures, as well as themes of transformation, truth, and joy. Almost every track stands strong on its own, but two tracks comprise the heart of the collection. “Praying,” and “Rainbow” are gorgeous tracks that together form the heart of this collection, speaking to resilience and triumph after being trapped or lost. The former is a deeply emotional ballad addressing a former abuser and celebration of freedom, and the title track is about living in vivid light and finding the courage to rediscover joy and release from cynicism and grief.

Rainbow is a beautiful album, and not only as a soundtrack for resilience and survival. It is timely amidst the avalanche of the #MeToo movement, penned while Kesha was fighting for freedom from her alleged abuser. Musically, it’s a big step forward for Kesha that sets her apart from her trendier peers. Her previous material had been dumbed down by her producer, said Kesha, for broader appeal, and she’d had no agency. Now at the helm on her newest album, she has matched each song with a producer who can bring its nuances and soul. Ben Folds’ brings to “Rainbow” his light precision as a producer and arranger, and the song glimmers with fullness and depth.“Woman,” a funky jam about feminist independence, was written as a rebuke to Trump’s “Grab ‘em by the pussy” comments, is backed by the Dap King horns, and produced by former Bruno Mars collaborator Brody Brown. “Bastards” is a beautifully bare acoustic song about keeping your head high when you’re walking among assholes, produced by Ricky Reed, most known for R&B tracks.  Kesha collaborates with Dolly Parton, too, dueting on a cover of “Old Flames”, which was originally written by Kesha’s mother in 1978.

Kesha’s popular image seems to be locked to the hard partying scamp depicted in her song “Tik Tok.” Whatever your opinion on it — people tend to have strong feelings — it’s unfair for music fans to be so easily manipulated by the industry’s marketing machine. Success often cements artists creatively, and they are forced to stay on brand for their album release; given this, it’s almost fair to treat this new album as a commercial debut. Kesha’s escape from the machine is excellent news for music; hopefully music snobs can get past her old image to give her a chance. (Becka Robbins)

 

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