2017 is off to a great start for the music scene. Some of my childhood-favorite artists are putting out their first new albums in years, as well as some newer, lesser known artists releasing quality albums in hopes of more exposure. Of course, some big names have put out albums as well. Some were overhyped, some weren’t enough.
Best: Big Sean- I Decided.
From opening to closing track, this is one of the most complete rap albums I’ve heard in a long time. The production is where this album shines, but also lyrically. The lyrical diversity can be easily seen comparing “Moves” and “Sunday Morning Jet Pack”.
“Sunday Morning Jet Pack” takes a more serious tone and is a nice change of pace from a majority of the rest of the album.
“Thanking God for all my set backs
‘Cause he the reason I’m able to get back
This feels like my Sunday morning jetpack
Feel like I sent the prayers up and got blessed back”
The album is musically diverse as well, with different tracks playing on different emotions for the listener. “Halfway of the Balcony” and “Jump Out the Window” aren’t as slow as “Sunday Morning Jet Pack”, but still somewhat upbeat with solid lyrics. The album is full of memorable tracks for your summer playlist for turning up or chilling out. The features just put this album absolutely over the top, with Eminem, Jeremih, and Migos, and a few others making guest appearances.
Worst: Linkin Park- One More Light
Linkin Park has come a long way since they released Hybrid Theory in 2000. One thing about the band is that they haven’t sounded the same on any two albums. They’re constantly evolving and finding new music to play to appeal to new fans and not become stagnant in their writing. It’s very admirable, but it just didn’t work this time.
I wasn’t crazy about The Hunting Party in 2014 until I saw the songs performed live. While I hope that’s the same case for One More Light, I highly doubt it. Musically, it’s full of generic instrumentation that is the exact opposite of what Linkin Park has always been. Lyrically, songs can be agonizingly repetitive. Hopefully they can evolve into a better version of themselves for their next album. The idea of them becoming more of an EDM group is unsettling, but music is all about innovation. Props to them for never being complacent and having the audacity to experiment musically with every album. And having the talent to succeed every time prior to One More Light.
Best: Blink-182- California (Deluxe)
The deluxe issue of California was a deluxe indeed, featuring eleven new entirely new songs and a live acoustic version of “Bored to Death”, their first single off the original California release. It was basically a whole new album.
California was one of the main contributors to my Summer 2016 playlist, and as much as I enjoyed it, the song structure was repetitive. Mark Hoppus always sang the first verse, there was a chorus, and Matt Skiba sang the second verse. The lyrics were generic and uninspired, but the music was great. It was the first album they released with former Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, so it was an adjustment.
Fast forward to the deluxe album, with songs being recorded as early as January 2017 before the release in March. The band had time to develop a new chemistry and allow Skiba to feel more comfortable after playing together for a while. It’s clear that Skiba was given more room to work lyrically and musically on the new tracks, like “Misery” and “Hey, I’m Sorry” because of a darker tone that was similar to Alkaline Trio. The merging of Alkaline Trio and Blink-182 has made many lifelong Blink fans and vehement Tom DeLonge supporters frustrated with the direction the band is taking.
As mentioned above, evolution is critical for musicians, and it doesn’t always work out. It would be weird and make me feel uncomfortable listening to 40 year olds in Blink still making pop-punk and talking about immaturity and girl problems. This album is a step forward for the rest of their musical career as a band.
Worst: Ed Sheeran- Divide
Ed sang his way into our hearts with his debut album plus, and promptly followed suit with Multiply, and now Divide has left more to be desired. “Shape of You” took off, and is a creative masterpiece. Other than “Dive” and “Nancy Mulligan”, every other song was either generic or underwhelming.
As talented and creative as Ed Sheeran is, he should never be generic, but unfortunately “Bibia Be Ye Ye”, “Castle on the Hill”, and “Barcelona” are just that. I’ve listened to Ed Sheeran for countless hours and even seen him live; he’s better than this.
Now, I probably hold him to an extremely high standard because of how many great songs he made in his first few years in the music business. That being said, there aren’t any memorable tracks on this album besides “Shape of You”. I’ve listened to the album all the way through two-and-a-half times now, and still the only song that holds any relevance is “Shape of You”. I don’t even remember any of the words to any of the other songs.
Under the Radar: Bleachers- Gone Now
I first saw Bleachers at the Beale Street Music Festival in 2015 and ever since they have been on a number of my playlists. I had no clue they were coming out with a new album until I began building my Summer 2017 playlist. Beginning to end, my personal favorite album released so far this year.
The creativity in the music is astounding. Their sound is unique only to them and every song is different. “Goodmorning”, “Foreign Girls”, and “Everybody Lost Somebody” are absolutely addictive.
Nostalgia Factor: Incubus- 8
There are so many groups I could fit in this spot, and narrowing it down to the most universal is difficult. But I have to say this album fits the description of nostalgia best, paired with the fact that this is their first new album in six years.
Incubus had so many hits in the late 90s and early 2000s including “Pardon Me”, “Drive”, and “Wish You Were Here” that were each mainstays on the radio and are still played generously to this day.
This album shows that the band still has the ability to make good music with the same, signature Incubus sound. “No Fun” and “Familiar Faces” are tracks to listen to.
Honorable Mentions: Best
Drake- More Life
Kendrick Lamar- DAMN.
Zac Brown Band- Welcome Home
AFI- AFI (The Blood Album)
Dropkick Murphys- 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory
Papa Roach- Crooked Teeth
Seether- Poison the Parish
What to Look For:
Rancid- Trouble Maker
Rise Against- Wolves
Nickelback- Feed the Machine
Imagine Dragons- Evolve
Stone Sour- Hydrograd