Nedda Afsari

The 25 Best Albums of 2017
The 25 Best Albums of 2017

10

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 3

Run the Jewels routinely delivers nimble, rapid-fire bars with the kind of towering bombast that belies the trenchant social consciousness that’s often resided at the heart of their lyricism. At the inception of Killer Mike and El-P’s tag-team project, their braggadocio was turned up to almost cartoonish levels. But Run the Jewels 3 finds their outsized social commentary emblematic of the socio-political climate that would unfurl throughout 2017, where nuance and subtlety are routinely drowned out by unhinged, furious bluster. It’s fitting, then, that in this third effort they’ve unleashed their most pointed salvo to date. The political appropriation and distortion of religious iconography to justify overblown rhetoric—not to mention the willful ignorance pervading the highest ranks of power—is taken to its outlandish extreme in “Talk to Me,” as El-P spits, “You think baby Jesus killed Hitler so I’d just whisper?” Killer Mike takes on kneejerk outrage-culture in “A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters,” the second half of which is given added anarchic flair with a guest spot by Zack de la Rocha. All told, the unrelenting energy and dynamically confrontational wit of the album serves as a call to arms against the lunacy of modern-day America. Goller

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

9

The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir

The knock against Stephin Merritt and company’s latest long-sit is the lack of “company” in the equation: Where 1999’s 69 Love Songs varied its three-CD sprawl with rotating vocalists, Merritt’s sad-sack monotone is all we get for five discs on 50 Song Memoir. But, then, per the title, this is Stephin’s story: The songs each correspond to a year in the prickly 50-year-old songwriter’s life, and it wouldn’t really make sense for anyone else to tell it. Merritt the aesthete understands this, and so he indulges in songs that wouldn’t really make sense for anyone else to sing: It’s hard to imagine “A Cat Called Dionysus” being such a laugh riot without his deadpan pivot from “He hated me” to “I loved him,” and only Merritt could find musicality amid the drolly listed maladies on “Weird Diseases.” What 50 Song Memoir has in common with 69 Love Songs is that it’s one of the Magnetic Fields’s most consistent albums. Merritt’s lyrical concepts hold together as albums better than his aesthetic ones—and duration only helps the charm of his offbeat writing to sink in. Mac

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

8

LCD Soundsystem, American Dream

As a meditation on impermanence, American Dream focuses on the ends of things: friendships stretched thin to the point of dissolving, the creeping lines in one’s face signaling the departure of youth, passion devolving into the prosaic through sheer repetition. Witty and acerbic as ever, James Murphy remains keenly insistent that youth is wasted on the young, and that the futile clarity of hindsight is one of life’s cruelest jokes. Sleep and wakefulness again play major roles in the music, with Murphy lamenting how advancing age causes us to increasingly sleepwalk through our lives. American Dream plays out like an enhanced take on 2005’s “Losing My Edge”: indulging in the defeatism of growing too old to be “dangerous” anymore, while presenting an endearing cantankerousness at the thought of what passes for art these days. Murphy’s perpetual existential crisis is ultimately rendered most vividly on the title track, a chronicling of a disorienting morning after an unfulfilling one-night stand that reflects how the most promising dreams fade in the pale light of day. Goller

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

7

Lorde, Melodrama

Lorde’s 2013 debut, Pure Heroine, was a snapshot of disaffected youth punctuated by sardonic black humor beyond the New Zealand singer’s years. Functioning in a similar fashion as Adele’s numerically titled efforts, Melodrama captures Lorde on the cusp of adulthood, at a remove from the overnight stardom prompted by her first album. Fame has the potential to keep creative minds hermetically sealed away from their former lives, their worldview myopic and out of touch with the rest of society, but the opposite seems to be true here. Whether it’s due to the consequences of that notoriety or simply the result of the inevitable maturation afforded by the nearly four years in between albums, the inner life Lorde reveals on Melodrama is richer and, in many way, more accessible than the one presented on Pure Heroine. With its tales of drunken meet-cutes and messy mornings after, Melodrama is an unexpected house-party record—thematically, if not sonically. But whether it’s a party record disguised as a breakup album or a breakup album disguised as a party record, it’s cathartic, dramatic, and everything else you could want an album titled Melodrama to be. Cinquemani

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

6

Sheer Mag, Need to Feel Your Love

Sheer Mag’s Need to Feel Your Love is a stiff punch in the mouth that chews up anachronistic forms from the 1970s—disco, soft rock, arena rock—and spits them back out as something urgent and dangerous. Opener “Meet Me in the Street” is the most ferocious, teeth-rattling rock protest song in recent memory, powered by Kyle Seely’s furious fuzzed-out riffing and Tina Halladay’s piercing, throat-shredding vocals. Revolutionary fervor abounds: On one of the album’s most memorable cuts, Halladay warns “rich men in their white skin” to “expect the bayonet.” But even when she’s just singing about fucking (the deeply soulful title track and the the disco burner “Pure Desire”) or plugging in and rocking out (the righteously pissed “Turn It Up”), Sheer Mag attacks their material like a raging inferno. Winograd

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