To put it simply, a lot of great records came out in 2017. Whether they were smartly-crafted critical darlings from the indie world, instant chart-toppers that soundtracked the whole world, or a rising OC favorite playing the club down the street next week, we left the year with some real potential classics in our libraries. So naturally, a handful of us at OCML want to go over the albums we obsessed over the most, locally or otherwise. We also included plugs to each team member’s socials or other projects, for if you really like what they had to say. Enjoy the lists, and here’s to an even better 2018!
5) ’68 – Two Parts Viper
Subverting everything you thought you knew about garage rock duos, frontman Josh Scogin screams his brains out with the same intensity and abandon as he did in his hardcore past, with some of the thickest, meatiest guitar tones you’ll hear all year. On this sophomore album though, it’s a tighter, more controlled chaos, balanced with subdued melodic moments that add an extra emotional weight. I already wrote about these guys’ live show for my first article on OCML, so you can get more details on what they’re all about there.
4) The Regrettes – Feel Your Feelings Fool!
I was pleasantly surprised to see more female-led acts in my year-end lists than usual, and none exemplify that ethos more potently than The Regrettes. It’s rare that a band establishes themselves this confidently on their debut outing, combining earworm hooks and harmonies reminiscent of 60’s girl groups with righteous punk fury in the tempos and messages. If I made a list of the Top 5 “Get the Hell Away from Me, You Creepy Condescending Dickwad” Anthems of 2017, selections from this record would take up at least 4 spots.
3) Jillette Johnson – All I Ever See in You Is Me
On the other side of the spectrum from the last pick, this is the best soundtrack for quiet introspection you’ll find all year. The organic, deceptively low-key sonic landscape (courtesy of producer Dave Cobb) lends it all the warmness of a timeless country/folk LP, only with more piano and absolutely none of the kitsch. The way she dissects disconnects in relationships with lovers & family members is sure to strike a chord in some way with anyone who listens to it.
2) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Reverb-soaked indie rock can be hard to make stand out track to track, but this Canadian group brings all the variety, songwriting chops and ear-grabbing melodies to pull it off fantastically. Whether sounding like a more energized Beach House or a more chilled-out Regrettes, frontwoman Molly Rankin ties it all together with a dreamy vocal presentation and a charmingly nuanced sense of storytelling. Also a big highlight of Long Beach’s Music Tastes Good festival in 2017.
1) Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Coincidentally, I’m bookending this list with garage rock duos, but comparatively Japandroids bring more motivation than madness. 5 years removed from Celebration Rock and these guys (also Canadian, also coincidence) pack that same earnest anthemic bombast into another 8 tracks and 35 minutes. This is music to take that next step and make a bold life decision to, only with a wider sonic palette to dissuade any detractor who called them one-note. Welcome back.
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5) Ghost Key – If I Don’t Make It
One of post-hardcore’s best bands finally made a new album, and it couldn’t be any better. From chuggy hardcore riffs to incredibly sad lyrics, this is the album to listen to when depressed….or happy….or when driving…..basically whenever.
4) K.Flay – Every Where Is Some Where
K.Flay is an incredibly talented singer and rapper. This breakup record will hit you in the feels, and make you regret any bad thing you’ve ever done in a relationship. It’ll leave you texting your exes at 2:16 a.m. telling them you’re sorry for that one thing 6 years ago.
3) Bleep Bloop – The Fifth Pupil EP
One of the most disgusting bass producers out there. Santa Cruz’s Bleep Bloop produced this EP that will take you straight to bass hell and leave you ghost rolling for days. If you want to know what a dark acid trip feels like, listen to this EP.
2) IDK – IWasVeryBad
This is THE rap/hip-hop record of 2017. He used to go by Jay IDK, but shortened it to just IDK when he released this album. One of the most heartfelt stories you’ll hear in any rap album this year. Some songs are hip-hop, some songs are a little more R&B, and some are just straight trap.
1) Fit for an Autopsy – The Great Collapse
By far the best heavy record of the year. Fit for an Autopsy have always been a great deathcore band, but with this record, they matured into one of the best metal bands in the U.S. If you’re a fan of heavy music, you’re a fan of this record.
5) 2 Chainz – Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
This album takes the new age beats and puts context to the trap music scene. Overlooked for not being heavy melody driven, and repetitive with the lyrics.
4) Aminé – Good for You
Great original artist and humble performer. His style and delivery remind me of 90’s hip-hop. For that reason, he was overlooked and only known for his single “Caroline.” Saw him live at The Observatory, and he wasn’t singing over vocals, which is sadly rare with new rappers.
3) Khalid – American Teen
This Canadian rapper is affiliated with Lorde and shows that young men aspire for more than sex, money, and women. American Teen is a refreshing album from a new generation that is looking for love.
2) Kelela – Take Me Apart
This woman brings back the true style of R&B. Smooth beat with powerful words is what she presents. A great album for a date night, and for when you end up back at the house. One of the new R&B artists of the year that big things should be coming from.
1) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
This album has set a standard to the hip-hop music scene that many choose not to acknowledge. The album tells two different stories that can only be heard listening to it forward and backwards. Lyrically amazing album with rap DJ icon Kid Capri laying vocal intros. Great album if you’re looking to find some conscious hip-hop music in a day of mundane lyricists.
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5) AJR – The Click
The Click is an incredibly impressive feat when you consider that the entire album has been written, arranged, composed, and produced by three brothers in their twenties. The opening track “Overture” beautifully sets up the mood of the entire album by mixing every song on the album onto one track. Though the album does suffer from a few what I presume to be “filler” songs, every subsequent song feels new, exciting, and refreshing. I can only hope that AJR continues to successfully combine orchestral grandiosity to the modern electropop times.
4) Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
Tyler has finally created an album where every song feels purposeful and so incredibly personal to him as an artist. Whereas in albums past, Tyler has brought his “fuck it” persona forward, Flower Boy feels so intimate and raw. From the hard hitting “Who Dat Boy” to the softness of “See You Again,” Tyler shows us we’ve still got so much to learn about him.
3) Daniel Caesar – Freudian
If butter spread thinly onto a just-out-of-the-oven loaf of bread was transposed into music, the result would be Daniel Caesar’s Freudian. There seems to be a very thin line for R&B artists to walk across to keep their work from sounding “cheesy”; Daniel Ceasar has managed to pole-jump the line altogether. Each song dumps onto the next in smooth transition, and I found myself not even realizing when the next song began. So the next time you find yourself overlooking the ocean, or passing by buildings on the train as the sun sets, pop in this album and you’ll be sure to end up feeling at peace.
2) Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
There is no other album that has made me want to dance, belt out, groove, and plain old have a good time like Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. Bruno Mars has ushered funk back into pop, and I for one am so here for it. He already showed us he’s got the voice in his past work in power ballads, but 24K Magic cemented that he’s got the rhythm and energy to be the next Pop God.
1) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
What can I say about Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album that hasn’t been said ad nauseum already? When you’re at the top of your game, there seems to be nowhere to go but down (see Drake’s More Life), but Kendrick has managed to beat the odds and reminds us why he’s “king.” DAMN. has the ebb and flow in the arrangement that lets you belt out hard-hitters like “HUMBLE.” and take a breather for softer songs like “LOVE.” He takes subjects like “LUST.” and “PRIDE.” and tells us what they mean to him. Just like the finality of the period and the intensity of the capitalization, DAMN. is a masterpiece of lyricism, production, and composition.
5) The Shins – Heartworms
A band that I can recognize by just the tone. They continue to do so with this album, and brought a little extra in the background when it came to the music.
4) The XX – I See You
From the songwriting to the vocal melodies, this album really brings you in as a relatable character.
3) Depeche Mode – Spirit
The tone of this album really set it in for me. It’s different and really shows the talent from all parts of the band. Great lyrics as always and really keeps the listener thinking.
2) Tycho – Epoch
This album is beautiful, as its filled with uplifting tracks and can bring a deep connection. You can truly feel the emotion in every track.
1) Bonobo – Migration
A very nostalgic album that really hits your inner soul and puts you in a daze. From the live instruments to the guest vocals, this amazing downtempo/worldly album really shows Bonobo’s talent following all his other albums.
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(Note: List is in no particular order.)
August Burns Red – Phantom Anthem
It goes without saying that one of my favorites was from my favorite band. This is angry music for happy people at its finest.
Gravler – Give Up the Ghost
Close to home because it was the first official OCML Records release. They helped us sell out our first show at the House of Blues Anaheim in The Parish. It’s a perfect mix of modern pop-punk with an old Rise Against feel.
Incubus – 8
Incubus has been a favorite of mine since I was in middle school, and Brandon is one of my favorite lyricists. The lyrical poetry of Incubus is a large part of what inspired me to start writing my own poetry. I finally got to see them at the Hollywood Bowl, and that was a highlight of the year, ending the night hanging with Brandon at the after party.
In Urgency – Painting Parallels
This is one of my favorite local bands by far. This album was stuck on my playlist for most of the fall. If you haven’t heard of them, show some urgency and check this album out on Spotify!
Obey the Brave – Mad Season
I’ve been hooked on OTB for a few years. I can’t deny my love for driving hardcore with good chants and heavy breakdowns. If you’re into that, this is an album for you!
Honorable Mention: MyChildren MyBride – Vicious World