What’s music without a little intrigue? This year’s most memorable albums stray from the usual pop tracks of yesteryears and are loaded with angst, emotions, and even Easter eggs on celebrity gossip.
Note: The music here is presented in no particular order.
Melodrama by Lorde
Arguably the music industry’s biggest revelation of 2013, Lorde finally returns four years after her last release. Her highly anticipated sophomore album is a haunting musical reflection on solitude, heartbreak and loneliness. It hooks you in with complex electropop beats and intimate imagery presented by Lorde’s raw and mesmerizing vocals. Each song is its own smoky, hypnotic, synth-fueled dream that lingers even after waking. Even her stripped down, piano-driven “Liability” retains the earnest, mystifying quality of the other tracks.
Something to Tell You by HAIM
Haim’s second album doesn’t exactly come hot off the heels of their first success (Days Are Gone was released in 2013), but the sister trio made the wait worth it. Something to Tell You is a masterfully crafted symphony of vintage styles, tight, three-part harmonies, percussive boldness and slick guitar riffs. Their seamless blending of old-school genres with their own modern sensibilities and earnest lyrics is complex, but fun and delightfully addictive. Each track bursts with Americana spirit that’s injected with some R&B beats and lots of soul.
DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
Rolling Stone dubbed Kendrick Lamar “the most gifted rapper of a generation.” And with DAMN., it’s easy to see why. Kendrick doesn’t hold back on his rhymes — he spits them out fast and furious without sacrificing its poetic quality or its ability to tell a story. His beats are bold but sophisticated, as they take on classic styles with modern twists and textural depth. DAMN. lives in contradiction, as the tracks reflect on the complexities within himself and the world in which he lives.
I See You by The xx
The first track in this indie pop album is titled “Dangerous,” which is fitting because you listen to it once and you’re hooked on the album forever. The xx’s new offering is a rich, multidimensional artwork that enlarges the band’s notoriously subtle sound. The guitar work and the steady bass are sleek and inviting, and provide the perfect backdrop for the dual vocals that throb with quiet intensity and play with each other with an undeniable sense of intimacy.
Reputation by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is back with a vengeance in Reputation. Billboard reports that Reputation sold 1.05 million copies in the first four days after its Nov.10 release, making it the most successful traditional album of 2017. Memes and jokes about her music video, “Look What You Made Me Do,” are aplenty with references to Old Taylor Swifts dying, a tub full of pearls and diamonds (which naysayers say is a dig at Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery), and ghosts of boyfriends past. As Taylor says in one of her songs, “The Old Taylor can’t be on the phone right now.” Probably because she’s laughing her way to the bank.
This and other top-five lists for 2017 are published in the People of the Year Dec. 2017-Jan. 2018 issue, in stores now.