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Staff Picks: Best of 2017

The Holyfield team names their favorites of 2017

Premal Bhatt

Album of the Year: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar’s latest album encompassed what many of his listeners were thinking about the surrounding world with his simple album title: DAMN. Just like the simple title, K dot’s fourth studio album keeps it very direct and hits many levels on this album, with the sound straying back away from his previous release, To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick had that unique blend of substance to songs that still dominated airwaves, with a hard-hitting, “HUMBLE.” and “DNA.,” while smoothing it out using “LOVE.,” and showing subtle force on “LOYALTY.” with the help of Rihanna, one of the few features on the album, per his usual. Kung Fu Kenny’s talent comes from his storytelling, so it’s no surprise that the beats are simple and crisp, while his tracklist gives you a glimpse into his concerns, values and the contradictions that exist in life. Some of the best tracks from the album are non-singles. Maybe Kendrick knew how people would react, so that’s how he actually named his album?

Top 10 Albums of 2017

1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
2. Jay-Z – 4:44
3. Khalid – American Teen
4. CyHi the Prynce – No Dope on Sundays
5. SZA – Ctrl
6. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
7. Drake – More Life
8. Sampha – Process
9. Big Sean & Metro Boomin – Double or Nothing
10. Miguel – War & Leisure

Favorite Song: “Butterfly Effect,” Travis Scott

Favorite Movie: Get Out

Favorite Television Show: Game of Thrones (Season 7)

Matt Bram

Album of the Year: Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights

There are albums that hit close to home and then there are ones that take down the walls from the inside. That’s what Julien Baker does with Turn Out the Lights. It puts to words what you can’t. It’s a standout cathartic masterpiece in a year full of cathartic masterpieces. Her sophomore album builds upon the stripped down sound of her debut while marking a clear improvement in her songwriting. Through her visceral, honest lyrics, she projects an overarching meaning, carried over from her first record: you are not alone. Baker closes this record out with an amendment, a correction of the closing track on her debut. “I take it all back / I’ve changed my mind / I wanted to stay.” “They say there’s a fix for everything / then why not me?” Some days it’s a confident declaration, other a sentiment of defeat, but that’s the beauty of this record, it’s exactly what you need it to be. What can I say? She gets it. This album came out a little over a month ago and it’s my most listened to album of the year by a pretty large margin.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

1. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
2. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
3. The National – Sleep Well Beast
4. Gang of Youths – Go Farther in Lightness
5. Perfume Genius – No Shape
6. Cayetana – New Kind of Normal
7. Lorde – Melodrama
8. Syd – Fin
9. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
10. Emperor X – Oversleepers International

Favorite Song: “There’s Money in the Walls,” Listener

Favorite Movie: Lady Bird

Favorite Television Show: Bojack Horseman (Season 4)

Cody Conley

Album of the Year: St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

Great pop musicians, the kind with staying power beyond that of corporate teeny boppers or bland “singer songwriters,” transcend categorization. The pop stars we hold up as platonic ideals elicit a wide range of emotion, from defiance to vulnerability, from humor to poignancy, from dead seriousness to dance party fun. They’re voracious students and restless experimenters, striving for mass appeal without sacrificing individuality and integrity. Few artists can manage this balancing act, and it’s increasingly rare in our fractured cultural landscape. Annie Clark AKA St. Vincent is one of those few, and MASSEDUCTION serves as her claim on the almost mythical title of 21st century pop star. And besides, after all these years, she still finds time to shred the guitar without breaking a sweat.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

1. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
2. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
3. The Body & Full of Hell – Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light
4. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
5. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
6. EMA – Exile in the Outer Ring
7. Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
8. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
9. Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls
10. Patricia – Several Shades of the Same Color

Favorite Song: “Party People,” Vince Staples

Favorite Movie: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

Favorite Television Show: (rewatch) The Sopranos

Grant Evan

Album of the Year : Kesha – Rainbow

In a year where trauma and sorrow surged its way into so many amazing albums and sparked amazing new and old wordsmiths to produce some of their finest works, in the end it is Kesha that stands the tallest in a sea of sadness. Kesha surged back into the music scene on the heels of a long sexual abuse trial leaving many of us to wonder if she’d ever be able to make music again. But she did, and it produced the amazing optimistic and powering Rainbow. Now, cheery pop isn’t anything new, but Kesha has the added advantage of rising out of the darkness and creating something hopeful out of her pain. The first half of the album has triumphant, in-your-face, vulgar ballads that only Kesha could pull off. The second half sees Kesha exploring herself musically, trusting her voice instead of recoiling into the tongue-and-cheek party girl vibe that she debuted on the scene with. Most importantly, Kesha refrains from using overt sweetness to distract from our societal woes, but rather showcases that recovery and triumph are possible. Rainbow lives up to its namesake: sheer beauty after a storm.

Top Albums of 2017

1. Kesha – Rainbow
2. SZA – CTL
3. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
4. Jay Z – 4:44
5. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
6. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
7. Thundercat – Drunk
8. Sampha – Process
9. Khalid – American Teen
10. Emperor X – Oversleepers International

Favorite Song: “DNA.,” Kendrick Lamar

Best Movie: Coco

Best Television Show: BoJack Horseman (Season 4)

Drew Steele

Album of the Year: Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom

If Childish Gambino and A Tribe Called Quest released their respective albums a month later, then the top pick would have been much more difficult. Furthermore, I’m fairly certain someone on staff here is going to write about MASSEDUCTION, so I knocked it down to number two on my list so I can talk about the best hip-hop album of the year: Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom. Yes, Hov and Kendrick garnered most of the attention this year for their respective works, but neither were as good as Rapsody’s masterpiece. It has everything you want in a hip-hop albums: great rhymes, flow, and beats. The pairing of Rapsody and 9th Wonder are damn near perfect. This is a must listen for any hip-hop fan, especially those who love Little Brother.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

1. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
2. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
3.  Thundercat – Drunk
4. SZA – CTL
5. Jay Z – 4:44
6. Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time
7. Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
8. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
9. The National – Sleep Well Beast
10. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Favorite Song: “Los Ageless,” St. Vincent

Favorite Movie: Blade Runner 2049

Favorite Television Show: Twin Peaks: The Return

Matthew Thomas

Album of the Year: Taylor Swift – Reputation

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In what could be considered her most Kanye West album to date, Taylor Swift’s sixth album, Reputation, is more than just a reinvention of style. Sure, T-Swift blacked out her social media only to return the following week with a new haircut, but this album is so much more than a fashion statement. For seemingly the first time in her career, Swift has a vendetta. Never one to shy away from controversy, Swift not only embraces her “snake” image in pop culture on this new record, she takes the ball and runs with it. Whether it be Mr. West himself, the media, or former best friends, Swift puts her haters on notice with colossal, arena-filling beats and groovy, funky vibes. R.I.P to the old Taylor. Better luck next year, Katy Perry.  Reputation cements Swift’s status as a modern day music icon.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

1. Taylor Swift – Reputation
2. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
3. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
4. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
5. Big Thief – Capacity
6. Brand New – Science Fiction
7. The National – Sleep Well Beast
8. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
9. King Krule – The OOZ
10. Jlin – Black Origami 

Favorite Song: “Total Entertainment Forever,” Father John Misty

Favorite Movie: Wonder Woman

Favorite Television Show: Master of None (Season 2)

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