The summer 2017 music recap
What’s you might have missed from this summer’s releases
By Nathan Kunz and Alec Warkentin, Staff Writers
Summertime has come and gone once again, and over the past couple months some new and noteworthy music has obviously come out. Here is our list for some summer albums that you should check out if you’re dying for some fresh sounds on your new playlist.
Has it become a cliché to talk about the difficulty of standing out in modern hip hop yet? “With nearly every heavy hitter dropping an album in 2017, how does a young act break through without riding coattails?” feels like a question I’ve seen hundreds of times throughout the last few months, whether it be in a comment section, album review (Look! Here it is again!) or the always exciting music think-pieces littering online music journalism.
Regardless of the phrases label-status, its repetition alone shows its relevancy within the genre’s current landscape. Self-labelled boy band Brockhampton (stylized BROCKHAMPTON), however, may have found an answer to the persisting question by dropping their second album of the season, SATURATION II just three months after its critically acclaimed predecessor.
Led by 21 year old MC and director Kevin Abstract, the collective’s second full length flows from one dynamic verse to the next with absolute ease.
Mixing influences of modern rap and classic hip-hop, instrumentals remain unique throughout the 16 track listing, never falling into strained efforts to recreate the flavour of the month or replicate stale sounds.
Whether it’s retro g-funk synths whining through a gauntlet of voices on opener “GUMMY”, dramatic ringing chorus keys holding the soundscape after a heavy-hearted verse by Abstract on “JUNKY”, or winding modern trap-flute popping in and out of the bouncing instrumental on “SWAMP”, Saturation II ties influences together seamlessly throughout.
With aggressive tones contrasting heartfelt messages without falling off flow or brand, Abstract directs the seven MC collective with precision and brave creativity across Saturation II. No verse is followed as expected, with each MC featured holding a unique style and delivery that characterizes the album as a unique rare piece of diverse modern hip-hop.
Contrasts and character, both in the beats and vocals, creates an unpredictability throughout SATURATION II, an album that cements BROCKHAMPTON’s place as the most exciting new group in genre’s tightly packed modern landscape.
Every year finds an indie-rock album burst forth from the woodwork with such ferocious earnestness that it puts many of the “big guys” in the well-established genre to shame.
Released in a month that also saw the return of indie powerhouses Fleet Foxes, it was Brooklyn’s Big Thief that seemed poised to dominate, and while it received a respectable amount of coverage, the time is already due for Capacity’s victory lap.
From the opening seconds of wistful guitar-picks and wavering vocals, front-woman Adrianne Lenker is spellbinding, weaving tales inspired by her own turbulent upbringing and lovelorn relationships.
While this may sound “old-hat,” each of the album’s eleven tracks come from a place that is very much real. You’re with Lenker as she describes her mother pressing a dishrag to her forehead as she stems the blood from a childhood wound (“Mythological Beauty”). You’re with her as she reminds a lost friend that she can return with open arms (“Haley”). You’re with her through trauma (“Pretty Things”), and more trauma (“Watering”), and more (“Coma”).
Though it’s not all negative, there are also bright spots as well, letters to and lamentations to friends (“Capacity”).
As an album, Capacity cuts through the bullshit, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Lenker and listener both return from the album purified and clean.
Attaining a near-mythical status due to their time as one of the primarchs of mid-naughties emo, New Jersey’s Brand New have finally managed to break into mainstream, gracing the top of the Billboard 200 with what is rumoured to be their last album.
After being gone for eight years, both long-and-first-time listeners will find something in Science Fiction, an album which is easily the group’s best since 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
Science Fiction interpolates dystopian-flared samples over infectious instrumentals in a sort-of film-like narrative, scored against a world that knows the end could be at any time.
It’s a fitting way for any band to go out, and there’s never been a climate so apt for a release like this.
While Ryan Adams seemed to lay claim to the “Americana” crown earlier this year with Prisoner, it’s The War on Drugs who are poised to usurp the throne with A Deeper Understanding, a fantastic homage to wanton abandon and 80’s-inspired heartland rock.
The War on Drugs have been riding on a wave of success beginning with 2014’s Lost In The Dream, but it is on A Deeper Understanding that the groups myriad influences take form. Over ten fantastic tracks, TWoD burn through stadium-ready, pumping guitar jams and textured rhythms that not just recapture, but reinvent the glory days of late 20th Century new wave. On the standout track “Strangest Thing,” Granduciel’s one-part- Dylan, one-part- Springsteen delivery is so strong you’d swear this album was an unearthed classic from days of yore. In short, what The War on Drugs have produced is an album that begs repeated listens, and an album that pines for a deeper understanding.