There are a lot of amazing albums out there, but you can’t hype them all.
Some burn bright and fizzle out, but there are those that shine without the spotlight, and we’re gonna give them the recognition they deserve right here in this list.
You might think it’s too early to be listing 2017’s most underrated albums, but there’s only three months left to go before this travesty of a year is over, so screw it. Here are our most overlooked albums of 2017.
Forest Swords – Compassion
You’d expect Matthew Barnes, better known as Forest Swords, to descend down the hollowed-out path he’d carved with the evocative and desolate Engravings. It seems, though, that 2017 is the year artists stop feeling so alone and look for rays of hope amongst the imperious presence of dark clouds.
Much like Godspeed You! Black Emperor did on their latest record, Forest Swords has shifted ever so slightly towards a brighter sounding album with Compassion. The crucial percussive clacks and echoing vocal samples that make up the ‘Forest Swords sound’ are ever-present, yet the bright twinkling of synths breaking through on ‘Exalter’ and the warm embrace of ‘Arms Out’ are the ambassadors bearing the name of the album’s title.
It’s a wonderfully warm album from an artist we’d all categorised as a virtuoso of isolation and loneliness, and it probably flew under the radar because we’re still not ready to accept the arms outstretched offering us a bloody good hug.
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
Mac DeMarco’s evolution from whimsical goofball to introspective realist resulted in his most lyrically compelling album yet in This Old Dog.
2, his debut album, began with ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ which somehow portrays his father’s drug dealing with fuzzy nostalgia, while ‘My Old Man’ contrast this when it opens This Old Dog as Mac reflects on how his reckless behaviour isn’t unlike his fathers. Lyrics like “For he can’t be me/Look how old and cold and tired/And lonely he’s become” perfectly portray his dread in the face of aging.
An all-round more downbeat affair, the instrumentation is less playful and prominent, often crawling over melodramatic synths or lazily strumming an acoustic guitar. The music taking a step-back only proves Mac’s newfound lyrical depth, as he keeps you invested throughout This Old Dog, and he deserves more applause for that.
Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet
Michelle Zauner’s second solo full-length is filled with raw and understated anthems, with content delving deeper than she’s dared go before. Soft dreamy guitar melodies blend perfectly with the artist’s voice, creating a slick and cohesive album. A rehash of a track of the same name from her band Little Big League, ‘Boyish’ is a standout on the album, on which Zauner has upped the melancholy of the original and stripped it back to shine the spotlight on her tender and emotive vocals. The whole album provides and sense of comfort and familiarity, and is the perfect accompaniment to a cool, relaxed evening.
Busu – Family
Swedish rapper Busu delivered something more closely resembling pop with his debut studio album Family, but it’s a sound that suits him remarkably well. Blending his ability to provide a stellar hook with his relaxed rapping style, Family is a concise effort that really showcases his immense talent. It certainly helps that the production, which is handled by frequent collaborators Teo Sweden and DJ HAYDN, is some of the best and most vibrant hip-hop production of the year.
Kitty – Miami Garden Club
The internet as a platform is hardly conducive for artists wanting to freely work upon their artistic blueprint, with songs and scenes blowing up exponentially only to be reduced to a number of deplorable online forums’ go-to gag merely months later. Although music publications often seem keen to chronicle the efforts of musicians who wish to turn conflicted beginnings into something more sincere and representative of their present day self, it’s telling that Kitty‘s debut album – the flourishing pop spectacle Miami Garden Club – hasn’t received the press or critical acclaim that many of her former (male) cloud rap contemporaries have for their own personal ‘redemption’ arcs.
It is – for a lack of better term – complete bullshit, particularly when you factor in the sheer multitude of obstacles and challenges she faced to even release this album in the first place. From crowdfunding over $50k to make Miami Garden Club exactly the way she envisioned it to having to redraft the record in its entirety after the original iteration was lost, the creative hustle alone warrants respect and recognition. The fact that it’s also one of the year’s most gratifying pop releases, however – melding flashy 80s vibes and hooks galore with her patented personal storytelling and more reserved production – serves as a painful reminder as to how reluctant this industry is to champion the individual triumphs of female artists.