FROM PARTS UNKNOWN:Best Albums of 2017

Article by Stephen Chew

LCD Soundsystem
– American Dream
Genre: Disco Punk/Alternative Dance

LCD Soundsystem, the brainchild of James Murphy and pals, released hands-down the best album of the year. After announcing their disbandment in 2011 and going out with one last hurrah in their hometown at Madison Square Garden, some people found the subsequent reunion to be disingenuous and it threatened to ruin the legacy of one of the 2000s’ most beloved bands. However, American Dream delivers to put the doubters and naysayers at ease. The song “Change Yr Mind” specifically addresses the dilemma the band faced when they heard the backlash against the reunion, ultimately concluding that you can simply change your mind and shouldn’t be chastised for it. I find the first four tracks on the album to be the weakest, but the groove really starts with “How Do You Sleep?” then continues for the rest of the album. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the album is Murphy’s snarky commentary on trends in the music industry and (as the title suggests) the “American Dream” itself. The last song on the album “Black Screen” is meant as a tribute to David Bowie, who Murphy had worked on a few tracks for his last album before his death. He also wanted Leonard Cohen to do a spoken word piece at the end, however Cohen died shortly after the idea was conceived. Murphy ironically sings “I never realized that these artists thought so much about dying”, however it seems there may be good reason for death to be on his mind.

Top Picks: How Do You Sleep?, Tonite, Call the Police
Recommended If You Like:
Arcade Fire, New Order, Hot Chip4-1


– Melodrama
Genre: Electropop/Dance-pop

Ok, admittedly I would groan at someone mentioning Lorde before I heard this album. I found her first album, Pure Heroine, formulaic and gimmicky, just another pop album among millions. Melodrama totally changes course with regard to themes, exploring loneliness, failed relationships and self-pity. While there’s so many albums that do the same, as the name suggests Melodrama acknowledges the shame and futility of discussing it and how people her age should expect to feel that way at least once at some point in their life. In the end, it’s all much ado about nothing, however it feels like the world is coming to an end while enduring it. Lorde ponders how to deal with heartbreak, dating in the current generation and whether she’ll ever find someone for her and, in doing so, she brings about one of the best albums of the year.

Top Picks: Hard Feelings/Loveless, Perfect Places, Sober II (Melodrama)
Recommended If You Like: Lana del Ray, HAIM, Kehlani4-3

– Antisocialites
Genre: Surf Pop/Shoegaze/Garage Rock

Alvvays (pronounced Always), hailing from Toronto, Canada, released their sophomore album Antisocialites this year, building on the success of their first self-titled album and the sleeper hit Archie, Marry Me. While not doing anything revolutionary to their sound, every song on this album is strong and could be released on its own as a single, making it worthy to be a top album of 2017. It opens with the shoegaze-y songs “In Undertow” and “Dreams Tonight,” allowing you to get lost in your daydreams. The rest of the album is more inspired by garage-rock and surf pop. The songs are generally light-hearted, especially “Lollipop (Ode to Jim),” and allow for an easy listening experience. This album has become my go-to morning music, dancing around my apartment half-naked as I get ready to tackle the day.

Top Picks: In Undertow, Plimsoll Punks, Your Type
Recommended If You Like: Best Coast, Real Estate, Slowdive4-4

From Canada with love! Stephen is a Canadian music enthusiast living in Xi’an who loves discovering artists on the fringes of fame.