5. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Run the Jewels, the rap duo made between Killer Mike and El-P, has proven to be one of the best projects in rap in recent memory. The two have impeccable chemistry, and El-P’s production has never sounded better. Out of the three they’ve released so far, RTJ2 is the most accomplished.
4. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
The Harvard pretty boys have come a long way since their first record in 2008. Their latest (though they intend to release a new one this year) is nuanced, mature indie. A poignant sound counts what is probably the best indie pop record of the last ten years.
3. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Who would have thought that a member of Odd Future would be capable of high art. Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” is high brow pop of the best kind; poignant, catchy, and full of depth.
2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Not many people thought Kendrick could top his 2012 masterpiece “Good Kid M.A.A.D City” (which would probably also be on this list if I expanded) but then “To Pimp a Butterfly” came along. The fusion of jazz, funk, and hip hop, coupled with painfully relevant social commentary make TPAB one of the most important records of recent years.
1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The maximalism and commentary on fame that Kanye brought to the table in 2010 was something the world had never seen and has yet to see repeated. This is rap of the highest caliber.
With 2016 being as amazing as it was with music, it is only fitting that the trend will continue into the new year. Here are the ten records I am most looking forward to that will (presumably) arrive in 2017.
Gorillaz – TBA
The virtual band Gorillaz, the product of musician Damon Album, artist Jamie Hewlett and a slew of collaborators are scheduled to drop their fifth record in 2017. The project has spawned a good handful of great records since its conception with 2010’s Plastic Beach being their best yet.
Arcade Fire – TBA
The multi-talented Canadian Indie Rockers are due for their fifth record. It will be the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed Reflektor and an Oscar nom for their music in the 2013 film Her. The band is known for an ever-evolving sound, and whatever they come up with next will be likely be a treat for the ears.
Fleet Foxes – Ylajali (?)
A new Fleet Foxes record has been a long time coming (their last was Helplessness Blues in 2011), but the time has come. Front man Robin Pecknold has teased the cover (with the picture seen above) of an album titled Ylajali, suggesting the new album is right around the corner.
Vampire Weekend – TBA
New York indie pop outfit Vampire Weekend have not released a bad record to date, with their last, Modern Vampires of the City, easily being one of the best albums of 2013. Producer Rostam Batmanglij has since left the group, but it should be interesting to see how the group proceeds from here.
My Morning Jacket – TBA
Louisville hometown heroes My Morning Jacket are projected to release yet another album this year. Both 2015’s The Waterfall and Jim James’ 2016 solo record Eternally Even both garnered critical acclaim, and there’s no reason to doubt that they will deliver quality once again.